What are Some of the Greatest Mind-f***s?

Answer by Joseph Heavner:

Warning: This post is extremely extensive (10,000+ words). It is also subject to change and will likely be edited slightly for various reasons (notes, mentions, references, aesthetics, etc.). Carry on…

Trying to consider large quantities or items of massive size.

Consider the universe for example, it is billions of light years across, and that's just the observable portion. Just looking at the famous picture of earth from Saturn (preferably while listening to the "pale blue dot" speech by Carl Sagan) can be astounding, and that's just a very small distance away.

Or, Graham's number, a number so large that it's digital representation would fill much more than the observable universe. This number is so huge that we use specially designed notation just to write it (usually Knuth's up-arrow notation, though Conway chained arrow notation is also feasible).

On the other side of things unimaginably small quantities and sizes are equally as daunting to attempt to truly comprehend. 

Take the Planck Length to consider. Approximately 53.025 * 10^-36 feet. That's smaller than the width of a hair, smaller than a molecule, smaller than a cell, smaller than an atom, smaller than a proton, smaller than a quark even.

Not small enough for you? Try the infinitesimal on for size then. It is, quite literally, infinitely small… Much smaller than the Planck length, in fact, infinitely times smaller.

Here's some perspective: http://scaleofuniverse.com/

Here's some more perspective (from a String Theory point of view… which we'll get to later):

(from Wikipedia)

How about something a bit easier to relate to.

How heavy do you think a cloud is? Just the typical cumulus cloud weighs hundreds of thousands of pounds (no typo). There is so much water in the cloud that it weighs roughly the same as a blue whale (the most massive animal ever, at least as far as we know).

Stratocumulus clouds (from Wikipedia)

Storm clouds and hurricanes weigh MUCH more (millions of pounds, or more).

Let's venture out into the universe now, and consider some temperatures.

The sun is about 10,000 degree Fahrenheit at its surface, but 27,000,000 degrees Fahrenheit at its core.

Not hot enough for you? Fine, how about the Planck temperature (Planck was a cool guy, if you can't already tell) from the "Absolute Hot" theory. The Planck temperature is 1.416785(71)×1032 kelvin.

But just what is kelvin anyways? Well, it's the absolute temperature scale. What does that mean? Well, 0K (kelvin) is absolute zero. So, you literally cannot get colder than 0K (aka about -460 degrees Fahrenheit).

Why can't you get colder than 0K though? It has to do with the motion of the particles and some other physics stuff, but, actually, I lied. You CAN get colder than 0K, you just cannot be at 0K. Meaning, you can have negative absolute temperatures! … Which, surprisingly, are actually VERY hot.

Also, the universe is, on average, about 2-3K (usually claimed to be 2.73K)

Oh, still not impressed? Well, in the words of Hammer industries CEO "I can tell this isn't disco enough for you" (Iron Man anyone?).

(from tumblr)

So, how about some String Theory?

Okay, we all know we have 4 dimensions (3 spatial and 1 is time)… Or do we? String theory suggests we have 11 and some models can even suggest 26 (in Bosonic-string theory, which, to be fair, is usually not considered anymore) or more (again no typo). Maybe you can imagine hyperspace (5D), but try imagining 11D, or 26D, or the n'th dimension (yeah, call me when you can draw that for me… no, seriously, because that'd be amazing).

You can get even crazier in mathematics though. In math you can explore as many dimensions as you like, after all they're just degrees of freedom. You can even talk in infinite dimensions!

How about we go back to some astronomical stuff.

What about The Big Bang? Or black holes? Or supernovas? Or neutron stars? If those don't blow your mind to some extent then you don't understand them or aren't truly appreciating them.

Imagine how the Big Bang occurred, how expansion was so inconceivably rapid the expansion was. In the earliest phases of the universes existence it expanded by a factor of more than 10^50 in a time-scale of less than 10^-30 seconds (by some estimates). Also, consider how the Big Bang essentially created all of the elements that exist in the universe (with the exception of a few man-made elements).

(from Wikipedia)

Now think of black holes (and white holes for that matter). A black hole is so indescribably dense that the entire Earth would need to be shrunk down to about 9mm to become a black hole (this is an estimate using the Schwarzschild radius, for those interested). Or, maybe you'll be amazed when I tell you that each galaxy is said to have a super-massive black hole at its center (including ours). Think about the possibility of micro-black-holes now, because it is possible that they pass through Earth quite often. Black holes are invisible though (which is  why the image below is simply for intuition), resembling a perfect black-body, but they are able to be detected though their interactions with matter (which is how we know there is one in the Milky Way).

(Schwarzschild radius:


Black holes are simply amazing though, I could go on forever. You have Hawking Radiation emitted from them, you have an accretion disk, a gravitational singularity and so much more.

(from Wikipedia)

Maybe white holes are more your speed though. White holes are the exact opposite of black holes, meaning nothing can enter, but light and gravity can escape. This is hypothetical though, and some (like Stephen Hawking) suggest black holes and white holes are actually the same thing, so I'll move to something more concrete for the skeptics.

Do you know what a supernova is? Well, it's basically when a massive star collapses, but that's not the cool part. The amazing part is that the star collapses and creates an explosion of truly massive size, not to mention that the star can in a very short period of time expel as much radiation as our sun will in its lifetime. This explosion also sends much of the stars contents out into the universe, expelling them at about 10% the speed of light (and making for amazing pictures). These are also some of the brightest events in the universe, like the amazing picture below.

(from Wikipedia)

However, after massive stars collapse they form something else, either being a black hole or a neutron star. We already went over how awesome black holes are, so let's talk about a neutron star. If you have been on Quora long enough you have probably heard a teaspoon of neutron star attributed with a giant mass, well, that's true, considering a teaspoon of neutron star would weigh 5.5×10^12 kg. This is because neutron stars are the remnants of the gravitational collapse involved in some supernovas. So, neutron stars are pretty awesome too, and as the name implies they're composed of mostly neutrons.

There are also novas, white dwarfs, brown dwarfs, red giants and all kinds of related topics too though. Stars are cooler than you ever thought, much cooler, and I highly suggest you learn as much as you can about them.

This leads me to my next point though… The four fundamental forces of the universe

Plainly stated here are the four forces: gravity, electromagnetism (though the weak force can be combined with this to make the electroweak force in electroweak theory), the weak nuclear force and the strong nuclear force.

Now, you're probably only interested in those last two, because the word nuclear sounds cool, but you should be interested in all of them, and hopefully you'll realize why after reading this section.

Gravity seems simple, right? Well, yes and no, but mostly no. Gravity was described by Newtonian physics, and it served its purpose for classical situations on the macroscopic scale, but it was far from complete. Einsteins theory of relativity did a good job too, it described tons of things and helped us understand gravity in a new way, but that's still not the whole story. String theory (yes, that crazy theory I mentioned earlier) is now trying to explain gravity as well as link relativity with quantum mechanics. You see, those extra dimensions are there for a reason (to be discussed later), and it's not just because they seem cool. It's because the mathematical theoretical physics requires them. Also, it is because we think gravity is so weak in our universe because it is actually seeping into another universe (or something to that extent, it depends who you're asking and what sort of analogy you're using). String theory is amazing, it's a dream world for mathematically inclined theoretical physicists, and it may explain our world in a whole new way (though string theory is far from the only theory). Gravity is just the odd child, we cannot seem to quite understand it and make it fit into our existing theories.

Electromagnetism is another seemingly simple one, but this one I can agree with you on, to an extent. Sure, electricity and magnetism are cool, but a five year old can understand them… or can he? Well, unless he's a child prodigy, no. You see physicists study electricity quite extensively (see related answer to this here: Physics: Why don't physicists study electricity?). There are tons of laws and properties of electromagnetism that go far beyond a bar magnet on your refrigerator. For example, Maxwell's Equations, like this one (Ampère's circuital law):

Electromagnetism also makes the phrase "you never really touch anything" entirely true! Electromagnetic repulsion stops you from ever actually touching anything (on a very small quantum scale). This is good though, unless you want the atoms to bump into each other… which would be very bad for life everywhere. This also allows for levitation, which is pretty f***ing cool.

