Question of the day: vacuums

So, in the vacuum of space there’s nothing, not even air.
Part one of my question is: why don’t the things that do exist in space (eg planets, stars etc) just explode in order to try and fill that vacuum? Is it just gravity that stops this happening?
Part two of my question is about the small scale spaces where there is nothing, ie between the nucleus and the electrons within an atom.  If most solid material is actually mostly made of those gaps, how do we (and all solid things) not just implode in order to get rid of that empty space?

If you can answer these, please do so in a comment – thank you!

Questions of the day: correlated particles

1. If one correlated particle goes into a black hole or otherwise changes state in a way that only happens with those specific surroundings, and the other one therefore has the same state, would this also change the surroundings of the second particle in order to make sense of that state? So like would it actually make a black hole?

2. I one correlated particle was in another universe very similar to ours, and in one universe they charge the particle, would the other universe’s scientists be able to detect this and would it be a way for us to communicate with them?*

*assuming the many worlds theory is right

If you can answer these questions for me, please leave a comment with your thoughts 🙂

Question of the day: brains

My brain is really squishy but it’s how I do my thinking.
So, how does my squishy brain actually do the thinking?  I get how a computer can process things but how does my brain do it?  And especially how does my brain enable me to contemplate the fact that I can even contemplate this?

Supplementary question: does my brain work in binary?

Another supplementary question: why is this question so mind-weirding that I almost don’t want to know the answer to it?

Mystery Story – Epilogue

…one year later….

Agent One and Agent C ran as fast as they could along the almost deserted road. They could still hear the heavy footsteps behind them, and the click of a weapon being cocked.  It was now or never – it was time to test the smart bullet.

Agent One and Agent C both fired simultaneously, over their shoulders without a backward glance – at the very same moment, their pursuer also fired, and the two agents threw themselves to the ground, rolling to be able to see what had happened.

It was spectacular!  In the space between them and the gunman, at around head-height, was a silvery cloud of fine powder – and a strange sizzling noise along with it.   All three people looked at it in wonder – the gunman looked afraid, but the two agents had smiles on their faces – and turned to high-five each other.

“It worked! First time!” yelled Agent C.  It had been her work over the past year that had brought the smart bullet into existence, working on the prototype that she had stolen a year before.

It truly was spectacular – a smart bullet that would instantly seek out any normal bullet that was fired, and disintegrate it using a powerful electromagnetic pulse.

This was something that would save a lot of lives – it had already saved two on this, its test run.

The gunman turned and ran. Agents One and C returned HQ, ready to fight another day.

Mystery Story – Chapter Five

Chapter Five

Agent One had no choice – he had to confront Cassandra McLeish right now, before Security arrived. With any luck she would still have the blueprints and prototype with her, then this would be all over.

He burst through the door, and, taking advantage of her surprise, he managed to cross the room just as she reached into her desk and pulled out a small pistol. Acting on instinct and experience, Agent One twisted at the last moment, grabbed her outstretched arm and the gun clattered away across the floor as it went off.

Suddenly remembering the unconscious security guards at the lab, Agent One realised that this might not be the easy fight he had expected. In fact Cassandra McLeish was strong and athletic, and had clearly had some training in martial arts. This was bad news for Agent One, and it took almost two minutes of punches and throws for him to finally get the upper hand.

“Where are the items you stole?” he demanded.

She looked back defiantly, and he wondered whether she would tell him, or hold back and make this difficult.

She seemed to make a decision, and sighed. “I just wanted them to notice me,” she said. “I’ve been stuck as PA for six years now, and I’m twice as smart as the whole staff put together. I should be the one running this company! If I could steal this one thing, and develop it myself, they would have to notice me.”

Agent One finally understood everything. Cassandra must have used money from Camrich to pay off Dr Adams, and then stolen the bullet and the blueprints. She was obviously a force to be reckoned with. And in fact, that gave him an idea.

He let go of her, and stood up.

“How would you like to get away with this?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” she replied, getting to her feet.

“I mean, how about you come and work with me instead of here?  I can’t offer you the safety of an office, but I can promise that your talents will be put to good use – not in committing crimes, but in solving them, and helping to keep your country safe. Come with me now, bring the items you stole with you, and I can make it happen.”

