I learned something Quite Interesting from the TV show QI this evening. Lobsters are, in theory, immortal. I won’t go too deeply into the scientific details. This isn’t because I’m worried that you, my dear reader, are too thick to understand them. I’m sure you are absolutely brilliant. It’s because I’m too lazy to look them up, and because I’m worried it might shake my newfound belief in 1000 year old lobsters.
Basically, lobsters have a special enzyme that repairs their DNA when their cells divide. This means their DNA doesn’t degrade over time which, apparently, is what the boffins think causes us all to get a bit wrinkly and obsessed with knitting and golf as we get older.
The programme also informed me that when lobsters shed their exoskeleton they can grow by as much as 50%. This is something they do quite often throughout their life (which, as we’ve established, can be very very long).
These two facts have led me to a stunning revelation about how the universe came to be, how it will end, and how it will eventually be reborn.
It’s simple, really. If a lobster is biologically immortal and it keeps growing forever, it’s absolutely inevitable you’ll get a lobster so huge that no other being is a threat to it. Even now, in the darkest depths of the ocean, there must be lobsters bigger than the biggest submarine. And the thing is, no one has yet figured out how to attach giant claws to a submarine.
Of course, you’re thinking, “but how would a lobster that big keep itself fed? And if it did manage to feed itself, wouldn’t it eventually get so big that it wouldn’t fit in the ocean any more?”
These are excellent questions, but we need to remind ourselves that with great age comes great wisdom. Admittedly, by all reports, lobsters don’t start out with a huge amount of wisdom, but give them time. By the time a lobster is too big to fit in even the comparatively small Atlantic Ocean, it would have to be pretty darn smart. Based on my calculations, a lobster that size would have figured out interstellar space travel long before this, never mind solving the fairly trivial problem of being able to consume any matter it came across. The latter is, fundamentally, just a question of advanced cookery. If Heston Blumenthal can get us to eat leather, surely a millennial old lobster can figure out what sauce goes best with granite or plutonium.
So now we’ve got a space travelling lobster as big as a planet that can consume any matter it comes across. I can sense more skepticism. You’re thinking, “but wouldn’t it just collapse into a black hole?”
Oh, my silly, silly reader… Maybe you’re not as bright as I thought. You have forgotten about the exoskeleton. Black holes don’t have exoskeletons. That’s why they get all introspective and collapse in on themselves. The exoskeleton keeps the lobster viable even when it becomes as big as a galaxy.
Now this is where it gets really interesting and where I put all living and dead physicists to shame. The universe quite likely began with some kind of Big Bang, and many physicists believe that it is still expanding, but the problem that really keeps them up at night is entropy. If everything has a tendency to just drift apart and break down into component quantum mechanicky dust, then how could it all get gathered back together to kick off another Big Bang.
And that’s where the giant, immortal, space-travelling lobster saves us all. The lobster eventually becomes so huge it gets to the point where it has consumed all the matter in the universe. It effectively becomes the universe. At this point, being not only the biggest thing in the universe as well as the oldest thing in the universe, it is also the wisest thing in the universe. It can see the writing on the wall. It knows that if anything is ever to exist ever again, it must sacrifice itself. Over the millennia, it has been saving thousands of tins of baked beans just for this moment. Using one of its claws (again, how perfect is nature?!?) it opens up each of the tins, slurps them down, and waits for the inevitable explosion.
And life begins anew.