‘Why have you waited till bedtime to announce you have to present a project on infinity tomorrow? When did the teacher tell you about it?’
‘I can’t remember, it might have been at the beginning of time, or was it Tuesday, but does time have a beginning?’
Sometimes Helen wondered if her son had been here before, he didn’t seem to be like other eight year olds, but then she hadn’t had an eight year old before, or a younger brother, though she did recall being eight and thinking all the boys in her class were stupid.
Sebastian was in the enrichment group at school and the teacher had taken the project to heart; perhaps he was running out of ideas to challenge the half dozen children, who were not allowed to be called clever or cleverer, but had extra interests. Helen’s scientific knowledge was confined to listening to programmes on Radio Four such as the Infinite Monkey Cage, but she had gathered enough to know that even scientists freaked out at the thought of infinity. They could cope with the thought of the edge of the observable universe being forty six and a half billion light years away, but not with the uncertainty of infinity. Sebastian’s Dad was night shift at the soap factory, so it was no use waiting till he got home to help them.
Instead of a bedtime story she tucked Seb in and they Googled infinity on her smart phone.
Mr. Struthers was hoping for great things from his group, especially Sebastian, as he was hoping to get material for his blog Help, my Child’s a Genius.
Sebastian stood in front of the class.
‘The good thing about infinity is you can write endlessly about it and you can’t get it wrong as nobody understands it, including my teacher. But I do understand the universe as my mum helped me last night. Professor Stephen Hawking said the universe is growing, therefore at one time it must have been smaller and long ago so small it was nothing, one minute it was nothing and the next minute there was a big bang. But theory two, I’m not sure if this was mine or Mummy’s idea, if the universe is infinite it will go on forever so it must have always been here forever.
But how big is infinity? The edge of the universe we can see with a big telescope is 46.5 billion light years away, but we can’t see if there is an edge to it or what is outside it and that makes us go all shivery. But the third theory which I think my mum got off the radio is supposing the universe curved round on itself, then it wouldn’t have an edge and maybe it wouldn’t be infinite.
And that would probably mean time goes in a circle and if we crossed the circle with a diameter, or crossed a small part with a chord we would be in a different time, so that means time travel could be possible. I think grown ups do time travel because they are always saying things like I don’t know where the time has gone. The other possibility is that time is an illusion and that’s how magicians do magic.
The other thing I discovered, though Mr. Strutthers didn’t ask us to do this, there’s lots of space between atoms and inside atoms; if you took all the empty space in the atoms that make up a human being, I would be a lot smaller than a grain of salt. If you removed all the empty space from the atoms that make up all the humans on the planet, we could all fit inside an apple. If we remove the spaces between and inside all the atoms in the solar system it could fit it inside a thimble, though I’m not sure what a thimble is. But it means the rest of the universe is not that big after all, it just has lots of space in it.’
‘Well done Sebastian’ said Mr. Strutthers ‘and you said it all off by heart. Have you written it down to hand in?’
‘Not on paper, but it is written on the blog Mummy and I just started.’