A maglev train powered by the electromagnetic force (from Wikipedia)

The weak force may seem uncool too, because it is just so "weak", right? Again, no, another common misconception. The weak force is VERY powerful, it is just weaker than the strong force and electromagnetism. The weak force causes many kinds of radioactive decay as well as plays a huge role in particle physics. The weak force also violates CP (charge-parity) symmetry, the only force to do so. This force literally violates one of the most widely accepted properties in physics, I think that's crazy enough in itself! (here's a short answer for anyone a bit more interested, though it needs revisions Theoretical Physics: Why do Weak Interactions violate CP symmetry?). Or, if you're still not impressed, then consider that this force allows for the sun to create energy through fusion, or that this force can cause quarks to change flavor (basically the kind of quark, like top or bottom or charm),

Now, onto the glorified strong interaction! What in the world does this do? Well, it holds the atom together really, so without it you wouldn't be here! It does this by holding together quarks (via gluons), or on a larger scale holding together protons and neutrons to make a stable atomic nucleus. It is also about 100 times stronger than electromagnetism!

(from Wikipedia)

How about we go sci-fi?

What if I told you that there may be more than one universe? Parallel universes, universes where everything is the same, but with a few exceptions? Completely different universes, with different laws of physics? Well, that's impossible obviously — just kidding. String theory also makes this possible. We, my friend, may live in a multiverse.

Again though, this isn't without reason, the math and physics call for it. We just aren't sure if we can interact with the other dimensions or universes that may exist. You see there is this idea of a membrane (brane for short) which may explain why we don't interact with all the dimensions in String Theory. There is also the idea of compaction, like looking at a garden hose from a distance. You see, at a distance the hose looks 1D (a line), but if you get closer you see it has width (2D) and even closer you observe that is has depth (3D), as well as having the dimension of time (4D).

You may be wondering something about String Theory though, so I'll explain. I suspect you want to know "why is it called 'String Theory', where does the term 'string' come from?", and that's a very good question. It's sort of difficult to answer in layman's terms (as many physics questions are), but basically our world is essentially comprised of these very little 1D string-like structures, not particles, or at least that's the theory.

String theory is also often called a Theory of Everything (ToE) because it incorporates gravity (the odd-ball of the forces) into the mix by combining relativity with the quantum world.

Strings (from Wikipedia)

Lets go old school now, lets talk about Einstein.

Okay, so everyone knows the mass-energy equivalence E=mc^2. That's cool, and it works with nuclear technology (although nuclear weapons aren't that cool), and creates tons of energy, awesome.

But what if I told you Einstein (well physics really, more specifically relativity) had a few more tricks up his sleeve?

(from Wikipedia)

Well, wormholes, another famous topic of science fiction, may be real![1] Actual passages through space and time! This is because Einstein's theory of relativity allows for such a thing, so it may just be possible.

What about time-travel? Guess what? It's easy! Travel near the speed of light and you'll be a pro at time-traveling in someone else's reference frame.

You just need to go very very fast out into space and return, then BAM, you're in the future.

This is, again, thanks to Einstein's relativity… oh how I love Einstein.

Artist recreation of an actual test of Special Relativity (from Wikipedia)

You mentioned infinity — so let's go with that.

So, what's infinity plus infinity? Infinity times infinity? Infinity minus infinity? … Enjoy thinking about such an abstract idea. And, oddly enough, in some forms of mathematics they do consider such possibilities. However, oddly enough there is more than one kind of infinity in mathematics, there are many (cardinals or ordinals, for example).

… But, this leads me to something I find even cooler — dividing by zero.

Now don't be fast to jump to conclusions. No, it's not zero, nor is it infinity. It just doesn't work, at least not in normal mathematics, so we call it undefined. However, in abstract algebra, when talking of commutative rings you can technically always divide by zero, but I don't want to scare anyone with math (google if interested and mathematically inclined)… Or render any Navy ships not operational for days like division by zero once did (no typo, dividing by zero really did cause a ship to malfunction). 

(from Wikipedia)

Now lets talk about small things — lots of small things.

How many atoms do you think there are in the universe? No, not "too many to count", well, yes but that's not the point. There are 10^80 atoms in the universe!

Not enough for you? How about particles? Because there are approximately [insert ridiculously big number] of those! .. Sorry, we just don't really know.

(from Wikipedia)

Or maybe consider that there are about 100,000,000,000,000 cells in the human body, and in each cell there are about 100,000,000,000,000 atoms!…That's a ton of atoms in each of us! …. but, that's also about how many stars there are in the observable universe!

(from Wikipedia)

Okay. I obviously haven't done a good enough job yet, or if I have, you just don't know how poorly I'm doing yet (by the way, have you noticed how awesome science is yet?).

It's going to get dark now — very dark (insert evil laugh).

Seriously though, most of our universe is dark. Actually, most of it is invisible! Only about 4% of the universe is matter… About 25% is dark matter (unseeable matter that is "holding the galaxies together" [be tolerant with my poor analogy physics buffs]) and the other 71% is dark energy (the energy that is causing the universes expansion to accelerate, and that doesn't interact with regular matter), crazy right?[2]

The even crazier part is that we don't really know all that much about dark energy or dark matter, even the world's greatest physicists don't. The idea of these two strange things is fairly recent though, and we cannot see the matter, so we should slack the physicists a break on this. 

So, over 90% of the universe we don't see, don't interact with, and don't know much about… and that's without mentioning the possibility of an infinite number of infinitely large universes.

(from Wikipedia)

Let's get even crazier now, something that most people don't hear about… Tachyons.

Okay, so we know we can't have anything traveling at the speed of light (while carrying information), right? Wrong. Thank Einstein for this too by the way. There are, possibly, particles out there with imaginary mass! No, not imaginary meaning it doesn't exist, I mean that it is the square root of -1, the imaginary unit i. This allows for tachyons to accelerate at the speed of light all the time… impressive?

Tachyons may also help explain dark energy and dark matter, or at least people have proposed the idea.

Still not enough, huh? … Fine, you're pushing me though.

How about negative mass? No, I'm not just making this stuff up, welcome to the world of theoretical physics that I live in. It's actually theoretically possible for an object to have negative mass! What does this mean? Everything works pretty much backwards — so, suffice to say that pitching a baseball would be unpleasant (this is only an analogy, keep that in mind).

Lets talk about the Milky Way now though… And, no, not the candy bar.

So, do you know about the Andromeda galaxy? You should, you can, under good conditions, see if from your house after all (unless you live somewhere else than earth, in which case I want proof).

Okay, well, it's a fairly close galaxy that is very similar to the Milky Way… Oh, and it will, fairly soon (astronomically speaking) clash into our galaxy. This will cause the two galaxies to merge, oddly enough though, it is statistically unlikely for our solar system to be impacted much by this.

There is one thing we should worry about though.

No, this is not a Nostradamus prophecy. It's science. In a few billion years our sun will die out… meaning that, if any life is around here, it will probably die… But, don't start crying yet, I have good news!

Nostradamus (from Wikipedia)

The universe is homogeneous and isotopic.

Big words huh? Don't worry, it basically just means that it's roughly the same everywhere. Which also means that there are plenty of other similar solar systems to live in. We just need to find a planet with the right conditions, or make the right conditions, then we can live there, and be warmed by one of the other billions of stars out there. This also means we are in no special place (as the famous Neil deGrasse Tyson would say), which leads me to my next point.

The WMAP (from Wikipedia)

We may not be alone.

Okay, I am not saying there are aliens, I'm just saying it's probable. After all, look at the most common elements in the universe. We are composed of all of them. Look at the size of the universe. Can we really be arrogant enough to assume we're special in this place?

But, what about exploring? With NASA funding plummeting, is there any hope to terraform or find life?

Yes! I hate that funding has dropped, but luckily it's not zero. This leads me to two awesome points:

1. SpaceX (led by the brilliant Elon Musk) may help less the way in space travel, or at least make for some cool vacation flights for people in low-earth orbit.

