Things fall apart

In the words of WB Yeats ‘Things fall apart’, and it appears that William Butler got that absolutely spot on. I’ll put on a shirt bought just a few months previously and it will be faded and have the start of some draughty holes. The same can be said for human bodies. Bits wear out, fall out … blow out.

Maybe it’s all for the best. After all, if nothing changed we’d have no way to mark the passing of time.

One of Einstein’s mates, John Wheeler, pointed out that time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.

It’s a universal truth: time goes one way – down hill.

Ages ago the universe, like many Instagram influencers, was very hot and very dense. And, like the influencers, it will eventually end up cold and dead.

It’s what boffins refer to as the “heat death of the universe”. Like a climate catastrophe … only much, much bigger.

But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time to nip down the shops or binge that streaming series your friends insist you watch. In fact you have thousands of times the current age of the universe before it all goes Pete Tong on us.

The consensus is that time’s one way street actually gets its direction from all this falling apart of things. It’s a numbers game called Entropy. Drop your mum’s favourite china teacup and suddenly you’re history.

Sadly, you can’t throw all the shards on the ground and expect them to clump together to re-make the teacup any more than you can go back in time and not drop it on the floor.

Anyway, talking about long times, here is this week’s question. A gold miner builds a machine which can produce two million atoms of gold each and every second.

How long would the miner need to run the machine before it produces a single gram of gold?


1 Comment on "Things fall apart"

  1. There are 3.057318373 x 10^21 atoms of gold in 1 gram. Written another way that is 3,057,318,373,000,000,000,000 atoms.
    Divided by 2 million means it would take 1,528,659,186,500,000 seconds to make 1 gram
    Divided by 60 means it takes 25,477,653,108,333 minutes to make 1 gram
    Divided by 60 means it takes 424,627,551,805 hours hours to make 1 gram
    Divided by 24 means it takes 17,692,814,658 days to make 1 gram
    Divided by 365.25 means it takes 48,440,286 years to make 1 gram
    Answer: Over 48 million years.

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