Monday, August 22, 2011

* I Lost Lucy

"Oh Rickyyyyy !"

In 1955, a little more than four years after leaving a TV studio in Hollywood, signals bearing the first images of the I Love Lucy show passed Proxima Centura, the nearest star to our sun.  A half century later, a scene with Lucy disguised as a clown sneaking into Ricky's Tropicana Night Club was 50-plus light-years, or about 300 trillion miles, away.  Since the Milky Way is 100,000 light years across and 1,000 light years thick, and our solar system is near the middle of the galactic plane, this means in about AD 2450 the expanding sphere of radio waves bearing Lucy, Ricky, and their neighbors the Mertzes will emerge from the top and bottom of our galaxy and enter intergalactic space.

Before them will lie billions of other galaxies, over distances we can quantify but really can't comprehend.  By the time I Love Lucy reaches them, it is unclear how anything out there would be able to make much sense of  it, either . ..

Massive galaxies in their path would further distort radio waves bearing the news that in 1953, a baby boy was born to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.  It would increasingly compete with the background noise from the Big Bang, the original birth of the universe, which a consensus of scientists dates to at least 13.7 billion years ago. Just like Lucy's broadcast shenanigans, that sound has been expanding at the speed of light ever since, and thus pervades everything . . .

(p. 253+)

The World Without Us
Alan Weisman

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