Thursday, 21 March 2013

So What About Infinity?

I was reading the other day that there is some disagreement over whether the Voyager spacecraft has left our solar system yet. This is the spaceship that was launched in the 1970s to study the outer planets, and just kept going. Well, if it hasn’t left yet, it presumably will do before much longer, and I find that fact fascinating for reasons which go beyond simple logic.

There’s something oddly incomprehensible about a machine made by human hands travelling beyond the solar system. Oh, I do realise it’s logical enough when regarded pragmatically, but it provokes a reaction in me that goes beyond pragmatic regard. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know.

It also provokes a fascinating question: will it keep going for ever? It’s reasonable to suppose that one day – trillions of years from now – it will get to the other side of the universe. But what is beyond the universe? Nothing, say the experts; no energy, no matter, no time even. So can something exist where this is no existence? What does that do to the concept of ‘for ever?’

And there’s another question: would I like to be aboard Voyager, travelling through the unknown reality of deepest space with enough air and sustenance to last my natural lifetime? How can I know what a natural lifetime would be in that situation? We’re told that travelling at speed in space does funny things to time. I’ve never been a fan of science fiction, but I expect such a scenario has been covered once or twice. Maybe I should have paid more attention to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Writing this is sending me into all sorts of wild areas. I think the best thing to do is just not think.

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