It happened about 290 million lightyears away. That’s 1.7048014 x 1015 miles, rounded to 8 digits or 2,381,607,497,437,875,000 over 1,397 miles if displayed as a fraction.
A figure that may be easier to digest is 18,339,912 astronomical units, an astronomical unit being roughly the distance from the Earth to the Sun, which varies as the Earth makes its merry way around the sun due to its elliptical orbit (which, as you know, partly gives us our seasons), so another figure that’s not quite exact, but as an Astronomical Unit was set in 2012 to be 150 million kilometres (93.2 million miles) it is about as accurate as we can get given the circumstances and the vastness of all things space and my limited ability at maths (all mathematical credit goes to my Casio FX-83WA scientific calculator, which I’m so pleased with, I’m giving it a picture credit).
Basically, it happened a very, very, verrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyy long time ago and very, very, verrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyy, far away.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about something that happened 290 million years ago. I’m talking about two galaxies colliding and merging into one, I’m taking about interacting galaxies to give them their technical name, and to be completely precise, I’m talking about the Mice Galaxies, or NGC 4676A and NGC 4676B to give them their proper name, collectively known as NGC 4676. They are two spiral galaxies, located in the constellation Coma Berenices (you’ll find it between Leo and Bootes in the northern sky, somewhere in the fourth galactic quadrant if memory serves me right), and they were first photographed by Hubble in 2002, and came into my life courtesy of a National Geographic article about Hubble around about the same time, back in the days when I subscribed to said publication, and for a reason only known to me, stuck in my head. Waiting for this prompt to drag them back out again!
Life was mostly shite for me back in those days due to poor decision making (giving up a promising career to run a pub, which was an utter, utter disaster and the beginnings of my first breakdown). To make life bearable, I used to escape into astronomy and astrophysics in a bid to find out exactly what my place and purpose on our rotating rock was, and as a consequence, discovered a whole lot more to boot!
I would really like to go on, but my 10 minutes is up! Mainly from fucking about with my calculator!
Maybe I’ll write a longer blog post on why this particular part of the night sky did stick in my mind at the time for such a long time and is so fascinating to me, as indeed all the night sky and our galaxy and the universe and everything is, but this bit in particular.
If I can find the time and the inclination to do so.
Anyway, as Eric Idle once said, “Whenever life gets you down, Mrs Brown…”
written between 12:20 and 12:30 (add another couple of minutes or so faffing about with the images) and prompted by this page
“You want us to do what?” he said.
He had quite happily been sitting there, minding his own business, lost in his own little world of procrastination, typing random words into Wikipedia, instead of getting on with the mundane work that he should have been doing, when he heard the request. Well, he didn’t hear it as such, as he never listened and due to deafness in one ear, rarely heard anything unless he concentrated on listening and tilted his head and pointed his good ear in the right direction.
It was a ludicrous request but one that drew his attention, and it penetrated his deafness and general aloofness due to the absolute absurdness of it, which is why he piped up and asked for it to be repeated. Well, he had heard correctly, despite his dodgy right ear and general lack of concentration, and it was indeed a very daft thing to ask anybody to do, let alone a whole department, especially as each one of them was as lazy and lackadaisical as the other.
Everybody stopped what they were doing and looked at each other in disbelief, heads turning this way and that, as they searched each other’s blank expressions hoping to make some sense of the preposterous request by scanning the faces of those nearest to them, each waiting for someone else to make the first move, either too scared or too selfish to take the lead.
Well, someone had to go first, and as he was the only one to open his mouth and say something, all eyes eventually turned to him. He could feel his ears turning red under the scrutiny of twenty co-workers, one goldfish, and a poster of Shawaddywaddy that had been glued to the wall by an unknown prankster the Christmas before last (nobody really cared who had done it), staring at him.
Slowly, he rose from his chair and stepped away from his desk, looked nervously around him, then with growing confidence headed towards the open space in middle of the office, one by one, the rest of them stood up and started to follow him.
Just then the fire alarm went off and they all calmly made their way outside to stand in the pouring rain and watch the building burn instead.
Prompted by this page
No one knew where they came from, they just appeared. They looked and felt like regular pebbles. All different colours, shapes and sizes, but all with the rounded edges and irregular shapes that pebbles have. No one even seemed to notice them arriving, presumably because of the remoteness of their initial appearance. For, you see, they simply appeared in deserts, windswept deserts, with scattered cacti here and there, and along mountain ranges where the hardiest of plants grew. Some even washed up on the shore, picked up by giggling children and thrown back in the sea, just like regular pebbles. These, however, were not regular pebbles. In fact, these were not pebbles at all.
By the time anybody realised, it was too late. The great pebble invasion had begun.
It started in Mexico, the first cactus to be devoured was a classic western cactus with the appearance of a drunk person waving and saying “Yoo Hoo!” The innocuous looking pebble, nestled in the sand at the base of the green spiky plant, just ate it, very quickly, with razor sharp teeth in powerful jaws.
Then, halfway up a particularly pretty hillside in the Dolomites it happened again. This time a grey pebble with white spots chopped down on a clump of sempervivums and sedums.
And it happened again, and again, and again. The world over, anywhere and everywhere that these hardiest of plants grew. The pebbles devoured the succulents, one tasty morsel at a time. And when the succulents where gone, they ate everything else, all the plants, exotic and common, sweet perfumed and smelly, they did not appear in the least bit fussy, across all the continents, throughout all the seas.
Everything that lived and grew was chopped and chewed and swallowed.
Except for sprouts, for some reason, they left all the sprouts.
