By Mike Redmond
The Hendricks County Flyer
Tue Jun 19, 2012, 03:27 PM EDT
Scientists are predicting that the Milky Way - the galaxy, not the candy bar - is going to crash head-on into the galaxy next door in about 4 billion years.
Great. As if I didn't have enough to worry about already.
Oh, sure. Laugh it off. But let me tell you something: If I have learned anything from a lifetime of reading comic books, it's that galaxies crashing together is no laughing matter. It happens at least twice a year in the comic book universe and the only way they avert disaster is by having Superman and Green Lantern around to straighten things out.
In other words, we're sunk, in about 4 billion years.
But that's another problem: Once again, turning to comic books as our point of reference, scientists are wrong in their predictions every single week. Heck, the reason Superman came to the earth without the rest of his family is because his father Jor-el guessed wrong on the date the planet Krypton was going to explode, and didn't have time to build a bigger rocket.
So don't tell me there's nothing to be concerned about. Today they're saying it could be 4 billion years, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if tomorrow they changed that to 3 billion, and think of the panic that's going to cause.
According to the Brainiacs (another comic book reference - you're welcome) the collision will be "pretty violent as things go in the universe."
"It's like a bad car crash in galaxy-land," said Roeland van der Marel, an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore (the Hubble telescope people).
How bad? They'll be coming together at 1.2 million miles per hour, well over the posted speed limit, in a collision that will take 2 billion years to complete. And when it's all done, the Earth will have a much different night sky. So long, Big Dipper. Hello, Big Mess O' Stars.
So what does this prove?
For starters, it reinforces the notion that things like comic books, science fiction, and the Jetsons aren't just entertainment. In fact, they can be highly instructive, provided they are taken with the proper (heaping) dose of paranoia.
And it also serves to illustrate that we puny humans aren't in control of things nearly as much as we think we are. Taking the long view (about 4 billion years long) teaches us that it's all out of our hands and we might as well just go ahead and enjoy our lives. Who knows? By the time this thing rolls around Superman might be real and then all of our problems will be solved, except for the fact that by then the sun is likely to be so large and so hot as to make Earth uninhabitable. But that's a problem for another comic book.
Today, we can just sit here in the Milky Way - planting gardens, planning vacations, buying green bananas - unconcerned that we are hurtling toward Andromeda, which is the unfortunate name of our neighboring galaxy. Personally, I would have opted for something in keeping with the Milky Way theme, which may be the way we should go when the collision finally happens. And I have the perfect name for this new mashed-up collection of stars, planets, and space stuff - appropriate especially when you consider the only sensible reaction to this story.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you our new galaxy: Snickers.
© 2012 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
I am writing this letter to thank and to acknowledge the great and swift job that the Wayne Township Fire Department did, as well as the ambulance, in responding to a medical emergency in our household on May 15.
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