How Lengthy Is the Drive to the Fringe of the Universe?
The sting of the observable universe is about 270,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles away.
If you happen to drive at a gradual 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 instances the present age of the universe.
This can 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 america, 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 price 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 with out a crash could 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 instances in a row. You’ll desire a self-driving automotive, or not less than one with a type of alarms that warns you if you happen to drift out of your lane.
The journey would take quite a lot of gasoline. At 33 miles per gallon, it might 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 price range 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 means of about 30 quintillion oil modifications, requiring a container of engine oil the quantity of the Arctic Ocean. (An outdated piece of recommendation says that you want to change your oil each 3,000 miles, however most automotive specialists agree that’s a delusion — fashionable gasoline engines can comfortably go two or 3 times that distance between modifications.
You’d additionally want 10¹⁷ tons of snacks. Hopefully, there are quite a lot of 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 Manner galaxy. If you wish to strive touching a room-temperature star, I counsel planning a route that takes you previous Kepler-1606. It’s 2,800 light-years away, so once you drive previous it after 30 billion years, it is going to have cooled to a snug room temperature. It presently 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 if you happen to convey 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 steered 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 could be lengthy sufficient to replay the lives of each a type of individuals in actual time — in a type of unedited documentary — after which rewatch each a type of documentaries 150 instances, every time with a distinct commentary observe by the 150 individuals who knew the topic finest.
By the point you had completed watching this whole documentary of human perspective, you’d nonetheless be lower than 1 % of the way in which to the sting of the universe, so that you’d have loads of time to rewatch the entire undertaking — every human life with all 150 commentary tracks — 100 instances earlier than you lastly arrived.
When you reached the sting of the observable universe, you might spend one other 4.8 × 10¹⁷ years driving again dwelling, 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 purpose to assume that house itself ends at that individual level, however we don’t know the way a lot farther it goes. It would simply proceed ceaselessly. The sting of the observable universe isn’t the sting of house, simply the sting of the map. There’s no approach to make sure what you’ll discover once you cross it.
Make sure you pack additional snacks.
Tailored from “What If? 2: Extra Severe Scientific Solutions to Absurd Hypothetical Questions,” printed by Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Random Home LLC.