The whole universe is made of nothing!

The whole universe is made of nothing!

atom

I’ve just read an article about string theory and quarks.

All atoms are made of quarks. Quarks are the smallest particles of matter known to man.

The theory is that a quark is made up of a piece of space fabric that is folded up and exists in six dimensions.

My understanding of space fabric is that it is nothing. So all matter is thought to be made of nothing folded into six dimensions. Amazing.

I have trouble getting my head round a universe with three dimensions (four if you count time). I can’t imagine what six dimensions would actually be. My brain hurts.

So the whole universe is basically nothing folded. Shakespeare was right. All life is but a dream.

Isn’t science incredible. I can’t wait to find out more. Ruth is certainly stranger than Richard!

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Is there intelligence in space?

Is there intelligence in space?

While the possibility for life is hugely likely, given the immense time and enormous quantity of planets, the evolution of intelligence is another matter. That requires even greater overcoming of limitations. Intelligence requires sophisticated cells. The development of such sophistication is an immensely unlikely event on a par with that of the formation and incorporation of DNA.

On this planet the incorporation of DNA took place early on when the Earth had cooled and conditions were right. The formation of Eukaryotic cells (sophisticated cells that would support complex multi-celled life) requires two incredible occurrences. Firstly they have to incorporate or evolve cellular powerhouses to provide energy. On Earth this happened when bacteria (that were mitochondria-like) became symbiotically incorporated into cells. Secondly they have to have incorporated chlorophyll-rich chloroplasts to break down water to release oxygen and produce food.

The plants incorporated chlorophyll rich bacteria symbiotically. In so doing they changed the atmosphere of the planet and the oxygen enabled life to become more complex.

These two limiting factors are incredibly difficult leaps.

Not only do planets have to be in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ and have given rise to life that incorporates DNA (or its equivalent) but it would also have to evolve through these two other immensely difficult bottle-necks in order to achieve the complexity necessary for intelligence.

The consensus is that this will only occur on an incredibly small number of occasions.

Fortunately – with the zillions of planets out there and the colossal periods of time involved even the most unlikely events will occur. That is what is so incredibly awesome.

All things are possible given enough time and an almost infinite system.

There are probably billions of planets on which life will have occurred and there are likely to be hundreds of thousands of planets out there supporting intelligent life!

Which is more scary? Having a universe with other intelligent life or that we are the only ones?

If there is intelligence out there! How do we contact it?

Is there life out there?

Is there life out there?

 

In order for life to have evolved on a planet conditions have to be perfect. The planet has to be in a narrow band the right distance away from a sun. This is called the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ (not too hot and not too cold). Not only that but it has to be the right sort of star; one that will be stable and not give out devastating radiation.

That narrows the possibilities down substantially.

Fortunately the number of stars out there with planets just in our own galaxy is trillions. When you narrow it down there are billions of suns with the right attributes and planets that exist in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’.

Given the early emergence of life on this planet shortly after it had cooled (it took one and a half billion years to cool and is now four and a half billion years old) it is extremely likely that there is life on hundreds of thousands of planets. The limiting factor here is the formation and incorporation of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) to create the replication, information, organisation, mutation, change and stability necessary for life to reproduce and undergo evolution.

Time is the factor here. Given enough time (a billion years or so) anything that can happen does.

The consensus is that our galaxy alone is probably teeming with life. If it wasn’t for the vast, as yet insurmountable, distances involved we would already had discovered it. As it is we are unlikely to in the foreseeable future because distances between stars are too large. Even light takes hundreds and thousands of years to get here.

There are possibilities that we will discover extra-terrestrial life in our own solar system. It could be on Mars or the moon Europa. Time will tell. What we can be sure of is that this life is not likely to be as complex as us.

This life will probably be in the form of prokaryotic slime (bacterial scum).

We are not alone! There is life out there!

The bigger question is does this life ever evolve to create intelligence?

I’ll look at that next!

