[ Issue 44 ]

Age intrigues Emily Bronto

Bikwil is proud to feature Age


Ever the philosopher, Fizzgig ponders on the age of the universe versus human age.

In all this, Hubble remains constant.

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From the Back Verandah — Fizzgig


In the 1990s cosmologists started muttering that they had discovered a puzzling fact. (So what’s new?) Their new fact implied that the universe was actually younger than some of its oldest stars. Which is absurd, as Euclid used to say.

Not to fret. As you probably know, the universe’s age partly depends on that magic number, the Hubble constant, which is the rate of expansion of the universe. But what is its value? For those who really care, it’s been measured as 70 kilometres per second per megaparsecond, give or take 10%. (I don’t need to remind you that a megaparsecond is 3.26 million light years.)

With that figure under their astral belts, together with measurements of how far away certain extremely distant supernovae are, astronomers have been able to calculate that our dear universe is 12 billion to 15 billion years old, plus or minus about 1.5 billion years

Bear in mind, of course, they’ve now also discovered that the rate at which the universe is flying apart is speeding up, propelled by a mysterious force called “dark energy”. This means that the cosmos will expand forever, and never cease to exist. Quite reassuring, really.

But let’s face it: the age of the cosmos isn’t quite as important as the age of you and me, and how we feel about it. Take the case of the comedian George Burns who, once he reached eighty, felt so positive that he made a point of peppering his stand-up routines with self-deprecatory old-age jokes. A favourite of mine is the one that appeared in the QQQ of Issue 31 of Bikwil (May 2002):

You know you’re getting old when you stoop to tie your shoes and wonder what else you can do while you’re down there.

How old is “old”, anyway, in human terms?

Me, I’ve always believed that the word applies to people born twenty-plus years before I was — although as I expand towards 70 (with ever increasing Hubble speed, it seems), that “twenty” is having to be whittled away a little each year.

Now, I had intended to include something here on early-onset Alzheimer’s, but I’ve forgotten what it was.

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