The sting of the observable universe is about 270,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles away.
If you happen to drive at a gradual 65 miles per hour, it should take you 480,000,000,000,000,000 — that’s 4.8 × 10¹⁷ — years to get there, or 35 million instances the present age of the universe.
This will likely be a harmful street journey. I don’t imply due to area stuff — we’re not worrying about all that — however as a result of driving itself is fairly harmful. In the US, the typical middle-aged driver suffers about one deadly crash per 100 million miles pushed. If somebody constructed a freeway out of the photo voltaic system, most drivers wouldn’t make it previous the asteroid belt. Truck drivers, who’re used to driving lengthy distances on highways, have a decrease per-mile crash price than different drivers, however they’d nonetheless be unlikely to achieve Jupiter.
Primarily based on nationwide crash charges, the chances of a driver touring 46 billion light-years with no crash could be about 1 in 10¹⁰^¹⁵. That’s roughly the identical because the chance of a monkey with a typewriter typing out the complete Library of Congress, with no typos, 50 instances in a row. You’ll need a self-driving automobile, or not less than one with a kind of alarms that warns you if you happen to drift out of your lane.
The journey would take a number of gasoline. At 33 miles per gallon, it will take a moon-size sphere of gasoline to achieve the sting of the universe. (As of 2021, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has traveled about 5 billion miles on a funds of about $850 million, which works out to 17 cents per mile — fairly just like the price of fuel and snacks on a street journey.) You’d run by about 30 quintillion oil adjustments, requiring a container of engine oil the amount of the Arctic Ocean. (An previous piece of recommendation says that you have to change your oil each 3,000 miles, however most automobile specialists agree that’s a fable — trendy gasoline engines can comfortably go two or 3 times that distance between adjustments.
You’d additionally want 10¹⁷ tons of snacks. Hopefully, there are a number of intergalactic relaxation areas, or your trunk goes to be fairly full.
It’s going to be a really lengthy drive, and the surroundings gained’t change a lot in any respect. A lot of the seen stars will burn out earlier than you even exit the Milky Approach galaxy. If you wish to strive touching a room-temperature star, I counsel planning a route that takes you previous Kepler-1606. It’s 2,800 light-years away, so while you drive previous it after 30 billion years, it should have cooled to a cushty room temperature. It presently has a planet, though that can in all probability have been devoured by the point you get there.
As soon as the celebrities have burned out, you’ll must discover a new supply of leisure. Even if you happen to convey each audiobook ever recorded and each episode of each podcast, that gained’t even final you to the sting of the photo voltaic system.
The British anthropologist Robin Dunbar famously steered that the typical human maintains about 150 social relationships. The overall variety of people who’ve ever lived is someplace north of 100 billion. A 10¹⁷-year street journey could be lengthy sufficient to replay the lives of each a kind of folks in actual time — in a type of unedited documentary — after which rewatch each a kind of documentaries 150 instances, every time with a unique commentary observe by the 150 individuals who knew the topic greatest.
By the point you had completed watching this whole documentary of human perspective, you’d nonetheless be lower than 1 p.c of the way in which to the sting of the universe, so that you’d have loads of time to rewatch the entire venture — every human life with all 150 commentary tracks — 100 instances earlier than you lastly arrived.
When you reached the sting of the observable universe, you may spend one other 4.8 × 10¹⁷ years driving again dwelling, however since there gained’t be any Earth to return to — solely black holes and the frozen husks of stars will stay — you would possibly as nicely maintain going.
So far as we all know, the sting of the observable universe isn’t the sting of the particular universe. It’s simply the farthest that we’re capable of see, as a result of there hasn’t been time for gentle to achieve us from any farther elements of area. There’s no motive to assume that area itself ends at that individual level, however we don’t understand how a lot farther it goes. It would simply proceed without end. The sting of the observable universe isn’t the sting of area, simply the sting of the map. There’s no approach to make certain what you’ll discover while you cross it.
Be sure you pack further snacks.
Tailored from “What If? 2: Extra Severe Scientific Solutions to Absurd Hypothetical Questions,” printed by Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Random Home LLC.