A random walk

A random walk

It takes light around eight minutes to travel from the sun to the earth.

That's a strange concept. To our brains we see everything in real time, but actually we don't. Our vision is based on the fact that tiny little packets of light (photons) bounce off objects and then into our eye. This means that when you look at someone what you see is actually an image of them as they appeared a tiny fraction of a microsecond ago.

So if our sun disappeared instantaneously we would technically still be able to see it and feel its heat for eight minutes (all other disastrous consequences aside). This also means that when we look at something that is being lit by sunlight, the light that actually registers in our eye has traveled 149.6 million km to get there and bounce off that thing.

I find that pretty amazing, but why stop there?

These little photons, or packets of light, are generated at the center of the sun (through nuclear processes) and then travel to the surface.

This process of traveling from the center of the sun to the surface can take anywhere from one thousand years to ten million years and is known as a 'Random Walk'

Our little photon that can moves around inside the sun, bouncing off various other particles (mostly electrons). Every time our photon collides with something it will change direction, possibly even sent in the opposite direction.

Imagine walking down a busy street in a straight line, but every time you hit a person or wall you change direction. It would take a long time to walk the length of that street. In fact you might never even reach the end.

So now when you look at something in the light of day have a think about the fact that some of the light that is bouncing off that thing has been on a journey that has spanned millions of years.

What does it all mean?

The random walk of the photon got me thinking... We tend to spend a lot of time focusing on an outcome while failing to appreciate the journey.

If you're outdoors and looking at sunlit objects then your eyes have become the destination for millions of photons that have spent millions of years traveling through the sun, through space and ultimately through your eyeball.

You might stand there thinking 'Look at that tree. That is a nice tree.' but how often do you appreciate the fact that the image of that tree in your brain at that instant is the result millions of years of activity that you didn't see?

In my mind this is similar to how we view successful people. 

When we see sports stars, rock stars, super models, the rich, the enlightened or just that person that has a nicer house than you, the natural reaction is often to want what they have.

How do we get it?

We look at the clothes they wear, the food they eat, the schedule they keep, and try to mimic it in the hope that we see the same success. This is why brands pay celebrities so much to promote their products. They are selling aspiration, the product is incidental.

Eat this - look like that.

Wear this - live that life.

We want 'hacks'. Shortcuts to the end of the journey. You want to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix? Well you could buy a Fender and all the same equipment he used and then hit the acid. Why? That's what he did. But it's not really, that's just the light after it bounced off the tree. What you didn't see was the years of constant practice. The absolute dedication that it takes to reach that level.

There are no shortcuts. You won't see that tree without the photons. You won't get anywhere without work.

Annoying things to clean

Annoying things to clean

Childhood trauma and my inability to sing

Childhood trauma and my inability to sing