Jeff Vrabel: When will the sun explode?
Anybody else have this problem where it's 9:45 p.m. and you're trying to write but your son keeps walking in and interrupting you because he's deeply worried about what will happen when the sun explodes in 3 billion years? Anybody? Rattled insomniac second-grader vs. immeasurably futuristic solar apocalypse? Science people? Neil deGrasse Tyson? MythBusters? Little help?
First, a quick point: I just made that figure up. I have no idea when the sun will explode, because it will happen at some absurdly distant point in the future, far enough away that it probably won't really affect my day. And frankly in today's scary-crazy informational overloadinal world of loud-talking people, I try to limit my worries to those that might directly impact me, which is why I don't read much about the Gingrich candidacy, doom asteroids from space, "The Hunger Games," religion, the Masters and the guy who plays Colonel Sanders in "Spaceballs." Just that Colonel Sanders. The other one and I are still cool.
Yet in the growing and spongy brainspace of the 8-year-old upstairs weighing questions of grand cosmic import in a room full of Hot Wheels and a series of books titled "Captain Underpants," this is the most serious and immediate of problems.
It is also a problem that is obviously non-solvable. Listen, I'm an idiot, and on top of that I majored in journalism, so if there's anyone on Earth less qualified to address these sorts of sprawling scientific-mortality questions that isn't a Santorum family member, I can't think of them. Seriously I'm thinking about putting a monster in my son's closet, because at least I can understand, and occasionally trap, monsters in closets.
Most of us adults have mastered the ability to deflect these questions for up to 80 years, figuring we will get back to thinking about them when the game is over, or when we are caught up on the bills, or after this headache subsides. If you are 8 years old, I am learning, there is no postponing this question, no knocking it back until after you adjust your fantasy football lineup. There is only now, and, of course 12 billion years from now when the sun explodes.
This is my first 8-year-old, so obviously I have no idea what in the world is happening. But I suspect this is a "phase," a word that doctors and magazines use when they are lying to make you feel better about something. My sense is that kids of a certain age, likely an age where they start really breaking down the likelihood of a magical SweetTart-toting rabbit breaking into your house every year to celebrate a resurrection, also start hitting up some other big bedtime questions, including such hits as "How does the universe have no end?" and "What happens after you die?" and "Seriously what the heck with this Easter bunny thing?" My son has recently emerged from his room profoundly discomforted at the idea that the universe has no end. (My hilarious joke about this being true, but there being a really good restaurant there, totally bombed, but I hold out hope that he'll find it funny when he's 14 and annoying.)
Truth be told, now that I am allowing myself some nice quiet time to think about this, the idea of the sun exploding is pretty terrifying. I mean, it's sun. When that happens it's gonna be loud, and probably pretty windy. Beyond that, I sit in there flailing and improv-ing and trying to think of something remotely encouraging, knowing only one thing to be a fact: I'm gonna have trouble sleeping tonight.