Those who deride science in favour of magic and mysticism sometimes say “Look at a sunset. How can your science explain something so beautiful?”
Somewhere very far away by human standards, there is an exploding ball of hydrogen that measures 1.4 million kilometres across. This ball has been exploding for approximately 4 billion years. Inside this ball, the temperature is so hot that electrons are ripped apart from atoms. It’s also so hot that the kinetic energy of protons is greater than their electrostatic repulsion, and protons slam into each other so hard that one of them gains mass from the kinetic energy. The one that gained mass then turns into a neutron by sloughing off a little of its mass in the form of a neutrino and a positron – and as you might be aware, a positron is antimatter.
That positron then collides with an electron and they annihilate each other, releasing two gamma rays. These gamma ray photons lose some of their energy as they travel out from the core, becoming X-rays, ultraviolet light, visible light, infrared, and radio waves.
Orbiting the exploding ball of hydrogen where all this goes on is a ball of iron 12,800km in diameter, hurtling along at a speed of 107,200kph. When the photons from the matter-antimatter reaction reach this ball, they illuminate it for the benefit of the live present on it. However, the iron ball is surrounded by a layer of gas comprising 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% other gases. Thus, when the photons each this ball, their paths are bent a little. The shorter the wavelength, the less they are bent; thus, when those animals on the planet that have eyes look above the horizon in a direction not directly at that of the exploding ball of hydrogen, their cone cells that react to blue light are the most stimulated.
However, the iron ball is rotating relative to the hydrogen ball, and so to an observer on the surface, the angle at which to view the hydrogen ball changes with time. At various points, a line between the observer and the hydrogen ball crosses the horizon. At this time, since the red and orange light is bent the most, it bends around the planet and stimulates a different set of cone cells in the eye of the beholder. Thus, to an observer, the sky at this time appears red and orange.
That’s what a sunset looks like scientifically. So, while the mystics might look upon it with awe, we men, women, and hermaphrodites of science look upon the same thing and say “THAT IS FREAKING AWESOME!”
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