back to article One thought equivalent to less than a single proton in mass

A headline in the venerable New Scientist magazine "Protons are lighter than thought" has prompted El Reg's Standards Bureau to consider the notion of thought as a small unit of mass. It was believed that the proton was about 0.877 femtometres, less than a trillionth of a millimetre. But now scientists have found the subatomic …

  1. TRT Silver badge

    Well it's known...

    that it's harder to think positive thoughts than negative thoughts, so presumably catcogitates are heavier than ancogitates.

  2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Re: Well it's known...

    Come on, not the perennial joke about the electron on the shrink's couch.

  3. TRT Silver badge

    Re: Well it's known...

    It's far, far harder to be neutral!

  4. katrinab Silver badge

    I tried to do the maths, and came up with a division by zero error.

  5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Joke

    For future reference, breaking it down it single steps, ie "do the math", makes it easier to find your mistake.

    And, of course, less thinking of heavy thoughts reduces the likelihood of neck strain or, worse, whiplash,

  6. Alister Silver badge

    The Register wonders how many Katie Hopkins columns it would take to amass a single unit?

    More than she could ever write before the heat-death of the universe...

  7. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Unhappy

    The sad fact is that Hopkins puts a lot of thought into the poisonous bile she writes which is crafted and honed to radicalise and inflame hatred.

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Not sure that one needs to put all that much thought into such things. Simply mentioning specific keywords is usually enough to get the target base all riled up.

    In other words : just wave the red flag aggressively, the bulls will charge soon enough.

  9. The Axe

    @Jason Bloomberg, So you think that the whole public is pristine and innocent and kind and gentle and it's Hopkins articles that make them hate others? Do you not think that she is just saying stuff that many of the public already agree with?

  10. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    @The Axe: I know full well that there are plenty of racists, bigots and other haters out there. And, no, I don't think they only exist or are how they are because of what Hopkins writes. What Hopkins does is deliberately fan the fires of hatred.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd have thought that her writings were anti-mass, given the way they seem to repel people / inanimate objects

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So you think that the whole public is pristine and innocent and kind and gentle

    There's plenty of crummy people around...

    and it's Hopkins articles that make them hate others? Do you not think that she is just saying stuff that many of the public already agree with?

    ...and confirmation of the legitimacy of their views by seeing similar views in print, in newspapers, will lead to trouble.

    If you don't push back against shit opinions, then one day those with such opinions will attract sufficient backing to get elected. Then they stop being opinions; they start becoming policy, with the ability to enact them.

    It's all too easy for those with comfortable, easy going liberal views and lifestyles to assume that everyone else shares the same ideals, and that there's no need to proactively maintain an equitable status quo. Biggest mistake ever. The USA got Trump. We nearly ended up with an incompetent Trotsky-ist with as much of an idea of how to be prime minister and run a country as a rotten turnip, because too many Labour MPs thought he'd never win their leadership election and then too many voters took his oh-so dubious promises to heart without any idea what the consequences would be (tanked economy, crippling borrowing rates, rampant strikes, no jobs, no money).

  13. MyffyW Silver badge

    Katie Who?

    The best thing you can do is ignore her.

  14. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  15. Mooseman Bronze badge

    " We nearly ended up with an incompetent Trotsky-ist with as much of an idea of how to be prime minister and run a country as a rotten turnip"

    Instead we get a dictatorial incompetent who appoints other incompetents to handle delicate negotiations. Its funny how mildly socialist views are now seen as Trotskyist. Is the Swedish government marxist or trostskyist? Many European governments hold similar views to Corbyn, oddly none of them are labelled quite so aggressively. Crippling borrowing rates? Like our 1.7 TRILLION debt - more than all labour governments in history combined? You buy into the tory dogma that any social spending is bad for the country - well, from the perspective of the very wealthy it certainly is, why waste money on the peasants you could squirrel away overseas for yourself?

  16. Addanc

    Dons tin hat.

    Her comments pale in comparison to the bigoted racist hypocritical left wing rubbish spouted by the likes of the Gruniad and BBC.

  17. Andytug

    Well given that said columns are basically a vacuum

    the number of them needed to make the mass of a proton approaches infinity.

    Which means presumably you could now reference "the speed of a sheep in a Katie Hopkins column"?

  18. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Re: Well given that said columns are basically a vacuum

    Interesting thought, which raises the question whether the column is vacuum, or merely vacuous? I would suggest the latter, as a true vacuum is so full of bovine excrement, which would exert a noticeable drag force on any sheep

  19. Fink-Nottle
    Coat

    Re: Well given that said columns are basically a vacuum

    Of course the standing of a column is in direct proportion to the number of potential speaking engagements it engenders - that is, it has a height equivalent to the theoretical plate.

  20. Esme

    Re: Well given that said columns are basically a vacuum

    @MHFW - egad, I do believe you've solved a major problem in astrophysics! So that's what dark matter probably is!

  21. TRT Silver badge

    "Of course, we know that thoughts are generated by the firing of neurons in the brain"

    "...and don't have a physical weight."

    Well, given that neuronal firing is a synonym for the rapid movement of ions across a neuronal membrane, there would be a shift in mass involved. I'm sure someone could work it out if it actually achieved anything by doing so.

  22. Anonymous Blowhard

    Re: "Of course, we know that thoughts are generated by the firing of neurons in the brain"

    "...and don't have a physical weight."

    That's a weight off my mind...

  23. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Boffin

    Re: "Of course, we know that thoughts are generated by the firing of neurons in the brain"

    Well, given that neuronal firing is a synonym for the rapid movement of ions across a neuronal membrane, there would be a shift in mass involved.

