Friday, 30 December 2016

To see all Physics in a glass of water

Ask the right questions while observing a glass of water and you can come across most of physics, discovering the nature of light, of electricity, of gravity, and more.  You could have beat Newton to discovering the composition of light with a prism.  Your curiosity could have been piqued by the meniscus curve a couple millimetres up the side of the glass caused by surface tension involving a layer of nearly free electrons.  You could wonder why bubbles form out of a liquid and why they cling to some surfaces and why they rise at a certain speed and what triggers these changes. You could wonder where the beads of water on the outside of the glass came from.  You could wonder why the glass doesn't drift off the table and why the water doesn't fly away and yet disappears slowly over time.  These observations are triggered by activity at atomic and subatomic levels.  You could look at specks on the water and wonder why they float.  You might be curious enough to see if you could float a pin and then wonder why the pin slowly turns to a north-south direction.  It's all there if you have eyes to see and a good question or two to ask.

Blake wrote of this in Auguries of Innocence:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour.

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