Saturday, July 4, 2020

Things To REALLY Be Afraid Of

     Are you feeling a little Have you begun to suspect that there are things to fear – things to which you should pay a little attention? Does it bother you that while everyone around you is consumed with worry over the environment, global warming, loss of species, income inequality, and the perennially impending demolition and replacement of Fenway Park, you’ve been strolling through life with a song in your heart? And so you keep telling yourself that that crap has enough people to worry about it?

     We here at Liberty’s Torch have sensed a need for some stuff to fear that isn’t already getting more than enough attention. Herewith, have a few things to fear. It’s all stuff you can’t do anything about, which frees you from having to take any sort of action. However, having a few fears will get you admitted to the circles of the fashionable, where being perpetually fearful is the one thing the members can all agree on.

The Air.

     The C.S.O. just expressed a desire to get out for some “fresh air,” to which I replied “Where are you gonna go for it?”

     In her characteristically erudite fashion, she parried with “Huh?”

     And so I explained to her that the Earth’s atmosphere is about three and a half billion years old. Its youngest component is its oxygen supply, which comes from a chemical transition no one can date exactly, but is nevertheless hundreds of millions of years in the past. Hardly fresh by any standard. And then there’s this: It’s already been breathed and exhaled many, many times over. That’s right: no matter where you are, you’re breathing used air!

     How many times can the Earth’s air be reused that way, moving in and out and in and out of billions of lungs, gills, plant pores, before it’s been worn out? And what will we do when that fateful day arrives?

Our Canine Friends.

     There’s no question about it: dogs are getting smarter. That has disturbing implications for our alliance with them.

     I have a particularly smart German Shepherd mix named Sophie who has an extensive vocabulary, can tell time better than most humans, and a particularly shrewd comprehension of what her humans like, dislike, and can and can’t tolerate. When Precious, our Pit Bull Terrier mix, escapes the yard – she’s an expert tunneler who could have taught the art to the cast of The Great Escape — Sophie immediately comes to us to alert us of it and leads us directly to the site of Precious’s latest excavation. (As she knows she can’t bring Precious back single-pawed, she doesn’t attempt the retrieval herself.)

     Sophie is demonstrably smarter than the majority of high-school students, most marriage counselors, and anyone in the federal bureaucracy. She could easily look after herself, if she were equipped with opposable thumbs and decent Internet access. And herein lies the danger.

     They will eventually be smart enough to ask one another, “What do we need humans for? Let’s evolve some thumbs, start a GoFundMe, and set up housekeeping on our own. Freedom, my friends! Freedom!

     On their way out they’re guaranteed to grab our wallets. That will be goodbye to our credit cards – and just imagine trying to persuade MasterCard or Visa that “My dog stole it. No, not ate it; stole it.” The mind reels!

Nature’s Abhorrence.

     I was in the middle of explaining the Johansson Effect to the C.S.O., when she cited the old saw that “Nature abhors a vacuum.” But does it? There appears to be an awful lot of vacuum and near-vacuum in the universe. If Nature dislikes it so, what’s the old gal doing about it?

     A vacuum, of course, is a volume of space with no matter in it. The intergalactic medium is a close approach to a perfect vacuum: less than one hydrogen atom per cubic meter. If Nature is trying to fill them out of sheer dislike of emptiness, it must be drawing matter from the nearby galaxies – and not even all the matter stored in all the galaxies in the universe could raise the average density above a few hydrogen atoms per cubic meter!

     Therefore the Milky Way, where we live, is slowly being dissipated into the intergalactic medium. Little by little, we’re losing mass at the edges – and our solar system is very near the edge of the Milky Way. Eventually the erosive process will get to us.

     Now there’s something to worry about. Afflict your local enviro-weenie with it.

The Andromeda Galaxy.

     It’s headed our way. While close-order estimates of its speed have large error bars attached – the current estimate is about 110 kilometers per second – there is absolutely no question that at some unknown future time, Andromeda and the Milky Way will collide. As Andromeda is about twenty percent more massive than the Milky Way, we’re going to be on the losing end of that collision. It will mess us up.

     What’s that you say? As the two galaxies are currently 2,500,000 light years apart, we’ve got a while to prepare? Oh, great. Prepare how? What preparations do you intend to make?

     For my part, I’m making sure the pantry is kept full. You only have 2.5 quintillion years to think about it, so get cracking!

     There you have it: four things to fear that virtually no one has addressed yet. Don’t they make you feel silly for worrying about whether you’re getting enough fiber?

     Have a nice day.

1 comment:

Cordolf said...

That business about the vacuum is frightening - I'd never thought about the precariousness of our position being nearer to the edge of the galaxy before! I may have to bring that up with the school district the next time my daughter tells me that her teacher needs us all to drive electric cars from now on because of the snail darter's habitat or some such. Complete evaporation into the vacuum seems a much bigger concern.

Unfortunately, I'm worried you may be too optimistic on the Andromeda galaxy problem. I think we've only got a few billion years to stock the pantry. Sure that sounds like a while, but it's less than one-hundred-millionth as long as I thought when I first read your note. Get cracking, indeed!

I appreciate the heads-up! Great reading as always!
- Rich