We begin today — unless our travel plans have changed or there’s been a tsunami — on the coast staring out at the horizon.
(Well, that’s where I am; I don’t know where you are.)
And thus perched, we’re pondering the same question we’ve asked since our childhood days on that other coast: Where does the ocean go when it pours over the edge of the Earth? Does gravity make it go crashing through the ceiling of the downstairs neighbor planet? Or is it like one of them infinity pools, and only pretends to go over the side?
OK, that’s three questions. And still no answers.
Light eventually dawns over Marblehead, they say in Massachusetts, and the light over this marblehead could have began its journey 12.4 billion years ago — from what astronomers believe to be the convergence of 14 galaxies forming what they are calling the most-massive structure in the universe.
It’s named SPT2349-56, and is thought to be the largest cluster of Galaxys hurtling toward each other outside of a Friday night traffic jam in Havana.
You’d think something that massive and intimidating would have a better name than SPT2349-56 (“Trog” comes to mind). SPT2349-56 sounds like something you can file away in a warehouse and forget about … like what happened to the Arc of the Covenant after Henry Jones Jr. handed it over to the government.
Of course, “Earth” itself leaves something to be desired in the name department. No one knows for certain who coined the term (trust me on that; I spent at least 10 minutes searching the internet), only that our home planet is alone in the solar system in not being named for a character from Greco-Roman mythology or a Disney cartoon.
“Earth,” apparently, is a derivative of the Germanic and English terms for “ground.” Essentially, we named Earth after little-e earth.
I once saw a play called “Clara’s Play,” of which it has been said that the playwright — who also wrote “Minnesota Moon,” “The Summer Moon” and “Into the Moonlight Valley” — exhausted his creative juices on the title. His ancestors may have named “Earth.”
My dear, departed mother-in-law’s name — Venus — came from one of those other categories (no, not from a Disney cartoon). She orbited around her family with a gravitational pull rivaled only by her need to do “one last thing” before leaving the house.
We used to lie to her about leaving a half-hour before we’d actually planned, so that she could get done the “one” last thing she needed to do. Once she washed out a plastic storage bag while dressed for a formal dinner.
One of the assembled could no longer wait — see if you can guess who — and, while the others waited in the car, beckoned to her:
“Venus, get Uranus in the Saturn!”
Your-ah-niss was in the news this week, actually, as scientists wasted millions and millions of dollars to tell us that they’ve discovered that the gasses emitted by the planet at the rear of the solar system smelled like rotten eggs or human flatulence.
This is true. They actually did that — but all it really proves is that my father lied to us about this, too. He always claimed they smelled like roses.
Speaking of rancid gaseous outputs from large bodies, researchers in the nomenclature-challenged journal arXiv report the discovery of a planet that cannot be seen.
What’s being called WASP-104b is 466 light years away and exists — according to those who haven’t seen it — in a state of near-complete darkness, as it has absorbed roughly 99 percent of the starlight around it.
Despite this light-glomming quality, there are no plans to rename the planet Kardashia. (For one thing, Gareth would never tailor outfits garish enough for Kardashians to wear. Which brings to mind another deep-space mystery: How did Gareth become a tailor in the first place, when all members of his species wear the same outfit?)
Of course, Kardashia might not be a planet at all. For all we know, it could be a lifeform headed to destroy Earth in 466 light years.
According to the Cosmic Gorilla Effect studied at the University of Cardiz in Spain, we’ve been so programmed by our own biases and popular culture to believe we’ll know what an alien will look like, there could be one right in front of us that we’ll never recognize.
I see what you did there.
I don’t suppose as I’m (with any luck) sitting here on the beach that ocean fish take their minds off what will happen when they fall off the edge of the Earth to consider what kind of alien life form is sitting on the beach.
It’s hard to know what fish are thinking. This week on “Young Sheldon,” for instance, young Sheldon is given a pet fish that he names “Fish” … because he doesn’t want to become too attached. After Fish bites him, Sheldon’s father comes into the room and (through a series of sitcom high jinks) winds up destroying Fish and disposing of it with the jiggle of a handle.
Come to think of it, maybe that makes “Earth” the perfect name for our planet. We don’t want to get too attached to it ... just in case some most-massive gaseous body in charge winds up flushing it down the toilet.
Mail Tribune senior designer Robert Galvin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org ... unless you know something he doesn’t.