There's something about nothing
Turn to the back page of a special issue of Discover, just out, and you'll find "20 things you didn't know about nothing" by LeeAundra Temescu, a continuation of the magazine's "20 things" series. Here are some of the points Ms. Temescu makes about nothing that I find interesting:
1. There is vastly more nothing than something. Roughly 74 percent of the universe is "nothing," or what physicists call dark energy; 22 percent is dark matter, particles we cannot see. Only 4 percent is baryonic matter, the stuff we call something.
4. Even nothing has a weight. The energy in dark matter is equivalent to a tiny mass; there is about one pound of dark energy in a cube of empty space 250,000 miles on each side.
9. "Zero" was first seen in cuneiform tablets written around 300 B.C. by Babylonians who used it as a placeholder (to distinguish 36 from 306 or 360, for example). The concept of zero in its mathematical senses was developed in India in the fifth century.
14. Vacuums do not suck things. They create spaces into which the surrounding atmosphere pushes matter.
15. Creatio ex nihilo, the belief that the world was created out of nothing, is one of the most common themes in ancient myths and religions.
16. Current theories suggest that the universe was created out of a state of vacuum energy, that is, nothing.
17. But to a physicist there is no such thing as nothing...
19. ...In fact, according quantum mechanics, the energy contained in all the power plants and nuclear weapons in the world doesn't equal the theoretical energy contained in the empty spaces between these words.
20. In other words, nothing could be the key to the theory of everything.
The links and emphasis above are mine. Since hearing John Barrow speak at the last ideaFestival on the related concept of infinity in mathematics and cosmology, I've been a fan of nothing. And if nothing really is the key to a theory about everything, what we do with uncertainty surely matters.
Well, last night was finale night. This marked the end of the Spring television season for me.
24 – done.
Heroes – done.
The Office – done.
But I realize that that is what I have become. I talk about what Jack did at work. I’m completely engaged in the Heroes story. I work in an office, so The Office hits eerily close to home on a weekly basis. But they’re soap operas. And I DON’T WANT TO BE A SOAP OPERA WATCHER.
Why do they call them soap operas?
What ever happened to that show called Soap?
(a couple random questions)
And don’t try to convince me they’re not soaps, either. Sure, they’re episodic, but they’re also tightly linked. Regular dramas like CSI and Law and Order are episodic, but clearly (to me) in a different class than 24. Not nearly as tightly woven together.
I’m rambling, but you get the point.
Know What I’m Sayin’??
So…I was sitting here at work on a conference call, right? I scored a headset from the EA, so I’m cruising hands free. Good stuff.
So I’m on this call, and I have idle hands, so I pick up my stapler. I’m playing with the stapler, and I notice the little metal anvil with the grooves where the staples hit. Everyone has seen these things. You ever notice what the second set of grooves is for? We usually use the set bends the staples towards the inside. The other bastardized set bends the staples to the outside.
Well, I’m hear to share, and teach, so here is what the other setting is for: The standard setting is for “stapling”. The other setting is for “pinning”. The difference is that pinning is for when you want the fastening to be more temporary. The staple comes out a lot easier using this setting.
Try it. Today. Go forth and conquer. Own your office implements. You may never find yourself wanting to “pin” something, but you just might. Now you know! And knowing is half the battle.
Know What I’m Sayin’??