Your Birth Star

Name any event in history and you will find a star out there whose light gives you a glimpse of something happening during the year of that event. Provided you are not a very young child, somewhere up in the night sky you can find your personal birth star. Its light is a thermonuclear glow that heralds the year of your birth. Indeed, you can find quite a few such stars (about 40 if you are 40; about 70 if you are 50; about 175 if you are 80 years old). When you look at one of your birth year stars, your telescope is a time machine letting you witness thermonuclear events that are actually taking place during the year you were born. A pleasing conceit, but that is all. Your birth star will not deign to tell anything about your personality, your future or your sexual compatibilities. The stars have larger agendas in which the preoccupations of human pettiness do not figure.

Your birth star, of course, is yours for only this year. Next year you must look to the surface of a larger sphere one light year more distant. Think of this expanding sphere as a radius of good news, the news of your birth broadcast steadily outwards. In the Einsteinian universe in which most physicists now think we live, nothing can in principle travel faster than light. So, if you are 50 years old, you have a personal news bubble of 50 light years' radius. Within that sphere (of a little more than a thousand stars) it is in principle possible (although obviously not in practice) for news of your existence to have permeated. Outside that sphere you might as well not exist; in an Einsteinian sense you do not exist. Older people have larger existence spheres than younger people, but nobody's existence extends to more than a tiny fraction of the universe. The birth of Jesus may seem an ancient and momentous event to us as we reach his second millenary. But the news is so recent on this scale that, even in the most ideal circumstances, it could in principle have been proclaimed to less than one 200 million millionth of the stars in the universe. Many, if not most, of the stars out there will be orbited by planets. The numbers are so vast that probably some of them have life forms, some have evolved intelligence and technology.

Yet the distances and times that separate us are so great that thousands of life forms could independently evolve and go extinct without it being possible for any to know of the existence of any other.


Folksonomies: history cosmos time speed of light

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Life (0.958764): dbpedia | freebase
Observable universe (0.956712): dbpedia | freebase
Sun (0.895384): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Star (0.880953): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Energy (0.758581): dbpedia | freebase
Hydrogen (0.732010): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Deuterium (0.726681): dbpedia | freebase
Earth (0.720844): dbpedia | freebase

 Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Dawkins, Richard (2000-04-05), Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder, Mariner Books, Retrieved on 2011-09-21
Folksonomies: evolution science