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What If? #005 – Express Edition!

Team StoryWeavers|December 24, 2020| 4

Welcome to What If? where you, the students, get to ask us your questions. It can be anything in the whole wide world but there’s just one condition: it should start with ‘What if?’ We’ll pick the most intriguing questions and feature it along with an illustrated explanation on The Learning Tree Blog.

To ask your question, fill-up the form here:

Submit a ‘What If’ question

This month, instead of answering just one What If? question, we’re going to answer multiple as part of our Express Edition! We hope it leaves you delighted and satisfied as always! Happy holidays!

“What if all the people in the world sneezed at the same time?” – Vani Jain, 14, Delhi

One sneeze contains over 40,000 tiny particles of mucus and a loud sneeze can top out at around 90 decibels. That’s almost the sound of a motorcycle in full rev. So there would definitely be an extremely loud noise from the sneeze, perhaps, enough to scare birds and animals away from their habitats all across the world. Quite dramatic, isn’t it?

Secondly, all those droplets of mucus could form a large cloud of germs, especially in open areas where large numbers of people gather, like stadiums. Obviously, this would be terrible news for the global COVID situation and infection rates would spike up! Also, there probably would be a thunderous wave of “bless you” in multiple languages all around the world right after the massive collective sneeze!

“What if we never felt pain?” – Aabhyomi Verma, 13, Jammu

Although it might sound like a great way to live, it really isn’t. Pain plays an important role in our day-to-day life. It teaches us the limits of our body’s strength, signals to us when the body is going through anything uncomfortable and tells us to go away from whatever is causing that pain. Without these warning systems, we would be prone to way more injury, so much so that it could reduce our lifespan by a significant amount.

Can you imagine fracturing a bone in your body and not realising that anything is broken? Or waking up every morning to do a thorough check of your entire body for cuts or bruises? In fact, this is the life that a rare few people have to live. There is a medical condition called Congenital Insensitivity to Pain and Anhydrosis (CIPA) which prevents the patient from feeling any pain. As you can imagine from the citations listed above, it is far from a pain-free and happy existence.

“What if humans were perfectly rational beings?” – Tarang Kuhikar, 15 | Ahmedabad 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘rationality’ as the quality of being in accordance with reason or logic. Humans make hundreds of rational decisions on a daily basis. We are, as the Greek philosopher, Aristotle said, “rational animals” and are different from other animals because we possess the skills of logic and reasoning. But then, we are also ‘social animals’ who feel and express a wide range of emotions and interact with other members of the species for various purposes. We are prone to flights of fancy, sudden bursts of emotions, irrational fears and sorrows. In this sense, we are far from ‘perfectly rational’ beings. 

So what if humans were perfectly rational? Things get a little tricky here. If we took all our decisions solely on the basis of logic and reasoning, with absolutely no space for any irrational acts, we would lose all the spontaneity that we have. Comedy and humour would be dead, so would love and friendship. There would be nothing to hold families together except for the mutual benefit of co-existing. Perhaps the social unit of the ‘family’ itself would cease to exist. At such a stage, we must pause and ask: Can such a creature qualify to be called human in the first place? Perhaps not. 

The world of fiction does offer a few cool examples to answer Tarang’s question. One of the best examples is the famous tale of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. We have all read about Gulliver’s journey to Lilliput, but many of us don’t know about the land of the Houyhnhnms that Gulliver travels to later in the book (Part IV). The Houyhnhnms are horse-like creatures that are perfectly rational beings. They thrive in a peaceful and prosperous society and are masters of the land. They also rule over the Yahoos, a race of human-like creatures that are treated with no more dignity than ‘beasts of burden’ or livestock. Although Gulliver recognizes traits of himself in the Yahoos, he is deeply attracted to the rational and perfect world of the Houyhnhnms and prefers their company to the lowly Yahoos. In Gulliver’s quest for great knowledge and intelligence, he may have failed to recognise his own shortcomings which make him human in the first place. 

“What if magic existed in real life?” – Jeejivisha Tahiliani, 13, Kanpur

Well, that depends on what we decide is magic! In this case, we assume that Jeevisha is not talking about the magic that is performed on stage via sleight of hand and optical illusions, but actual magic – forces outside our understanding (but within the understanding of a witch or a wizard) that manipulate the world around us! There’s not much to speculate about what a world like that would look like. Fantastical tales like the Harry Potter series have already given us a glimpse into that world. But there would be some basic issues in a world like that, especially regarding physics. A world where spells can move objects, make them fly or even set things on fire would have a very different composition at the molecular level when compared to ours. The rules of physics would be so strange that such a world would perhaps be impossible to scientifically substantiate.

But here’s something to think about: What is magic to one may not necessarily be magic to another. Imagine this. You step into a time-travelling device and arrive in the 1700s, a time where electricity was still not around and modern plumbing was yet to be invented. If you turn up there with your machine-stitched clothes, your mobile phone and your BYJU’S tab, the people would obviously think you are a great magician or an evil wizard who can conjure strange tricks with these glowing devices!

To put it in the words of the great science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic.”

Do you want to ask your own ‘What if?’ question? Fill the form below and stand a chance to be featured on the Learning Tree Blog.

Submit your own question.

About the Author


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Suraj Prabhu

Suraj Prabhu is a self-proclaimed audiophile and a jack-of-all-trades writer with a diverse set of interests. An amateur quizzer on the side, he claims that the first object he fell in love with was a book on flags at age 3. His favourite punctuation mark is the 'Oxford comma,' which coincidentally happens to be one of his favourite songs too!

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Comments


Mishra kuldeep

December 26, 2020

What if the planets will come close like moon


Myrali

December 26, 2020

Iam waiting for next


Tashvi

December 27, 2020

Wonderful


Neeraja

January 1, 2021

Amazing.
I also asked a question today. Hoping it will get featured.


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