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Rarebear's avatar

What is the most astounding fact you know?

Asked by Rarebear (25162points) March 6th, 2012

The most astounding fact is that most of what we are made up of was created in the high pressure of stars.

Neil deGrasse Tyson said it much more poetically than I ever can.

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68 Answers

ETpro's avatar

The basics of quantum mechanics. How particles can be halfway a bullet and halfway a wave and how observing them collapses the wave function.

whitecarnations's avatar

How singularities exist and we cannot even fathom what goes on in the 4th dimension, let alone the dimensions after that.

whitecarnations's avatar



High pressures of gases (Li, He, H), which lead to stars, which lead to explosions of more gases, which made more compounds, which lead to solids and etc and etc :P

jaytkay's avatar

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains billions of stars.

The most astounding fact is that there are billions of galaxies beyond the Milky Way.

gorillapaws's avatar

There’s this stuff that’s called dark matter that makes up an estimated 83% of all of the stuff in the Universe. Nobody’s seen it, or knows what the hell it is. This tells us several things:
1. The Universe is a very strange place indeed.
2. Intuition will only take you so far.
3. Scientists are smart as hell for being able to figure out how to infer that something they can’t see is even there with great accuracy.

Rarebear's avatar

@jaytkay I think you’re off of by several orders of magnitude, which only makes it more astounding.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

Speed and mass change the passage of time.

jaytkay's avatar

@jaytkay I think you’re off of by several orders of magnitude

How so?

whitecarnations's avatar

@jaytkay It’s more than billions is what he means. I’m not even sure if quintillion justifies the amount of galaxies out there.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
Sunny2's avatar

Something I learned in school: If everything on earth was destroyed except worms (round,flat,etc.), you would still be able to see the outlines of everything that existed, trees, people, buildings, etc. Of course, who would still be left to observe this, I don’t know.

TexasDude's avatar

“In the original Pokemon games on Gameboy, you start in Pallet Town, and every city you visit after that is named…

…after a different hue. :-0”

-Neil deSagan Ron Paul

Nullo's avatar

Half of an infinite quantity is less than double the same quantity, yet they’re the same amount.

Rarebear's avatar

@jaytkay I meant on the order of magnitude of trillions or more. But I like your point.

Blobman's avatar

An infinite universe means that when we look up, what we see does not have an end. And if there’s an infinite universe, than there is infinite knowledge to go with it. That means that no matter how much you know, your knowledge is noting compared to what is left to be learned.

Roby's avatar

That out of all the infinite space…the earth is the only planet that has life.

wilma's avatar

The most astounding fact that I know is that a mother is different from other people.
I’m sure that there are scientific facts that support hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, birth and postnatal.
Scientific facts aside, for healthy women, once you are a mother, you are changed forever. You can never go back.

I’m no scientist as you can tell.But I still know things. ;)

Bent's avatar

That the majority of solid matter is just empty space between atoms and particles, and we still don’t fall through the floor.

ucme's avatar

Mitt Romney is considered a viable candidate for president…...yeah, okay.

thorninmud's avatar

Atoms can be assembled in such a way that they can love, hate, aspire and imagine. Moreover, they do this all by themselves.

Mat74UK's avatar

People buy Justin Beiber records!

LostInParadise's avatar

That mathematics is both a world unto itself and that it can also be applied in so many ways to the real world.

In particular:
1. That the same numbers that we use for counting can be expanded to measure everything that can be measured.
2. That abstract theories like group theory end up having physical applications. The group theory application to quantum mechanics was used to predict the existence of a particle.
3.Emmy Noether’s beautiful theorem, which I hope one day to be able to understand in detail

gambitking's avatar

Sheesh, lots of physics. Although I like Mat74UK’s response – that IS astounding.

Did you know Dr. Ruth Westheimer (yes, the old sex doctor) was an Israeli Sniper?

Jude's avatar

In Quantum Physics causality can work backwards. Our choices in the present can effectively determine what occurred in the past.

robmandu's avatar

Magnetism explains why everything works as it does.

