Many things claim to be “one of life’s greatest mysteries,” but I raise you one; life’s greatest mystery, abiogenesis.

Abiogenesis is “the natural process by which life has arisen from non-living matter, such as organic compounds.” So, the origin of life on this planet, but more specifically, how not-alive stuff became alive stuff.


For all our study and existential pondering, we don’t really have a perfect answer for this. It would be helpful if we had a perfect answer to what “alive” actually is, but alas, we do not.

What does it mean to be alive, is a question I ask myself at least twice daily, but there’s a deeper question beneath the question: what is the state of being “alive” and how different is it really from being not-alive?

It’s easy to think of life on earth as having started with some sort of spark; a catalyst that suddenly turned not-living chemicals into living things; things that have continued to evolve over literal billions of years and eventually became us weird thinking flesh bags wondering how it all happened.

But when do you decide that this thing here is an alive thing and this thing here just isn’t? It’s not like we can go back and ask.

But let us go anyway.

Would the instant between not-alive and alive occur before our very eyes? Would a small flash of light indicate that the previous not-alive chemicals in the soupy sea have now become living things? Would we even recognize these things as living? Or does it even matter?

Not really.

We humans like to categorize things into neat boxes like alive and not-alive, but no one can fully agree on the shape of those boxes, so how neat can they be? We like to be alive and have other things like rocks and sand be not-alive because it feels better. And where we draw the line is essentially arbitrary.

Sure, many scientists have tried valiantly to define the difference between alive and not-alive, but no one can agree because there isn’t anything to agree on. Alive and not-alive are designators we designed. Alive and not-alive are constructions we built to understand our place in the universe. But in the grand scheme of existence, the distinction may not actually exist. I doubt the universe has any idea or desire to create “life,” it’s just this thing that happens with chemicals and its no different from any other thing that happens in the universe. The universe has no preferences, no desires, and no end goal. It exists and so do we. And so do rocks and sand, and to the universe, what could be the difference?


At the end of the day, if you shoved everything in the universe into a really, really big blender, all you’d get is the same, homogenous, universe-soup all over.

It’s very possible that we aren’t special. It’s very possible that we are inevitable. Maybe the fact that we even bother to ask is meaningless. Maybe it’s the fact that we do it insist on doing it anyway is what makes it meaningful.

Green Women: Women of Color in Science Fiction and the Marvel Universe (redux)

Originally Published May 4, 2019, @

Woman of color in space, or science fiction in general, is a topic I will return to time and time again; there’s much to discuss. For now, though, I’d like to talk about the color green. Specifically women of the color green.

Star Trek has a mixed track record when it comes to women of color. On the one hand, we have Uhura, a black woman, in space, treated no differently than her colleagues, and who engages in the very first interracial kiss on television. Cool. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry expressed that his vision of the future is an inclusive one; for him, progress is made, and anyone of any color or creed could join Star Fleet. Though perfectly understandable now, at the time, this was groundbreaking. COOL.

Before Star Trek, space was mostly inhabited by the Uncomfortably All-White Crew™. The reasoning behind this stems largely from the fact that race in the 1950s and 1960s was an integral, unavoidable, inescapable institution of society and to portray anything but the Uncomfortably All-White Crew™ would be a “statement.” In order to escape the topic of race relations altogether, creators simply avoided other races, and whether intentional or not, this created the disturbing implication that the future itself, is white; that other people don’t make it to space at all.

Orion Slave Girl

As I mentioned, Star Trek is groundbreaking and progressive. It also has Green Women. The women of the planet Orion in Star Trek are green. And they are “oriental,” or “eastern” or “tribal,” take your pick. They are seductresses. They are scantily clad, sexual, dangerous, (white)man-eaters. They are a mashup of stereotypes commonly dumped upon women of color. They are simply other, non-white. This isn’t to say that Roddenberry or anyone else had malicious intent in their creation. Nor is this necessarily the first example of a Green Woman, it’s just a well-known one. The Green Woman (who may or may not actually be green in practice), takes the place of the woman of color we are familiar with here on Earth. But is an Orion woman any different than a negative, stereotypical portrayal of a woman of color? Is a portrayal of a Green Woman to broadly signify non-white women as thinly veiled as the green body paint used to cover her?