It took Cassandra less than five seconds to decide. Quickly she reached into the desk drawer again, and took out a small metallic briefcase.  Meanwhile, Agent One picked up the gun and stuffed it in his pocket. With any luck they wouldn’t need it.

“We have to hurry,” said Cassandra – I just checked the security cameras and the guards are on their way.”

“This way,” said Agent One, “I can get us out of here.”

They ran back into the corridor, and Agent One used a fire extinguisher to break the nearest outside window.  He then broke the glass on the fire hose that was on the wall next to the window, and threw the nozzle end out of the broken window.

Cassandra realised what he was doing.

“But this won’t be long enough to reach the ground!” she pointed out.

“It doesn’t have to – there’s a window cleaning platform about half way down the building – we only have to get that far using the hose!”

It was a squeeze getting out of the small window, but soon they were both climbing down the hose towards the platform.  They had just reached it when a security guard leaned out of the broken window and called out. But by that time Cassandra had already found the controls for the platform and within seconds they were travelling downwards and reached the bottom of the building just as the first shot rang out – the security guards still thought that Agent One was a thief, of course!

They jumped over the nearest car to take shelter, and fortunately Agent One’s car was right behind it. They sped away and were quickly hidden in amongst the rush hour traffic.

Half an hour later they were back at the Agency Headquarters, and were handing over the prototype bullet, casing and blueprints to Agent One’s chief.

“Well done, Agent One,” said the chief. “And I gather that you have brought us a new recruit as well?”

“Yes ma’am, I have. Cassandra McLeish was the one who stole these items, but I truly believe that if she is given the opportunity to serve her country and use her skills in a job that really matters, she will never do anything like that again.”

Fortunately for Cassandra, the Chief seemed to agree.

…to be continued in the Epilogue.

Mystery Story Game – Chapter Four

Camrich PLC’s headquarters could not be more different from the Greenfield Laboratories. It was a huge towering building made from shiny metal and glass. Very respectable on the outside, but Agent One knew better.

He could have used his security pass to get in through the front door, but he didn’t want to tip them off. So he picked the lock on a delivery entrance round the back, and made his way up a concrete stairwell, consulting the building plans on his phone as he climbed.

The Chief Executive’s offices were right on the top floor, and Agent One knew that a plot like this had to go all the way to the highest level of the company. If anyone here had ordered the theft of the smart bullet, it had to be the Chief Executive himself, Donald McLeish, or one of his closest colleagues.

Agent One finally reached the top floor and took a moment to catch his breath before he pushed the service door open and slipped into the corridor beyond.

There was a series of windows along the corridor, through which Agent One could see through into the main office space. It was a beautifully furnished, spacious room, with just one desk at the far end. Sitting at the desk was a young woman with long dark hair in a bun.  Agent One took out his pocket binoculars and with them, he could just make out the name plate on her desk:


She must be his daughter, thought Agent One.

Then, for some reason, just as he was lowering the binoculars, he happened to glance at her shoes. Boots, in fact. Very familiar boots. Quickly, Agent One checked that his memory was correct – yes, there on his phone, was the datatbase entry for the boot print he has seen at the laboratory, the small boot print with the very distinctive pattern.

Could this really be the thief? This smartly dressed, professional woman at the desk?

Agent One had to act now, because he could hear, as he pressed his ear to the door, that Cassandra had just started listening to the building security guards reporting the break in at the back delivery entrance – Agent One should have been more careful – they knew he was here, so he only had moments to act before he would be caught, and the real criminals would escape!

…to be continued in Chapter Five

Mystery Story – Chapter Three

With almost no forensic evidence, Agent One would have to try and discover the identity of the thieves another way. It was almost impossible to imagine that someone could have found out about the research by accident, so one of the scientists of security guards had to have been involved.

Agent One decided to start with the scientists.  There were three names on the list of scientists with clearance to work on the smart bullet project. Agent One decided to start with the one who lived nearest: Dr Nathaniel Adams.

As he drove up to the block of flats where the scientist lived, he knew instantly that he had come to the right place. There were fire engines and police cars outside in the street, and an ambulance (empty).

Flashing his security pass again, Agent One took the stairs two at a time, until he came to the apartment door – it was blackened with soot, and there was still smoke wafting from inside. Carefully picking his way through the burned debris, Agent One picked up a discarded tea towel from the table and covered his face with it – there was still a lot of smoke, and not much air.

