Richard Feynman Explains How Fire Comes From “Jiggling”

Celebrated theoretical physicist and a pioneering researcher in quantum computing and nano-technology – the late Richard Feynman – was also a champion of logical reasoning and a true believer of an intellectually curious lifestyle. His lectures on the laws of physical phenomenon, like gravity and light, that govern everything from the tiniest sub-atomic particles to the entire f*cking universe are considered to be some of the most enlightening and entertaining explanations on the subject. He was a life long learner which gave him a focus that was fine-tuned for every aspect of information he received and he had the skill and enthusiasm to explain complex ideas and concepts in ways that transmitted that enthusiasm to the listener.

Here is he is explaining how and why carbon atoms, fire, trees and the sun ‘jiggle’ around us.

 
via Brain Picker


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How Big is Our Solar System

Ahh, the Universe. It is so freaking huge. The smartypants at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) managed to land the one ton SUV-sized rover called Curiosity, that doubles as minerals lab, on the surface of Mars, with exacting accuracy in the early earth-hours of this monday and it marks yet another step in our species’ centuries long marathon to find out if there are life forms outside our rapidly warming blue planet. Mars, which is 54.6 million kms (36 million miles) when it is nearest to earth, is only a short hop away if you consider the vast size of our solar system which, along with the universe, is constantly expanding. Let’s see what we’ve got. There is land where we live, then there is lower atmosphere where birds fly, then the upper atmosphere where clouds and airplanes cruise, then as you move farther out, you have your low, medium, and high orbit satellites, the International Space Station, the f*cking moon and that’s only about 238 thousand miles – barely an inch as far as the universe is concerned. Just consider what an insignificant speck of carbon molecules we are from the perspective of the planets and the stars, comets and asteroids, galaxies and constellations, vast gobbles gas and dust. It is scientifically impossible for our human brain to visualize and comprehend distances of such scale and it is for circumstances precisely such as this we have information design.
Behold the expertly designed infographic from the BBC. (I did steal borrow it from the BBC, but I am linking to their website, so its cool.)


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An Infinitely Long Short Piece of String

Nothing makes people resist science more than the times when science defies common sense. A lifetime of experiences have taught us that reality is a solid structure built based on cause and effect. Drop a ball and it falls to the ground because of gravity and we are smart enough to figure out that that is the same reason why a crashing plane falls back to the ground. But what if the ball you dropped not only falls to the ground directly beneath it, but also a bit further from that point ? What if the ball drops to different places every time you drop it ? What if, when you drop the ball, it falls to two different places at the same time ? Now, that defies common sense.

Quantum mechanics is that area of science that deals with phenomenon that a lot of us would call magic. Studies in quantum physics involve working, not with large molecules of elements, but tiny sub-divisions of a molecule, called particles. Particles are little packets of energy which form such small units of matter that their properties and behavior exceed anything that was previously thought possible in our physical world. The implications of the ways these particles behave question our basic understanding of reality and the universe. These sub-atomic entities are so bizzarre that they even frustrated Einstein.

[I can’t accept quantum mechanics because] “I like to think the moon is there even if I am not looking at it.”
– Albert Einstein

Take the case of standup-comic-turned-physics-enthusiast Alan Davies who, in this BBC documentary, tried to find out the accurate length of a piece of string.

Of course, to measure a string you pick up a measuring tape or a ruler and measure it. That is the common sense way of doing it. But when you want to measure it accurately, you have to be more precise. You have to get closer, include every contour of the individual fabric of the string. You can get even more closer down to the molecular level to measure the length and then you end up at the particle level and that is where things get a little out of this world.

Your string does not actually possess a length. Somehow, by measuring it, we create a length for the string.

If you ever thought that reality is just a mirage then this documentary will show you things you probably did not even imagine. Rules of our physical world – rules that define and dictate our understanding of our lives – get thrown out of the window pretty quickly and a new world of possibilities become the norm.

A dead cat is not really dead because it is dead only within our observable reality….Reality, in some sense, does not exist unless we’re actually observing it. And it’s our act of observation that makes things real.

Drop this on the bombastic egomaniac in the office next time he or she tries to tell you how sure they are of what they know. It is a humbling experience to realize that many of the beliefs that we take for granted, something even as concrete and tangible as a piece of string, are not as simple as they appear to be. Truth is that we have no idea what reality really is.


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Counting Infinities

For this weekend’s casual documentary segment, I give you the BBC’s bizarrely excellent documentary about that mysterious entity of the meta-physical universe – Infinity. It is one of those seemingly simple concepts on the surface – that which is endless – but its implications are profound. The idea of infinity affects time, space, core principles of mathematics and even our perceptions of reality.

What is the biggest number? Is the universe infinite? How did the universe begin? Might every event repeat again and again and again and again… Is the Earth just one of uncountable copies, tumbling through an unending void? Your intuition is no use here. Faith alone can’t save you.

With a blurb like that, there is no reason why one wouldn’t watch this documentary.


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Top Ten George Orwell Quotes

After watching the BBC documentary about the life of George Orwell it is hard not to imagine one getting consumed by his words. Many of his quotes about war, politics, literature and the nature of people still seem true. Upon multiple readings, the meanings of his words reveal themselves in many dimensions and depending on what one has experienced, his writings paint a picture that can be either hopeless or uplifting. But they are powerful nevertheless.
Here are my top ten quotes from George Orwell.

“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”
― 1984

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Animal Farm

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”
― George Orwell

“We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.”

“There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.”

“It is curious how people take it for granted that they have a right to preach at you and pray over you as soon as your income falls below a certain level.”
Down and Out in Paris and London

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. ”

“Perhaps a man really dies when his brain stops, when he loses the power to take in a new idea.”
Coming Up for Air

Bonus Quote:

“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”


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The Life Of George Orwell

Without much notice I suddenly became aware today that a I will be a spending a large portion of this weekend watching this great BBC documentary about the life of the man who forever defined the words ‘Big Brother‘ and gave us ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm‘. George Orwell, his writings and his ideas, on everything from totalitarianism to the art of making good tea are lessons not only on how to think freely and deeply but also about conveying those free thoughts and transforming them into actions. Here is a taste of the documentary available for free in YouTube.

The documentary highlights the rough, non-congruent and often seemingly directionless life of Mr.Orwell while also giving us insight into the roots from which he drew inspiration and strength to produce literary works that made him one of the most artistic and revolutionary critics of inequality, corruption and the general foibles humankind.

The entire YouTube playlist is available here.


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