And what of a different type of Green Woman? A modern Green Woman, if you will. One portrayed by Zoë Saldana.


In a Marvel universe largely devoid of women of color, is Saldana’s Gamora representing us? Or does the actress’s race not really matter because she’s not a human? Should we identify her as a woman of color just because she’s…a color? Or should we let Green Women be Green Women and untangle their history from our own? Can we have our cake and eat it too!?

To take a step back from the madness, I would like to forward the argument that representation can serve three main functions in popular media. At its simplest, it allows us to see people who look like us. We want to see people who probably had similar upbringings and cultural and societal experiences in the media we consume. It can be hard to relate to a text if nobody resembles you at all; it can be alienating. Star Trek, for example, showed that all kinds of people worked and lived in space; space wasn’t a white only place anymore. Even if a specific group wasn’t explicitly shown, it was implied that all were welcome. You could insert yourself and your experiences, and relate with the characters.

Secondly, representation allows us to explore those various upbringings and cultural experiences. A show like Fresh Off the Boat or Blackishdepicts Asian-American and African-American families respectively, and though not everything will fit everyone in the given groups’ experiences perfectly, it allows you to explore that kind of experience. When there was only one type of family on TV, there wasn’t anything else to explore.

Finally, representation introduces us to new experiences we may otherwise have never known about. We harbor many misconceptions and stereotypes about groups of people; we are a tribal species, and this naturally translates into chronic stereotyping. Though it’s not a cure, representation helps treat stereotyping, by exposing people to other lifestyles and cultures.

So, in conclusion, representation is kind of important.

Where does that leave us?

It leaves us with Marvel’s Gamora and whether or not she is a representation of a woman of color. I’m just going to go ahead and state my personal opinion of “NOPE” right off the bat.


Here’s is why I included an overly academic analysis of what roles representation play in media. I did it because now I can accomplish my end goal of making a nifty multiple-choice list.

Is Gamora (A) Someone who resembles us? (B) Someone who helps us explore different cultural backgrounds? (C) Someone who introduces others to new cultural information or (D) None of the above (or to the side of).

It’s D.

Gamora is green. Gamora doesn’t have an Earthly background for us humans to relate to. Gamora doesn’t teach us anything about the aforementioned Earthly background that she doesn’t have.

The only thing she has going for her in this regard is the fact that Zoe Saldana (who is black) is playing her, but this doesn’t really make her any more woman of color than her sister, Nebula (who is blue) played by Karen Gillan (who is white).


Unfortunately, at its core, the Marvel movies (which I do love) are mostly populated by white dudes. There are no prominent black American women (though at least now there are black women thanks to Black Panther), and really few women of color in general (arguably there aren’t even that many women). And casting Zoe Saldana as a woman who happens to be green does not a representation of women of color make.

All said this is probably an argument against something that no one really actually argues. It’s an easy sell.  There is, however, still another argument beneath; was the Green Women of the past meant to represent the real women of color in their present? And this brings up all sorts of fun sticky topics of subtle racism and authorial intent. Which I’m not touching with a ten-foot pole right now. I will, however, bring up one final point.

As mentioned, Marvel is not particularly “women of color friendly”; we can file it under the “women of color get the short end of the stick in comic book movies, sorry,” section. So how can we still enjoy it?

As a black woman, should I not enjoy more white men with their white-men problems and their white men spandex? Well. At the end of the day, art is art (and I won’t debate whether or not the Marvel movies are art because, again, ten-foot pole), and I believe you can separate things like authorial intent and politics and representation from the final product if you allow yourself to do so. Everyone does this to their own extent, and that’s fine. If something offends you, it offends you and it’s completely valid. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I can enjoy the movies while also being aware of their representational shortcomings. I can lament the lack of people like me without crying racism. Life can be in shades of gray, not just black and white (pun). We are permitted to enjoy media and still acknowledge that it is problematic and we are not required to have a big speech about it ready.

