Archive for August 13th, 2014

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Earth Itself by Timothy Donnelly

To quantify the foolishness of the already long since failed
construction project, the famous German polymath

undertook to calculate the precise number of bricks
the Tower of Babel would have required had it ever been

finished. The figure he came up with ran an impressive
eighteen digits in length, climbing all the way up

to that rarely occupied hundred-quadrillionths place.
Looking at it now, between loads of laundry, the figure

calls to mind an American telephone number—area code first,
then the prefix, then the line number, followed in turn

by a trail of eight additional zeroes. I feel a little lost
through the hypnosis of those zeroes, but I still pick up

the phone and dial that number now. A recording says
the number I’ve dialed isn’t an actual telephone number

after all. Please try again. I do. Same result. I try dialing
that trail of zeroes instead. This time the recording says

that the call I’m making might itself be recorded. I hesitate a bit
at the thought of that, when all this crazy science, all

this poking into mysteries, panting for answers, always
harder, higher, my phone calls today and the recordings

during laundry, the laundry—it all comes crashing down.
I don’t have time to experiment. I’m hanging up the phone.

But wait, there’s more! On my rush back to the laundromat
I remembered I forgot a part. The polymath figured out, too,

that if the tower had reached its destination, it would have
taken over eight-hundred years to climb to the top.

What’s more, his calculations say the mass of all those bricks
would have outweighed, slightly, the earth’s own mass,

meaning the tower would have used up all the matter of
the planet it was built on, which is foolish enough, and then

a little more, which is ridiculous, unless the tower is secretly
just the earth itself, with the added weight of all the living on it.


Date: 2014

By: Timothy Donnelly (1969- )