    However, a swift kick to the head to dislodge some stuck thoughts doesn't usually achieve the desired results.

    But we have to experimentally validate to see if that is actually is the case, and in the process we might indeed find a value for the mass of a thought, by applying standard kicks to the head (calibrated in NorrisLinguini) and averaging the number of unstuck thoughts resulting from that.

  24. Red Ted
    Thumb Up

    Original thought

    Would it have to be an original thought to have mass?

    Thus as the sum of human knowledge increases, it becomes less likely to have an original thought.

    So perhaps thoughts gain mass as time goes on. To know everything would require more mass than exists in the universe, perhaps?

  25. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Re: Original thought

    > Would it have to be an original thought to have mass?

    I suspect thoughts are entangled, which is how the same one can appear to be in many places at the same time. If so, there are only original thoughts.

  26. Meph
    Coat

    Re: Original thought

    "I suspect thoughts are entangled"

    Would this make the human brain the original quantum computer?

    To put it another way: Schrödinger's thought process -> a human is both smart and incredibly stupid simultaneously, and listening to their thoughts changes the outcome?

    I know, I know, mine's the one with poison in one pocket and a kitten in the other.

  27. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Boffin

    Zeno's thoughts measurement

    To know everything would require more mass than exists in the universe, perhaps?

    At the very least, knowing everything there is to know would make the total mass of all thought a new data point which has to be known, increasing yet again the total mass of all thought, etc.

  28. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Wouldn't Katie Hopkins' "thoughts" be anti-thoughts, so we have to look at anti-protons? (and yes, those have the (positive) same mass as protons, but it's the thought that counts)

    Alternatively, given the often self-contradictory nature of what passes for thoughts in her case, some particle that is its own antiparticle (a Majorana fermion) would be suitable. As the most probable candidate for such a particle is the neutrino, which has near zero mass, this might be ideal

  29. My Alter Ego

    Damn it. You got in there before me.

  30. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    I was wondering if scientists ought to be examining Katie Hopkins brain. It could well be where all the missing dark matter of the universe is hiding now that we think thoughts might have mass. She certainly seems to have a lot of dark thoughts.

  31. Mark 85 Silver badge

    I was wondering if scientists ought to be examining Katie Hopkins brain.

    First... they would have to find it before they can examine it. Electron microscope?

  32. Richard Tobin

    Confused units

    "It was believed that the proton was about 0.877 femtometres, less than a trillionth of a millimetre. But now scientists have found the subatomic particle is 30 billionths of a per cent lighter than that estimate."

    0.877 femtometres is a length. You can't be 30 billionths of a percent lighter than a length.

  33. Julian Bradfield

    Re: Confused units

    Indeed. I think the - what should we call it, writard? - is confusing the proton radius puzzle - where the radius seems to be smaller than we thought - with the current article's measurement of the mass.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Confused units

    How many parsecs did it take to write this article, one wonders...

  35. TechnicalBen Silver badge
    FAIL

    Re: Confused units

    I think I lost brain cells, and thus brain weight, just trying to read this article. :(

  36. Spacedinvader
    Happy

    Re: Confused units

    Writard, I like that. It's definitely nicer that re(por)tard.

  37. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    Boffin

    Re: Confused units

    The Register wonders how many Katie Hopkins columns it would take to amass a single unit?

    The units are indeed confused. Katie Hopkins columns are so insubstantial they actually have no mass at all. The appropriate unit to use therefore is the 'nat' from Shannon information theory, as her columns convey precisely zero information.[1]

    [1] Although they may leak information about herself.

  38. AdamT

    Re: Confused units

    oh, less than 12 I'd guess.

  39. bob, mon!
    Boffin

    Re: Confused units

    Q. "How high is green?"

    A. "The faster, the smarter."

  40. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Re: Confused units

    @bob

    Wrong question. How high is a Chinaman.

  41. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
    Mushroom

    Re: Confused units

    How high is a Chinaman.

    Depends if he's played the piano in General Kash Mai Chek's secret NAAFI or not...

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Confused units

    Trying to figure out what's lighter than 0.877 femtometres made my head go like the title image.

    With this and the mix-and-match of mass and force in the Watt balance article, there is some crazy physics going on at El Reg this afternoon. I'll have what they're having.

  43. I am the liquor

    Re: How high is a Chinaman

    5,068m if he's on the Xining-Golmud-Lhasa railway, we learned that earlier.

  44. Dr. Ellen
    Pint

    Re: Confused units

    Five parsecs. They wrote it on the Kessel run.

  45. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Re: Confused units

    @technicalben My brain cells have been replaced by plaques. Most noticeably a blue one with 'Tom lived here'

  46. DougS Silver badge

    Re: Confused units

    Perhaps someone in this thread has had their mind twisted enough to tell me why a raven is like a writing desk?

  47. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Re: Confused units

    I think the same as the Alderaan run...

  48. Dick Pountain

    Re: Confused units

    Indeed: a person crueller than I might consider the whole piece innumerate tosh. Thoughts do of course have "physical weight" (what other sort is there? Spiritual, literary I guess). The firing of a neuron occurs through passage of many neurotransmitter molecules across a synaptic gap, and they have a finite molecular weight.

  49. Captain DaFt

    Re: Confused units

    "Perhaps someone in this thread has had their mind twisted enough to tell me why a raven is like a writing desk?"

    Oh, that's simple: The notes that they're normally noted for are not musical notes.

  50. dbtx Bronze badge
    Coat

    "why is a raven like a writing-desk?"

    Poe wrote on both.

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