I just happen to have a speech. Because I always have a speech. This is my speech

Credit to Treknews

Gene Roddenberry: The Original Social Justice Warrior

The Eye

Picture an eyeball. Now picture one as big as a planet (ew). Now imagine a large pupil as a bright, dry, rainless, and seemingly lifeless, constantly baked by its host star, never rotating it’s gaze away.

Imagine the white of the eyeball as just that; white, frozen, freezing and barren, forever in the shadow of its star.

Now imagine an iris. A band of color around the planet, steeped in perpetual twilight, dusk combo. The temperature is right for liquid water on the surface. A blind, blue, green eye staring unendingly towards a star.


The term “eyeball planet” is the name given to the hypothetical, tidally locked planet existing in the habitable zone of a star.

See, the thing about Earth is that it spins as it orbits around the sun, but we needn’t look further than our own moon to find a body that is tidally locked. The same side of the body, in this case, the moon, is always facing the same direction towards Earth. A tidally locked planet would always be facing the same way toward its star. And that would probably be kinda weird.

The “day” side of the planet would be constantly baked by the heat of its star, and depending on its proximity, it could be anything from a barren desert to a vast ocean. The night side would be in constant darkness. It could be frozen, or if closer to the star, the vapors that evaporate from the dayside could rain down perpetually on the night side. Or any other number of weird unfathomably weather phenomena that would make earth look like standing bathwater.


But that wouldn’t necessarily stop life from living there.

Life could exist within the narrow band of the iris; a perpetual, but habitable, twilight.

The life here would not experience day or night. The cycles we humans rely on the orient ourselves in time would not exist here.

Our existence is, in a way, dictated by our unique perception of the passage of time. Without days or nights, a species here might experience time as something altogether different. Even our own perception changes from person to person, moment to moment. Our own internal clocks are synched to our planet and star. Most complex organisms have evolved to experience the days and nights of Earth. Our own human-centric worldview leads us to assume all other habitable planets must be like our own, but many astronomers posit that eyeball planets might be common, if not abundant, and be decent candidates for life.

So how does one make a watch on an eyeball planet?

To the inhabitants of the eye, time might be dictated only by the movements of the surrounding cosmos. Or perhaps by the movements of its own moon. Or maybe the thing we call time means something altogether different to the eyelets (I’ve decided to call them “eyelets” for no particular reason).

Perhaps time doesn’t play as much of a role in their lives as it does ours. Their movements, communication, and even thoughts might play out it a way that we can’t even understand. And to our time-obsessed, attention-span-of-about-two-seconds-society, the eyelets might seem to us a bit slow. Or perhaps, too fast. Perhaps, they do everything simultaneously and when they look at us from their eye, we’re the ones who appear to be moving in slow motion.

Whatever the case, it isn’t too far fetched to think if they eyelets are out there, they are, were, and will be, watching us.

So on this entirely arbitrary day dictated by the movements of our planet in the cosmos, I wish you a Happy Entirely Made Up New Year.

July 20, 1969

moonlandingFifty years ago today, a human being set foot on the moon for the very first time. Fifty years before that, the idea of doing so was fiction. Can’t imagine what we’ll be doing fifty years from now.

My father is old enough that he was the perfect age during the first moon landing. He was eight years old. He got to watch it on television. In fact, he’s seen every launch on television from the very beginning. I asked him what it’s like, what it felt like when he was eight and he looked out the living room window and knew a man was standing on the moon. He said it was big. Worldwide, Earth-shattering, big.

I try to imagine what I would have thought one hundred years ago if someone told me that in fifty years a man would be on the moon and mankind will have put him there. The moon landing is so old now it’s almost impossible to imagine a time when it was new.

We built the Tower of Babel ten times over. I almost understand why people think it didn’t happen. Almost.

We’re just people, after all. Hairless apes on a little planet somewhere. How’d we find the know-how to shoot another hairless ape aboard a flaming explosive all the way to another celestial body is beyond me. It’s all very human though, so maybe it’s not surprising.

Maybe we’ve been doing this forever. That’s how Icarus died. This time our wings held and we made it. The glue was a little bit stronger, or maybe we used duct tape. Honestly, it’s a little bit stupid, but I suppose it’s a culmination of sorts. Everything was just kinda leading up to space; that’s where up is.

