20 Random and Interesting Things

  1. How long exactly is the present?
  2. Scientists estimate that there are, in the known universe, 10,000 stars per grain of sand in the world.
  3. There are more atoms in a single grain of sand than stars in the universe. (Source for 2 & 3.)
  4. The Fermi Paradox (the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations and various high estimates for their probability). 
  5. The fact that seasons changing always feels like a surprise despite it happening every year.
  6. John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States, born in 1790, has a living grandson. He had two living grandsons until one passed away in September, 2020.
  7. From this article: “When President Obama was born (1961), President Herbert Hoover was still alive (1874-1964). When Hoover was born, President Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) was still alive. When President Johnson was born, President John Adams (1735-1826) was still alive. And just like that, we’ve connected present day to the Founding Fathers.”
  8. Take a selfie and set a timer for 8 minutes. When the timer goes off, look at the picture to see what you were doing when the current sunlight coming through the window was just leaving the sun’s surface. 
  9. At night, while falling asleep, I’ve often realized I’m falling asleep, gotten excited about sleeping, and woken up from the excitement.
  10. The more fashionable your clothes are presently, the more foolish you feel later.
  11. “Phone” used to mean a rectangle on the wall moms and dads talked on sometimes. Now it’s a rectangle in their hands they tap on most of the day.
  12. Texarkana, TX is closer to Chicago, IL than to El Paso, TX.
  13. The Library of Babel. It’s a short story conceiving of a library that contains all possible combinations of words in books. Literally all. You can read the story here. There’s a digital simulation here. Go to the simulation, type in what happened to you last night at 10:00 PM, and there will be a book with the exact words in it. There will also be another passage somewhere in the library that reads the same way verbatim, except for one letter is different, and another where two letters are different, and so on. In fact, you can paste this paragraph in the search and it will be there.
  14. American slaves were enslaved much longer than they have been free. (The first documented birth of an African slave in America was in 1606. The slaves were declared free in 1865. That means slavery existed in pre-America/America for 259 years before freedom was declared, which was a mere 155 years ago.)
  15. The cicadas that hiss at the end of our summers are usually 2-5 years old by the time we hear them, though some species are as old as 17 years.
  16. Every book written before 1874 (or so) was written by hand, and many books for a long time afterward. That may be obvious, but in this digital age it’s also amazing. Legend has it that Tom Sawyer was the first book composed on a typewriter, but the story is debatable.
  17. Not only is all food and fuel brought to us on trucks, every material used in the construction of every building, and every item inside every room of every building was, at some point, on a truck—those annoying and loud road monsters that we hate driving next to. The exceptions to this are rare: Food you’ve grown in your own garden; things you’ve brought home straight from the factory in your car; anything else?
  18. Similar to #15, everything your eyes see that is not of nature was designed by someone, from the pattern of the bricks on the walls of your house to the fonts and colors on the menu of the fast food place down the street. Every pattern in every fabric, every cable, light bulb, door lock, lug nut, lampshade, shoe sole, spice label, logo, and cookbook—everything that is not naturally occurring was designed.
  19. People who are wrong often think the wrong thing with exactly as much force and commitment as those who are right. Is anyone wrong on purpose?
  20. Spoken language is gibberish, and written language mere scribbling, to which we attach ideas and meaning. It’s organized chaos that brings clarity.


Adam Evans, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve talked about the Andromeda Galaxy recently, but I will do so again with no apologies because I’m on a kick.

A fact I didn’t know until this year is that, apart from the Milky Way, there are 7 other galaxies visible to the naked eye in our night sky in the right conditions.

Here’s what the Andromeda Galaxy might look like with the naked eye in a very dark place.

ESO/B. Tafreshi, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

My eyes have seen many things. A man urinating on the sidewalk in Chicago; a burnt piece of toast; a toenail under a church pew. I feel I’ve been robbed to not know until just now that I could use those same eyes to see a galaxy of a trillion stars hovering in the midnight like an accidental paint smear.

Check out this image the Hubble telescope captured.

This image, captured with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the largest and sharpest image ever taken of the Andromeda galaxy — otherwise known as M31. This is a cropped version of the full image and has 1.5 billion pixels. You would need more than 600 HD television screens to display the whole image. It is the biggest Hubble image ever released and shows over 100 million stars and thousands of star clusters embedded in a section of the galaxy’s pancake-shaped disc stretching across over 40 000 light-years. This image is too large to be easily displayed at full resolution and is best appreciated using the zoom tool.

Zoom around on the full resolution here (better on a computer).

Someone made a video on YouTube panning around the image, and watching it will threaten to crush your soul.

Comments under the video I appreciate:

Imagine someone in Andromeda is watching “Gigapixels of Milkyway [4K]”

Then I remind myself that the distance between any 2 of those points of lights needs to be measured in LIGHT YEARS!

I don’t know which is more terrifying to grasp: (1) the number of stars or (2) the volume empty space surrounding them.

There’s probably some huge galactic war we have no clue about

In 2021, NASA will be launching Hubble telescope’s big brother, James Webb Space Telescope. What will it reveal?


What does this mean for us? Why does it make my soul tremble with awe? Some see the image and wonder how people could ever doubt God’s existence. Others look and wonder why God would make so much just to impress a tiny species on a nearly invisible speck of dust called earth and then remain hidden (or allow that impression) when they suffer.

Whatever the truth is, it’s absolutely spellbinding.