Anniversary Post: Andromeda Galaxy

Andromeda GalaxyOn this day in 1924, the universe got a whole lot bigger. Until Edwin Hubble published his findings, it was believed that the Milky Way galaxy was the entire universe. Andromeda had been known of for thousands of years. But it was thought to be a nebula inside the Milky Way. Hubble showed that it was far too distant for that and was rather a galaxy like our own. It was truly one of the days the universe changed.

When I was young, I had what is probably a typical view of the universe: there are stars, and around them are plants; stars swirl around in galaxies; and galaxies are just these things that hang out. But it is all a whole lot more messy than that. In fact, the universe seems to be like a fractal: it’s kind of the same at whatever scale you observe it. There are, for example, about three dozen galaxies that we know are satellites of our own. In about four billion years, the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are going to “collide.” They won’t really collide, because like most of the universe, they are almost all empty. But the two will go on to form a new galaxy, that we’ve already named: Milkomeda. Check out this great animation that NASA created of this interaction:

Based upon this, you can see why people have a hard time not believing in a multiverse. And I don’t doubt that at some point we will find a way to show this indirectly. Maybe a better understand of dark energy will imply other universes. Or maybe, it is all just a delusion of the singularity of my consciousness. In which case, I don’t know why you’re even reading this. Oh, that’s right: you aren’t. A better question: why am I not happier? As singularities go, this consciousness is just meh.

22 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Andromeda Galaxy

  1. I think a shout-out is deserved for Vesto Slipher, who measured doppler shifts for Andromeda and other ‘spiral nebulae’ from 1912 onwards, and by 1917 had pointed out “it has for a long time been suggested that the spiral nebulae are stellar systems seen at great distances … This theory, it seems to me, gains favor in the present observations”.
    http://www.roe.ac.uk/~jap/slipher/
    But also because ‘Vesto Slipher’ is an awesome name.

    • Yes, Hubble always gets too much credit because of his placement in the development of the grander universe. This is always the way. Hubble, for reasons that are not clear to me, marked the turning point, when the scientific consensus moved to the modern one. But they are just anniversary posts and I write them really fast when I’m preparing to go away for Thanksgiving! Also: you are right, Vesto Slipher is a fantastic name. How does an American get a name like that?! It would be a great name for an escape artist.

  2. Can you have your consciousness make is so I win enough in a lottery to get a pedicure? That would be helpful.

    I am kidding of course. You would never dream of a pedicure lottery winner.

    • A close friend of my got her first pedicure recently in her late forties. She tells me she can’t believe she went all this time without them. It is something about being pampered or something. I will admit to not understanding. But I feel a great satisfaction when I clip my toenails.

      • It helps keep your feet feeling pretty. It also is nice to have smooth feet since most women’s shoes are horrible for the feet in so very many ways like how they dry them out.

        I just say it is a girl thing when my male friends try to understand it and fail.

        • I do get it to some extent. I loved the one massage I ever got. And I like it when they wash my hair before cutting it.

          • Scalp massages are the only one that don’t hurt for me. For someone who…never mind, not going to finish that. Nope.

            I just enjoy the whole feeling of having soft feet and I do like how pretty the flowers my nail technician paints on my toes look.

                • Well, it’s just that it’s a small canvas. I’m often impressed at the artistic abilities of artisans. So my “wow” is earnest.

                  • I know, I am still amused because it is so you-write something that looks sarcastic yet is absolutely in earnest.

                    • I think that might be a profound observation about me. I have a continuing problem when I am editing writers. I will ask a question and they will take out what I was asking about — thinking I was making a sarcastic remark. But I was just being clueless. One of the most aggravating things to me is when people claim that I really did know this or that. You usually can’t go wrong assuming I’m earnest. I’m pretty heavy handed when I do sarcasm.

                    • People expect you to know it because you really do seem to know everything-we even expect you know about whatever James mentioned about spear fishing or cliff diving or whatever, I can’t find what he mentioned.

                      But yes, I keep having to reset how I think about what you write because while I am incredibly sarcastic, you rarely are.

                    • It’s a difference between my writing persona and my real life persona. In real life I’m far more insecure, so I’m much more sarcastic — or at least slyly ironic. Also, tone of voice makes it so much easier. This is one reason I don’t use twitter that much. You really need an audience who will assume the best of you. And twitter really isn’t like that!

                    • No, Twitter is not like that since it is not packed with your groupies like this blog is. :p

                    • Yes, James and me. I thought it was more obvious then Trump’s toupee.

  3. “this consciousness is just meh.”

    But OTOH, we can all say our lives began with a Big Bang.

    Don’t you love metaphors?

    • Ha! Terry Pratchett makes that same joke on the first page of The Color of Magic. So you’re in good company!

  4. Hi Frank, It would be very much appreciated if you could dream me a world class photographer living in Hawaii. Any island would be fine :-)

    On a separate note, I heard a scientist on TV recently remark that there will be very few, if any, actual collision when the two galaxies merge, that most solar systems will come through it unscathed. It just doesn’t seem very likely to me. Of course, the only reason my science teachers ever passed me in school was my genuine interest in the sciences.

    • It is unlikely that there will be any direct collisions of stars. But the changing gravitational fields will cause great disruption and doubtless cause (for example) our inner solar system to be much more dangerous. And I would assume that some things (maybe even quite large things) could get pulled out of orbit from one star into another.

      I’ll work on changing reality for you. But I need to be careful. Have you ever read The Lathe of Heaven? It’s really good. And I’m sure I’d be just like that guy!

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