Sunday, January 22, 2006
Space Cadets.

Late last night, Yaakov and I were talking about an old sci-fi book called "Ring World." I don't remember the author, but the premise was that people were living in a vertical ring that orbited the sun. Yaakov loved the book, I quit mid-way through. It's been years since we've even thought about it.

Then we started talking about the Pluto probe that just launched, and the Cassini probe that went to Saturn, and the Mars landers that are still sending back data. I told him I read that the Pluto project cost 700 million dollars. Yaakov said, "That's all? That's cheap! Not enough tax payer money is alloted to NASA." I can't believe the Pluto probe is going to take 10 years to get there. "How does it know how to reach its destination?" "Orbital mechanics," Yaakov replied. Oh, yeah. Orbital mechanics. Duh.

This segued into a conversation about the origins of the Universe, space and time, and "What is the center of the universe?" Yaakov said one theory is it's a big black hole. "One day we'll all get sucked in," he said. "How can that be, if Moshiach is coming? There's no mention of any black hole apocalypses in the Torah. Maybe we're in the black hole now, and when Moshiach comes we'll get barfed out." Or the idea of other beings living somewhere else in the universe, we were trying to figure that out too. Are there any allusions to that in midrash? One time someone working for NASA told the Rebbe he was assigned to look for life outside planet Earth. Was this fanciful, he asked the Rebbe? The Rebbe said to do the project - why limit The Creator?

Yaakov said he felt there was room in Bereishis to contemplate a "Big Bang" kind of theory, which I vehemently disagreed with. I told him that some people theorize that a Torah "day" might not be how we see a day now (as a 24 hour cycle). So people leave room that "one day" in G-d's time might be millions of years, or whatever. I said that we have to take the creation story as a literal one, because we observe shabbos in commemoration of that. Since shabbos happens every seventh day, we must understand that to be the natural order of creation. Otherwise we'd celebrate shabbos every few million years, and the world isn't that old anyway! Yaakov agreed with me (which was shocking, as whenever we get into techie-nerdy conversations I'm always on the stupid end).

I wish Yaakov had a job with Lockheed Martin.


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