Wonder and Awe – Man and Intelligence.

Wonder and Awe – Man and Intelligence.

 

The saddest aspect of being a human being is that there is only one species of us. It has led us to believe we are something special, something that is above all other life. Many people struggle to think of us as animals.

We are animals. We are intelligent animals. We have fabulous brains that give us consciousness. We think that sets us apart. It doesn’t.

We are not the most intelligent animal that has ever lived on this planet, let alone what intelligences may exist on other worlds. We are not even the most intelligent organism on this planet now. We are not even the most intelligent species of human who has ever lived on this planet.

Brains operate like super-computers. It is the size that is important. Our brains contain 85 billion brain cells – neurons – which is about the same number of stars as in a small galaxy. However each of those cells is connected via dendrites to between 10,000 and a 100,000 other brain cells. That is a staggering number of connections.

The human brain is between 1300 grams (the racists) and 1400 grams (the rest of us).

By comparison the brain of a chimpanzee (our closest relative with whom we share 99% of our genes) is only 400 grams.

There was a rapid evolutionary change occurred around 1.8 million years ago (very recent in evolutionary terms). Our brains grew from 400 grams to 1400 grams.

I said earlier that we are not the most intelligent animal on the planet. That distinction falls to the cetaceans. Not all of us consider them super-intelligent because they do not build cities and weapons. That is how we judge intelligence.

Whales and dolphins do not have limbs to create tools. They live in the sea and do not need shelter. They have plentiful food and do not need to work.

They play, sing, spend time together and enjoy themselves. They do not pollute, overpopulate or destroy one another. They are not cruel, barbaric and vicious. They do not create religions.

That sounds like intelligence to me.

The size of a sperm whales brain  is a staggering 7800 grams. That is over five times that of a human.

The brain of a bottle-nose dolphin is between 1500-1700 grams – bigger than a human.

Of course you may like to suggest that intelligence is not all about brain size. The evidence from bird intelligence (with small brains) is that there are other factors though size is crucially important.

If you take into account body mass to brain ratio then we still do not come out too good. Even the tree shrew outdoes us.

The obvious intelligence of the cetaceans is extant in numerous ways and makes it even more disgusting when you consider the incredibly callous way we have treated them. We have deployed our technology to kill races of gentle, intelligent creatures. We have blown them up with explosive harpoons, stabbed and hacked them to death. In the Faroes they are still gaffing and sawing through their necks. The barbarity is appalling.

These creatures are probably more intelligent and sensitive than humans. Stop the slaughter!

It seems incredible to me that we spent billions trying to find even the most crudest form of life elsewhere in the galaxy while ignoring the obvious intelligent life under our own noses. Perhaps we should be trying harder to communicate?

Back to the subject.

I said earlier that we are not the most intelligent human that has lived on this planet. That accolade goes to the Neanderthals. We share a common ancestor and we even have some of their genes. There was some successful interbreeding. The Neanderthals, far from being the shambling cavemen of our cartoons, were more intelligent than us. Their brain size was 1500 grams to 1800 grams.

As more intelligent humans they were probably gentler. We – the moronic cousins – were more cynical and vicious. We lived side by side up until as recently as a mere 150,000 years ago. Then we destroyed them.

How I wish we hadn’t. Wouldn’t it be great if there were two intelligent species of human beings living on this planet now? It would blow all that religious superiority out of the water – particularly when we were clearly the lesser of the two in intelligence. The biblical stories would simply not hold water.

But that was not to be. We, the inferior intelligence, prevailed.

It goes to show that there is more to being human than intelligence.

Wonder and Awe – Human Evolution.

Wonder and Awe – Human Evolution.

evolution evolution6

We were not always alone as we are now. Although we share 99% of our genes with chimpanzees and gorillas, our closest living relatives, we are different. The prime difference being the size of our brains and our intelligence. Once there were a whole host of different humans.

We evolved in the Rift Valley in Ethiopia. We are all of African descent. We are all one species.

