The following short story, written by the famous science fiction author Isaac Asimov, is a gripping tale of Man and Machine’s evolution of consciousness, and their place in the infinite yet impermanent universe. The story was first published in the November 1956 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly, and is to this day considered by many to be his best work. The author himself even thought so, and in 1973 he said of it:
“Why is it my favorite? For one thing I got the idea all at once and didn’t have to fiddle with it; and I wrote it in white-heat and scarcely had to change a word. This sort of thing endears any story to any writer. Then, too, it has had the strangest effect on my readers…”
The short story is split into seven story arcs, with the first one beginning in 2061, and each one after progressing further and further into the future. Despite the changes in time, space, and characters, each of the stories share in common humanity’s relationship with a supercomputer called Multivac and its successors – every sub plot revolves around certain characters discussing the life span of the universe and then asking the Multivac computer whether entropy (destruction) of the universe can be reversed, which is a question it has insufficient data to answer until the very end. This is a great read from start to finish – I give it a 5 out of 5; it is WAY ahead of it’s time!
The following image will no doubt amaze and or scare you. It might make you ponder our insignificance in space, it might not, but it most probably will. It’s a gif image, so wait for it to load – by the time you’ve read this far it will already start flicking through pictures of planets and stars contained within our solar system, in order from smallest (Earth’s moon) to largest (VY Canis Majoris – 3000 million km in diameter and 4,900 light years away from our planet)
To put this into some sort of perspective:
In one second light travels 300,000 km, which is 7 trips around Earth.
The closest star to us that we can see in our night sky is Alpha Centuari and is 4.5 light years from Earth.
1 light year is 9.5 trillion kms away.
You can fit 1 million planet Earths into our Sun.
You can fit 1 billion Suns into VY Canis Majoris!
A lot of these stars have planets orbiting them, just like we orbit the Sun (a star).
It is estimated that there are as many as 50 billion planets in our galaxy, most of which are as large as Jupiter.
There are said to be as many as 200 billion stars in our galaxy alone.
Over 2 million galaxies have been counted, but it is estimated there could be as many as 100 million.
The visible universe is about 15,000 million light years in size.
If our planet is the only one in the entire universe that contains intelligent life, then we are really alone.
To view the image as a single jpg rather than an animated gif, click here.
Here’s something else that might bend your noodle – Look outside your window and take a peek at the stars, yes they don’t seem so small now do they? Since these stars are about 500 light years away (takes 500 years for their light to reach Earth and therefore be visible by our eyes) you are actually looking at space as it was 500 years ago.
I read this article on the train today: ‘commercial space travel’, these are the three best words I have ever seen together in a newspaper, I’m surprised it wasn’t on the front page. This is a very big step in the right direction. Seeing as how we all have an expiry date stamped on us, we only have a small window of time to see and experience the the world we live on, yet alone space. We are like fish swimming in a fish bowl, not knowing what life is like outside the glass. If we are to ever see space in our lifetime, then work needs to be started now to make it a possibility. This is very exciting news and should make everyone thankful to be alive at such a promising time. Sure tickets are going to be expensive at first, but at least one day, maybe when we are old and ready to say goodbye to this planet, we can rocket ourselves to space and have one last good look at it, from the outside. Continue reading →