The term ‘Rockstar’ is almost always associated with flamboyant music artists who set official records for extravagance, fan fare and drug rehab center visits. An even more extremely rare case would be a particle physicist getting referred to as ‘Rockstar’. Professor Cox is a recipient of such rare and unofficial title. Brian Edward Cox is a particle physicist from England and a professor at the University of Manchester. He works on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland but he is often found at world-wide science events where he enthralls the audience with his excellent narrative style and depth of knowledge about quantum physics, our universe and everything in it.
Here is an absolute gem of a quote from him explaining the wonder of how the flow of energy from one entity to another literally runs the entire universe:
Consider the world around you. You are holding a book made of paper, the crushed pulp of a tree. Trees are machines able to take a supply of atoms and molecules, break them down and rearrange them into cooperating colonies composed of many trillions of individual parts. They do this using a molecule known as chlorophyll, composed of over a hundred carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms twisted into an intricate shape with a few magnesium and nitrogen atoms bolted on. This assembly of particles is able to capture the light that has travelled the 93 million miles from our star, a nuclear furnace the volume of a million earths, and transfer that energy into the heart of cells, where it is used to build molecules from carbon dioxide and water, giving out life-enriching oxygen as it does so. It’s these molecular chains that form the superstructure of trees and all living things, the paper in your book. You can read the book and understand the words because you have eyes that can convert the scattered light from the pages into electrical impulses that are interpreted by your brain, the most complex structure we know of in the Universe. We have discovered that all these things are nothing more than assemblies of atoms, and that the wide variety of atoms are constructed using only three particles: electrons, protons and neutrons. We have also discovered that the protons and neutrons are themselves made up of smaller entities called quarks, and that it is where things stop, as far as we can tell today. Underpinning all of this is quantum theory.
Now for the second part of today’s blog title. We all suspect, rather correctly, that everything in the universe is connected to each other, but how much do we know at the atomic level? How do we know that the individual atoms, of which there is a gabizillion thousand of them, work together to keep the universe intact and humming along smoothly? Once again, our rockstar physicist lays it down.
See, everything is related, which means your actions have consequences. Try to act accordingly.
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