Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: physics

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
standing:
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.