Thomas Dolby Remixed

In yesterdays post I claimed that LMS had stated that a nucleus weighed as much as eight billion cars. This is wrong and I am happy to put my washed thoroughly hands up to it. She said that a nucleus was as dense as if you crushed eight billion cars up and squashed them into an orange. I know this because Marge referenced my blog yesterday and LMS pointed out my mistake.

Except that squashing down eight billion cars so much so that they could fit into an orange makes as much sense to me as, well actually, now I think about it, something equally beyond the realm of understanding. If she had said that a nucleus was as densely packed as the 7.14 South Eastern train into Victoria multiplied by more than a thousand, I’d have been with her. I know how packed the rush hour trains are and using that as an example renders it within my knowledge of relatable comparisons. But millions or billions of cars being crushed so small they’d fit into an orange? Meaningless!

So it was with no little scepticism that followed LMS and Joe stating that there was a video on YouTube that explained this. Oh YouTube? You should’ve said so earlier! The YouTube that is full of scrupulously fact-checked videos, hosts no implausibly absurd conspiracy theories, immediately removes any offensive comment and has hours of cats who look like Hitler chasing balls of wool on slippery wooden floors? That one? According to LMS, this video had claimed that if you were God – we’ll skip that one – and looked down at the earth then a nucleus would be the same size as a blueberry on it. What’s all this fascination with fruit related comparisons?

Later last night Marge and I were discussing the benefit of knowing how something worked as opposed to knowing that it works and leaving it at that. Marge was of the opinion that humans being curious beings, want to know how things work. I wasn’t. It doesn’t benefit me to know; yes, at a dinner party or a similar opportunity to astound and amaze people with how much you know, it might come in handy there. But does your car save you petrol, give better fuel consumption, because you know how the internal combustion engine works?

For some reason, Leonardo ad Vinci became involved in all of this. I think it may have been me, me suggesting he’d claimed that a bumble-bee shouldn’t be able to fly, in defence of my assertion that I don’t need to know why an aeroplane flies, I just need to know that it does. Marge used him as an example of an incredibly curious mind being incredibly curious.

Mind you, he was in all probability independently wealthy, if he could twat about thinking about things rather than get up at 4am every morning to milk the cows like his poorer neighbours. I said that as he lived in olden times, when there wasn’t dogging, good quality drugs or the internet to occupy his leisure time, then what else was there for him to do?

This observation amused Joe greatly, as indeed did my assertion that knowing the how’s and why’s of how things worked was useless knowledge. Other people had figured out a way of putting together things that did things and that if you put enough of those things together, then a great thing would happen. I don’t need to double-check that they got the sums right and besides, not knowing how a bird flies, how a ship stays afloat or how solar energy capture works, to name but three things I don’t know, has not had a markedly detrimental impact on my life. I’d even go so far as to contend that knowing how these and other things work hasn’t had a massively beneficial impact for vast numbers of people either.

Things work or they don’t. End of.