Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Intergalactic bar billiards?

Intergalactic bar billiards?


Is that what we’re all unwittingly caught up in? As a keen astronomer, I’m always gazing up into the night sky, and sadly all-too-often I am disappointed because of the frequent cloud-cover and light-pollution from the populated areas, foiling my efforts to observe the infinite universe and all its wonders.
An article in a newspaper … [by the way, as a rule, I don’t waste money on newspapers. I picked it up because someone left it behind in a café … honest!] … about the Wolf-Rayet star, called more simply: WR 104, observed and photographed with its impressive spiral effect, caught my attention:

The article was typically sensationalist and stress-inducing: the star is dying, imploding, sending stellar winds and gamma rays out to destroy everything in its path, as the star becomes a black hole …
Will it wipe us out? Probably not. We’ll probably wipe ourselves out first. Closer observations of WR 104 reveal that it’s tilted away and too far from us to have any effect … so I’ll still make the effort to shave and go about my usual routine of life.
With the right telescope and weather conditions, the activity of WR 104 is something I’d love to observe ... that's if the lousy Euro-weather would let me!
While on the subject, let’s not forget the latest near-miss asteroid that barreled past our planet, reported as being two miles wide. Sending a whip of wind through our hair as it blazed past at a distance of a mere 3.5 million miles. I read more stress-inducing reports and what-if scenarios should one slam into the planet. No doubt there will be another what-if, ulcer-aggravating, sleep-depriving, shit-yer-pants documentary on TV next week.

Calm it down, news people, will ya? Not everything has to be the end of the world!
Or could it??? … dun-dun-duuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!!!

As I type this, a scene from Animal House (1978) has just played on TV, with the stoned Larry Kroger (Tom Hulce), sharing his theory with also-stoned literature teacher, Jennings (Donald Sutherland):

LARRY:  Okay … so that means that … our whole solar system could be like one tiny atom in the fingernail of some other giant being.
(JENNINGS nods in agreement)

LARRY:  This is too much! That means that … one tiny atom in my fingernail could be …

JENNINGS (concluding): Could be … one … little … tiny … universe.

The reports of the asteroid remind me more appropriately of the final scene in the TV series of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (1981):

As Ford Prefect (David Dixon) and Arthur Dent (Simon Jones) walk with their backs to the camera, they say:

FORD PREFECT: I read of one planet up in the seventh dimension got used as a ball in a game of intergalactic bar billiards. Got potted straight into a black hole, killed ten billion people.

ARTHUR DENT: Madness. Total madness.

FORD PREFECT: Yeah. Only scored thirty points too.

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