Saturday, October 18, 2014

Big and Small

Questions came to my head like cooking popcorn. Pop! Pop! Pop! What is the biggest thing in existence? At first, I thought it was the Earth. What is the smallest? I thought it was an ant. Later, I learned of molecules. What made up molecules? Atoms did. What made up atoms?

The Earth is small. Atoms are even smaller. Quarks are the smallest. Our solar system is big. Our galaxy is bigger. The universe is the biggest. All of these sizes captured and fascinated me.

Before I was mesmerized by small things, I wanted to know what the biggest thing in existence was. Big things seemed so grand before the eye, being magnificent like a king’s statue or intricate like the Taj Mahal. I thought the Earth was the biggest. I started wondering and asking questions. I also read many books about big things. They all converged to one thing. The Universe was the biggest. When I was very young, I thought Universe meant Earth, instead of realizing that the books meant it as an actual separate thing and not another name for the Earth.

I was finally corrected in third grade. In third grade, one of our science questions was: what is the biggest thing in The Universe. Being misled by my own thinking, I said it was the Earth. Evidently, I was wrong. The answer was: The Universe. The teacher told me The Universe is a separate thing that continues to expand, collapse, create, and destroy eternally. After learning that The Universe was the biggest thing in existence, I felt I had accomplished something. After figuring out what the biggest thing was, I unknowingly was led into an interest in small things.

I was amazed by ants, and how they can lift fifty times their own weight. They had six tiny little legs, with proportionately long antennae that can sense things that are the equivalent of human hearing, seeing, feeling, and smelling. They can also sense pheromones in the air. Their tiny little legs can pitter patter across a room silently, unnoticed by any animal. I was captivated that so much activity could occur in such a small, delicate insect. I thought, “Ants must be made of something?” I was right. They were made of cells.

When I researched cells, I found that they were too small for the naked eye to see, but were productive “machines” that move the body, transfer messages for the body, and use the energy that the body ingests to help keep the body alive. I read on. I found a surprising fact: cells are living. I was shocked! How did something so small live without a heart or a brain? I dwelled on this topic for many years before finally understanding it. It was not until the fifth grade that I finally understood cells. Now, I could continue my quest to find the smallest thing in The Universe.

What are cells made of? What is smaller than a cell? When googling these questions, I expected the answer to be: cells are the smallest thing in the universe, they are made of nothing. Instead, I got the answer: molecules. There was something smaller than a cell. What was smaller than a molecule? Atoms!

Atoms are the base structure of The Universe. After reading this line, I thought that atoms were the smallest thing in the universe. It wasn’t until the end of the school year that I learned something I couldn’t believe. Atoms were made of electrons, neutrons, and protons.

On Wikipedia, there was a link for electrons, neutrons, and protons. I clicked; thinking that is would only be the definitions of the three items, for they MUST have been the smallest thing in The Universe. They HAD to be! My eyes widened, my jaw dropped down. I was wrong. Inside my head, I screamed at myself, “HOW!!!” I cried. I was furious and piqued, because I wanted to be right for once. I was enthralled and angry. There were even more dreaded smaller things! I was happy to make progress, but bemoaned that I was wrong. Even electrons, neutrons, and protons were made up things: quarks.


Through these answers, I learned that a scientist can’t make a definite assumption or jump to conclusions in science before learning about it.  At this moment, these little quarks lingered in my mind, and I thought they might, just might, be made of something smaller. However, that is a mystery yet to be solved…

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