Life Without Mass (or Why I Love Physics)
One of the reasons I love physics is the line between theory and mindblowing practice is pretty thin. The recently discovered Higgs Boson gives everything mass. It’s hard to imagine what life would be like without mass, but here’s a glimpse.
According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, massless particles (like electrons) are destined to forever travel at the speed of light. And for anything traveling at the speed of light the past, present and future are the same thing. So the Higgs actually makes time possible.
If you’re not familiar with the Higgs Boson, check out this video
Astronomy is mind blowing
Time is weird
We are used to visualizing time as a horizontal arrow with past, present and future. I just read a book that offers a different point of view: time is a vertically stacked collection of “now’s”.
It’s not a new concept (Zen), but thinking about time in this way is liberating. “Now” is all we ever have. We can eliminate the illusion of being able to control the future (i.e. just deal with it when it becomes the “now”) and stop wasting time thinking about what should have been done differently in the past.
I especially love this in the context of Einstein’s relativity. Since the “arrow of time” implies a straight line, we know it’s incorrect. We measure our time based on revolutions of Earth on its axis, and around the Sun - this is actually not movement of time, but movement of us in space. And since Einstein proved (100 years ago although most of us still don’t grasp it) that time can bend, slow down or speed up, the visualization of time as a stack of “now’s” is much more realistic than the arrow.
Worth thinking about.
I’m fascinated by languages and find it amazing that people have agreed on a set of rules to allow communication between each other.
One of the most interesting things to study is how the structure of a language affects behavior of its speakers. In particular, Russian, Spanish and German have a formal and informal “you” - вы/ты, usted/tu, sie/du respectively. (I’m sure other languages have the same phenomenon, but these I know for sure).
It’s amazing what an impact this bifurcation has on communication, and what an opportunity for awkwardness it provides.
A few weeks ago my wife (who’s German) and I had lunch with our friend, whose mom is fluent in German. So we spent 2 hours speaking English, with plenty of “you’s” being exchanged. But then ze Germans decided to switch for a minute. Since my wife is younger than our friend’s mom, she kinda has to address her formally (sie). But they just talked for hours in English! So what did she decide to do? Avoid saying “you” altogether and awkwardly dance around it.
This is very familiar to me. Doing business in Russia, it’s normal to start with вы (formal) and then suggest to switch to ты (informal). Of course, the best thing is to avoid this altogether, which all Russians know how to do. (Luckily in my business everyone is young, so I’ve started to take it easy on the formality.)
I think the structure of a language affects behavior of the speakers. In English communication everyone is equal. Doesn’t matter if you just met, or are much younger. This results in an openness that’s condusive to business and relationship building. Formality is not. It creates borders, divides people and is just awkward.
I grew up in Russia, and until the age of 16 I spoke mainly Russian. Now I speak mainly English. I think and dream in English most of the time, except for occasional drunk outbursts of Russian.
Two weeks ago I was in a meeting with 3 other Russians (who are fluent Russian) when something interesting happened. We spent an hour talking in English without realizing it (this was partially because we were more comfortable with tech terms in English, but still). This is when I realized that language is just a tool - a very powerful one, but still just a tool until we master telepathy.
My dog understands English, Russian and German. Better said, we both speak Dog language, which is essentially telepathy. It’s based
on a) understanding the situation and evaluating what the other dog/person MAY want to communicate, and b) choose the right option by feeling the other dog/person (reading body language, eyes, etc).
From what I’ve heard (and will learn first-hand soon), communicating with infants is based on the same principle. Telepathy.