A recent post by Calvin Johnson on the Science in My Fiction blog about quantum and sub-quantum mechanics has got my head back in the stars again (galaxies and quanta are pretty much the same thing in my head, which is probably why I wouldn’t make an adequate physicist, let alone a good one).
So, it was with due glee I read the news about Voyager 1 reaching a new milestone in its quest to leave the solar system. The solar particles it’s been watching has started to move sideways, instead of outwards.
Bare with me while I bunch my bacon-like fingers over my gammon-like palm*1 and try and explain why I think this is so amazing.
Okay, so first off you need to stop imagining space as being empty. Instead, imagine it being full. Full of hydrogen particles, magnetic fields, that kind of stuff. But full. Imagine the space between star systems is, in fact, full of liquid.
Now, in our liquid space we have stars. Stars are throwing out a vast amount of stuff, with an even vaster amount of energy. They’re doing this so effectively that they push out all the interstellar liquid and create their own ‘bubble’. Inside the bubble, there is no interstellar liquid, just material from the star.
So, everything in our star system comes from our sun. Every photon, every hydrogen atom, every magnetic field. Sol has created an impenetrable bubble for us to exist in. Every thought, every feeling, every action, every hope, every dream of humanity and every observation and deduction about the universe we’ve made has existed in this bubble. Think of it as a womb, if you like. Nurturing and protecting us for the last five million years. Assembling the atoms and ions which lead to life as we know it being formed.
For the first time, the first time ever, humanity is reaching outside of it’s bubble to the greater universe. We’re kicking at the edges of our Solar womb and letting the universe know that we’re alive and frisky in here.
I love the idea that, in a few hundred years time, little single-person crafts will be racing over Voyager 1’s flight path in a race to be the first to cross the heliosphere in honour of its achievement, the same way people run marathons today.
That lovely little bit of 70’s tech is around sixteen light-hours away from Earth. Pretty awesome, eh?
(If you want something a bit more technical and informative than artsy rhetoric, Wikipedia’s article on the heliosphere is a very good place to start.)
And speaking of pretty awesome, Star Trek Online is giving you the chance to design the next starship Enterprise. Hang on, that didn’t come out quite right. You can design the Enterprise-F. That sentence is so awesome that any swear words would only take away from its impact.
Draw your design, and upload it.
My skill at drawing spaceships runs to Biro sketches on Post-It notes at work. But I’m going to enter. You know why? Because if I don’t, every single version of me from the past twenty years*2 will channel their rage and rip holes in the space-time continuum, converge on me and literally tear the flesh from my bones with nothing more than their bare fingers, and maybe their teeth.
I’m not going to win, but you know what’s worse than losing? Going around for the next thirty years telling people that you probably would have won, but didn’t bother entering because you were, ‘too busy’, and then shrugging it off like it’s not important. I won’t be that guy. Not this time.
*1 Y’know, bacon, gammon, fist… Ham-fisted…
*2 If we assume a new ‘version’ of me is created every second, which doesn’t seem unreasonable, then that’s 630,720,000 versions of me. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to deal with one angry version of me, let alone over 630 million of the buggers.