Tuesday, February 19, 2008


What you’re about to read is a conversation I really had many years ago. I went home and wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it.

On a city bus in Provo, Utah. February, 1991.

Me: So in my astronomy class they were talking about the start of the universe and how everything in the universe was packed into something smaller than a thimble.

Friend: Yeah, I think I’ve heard that.

Me: It’s kind of mind blowing, but I guess you can kind of imagine a giant hydraulic press mashing all the planets and stars together and stuff. My point is, I don’t have any problem with the idea of stuffing everything in the universe into a thimble.

Friend: OK.

Me: But what freaked me out was the black stuff.

Friend: The black stuff?

Me: Yeah, all the stuff that isn’t anything. The teacher said that all the black stuff was packed inside that thimble, too.

Friend: I don’t get it. What’s it doing in there?

Me: I know. I’m fine with a tiny, dense ball of stuff floating out there in the black stuff, but once you stuff the black stuff in there… well… I don’t know about that.

Friend: Did you ask the teacher?

Me: Yeah! I said, “If the whole universe—including the black stuff—is stuffed into a thimble, what’s outside of the thimble?”

Friend: And what did he say?

Me: Nothing. He said there was nothing outside. Now before this class, I understood that the black stuff was nothing. Now he’s telling me the universe is expanding… including the black stuff. So I asked, “If the black stuff is expanding, what is it expanding into?”

Friend: And he said “nothing.”

Me: Exactly. And I tried to ask again, I said, “OK, tomorrow the universe will expand into somewhere where it isn’t today. What’s there now?”

Friend: Let me guess, he said “nothing.”

Me: Kind of. He said I was thinking about it all wrong. So I’ve decided that nobody knows anything about what’s out past the universe, so that makes me as much of an expert as anybody on the subject. With that in mind, I’ve devised a theory. Wanna hear it?

Friend: Not really.

Me: Too late. It’s white stuff.

Friend: White stuff?

Me: Yeah, it’s this great sea of white stuff, and it eventually gets displaced by the black stuff when the universe expands into it.

Woman Sitting Behind Us: That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

Friend: That’s my stop. Goodbye.

Me: It’s not so stupid. Nobody can tell me I’m wrong because nobody knows anything about it.

Woman: Of course you’re wrong! It can’t be white stuff.

Me: Why not?

Woman: Because if it was white, it would be emitting light. That would violate every law of the universe.

Me: But that’s just the thing, it isn’t the universe. It hasn’t arrived yet. It will arrive soon. First there will be Martial Law, then the laws of the universe will come when the black stuff arrives.

Woman: I can’t believe I’ve just had this conversation with you.

Me: Me too!

And the next stop was mine.



At 7:47 am, Blogger The Morey Family from Rochester said...

I remember your "white stuff" theory. I still sometimes reflect on it with a smile when I'm watching some nature of the universe documentary. (remember I am married to Dave) :-)

At 8:50 am, Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Mind-boggling, isn't it? It's like the universe wants to have its cake and eat it too.

I mean, where did the stuff in the thimble even come from in the first place?


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