2. Tardigrades! So, basically, we have been sending these little creatures up into space. They can survive pressures many times that of the deepest oceans. They can survive temperatures well below zero and well above 100 degrees (Fahrenheit scale). They are extremaphiles, meaning they can survive in the most hostile terrains. How? Well, they just sit there, dormant and wait it out. Oh, also, they're affectionately nicknamed the "water bear", pretty cool, right?

Tardigrades (from Wikipedia)

Oh, so it seems you want more? Okay then, how about we talk about the the antimatter of the universe.

Well, I told you a bit about dark matter and dark energy, but what about antimatter? You may have heard of this, probably from the movie thriller Angels and Demons based on the Dan Brown book, but that's not the whole story.

Why don't we try to understand antimatter? Well, without getting too technical or very in-depth. So, basically, antimatter has the opposite properties of matter (hence it being called antimatter), meaning opposite charge and quantum spin. This isn't science fiction though, this is real, we've made very small amounts of antimatter (only a few particles, not even atoms, but like positrons). Ok, so what's so cool about antimatter?

First, when in contact with matter, it releases energy with accordance to e=mc^2 (assuming rest energy). We all know c is a big number though, so that's a lot of energy! This is the premise of that explosion in Angels and Demons.

Second, ever had a PET scan? Okay, well, you've came in contact with antimatter then! PET is an acronym for "Positron Emission Tomography". So, it literally emits positrons that hit your body, but this a indescribably small amount of antimatter, so don't worry about your body (after all, your cells are constantly dying). Oh, and for the curious, tomography, for all intensive purposes, basically just means imaging.

Third, ever wonder why we don't observe more antimatter? Well, that's a great question! If you answer it then you'll be a well-known physicist over night. This is an open question. Why is it that antimatter occurs in less than 1ppb (parts per billion) in many estimates? We don't exactly know, especially considering tons of antimatter was made in The Big Bang.

Piggy backing (we'll get to piggy backing later too) off of that PET scan fact, what about other forms of imaging and scanning? What about radiation?

Every time you get an X-ray, you're experiencing small amounts of radiation. Don't worry though, because its very small amounts, and at least it isn't gamma ray radiation (which is generally more harmful to the human body). That's why you wear a led vest though (its very dense and blocks radiation), just for those who didn't know.

An MRI is a bit less cool, at first glance at least. It stands for "Magnetic Resonance Imaging", but don't take magnets as being boring, because they aren't.

MRI's are actually quite cool though! It is basically just very strong magnets that align the atomic nuclei in your body.

This is, of course, over simplifying though. I just doubt anybody would like to hear me talk about Fourier Analysis or anything else too technical. MRI's are great though, the work towards them was even worthy of a Nobel Prize. They're also more detailed than X-ray and can be made into a 3-dimensional image.

(from Wikipedia)

Why don't we go back to Einstein though, after all I hear he was a cool guy.

Ever heard of time dilation? Length contraction? Any thing to that extent? Well, this is another cool thing about special relativity.

When you move near the speed of light your length can actually contract. So, if you were on a train moving at something 99% of c, then an outside observer would see a train contracted to just a few centimeters (admittedly though, I didn't do the calculation, so that number is probably a bit off). If you're moving at c though (although, it is probably impossible, as you'd need infinite mass) the train would be, for all extensive purposes, entirely gone. That basically sums up the main idea of length contraction though.

Time dilation is weird too. If you're going near c, then your clock will be moving at a different speed than an observers clock (no, the clock isn't broken).

This leads to questions like the Twin's Paradox. The Twin's Paradox basically asks "If there are two twins and one goes off into space on a ship at near c speeds, then will the other one (who's left on Earth) age slower, quicker, or at the same speed?". The answer is that, on Earth, you'll age faster, and be older than your twin when he/she returns.

Why don't we get away from physics and astronomy though? It's awesome, but let me show my appreciation to other areas of interest. Starting with: anatomy/physiology/medicine (I'm quite unspecific):

How much bacteria and/or other microorganisms do you think there is on your body?
Try more than 100,000,000,000,000 (one hundred trillion) on for size, that's roughly 10 microorganisms for each one of your cells. Don't worry though, much of that bacteria is "good bacteria" that isn't harmful.

What about DNA… Doesn't DNA dictate everything about your body?
Well, no. Sure the double helix structure looks cool, but we all know the human body is a complicated thing, very complicated, and this is just another example. DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) basically "codes" your traits, through nucleotides composed of: sugar (deoxyribose), phosphoric acid and nucleobases (one of these four: guanine, adenine, thymine and cytosine. The letters GATC correspond to these nucleobases to make genetic code more easily represented). Those nucleobases are a key element in changing traits. That's not all though.

DNA (from Wikipedia)
RNA (Ribonucleic acid) is important too. Ever heard of transcription, replication or anything like that? RNA is very similar to DNA though, it has similar structure, but instead of a thymine nucleobase it has uracil. There are also different forms of RNA for different purposes: mRNA (messenger RNA), tRNA (transfer RNA) and rRNA (ribosomal RNA) are the three major forms.

Proteins are also very important. They are the third macro-molecule that forms all known life, though unlike RNA & DNA it is not a nucleic acid. RNA & DNA actually forms proteins through protein synthesis, which composes the elements (like tissues) of your body.

RNA is somewhat especially cool though. Why?
Well, it controls gene expression! This leads us to a vast and fascinating field of epigenetics (meaning literally "above genetics"). This field studies how gene expression works and how RNA works with DNA to express your genetic code.

So, DNA is far from the only sheriff in town.

Now, what if I told you math can be applied to proteins? Well, it can. Everything is connected, your teachers didn't lie when they said subjects overlap.

This leads us to protein folding and using an advanced field of mathematics called topology (not to be confused with topography)

Well, what is protein folding?
It's exactly what it sounds like. Proteins are folded and their shape is morphed to take a functional shape.

Now, what is topology?
Well, it's a cool topic, and it's very technical, but I'll give you a quick description in layman's terms. So, it is basically this: (in the surprisingly graceful words of Wikipedia) "It is the study of properties that are preserved under continuous deformations including stretching and bending, but not tearing or gluing." or mathematically "Topology developed as a field of study out of geometry and set theory, through analysis of such concepts as space, dimension, and transformation."

How do these connect at all?

Well, I wrote another fairly simple answer about this a while ago here: Were there any attempts to solve/explain the Protein Folding Problem on the ground of topology?
But, it's basically because of the shapes that the protein assumes in the folding process and the changing that the protein undertakes.

(from Wikipedia)

How many atoms are there in your body? (for those too lazy to calculate it earlier)
7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (7 octillion) as an adult… enough said.

Oh, by the way, you're blood is always red!
Oxygen is only affected by oxygen with regards to the brightness of red. Ever heard of hemoglobin?

Okay. A little bit more math, I'll get to other topics soon though

What if I told you that there are things you cannot measure?

Well, hopefully you'd have your mind blown. After all, how can't you measure something? It's simple, right?

Well, no, not really. In set theory there is such a thing as a non-measurable set. These sets are so complex that you cannot get a sensible measurement, so you get contradictions and encounter other problems.[3]

Or, what if I told you that there was such a thing as a countable infinite?

Well, there is! It's hard to explain, and the name is somewhat misleading, but here's how Mr. Wolfram (okay, actually it's just The Web's Most Extensive Mathematics Resource) explains it:
"Any set which can be put in a one-to-one correspondence with the natural numbers (or integers) so that a prescription can be given for identifying its members one at a time is called a countably infinite (or denumerably infinite) set. Once one countable set  is given, any other set which can be put into a one-to-one correspondence with  is also countable. Countably infinite sets have cardinal number aleph-0."

Cool right?

There's tons of awesome things in math though! It's not dull at all! There are functions that describe themselves, abstract ideas, things that make no sense, or just awesome things (even simple ones, like Eulers Identity).

I'll explain one more thing though, real quickly, Chaos Theory (a form of non-linear dynamical system):

I have an answer here: What is chaos theory? but it's a bit more complicated than I intended, so tread lightly (the answer that is more uprooted than mine is very good too, so look at that).

So, here, I'll give you a quick basic explanation. Ever heard of the Butterfly Effect (or watched the movie maybe)? Well, that's a real thing! It's actually the basis of chaos. Chaotic systems (those that are studied in chaos theory) are not well-defined, but there is one attribute that we use time and time again to describe them, and that is their sensitivity to initial conditions.

