Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Get Your Head Around This

I was chatting with a friend the other day who told me a fact, a rather fascinating, scintillating and mind boggling one.

Said friend told me that she was watching a documentary about black holes and that there are some black holes that are 400 million times bigger than our sun. When she told me this I said something like

"Wow" as I tend to.

But then I thought about this, about size and my mind, how we picture these things.

It's fair to say I'm no scientist but I have Google and I'm willing to use it. I did. I always knew the sun was quite big, in the same way I know that rich people often live in big houses, I just don't know how big they are. Well the sun is 1,000,000 km in diameter compared to the Earth's meagre 12750 km.

In all honesty I can't really visualise one single stand alone kilometer. My mind goes as far as 100 meters then I'm off into uncharted territory. I can see a 100 meter track in my head but beyond that it all goes blurry and I start to think about drums.

So when some intelligent bod tells me that the Earth, the one that we're rapidly destroying, is about 12750 km in diameter well, I'm a bit dumbfounded by it. By my standards that's pretty massive, it would take me a fair while to drive around and that's good enough.

Then this business about the sun rears its head. A million kilometers you say? Well I can only sit here and shake my head in disbelief. I bet it's nice and warm there too, I bet it's so warm that I can't imagine that either, maybe even hotter than some parts of Sri Lanka when it's really hot. And what happens at night time there?

Then, to cap it all, I get told that some of these black holes are 400 million times bigger than the sun. I look at lorries in my work car park and think they're big. I marvel at the ability of these fellows who reverse them and park as if they're born to do it.

But, to these scientists, the ones who have to measure suns and black holes for a living, I have a question.

After you've had a hard day at work with your tape measure (extra long), your writing pad and your extra dark sunglasses do you go down to the local kebab shop and ask for a doner kebab?

Then, when the nice Turkish fellow asks you if you want a small or large one, does it all seem a bit mad?

It would to me.

Or, do you do what I do? Which is, no matter how many suns you've measured, how many planets you've counted or how many black holes you've gazed at, you just ask for a large one with chilli sauce anyway.


Dinidu said...

Aww... This is sweet... You sound like a six year old trying to come to terms with the universe... :)

Sasani said...


My tape measure is an extra small one, so small in fact that I spend my day measuring things that are a billion times smaller than the cross section of a hair.

But after work when I go about the usual things in life (like dropping in at the local kebab shop) the nano world is the last thing on my mind.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Dinidu - Thanks, I think!!

Sasani - Blimey, I hope you never lose your tape measure.