Regular ScienceAlert readers will know that we're big supporters of the YouTube channel Veritasium, and its unique take on science and experiments. But in this episode, creator Derek Muller has used his incredible communication skills not to bust myths or break down complex physics, but to help drive home the fact that, as humans, we've evolved to be deluded. And most of us are wasting our lives as a result.
To understand his point, you really need to watch the video, because it's some seriously inspiring stuff. But if you've come for the Cliff notes, then here they are: we're all going to die. And by 'we' I don't just mean you and me and your family and everyone else you know, but humans as a species, planet Earth, the stars, our Galaxy, and, eventually, the Universe.
We often try to wrap our heads around this. You know, those nights you stay up until 3am and think about things like: if the Universe is expanding, then what the hell is it expanding into? Or, as Derek suggests, trying to imagine the Universe running really fast in reverse, and condensing into itself until the entire thing could fit into a tiny pin point, and then, eventually… nothing.
"Not the nothingness of empty space, but real nothingness that has no size and no time. To me that is probably what death looks like. A nothingness so complete you wouldn't even miss it … But just as soon as I can form this thought, it evaporates, like a void in nature - the world rushes in to fill it," explains Derek. And, seriously, who hasn't been there.
But perhaps there's an evolutionary reason that we're not able to contemplate true nothingness, Derek suggests. Over billions of years, the hardware we're running has been developed with only one requirement: to frequently and accurately make copies of itself. "And it would help not in the slightest in the goal of making copies if the hardware could accurately simulate its own non-existence," says Derek.
And so therein lies our greatest delusion - we'll never really believe that existence is fleeting, because we literally can't. Sometimes not being able to contemplate our own non-existence is a good thing, because otherwise we'd all be walking around terrified of death constantly. But often it works against us. It lulls us into a false sense of security that tells us, as long as we play it safe, we'll live to fight another day, and we can live the life we truly deserve. After all, there's always tomorrow, right?
In a sense, this video is just a 7-minute-long, beautifully filmed, and movingly poetic cry of YOLO. But in another sense, it's a testament to the beauty of impermanence and the temporariness of everything we see around us. And one hell of a wake-up call to live the life you want and do the things you enjoy today. We'll let you watch and decide for yourself.