In the sixteenth chapter of Judgment Day, I learn about the shape of the universe. Sort of. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Science of Discworld IV.
Thinking about the shape of the universe is one of those things that feels like it could break your brain if you think about it too hard. Which is obviously not really a thing because there are countless scientists around the world thinking about this very thing all the time, and clearly, none of their minds have imploded. But like many of the examples brought up in this chapter—like what a hypersphere actually looks like—it is rather hard to wrap my mind around this stuff. It’s related to other things I find hard to conceptualize. What does thought feel like in other people’s minds? Do we really have free will? How far is a light year away? Like, you could explain some of these things to me, but can I really, truly appreciate the distance of a light year when I haven’t even traveled one percent of that distance in my whole lifetime?
So I appreciate that the authors give this a good effort, and even if a lot of this is a LOT. But it’s cool as hell! Like, the idea that maybe we could reach the “edge” of the universe and just pop out on the other “side” is a TRIP. Even though I know that’s a very basic summary of one of the theories put forth about what our universe might look like. This chapter had a different effect on me than most of the other ones, though. Often, I find things from my life to bring up that allow me to relate to the text, especially as so much of the Science books concern dogma, brainwashing, and misinformation. But I don’t have anything personal to draw from when it comes to the shape of the universe because… well, the most I can say is that I was raised to believe that God created it all. Yet I also can’t really say that I spoke much about the cosmos with my parents, except when we were talking about speculative fiction. (We had many a conversation about aliens and The X-Files.)
Instead, I want to say that I appreciate that there are people who are—to borrow an analogy here—volunteering to devote their lives to being the ant in the square. There are scientists out there trying to wrap their minds around the incomprehensible in order to make it comprehensible. Sometimes, that work reaches the public consciousness, like the example given here that the universe is shaped like a football. (Not my country’s football, and I don’t know why that’s a comforting thing, but it is. God, we Americans would be SO FUCKING ANNOYING if that turned out to be true.) But often, scientists work with little funding and no real fanfare or celebration in order to expand our understanding of the universe and the world around us. Seriously, every person I knew who has made a career of working in the sciences has not done so because there are bloated, ridiculous salaries there. Most of them are struggling here in the States, especially in the political/social climate of our country. So they’re doing this mainly out of passion and curiosity. Their work is done to change the world, you know?
So bravo to those who work in science, both those who work in fields that are immediately more practical as well as those that exist (right now) in the theoretical. I think it’s all valuable, and the continued expansion of knowledge can only make us better as humans.
One last thing: I hope sparticles and selectrons are real because those words are immensely fun to say.
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