Both scientists and philosophers have wondered how the universe will end. Will it be a bang or a whimper? Fire or ice? Expanding forever or a big crunch?
It would of great interest to both parties to know that the answer to that very question would soon be decided by Doug Casseber, a 17 year old living near Phoenix, Arizona.
It all started when Doug was 11 and developed an interest in astronomy. Doug was not a normal 11 year old, he was a very gifted student and his attention to detail was savant-like. When he was 12 he decided to put the night sky on the ceiling of his room. Unlike most stoners who had a similar idea and went out and bought a few Day-Glo stickers to throw up over their bed he divided his ceiling into hundreds of quadrants and then painstakingly recreated the visible night sky in each, capturing every perceptible star within 100 million miles of Earth. When he explained to his parents why it was taking him weeks of around-the-clock work to complete, he explained the stellar parameters he was using as the cut-off point of luminosity but they simply stared at him. Trying again, he started by explaining in ergs per second but they didn’t know what an erg was; so he told them. “An erg is the unit of energy and mechanical work in the centimetre-gram-second system of units, i.e. the amount of work done by a force of one dyne exerted for a distance of one centimeter. In the CGS base unites, it is equal to one gram centimeter-squared per second-squared … g·cm2/s2. It is thus equal to 10−7 joules or 100 nanojoules in SI units.” They turned and silently walked back downstairs to the living room to resume watching TV.
As he grew older he waited patiently for a girl to share his ceiling with but a girl did not materialize. His intellect did not seem to be high on the list of features high school girls were looking for in a date. Despite his best efforts he still fell for a girl anyway. He would lie under his false sky at night and look up at the heavenly bodies and think about hers until one day he mustered the courage to tell her that he had paid to name a star after her. A real beauty in the Perseus constellation. He couldn’t imagine a more romantic gesture so when she reacted with confusion and disdain he was crushed.
He retreated to his room and there he sat looking up at Perseus and tried to pretend it wasn’t the end of the world. Later that night he stood on his bed and covered up the star he had named after that ungrateful, unworthy girl with a black magic marker.
The funny thing was the next night while looking up into sky he looked for ‘her’ star without thinking but couldn’t find it. He ran into the house and came back out with his telescope.
It wasn’t there. It had disappeared.
An entire star. Something that was almost a million miles across only a few days ago had suddenly vanished. It couldn’t be because of his black magic marker could it? The “magic” in magic marker is just a brand name right?
So he did what any angst-filled 17 year old would have done. He got out a paint roller and blacked out an entire section of his sky, one star for every girl that had rejected him and then went to sleep.
He awoke in the morning to find the internet buzzing, television news programs in a state of stunned disbelief and astrophysicists worldwide having a complete meltdown.
He went back into his room.
Could he get grounded for this?
Later that day while the implications of this amazing event were debated by the greatest minds and the most delusional celebrities he decided to ask another girl out. If she said no he would take out his roller and paint his ceiling black. Every inch. He wondered what it would be like to then walk outside and see nothing but blackness all around. No light anywhere. Alone in the universe.
If she said no then everyone on Earth would know how he felt.