Yesterday, I tweeted the “11 of the most craziest things about the universe,” a short photo essay by Marcus Chown, science writer. Chown alerted us to the fact that “if you squeezed all the empty space out of all the atoms in all the people in the world, you could fit the entire human race in the volume of a sugar cube.” He explained that this is because matter is “empty.” An atom, the most basic element of matter, orbited by electrons, is an incredibly empty thing with immense distances, relatively speaking, between the electrons and the central nucleus.
I was reminded of Sartre’s “Hell is other people.” Not the way he meant it – which was that if our relationship with a particular person is bad, then our being with them becomes hell; but the way it is usually understood, namely, that all other people are, and our relating with them is, torture.
I wonder what Sartre would have made of the idea that all humankind could theoretically be squeezed into a sugar cube! Horror of horrors! He might well have been a bit more appreciative of the already existing space inside and in-between other people’s atoms.
Now that’s a thought (for a short story).
I see that the ideas in the photo essay are explored in Chown’s “The Matchbox That Ate A Forty-Ton Truck: What everyday things tell us about the universe.” Well then, I am off to get this book…
For an essay on the quote “Hell is other people” see: http://legacy.lclark.edu/~clayton/commentaries/hell.html
Also, for the real thing: http://www.sartre.org/
No Exit, the play from which the quotation arises http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Exit
Photo credit: Constantina Pierides