Weather is a good example of this, which is why it's so difficult to predict (poor meteorologists). Another good one is the double pendulum.

(from Wikipedia)
Now, let's talk about a topic of interest for all inquiring minds that have ever touched money: what do those words mean?

I'm sure this is all over the Internet, because its interesting, but those three Latin phrases on the one dollar bill have interesting meaning.

"E pluribus unum" means "one for many".

"Annuit coeptis" means "fortune (or god) has favored our undertakings"

And, most interestingly, "novus ordo seclorum" means "the new order of the ages".

This is all cool, but it's really hard to interpret. So, find your own meaning.

I'll go on, here's a bit of symbology for you.

You know how conspiracy theorists may try to call Illuminati symbology on the dollar bill, or maybe Masonic. I'll tell you just how wrong and right they are.[4]

First, the Illuminati aren't bad, and probably no longer exist (almost surely), though people like to flash "Illuminati symbols". The Illuminati were simply those looking for knowledge in a world where religion and philosophy ruled, hence their name meaning "the enlightened ones". Eventually the church came in conflict with them and made some mistakes (somewhat comparable to the execution of the Templars by the Pope and king of France). The Illuminati weren't bad people though, they weren't devil worshipers or anything, they probably aren't still around either. They were a bit secretive though (but they had to be).

What about the Masons? They're not bad either! I hate when people bash on these groups without knowing the first thing about them. George Washington was a Mason after all, and most of us like him.

The Masons weren't and still aren't even secretive. You can find a modern lodge in plain view, or their symbols, their cornerstones, or whatever. People only target them because they keep the inner-workings of the society secret to outsiders. They are easy targets too, because they don't really fight back. They also aren't devil worshipers or anything crazy though. They aren't even pagan (though paganism isn't bad, unless you want to take it to the more modern definition that conjures up all sorts of thoughts of unholy rituals and whatnot), they aren't a religion, they embrace people of all religions. 

So, these are misunderstood societies. One forced into secrecy long ago and now gone, the other public with secret rituals and still around; neither the Masons nor Illuminati are evil though, so push that out of your mind. Though, many people probably realize this now though, because people like Dan Brown are fascinated by such groups and, although they throw in a bit of fiction and far-left interpretation, work to make people realize that such groups aren't evil, just different and misunderstood.

That unfinished pyramid? What does that mean? Well, nothing criminal.

(from Wikipedia)
It is interpretive and some say it represents the building of a great new nation, still unfinished, but soon to be great. Others, Charles Thomson included, say something to the effect that it is a symbol of strength, duration and prosperity… Again, nothing evil there.

The 13 olive branches (or arrows)? Some say its something devious, but it's probably just to symbolize the 13 colonies (though numbers can be very important symbolically, like the number 33, or pi, or the golden ratio).

So… Nothing evil. Though, it's still fascinating, as symbolism and history often is. Symbols like circumpuncts and pyramids have been around for a long time and meant many things, just as ciphers and codes have been utilized for many years in many cultures, but American currency is pretty innocent (though interesting).

Okay. So, maybe you don't like symbols and interpretations very much, so I'll move on…

(from Wikimedia Commons)
What about geography? Here's an easy one: where on earth are you closest to space?

Mount Everest of course! Well, yes, and no. Of course that's the highest mountain, but it's not closest to space. Remember that we live on a sphere (well an oblate spheroid), so the farthest point from the center would be closest to space.

Now, remember that gravity affects us (every time I talk of gravity I'm reminded by Derec Muller's remake of the song Gravity on his Veritasium channel on YouTube. I recommend you watch that for some nerdy entertainment), so we don't live on a perfect sphere. It's more like a 3D ellipse than a perfectly round 3D circle (AKA a sphere), because gravity pulls on us in a way that makes the earth slightly "fatter" at the equator.

That effect via gravity is why the peak of Chimborazo in Ecuador (which is on the equator, hence it's name) is the closest point on earth to space.

That's at least somewhat cool, right?

Now, onto a related topic, but a bit more historical.

We all know about how people used to think the earth was flat, right? Well, that's true, but most people don't realize that the Greek's knew the earth was round. Myself, though I knew this, even found myself reiterating the common myth that people like Columbus thought the earth was flat, on a night when I was tired and not thinking (though luckily I was corrected by Tim O'Neill and able to correct my careless mistake).

The truth is that we've known about our round 3D planet for a while now. So, Columbus was probably not very worried about falling off the edge.

We've also known about heliocentrism for a while, and it has been proven since Copernicus, more than 30 years before Galileo.

This leads me to another point: the Galileo Trial (or affair) wasn't that simple! The trial was very complex and history often points to the churches wrong doing when that is not really the case. Also, not everyone (in the past or today) took the Bible as literal, some religious folk of the day supported him.

However, it is unfortunate that he was under house arrest for the remainder of his life for his apparent hearsay.

For a complete answer (by Tim O'Neill) go here History: What is the most misunderstood historical event?

(from Wikipedia)

How about another historical point (with just a hint of inventing/engineering)?

Now, I get to, though briefly, discuss Nikolai Tesla. Now, before I start, there is a blog post (my most popular content on Quora actually) about this topic I posted on my blog (it won't let me mention it, at least not on mobile, but it's entitled "Poor Nikola Tesla"), but it is actually a bit of a hyperbole.

Nikola Tesla was a genius, he could memorize about anything, keep 3D schematics in his head and invent a ton of awesome things. However, he does get accredited too much by his fans.

It's true that the government feared Tesla had made a death ray, even though he was disillusion at the time. It's true that he was attempting to make free wireless energy, that he helped revolutionize electricity, that he improved technology and the world in many ways, and that he made the famous Tesla Coil.

However, Tesla did NOT make AC (Alternating Current) power. This is something I need to edit about that blog too. Tesla instead improved AC power dramatically. The reason I don't usually say that is that you don't get an appreciation for what he really did though… He basically reformed electricity to make it take it's more modern form, meaning we essentially still use his design.

The problem is that Tesla is under appreciated though, and that's a terrible thing. So, look him up, learn a bit more, and enjoy discovering his genius legacy. I found it mind blowing that such genius is hardly known, when people like Edison are glorified so extensively.

(from Wikipedia)
Okay, I don't usually do this, but we're going to get into the topic of Noetic Science, no matter how controversial it is.

We all know about mysticism, philosophy, science and ancient people trying to explain the world, but what if I told you that they all may be connected? Well, that's essentially Noetic Science. Now, yes, this is featured in Dan Brown's book The Lost Symbol, so this may not surprise you, but it's awesome.

Noetic Science tries to prove or disprove the idea that the mind can effect the physical world, that consciousness exists and other related topics. Now, granted, there has been no paradigm shift or breakthrough like Dan Brown's book says, but this is still interesting to think about, is it not?

Imagine if telekinesis were actually real? Well, we may know for sure one day because of this. We may actually be able to, through science, say whether its all fake, somewhat true, or even entirely true. I find that, in a way, fascinating, albeit controversial (even to me).

Similar interests are explored in ore typical psychology though, like consciousness, so Noetics are not all that different than other science (at least not in some ways).

What if I told you we had more than 5 senses? 
Well, we do, so get over it. Aristotle was wrong, as philosophers often are (no offense, I love philosophy, but it's true). We have many more senses. Consider thermoception (the ability to sense hotness and coldness) or Equilibrioception (the sense of balance and coordination basically).

Yup, you got lied to, again.

In the words of the famous Hank Green (you know, from Vlogbrothers, Scishow, Crash Course, HankGames, HanksChannel, Subbable, etc.) "NO EDGE!"  

Yup, you heard it here folks, the universe has no edge. It's probably infinite, or maybe not, but just spherical, or maybe it's fairly flat, but we're almost positive there's no edge.

Sure we can only see so far out into the universe because of the speed of light being finite, but a roughly 90 billion light year observable diameter is pretty far (seemingly infinite to us) and we are almost positive there's much, much more (probably an infinite amount more).

Atoms are not the smallest thing around.

I find it amazing that people don't know this, but apparently it's still being taught that atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons, and those are the smallest particles, but that's wrong (to an extent).

