Magical Mystery TourAlong!

There's nothing quite as magical as Portugal's lush tropical island of Madeira, or as mysteriously magnificent as Switzerland's Lauterbrunnen valley. Three weeks exploring these two unique versions of paradise is exactly what we need ...

Let's GO!

Oh! NO!

It turns out there are some things you just can't predict. Like the bottom of the stock market, or what a very stable genius might tweet in the middle of the night, or when the next pandemic will sweep over the world.

Like everyone, we hoped the outbreak of a new virus would be kept in check. By early March, the world was beginning to shut down. The inevitable decision was made for us when Portugal established a 14-day mandatory quarantine for anyone entering the country.

Madeira and Switzerland would have to wait.

It sucks to cancel an adventure that's so close you can taste it. But that pales in comparison to millions of people becoming seriously ill, suddenly unemployed, or worse. So suck it up, buttercup! Europe will still be there when this epoch is finally in the past. 


In this edition, we'll do a brief flyby of Madeira and the Lauterbrunnen Valley, and then we'll take a deep dive into big numbers. That's right, big numbers!

So come along on this Magical Mystery TourAlong ... won't you?

Grab a cup of your favorite beverage, maintain a distance of at least six feet from your screen, and wrap your breathing holes in a protective mask!

Let's GOOOO!!!!

(Don't forget to click the links! They're a BIG part of this TourAlong!)


Our Hike!

The Pico do Arieiro - Pico Ruivo trek was going to be the highlight of our stay on Madeira. Or maybe it would have been the food. Or maybe "glamping" in a yurt perched on a seaside cliff!

The Marco Polo travel guide to Madeira is a great source of information, but by far our favorite source is the Stay Classy VLOG series by Amalie and Joen. Originally from Denmark, this couple has a super fun way of presenting Madeira and all of Portugal. I invite you to take our hike from the comfort of your quarantined La-Z-Boy Recliner! Here's the episode: The Jurassic Park of Europe.

Or, watch Exploring FUNCHAL of MADEIRA (an endlessly charming city) for an entertaining introduction to Funchal, Madeira's main city.

It's way too easy to go down a deep rabbit hole with Amalie and Joen's seemingly endless series of travel videos!

(And seriously, the photo above is on the Pico do Arieiro - Pico Ruivo hike!)

(Image credit:

Oh Lauterbrunnen! How I Yodel for Thee!

The quintessential Swiss valley of Lauterbrunnen has become our spot in the Alps. It has everything: clifftop villages, glaciated mountains, verdant valley floors, and cows that produce fresh warm chocolate milk and creamy fondue cheese every morning! You didn't know that about Swiss cows, now did you!

Better still! In Switzerland, all the the women wear dirndls and all the men wear lederhosen!

And did you know all Swiss babies are born yodeling. They ARE!
"Yodel lay hee yodel lay hee yodel lay hee hooooo!" 

Heidi and Hans

Heidi and Hans are proof that all Swiss are young and good looking!

Like all Swiss women, Heidi gathers fresh warm chocolate milk and creamy fondue cheese from cows every morning. Her hobbies? Serving steins* of beer to thirsty travelers and making chocolate!

And Hans? Hans works in a bank where he hides stacks of cash rich people give him. His hobbies? Making watches and pocket knives!

Heidi and Hans let people like us visit their country because they can't help being polite and they like our money.

Yodel lay hee hooooo!

*Did you know the word stein is an English term for a beer mug and is not used in German speaking regions? I just learned this!


But enough of boring travel dreams ...

Let's take a TourAlongDeTour and get into playing with numbers!


Nothing Says 'Pandemic' Than a Mad Run on Toilet Paper!

Yep! We are smart people. After all, if you're going to be hunkered down for a month or so, you'd better have enough loo rolls to keep your bum hygienic, right?

How many do you need? 10, 20, 40, 800?

Well, it turns out there's an app for that!

Next time rumors of the world's demise pop up, let's all agree to consult the Use Calculator as a sanitation supply sanity check.

And guess what? According to the article from which I borrowed the image above, not only is toilet paper a giant waste of resources, but Americans use the most! Yes! We're #1 AGAIN!

We smeared the crap out of all other countries! U.S.A.!

But watch out ... Germany is nipping at our butts. Let's not let them wipe us off the top of the toilet paper pedestal!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Here's an update for you from Atlas Obscura: 
A Brief History of TP!

Have You Received Your COVID-19 Stimulus Money Yet? 

You know, your share of the TWO TRILLION dollars we decided to print? So, what IS two trillion dollars? What if you spent that amount, spread out evenly, over the course of your lifetime?

