Earlier today, I found paperwork piling up on my desk in unacceptable amounts. It got so bad I had to cancel naptime because I kept thinking, shit, if that tower of useless forms falls over on me, I’ll be trapped under it and have to chew off my leg just to take my 3:00 smoke break (because I’ll be damned if I’m skipping my smoke break). So I decided to grit my teeth, strap myself in and get cracking on the keyboard. Unfortunately, the more I tried to concentrate, the more I kept getting drawn back to the same distracting conclusion: gravity is bullshit.
Let me explain:
About five or six years ago, scientists figured out that at the center of our galaxy there’s something called a super-massive black hole. (I guess the descriptor “super-massive” doesn’t sound as stupid to scientists as it does to everyone else). Apparently all the stars revolve around this thing the way the earth revolves around the sun, the moon revolves around the earth, and I revolve around a tray of cold cuts. I know this is true because I saw it in a documentary on The Discovery Channel (the black hole thing, not the cold cuts) and the Asian scientist with the long white hair hasn’t ever lied to me before.
According to the magic glowing TV box in my living room, astronomers calculated how much room there is at the center of the galaxy and then crunched the numbers on how much gravity it would take to keep everything spinning in place all nice and proper. When done correctly, a calculator will tell you that there’s this monstrous, horrible pit in space trying to suck everything in (which is why I use an adding machine instead of a calculator: they’re a lot less depressing).
Here’s some food for thought: if you were to measure the outer shell of this so-called “super-massive black hole” then you’ll find out two distinct facts: First, it’s 4,000 times the diameter of our sun; and second, you either need a bigger ruler or a better job. Since I’m not sure how they figured this part out, I’ll move on to weight. They figure it would take an object about 3.7 million times the mass of our sun in order to maintain the kind of neatly spinning disc shape the Milky Way is always bragging about. So we’ve got an object 3.7 million times the mass of our sun in the space of about 4,000 times its diameter. If you’re not impressed then let me boil it on down for all the huckleberries out there: it’s the same as trying to shove 3.7 million pounds of shit into a 4,000 pound bag. That makes for one incredibly dense shit-bag, and you’re going to want to stand back before opening it for the spring planting season.
When talking about things like black holes, it’s about this point where we start getting into the weird stuff. Apparently celestial objects – like Internet bloggers – get stranger the heavier they grow. Unfortunately, this is where I start having problems with all the different concepts. Look, I know scientists are all real smart and unlock the secrets of the universe all day long while I, by comparison, have grown incredibly adept at looking like I’m working while holding down an epic game of Minesweeper on company time; and I’m not asking them to apologize or anything. I just wish they’d take it easy on my brain when they’re telling us about all this craziness.
For example, a black hole gets its name from the fact that light can’t escape its surface. That’s fine, I can deal with it since, to date, working inside of a black hole has not been added to my list of job responsibilities. But then they had to go and tell me that a black hole can produce a shroud of light around itself that’s millions of time brighter than the sun because when it’s sucking space-stuff in, it causes so much friction that it glows. When this happens it’s called a quasar (the scientific equivalent of a bag of shit packed so dense you can use it as a nightlight). So apparently the darkest thing in the universe is also the brightest thing as well. Why is this okay? Why can’t the damn thing just stay black? I’m not happy about this dichotomy because it makes my brain-juice curdle but since there’s nothing I can do about it, I’ll just move on.
Then they added a new concept to this whole black-hole thing: the Event Horizon. (That’s the kind of heavy-sounding word an astronomer would invent just to let you know he’s smarter than you; it probably got shot down as the name of the alternative rock band he played bass for in college). The Event Horizon is this point-of-no-return-like boundary whereat a black hole starts to suck in time. That’s right, time. How the fuck are you going to suck in TIME?
Apparently, time is an actual thing; and as a thing, it can be affected by other things.
That’s completely un-cool and kind of strikes me as bullshit. How come if I’m late for work, I can’t affect the slow, unending procession of minutes that leads me to an awkward conversation with my boss? Nothing can be done about time when it comes to me being written up for tardiness; but when it comes to black holes, well now time can be slapped around like a tetherball until it feels like cooperating. I think that if I get massive enough, I should be able to make time my personal bitch; but to date, the all-you-can-eat buffet in town has yet to see eye-to-eye with me on this, so all experiments on the subject have been suspended until further notice.
You’d think at this point there’d be little else to say about black holes. I mean, it sucks in light, it sucks in time and since it’s only Tuesday, we’ll give your layman’s understanding of science a break until the weekend, okay? But no, they go on to say that at the center of a black hole is something called a singularity (apparently another defunct alt-rock band name). It seems a singularity is a point in space that has literally no volume, yet an infinite amount of gravity. That’s right, the over-stuffed bag of shit we started out with, has now morphed into an infinite amount of shit crammed into a space that actually has no space. Try and wrap your head around that one for a few minutes.
Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
To re-cap, a black hole can suck in light, it can suck in time, it has an infinite amount of gravity crammed into a single point (which is technically impossible if you thought about it like I told you to), and I’m expected to be a mature adult about the whole thing. That’s the problem with being a working man in America: even if the time-space continuum is broken, I still have to submit a request two weeks in advance just to get a day off – and that’s not fair.
The part that really gets to me is this: even though all the above is public information that everyone has access to, no one seems to give a shit about the giant whirlwind of destruction lurking at the center of the our galaxy. Remember that it’s only about 26,000 light years away, which might seem like a lot to you, but to me it’s not far enough. Keep in mind it’s not like there’s only one black hole in existence; there are millions of them out there and I find that really fucking creepy. Think about it like this: they’re real – like really real — and exist in actual points in space. If you had the time and the means of travel you could actually go to one of these things, jump in, and have all of eternity to consider what kind of decision making process made you do such a stupid thing.
You’d think there’d be more public concern; but I’ve found that if you go to your boss’s desk in a panic and explain that you’re having trouble processing the fact that there’s a singularity at the center of the galaxy that’s totally fucking up everything you thought you knew about Newtonian physics, she’ll just stare at you until you hang your head and wander back to your cubicle. Well pardon me for caring about the general maintenance of the galaxy. Apparently I’m the only one with time to think about this shit.
In fact, I’ve written my congressman about my concerns on this subject and have yet to hear back from him. I guess he feels like it’s not his department, but I personally think it’s everyone’s problem. What? We’re just going to ignore this thing and hope it goes away? I don’t think Stephen Hawkins said anything about it fixing itself anytime soon. What if one of these things comes wandering into our solar system and screws up my weekend plans? It’s not like I won’t be expected to show up for work on Monday; in fact, that would probably be the day we fell in and time stopped. I feel like we should be more proactive about these things. Is there even a senate committee working on a platform statement (or whatever the hell it is they do all day)?
Space has a leaky drain and since we’re all comfy here on earth, no one’s going to bother fixing it. Time apparently plays favorites with celestial objects and I’m supposed to just keep plugging along at all the forms and reports in my in-box like there’s nothing wrong with the status quo. No, I guess I’m the crazy one for thinking that any of this is a reasonable and well thought out excuse for being late to work.