#2. Pi Is the Weirdest Number
What You Were Taught
It's that circle thing, right? You might remember the formula for figuring out the circumference of a circle from back in grade school, which was both the first and last time you ever needed to do so. Nerds know it a little better, probably from the old MIT sports cheer: "Cosine, secant, tangent, sine, 3.14159." Apparently MIT does sports a little differently. But regardless, can you think of a less impressive number than pi?
But Really ...
Pi is everything.
There is no Zuul. There is only pi.
No, seriously -- it is everything.
It's what's known as an "irrational number," which means that it can't be written out in full or expressed as a fraction. If you try to write out the digits of pi on a sheet of paper, then you better have a lot of paper and a lot of time, because they keep going on literally into infinity. You can't fit pi inside this universe. And because the digits are randomly distributed and never, ever repeat, there's no shortcut to knowing it, either.
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No matter how much those bastards tell you 22/7 equals pi, don't believe them.
That means that we can't really calculate the circumference of a circle, because we can't really know what pi is. We can get pretty damn close, though -- we've calculated it up to 10 trillion digits. If you're wondering, the 10 trillionth is 1. Ha! We used up a little part of your brain, just for storing that information, sucker.
If it's not weird enough that the universe can't contain pi, then hold onto your hats -- pi might contain the whole universe. Obviously, we're getting into the realm of the theoretical, but bear with us here. Because pi is an eternal, non-repeating series of numbers, on a long enough timescale it contains every possible sequence of digits. If you think of those digits as a kind of code, then mostly it's just gibberish, but occasionally patterns will emerge. In thousands of squillions of digits, you might find the code for a dog or a banana. Read it long enough, and you might find a code for the entire universe. Not only that, but every alternative universe. Pi is basically the Matrix. Pi is also Zion outside of the Matrix. Pi is also you, watching The Matrix on your couch and being disappointed in all but the first movie.
The source code is also all pis ... pii?
We'll probably never have a computer sophisticated enough to find an image of the universe inside pi, but it's still cool to think that when you divide a circle by its radius, you might get the code for an alternate world in which you're married to Mila Kunis.
#1. Space May Have 11 Dimensions
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What You Were Taught
You know that we live in a three-dimensional world. That means that we can move up and down, left and right, or back and forth. The most use you'll likely ever make of that knowledge is playing your 3DS and asking if there's a cheaper version of Gravity for people who don't like wearing those stupid glasses.
But Really ...
Science is just starting to hack away at the true nature of space, but the popular thinking of the moment is that space has 11 dimensions. That means that things can move up and down, left and right, back and forth, and then eight other directions that can just go fuck themselves for all we know or understand.
They're basically the silly straws of space-time.
No? You're dead set on trying to understand this? All right: The first step is to stop imagining "dimensions" the way that they have been explained to you by science fiction, where traveling to "another dimension" means stepping through a looking-glass and coming face-to-face with a Jerry O'Connell fighting some Nazis. Dimensions, as we're discussing them now, are just directions of movement. The nerdiest among you might know of time as the fourth dimension -- moving from past to future -- but that would still leave us seven dimensions short, and we've already talked about how we don't understand time. We're moving into Inception levels of ignorance, here.
See, the other dimensions are like ...
Like when you ...
So if boobs are the first three dimensions ...
OK, forget it. We can't think of a way to get you to imagine higher dimensions beyond those that we can perceive. Let's explain why through the only medium we can adequately communicate in: pop-culture analogies. In 1884, teacher Edwin Abbott wrote the novel Flatland, which is a story that takes place in a two-dimensional world. The inhabitants of Flatland can move back and forth or left and right, but they have no concept of up or down. The story deals with what happens when a three-dimensional person tries to communicate with one of the Flatland inhabitants. The 2D protagonist, a square, can't see the 3D stranger above him because he has no concept of up and down, so as far as he's concerned, the stranger is just a voice in his head.
In the same way, we have no idea about what's happening in the higher dimensions, because we can't see or even comprehend in those directions. But science suspects they exist because, like in Flatland, sometimes particles disappear from our universe and reappear elsewhere, a crazy phenomenon we call "quantum tunneling." Scientists suspect these unaccountable particles aren't "just, like ... dicks, man," but are instead traveling through a higher dimension to get to new places.
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Or else just ducking out early to start the weekend.
The point to take away from all of this is that there might be higher-dimensional beings watching you masturbate, so, you know ... put on your game face and really swing for the fences.
Himanshu could be found occasionally blabbering something at the internet on Twitter.
Related Reading: Not done having your mind BLOWN? We've got a much longer list of the unexplained. And y'know what else Science can't explain? The Voynich Manuscript. More things lie beyond our ken: Star jelly is totally inexplicable.
Science can't explain Minecraft either.