It turns out that there are 700,800 hours in a lifespan of 80 years. This means you'd have to spend $2,853,881 per hour ... or $47,564 per minute your ENTIRE LIFE!

To put it in visual perspective, our friends at Gizmodo have produced a handy graphic to get an idea of what 1 trillion dollars looks like. So look at their graphic and multiply it by two!

That stack of cash is really hard to imagine.

P.S., I hope we all live more than 80 years. So, let's go with 100 years! In that case, there are 876,000 hours in a lifetime. You'd have to spend just $2,283,105 per hour, or $38,052 per minute! Whew! What a relief! That's much more doable.

And Then There's Saturn's Rings!

The current thinking is that a moon 250 miles in diameter strayed a wee bit too close to the gas giant. Saturn's gravity pulled the moon apart, casting its 17 QUADRILLION TONS of (mostly) water ice into the rings we see today.

  • Saturn's Rings Fun Fact #1 - While the rings are 170,000 miles across they are typically just 30 feet thick!

Crazy stuff, that solar system of ours!

I invite you to take your own PlanetTourAlong via the five part series on NOVA!

But Now, Let's Get Small...


Very minuscule, tiny small things are what drives the device you're using to read this TourAlong. In the world of digital devices, small is measured in nanometers—or billionths of a meter.

The image above isn't dental work. It's a scanning electron microscope's image of computer chip transistors, or "switches." Each "tower" is just 5 nanometers across. A single computer chip sporting these bad boys packs 30 BILLION switches in an area the size of your fingernail! And THAT'S why your "mobile phone" is really a remarkably powerful computer! A remarkably powerful computer that we use for a myriad of silly things.

So how can we relate to a nanometer?

Grab a piece of paper to ponder and LET'S GO!

A typical piece of paper is .0039 inches thick. So, a stack of 10,000 pieces of paper is 39 inches high ... roughly one meter, or one billion nanometers. Divide one billion by 10,000 and you're left with 100,000. A piece of paper is 100,000 nanometers thick
Visualize this: If a nanometer was equal to an inch, that piece of paper would be 1.58 miles high!

Now, think about a single computer chip transistor that's just 5 nanometers across and compare it to the 100,000 nanometer thickness of a piece of paper.

Turns out ... it's kind of hard to relate to a nanometer!


Well, how about a 2.5 nanometer transistor? This technology is truly at the atomic scale, with atomic manufacturing techniques at work. After all, the size of atoms range from 0.1 - 0.5 nanometers! Or ... how about just making transistors that ARE single atoms!

Do You Want to Get REALLY Small? ...

And Now, It's Plank Time!

No! Not that kind of plank time, but Planck Time!

Scientists studying the birth of the Universe—what happened during the very first second of the Big Bang—use a unit of time to help them break that first second into small "slices" for study. T
hat unit of time is Planck Time ... and don't forget its cousin, Planck Length!

It turns out A LOT happened in that first second of time. I don't pretend to understand things like superstring theory or quantum effects on space-time, but what I can plagiarize is that Planck measurements were created to study gravity at the quantum level.

What is Planck time? What is Planck length?

The PhysLink website explains these this way:

Planck time is the time it would take a photon traveling at the speed of light to cross a distance equal to the Planck length. This is the 'quantum of time', the smallest measurement of time that has any meaning, and is equal to 10-43 seconds. No smaller division of time has any meaning. Within the framework of the laws of physics as we understand them today, we can say only that the universe came into existence when it already had an age of 10-43 seconds.

Planck length is the scale at which classical ideas about gravity and space-time cease to be valid, and quantum effects dominate. This is the 'quantum of length', the smallest measurement of length with any meaning. And roughly equal to 1.6 x10-35m or about 10-20 times the size of a proton.

So Just How Small is a Slice of Planck time?

And the answer is? ...

GET THIS: There are more slices of Planck Time in ONE second than there have been seconds since the Big Bang happened almost 14 billion years ago!

Let's wrap this up: Remember our Nanometer? You know, one billionth of a meter? Well consider that a proton's size is one MILLIONTH of a nanometer, and a Planck Length is 10-20 times the size of a proton (or 10 QUINTRILLION times smaller than a proton). Yikes! That's a pretty tiny distance!


There You Go!

And after all that, I'm hungry!

I think I'll grab a big ol' slice of that Planck Time pie, pour a hot Cup-o-Swiss-Cow Chocolate Milk, and add a plate of Madeira on the side!

Until next time ... dream about travel ... and think big ... and think small!

Ciao! ~ Todd


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