The night before my exam I’m staring at the microwave. Into the microwave. Into the gently revolving milk of my ninety-percent-milk coffee nightcap. I start thinking there must be a way to know the time before the milk boils and spills over. I would just need the temperature beforehand, the mug diameter, and the rate of heat transfer. The latter I could find if I measured the level the milk decreases by for the first couple seconds of microwave time – because there’s always less milk even if I get there before it boils over. But no, I sigh mournfully, there are no saturated milk-temperature tables available in the appendices of thermodynamics textbooks. That’s ok. I can just wait to react when bubbles start appearing.
I’m sure other people stare and wonder at things too; at the microwave, at the shower wall, at the ceiling right before your brain switches off to sleep. Seeing Michio Kaku speak the evening before my exam was watching a man wonder. Because surely, in his much longer student lifetime, after wondering at textbook question after question, he can wonder more easily at bigger questions. The biggest questions really. Read more