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Monday, February 28, 2011

Things that amaze me most: Part VII

As I told you before, there are a number of things/events/emotions that absolutely blow-my-mind because they are so introspectively amazing and give me a deeper sense of awe. So I made a list of the things that amaze me most... some big, some small, some acts, some things... but all, in my mind, amazing.  So far:

Part I:    THE PACIFIC OCEAN
Part II:   BIG NUMBERS
Part III: THE YOUNG: Babies, toddlers and teens
Part IV:  LAUGHTER: A peek into the soul
Part V:   NATURE: Her splendor and fury
PART VI: THE POWER OF 1

PART VII: THE NATURAL LAWS OF PHYSICS

Take something simple... like gravity, for example.


In the early days of television, in black an white no less, there was a weirdly funny comedian, Ernie Kovacs  (married to Edie Adams), who had an early-early SNL-type precurser show. He was an incredibly funny man, with an acerbic wit, perhaps 50 years before his time. A popular, regular feature on his show was called "The Answer Man."

Once, when asked why people in Australia never fall off the earth since they are always upside down, he answered: "My good man... people in Australia are falling off all the time."

Which begs the question...what would happen if Isaac Newton never
"discovered" gravity? Would that apple actually fall down on his head?

You know, many scientist allow that there are such things as parallel universes where laws of nature are reversed... so watch out! If that apple ever falls up, you are already there but just haven't realized it yet.

Gravity... it's the law.

In 1988, the Russians built and flew the world's largest aircraft, The six-engine ANTIBIV /AN-225. If taxied onto a football field, it would reach almost goal line to goal line, with a wingspan that was even wider. It stood as tall as a six story building and had a gross take-off weight of 1,410,000 pounds--705 tons! That's like 20 fully loaded semi-trailer trucks... or a good handful of railroad cars with a locomotive.  The massive plane needed jet assists to take off... and the Russians canned it after claiming bragging rights at the Paris Air Show of 1989.


So how big can an aircraft be and still fly? Actually, that isn't the question. An aircraft of any size is technically able to leave the ground under it's own power--subject only to the technology to manufacture it and the runway to handle it. The law of physics that allows the lightest plane to fly works on any scale.


How big can a ship be and still float? Under construction now is an enormous tanker--one of 10 to be built--that will be one-quarter mile long--can you imagine, four ships to a mile? It will be wider than five full-size buses parked end-to-end... and 24 stories tall! It will be able to carry 18,000 20-foot long containers at a time! That's like a train with 18,000 cars. Imagine waiting on that at a railroad crossing.

And yes, it will float like any row boat because it will conform to those same laws of physics that define why anything floats. Following 'the rules,' a ship--of ANY size, even if made of cement, can float as easily as a tiny model made of balsa wood.

It floats because it has to... That's the law.


Ever hear of maglev trains? (Maglev stands for magnetic levitation.) In service in France, England and China, these trains, and the people in them, literally 'float' above the rails? These incredible machines ride on thin air as they are suspended between the force of magnets repelling against each other. Weight is not an issue. Anti-magnetic resistance is invincible!

Since the maglev floats virtually friction free above the track, it can move very quickly because it doesn't have to overcome drag. The Shanghai Transrapid maglev hit  a record 360 mph on one straight stretch!

And yes, it does need a special rails... seemingly ruling out service in the U.S which has a hard enough time even maintaining the track across the roads I travel.

How does it do that? I don't know but it's the law.

Sure... magicians can fool us... and they do. Sleight of hand and tricks that make the seemingly impossible possible are cool. I always ask: "How do they do that?"


But in the real world, it's not a question... it's an exclamation: "WOW!" God, and the natural way of things, does a super job at the "WOW" stuff. Magicians just help us appreciate what real-life "gee-whiz" suckers we are.

My favorite real thing for a simple mind... and it's not a trick: The hanging belt. Take 34 seconds to see it here.

Gravity and energy and bridges, oh my!
Atoms and E=MC2 and scrapers to the sky.
Tides and magnets, the big and small...
How we use them to live with and work with and all!
How does it do that? I don't know...
but it has to... it's the law!

I love this stuff!

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