There are quarks and gluons and all sorts of things! It's like saying an atom cannot be split, that's just silly, we've already done that. Sure electrons are fundamental, but that's the only fundamental particle in the popular model below.

(from Wikipedia)

These are the elementary particles:

(from Wikipedia)

Oh, about photons… They don't have size, and they aren't particles… Sorta

Photons behave in two ways: 1. As a particle 2. As a wave (this goes for all elementary particles actually). That's the best explanation we have. And, it's so tiny that it doesn't really have a physical size either.. So yeah, weird, really weird.

Here's for all you people saying that science has no "real world applications"

Gravity is weird, and very weak. The best explanation (that we've seen evidence for, which means no string theory) of gravity if Einstein's relativity. It's full of complicated equations, like weird forms of geometry and tons calculus, but it's actually useful. Granted, engineers use calculus and math all the time, but this is a bit different.

The laws of relativity tell us that time dilation will occur, and we actually see this! This is one reason why we know its right (to an extent, because its probably incomplete).

We see this in GPS. You see, GPS basically just uses triangulation (though it actually uses 4+ satellites usually), but because its so far away and the speeds involved are so fast, the entire process is messed up if you don't take in account relativity, so some tinkering with atomic clocks and whatnot was required.

And, now look at us. We have precision GPS that would blow Einstein's mind, all thanks to him.

(from Wikipedia)

I mentioned the Templar's earlier, so lets go with that. Also, let's explain one theory as to the formation of the superstitious "Friday the Thirteenth".

Now, anyone that has played Assassins Creed has seen a Templar in their Red Cross over white backdrop uniform, but very few know the history and religious influence surrounding them.

The Templar's are actually called the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, but I like the shorthand better.

So, a quick history is this:

The Templar's were endorsed by the Catholic Church and formed in 1119. They fought in the crusades and similar holy battles, as they were technically knights. However, eventually most Templar's took different professions. They became expert bankers, actually revolutionizing the banking system and becoming very rich. They grow very large (20,000+ members) and powerful though, and although their ideals were fairly sound, they were soon challenged by those who had previously endorsed them.

On Friday October 13, 1307 King Phillip of France ordered the arrest of many Templar's including the last Grand Master Jacques de Molay. Then, soon enough, pressure from the king caused Pope Clement to disband the order. So, in just a few years this giant and wildly successful (with the exception of some failures on the battlefield) order was entirely gone.

Now, this is controversial though. Some say (well, really just King Phillip said) the Templar were pagan (paganism was frowned upon in the day) and carried out terrible rituals, which led to their arrest. However, others, myself included, say that they were wrongly accused due to King Phillip's financial needs and fear of their power.

Also, Phillip got virtually none of the Templar fortune. Most of the fortune (along with, at least according to conspiracies, treasures like the Holy Grail) was never found, probably taken away around the time of the arrests to be hidden.

(from Wikimedia Commons)

I can't help it, I have to go back to physics. Here's a broad topic that's amazing: quantum mechanics.

The quantum world is that of tiny proportion, studying the atomic and subatomic scale, which is cool in itself, but the principles of quantum mechanics are even more profound.

The observer effect for example. The observer effect states that you cannot observe a quantum system without changing it. That's pretty crazy if you think about it.

How about the uncertainty principle? This states that you cannot accurately state both a particles momentum and position.

What about superposition? This property says that a particle can literally be two places at once!

How about the Pauli Exclusion Principle (I'll avoid analogies on this one to avoid criticism like Brian Cox received for his popular science explanation)? This principle states that no two identical fermions (a kind of particle) can simultaneously occupy the same quantum state. Think about that, it's actually pretty amazing.

Okay, have you ever heard that you can't ever touch anything? Well, that's true. The electromagnetic force actually repels you just a bit, because if your atoms were to clash with the atoms of another object (say a chair) then nuclear fusion would occur. But, this leads to me to quantum tunneling. In quantum tunneling a particle can literally go through a barrier. A good analogy for this is a ghost walking through a wall — yeah, quantum mechanics is weird.

This all also leads to the idea of quantum computation. Quantum computers use qubits that display properties like superposition, so they can be both a 1 & 0 in binary, which makes quantum computing an amazing thing (potentially), though it's in its most early stages of development today (D-Wave has made the first).

(from Wikipedia)

Without Quantum Mechanics our world wouldn't exist

That's right. This weird quantum mechanical world that is entirely counter-intuitive and seems insane actually makes the world possible. In the classical (Newtonian) world a hydrogen atom would collapse very quickly, rendering the formation of the universe as we know it to be impossible.

Ryan Normandin (former MIT physics student) explains here:

or, here (for those who don't know calculus):http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N…

Okay. Lets go to psychology and neurology. Have you ever considered just how cool your brain is and how it works? Maybe I can inspire you a bit…

"The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information" is one of the most fundamental papers in psychology and yields Miller's Law. Miller's Law basically says that, in working memory (short term) you can only remember 7+/-2 items. Meaning that you can only remember (unless exceptional or mentally retarded [I hope that isn't an offensive term, I was referring to the actual psychological meaning]) 5-9 items in short term.

This however isn't a perfect law. You see short-term memory works by "chunking" information into sensible parts, which is why remembering 8 colors may be feasible whole remember 6 Chinese terms may be implausible for a non-Chinese speaker… That chunking is pretty cool in itself though.

(from Wikipedia)
Oh, and everyone has heard how "you only use 10% of your brain"… Well, that's a lie.

You actually use about all of your brain. Also, Albert Einstien never said that we only use 10% or 20%… It just seems everyone mistakenly attribute quotes to him because he was an amazingly genius and humble individual.

The exceptionally sad part of this is that the myth may have come from a misinterpretation of James William Sidis.

Mr. Sidis was a child prodigy with a father who accelerated his learning, making him probably the smartest man ever (IQ of 250-300 for those who believe IQ is a good standard of intelligence — although I'm not one of those people). Sadly though he eventually got out of academia, even getting arrested, and took janitorial jobs for much of his life (he may also be the inspiration for Will from the movie Good Will Hunting).

The reason this myth may be due to a misinterpretation of him is that he used to say that people only met a fraction of their intellectual potential… However, that does not mean one does not use 80%-90% of ones brain.

In fact, we use it all (or almost all of it).

(from Wikipedia)

Can we go to chemistry now? Not just random chemistry though, not like Leonard from The Big Bang Theory saying that Raj and Wolowitz became friends with Sheldon because "I don’t know, how do carbon atoms form a benzene ring? Proximity and valence electrons."

How about we talk about another big number, but also about chemistry. By that I mean Avogadro's constant (sometimes called number, although that's slightly different).
This number is the number of constituent particles (usually atoms or molecules) in one mole of a given substance. The number is: 6.02214129(27)×10^23 mol−1

Also, for those who don't know, a mole is a unit of measurement used in chemistry (and sometimes physics or other fields) to express amounts of a chemical substance. Defined very well by Wikipedia as:
the amount of any substance that contains as many elementary entities (e.g., atoms, molecules, ions, electrons) as there are atoms in 12 grams of pure carbon-12 (12C), the isotope of carbon with relative atomic mass 12.

How about some more chemistry?

How about I tell you about some elements! For example, did you know that 99% of Earth's gold is in its core? That's enough gold to layer the entire Earth with!

So, gold isn't that rare, but do you know what is? Astatine is the rarest naturally occurring element on Earth (partially due to its 8 hour half-life). This element is number 85 on the periodic table, yet it's so rare and so unstable that it's never been directly observed.

Avogadro (from Wikipedia)

Here's something cool. Ecology, economics, psychology, mathematics (logic mainly) and more all mixed in one! Ladies and gentlemen, I am talking about Game Theory.

Yes, that's right. Why though? Because Game Theory is a theory that attempts to describe and predict decision making of intelligent beings. John Von Neumannn (a genius mathematician, whom I seriously recommend you do some research on) basically created Game Theory, though its changed and evolved greatly since. Now Game Theory covers all kinds of games, whether they be perfect, imperfect, symmetric, combination or something else.

