What can you do to save the universe?
The universe is coming to an end. According to theoretical physicist Joseph Lykken, “It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable and at some point billions of years from now it’s all going to get wiped out.” Talk about playing the long odds.
This bit of info comes from a Reuters story by Irene Klotz that has been picked up by everyone from Fox News to The Huffington Post to the Tehran Times. This means that particle physics and a writer named Klotz are putting up Kardashian-like Google stats. Maybe there’s hope for the universe, after all.
The gist of the story is that mathematical models demonstrate in Lykken’s words that, “A little bubble of what you might think of as an ‘alternative’ universe will appear somewhere and then it will expand out and destroy us.”
My tiny little writer brain is no match for theoretical physics, even at this lowly pop science level. My layman concept of the universe is the all-encompassing totality of everything: every particle, thought, and Little Debbie snack product. If that’s the case, that “little bubble of alternative universe” is simply part of the universe and thus can’t destroy the universe. Or something like that.
Perhaps Lykken’s key words here are “and destroy us.” That’s really what we look for in pop science articles: how will this affect me? We’re such an egocentric species that we try to divine what might happen to us tens of billions of years in the future, never mind that other scientists estimate that our sun will burn out in another 4.5 billion years. And none of us are going to be alive in 4.5 billion years anyway, except Keith Richards.
We don’t really need to look that far down the road, though. Well, theoretical physicists do because that’s their gig, but the rest of us can take a much shorter view of the problem. Lykken is right in a much more profound and immediate way than he may have intended. The universes that we live in—our individual lives and all that they encompass—are inherently unstable.
Humanity is faced with abundant threats right now, not the least of which are overpopulation, climate change, and endless Die Hard sequels. Somewhere in your town right now someone is hungry, a child is being abused or neglected, a marriage is breaking up, and a waterway is being polluted by a factory, meth lab, or pig farm.
These are all solvable problems, but they aren’t sexy. Universe bubbles and invading asteroids are Michael Bay, global warming and corporate malfeasance are Michael Moore. We can’t all be action heroes. You and I won’t blow up an asteroid or enter the Matrix to pop that alternate universe bubble. We’re schlubs in baseball caps, forced to save the world one small gesture at a time.
So what are you doing to save humanity? Better think fast — you only have a couple billion years left. Unless you’re Keith.
– photo NASA/Wiki Commons