The fossil and DNA evidence is conclusive. Racists and creationists have nowhere to hide. All they can do is deny.

A mere five million years ago our common ancestor split off from the chimp line. The Australopithecines had a brain weight of 500 grams (slightly bigger than a chimp). By 1.8 million years ago there were numerous groups of hominids living in the Rift Valley region. We were not alone. They included Homo habilis and Homo erectus.

Life in the Rift Valley was precarious. There was a lot of climatic change.

By 1.4 million years ago only Homo erectus had survived. But their brain size had evolved to 1000 grams.

800,000 years ago Homo heidelbergensis had evolved. Their brain weight had jumped to 1400 grams (comparable to modern man). They gave rise to both the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.

Homo sapiens evolved with a brain weight of 1500 grams only 200,000 years ago. We lived alongside our close, and more intelligent, cousins Homo Neanderthal until 45,000 years ago.

We have only been alone for 45,000 years. What a mess we’ve made of things in such a short time!

We are so new that if you took a baby from 200,000 years ago and brought them up in the present day they could be a nuclear scientist, president or rocket scientist without any trouble. We haven’t changed. Our brains are the same.

I like to imagine that somewhere, in a secluded garden of Eden, hidden away, a group of surviving Neanderthals have set up home. Despairing of the destructive violence of their cousins they cloistered themselves away.

I wonder what they would make of the world we have made and our invention of war, religion, pollution, overpopulation, politics, climate change, cruel ways to kill other animals and enough greed, selfishness and power-madness to destroy the planet.

Perhaps with their wisdom and intelligence they could convince us that there is a better way of living. We could take a lesson from the whales and dolphins. We could be gentle and live in a self-sustaining manner in harmony with each other and the planet.

I hope we find them soon. I’m scared of being alone with the megalomaniacs raging around me.

Wouldn’t it be good to have more senses??

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a full range of senses to see the world in all its splendour – to see the full spectrum of the electromagnetic spectrum – and more!

How about UV, Gamma, X-Ray and Infra-red?? What would the world look like if we saw magnetism? What we actually see and perceive is a tiny fraction of the energy that is out there and we are truly stranded between the microcosm and macrocosm without seeing either without our instruments.

I often wonder about the senses of other animals. The smell of dogs. Do they actually form a mental image of the world from scent?

What are these faculties that homing pigeons possess? How do they know their position?

Then there is the human zeitgeist. We seem to share a sense of the times. Every era has a feel to it that is contagious.

Then the synchronicity between people – like shared ideas, shared consciousness. More developed in some than others. Does it have a real scientific basis? Do we communicate in ways we do not yet understand?

So much more to be understood!

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

I believe there is truth. It might not be absolute but it is near enough.
Science has brought us an amazing advancement in technology that has altered the world and transformed our lives. Some of that is for the best and some of that is far worse. Mostly it has improved.
We are always very keen to seize the fruits of this work – transport, energy, computers, medicine, materials, gadgets……… but we are keen to bash scientists and experts if they are not one hundred percent certain.
We have gone from the horse and cart and oil lanterns to nuclear fusion and space stations in no time at all.
So we will place our trust in the latest jet-liner but will reject evolution. We will try the latest cancer drug treatment but deny climate change.

And science is still in its infancy.

The truth? What is that? It has many levels. Is it a factual concept of what has occurred, how it has occurred and how that operates?
That is what we are investigating. We are in the infancy of science. We have understood so much so quickly. We still have a lot to learn. But we have made great progress. Scientists and experts have a pretty good handle on what is going on – far better than any of the ‘public’ or politicians.

I contend that Social Cohesion is much more important than the careers of politicians.

We need to put an end to this politicisation of information – both the perversion of science and the constant crying of Fake News and Project Fear. It is tearing apart the fabric of society.

