Last night I watched The Universe, a series on the History Channel. The episode was about the impending collision between our own galaxy, the Milky Way, and our nearest neighbor galaxy, Andromeda. You read that right — our galaxy is going to collide with another galaxy. Do you have any idea the kind of damage we’re talking about? Your homeowner’s insurance is not going to cover this. I don’t care what your deductible is.
And it isn’t a controversial subject, with good arguments on both sides, like whether or not we landed on the moon. No, the galaxies are on a collision course and will, without a doubt, slam into each other with a force you haven’t seen since ever. NASA implies that there’s hope for Earth, claiming that the “space between stars is so vast that when galaxies collide, the stars in them usually do not collide.” But it isn’t like scientists have ever observed anything like this up close. And the scientists on the show described all sorts of ways that we could get crushed by stellar matter or irradiated or boiled or sucked into the super black hole at the center of each galaxy. One thing is for sure — our galaxy is going to be eaten by a bigger one. I don’t know what the Milky Way thinks about this, but it can’t be good for us.
So, yeah, it’s got me depressed. I mean, what’s the point of getting out of bed in the morning? It’s all going to be vaporized anyway when the galaxies collide. “Scott, take it easy,” you say, “the galaxies aren’t going to collide for another three billion years. You’ll be long dead, dead for about three billion years already. And it’s likely that humans will have long since been killed off, extinct from some super virus or planet-killer comet or nuclear armageddon or environmental disaster. Three billion years from now, there’ll be no one left on Earth to care about the galaxies colliding.”
It’s nice of you to say. I appreciate your trying to cheer me up. Still, I can’t help but think that humans might survive those viruses and nukes and still be around three billion years from now, with Andromeda getting ready to have its way with our dear, sweet Milky Way. Sure, you and I won’t be around to worry about it, but what about our children? Okay, their children? Maybe my math is off by a few years, but certainly someone’s children will have to deal with this. And do you want to be remembered as the generation that passed the buck on preventing the galaxy-collision to future generations? I don’t.
“Scott, don’t worry,” you say, “three billion years is a long time. Future generations will have really, really good technology. Everything will be in Hi-Def. They’ll just jump on star cruisers and get the hell out of the galaxy before the collision.” Maybe they will. But only if we start working on it right now. It’s true that three billion years is a long time, but transporting the human species out of the galaxy and locating a suitable replacement planet in a different galaxy ain’t like dusting crops, boy. And, as we all know, every year seems to go by faster and faster. Those last billion years will feel like only a hundred million. The time to act is now.
Sadly, I doubt we can turn to our government for action. After all, what did the Bush administration do about the impending collision of not one, but two galaxies? In eight years, precisely nothing. And has Obama even mentioned the path Andromeda is on and his plan to stop it? Not once. There is no plan. Every day the galaxies draw closer and no one in power seems to care at all. They won’t even return my phone calls. It’s enough to make me want to go to bed and wait for the inevitable.