William Blake wrote a poem with this marvelous first lines:

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

It’s all about science, right, and the sheer awe of the quantum space-time fabric that builds the large around us? Wrong, Blake’s interests were religious, he did not like science and feared it even.

In fact I wanted to introduce a puzzle which may not be formulated precisely but has a definite answer:

Are there more grains in a heap of sand than there are atoms in a grain of sand?

Ovid tells in Metamorphoses about a woman named Sibyl who was screwed over by an infatuated Apollo the god. He was courting her and promised gifts beyond desire. Sibyl picked some sand off the floor and stated: I want to live for as many years as there are grains of sand in my hand. All right, said Apollo and granted her such long life. Sibyl lived a thousand years (which amounts to about 10 grams of sand). She didn’t spend them in idyll though, for after Apollo endowed her with longevity he wanted to pop her cherry. She refused him, which got him furious and he walked out of her life with a stupid grin on his face. You see, Sibyl neglected to ask for a long life in eternal youth, something a gent all the way, or a satisfied lover in Apollo’s case, would have no trouble pointing out and amending. As it were, the days of joy left Sibyl, remained a virgin she grew old and feeble, withering away for a thousand years …

To fuck or not to fuck with gods? I like to see the moral elsewhere, in how love can confound even the gods out of reason.

The puzzle, did you solve it? Does the answer change if a heap of sand is replaced by desert?

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