We weren’t going to stop until we made it to heaven on our terms, gods be damned. We were going to get up to Olympus ourselves, with our makeshift, duct tape wings and stick a flag in it and keep climbing because we just don’t know when to quit.

Apollo 11 was a culmination of our refusal to quit, our stubbornness and unwillingness to let past failures stop us from making it to the top of the mountain. Really, it was such a crazy, silly dream, yet thousands came together and said, let’s do this thing.

So today, fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and said “One small step for a man. One giant leap for mankind.” And what a giant leap it was.FT_19.07.16_MoonLanding_feature-850x491

And the audio was really bad so people thought he said “One small step for man,” instead of a man, but that just wouldn’t have made any sense because “man” and “mankind” in this context, mean the same thing. He probably said a. But we misquote one of the most important moments in human history, and it just doesn’t get any more human than that if you ask me.

April 10, 2019

Today, April 10, 2019, we have received the first ever photo of a black hole. If the photo doesn’t look that impressive to you, it’s understandable. We’ve been spoiled with beautiful depictions of black holes in both science and fiction for decades; the life doesn’t quite imitate the art.intersteller black hole

But this, this is real, and it gives me the same goosebumps as the first photo taken from space. The same feeling as the Pale Blue Dot. It is a single testament to the sheer immensity of the universe and how utterly unlikely we all are.

We, some partially evolved apes from a little planet in a very quiet corner of a relatively ordinary galaxy, have produced the ingenuity necessary to photograph the most mysterious, powerful, unknowable entity in the universe. How unlikely are we? How unlikely this photo should exist? It took multiple telescopes on multiple continents and just the right set of circumstances and conditions to obtain the data they used to construct this image. Then it took scientists months to extract this data and turn it into something our eyes and brains could understand.blackhole1

And this image, it’s a fuzzy, orange coffee stain of thing 54 million lightyears away. The image we are seeing is made up of light nearly as old as the dinosaurs, who by the way, would probably still be around if a massive thing didn’t randomly fall out of the sky and wipe them out. It all just adds to the improbability of it all.

This photo truly is a statistical miracle. The number of things to go so right, the things that allow us to witness something so grand? It really makes me believe in something. I’m not a religious person by any means, but this photo’s existence all by itself, makes me want to believe in something. It makes me wish Einstein were here to see it and all his predictions proved right. It makes me believe that someday we may actually be able to understand the universe and all its glory.

We’re so small and the universe is so, so big, but this fuzzy orange coffee stain makes me believe we could one day see it in all its endless forms, most beautiful.

Now, look again at this photo, and tell me it’s not impressive to you.

Pale Blue Dot

It is a beautiful sort of cosmic coincidence that a photograph that, depending on how you look at it, may inspire the most loneliness, or the most togetherness in the human race was taken on Valentine’s day, 1990. This is, of course, Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot.”pale-blue-dot-1900x1200

On this day, twenty-nine years ago, Voyager 1 turned it’s camera around and, upon Sagan’s request, captured one last photo of the earth. In this picture, taken from the unfathomable distance of 3.7 billion miles away, captures our planet in one single, bluish pixel, nearly lost in a pinkish ray of sun.

I have said that I have a particular fascination with Voyager and think of her often. She is now the loneliest thing we have ever borne. She is billions of miles from earth, her signal getting fainter and fainter as she leaves our solar system and hurtles into interstellar space. One day we will stop hearing her, not because she will stop sending her signal, but because we will no longer be able to receive it. She may continue to send out signals for decades until her nuclear power core finally wears out, but they will never reach us and we will never know when she finally goes silent. It’s fitting she took this picture; it was her last glimpse of home, of where she came from. And in looking at it, I feel we can share in her loneliness.

Clearly, I absolutely love to talk about pictures taken from space. They give me anxiety, but I can’t look away. The anxiety comes from the absolute terror they invoke. It’s so easy to get lost in our own, personal loneliness, that we forget there’s actually a universe beyond ourselves. When I see pictures taken from the surface of the moon or from faraway asteroids or dwarf planets, I am in horrified awe of the fact that the universe does not, in fact, begin and end with me. It puts things in a perspective in a way nothing else really can.