Populism is destroying cohesion. It is tearing our societies apart and playing into the hands of those who want us to fall.
It’s time we put more faith into scientists and experts. They do not all talk rubbish.
Species extinction is real.
Climate change is real.
Evolution is real.
Brexit will badly damage our country.
Trump is actively causing division and hatred.

A healthy scepticism is one thing. Total rejection of all the evidence is something else. We are throwing the baby out with the bath water and allowing the religious lunatics and political extremists to spout their stupidity unopposed.
Look at the lunatics that are raising their heads with their fundamentalist claptrap!

Stephen Hawking – Parting shots for Brexit and Trump

Stephen Hawking – the greatest mind of modern times – gave a speech that he had recorded shortly before his death in which he lambasted both Brexit and Trump, which he saw as great dangers to the future of mankind.

In the final speech, which was aired yesterday at the launch of his last book he pulled no punches.

He warned that both Brexit and Trump were fuelling a global revolt against experts.

He enumerated his greatest concerns for mankind which included the following:

Climate change

Soaring global population

The rapid extinction of other species

The need to develop renewable energy sources

The degradation of the oceans

Deforestation

and Epidemic diseases.

I don’t think I would have made a list that was much different to that myself.

The world has lost a huge mind who recognised the dangers we face. Unfortunately we are being lied to and led by selfish, greedy, ideological morons.

Stephen Hawking entreated us to ‘Look at the stars and not our feet!’

He warned that both science and technology research was in the greatest danger and that we were in danger of becoming more culturally isolated and insular.

He said that both Brexit and Trump were leading a global revolt against experts and scientists with dire consequences.

Thank you Stephen. We’ll all miss your intelligence and perceptiveness!!

Meanwhile we’re left behind here with the moronic, fear-ridden lies of May and Trump. A plague upon the two of them!

Populism – The death spasm of the WASP.

I think we are seeing the death spasm of the old fearful WASPs who are seeing their world eroded and can now see the writing on the wall.

They have had the upper hand and a sense of superiority that goes with it, the arrogance of the master, but the future is not WASP. Any fool can see that. That is why they are full of fear and hate. The future is much more of a mixture, much more global. But it is so difficult for some people to change and accept the changes. They fight to retain everything just as it was. It’s a battle they are doomed to lose.

No matter how much hatred and division they generate, no matter how many white supremacist leaders they elect, no matter how many walls they build, biology will win out.

The demes are mixing. The barriers are down. Sexual attraction favours variety.

The future looks distinctly brown and will be much better for it.

Human evolution – It was the cows wot done it!

Human evolution – It was the cows wot done it!

As hunter/gatherers our diets were varied but dependent on the success of the hunt. We needed the protein from the meat but hunting was precarious and difficult. Life was hard and lived on the edge. There were times of famine.
Then we had the brainwave of farming. ‘Why go off hunting the buggers when we can capture a couple and breed ‘em up so that they’re easy to get and always available’, and ‘Why go out gathering the stuff when it’s hard to find and spread out? Why not sow some seeds and get it all to come up in one place and there’s lots of it?’
Intelligence is wonderful.
But even that did not solve our problems. The crops grew in season. There were gluts and shortages. Storage was hard. The pests took their share. There were still periods of starvation.
We had evolved to digest milk as babies but lost the ability in adulthood.
Natural selection weeded out the starving.
But now there was milk available and you could make butter, cheese and yoghourt if only it didn’t make you sick and you could digest it.
There was a mutation in a gene for lactose tolerance. It enabled adults to digest milk. The ones with the mutated gene had added nutrition through winter and their survival rates rocketed.
They were selected.
Nowadays we can see the prevalence of this gene. It is throughout populations in Europe and Asia.
It is an example of human evolution.
The Sci-fi novels assume the big evolutionary changes will be in intelligence. There is no reason why it should. It will only be beneficial if it gives a clear advantage. The most likely evolution in humans will be a mutation that affords resistance to a disease. Intelligence will count for nothing.
We owe our present success in temperate regions to cows and milk. It is the cows wot done it!