As with many technical terms in mathematics, the word brachistochrone originates from the Greek for ‘shortest time’. This curve has been rightly named, as you’ll see.
Yanhao strides into the classroom, wielding a half-full (optimism ftw) plastic bottle of water by the neck. Positioning himself at the front of the room, he takes up a stance of utter concentration and determination, eyes directly pointedly at a spot on the front desk. With a single intake of breath, the room falls into silence as it anticipates the magnitude of the feat it is about to witness. The teacher clasps cupped hands over their mouth, barely stifling a shocked gasp. As Yanhao shuts his eyes, one singular bead of sweat trickles down the length of his neck. In one fell swoop of his arm, he chucks the bottle up into the air. It pirouettes, landing elegantly on its base with barely a wobble. The silence explodes into madness.
Of course, this was only attempt #1003.
The world seems to be getting a smaller and smaller as transport becomes more and more efficient. Although a plane could take us to the other side of the world in under forty-eight hours, the cost is the main deterrent. As a physicist I am obliged to think of other options (however theoretical).
Waking up last Wednesday, I took a glance outside to witness a featureless, gleaming expanse of white encasing the whole street. A minute, ashy substance was descending from the sky, and I knew immediately what this meant – the apocalypse had arrived. Yellowstone had finally erupted, and was scattering volcanic debris across the entire globe. If we didn’t die from building collapse, our lungs would surely suffer from particulates suspended in the air… Alternatively, it was snowing, but that’s such a rare event that I think I can exclude the possibility.