Science

A word or two about distance

I’m reading a book called A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. I’m not too far into it yet, but so far I’m struck by a couple of things. First, he’s got a nice, easy-going style that manages to take complex thoughts, break them down into digestible pieces, and does so in a voice that’s both engaging and funny. I dig it.

The second thing is this: there’s a veritable ass-ton of things I don’t know.

Take the following excerpt from the chapter describing our Solar System:

Now the other thing you will notice as we speed past Pluto is that we are speeding past Pluto. If you check your itenerary, you will see that this is a trip to the edge of our solar system, and I’m afraid we’re not there yet. Pluto may be the last object marked on schoolroom charts, but the system doesn’t end there. In fact, it isn’t even close to ending there. We won’t get to the solar system’s edge until we have passed through the Oort cloud, a vast celestial realm of drifting comets, and we won’t reach the Oort cloud for another – I’m so sorry about this – ten thousand years. Far from marking the outer edge of the solar system, as those schoolroom maps so cavalierly imply, Pluto is barely one-fifty-thousandth of the way.

Balls.

More to come.