Peter Mulvey - Vlad The AstrophysicistSong Rating: 9.14/10
Fourth of December, 2008, over the Eastern sea board.
Far below, the long evening light is fleeing the mountains of Nova Scotia,
With any luck, I will sleep in the sky tonight,
And wake up in Ireland.
This summer, for reasons that are too complicated to go into here,
I found myself sitting behind a motel in remote West Virginia,
With an astrophysicist from the Czech Republic named Vlad.
Vlad and I see each other every few years and we get along famously,
Probably because I love astrophysics,
And he loves music,
And we love beer.
In fact, we had found some beer at a gas station and we were drinking and talking,
As we sat in the metal chairs there by the river that goes behind the motel,
Looking up at a huge West Virginia sky, full of stars.
Vlad, I said, Ive always wanted to know the answer to this question,
And you strike me as the only guy Im ever gonna meet who can give me an answer,
So lay it on me pal, are there intelligent civilizations out there, other than us?
And if there are, then why havent they contacted us?
Vlad looked at me over his gla**es. That is two questions, he said,
First question is easy to answer, the answer is yes, many,
Given the number of stars, the abundance of Amino acids everywhere in universe you look,
Very likely many, many civilizations have risen.
No, the second question, why have they not contacted us, that is the real question,
And it is difficult to answer but, here is my best guess...you must use your imagination.
And he held his hands out at shoulder width, and he said Imagine the entire universe is only about this big,
Only the size of a beach ball. I mean, universe is not spherical but go with me on this, okay?
Now, imagine that all of time: thirteen and one half billion years from the big bang until now,
Imagine that, that goes by in, say, five minutes. On that scale, consider us,
We are intelligent civilization, yes? We make radio waves, rocket ships, baseball, Great Wall of China,
Bach sonatas, clearly intelligent civilization. The question is, how long do we last? Hm?
Another 5000 years? 50,000? Another 5 million years? It does not matter;
On the universal scale that I am asking you to consider, those all look the same, they look like this,
And he held his hand in front of him, with thumb and forefinger pressed together,
And parted them for the barest instant, and as he did so, he made a sound through his teeth, fss
He looked at me, to see if I understood. Every human that has ever lived, and will ever live...
All the history that we have made and will ever make...fss.
He paused, to let that sink in. It sank in.
So, he said, here is the universe, and again he held his hands out defining the space,
And here are the intelligent civilizations as they arise in the universe,
And he moved his hand here. Fss. Then here...fss. Then here - fss.
You see? He said, They never meet each other. Time is too long, space is too large.
I mean sure, maybe at one time, right next to each other at the same time, fss, fss -
Two civilizations sprang up and they had war, better yet they had peace,
They had arts exchanges, they had an intergalactic library...but they are all dead now, too.
In all likelihood, we are alone, and by the time the next civilization arises,
Well have been gone for a long, long time.
I looked back at the sky, still so full of stars.
I probably dont need to tell you but, although they looked exactly the same as they had a couple of minutes ago...
They looked completely different.
I didnt say anything for a minute, and then I said, Vlad, would you like another beer?
Anyhow, Adaline, the word from your household is that this week,
You began lifting your head up all by yourself,
Looking around at the faces that hover over your crib,
And occasionally favouring one of them with a smile,
You keep up the good work.
Date of text publication: 16.01.2021 at 04:28