Yours truly awoke this morning (last Tuesday) and began thinking about what to write in the final Bits & Bytes column for 2016.
By “this morning” I mean around 1:30 a.m.
As most of my readers know, I am guilty of reaching for my smartphone during the times I do wake up this early in the morning.
Out of habit, I checked my social media for anything I may have missed while asleep; because, after all, I need to be on top of this social media thing which appears to have become a venue we will be living with for long time.
The National Geographic Facebook channel notified me of a newly-uploaded video.
Astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of National Geographic’s “Star Talk,” was sitting down and chatting with William Shatner yes, the original Captain James T. Kirk from “Star Trek.”
“Ok, I need to watch this,” I thought to myself.
Shatner began by inquisitively asking, “What is space-time?”
Tyson slowly answered; “You already know. You have never met someone at a place, unless it was also at a time. You have never met someone at a time unless it was . . . ”
“Well, wait a minute!” interrupted Shatner.
“What happens to a photon from 13.8 hundred million years [ago] that comes this way and enters my eye so I can see it. Where is space involved in that?” Shatner asked.
“Umm, it entered your eye at a time and at a place; right here, that’s all that matters,” said Tyson.
After a brief exchange of each other’s thoughts on universal theory, and how space-time exists and is conjoined, and using the analogy of walking and meeting trains on time, Shatner finally exclaimed, “That’s confusing!”
Tyson humorously replied, “So? The universe is under no obligation to make sense to William Shatner!”
Shatner laughed and countered with, “No, but William Shatner is under the obligation to make sense to the universe! And why do I slow down as I approach the speed of light? It doesn’t apply to a photon?”
No question about it, William Shatner, even at age 85, still has full control of his mental faculties.
It’s dark outside my bedroom window and I see a few stars in the night sky. It’s also very quiet; no cars are traveling up and down the usually busy streets.
The conversation between Tyson and Shatner, along with being awake in the early morning hours, began to nostalgically remind me of listening to Art Bell’s “Coast to Coast AM” radio broadcasts during the 1990s, which lasted well past midnight.
“You want to freak out?” asked Tyson to Shatner whose attention was totally absorbed with this space-time conversation.
“I’m ready, I’m ready,” Shatner excitedly replied.
“The faster you go, the slower time takes . . . as seen by others. As you approach the speed of light, time continues to slow down. At the speed of light, time stops. Which means; for a photon moving at the speed of light, when it is absorbed in your retina, it is the same instant it was emitted at the Big Bang, 14 billion years ago,” Tyson explained to the very attentive Shatner.
“That’s what I thought!” excitedly exclaimed Shatner. “Can we measure that photon, and observe the Big Bang?” he asked.
“Yes! I know that that came from the Big Bang, and I’m watching it and it’s taken 13.8 billion years to reach you, but if you are that photon, it does not experience that time delay,” Tyson explained.
Shatner paused, and mused; “What a great science fiction story that is.”
“Instantaneous,” Tyson knowingly added as the video ended.
After pondering space-time for a brief time, I wondered if Shatner has now figured out a way to bring back the original Captain Kirk in the next “Star Trek” movie.
“When I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe; we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us,” I heard Tyson say in another video.
I looked at the clock and could not believe it was already 2:30 a.m. I thought about how fast the time went; I then realized my mom was right when she once told me about the passage of time; especially how the years go by faster as we age.
After having grasped some understanding of what Tyson and Shatner discussed, I fell back to sleep.
National Geographic uploaded the complete video of Tyson and Shatner’s conversation here: http://bit.ly/2ib0S2a.
You can follow me as space-time instantaneously arrives into 2017, via the online continuum we call the internet at @bitsandbytes on the Twitter social network.