And though I love to talk about these photographs, I won’t really talk about the “Pale Blue Dot,” because Carl Sagan already said everything better than anyone ever could. Instead, I’ll say that loneliness is universal, but so is togetherness. As Sagan said, everyone who has ever lived, lived on that single bluish pixel, isolated and insignificant maybe, but so small and compact, we practically live atop one another. The universe is so vast and yet, here we all are, on a tiny blue dot, in a pinkish ray of sun, together in a way you can’t see until your 3.7 billion miles away. It’s lonely out there, but perhaps not so much in here. We are stuck with one another, for better or for worse, until death does us part, together in our loneliness.palebludot

“Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

– Carl Sagan

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

If the Universe Never Ended

This marks the end of my somewhat morbid series about the end of the universe. I wanted to end with the very first theory I ever heard, and the very first time I contemplated that the whole of existence could end.

The “Big Crunch” was a theory that was prevalent when I was a kid. And being the kid who watched space documentaries for fun and snagged obsolete science textbooks for recreational reading, I heard about it a lot. The Big Crunch was easy to understand and best of all, it is cyclical. The Big Bang, the Big Crunch, the Big Bang, the Big Crunch and endless sinewave of explosion followed by collapse and again explosion.

It barely warrants explaining, but I’ll explain a bit anyhow. The best theory we have for how the universe began is the Big Bang; the theory that the universe expanded from one, infinitely small point, called a singularity, and that the universe is continuing to expand outward at an ever-increasing rate. Our theory for how the universe began is a lot more solid than our theories for how it will end because it already happened. We’re pretty sure we’re right, but the question always comes up, okay, what happened before the Big Bang. I sometimes like to answer with the esoteric, “well time didn’t exist yet, so there was no before,” but that answer’s obnoxious. What caused the Big Bang is something as yet unanswerable, but the Big Crunch offers a nice little bow to put atop the universe.bigcrunch

If, and big if, there is enough mass in the universe, it will get to a point where its expansion will slow and then inevitably reverse. Gravity will cause the universe to collapse in on itself until it cannot collapse anymore; all the matter in the universe will be squished into a single point, a singularity.

We like symmetry. This makes existence symmetrical. If we can ignore the headache of an infinite universe with no real end or beginning we can appreciate the universal heartbeat the Big Crunch creates. The universe, in this way, becomes an endless cycle of contraction and expansion. In and out. Birth, death, and rebirth. It gives the universe an oddly biological affect. Living systems are a study themselves in expansion and contraction; it’s life’s mode of choice. It would be nice and neat if the universe were the same. A big, living ecosystem of stars and galaxies that breathe in and out eternity.

There would be no before or after, just in and out. It solves a lot of the problems that make our heads hurt. It’s a pretty theory and I used to like it a lot. I (and much of the science community due to the fact that the universe probably doesn’t have enough mass to facilitate a Big Crunch) don’t really find it as satisfying as I once did. Maybe I want the universe to end a long, long time from now. Maybe I wouldn’t want to live forever if I could or undergo a cycle of constant birth and rebirth. The promise of an end, a temporary universe, makes the middle more special. Life’s not special because we live it, it’s special because it’s fleeting; we’re tasked with making the most of it. And perhaps I anthropomorphize the poor universe a bit too much, but I like to think that we are the universe itself, the way it thinks, the way it sees, and the way it lives. Carl Sagan said it too, and he’s much smarter than me: “The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” I guess I sometimes like to think that the universe is so special, it only happened once.

Anyway, I hope contemplating the end of the universe leaves you as hopeful as it often does me.starstuff

The Big Instantaneous Obliteration of the Entire Universe

To continue on with what I am now declaring a trilogy of apocalyptic proportions, let’s talk about Vacuum Decay, the Heat Death’s faster, scarier, more quantum physical younger sister.vacuumdecay

Vacuum Decay is nearly the opposite of the heat death, which is also known as the “Big Freeze.” I’m mentioning this because I wanted to give vacuum decay a nickname that started with big and I came up with the “Big Instantaneous Obliteration of the Entire Universe,” which isn’t catchy at all, so I’m scrapping it.

