The fastest route from A to B isn’t always a straight line.
There’s a special kind of curve that can get a ball from one point to another faster than in a straight line across the shortest distance.
It’s called a Brachistochrone curve.
It works because of gravity and friction and the shape of balls and all sorts of other juju that we don’t fully understand.
It won’t help you win many races, but it works quite well as an analogy. Sometimes it seems like we’re heading way off-course when we might actually be taking a shortcut.
That’s just how the Universe fits together.
How the math on that works, I guess we’ll never know.
If it sometimes feels like you’re rushing along out of control, that’s probably a good thing.
That is exactly what’s happening.
Everything from the size of a quark to the Milky Way is hurtling about almost completely randomly.
When we bump into something about our size, we explode or cling to each other, tumbling through the swirling void until we collide with something else. Sometimes, it’s both.
Bosuns, atoms, molecules, people, planets, stars, galaxies — all of us whizzing around making fireworks.
Time for a super-loud, mega-awesome, seventeen-million-colour whizz-popper, don’t you think?
One of the scariest realities of life is also one of the most comforting.
Many people worry and fret about things changing; some even spend their lives fighting to keep things the way they once were.
But thankfully, nothing ever stays the same. Quantum physicists won’t even say something exists anymore, in case it doesn’t by the time they check again. They will only make predictions about the probability of something existing at a certain point in time.
As Mr. Feynmann pointed out, all the atoms in the universe are in flux. Even if we know where something was, we don’t necessarily know it will still be there when we look again.
And almost always, it’s moved.
Even the bench we sat on today is different from the one we sat on yesterday if we look very closely.
It keeps things interesting.
There was a big, stubborn rock sitting on my desk this morning.
It took me 15 minutes to move it off, by writing, “Get the ball rolling.”
Rolling the ball off the line is the official way to start a game of football. Once the ball is moving, the game has begun.
We use this phrase at work too, where it means we’ve talked a project to death and must begin the game of creating.
The implication is that it takes a bit of effort to get the ball rolling, but things get easier once momentum is on our side.
Inertia is difficult to overcome — especially if we’re making something new. But once we put in the energy to start, it’s tough to stop.
Fortunately, all it takes to get the ball rolling is a little nudge in the right direction.
If you ever doubt we’re spinning, just get a bit drunk.
When you do, it’s immediately apparent that we’re standing on something that’s moving very fast indeed — about 1,000 miles per hour.
Another way is to watch a little kid learning to walk. They move the same as if you were trying to stand up on something wobbly that was moving fast.
Usually, we’d be too busy to notice how much work our brain is doing to keep us upright.
But as soon as we have a few glasses of wine and stand completely still, it’s impossible to ignore that we’re on a giant rock hurtling through space — because it won’t keep bloody still.
What a ride!