From Hilbert Space to Dilbert Space

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physics, Feynman

Lethal Neutrinos

Is it possible to get a lethal radiation dose of neutrinos? Yes, if you were close enough to a supernova. But in that case you would have other problems that are a lot more serious.

The physicist who mentioned this problem to me told me his rule of thumb for estimating supernova-related numbers: However big you think supernovae are, they're bigger than that.

Here's a question to give you a sense of scale:

Which of the following would be brighter, in terms of the amount of energy delivered to your retina:

A supernova, seen from as far away as the Sun is from the Earth, or

The detonation of a hydrogen bomb pressed against your eyeball?

Applying the physicist rule of thumb suggests that the supernova is brighter. And indeed, it is ... by nine orders of magnitude.

Nine orders of magnitude = 109 = one billion (short scale) times.


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