Prompted by this page
Well, would you look at that! There’s a fork in the road. Not a fork in the road in the traditional sense of a which way now, left or right, oh I really don’t know which way to go, why are there no signposts, kind of fork. An actual fork, a garden fork to be precise, a rather expensive looking, brand new, steel fork with a beautiful dark wood shaft and well-crafted handle, one of those handles with bumpy bits on the underside to make your fingers more comfortable when you are digging.
What’s more, it was standing upright, all four prongs thrust into the ground, as if it had been left there while the owner did something else, like pop to the compost heap or make a cup of tea, you know, the sort of thing you do with a fork when you are gardening and think to yourself you must quickly pop to the compost heap or make a nice cup of tea. You thrust it into the ground and wander off to do whatever it is you need to do.
What made it even stranger was the fact it was in the middle of the road, embedded in the asphalt, at a slight angle, and causing just enough of an obstruction to prevent anybody driving around it. It was quiet country lane, no cars to be seen either in front of me or behind me. How did it get there? It’s a mystery! A mysterious garden fork embedded in the asphalt in the middle of the road.
Anyway, I wasn’t about to look a free gift-fork in the mouth and walk away so I got out of the car, wrestled with it for a bit to loosen it, pulled it out, looked around to make sure I wasn’t being secretly observed by the ghost of Jeremy Beadle, put it in the back of the car and drove off. It would come in very handy for all the gardening I never did.
At the next junction I got stuck at some road works. There was a lot of shouting going on, so I wound down the window to better hear. I was a couple of cars back, but I could just make out that some poor chap was being severely reprimanded for not strapping all the tools down in the back of the truck when they left the depot earlier. Poor fellow, I guess fate took a turn for the worse at the fork in the road for him that day!
Oh well, his loss my fork.
The day had started rushed as she had overslept and was a full forty minutes behind her regular morning schedule. Something had to give, so she missed her morning shit. Electing to go when she got to work instead. By skipping her morning shit, she would gain an extra twenty minutes, rather than losing forty, giving her an extra ten minutes luxuriating in the bath and a spare ten minutes for anything else. She would have been wiser to have had a shit and a shower and rushed out of the door, rather than face the embarrassment of what would happen later.
Having accrued an extra ten minutes by not having her morning shit and having a longer bath, she arrived at work in good time. Made her way to her desk, logged on to her computer, checked her email, did some other bits and pieces before deciding she should probably have that shit now. So, off she went. To the toilet. On the 32nd floor. It was a work shit after all, so she figured she might as well make the most of it. She got up from her desk, located on the second floor, and made her way slowly to the stairs and started the long ascent to the 32nd floor. Fifteen minutes later she was nestled on her throne, catching up on world affairs on her phone, while having a shit. A particularly satisfying shit as it happened as it was during work time and she was getting paid to shit and use the firm’s toilet paper!
Twenty-five minutes later, she arose, pulled at the toilet paper, wiped her arse with a few neatly folded sheets, chucked them in the toilet, flushed it, turned around and left the cubicle all in one swift motion (no pun intended), washed her hands at the sink for a full five minutes, then went through the door to the stairs and began her descent.
Ten minutes later, as she walked through the door to her floor, one of her co-workers started to snigger, another co-worker looked up to see what the first one was sniggering about, and began to giggle, another looked up to see what the sniggering and giggling was about and let out a loud guffaw, because of the loud guffaw it wasn’t long before the whole of the floor were either rolling around on the carpet tiles in merriment, or were doubled up in extreme laughter at the site that was in front of them.
For, you see, when she had pulled at the toilet paper to wipe her arse, due to a slight flaw in manufacturing, the sheets hadn’t separated as there were no perforations. When she had chucked the neatly folded sheets into the toilet and turned swiftly to flush it, she hadn’t noticed that a piece of paper was wedged in her bottom, the speed of her turn causing the discarded poo paper not to land in the toilet bowl as intended, but to dangle behind her, out of sight, as she pulled up her knickers and realigned her skirt.
After she had washed her hands, she had exited the loo and as she walked away, she took it all with her, one long trail of industrial style toilet paper trailing from the 32nd floor all the way to the 2nd. And to make it more embarrassing, the folded sheets she had used to wipe herself with had become unfolded, leaving a long brown stain imprinted on them shaped just like an arrow pointing back the way she had come.
Prompted by this page
How to save a storm.
How do you save a storm? Can a storm be saved? Why would you save a storm?
Questions, questions, questions.
If you could save a storm, where would you save it? Would you store it in a cupboard or a drawer? Maybe you would put it in a box, I don’t know. Are storms digital? If they were could you save them on a server?
Or, hang on a minute, maybe there is an answer, of sorts. Storms are not digital, so I guess they must be analogue, as one would imagine they use or relate to something which is represented by continuously variable physical quantity, a thunderstorm with rain and lightning and thunder is produced by cumulonimbus clouds and warm unstable air that is rising and clashing with the colder air above, thus producing electricity (lighting) and sound waves (thunder). Can they be saved in a cloud?
There are of course many other types of storms such as blizzards, cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes, and typhoons, to name a few. How would you save these storms?
Film. You could record them to many of the different mediums of capturing live images. You know, celluloid, video tape, mobile phones, camcorders, that sort of thing. If that’s the answer then there is hope of saving a raging storm.
Or do they need saving for prosperity? Or maybe they need saving from poachers or would be malignant storm hunters that want to kill them and hang them on a wall or use their ingredients for strange medicines?
Perhaps they need saving from themselves? Or saving from one or some or all the many, many fictitious deities that are out there in myth and religion?
One thing is for sure. I’m fucked if I know.
Prompted by this page