D’you want the bad news?

The sun’s going to die in 5 billion years.

OK, I suppose it’s possible by then that science will have evolved ways of shrinking us to nanobot size, stacking whole continents of us in a used 35 mm film container and flinging us to another galaxy at (SL)-100, where SL is the speed of light, the brackets don’t really mean anything and the -100 is just a really big number. Or maybe we’ll have dispensed with bodies altogether and just be consciousnesses floating about, trying to shake off the Jungian and Freudian bits that are pulling us back down.

Sun map. Wikimedia commons

But if none of that’s happened, what a drag it’ll be. Sitting on a beach, watching the sun set, and knowing it won’t be back tomorrow. Not only that but, when it explodes or burns out or evaporates or whatever, there’ll just be bits of everything left – probably just as gases. Imagine, a spreading cloud of bits of us, polystyrene coffee cups, the Taj Mahal, all the Popes, Weston-super-Mare, gerbils, Everest (the mountain and the double-glazed windows), Michelangelo’s David, the Da Vinci Code, Judi Dench, and millions of descendants of people who voted for Donald bloody Trump.

Luckily, the way we think about and do things, it’s not our problem. We can’t grasp the idea that space is infinite in both directions – to the vast and the minute. We can’t accept that time doesn’t have a beginning or an end or even that it’s not a progression. There’s no such thing as duration. Yesterday’s inaccessible, tomorrow’s an assumption, all we have and care about is NOW – Beyoncé, Leicester City, gluten-free blancmange, things like that. You can get stone age axes on ebay for a few pounds or dollars. Think of that. Two and a half million years ago, some bloke’s sitting at the mouth of his cave wearing gear that was recently keeping a warthog warm and still smells of it, having no language to speak of and therefore not able to do much creative or purposeful thinking.

Wikimedia Commons.

And he’s using one flint to strike flakes off another one. It takes him ages but the end product is definitely fit for purpose, does what it says on the tin. And today, after all that time, it’s still perfect for what it was designed to do and some other bloke in Wolverhampton or wherever pushes a couple of buttons, pays less than he’d pay for a pint of beer, gets it delivered, and puts it in a drawer along with some old guitar strings, paper clips, penknives, an Eiffel Tower keyring and a small but very attractive box that used to contain something.

I’m not strong on statistics but even I can see that the time between the manufacture of the axe and its purchase by the present owner is exactly half the period left between now and that final sunset. Which means that we have twice as much time to evolve further. The trouble is that a comparison of the two blokes featured in the above transaction suggests that’s not nearly long enough.