Some Of The Big Picture

The Universe: Where is it, how old is it, what has it been up to, and let’s just fill in who is it to round out the opening sentence here? These are undeniably fine questions, what with their existing and seeming to be the sorts of things there should be answers for, or to.

The first is the easiest. The Universe can be found all around you, explaining that sensation of something peeking over your shoulder while you try to go about existing. Don’t go looking back too suddenly as the Universe can be rather skittish — remember the old folk saying, the universe is more afraid of caterpillars than you are of varnish, which is why Enlightenment thinkers got the idea that everybody before them was an idiot — but if you check casually you should see signs of something. If you find only incontrovertible evidence that you’re actually a disembodied brain in a jar being fed electrical stimulations, don’t worry; you’re just having the same nightmare every butterfly is having.

The universe as a whole is just under fourteen billion years old as of next Saturday, although there’s a section over by the Fish Escalator that’s another 150 million years older and was used as a first draft. This doesn’t come up often, but now and then the universe comes across the weird metallic skeleton of some inexplicable project and that’s almost always from that first draft thing. Pay it no heed; heeds were abolished as part of the concessions given by the King to his rebellious nobles in the famous 1218 Treaty of Enough with Ye Pointed Things Already, You Cretins.

The better question is if the universe has been at work existing for fourteen billion years, what has it been doing, and if so, has it gotten that done yet? The universe’s first forty years seem to have been spent mostly in a project of making honking big masses of empty space into which a universe could be fitted. It’s believed that between the start of the Big Bang and the forty-year mark the universe expanded from something smaller than a baseball to something a little bit larger than a basketball, which I bet you don’t think is all that much, but let’s see you try pumping a baseball up to the size of a basketball, and we’ll even give you forty-three years and a hand pump to do it in. Yeah, so who’s getting all smug about the universe’s accomplishments now? Correct: it’s people who’ve been inflating beach balls, which can go from flat to the size of a beach ball with barely six years of concentrated effort, or unconcentrated effort if you aren’t thinking about the project very much.

After all that came a long stretch of making helium, since the universe realized that surely some day there would be planets, probably around stars, and there would be life forms there, and surely the life forms would someday want to go scuba diving, and the helium might come out handy for pressure equilibrium thingamabobs, although the concept of thingamabobs would take 2.64 billion years to develop and come only after failed notions like the “doohickamajuff” or the “Philips-head whatchathing”. Stars next took a long time to form, which may sound surprising given that you just have to get a big old pile of hydrogen and helium, but understand that they take just forever to ferment.

The universe spent about 135 million years making dinosaurs, because the universe spent a very long time being seven years old, although not all its ideas were as good as the triceratops or the stegosaurus. Again this may sound like a lot of time spent on that, but think how much of your life you spent playing Tetris and who’s the better off for that? Anyway, the dinosaurs are gone now, except for people who think they’re helping by insisting that chickens are too dinosaurs, which isn’t even convincing to the chickens for crying out loud. Many space enthusiasts would claim the dinosaurs would be around yet if they had a space program, but that’s because they’ve forgotten the dinosaurs *did* have a space program and just unwisely picked a fight with the Jagello-Asteroidian Empire.

Obviously it’s finished all these projects, but to whether it’s got any new ones we would have to ask the Universe; her office did not return our calls before press time.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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