Jude's avatar

My g/f sent me this (her words):

Similar to this, but not exactly. It was an article I read a few years ago and I can’t find it. It basically implied that when you are immersed in virtual reality you begin to feel as though that reality is actually you. I think the study put two people in masks with cameras where they viewed the situation as though they were the other person and they felt touch as though they were the person who’s perspective they were seeing from (like when you fold your fingers and try to touch the middle one and end up feeling the wrong one). It was really interesting and raises questions about perception of reality. I’ll keep trying to find it.


Sunny2's avatar

I’m impressed. Do other sites get this kind of question and responses? We seem to have some very erudite jellies.

Mariah's avatar

My first choices have already been mentioned, but I also like this one: you can add together an infinite number of numbers and get a finite result.

Qingu's avatar

Euler’s identity: e^(πi) + 1 = 0

Gred13's avatar

That inside a black hole the laws of physics are changed. Well at least I heard that.

Pandora's avatar

If our fathers had masterbated or not masterbated or used a condom before having sex with our moms, we wouldn’t be here today. Another sperm would’ve won the race or no egg would’ve gotten fertilized that month. If another sperm won the race than our personalities and even sex would’ve been different.
Point is, we were each one day closer to ending up as blood splatter on a pad and our other half being splattered on some sheets and we wouldn’t be have this thread now.
We all exist because of whoo hooing.

gailcalled's avatar

That I am a happy cat owns.

(psst. ^^masturbate)

robmandu's avatar

TMI, @gailcalled. You’re the happiest cat owner I know. ;-P

flutherother's avatar

Bell’s Inequality or ‘spooky action at a distance’.

Paradox25's avatar

Quantum mechanics, and how it shows that all matter in the universe is made up of mostly empty space. I’m also astonished how waves of light (and electromagnetic radiation) seem to behave in a more stable way than waves of ‘matter’ do. The Copenhagen Interpretation amazes me the most of all things related to quantum theory. Consciousness is another thing that amazes me even more but I can’t use this one since nobody really knows what it is.

Esedess's avatar

That if you were to pick yourself apart one atom at a time, you would be left with a mound of fine atomic dust, none of which was ever alive, but all of which once made up you.

Pandora's avatar

==@gailcalled I did go with the u first but googled it with an e and yet it came up both. So I took a shot (no pun intended). I don’t have spell check, I didn’t want to bother with the dictionary,—

AdamF's avatar

In addition to the comments about us all being stardust, and the immensity of the universe, and dark matter, and consciousness, and the bizarre nature of quantum mechanics…

I think it’s astounding that you and I are only here because everyone of our ancestors successfully reproduced, and this chain goes back perhaps 4 billion years, from our early mammalian ancestors, to our ancestral-fish heritage, to our great great great etc…procaryotic fore-fissoners/budders… and beyond.

Imagine the stories…

Mat74UK's avatar

@AdamF Oh really but I was told…........grabs cup of tea and waits for the sh*tstorm ;-)

ETpro's avatar

@thorninmud Can you point me to where I can read more about that?

thorninmud's avatar

@ETpro I don’t think that information has been published yet, but for a case in point, check out the particular assemblage of atoms that’s reading this comment.

gailcalled's avatar

@thorninmud: MIlo here: You talking’ ta me?

thorninmud's avatar

Actually, Milo, I’m never quite sure with you

gailcalled's avatar

@thorninmud: Milo here; My assemblage of atoms is looking particularly gorgeous this morning. Gail, by contrast, appears to be her usually seedy self.

noraasnave's avatar

No one deserves to be judged.

YoKoolAid's avatar

The worlds largest family resides in India – consisting of one man, with 39 wives and 94 children.

Earthgirl's avatar

“The Gaia Hypothesis” The Earth maintains a state of homeostasis relative to the changes in the heat form the sun and other variables. The Earth’s crust is actually quite thin in relationship to it’s molten core.

noraasnave's avatar

@nullo, because everyone has a reason for what they do, because everyone’s situation is more complex than judgement has the time to realize.

Earthgirl's avatar

Sorry! You asked for a fact and I gave you a hypothesis!!

