Do we need practical research?

Published 11:04 am Thursday, September 10, 2015

According to Gizmodo, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have discovered the oldest, most distant galaxy ever detected by earthlings.

The scientists have dubbed the galaxy EGS8p7. That doesn’t sound very prosaic compared to the Crab Nebula or the Clouds of Magellan; but it beats letting Kanye West name it, or going with a mysterious anonymous suggestion (delivered by Secret Service agents) to name it Mount McKinley.

According to the researchers, light from EGS8p7 has been traveling for 13.2 billion years, which caused one scientist to exclaim, “Wow! Tom Bodett was right! Motel 6 really does leave a light on for you!”

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News reports are ebullient that the galaxy formed “only” 600 million years after the Big Bang. I know that gap sounds like a long time, but remember that it’s roughly comparable to the length of time you’ll have to wait for your ungrateful grandchildren to write you a “thank you” note for those birthday sweaters.

(Before I go any further, don’t shoot the messenger. Scientists and journalists rather blithely toss about these mind-boggling ages, with no respect for those with a more traditional view of Genesis. In fact, to add insult to injury, one chemist recently crowed, “For our next trick, we’re going to turn water into wine. Ouch! It’s counterintuitive, but we’ve learned that when you turn water into wine, it also produces lightning. Ouch! Ouch!”)

The articles I’ve read go into excruciating detail about how redshift and the Doppler Effect are used to gauge the distance and age of heavenly objects. We are fortunate that we have scientist fellers to figure out these things for us, because I quizzed my co-workers and the majority of them think you determine the age of a galaxy by cutting it in half and counting the rings.

Yes, most of us are lucky to recognize the Big Dipper and Orion’s Belt. Although, to be fair, my correspondent Chauncey also picked out Orion’s Vest and Orion’s Dancing Shoes and Orion’s Thong and…(It probably won’t surprise you that Chauncey was overjoyed by a certain recent Supreme Court decision.)

Caltech researchers bristled when citizens demanded practical, tangible applications for the years of research. They defended basic (versus applied) science, explaining, “Mankind is better off for the knowledge that physics has rules, for the knowledge that patience pays off, for the knowledge that our paychecks will continue as we search for EGS8p7’s older brother…”

There really are practical repercussions of the research project. For example, the discovery of EGS8p7 will have a tremendous impact on the pharmaceutical business. Because when the scientists keep gushing about “reionization,” “Lyman-alpha lines” and “impartial hydrogen atoms,” their partners are going to need a whole truckload of “little pink pills” to get in the mood.

Coincidentally, at around the same time scientists were confirming EGS8p7, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy Brookhaven National Laboratory were producing tiny droplets of the primordial state of matter that existed in the split-seconds immediately following the Big Bang. Said one researcher, “My trendy roomie has been really annoying with his collection of vinyl records, so I had to find some way to out-retro him.”

I understand that the lab would’ve produced results with the building blocks of Creation even sooner; but some team members were holding out for the Chutes & Ladders of Creation or the Wooly Willy of Creation.


Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”. Danny’s’ weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.