(Forever)

As I clear unwanted e-mails from my phone, I am once again reminded of infinity:

“Emails are easy to forge, find, copy and forward to others. Emails may exist indefinitely (forever). This means that if you delete your emails, they may still exist.”

Existence can be a real pain. And forever is a long time.

Many years ago, when my son and I were trying to figure out how to use our first (used) computer, I came across an article on the newest phenomenon, e-mail. That’s how we used to spell it. The author of the article warned his readers in no uncertain terms: Don’t write anything in an e-mail that you wouldn’t want to see plastered on a billboard in Times Square.

OK. That’s clear. E-mails are not private. E-mails are potentially dangerous – when it comes to privileged or sensitive or confidential or embarrassing content. E-mails are not like those things we used to write on paper which we called “letters”. Although one could post the content of someone’s letter on a billboard in Times Square, if one really wanted to, the likelihood that one would do so is slim. E-mails, on the other hand, lend themselves to sharing.

I have never forgotten that warning about e-mails which I read approximately 17 years ago.

And yet the scandals continue. Clinton lost the election, in part because of her “damn e-mails”. Closer to home, I’ve read many e-mails over the years that I probably should not have read because someone else forwarded one or printed one that should not have been forwarded or printed.

So we’ve established that e-mails are dangerous and people keep doing stupid things with them, despite the warnings.

Now about “forever”. Forever is a different matter. It’s not so cut and dried. It may not even exist.

When Edwin Hubble, an American astronomer, took some pictures of the sky in the 1920s and then analyzed them, it appeared that, lo and behold, the universe is expanding. This was huge. This was something even Einstein screwed up with his “cosmological constant”, the “biggest blunder” of his life.

Hubble also discovered that those “clouds” of “dust” and “gas” up there were actually galaxies, proving that the Universe extends far beyond the Milky Way Galaxy, which is our own.

In short, Hubble’s work led to The Big Bang theory, the idea that the Universe has been expanding from a singularity and that this event happened about, say, 14 billion years ago, give or take a few. Which means: the Universe has not been around forever. And may not be around forever, going forward, depending on things like dark matter and dark energy and the geometry of the universe. (Stay tuned for further developments regarding the Big Crunch, Big Rip, Big Bounce, yada yada yada.)

But never mind the Universe for one second. According to a timeline of the far future as postulated by science: “7.59 Billion years from now: The Earth and Moon are very likely destroyed by falling into the Sun.” Ouch.

So the whole concept of “forever”, when it comes to e-mails, is, I think, open to debate. That said, to the person who sent me the warning, point taken. I’ll be careful. Just in case of forever.

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