Monday, April 16, 2012

Dutch Babies and the universe

Walking this earth, sooner or later we all notice that time seems to be moving faster as we grow older. The eternal summers of our childhood are fading to a distant memory in a world that speeds up. Why?

One giant leap

Ask any cosmologist you happen to know, and they will tell you these are exciting times to be working in the universe business.

Just this week, there was remarkable news. The Dutch physicist Leo Kouwenberg and his team from Delft announced their experiments have deducted the presence of a very elusive exotic particle. The Majorana-fermion, as it is called, is the kind of matter that - so far - only existed in the text books, left behind by great minds long gone to greener pastures by now. In 1937, the Italian physicist Ettore Majorana predicted the particle bearing his name should be out there somewhere. 75 Years later it looks like "they got 'em".

A number of  consequences come with this 'discovery in progress'. It could potentially shake the foundations we have created for ourselves and come to trust over the past millenniums. With finding this particle, we are one giant leap closer to finding a lot of answers to some of the big questions in a fraction of the time it took us before.  Enter left; the quantum computer!

A quantum computer doesn't just do 0's and 1's to make calculations. It does bizarre things making use of the principles of quantum mechanics, and it calculates a lot faster! So much faster in fact that we might hear some answers to existential questions in our current life time. On top of that, the Majorana particle seems to be a good candidate to account for the huge amount of 'missing matter' that apparently holds our universe together without us being able to detect it. Exciting stuff.


Time becomes a very complicated matter pretty soon after you start thinking about it.

I once explained the concept of time zones to a suspiciously short Masaï warrior who, quite frankly,  was way too short to be a real Masaï warrior in my opinion. With the help of the sun and the shadow on an orange representing the earth, I showed him that at that very moment in space and time, sitting on that sunny beach, the sky over my house back home was dark and the moon and the stars were out.

He laughed at the very notion at first, then seemed disappointed when the simple truth that one sun can only light up half an orange, sunk in. He declared it all a big mess. He nodded at the horizon and said he regarded the sun his only time keeper in life. 

Why does time seem to be moving faster as we grow older? The eternal summers of our childhood  transform into a much needed week off from work that's gone before you know it. New family members are born and grow up to be back-packing, four-wheel-drive-wrecking hotties, whereas, as far as you are concerned, they should still be dotting their I's with little hearts.

It might have something to do with the same principle that reverberates throughout the entire universe; chaos...

Like the universe, we run into a lot of chaos in our lifetime, an increasing amount of it if you're half a curious human being. We start out with little to no chaos at all; children, freshly big-banged (pardon my French) into being, are blissfully unaware of the chaos surrounding them and can experience the world an hour per second. With the passing of time, the laws of entropy roll out and our lives become entangled with obstacles, choices, dangers and responsibilities. Sticky matter(s) that makes time fly, whether you're having fun or not.

Rinse with salt water

There are scientists out there who say time actually doesn't exist at all. It is merely something we humans have invented to be able to make sense of it all. As a matter of fact, the peeps in the quantum business don't really need time in their equations to make them work.

Ah well, without time, everything would just be happening in a jumble and things would become pretty confusing. At least now our summers are eternal when we are young,  and even if they feel a lot shorter as time progresses, it won't stop us from trying to make them last as if we were 8 years old for the remainder of our time here under the sun.

Pretty soon I will be attempting to slow down time for myself. I find that a sea, a beach and a lot of sun work quite well for me. These three things are abundantly present on the island of Bali.

The trick, it seems, is to drown out as much entropy as possible. If you hear only the sound of the breaking waves, only feel the warm sun on your skin and see two basic shades of blue; the water and the blue sky, you just might succeed in touching on that elusive space and time again, where everything comes to a halt, serenity sets in and you could watch the grass grow, if you chose to...

In case of fading serenity; rinse off with salt water, apply sunscreen and digest a stiff drink; you are good to go for the remainder of the day!

If you have ever watched a Dutch Baby pop up in your oven, you have been watching entropy in progress. Quite soon after introducing the orderly arranged atoms in this delicious batter to some serious temperature changes, it will twist and turn and eventually clot into a bizarrely shaped universe in your oven.

Dutch Babies
3 eggs
60 gr / 2.1 oz AP flour
125 gr / 4.4 oz milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
Whisk the eggs until blended.
Sift in the flour.
Beat until smooth after each addition.
Add the salt.
Add the milk in 2 additions.
Lightly beat in the melted butter.
Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9 or 10-inch oven-proof frying pan, 2 or 3 individual pans or a muffin pan for bite-size Dutch Babies.

Pour batter in the muffin pans and bake for 10 minutes at 230°C / 450°F. Reduce oven temperature to 175°C / 350°F and bake for 5 minutes more. If using one single pan, bake for 20 minutes on 230°C / 450°F. Reduce oven temperature to 175°C / 350°F degrees and bake for 10 minutes more.

Slip onto heated platter, fill with fresh fruit and dust with powdered sugar. Add a dollop of cream if you feel scrumptious... Serve immediately!

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1 comment:

  1. We had these babies for breakfast, while traveling in BC, Canada. I had never heard of them until then. Of course they were the size of 'grown ups' because everything is big in Canada and they would never let you leave without a four course breakfast boost.
    Again, amazed by your creative and entertaining film making skills!
    Thanks for this recipe!