Anyway. If the heat death of the universe will take pretty much all the time there is, vacuum decay will take exactly none. Without getting too much into the science that makes this possible, vacuum decay is what would happen if the vacuum of space decided it could calm down a bit. Everything in the universe is trying to get into its most stable state, this is also the mechanism that drives the heat death, but where the heat death is a gradual degradation into eternal nothingness, vacuum decay would be a sudden, cataclysmic hop down to a more stable state that would destroy the universe as we know it.vacuumdecaymeme

As usual, I’m not really here to discuss the actual mechanics of vacuum decay, there are physicists whose job it is to do that and would do it much better than I. I’m here to explain why vacuum decay is the purest form of existential crisis fuel.

Because existence is really big and long and extant, but it could all end in an instant. We often claim that human timescales are a blink of an eye to the cosmos, but what if the universe’s thirteen billion years is nothing but a blink in the grand scheme of things, whatever those things may be. The idea that the universe as we know it could, through real physical processes, cease to exist in an instant, so quickly we would not have time to react, rams a wrench in my entire fractured concept of time.

Is our thirteen-billion-year-old universe existing in the in-between moments between one energy level to another? Is the universe we know only here because another vacuum decayed before us, obliterating an entire universe whose observers also probably thought they were around for a good while? If the universe is just a cycle of decay, getting ever closer to a perfectly balanced system, what time scale is the universe really operating on?higgsfield

The universe is so huge and old we humans can barely comprehend it and yet it could be nothing compared to what there is to comprehend. Here, in our little universe, we might not be seeing the whole picture of reality. We may think as we’ve expanded our horizons outward past our planet, our star, our galaxy, our entire galactic family, that we are ever so close to understanding it all. Forget geocentricity, this is unicentricity. Who are we to assume we’re the only universe just because ours is the only one we can see?

If it was all to end tomorrow and start anew, new rules and new observers, nothing we ever did or saw would matter. We might as well be a single hydrogen atom, so far from its neighbors it believes itself to be the only atom, with it’s up and down quarks and it’s single distant electron, not realizing it makes up a whole star with its distant planets and their distant observers making their distant observations about their distant and tiny universe.

We may never know much more than we do now. We may never know close to all there is to know, and it might all end before we know it’s ending. So nothing matters. The fact that vacuum decay is even a possibility is nihilism at its finest. If it could all end this very instant, how can there ever have been a point at all?

I wish I could end on a hopeful, happy note, but vacuum decay just sucks all the fun out of everything. PUN.

How Long Until Nothing Ever Happens Again?

It’s the start of a new year, so let’s talk about the end of the universe. spaceI’m sure as soon as we had ideas about how the universe began, we were coming up with ways it could end. It’s kind of what we do. The idea that the universe is infinite is, with no end and no beginning, can be comforting, but the idea that the universe is a story with a beginning, middle, and end, is more human.

There are lots of ways the story could go; different alternate endings in a choose your adventure universe, and I’d like to discuss all of them, but today I’ll talk about death.

Once upon a time, over thirteen billion years ago, the universe was born. The universe lived out its bright happy days of stars and galaxies and us. After so many years that it doesn’t matter how many anymore, everything goes dark and the universe dies because the second law of thermodynamics. The end.Schematic diagram of the history of the Universe

This is more or less the basis of the “Heat Death,” hypothesis. I would suggest reading about it. It sounds like a bummer, but I really like it. I’ll tell you why.

The universe ages in one direction, the same way all of us do. Like us, it is a slave to entropy: order to disorder, complexity to simplicity. The universe is unimaginably complex, full of things that give of light and energy, things that give birth to more things, things that happen. We are in a comparably short summer of the universe, and there is a long winter coming.

