"Isolated Neutron Star"

Density is an interesting word. In science, it refers to the amount of ‘stuff’ that occupies a given area. We can talk about population density in terms of the number of people per square mile. Or, we can talk about the density (aka “weight”) of an object by defining its mass relative to its size.  For example, lead has a density of 11.34 grams per cubic centimeter (or 11.34 g/cm3). Osmium, also a metal, is the densest naturally occurring element on Earth. It has a density of 22.59 g/cm3, making it twice as dense as lead.

If we look beyond our own planet, we can find examples of density that defy our understanding. I am told that a non-rotating Black Hole has infinite density. However, since it exists beyond an event horizon, its exact properties are unobservable and can only be theorized. A Neutron Star, on the other hand, is both observable and measurable. Its density is truly mindboggling. With a mass twice the size of the Sun, a Neutron Star has a diameter of about 13 miles, or roughly the length of Manhattan. Based on those dimensions, its gravity would be 200 billion times greater than what we experience on Earth. That means if you dropped an object from a height of one meter, it would hit the surface at about 2,000 kilometers per second. Ouch!

In the Age of Information, we use the term, density, to quantify the storage capacity of computer disks. The greater the density of a disk, the more data (or “information”) it can hold. For me, this is where the word gets interesting because a state of density can also be an impediment to the storage or retrieval of information. If someone calls you ‘dense,’ it’s probably not a compliment. The inference is that somewhere, somehow, certain information has not sunk in. While not exactly a contronym (a word that has opposite or contradictory meanings), density can be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on the context.

Which brings me to my own density. I love to learn new things, but I also resist them. The assimilation of new ideas usually requires change and change can be hard. Change takes work and I’m lazy by nature. Sometimes my love of learning collides with that thick wall of the familiar and…well, let’s just say things can get ugly. New ideas get lost and old patterns persist. I like to think I’ve grown wiser as I’ve grown older, but my path has been far from straight. Sometimes I find myself tracing familiar ground and I suddenly realize that the footsteps I’m following are my own. More often than not, my life’s journey is less of a quest and more of a maze. It’s a confusing place where maps are useless and I’m far too stubborn to stop and ask for directions.

So where am I going with all this, you ask? I have no idea. Remember, I’m the guy walking in circles. What I can tell you is that growth is impossible without change; the two words are virtually synonymous. If you want to be a better person, then you need to change. If you want to be wiser (i.e. more packed with knowledge), then you may need to vary your density a little. As the late Wayne Dyer once said, “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don't know anything about.”

I like that. In fact, I’m going to make it my goal for 2018: I won’t reject something unless I can understand it first. This will force me to minimize my bad density (thick-headedness) and maximize my good density (pure, concentrated knowledge).

Who’s with me?

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