The apartment had been truly destroyed. Someone had tried to cover up evidence here. Was it the scientist trying to cover his own tracks, or had the thieves come and done this?

In the corner of the room was a filing cabinet – the drawers were opened, and the fire had consumed most of the papers inside.  Agent One pulled on his detective gloves and carefully sifted though the singed files. Almost nothing was readable – there was just one small piece of paper on which he could make out some writing.  He placed it gently in an evidence bag, and took it to the window so he could see it better.

The paper was badly damaged by the fire, but it was clearly a bank statement. Most of the numbers looked normal: there were amounts for grocery shopping, and some purchases online, and the scientist’s monthly salary, but there was one figure that stood out: a transfer credit of £250,000 made the previous month.

That had to be the pay-off, Agent One deduced. Looking even more carefully, he looked for the identity code for the transfer – this would tell him where the money had come from, and it had to be the thieves!


So, it was a defense company that had paid Dr Adams for the information on the smart bullet – and had presumably also hired the thief with the tiny shoe print to steal it. It was time to pay Camrich PLC a visit.

…to be continued in Chapter Four

Mystery Story – Chapter Two

The main laboratory was a complete mess.  The card access console was smashed into a million pieces, and a government-employed medic was tending to the unconscious security guards who had been on duty when the incident happened. It seemed that none of the scientists had been present – that was probably a good thing, or they’d be dealing with a kidnapping as well as the theft of the prototype bullet.

Agent One scanned the laboratory. At the back was a door leading to another room, and in that room, Agent One knew, was high security vault – but the door had been blown completely off its hinges. Agent One knew then that the thieves were no ordinary criminals – it took real skill to blow off the vault door without risking damaging the contents.

In any case, the vault was empty: the prototype smart bullet and its shell casing, together with the blueprints, had all been stored in there. Agent One wondered whose bright idea it had been to keep them all in the same vault. But it was too late to wonder, now, of course.

It took Agent One most of the morning to gather the forensic evidence he would need to try and find the thieves. They thieves had smashed the CCTV cameras and had obviously been wearing gloves, so there wasn’t much evidence to find. Except, there was a clear boot print in the dusty fragments from the exploding vault door.  Agent One took a picture on his phone and searched the forensic database for a match – he got lucky. The boot’s pattern was an unusual one, and the size was much smaller than he would have expected – it looked like the footprint of a woman with small feet, or even a child – perhaps a teenager.

But why would a teenager steal top secret research? That’s what Agent One had to find out. He would have to use other methods to find a suspect, and then try and match the shoe print.

…to be continued in Chapter Three

Mystery Story – Chapter One

Greenfield Laboratories was located just outside London, in a run down, high-crime area.  It wasn’t much to look at from the outside – in fact, the building was a tiny bunker on the outside, but those with security clearance to get inside would discover a huge underground facility: a system of corridors and labs that had once been the home of the British Government’s top inventors and scientists.

Now there were only a few scientists and a small security team left, and just one project still running: until last night, when the prototype smart bullet being developed had been stolen, along with the blueprints of its design and manufacture, and its shell casing.

It was bad enough that the thieves had stolen the weapon itself, but with the plans as well they would be able to make more of the bullets, or sell the whole lot to the highest bidder – perhaps even terrorists!  It was Agent One’s job to stop this happening.

Agent One turned off the M25 and five minutes later he was pulling into the Car Park at Greenfield Laboratories. There was Police tape across the doors and windows of the bunker, and several officers standing guard. Agent One showed them his security pass, and ducked under the tape to start his search for evidence. The Police outside would never be allowed in to see the bunker’s true nature.

…to be continued in Chapter Two

Mystery Story – Prologue

This is a story that is inspired by things I found in the street. You can read about how to make up stories based on things you find here.


Agent One knew this was serious from the moment the secret was let out. And it would his job to re-conceal the secret again, before anything really bad happened. The first he had heard about it was in the daily paper that morning:

SERIOUS SECURITY BREACH AT GREENFIELD LABORATORIES, ran the headline.  Agent One immediately knew what this was about. There was only one thing at Greenfield laboratories that was worth risking a break-in for. This was going to be a long day.

…to be continued in Chapter One