Month: April 2022

Quack

I don’t want to work
I want to bang on the drum all day
I don’t want to play
I just want to bang on the drum all day

-Todd Rundgren, Bang The Drum All Day

A Long Drive

One look into the night sky is all it takes. To feel irrelevant.

Consider that light travels through space eleven million, one hundred sixty thousand miles a minute. So in one day it travels sixteen billion, seventy million, four hundred thousand miles. To drive that distance (@ 60 MPH) would take (roughly) two hundred sixty eight million hours.

I have been alive on this planet roughly five hundred forty six thousand hours. Call it a lifetime. If I had spent every hour of that time driving a straight line into space (@ 60 MPH) I’d be roughly thirty three million miles from earth by now. It would take me four hundred eighty six lifetimes of continuous driving to reach the same point in space that light travels in one hour.

(For perspective: @60 mph it would take 165 days to drive to the moon, roughly six months, allowing for pee stops along the way).

Stop and think about this a second (by which time light will have traveled~186,000 miles!). Especially in light of the latest report from NASA that its newest telescope, the James Webb, recently crushed its predecessor’s record (The Hubble) for furthest object in space observed. Which was…wait for it…roughly thirteen billion light years distant. Which, if I’ve done the math correctly, is on the order of ten Sixtillion ( 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) miles away. Pretty far. And growing! Since we understand the universe is expanding.

The James Web detected a galaxy roughly 2 billion light years to the right of Hubble’s record

There are a lot of galaxies (actually, galaxy groups) out there rapidly moving away from each other. Eventually, if the universe continues to expand at this rate, the galaxy groups will be so far away from our Milky Way even our most powerful telescopes won’t be able to detect them. It’s not all bad, though. To the average earthling a million years hence, the night sky will appear unchanged, pretty much like it is now, since expansion isn’t occurring within our galaxy (or even galaxy cluster, so far as I understand it).

When I hear certain people imagine heaven, I imagine they imagine it is out there beyond the Reionisation Era somewhere (see figure). Still others believe it exists beyond the Big Bang, or, more precisely, that the Big Bang was God. The idea that instead of being opposed in their fundamental worldviews, physicists and religionists are in a sense talking about the same thing. I don’t believe science has an answer for every question, certainly not to the level of satisfaction we would like. On the other hand, I resist, and have always resisted, any committed belief in supernatural things. About as far as I am willing to come in that regard is: “I can’t necessarily rule it out.” Overall, though, when I ponder the night sky, accept my insignificance in the grand milieu of a mysterious universe, the sheer vastness and mystery of it all is enough unknown for me to grapple with in one lifetime.

The night sky over Sedona. Looks like a big question mark to me. Wonder how long it would take to drive there

The Happy Uterus

While in Utah stuck in traffic somewhere near Salt Lake City (SLC) we spotted a tandem Ad across two billboards separated by about 1000′

My first thought was Utah is the last state where I’d expect to see the word uterus appear on a billboard. On second thought, no, maybe the most likely state. I admit this arises from an assumption I have about the people who live in Utah. That is, pro-family people who generally speaking have an exaggerated interest in encouraging Utahans to make more babies, especially babies who will themselves grow up to make even more babies!

Turns out the Ad sponsor, mixhers, according to their About Us page, is a company that makes an holistic elixir formulated specifically to “stifle our monthly strife,” aka menstrual inflammation. The main takeaway: A smiling uterus is a competent uterus! Also from the About Us page, a photo of what I assume are some of mixher’s employees

Those are some wholesome-looking white women. Each of them possessing, I presume, a smiling uterus. From a local marketing perspective this kinda makes sense. Only two in one hundred people living in SLC are black, compared to my hometown, Milwaukee, where roughly one in five people are black (source). On the other hand, if your goal is to expand your product reach to uteruses country-wide (mixher’s offers free shipping nationally on orders >$150), then you might consider peppering that photo a little bit. Although, to be honest, I claim no particular expertise in marketing products to make uteruses happy. So what do I know.

We opted to drive back to Seattle via Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Driving down to Sedona we stuck mainly to the west coast to avoid snow in mountain passes. I was struck by the massive number of trucks on the road. In fact for some of the longest stretches it was mostly trucks, only punctuated here and there by a few passenger vehicles. And I hear truck drivers are in high demand, we need a lot more of them. HW was struck by how much of the American west, at least from the perspective of major highways, was wide open and barren – no people, no services, no nothing except parched desert and tumbleweeds. I commented that a lot of it is owned by the federal government, some of which has been leased to ranchers (e.g. cattle grazing), although I didn’t have an estimate at hand. Turns out it’s larger than I thought, close to half

Federal government claims ownership of about 47% of American West.

In Alaska it’s close to 70%. The libertarian in me would like to see most of this land sold into private hands, maybe to building contractors who can build big homes for all those babies the Utahans are gonna have. The tree-hugger in me would prefer to see it all turned into one big national park as we transition Americans to eating Impossible burgers.

Speaking of national parks, this was the taken at the south rim of the Grand Canyon (Navajo Overlook), HW’s first ever visit

The spiritualist in me would prefer this cathedral remain untouched, left just as it is, forever.