I have tried to keep this fairly mathematically basic though, because mathematics builds on itself, and because it scares people. So, all you need to know is that this nifty subject allows us to predict behavior, whether it be the stock market or a cheetah chasing down a gazelle.

People like adding the prefix "hyper" to words just to make them sound and seem cool, well hyperreals don't need that, but at least I know I have you interested

The system of hyperreal numbers is a way of treating the infinite and infinitesimal quantities. The hyperreals *R, are an extension of the real numbers that contains numbers greater than anything of the form:

This number is infinite, and its reciprocal is infinitesimal.

I think that's awesome, but here's something even cooler Surreals can allow for numbers greater than infinity (as the Wikipedia article reflects, or at least it did on last check). A number bigger than infinity, imagine that! (ViHart [a popular YouTube channel] talks about this in a video too, so that may be worth watching for anyone interested).

Surreal number tree (from Wikipedia)

Or, you can go weirder and look at surcomplex numbers, meaning ones in the standard complex form a+bi where a and b are surreal… pretty cool, huh? Okay, maybe you aren't for math, in that case, I have this.

Can we get a bit extraterrestrial again?

Okay, good, by extraterrestrial I mean let's quickly review Drake's equation! Now, mathematically this equation is stated as:

However, that doesn't tell you much, and I'm too lazy to explain the variables, but anyone who's interested can find them described on Wikipedia.
Now onto why this equation is cool. Well, it's cool because it estimated the number of active extraterrestrial civilizations with communication that exist in the Milky Way. Is that cool or what?

Of course it's probably flawed though (almost surely).

Also, don't pay attention to Stark Trek, because they just made up the Drake Equation they used in Stark Trek: Voyager episode "Future's End".

(from Wikipedia)

Let's get a bit historical again, but also with some math. Now, I'll talk about the genius that was Srinivasa Ramanujan.

This man was true genius of the highest degree (comparable to Gauss, or more recently Terence Tao and Stephen Hawking). He was an autodidact, but unlike myself, he was great. He grew up in a small town in India and without any formal training he came over to the states, a young Indian man with very little wealth, and became a famous mathematician.

Through his limited exposure to mathematics he extrapolated ideas and theorems that have baffled mathematicians for years, even today we don't know how he could have known them.

The Ramanujan Prime, the Ramanujan Conjecture and the Mock-Theta Functions are all examples of this mans greatness and his legacy.

Imagine if you could look at some fairly basic mathematical textbooks and change mathematics forever.

Ramanujan (from Wikipedia)

Okay, I know everyone may not like the historical, biographical or generally non-physics/astronomy/mathematics related stuff, but I like some diversity.

So, here's some anthropology.

Anthropology is a cool and diverse topic that originated from encounters Western and non-Western people.

Oh, and for some etymology the word comes from the Greek anthrōpos(ἄνθρωπος), "man", understood to mean humankind or humanity, and -logia (-λογos), "word" or "study." (stole Greek letters from Wikipedia due to the lack of TeX/LaTeX on mobile).

Okay, now onto why anthropology is so fascinating, at least to me.

Do you know where all people come from? Well, religion says that we all came from the Garden of Eden, and that's fine. That would probably mean that we'd all come from somewhere around Mesopotamia, which is the "Cradle of Civilization" but not where science tells us we come from. Science also disagrees with the world being 6,000 years old, it says about 4 billion, and science believes in evolution. So, although I enjoy studying religion and am quite spiritual, I'm going purely scientific on this, because science has tons of evidence and a sound method.

With that being said, we all come from Africa, at least that's the theory. Evolution stirred and yielded homosapians (by the way, chimps and humans have common ancestors, we don't come from chimps, for those confused) a bit over 200,000 years ago and became anatomically modern humans about 150,000-200,000 years ago. From there we migrated into Europe and Asia, we began this between 60,000 and 125,000 years ago. Around this time we also began to replace earlier human-like populations like the famous Neanderthals.

Isn't that awesome? I think it is. If that isn't though, what about studying archaeology and studying bones (somewhat similar to the portrayal on the television show Bones).

(from Wikipedia)

Maybe sociology and human geography is more your speed though? Well, here are a few astounding pieces of information related to those fields.

Today, with data mining, "big data" and similar techniques/phenomena we can predict and analyze social networks, especially those on the Internet. So, now big data and similar topics allow us to analyze things such as education (thus making for better schooling).

Most people don't even know what sociology is. So, here's a brief definition: it's the study of social behavior. So, not only can we predict humans with math like game theory and related fields like decision theory, but also with the entire field of sociology.

Also, human geography is another awesome topic, but most people have no idea what it is, and it's premise is amazing enough. Human geography is the study of the world and its people with emphasis on relations of and across space.

Maybe you don't find this amazing, but I think you will if you really think about it. Think about how, with science, we can actually study human behavior, thought and general nature. Think how we can predict our own populations actions. Think of how truly vast and complicated that is. Also, think of how odd it is that something so "simple" like weather can't be accurately predicted whatsoever (well, that's not entirely true, but meteorology is an inexact science), but human behavior can be described and predicted to an extent.

(from Wikipedia)

I think I should mention some amazing computer facts now, who doesn't like computers and technology? 

First, a labor statistic, by 2020 mods than 4,000,000 jobs will be available in CS (Computer Science).

Second, less amazing, but still interesting, the World Wide Web (WWW) is different than the Internet. The Internet is the network, the World Wide Web is all the cool stuff that makes use of the connectivity of the Internet.

Just how big is the Internet though?
Well, no one really knows, there's tons of estimates, but who has the time to measure such a large number? Typically though, we're talking in hundreds of exabytes (1000^6 kilobytes)!

Now, how fast is the worlds fastest computer? Well, we usually measure this in FLOPS (Floating Operations Per Second), and today the fastest is the Chinese Tianhe-2 (Milky Way-2) which runs at 33.86 petaFLOPS!

How fast is the human brain though? Like the size of the Internet, we can only make poor estimates, especially because its such a bad measure of speed for the human brain. I've seen everything from 0 (because you cannot do complex operations like a computer can) to an exaFLOP to much much faster. I would say that it operates at a few exabytes or so though.

Brain image (from Wikipedia)

Why is this speed important? Well, problems like protein folding, understanding The Big Bang, factoring giant numbers and more all takes incredible computational power.

When will we have computers that match the speed of our brain? Well, we don't really know how fast our brain is. However, according to singularityhub.com we will reach an exaFLOP (which is their estimate of the brain's capabilities) in around 2018, so our computers may run faster than us soon enough.

What about artificial intelligence? How is that coming along? I've done a bit of research in this field (I have many interests), and it's both sad and exciting for me to say that we are still a while away from iRobot like AI. I literally read a scientific paper about a robot taking the trash out not long ago. AI is just very complex, and we don't know exactly what we're doing. This makes me appreciate the human mind so much more, as well as excites me to know that there is so much work to still be done (then again there's tons of work to be done in every academic field). AI has come a long way though, an astounding way. Cool sites like cleverbot.com give a little taste of machine learning and artificial intelligence, so you may be interested in them.

(from Wikipedia)

How about a cool fact about law?

The American Constitution is not as unique as you may think. The Magna Carta and English Bill of Rights were formed in similar form but years before. However, since many governments have adopted similar constitutions and governments (democracy mainly, but to quote [or paraphrase, it's hard to tell because it's been so long since he said this] Winston Churchill, “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."), so the American Constitution is still internationally important and influential.

The Magna Carta (from Wikipedia)

Here's a great fact about literature.

That guy, Shakespeare, who wrote all those amazing stories, sonnets and other literary works, was quite possibly an alias or fraud. There have been many books and movies written about this (the film Anonymous for example), and many theories have been formed as to who actually wrote Shakespeare's works, but we have reason to believe it wasn't Shakespeare. This doesn't necessarily mean Shakespeare never wrote the plays, it's just a possibility, and one which you can read more of here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sh…

(from Wikipedia)
How about the CIA? Everyone likes spies, ciphers and secrets.

Outside of the CIA headquarters in Langley there is a sculpture named Kryptos that the artist Jim Sanborn created. Yet, to this day, more than 22 years later, it is still yet to be decoded, even in spite of it being outside of the nations Central Intelligence Agency. Today 3 of 4 parts have been deciphered, yet the 4th is still unknown to anyone except the artist.