Because stars don’t last forever. Eventually, they use up all their energy and they die. The hot remnants of once brilliant stars will stick around, cooling in the fall, for extreme numbers of years, but eventually, they go dark. Eventually, there’s nothing left to use; all the stuff in the universe is all used up. Even black holes die, radiating away all their energy until there’s nothing left. When the long winter comes, there won’t be anything to know about it, because there won’t be anything at all. Eventually, when there’s is no more usable energy in the universe, when everything is finally the same, lukewarm universe soup, nothing will ever happen again. All the matter that ever existed will still exist, don’t worry; the universe dies when time stops mattering anymore, and it’s all very inevitable.

This is why I really like it.

To quote my favorite show “time is an illusion, and so is death,” (if you know where this is from, you’re awesome). In this scenario, the universe doesn’t really die, time itself just stops being relevant. If nothing ever happens, then time doesn’t exist. Time will fade away along with the stars, and everything will be quiet and still and this will be the end.

I like it because there is a trajectory that started as soon as the universe did; this is where we’re going. I like it because it reminds me of a story. It’s not a happy ending or a sad ending, it’s just an ending and it feels like a blanket. I like the idea that the universe will be around so long it will outlive time, and when it ends, it won’t know it. It will drift off in its old age, in its sleep, peacefully, so softly it won’t even have to mourn itself.

I like it because it’s pretty. I like it because it’s anthropomorphic. It’s the way we all want to end. With a purpose, a bright summer, and a calm winter with no mourning.

Maybe the universe won’t end this way. Trust me, there are other ways the universe could end. It’s just the way I want everything to end, when nothing ever happens again.heatdeathmeme

Into the Multiverse

I was a bit late to the party, but I just managed to see “Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse.” Aside from it just being flat-out awesome, having some of the coolest animation to come out in recent years, and just being a movie about my favorite superhero in general, it also had a lot parallel universe nonsense, which is always fun.Spiderman

This is nothing new. Comic books are a haven for alternate universe storylines; it’s practically built into the medium. Something the writers don’t like happens, start a new universe. Want to pit your favorite superheroes up against their evil alter ego, start a new universe. Want to have them team up with their badass future counterpart, start a new universe. Creating a new universe is as easy as thinking it up and writing it down in the comics, no Big Bang needed, and anything goes. Alternate universes are a narrative Swiss army knife in the comics, and though perhaps overused and abused, might not be as far-fetched as they seem. Astrophysicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg were proponents of the idea of “superposition” in the 1920s. Grossly simplified, superposition is the idea that quantum particles can exist in an infinite number of states and thus there could be an infinite number of alternate universes similar to our own where each particle inhabits one of the infinite number of states dictated by that particle’s wave function. Essentially, anything that can happen, will and has happened. It’s Schrödinger’s Cat made infinite.

To use a simplistic example, I decided to have pizza for dinner instead of taquitos. In this universe I had pizza, but there could be another, identical universe where I decided to have taquitos. Everything leading up to pizza was the same, but a new, taquito universe was created when I made that decision and now everything has changed. Apply this to all the decisions you’ve ever made, all the decisions ever made for you, all the decisions everyone else that has ever lived has ever made, and all the possible positions of every particle in the universe, and you get an infinite number of universes, plus the one where you had taquitos.

We may even know how to get into the taquito universe, or at least where that universe once was. Some astrophysicists postulate that the Great Cold Spot, an area fractionally cooler on average than the rest of the universe when measuring the cosmic microwave background (CNB), could be where another universe bumped up against ours. It’s a wild idea and I highly recommend looking all this up, gently placing your brain in a blender, and setting it to “smoothie”.Multiverse

Even without all the mind-bending physics nonsense, it’s mind-boggling to think that everything thing that happens can affect the multiverse, but I’ve also found it weirdly comforting. Writers like to use the multiverse theory as a narrative device, a way to see a dead loved one again, right a wrong, or explore an alternate history. I like to use it as a reminder that this universe is special, singular. All the things that lead to this moment had to happen just like this, or everything could be different. There could be any number of universes that didn’t lead to you reading this blog or me writing it. Even the tiniest difference would make it not this universe. We’re one in infinity. But the real reason I like the multiverse theory is that in at least one of those universes, Spiderman is real and Trump isn’t president, possibly both are true at the same time, and I’d really like to go that universe.