I answered with the latest most interesting idea that I had heard because it was in my mind. It struck me that I had never really thought about how volatile the earth is and how amazing it is that the conditions for life here developed. The whole chain of events leading up to it and the idea that the earth itself has a way of maintaining some sort of homeostasis just as the human body does. It’s fascinating. The Nova show brought out how the sun has changed temperature since the Earth came into being and yet somehow the Earth adjusts so that life remains viable.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Earthgirl , The Gaia hypothesis has been promoted to a theory. Skip to the last section.

The Gaia theory is a good example of something astounding that has been touched on by some of the others here, which is how systems can become so much more than the sum of their parts. Chemistry helps in the study of biology, but there are biological laws that cannot be inferred from chemistry. Knowing the biology of individual species will help in the study of ecology, but will not be sufficient. Knowing the behavior of a neuron will help in the understanding of how the brain works, but it is far from sufficient.

mattbrowne's avatar

A group of 55 chimpanzees has more genetic diversity than all of the 7 billion humans on Earth.

Nullo's avatar

@noraasnave So there is no right or wrong, because everybody has their reasons? Don’t think I can go along with that.

Esedess's avatar

@mattbrowne Just out of curiosity, did you get that from the book “A Brief History of Nearly Everything”?

noraasnave's avatar

@Nullo Are you trying to say that people are either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and that you are suited to decide?

Nullo's avatar

@noraasnave Yeah, pretty much. A lot of things (ice cream flavor, most kinds of brand preference) are neutral, but a lot of other things (philanthropy, murder, etc.) are not. We have a couple of compatible standards to help us decide.
I don’t suppose that you play board games?

noraasnave's avatar

@Nullo it must make life easier to be able to figure out when people are right and wrong in light of all the facts both public and hidden. I don’t mean to disrupt this school of thought.

For me, life isn’t so easy, and people aren’t so easy to categorize…as a matter of fact I find it is impossible to accurately categorize, because all facts can rarely be known.

I do play board games. I wish life were that simple.

Nullo's avatar

@noraasnave You can’t tell whether murder is right or wrong, then?

noraasnave's avatar

The act is wrong clearly. Deciding to label the person that does it a murderer…well to me that is a different story. That is a bit more complicated. The person, not the action is what I am talked about…what if each of us were defined and labeled by one wrong action we took? What would your label be?

mattbrowne's avatar

@Esedess – Not sure, but I read Bill Bryson’s book many years ago. The population bottleneck is a well-researched subject. Might be linked to the Toba eruption. There are a lot of Internet citations of Woodruff’s 55 chimps observation. Here’s an example:

“Woodruff and Gagneaux translated the variation in the DNA sequences within humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas into a measure of genetic diversity. Chimps and gorillas, they found, have roughly equal level of diversity. Humans, however, although we are spread out over a vastly larger geographic area, have a significantly lower level of genetic diversity. Woodruff sums it up succinctly: ‘There’s more diversity in one social group of 55 chimps than in the entire human population.’ This lack of genetic diversity suggests the human lineage has gone through a population bottleneck at some point in its past history.”

I love the quote because it makes racism even more ridiculous and stupid than it already is. There is no biological justification for the notion of human races.

gailcalled's avatar

@noraasnave: I’d be “Locked my cat in a guest room overnight.”

noraasnave's avatar

@gailcalled so your label would be “animal abuser” Wow that is a strong label for an accidental, one time, mistake.

noraasnave's avatar

I guess in all fairness I should say some of my labels: perverted, liar, thief, goldbrick, loser, social engineer, and much, much more!! These labels attempt to take in a small portion of things I have done wrong over the scope of my entire 38 years.

Nullo's avatar

@noraasnave So you’re anti-label, not anti-justice. Gotcha.

gailcalled's avatar

@noraasnave: No, I would not label myself “animal abuser.” I was very specific. No extrapolation necessary.

Today I have to edit however and change it to “Locked my cat in a guest room overnight twice.”

Brian1946's avatar

Even if I never left my property for a whole year, I’d still be spending Summer at least 186 million miles away from where I spent my Winter.

Nullo's avatar

@Brian1946 Don’t forget to account for the solar system’s movement through space. You’ll never see the spot we were in on Dec. 21 again

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