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Expanded brain

“You’d never seen that, professor?” Eddie asked.

“First time,” I replied.  The streets at that time of night were empty and I still had some shopping to do.

“If you look just to the side of Sagittarius, you can glimpse the edge of the Milky Way, some 100,000 light years in diameter, if you can believe it.  That’s 6 X 1017 miles wide.”

“I see.  How many football fields is that?” I asked.  OK, I’d admit, Eddie just gets on my nerves sometimes.

“Hmm, good question.”  He punched in the numbers on his phone.  “That’s about 1019 football fields wide.”

I nodded thoughtfully.

“It’s constantly expanding too.  There’s about 200 billion stars in all.”

“Plenty of places to visit,” I concluded.

“Actually, most scientists conclude that Orion’s Spur is the most habitable, if Planet Earth needed a life raft.  It’s stone’s thrown from the Orion constellation, an elbow off the main Arm and caddy corner a few loops from the Belt.  Less radiation, reduced chance of gravitational disturbances.”

“I mean for a vacation.”

“Oh, I guess Mars is closer.  But no beaches.”

I nodded.

“Hey, professor, how old are you?  I’d guess 60 or so.”

“Eddie, what you’re seeing is premature wisdom.  Many people mistake it for an early geezer onset syndrone.”

“Could have fooled me.”

I shrugged.  His so-called charm was wearing thin.

“Where did you learn all of this, Eddie?  I didn’t think you were into cosmology.”

He held up his phone.  “I like to explore things,” he said.  “Just a little Wikipedia and some browsing on the web.  From my iPhone.”

“But you’re a linguistic guy, right?”

“Linguistic anthropology.”

“Linguistic what?”

“Anthropology.  It’s the study of speech events in the context of social paradigms.”

“Geez, how employable is that?”

“Not very, professor.”  He was suddenly very serious, as if I had stumbled on an ugly secret.  “I think I’ll be stuck in academia for the rest of my natural life.”  He thought about this for a second, crestfallen.   Now I was beginning to like the guy.  Then brightening:  “That’s why you’re an inspiration, professor.  It’s so comforting.  I mean to know that if I flunk my orals, I can always start my own business.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“Sure, professor.  Thought you’d like to know that a lot of us on campus think your place is a real bomb.”

“Bomb?  This is the word choice of a linguistics post grad.”

“Linguistic anthropology.”

“OK, OK.  Listen, I enjoyed talking with you.  And thanks for showing me a little more of my universe.  Literally.  I better get to my stuff or I’ll never finish.”

“Any time, professor,” he said, then shook his phone, studying the results then paging down with a finger.  “If I can be of any help, let me know.”

“I will let you know, Eddie.”

“OK, professor. “  He smiled, glanced down at his phone then spun around.

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