(from Wikipedia)

How about some treasure?

On Oak Island (offshore of Nova Scotia) there's a pit that is claimed to have treasure, wealth and even historical treasures like the Philosophers Stone or the Holy Grail. It has booby-traps all throughout it, and although being treasure hunted for more than 200 years, nothing has come about. (I think that, if anything was there, it was destroyed due to flooding, but that's just me)

To be fair though, there's tons of alleged treasure out there (the Holy Grail for example), so I'll move on.

Cool facts about Washington DC (sorry international guys, I love the rest of the world too, I just find these especially interesting in context of most peoples beliefs)

Although Dan Brown lied that no building can be higher than the Washington Monument in DC, the law seems to elude to the fact that the goal was to have it the tallest (refer to the Height of Buildings Act of 1910) . The monument is, however, the world's tallest obelisk at 555ft tall. The capstone of this monument also reads the words "Laus Deo" meaning "praise god"(or "praise be to god"), which is interesting.

Also, apotheosis (meaning basically the process of making someone divine, though it does not have to be interpreted literally) is evident in Washington via the Apotheosis of Washington in the U.S. Capitol Building. This fresco is above the rotunda, visible through the oculus of the dome and portrays President Washington as god-like with symbolism (like that of war or science) and famous characters of the day surrounding him. This can be interpreted as you wish by the way.

There was even a half-naked Washington mimicking Zeus at one point in the Capitol Building, though this was later removed.

Note: I do know this is all somewhat derivative of Dan Brown's novel "The Lost Symbol", that is part of the point. Writers like Brown twist fiction with reality as well as throw in their own interpretations to the extent that the reader cannot distinguish between fiction and reality, so for those who have read the book, now you can be sure what is true and what is not.

How about something pointless, but interesting?  

The least common natural eye-color with the exception of red and violet, is green. Between 1%-2% of the worlds population has green eyes, so less than 150,000,000 people. For a more detailed answer, with an explanation of why look at my answer here: How common are green eyes?

It's actually pretty interesting, albeit likely trivial for most purposes.

Let's try some economics and currency on for size!

  • There are about $40,000,000,000 worth of coins in circulation.
  • The US GDP is about $15,000,000,000,000 (fifteen trillion dollars)
  • The GWP (Gross World Product) is about $85,000,000,000,000
  • The U.S. spends nearly 700 billion on military expenditures, second most is China with 166 billion (though Saudi Arabia spends nearly 9% of their GDP while the US spends about 2.5%), and the entire world spends 1.75 trillion dollars annually on military.

Also, although economics is vast and complex (which is why I find this image somewhat amusing), it can be over simplified to about this (on a macro-scale):

(from Wikipedia)

Some quick astronomical notes

In sometime around 10^100 years the universe will essentially die. It will reach thermodynamic equilibrium, meaning maximum entropy, and no energy to do work, essentially the universe will freeze to death.

This is far away though, after all our universe is only 13.78 billion years old.

For the last time, do not say "fracking"!

People use this term often instead of using the more explicit and derogatory term, but stop it. Fracking is slang for hydraulic fracturing, a technique used to break rock with pressurized liquid. Don't believe me? Fine, look here: Hydraulic fracturing

(from Wikipedia)

Although, luckily, more Quoran's understand this than anything. But, this is where ignorance gets you, one minute you think you're talking about sexual intercourse, the next you realize you're a novice engineer.

Some species are virtually immortal
The immortal jellyfish (Turritopsis nutricula) for example could live forever in theory, as it can revert back to its polyp stage after reaching sexual maturity. Tardigrades are also virtually immortal, colonized bacteria could immortal too, lobsters may be as well, and Planarian flatworms are probably biologically immortal (they even regenerate).

So, immortality isn't really so mythical after all.

(from Wikipedia)

Quick, somewhat personal note that everyone should read

Those with eidetic memories, those with synesthesia, those with LLI (Low Latent Inhibition), geniuses, physicists and mathematicians are not as they appear in popular culture, First, even the great Kim Peek did not remember everything, and his memory was seemingly unrivaled, no eidetic memory is truly perfectly eidetic. Second, synesthesia is usually difficult to explain and often quite different, not always easily described colors or landscapes. Third, LLI is not like it is portrayed on Prison Break, that's called a hyperbole, they simply exaggerate the truth. Fourth, geniuses are not different than you, they are just smart, and virtually anyone (without serious handicaps) can become a genius (also, IQ does not constitute genius). Fifth, physicists, mathematicians and anyone with technical knowledge or coming from academia, are just people. I have talked to physicists before, yet not once have I met anyone comparable to Sheldon Cooper (although I like the show).

Also, on a slight tangent, generalizations are bad and cause prejudice and assumptions. All geniuses are different, as are all atheists, all painters and all people.

How about some miscellaneous cool facts?

  • The fastest humans can run slightly over 20mph, cheetahs run at 60mph. 
  • The fastest car ever went over 700mph (land speed car Thrust SSC), Apollo 10 reached about 25,000mph
  • Apollo 10 (from Wikipedia)

  • The earth is almost 25,000 miles at the equator, Jupiter's circumference is about 280,000 miles, the sun's is 435,000 miles, VY Canis Majoris (largest star known) is 1,420 +/- 120 solar radii.
  • (from Wikipedia)

  • Saturn's density is so low that a chunk of it would float in water (after all it's very gaseous).
  • China is technically the oldest empire in the world, dating back the Bronze Age (that's a LONG time ago). Though areas like Egypt and modern day Mesopotamia have a slightly older history of civilization. 
  • I'm about to ruin Jurassic Park for you, but a Velociraptor was a tiny dinosaur, about this big (and it lived in the Cretaceous Period, not the Jurassic, as did many of the other dinosaurs in the movie… sorry, it always annoys me).

(from Wikipedia)

  • The lowest temperature ever recorded on earth was -129 degrees Fahrenheit, recorded in Antarctica. 134 degrees Fahrenheit is the hottest ever, recorded in Death Valley, California (although still not hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, sorry for anyone who tries).
  • A day is actually 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds, this inaccuracy in measuring is why a leap year occurs.
  • Even dead jellyfish can sting you, so don't go touching them.
  • Vaccines are the number one life savers ever, literally. They have saved millions of lives and eradicated diseases like Small Pox from the earth (the last case was in 1978), or ones like Polio from the developing world (unfortunately some places still cannot receive vaccines).
  • The term "piggyback" comes from the much older term "pickaback" ("pick" used to be fairly equivalent to the modern meaning for "pitch"), and eventually the word was lost and mispronounced enough to become piggyback.
  • Michio Kaku, although being ridiculed for being a science promoter rather than full time physicist, built a particle accelerator in high school for a project.

(from Conscious Life News)

  • The worlds roundest object ever was created out of the isotope silicon-28 and is being used to redefine the kilogram. This is because the current definition is made of a less stable element that decays, thus losing mass, meaning the kilogram always changes its true weight. This is also important to the pound though, as a pound is defined as .453592kg. Here's a video discussing this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z…
  • Tigers also have striped skin.
  • (from Wikipedia)

  • Although this is somewhat opinionated, communism isn't bad in theory, only in practice (think about it) and most communist countries aren't truly communist.
  • There is no Nobel Prize in mathematics, though nobody knows exactly why. Instead the Fields Medal is generally considered the most prestigious mathematical prize.
  • According to most modern rankings, Harvard is not the best school in the world, albeit having the largest endowment at $32,000,000,000 (far larger than its competition).
  • The Industrial Revolution began in England (typically accredited to beginning in London), not the US.
  • Tomatoes get all the attention, but botanically a zucchini is also a fruit.
  • Facebook is the most visited website on the internet .

