Sunday, January 03, 2010

Save the Earth! And maybe the sun, too

This evening, after reading a bedtime story to Jennifer, she asked me to read her another book. Despite being very tired and dealing with dental pain, I agreed, because I promised myself that the next time she asked me to read "just one more book," then I'd do it. So the book she asked me to read to her was a nonfiction book for a change, about stars. The book talked about the sun mostly, and how it was doomed to implode in about 4 1/2 billion years. It explained this process: About how the sun would run out of energy and use helium and this would cause the sun to expand before imploding. During this expansion, it would wipe out everything in its path, including Mercury, the moon, and Earth.

This is not exactly old news to a lot of us grown-ups, but it was news to my young child. And actually, the news shocked her. I assured her it would not happen for 4 1/2 billion more years from now. "We'll probably all be dead by then," I said, imagining a very vacant and lifeless earth. But just in case it is NOT vacant and lifeless, I also imagined the humans of that future scowling at us "lazy bums" of the past for not coming up with a solution for them to escape the sun's expansion. "You only had 4 1/2 billion years to figure out what we should do!"

Future humans aside, Jennifer, however, was concerned for the Earth itself. She wanted to know what would happen to it.

"It will get swallowed up," I answered. "The sun will burn it up as it moves past the Earth."

She was upset about this. Even though we're talking about billions of years from now, and even though she didn't have to worry about herself or her future children falling victim to the sun's expanding path of destruction, she felt genuine concern for our planet. She asked, "What will happen to the planets?"

I made a sad face, shook my head and waved "bye-bye."

"But can't we stop the sun from blowing up?" she asked.

"No, Jen, there's nothing we can do about it. It's science. It's just the way it is."

Then she suggested we "kill" the sun before it blew up.

I stifled a laugh and said, "We can't kill the sun! Everything will die!"

This did not make sense to her. "If we kill the sun before it blows up, everything will die. If we don't kill the sun, then everybody will die."

I explained that this was just the way it was and, once again, we had BILLIONS of years before the sun's demise was a priority for anyone. Still, I had to wonder about future generations. What IF there is still life on Earth 4 1/2 billion years from now? What if there's something worth saving, if not the Earth?

Well, I can only hope that today's young scientific thinkers will become tomorrow's scientific geniuses. There are scientists exploring the possibilities of living on other planets (though I hope those planets will be FAR AWAY from the sun in order to preserve the human race), scientists studying ways to change things with planets and stars, scientists trying to find some way to stop, or at least slow down, a ticking time bomb like giant stars ready to implode. Maybe today's young scientific thinkers will grow up and try to find the solutions to the scientific problems that this generation cannot.

The whole thing made me think of that scene in the movie The Knowing, where everything and everyone is destroyed in a fiery destruction. The entire human race, gone! A whole planet, gone!

Maybe by that point in the future, the humans (if there will be any left) will be forced to live in outer space, like they do on Star Trek. Maybe that's a solution. Live in outer space if we can't live on a planet.

Still, I was assured by her attempts to try to find a solution to this problem. Besides trying to "kill" the sun before it "blows up," Jennifer also theorized that maybe all of the water in our oceans will weaken the sun's fiery destruction of the planet. I decided to humor her and say that just might work. Hey, at least she's got her thinking cap on. There may yet be hope.


Millie said...

Aww, poor Jen, but it is what it is. Hey, maybe she can join NASA and help figure it out! :)

Dawn Colclasure said...

Maybe. :) Like I said, the young scientific thinkers of today just may discover a solution.