HomeScienceHow Long Is the Drive to the Edge of the Universe?

How Long Is the Drive to the Edge of the Universe?

The sting of the observable universe is about 270,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles away.

In case you drive at a gentle 65 miles per hour, it is going to take you 480,000,000,000,000,000 — that’s 4.8 × 10¹⁷ — years to get there, or 35 million occasions the present age of the universe.

This will likely be a harmful street journey. I don’t imply due to house stuff — we’re not worrying about all that — however as a result of driving itself is fairly harmful. In the US, the common middle-aged driver suffers about one deadly crash per 100 million miles pushed. If somebody constructed a freeway out of the photo voltaic system, most drivers wouldn’t make it previous the asteroid belt. Truck drivers, who’re used to driving lengthy distances on highways, have a decrease per-mile crash fee than different drivers, however they might nonetheless be unlikely to achieve Jupiter.

Primarily based on nationwide crash charges, the percentages of a driver touring 46 billion light-years and not using a crash can be about 1 in 10¹⁰^¹⁵. That’s roughly the identical because the likelihood of a monkey with a typewriter typing out all the Library of Congress, with no typos, 50 occasions in a row. You’ll need a self-driving automotive, or no less than one with a kind of alarms that warns you in case you drift out of your lane.

The journey would take numerous gasoline. At 33 miles per gallon, it could take a moon-size sphere of gasoline to achieve the sting of the universe. (As of 2021, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has traveled about 5 billion miles on a finances of about $850 million, which works out to 17 cents per mile — fairly much like the price of fuel and snacks on a street journey.) You’d run by about 30 quintillion oil adjustments, requiring a container of engine oil the quantity of the Arctic Ocean. (An previous piece of recommendation says that you must change your oil each 3,000 miles, however most automotive specialists agree that’s a fable — trendy gasoline engines can comfortably go two or thrice that distance between adjustments.

You’d additionally want 10¹⁷ tons of snacks. Hopefully, there are numerous intergalactic relaxation areas, or your trunk goes to be fairly full.

It’s going to be a really lengthy drive, and the surroundings gained’t change a lot in any respect. Many of the seen stars will burn out earlier than you even exit the Milky Means galaxy. If you wish to attempt touching a room-temperature star, I recommend planning a route that takes you previous Kepler-1606. It’s 2,800 light-years away, so while you drive previous it after 30 billion years, it is going to have cooled to a snug room temperature. It at present has a planet, though that may most likely have been devoured by the point you get there.

As soon as the celebs have burned out, you’ll should discover a new supply of leisure. Even in case you carry each audiobook ever recorded and each episode of each podcast, that gained’t even final you to the sting of the photo voltaic system.

The British anthropologist Robin Dunbar famously prompt that the common human maintains about 150 social relationships. The full variety of people who’ve ever lived is someplace north of 100 billion. A 10¹⁷-year street journey can be lengthy sufficient to replay the lives of each a kind of folks in actual time — in a form of unedited documentary — after which rewatch each a kind of documentaries 150 occasions, every time with a distinct commentary monitor by the 150 individuals who knew the topic greatest.

By the point you had completed watching this entire documentary of human perspective, you’d nonetheless be lower than 1 p.c of the best way to the sting of the universe, so that you’d have loads of time to rewatch the entire challenge — every human life with all 150 commentary tracks — 100 occasions earlier than you lastly arrived.

When you reached the sting of the observable universe, you may spend one other 4.8 × 10¹⁷ years driving again house, however since there gained’t be any Earth to return to — solely black holes and the frozen husks of stars will stay — you would possibly as nicely hold going.

So far as we all know, the sting of the observable universe isn’t the sting of the particular universe. It’s simply the farthest that we’re in a position to see, as a result of there hasn’t been time for gentle to achieve us from any farther elements of house. There’s no motive to suppose that house itself ends at that specific level, however we don’t understand how a lot farther it goes. It would simply proceed endlessly. The sting of the observable universe isn’t the sting of house, simply the sting of the map. There’s no method to make sure what you’ll discover while you cross it.

You’ll want to pack additional snacks.

Tailored from “What If? 2: Extra Critical Scientific Solutions to Absurd Hypothetical Questions,” printed by Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Random Home LLC.

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