    (from Wikipedia)

  • Fact: this website is pointless, but somewhat entertaining World's Biggest Website
  • Encryption is nothing new, it's actually a very old idea, much like locks and safes, it has simply been made more complex (especially in the computer age with the RSA algorithm and all sorts of technical tools for encryption).
  • Correlation does not mean causality (not so much amazing, but it will help you to understand things and better analyze connections).
  • The idea of a computer is very old, essentially starting with the abacus (which some Chinese still train with and/or use to complete operations quickly), but also with more complex devices like the hypothetical Turing Machine (thought on by Alan Turing in the 1930's), then going to huge military computers with something like kilobytes of RAM and tiny hard-discs. Now though, I am typing on a 6GB RAM, 1TB hard-drive Gateway PC with a dual-core 3Ghz processor.
  • A shipwrecked 1907 Heidsieck is the world's most expensive Champagne, cashing in at $275,000.
  • (from Wikipedia)

  • One of the most expensive paintings in the world, the "Garçon à la pipe" by Pablo Picasso is worth about $128,000,000.
  • For those who don't know, the Prime Minister of England essentially has more power than the Queen.
  • Faraday was the one to make the observations and experiments that eventually led to the mathematically literate Maxwell to create the famous Maxwell Equation's (though others like Ampere obviously played a role).
  • A cockroach can live two weeks without a head due to its "brain" being spread out across its body.
  • The smallest country in the world is Vatican City at .2 square miles, even though it is one of the more powerful ones influence-wise.
  • In a group of 23 people, at least two have the same birthday with the probability greater than 1/2.
  • In the Monty Hall Problem, it's best to switch your choice.
  • .99 repeating = 1
  • The number of even numbers is equal to that of natural numbers
  • Benford's Law states that the number 1 appears 30% of the time as the first digit in real-world numbers
  • The Harmonic Series diverges to infinity
  • Grandi's series does not converge, it diverges at 0, .5 and 1
  • The Dichotomy paradox (one of Zeno's paradoxes) states that, because when you do an action, say clap your hands, you must first split the distance in half, then in a fourth, then in an eighth and so on, you either a. never touch anything (somewhat correct) or b. your hands move an infinite amount of distance to clap (also correct). This is my favorite paradox, just think about it and you'll have your mind "blown".
  • The man with the highest IQ today is Chris Langan, yet he is a bouncer (or used to be) and has made no contributions to any field of academia. He also probably received his IQ score of around 200 due to obsessive practicing for the test, and it has even been speculated that he curves his score in interviews and other accounts. 
  • Some autistic children are savants, somewhat similar to those shown on television. This is generally due to Aspergers syndrome, which gives them astounding abilities in specific topics (like math, for example), although they may struggle to do basic tasks (like tying shoes).

    (from Wikipedia)

  • The world's tallest structure is  Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is 2717ft tall and over 150 stories tall.                            

    (from Wikipedia)

  • The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest "wonder of the world" and the only one left almost entirely intact.
  • Maglev trains can reach over 250mph.
  • The longest suspension bridge spans over 26,000ft.
  • Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, though in the news quite often as of recent years. Estimates say that 80% of Haitians live on less than $2 a day. This is interesting because of the relative economic success of Haiti's only neighbor the Dominican Republic.
  • The Titanic was only 882ft long, small by today's standards (especially when compared to military ships)
  • The CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland is the largest machine ever built, measuring 26km in circumference and lying over 500ft below the Franco-Swiss border. It also accelerates protons to up to 7 teraelectronvolts per nucleon, making it the most powerful particle accelerator ever built.
  • The Panama Canal cost around 25,000 lives.
  • In 1993 the inflation percentage of Russian currency was over 800%. You could have literally had buckets of money and still have been poor.

    (from www.nothingbychancecoaching.com)

  • The famous arch-bridge is of Roman design. Such derivative design styles as Roman and Gothic are seen across the world in architecture and engineering.
  • The Sumerians were the first to have written language in the 4th millennium BC, this used cuneiform (a type of symbolic writing system).
  • English and Chinese (hence there being the need for "simplified Chinese") are often considered the hardest languages to learn, where as languages like Spanish are seen as simple. Chinese (and related languages) use Semanto-phonetic writing (basically meaning symbols), making them especially difficult. Chinese characters are Hanzi, Japanese are Kanji and Korean are Hanja. English is so greatly influenced by other languages that it is often difficult to learn, also the languages rules and grammar can often be confusing. Related languages to Chinese are difficult to learn, as are ancient languages (due to incompleteness) and many others.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien (writer of the Lord of the Rings series) created multiple languages for his books and was also a linguist.
  • In Roman Coliseum's a "thumbs up" was bad, very bad indeed.
  • Chernobyl can still not be inhabited, sadly.
  • You can solve many more mathematical problems than you thought with a formula, though not always helpful. For example, the cubic formula:
  • "Bubbles" in an economic sense have virtually always existed. For example, in the early to mid 1630's you could be rich off of only tulips.
  • The Secret Service was essentially formed the day Lincoln was assassinated.
  • America really gained independence on July 2nd 1776, even prompting Thomas Jefferson to claim that date would be celebrated for generations… close enough Jefferson.
  • Germany didn't start WWI, sorry but you can't change history just because you disagree with Nazism (which was prominent in WWII not WWI by the way).
  • Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym for many people when the Nancy Drew series was written.
  • The Ten Commandments appear in an Egyptian text "The Book of the Dead" many years before they were allegedly written onto stone and taken from the mouth of God. I think this should be interesting even for very religious people.
  • Joshua Engel is not a lord (it seems he's referred to as such quite often), nor is he the statue of David created by Michelangelo, though that'd be cool (also, for those who are concerned, I'm not the US Capitol Building either, but that can be our little secret). I just find it interesting how people like Joshua have become celebrities on this little internet nation we affectionately call home (or Quora usually, but whatever), but he deserves it, he produces astounding content daily.
  • (from Wikipedia)
  • Kent cigarettes, popular in the 50s-70s had filters made with asbestos.
  • Canada nearly joined the US in 1777, also the two have had little-known conflicts before.
  • Liechtenstein and Haiti had the exact same flag. They found out when they competed in the Olympics.
  • Much like many words and names, Canada's near was a misunderstanding, likely the original village predecessor to Canada was called Kanata.
  • The shortest musical note is the demisemihemidemisemiquaver, which lasts for only 1/256 of a beat

Now I leave you with three videos, because they really are the greatest "mind f***'s" of all time. The first two are physics related, the last is a message to humanity. Enjoy.

Carl Sagan "The Pale Blue Dot": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2…

Neil deGrasse Tyson "The Most Astounding Fact":http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9…

Charlie Chaplin "The Greatest Speech Ever Made": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K…

(from Brain Pickings)

And, remember, when you look up at the night's sky, to feel big, and realize that the atoms from the Big Bang are within you. Or, for a more spiritual view, remember Luke 17:21 "Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." Or, remember what I said about apotheosis and ascending into a god-like being, because that will allow you to see how amazing the human race is. And, remember that, in the words of Arthur C. Clarke "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".

I guess, that's a fair collection of the greatest facts known to man, but I think, with a bit of perspective, anything can be seen as amazing, so keep an open-mind when reading this.

Honestly, I would go on forever like this. Science, social science, even the humanities and fine arts (just kidding, I love them too) are amazing. The universe (or multiverse?) we live in is awesome (though I find that I think apparently boring things are cool). With that being said, I hope you enjoyed. This is just what I do at 6 am after being up all night and being bored on Quora — thanks for assisting me accelerate my imminent ascension into madness (kidding, of course).

I edited this, making it extensively longer (though I may edit again, primarily for aesthetics though, unless something else is suggested). Frankly, I would have extended it more if the mobile version of Quora were more well-suited for such long posts. Anyways, hopefully the diversity and quantity will be enjoyable. Some of these facts may not seem that amazing at first glance either, but I believe they are, at least as you think about them more. Anyways, have fun, and comment if you still want more facts or have any suggestions, as I'd love to continue this.

Oh, and to anyone that actually read all of this, you have an incredibly long attention span, and I salute you (figuratively of course).

(from Wikipedia)

[1]I purposely, for the sake of this question, gave no credence to the theories suggesting wormholes may collapse immediately, or even destroy space time.
[2]some estimates suggest slightly different percentages.
[3]this is somewhat controversial, some disagree with this entirely. I believe even some Quorans do, like Ron Maimon (I believe?).
[4]this is somewhat opinionated.

View Answer on Quora


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