Top 10 Most Uncomfortable Physics Facts
While physics can show us amazing things about our universe, it doesn’t always agree with how we think things should work. Sometimes, physics can be very counter-intuitive, and often unsettling. So, here’s my list of physics facts that can be a bit unnerving.
10: Weight doesn’t matter
If it wasn’t for air resistance, everything would fall at exactly the same speed. If you let go of a hammer and a feather
from the same height
at the same time on the Moon, they would hit the ground simultaneously.
9: Gyroscopic precession
It doesn’t matter how much you know about physics; gyroscopes are weird. The way they seem to defy gravity makes you rethink everything you know about physics, despite being fairly simple toys. Still, it’s all just Newton’s laws of motion.
8: Neutrinos and dark matter
We like to think that we can interact with most of the world around us, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Neutrinos and dark matter are passing through your body right now, as if you weren’t even there. The fact that 65 billion neutrinos pass through each square centimeter of your body every second is weird enough, who knows what we’ll learn about dark matter.
7: Photons are particles
Light travels like a wave, but can only interact like a particle. It can interfere and have a frequency, but it can only take and give energy in discrete quantities. It behaves like nothing else in our macroscopic world, and can be very difficult to imagine.
6: Electrons are waves
We’ve established how photons act like waves and particles, but surely massive particles act normally. Nope! Even electrons have wave-like properties. In fact, everything acts like a wave! Except these waves come in discrete quantities, which we’ll call particles. This won’t get confusing.
Einstein’s most famous contribution to physics states that matter is simply another form of energy, which has very profound consequences. A wound-up Jack-in-a-box would weigh ever so slightly more than a released Jack-in-a-box, due to the potential energy stored within.
4: Time is relative
The core of special relativity states that time passes differently for different observers. If you took a trip to Alpha Centauri at 99% the speed of light, everyone on Earth would see the trip take 4.4 years, while you would only experience 7.5 months. Time travel is real!
3: The (not so empty) vacuum
Something can be created from nothing, as long as it goes right back to being nothing quickly. In seemingly empty space, particles pop in and out of existence all the time as a result of the uncertainty principle. Not to mention, space is inflating at an accelerated rate due to “dark energy”. To the vacuum, the law of conservation of energy is more of a suggestion.
2: c is the fastest speed
Another important point in special relativity is that nothing could ever go faster than light. This doesn’t sit well with a lot of people, but the math doesn’t lie. To even get something with mass to travel at the speed of light would require infinite energy. Even if you somehow get around this, there are just too many mathematical problems with superluminal travel. Like it or not, the universe has a speed limit.
1: The cat is dead and alive
How could it not be this? The nature of quantum mechanics allows for objects to take on two seemingly contradictory states in a ‘superposition’. An electron can be in two places at once, or in a more extreme example, a cat can be both dead and alive. Of course, this weird property goes away once someone makes an observation. It’s as if there are tiny physics trolls messing with nature whenever we’re not looking.
Of course, there’s plenty more unsettling physics facts, like the space-bending nature of general relativity, or the “spooky action at a distance” that is quantum entanglement, but these are my top 10. I’d like to hear any unsettling physics facts you think I’ve missed, though!