Credit U.S. Army via Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum / AP
Tsutomu Yamaguchi was late for work. It was August 1945, and he'd just finished designing a 5,000-ton tanker for his company, Mitsubishi. He was heading to the office to finish up, clear out and head home, and that's when he saw the plane, high up in the sky over Hiroshima. He watched it drop a silvery speck into the air, and instinctively, says science writer Sam Kean, "he dove to the ground and covered his eyes and plugged his ears with his thumbs."
This was no ordinary bomb. The earth below shook, Yamaguchi was thrown up in the air, then smashed down and lost consciousness.
Here's a question: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent of the speed of light?
The answer is: Don't.
Not that anyone's going to pitch a ball that fast, but if they do, you definitely don't want to be the batter. Or the pitcher. Or in the stands watching. Or anywhere near the ball field. But, trust me, you very definitely want to see what happens.
One day, the great novelist and essayist G. K. Chesterton decided to go sketching. He brought his colored chalks, his reds, blues, yellows and greens to a hill in South England, but he forgot to bring white. Damn, he thought, what an idiot, to leave out the crucial one. "Without white," he wrote, "my absurd little pictures would be...pointless." What to do? "I sat on the hill in a sort of despair."