This site now lives at miraclesunderyournose.wordpress.com
From the perspective of a ray of sunlight hitting your eye, it reaches you at the same instant it was born on the sun.
We see it taking 8 minutes to reach us, but relativity means that from the photon’s “point of view,” zero seconds have passed.
Einstein figured out that time isn’t the same for everybody. As something (like a spacecraft) speeds up, time slows down for it. At the actual speed of light, time doesn’t pass at all.
So if you actually reached the speed of light, you would experience no time at all until you reached your destination.
(Small problem: It’s not possible for anything that has any weight at all to reach light speed. Light can travel at that speed because it has no mass.)
Still, it means that (at least in a sense) light is always teleporting, reaching its destination in the same moment it departed. All the light you’ve ever seen has done this.
Space movies often have people traveling faster than light. They gloss over the fact that being able to do that would also necessarily mean being able to move backward in time.
The Clay Mathematics Institute put together the Millennium Prize in 2000, listing seven important math problems no one had been able to answer. If solved, they could unlock doors to new areas of mathematics. Three years ago, an eccentric Russian guy solved one of them but turned down the money. (!)
If those look too hard, a different group has smaller prizes for smaller problems.
It’s a unique thing on this Earth. Hawaii might be the strangest place in America. It started being formed 30 million years ago by a hotspot of lava rising from beneath the Pacific. Each island is a mountain of cooled lava rising from the bottom of the sea. Mauna Kea on the southwesternmost island is taller than Mount Everest, measured from its peak to its base at the ocean floor.
As the Earth’s tectonic plates slowly slide around, the lava tubes that formed one island break, and another set forms and slowly builds up a new island.
Most of Hawaii’s volcanic vents are extinct, and some of them are open to tourists. The others you can only enter if there’s nobody watching.
Hawaii is prone to earthquakes, so there’s always the possibility of a cave-in. When my fiancée and I went exploring one of these lava tunnels with her family, we found a huge stone that had recently fallen from the ceiling.
In parts the ceiling and cave walls look like something organic because they froze in mid-flow, letting only the hottest lava inside make it out of the tunnel to wreak destruction on the land.
It’s awesome, but you don’t want to stay down there too long.
The youngest, biggest island (named Hawaii, also the state’s name) is the most active. Mount Kilauea’s oozing lava destroyed most of the community of Kalapana in 1990. Three years ago, some truly dramatic pictures were captured of Kilauea claiming one of the community’s last remaining homes.
Right now an undersea volcano is forming a new island off the southeast coast of the Big Island, but it probably won’t peek above the waves for at least 10,000 years.
Once a Hawaiian island is formed, it doesn’t stay there forever. Each once-mighty volcano erodes and slowly sinks back into the sea over millions of years. This is still happening today: You can see the path that the volcano chain has taken over the eons.
Hawaii has dozens of these “Atlantis” islands filled with the fossils of long-lost species that may never be found. Like the mythical city of Atlantis that’s said to have disappeared into the sea, Hawaii’s smaller Western islands are the last remnants of islands drowned by time.
Because the motion of the plates over that deep-Earth hotspot has formed so many volcanoes over time, the few Hawaiian islands you usually see on a map are only part of the picture. Most maps only show seven of Hawaii’s islands, but the state has about 137 islands and atolls stretching across much of the Pacific. Hawaii is by far the longest state in America. It’s about as wide east-to-west as the contiguous U.S. is tall from north to south.
I’ve always been proud to be an American. Why is America awesome?
Well, Hawaii, for one thing.
The first televisions sold refreshed the image on the screen about 60 times per second. The way humans perceive time, that looks like a continuously moving image. To a dog and most other animals, that looks like a flickering series of still images. Predator and prey animals process information faster than we do; that’s why they have such good reflexes. (Newer TVs have much faster refresh rates, so they can look realistic to animals).
You may think you’re smarter than your dog, and maybe you are, but your dog processes information about twice as fast.
It’s relativity of a different sort. Consciousness is a weird thing, and it’s even weirder when you consider what consciousness is like for other living things. You are to a deer as a turtle is to you.
Having an autistic child is hugely difficult. Doing one simple thing can dramatically reduce the odds of having it happen to you.
A study published this year found that women who took folic acid supplements were 40% less likely to have autistic children. (The ones who got the most benefit started taking the supplement a month before becoming pregnant and continued taking it for the first two months.)
It’s an amazingly easy, cheap, effective way to improve your odds as a prospective parent. A forty percent improvement from a single cheap, common pill.
I don’t have any kids yet, but when my fiancee and I decide to have them, we’re definitely doing this.
The Link: 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 minutes
Trevor Macy has a funny straight-faced blog called DIY Superhero where he details how to become a caped crimefighter, one post at a time. I love it. It makes me think of how superheroes relate to real life.
You’re never really going to be Batman, but the world is full of everyday heroes like nurses, firefighters, and teachers. A lot of little heroes makes a big difference.
With all the terrible events on the news every single day, it’s easy to think the world’s going to Hell in a handbasket. But looking at the numbers gives a better understanding of the big picture. Literacy, life expectancy, and prosperity are at higher levels around the world now than ever before. There have always been terrible things in the world, but the farther back in history you go, the more life was poor, nasty, brutish, and short. (But not really solitary).
Like I said before: We may not always fully appreciate it, but living in the twenty-first century is awesome.
Dazzling photographer Grover Schrayer captured something I never knew: A candle always goes out in a small blaze of glory. For a fraction of a second, the vaporized wax particles are carried along the puff of smoke and refract light to create a rainbow pattern.
Like with most of the rest of the universe, I don’t really understand it.
It passes by so fast, you don’t even notice it. Life is always like that.
I’m reminded of something Krisi Metzen shared, the work of another photographer who captures the beauty of the fleeting moment. There is beauty in such things because they reveal underlying patterns–the mathematical structures of nature. These beautiful patterns are everywhere.
The Link: Fly Geyser
A recurring theme of this blog is that the world is more awesome than you think, full of impossible-seeming things.
On a private plot of land in Nevada is a scene that looks like something from an acid trip or 1970s science fiction book cover. But it’s real.
Not quite natural, not quite man-made, it’s the result of the landowners drilling a well and accidentally hitting a huge geothermal water pocket. The area has been erupting with mineral-rich steam for nearly a century, forming those bizarre rainbow-hued shapes.
Cassie Craig, author of Confessions of the Fitness Expert, points out another thing going on right under your nose: Your stomach. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that it’s full, so we often don’t realize when we’re overeating until it’s too late.
Good to know. We eat every day, but we usually don’t think about how we eat. That leaves us susceptible to outside influences. But being aware of it helps us avoid such pitfalls. Thanks, Cassie!