Questions that get the little grey cells firing

Apparently Google has over 1 trillion (1,000,000,000,000) unique URLs in its index. Of course not all of those URLs correspond with pages of information and the 1 trillion figure was quoted in 2008, the amount of information on the web in 2019 must have far surpassed that. It’s important to remember that Google only indexes a fraction of the actual web pages available, for instance they don’t have access to Facebook’s 500 million users and the petabytes of information they must be churning out. Wikipedia has over 3.5 million English articles, each of which (supposedly) documents a notable facet of knowledge. Then there are the offline repositories, the Library of Congress in the US, the largest library in the world, has over 100 million items in it’s archives. In short there is an awful lot of information and knowledge out there and yet, there is still so much we don’t know, so many unanswered questions.

Here are a few that make me think.

Why are the laws of the Universe the way they are?

The more astute amongst you will immediately cry “the anthropic principle” however this does not answer the question of “why”, the anthropic principle actually closes down the question of why by answering it with “because that’s what we observe”. This is unsatisfactory since it answers nothing and is no better than “God did it”.

Closely aligned with this question is “What created the Universe?” since one follows the other. The more scientific minded will immediately start wondering whether I am about to invoke some kind of God to explain it all. I am going to do no such thing but the question remains, why do the laws of the Universe exist as they do? Why do we see time flowing in one direction? Why do the constants of the Universe have the values they have? (And why do some of them appear to have changed over time.) There must be a scientific explanation for the why and it is one that fascinates me.

What happens at the boundary between the Quantum world and the macro world?

We know that at the subatomic level the world is random and weird and behaves in ways that mess with our brain.  We also know that at the macro level Newtonian physics rules the roost.  But what happens where the two cross over?  What happens when quantum effects are overtaken or overwhelmed by Newtonian effects?  There must be a boundary, I’m sure its fuzzy but what happens there?  What causes Newtonian physics to “kick in” and quantum effects to fall away?  When do particles stop being “spooky” and start being “real”.

When does life begin?

The mechanism for how a life is created, especially human life, is well understood.  We know that a sperm cell enters an egg cell and cell division begins and the embryo starts to grow.  But at what point does it stop being a collection of cells, more akin to a cancer than a human being, and when does it become a human?  When and how is the spark of humanity kindled?  We know that children in the womb have thoughts and emotions and feelings, but when does that start and how?  Is it a critical mass of firing neurons?  Are there specific neurons designed to jump start the brain?  Or is it something else?

Planetary consciousness

It is estimated that the average human contains around 37 trillion cells, that’s not atoms, that’s the number of things like neurons, red blood cells, white blood cells, there’s a very long list of the different types.  And each of these cells has absolutely no idea that it is part of a thinking, living being.

Now what if that is true of us?  Are we each cells of a planetary consciousness a super mind that cares as little about each of us as we do of our red blood cells?

And let’s scale it up, is each solar system in a galaxy a cell of a galactic consciousness?

We’ll probably never know, but it’s an interesting thought.

How much water actually falls when it rains

Moving away from the tiny and big questions.  I often wonder how much water actually falls out of the sky when it rains.  You can estimate how much there is using rain gauges, checking dam, river and creek levels but ultimately no one knows exactly how much rain falls out of the sky when it rains.

How many times a day is the word “mate” used in Australia

And finally, with my tongue buried firmly in my cheek, how many times a day is the word “mate” said in Australia, at a rough guess I would say around 37 trillion times.

Author note

Link to the featured image.

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