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Catching light and other interesting “wow” stuff

I’ll be flying to Halifax this weekend, so how wonderful to read in Marcus Chown’s The Quantum Zoo: A Tourist’s Guide to the Neverending Universe that the faster I travel, the slimmer I get.

Hallelujah to that. (Although, to be fair, runners have been telling us that for years.)

Chown’s book was full of other intriguing possibilities, too.

Some men (and some women) will be pleased to know that every breath you take could contain an atom breathed out by Marilyn Munroe. People working in the penthouse suites of tall buildings will learn to their chagrin that we age faster at the top of a building than at the bottom. It’s also interesting to know that a cup of coffee weighs more when it is hot than when it is cold.

My favourites, though, are these:

  • Atoms are mostly empty space. Without all the empty space, the entire human race would fit in the volume of a sugar cube.

So much for needing personal space.

  • If we were able to catch up with a beam of light, we would see a stationary electromagnetic wave. This is impossible. (According to some complex equations worked out by James Maxwell.) Since seeing impossible things is indeed impossible, we could never catch up with a light beam. 

Infinite, elusive light. It reassures me to know that something out there can’t be captured, tied down and made to conform.

It makes me wonder what else might have the same elusive quality?

“As a science writer I am constantly amazed by how much stranger science is than science fiction, how much more incredible the Universe is than anything we could possibly have invented.” —Marcus Chown

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