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» Hatrack River Forum » Intergalactic Medicine Show » Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show » IGMS #21-- Go Home and Be With Your Families, Steven R. Stewart

Author Topic: IGMS #21-- Go Home and Be With Your Families, Steven R. Stewart
Scott R
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Even if human kind escapes earth before our sun expands and bakes us all to death, eventually the Milky Way will collide with Andromeda. The whole universe will expand to the point that it tears itself apart. (The joke's on you, vampires. Immortal my ass.) How is a guy supposed to cope with that?

"Go Home, and Be With Your Families" is my attempt to answer that question for myself.

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Flying Fish
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I'm no astronomer, but I like to read books about astronomy and watch shows like "Universe" and "How the Universe Works."

I've heard people say that a spacecraft traveling at about 5% of the speed of light through the asteroid belt would see about one asteroid within hailing distance every few hours (contrast this with the videogame-like scene in Star Wars in which tumbling rocks are bouncing all over the screen as the Millenium Falcom loses the imperial ships).

Yes, there are tens of thousands of asteroids there -- but there is also so much space that the place is less dense than we humans can easily imagine, given our lifetimes of experience with earthly scale.

Now here's the really weird part -- galactic density in most parts of a "typical" galaxy is similarly vast -- so much so that some astronomers speculate that the great majority of beings living on planets within colliding galaxies don't even notice anything unusual happening. Yes, there may be some spectacular collisions of star-on-star or planet-to-planet -- but a really high percentage of the interaction will just be two tremendously tenuous areas of space passing through each other.

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Steven R. Stewart
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You are right. Space is, for all practical purposes, empty. Normal matter is in the extreme (EXTREME) minority, almost to the point of being insignificant. I mean, come on, even our closest star is 4 light years away. 

When I referred to the Milky Way colliding with Andromeda in my blog essay, I didn't intend for people to picture the two galaxies hitting each other like oncoming cars; I was only trying to illustrate that the conditions of the universe are constantly in flux around us (albeit at a very slow rate by our standards), and the continued survival of humanity is not guaranteed--quite the opposite unless something dramatic changes in our understanding of physics and the universe. The collision of the Milky Way with Andromeda is not a certain death sentence for our solar system (we could be destroyed, flung out into space, or remain relatively unaffected), but it would be a multi-million year period of uncertainty. There are many theories, but no one is certain (yet) what would happen to us.

In the story itself, the Kabuki were destroyed by a blast of radiation from a star in their area of space. I was not imagining that star engulfing the Kabuki planet, only buffeting the atmosphere with enough radiation to make conditions unlivable. This radiation would have taken some time to reach their planet, but wasn't detected until too late. While this may not be 100% scientifically plausible, that was not my greatest concern when writing the story. I was only interested in making the premise sound plausible enough that the majority of readers could focus on the human characters in the story and what those characters are going through. Ultimately, people will either give it to you and engage in the emotion of the story, or they won't. I hope most will.

Flying Fish, I love "The Universe" and "Through the Wormhole" and other shows like that. I get my mind blown every episode. I raise a glass to you, fellow geek! May the mysteries of our universe always amaze and perplex us! [Smile]

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Flying Fish
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Thanks, and I raise a virtual glass to you.

And it occurred to me after I posted that what I wrote seemed extraordinarily nit-picky (like I was criticizing someone's knowledge of science), and failed to mention at all any sentiment like, "Congratulations, thanks for a great story, etc...), so let me express those things now.

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