Happy St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Day!

One of my best friends in college made a ritual of spending Valentine’s Day locked in his dorm room in sheer despondence. He is now quite happily enslaved to his wife.

I recently learned that an old college buddy, Mike, was in a pretty bad wreck a year and a half ago. He was driving around in the middle of a mildly rainy day, lost control of the car, and hit a tree. He was comatose for two weeks.

When he woke up, he didn’t remember anything after high school–actually, his memory loss probably goes back further. He didn’t remember his wife and kids, and had to be trained to “know” them using photographs as flashcards.

Worse, his brain was damaged badly enough that he now has the mental capacity of a seven-year-old. His nine-year-old daughter has passed him in intelligence. He walks with a cane, requires full-time caregivers, and has no appreciation for any sort of grownup discussions or humor.

He wouldn’t remember me. Frankly, that doesn’t bother me too much. Forgetting an old friend you haven’t seen in six years pales in comparison to the prospect of forgetting half of your life, forgetting your wife, forgetting your daughters. I don’t want to imagine what it’s like for his girls–Daddy forgot them, and doesn’t act like Daddy anymore.

I would remind my friends from Cope Hall that that’s two comrades we’ve lost, one way or another, to car wrecks. Drive safely.

Hopefully my engineering pals can answer this one:

If the universe is only 14 billion years old as claimed by Great and Exalted Wikipedia, then how can be be “at least 93 billion light years across”? Seems to me that if the fastest stuff is light in a vacuum, and you shoot it in opposite directions for 14 billion years, you get a width of roughly 28 billion light years.

Please alleviate my ignorance in one hundred words or less.


Doctor Hmnahmna Says:

I am by no means a theoretical physicist, but here’s how I remember an explanation for the size of the universe:

The speed of mass/energy in the space-time continuum is restricted to the speed of light in vacuum, c. However, no such restriction is placed on expansion of the continuum itself. The best analogy I could come up with was that cars are (supposedly) restricted to 65 mph, but the road itself could stretch at a rate faster than 65 mph. If your car is in a stretching part, it would move along with the road, but your relative velocity on the road is still restricted to 65 mph.

The other explanation I’ve heard is that the laws of physics were different at the beginning of the universe. These different laws allowed mass to form in the first place, among other things.

And, as is usual in science, we don’t know everything. There may be another explanation out there that no one has figured out yet.

February 14th, 2008 at 7:53 am

Vincent Viscariello Says:

Are you saying that the continuum can expand faster than c (assuming there were a way to step outside reality and measure such a thing)?

February 14th, 2008 at 5:37 pm

Doctor Hmnahmna Says:

That’s right.

February 14th, 2008 at 6:30 pm

Discupulus ex Abysso Says:

“Seems to me that if the fastest stuff is light in a vacuum, and you shoot it in opposite directions for 14 billion years, you get a width of roughly 28 billion light years.” That’s assuming that light is what made the universe expand in the first place. If the universe WAS made by some explosion or something, it’d probably have been something faster than light, so the light was following the path of the former “existance-making” material that went faster than even light itself.

February 20th, 2008 at 9:10 pm