Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: awe

Richard Feynman on Everything

There are the rushing waves
mountains of molecules
each stupidly minding its own business
trillions apart
yet forming white surf in unison.

Ages on ages
before any eyes could see
year after year
thunderously pounding the shore as now.
For whom, for what?
On a dead planet
With no life to entertain.

Never at rest
Tortured by energy
wasted prodigiously by the sun
poured into space
A mite makes the sea roar.

Deep in the sea
all molecules repeat
the patterns on one another
till complex new ones are formed.
They makes others like themselves
and a new dance starts.

Growing in size and complexity
living things
masses of atoms
DNA, protein
dancing a pattern ever more intricate.

Out of the cradle
onto dry land
here is is
atoms with consciousness;
matter with curiosity.

Stands at the sea,
wonders at wondering: I
a universe of atoms
an atom in the universe.

– Richard Feynman, from his lecture, The Value of Science

Hey Ruth, I figured out Time Dilation

This physics class has been a blast. But it’s given me a bit of a headache. It’s not because I don’t understand what’s going on. It’s just that it’s hard to put into words the things that I’m learning.

It looked something like this.

Take Time Dilation, for example. Now, I’ve been into sci-fi for as long as I can remember. I’ve known for a while that the universe has this strange quirk that screws with time. Imagine I were to put you on a spaceship and blast you off toward some nearby star at a crazy, close-to-light speed. If you slingshot around that star and come back here, you’d find that I had aged a lot more than you had. Time went slower for you, the traveler, than it did for me.

Screwy, eh?

Like I said, I’ve known that for a while. A lot of science fiction books make use of that quirk. But I’ve never really gotten it. There’s a huge difference between knowing something and getting something. Then today my physics TA drew a weird little graph and it suddenly made the whole thing click for me. I finally got it. It was great, because getting a thing kinda makes it beautiful, doesn’t it?

I envy the sky you fall asleep under. The bright stars of Pakistan always gave me a delicious sense of the immensity of the universe and the smallness of everything going on down here. See those vast contrasts in one view helps put everything into a proper perspective, doesn’t it?

Awe is the salve that will heal our eyes
– Rumi

Have an awe-filled ninth day, Ruth. I’ll say Hey again tomorrow.

The Gravity of Gravity

We’re getting ready to start home schooling our kids.  This gives me a great excuse to buy all manner of geeky science toys to play with.  A few weeks ago my kids were having a blast playing with magnets, trying to figure out what is affected by magnets and seeing the beautiful patterns iron filings can be put into.  We all experienced that awe of seeing something invisible have a strong effect on the things we can see.

I was thinking about that as I walked to the bus yesterday.  And a thought struck me so hard that I stopped walking and looked down at my feet.


Every single second of my life, this massive ball of matter is pulling at me, trying to suck me inside its centre.  All the time.  I’m plastered to its side.  I can’t get away from it, though it’s completely invisible.  I stood there for five minutes, awe-struck.  There were people at the bus stop staring at me.  I didn’t care.

“Look at this!” I wanted to yell at them.  “We’re all stuck to the earth!  Look!  It’s gravity!

And that made me think of the larger-scale gravity wowzer of earth being tossed around the sun.  The massive thing that is sucking at me is getting sucked at by another big-huge-sucking thing!  Oh, and that one is made of nuclear explosions.  Whaaaaat?

So, I just want to share this to you.  Look to the ground, feel its girth, pulling at you.  Look to the stars, feel their distance, so great that the light you are seeing is billions of years old.  Look to your own consciousness, feel the mind and the perspective that has spawned technologies, arts and religions that have built and destroyed worlds.

The universe is full of greatness in all the things that we see every day.  I hope you pause every once in a while, as you walk to the bus stop, to drink a bit of it in.