The great thing about writing about the universe is that you can use a picture of ANYTHING! (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington post)
The great thing about writing about the universe is that you can use a picture of ANYTHING! (Benjamin C Tankersley For The Washington post)

How old is the universe? 13.82ish billion years, according to the observations of the European Space Agency’s Planck mission, not the 13.7ish it’s been claiming on its JDate profile.

I should have been able to guess, based on how confused it was by all my pop culture references. “Remember Mick Jagger’s birth?” I would say. It would fidget. “Totally,” it would say, after a minute. “Yeah, yeah. Right after oxygen, right?”

This is always awkward. If the universe wanted to date using the Half Your Age Plus Seven rule, it’s been vastly overestimating its range.

This is just more proof that it all depends on your scale. In general, the news that the place you’re living is 80 million years older than you initially thought might lead you to yell at your landlord a little. But in the scheme of things — compared to 13 billion — it’s not too much. It’s also more normal than we expected. It contains 4.9 percent normal matter, 26.8 percent dark matter, and 68.3 percent dark energy — not the 4.6ish percent normal matter we used to think. Normal matter is what you and I are made up of, in spite of what everyone used to yell at us on the playground during our formative years. 

We are having that awkward eighth-date moment with the universe, when it fidgets and admits that those were older photos — and that, in fact, it doesn’t know how to juggle fire or particularly enjoy hiking the Andes, as it had led you to believe. “Actually I’m really into sitting around,” it admits. “And expanding. But more slowly than I said.”

If you want more science, Slate’s Phil Plait has you covered.

They say you should never ask a universe its age, but it looks pretty good from where I’m sitting. There’s bacon in it. In other words, I have no complaints.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.