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*Freelance Traveller

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#61: Room for More!

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue.

Conspicuous by its absence in my last confession was any mention of the obvious source of any description of heaven or a spiritual realm. The Bible. I’d decided it was either known to readers and not much help pointing it out, or not particularly familiar to readers but coming with a lot of baggage and therefore not of much interest. In case I was wrong try: the first three chapters of Genesis, Job chapters 1 & 2, Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28, Acts 7:56, 2 Corinthians 2:12, lots of Revelation but particularly chapters 21 & 22. Amongst other possibilities. Obviously other faiths and scriptures are also available.

I don’t intend to revisit the (ground?) I trod last time but thought I’d take a lighter-hearted and rather fanciful look at something that’s intrigued me since my youth. I think it was reading a Ripley Believe or Not thing on the number of people who have ever lived on Earth. The number was 150 billion although a very quick google now suggests numbers considerably lower (it seems to vary between 57 billion1 and 117 billion21: http://faculty.tamucc.edu/sfriday/wordpress/?p=1782
2: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/04/quantifying-human-existence
If you’re not content with that or the previous link, there’s always: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estimates_of_historical_world_population
with differing degrees of rigour). But let’s take the 150 I recall from my youth.

It struck me back then when I was reading Revelation 21:16 that with the size of the heavenly city given as a 2200km (or 1400 mile) cube it would be possible to calculate how much ‘room’ there might be in the “many mansions” that Jesus talks about (John 14:2). Note that I’m not saying the heavenly city is necessarily the entirety of heaven or a spiritual dimension (see last issue’s column) and my theology doesn’t suggest that everyone who’s ever lived will have a place there. But it’s not up to me to judge so let’s count everyone! (Notwithstanding jokes about <insert denomination here> being walled up in heaven so they don’t know others are there).

My mathematical ability isn’t up to much, but this works out around 71,000,000 cubic metres per person. Even if you reduce it by half or even to a quarter of that figure for ‘infrastructure’ (streets paved with gold of course and gates made of single pearls – Rev 21:21) that still means the possibility of a mansion larger than Wembley stadium (4,000,000 cubic metres33: https://londonpass.com/en-us/blog/wembley-stadium). There may yet be room for all my books!

I bring it up because this week I’ve been notified that the Megastructures: The Visual Encyclopedia kickstarter project is now delivering4. Mine is in the post. Presumably somewhere in the Atlantic as I write (310,410,900km3)54: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/artofsoulburn/megastructures-the-visual-encyclopedia-book-project
5: https://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/global/etopo1_ocean_volumes.html
. I’m containing my excitement, just, with the PDF while I wait. The book illustrates and describes some truly stupendous imagined constructions; some of which would make the heavenly city look positively tiny. Ringworlds, Dyson Spheres, Matrioshka Brains.

My confession and the connection to Traveller in case you were wondering is that my imagination is far too small! I need to think bigger! At least once I’d like to write an adventure on an epic scale. There’s certainly room for it.