The things we miss about science
“Hello World” this is probably the most used title on the web. Every time someone learns or starts learning about a new programming language, using a new platform, testing a concept, or even just trying to see something appears on a black screen. They print out this string : “Hello World !”.
Well, here I am humbly trying to start a new project of mine called “You Missed That”. It is a writing project where I want to share the little insights that I have missed about science. Those that go beyond solving a problem, and tell our story as human beings. The insights that we miss when we get overwhelmed by the numbers and by the complexity of the patterns as we rush the answers. So yeah this is my “Hello World !” :).
Viewing scientific matters from such scope makes them even more majestic. I myself have experienced that feeling, a moment when you think you know it all, a eureka moment and then, when that wears off, it strikes you how much you’ve missed. Little pieces of truth that was just standing there in front of you the whole time. It was maybe taken out of consideration because of its irrelevance to the problem, but without it, a discovery would lose its value as a human and a conscious endeavor. The history of science has already proven our attraction to the hidden facts, a lot of huge steps were made while an inventor or a scientific got sidetracked by things that didn’t matter at first. I have always believed that our intellectual process and science in particular, matches the saying:
let a hundred flowers blossom — Mao Zedong
For me the first time that I have truly grasped the magnitude of small facts hidden behind the curtains of scientific breakthroughs, was about a number. 52! to be exact, it just blew my mind how big this number is to us humans, though it goes unnoticed. Then when you see what this number refers to, you’ll understand and even more you’ll feel how limited, yet brilliant we are.
52! is not a big number in a mathematical point of view, in fact 53! is even bigger. That is not the way we want to see things, let’s first see where 52! comes from. We are all familiar with playing cards, where a deck of cards contains 52 piece. The number of different ways to make an arrangement of cards is our precious 52!. And this dear readers is an insanely huge number, in fact if converted to seconds it will represent roughly a few Quindecillions times the age of the universe. So in order to see all the arrangements of a deck of cards you might have to outlive the universe. here is another way to see it, every time you shuffle a deck of cards really good, chances are that you’ll put the cards in an order that never existed before and may be you’re the only one who had it in the history of existence.
So this example is a taste of what my topics will be about, and I don’t want to go deep into details for now. Nevertheless if you want to have a better visualization of this particular number, Scott Czepiel made a wonderful article about means to paint the magnitude of the number. Also check out an animation made on an episode of Micheal Stevens's Youtube channel: Vsauce.
All in all, the next time you answer a mathematical question or any kind of questions, don’t just stop at that empty answer, take a moment to truly see what you have found. And this is what I am interested in, the wonderful things that we miss.