Science fiction movies have given us the idea that “space” is almost endless emptiness, dark, and dangerous. That may be true for our senses, because oursenses are designed for us, at this time, on this planet. Through our eyes we see only a tiny fraction of all the energies around us; we hear another tiny fraction of the energies around us. Scientists who observe and measure the universe tell us that in reality the universe is filled with energies. Huge energies are interacting, crossing over and under and through each other, in a great tumultuous dance.
Einstein formulated that seemingly simple statement of the close relationship between matter and energies that we thought different; just different phases of “it.“ Uranium is matter, but with a little push it explodes into energy.
Later scientists formulated the Second Law of ThermoDynamics that states: energies eventually even out, run down -- as a river runs down. At the mouth of the river the water hardly moves any more. “Entropy,” physicists call the eventual running down of all energies in the universe.
On this planet (and probably a trillion others as well) Life is “anti-entropic.” Life counters that principle toward death by renewing itself constantly. Not only in the same form but also in minute changes of form, color, function. Every now and then a minute change can make a difference in how a particular form of life thrives. It takes time, but time is no factor in the universe.
Nature -- I like to think of it as the planetary ecology -- is a chaos of variety, color, shape, size, function: life forms in all shapes or color imaginable, and constantly changing. Little shifts here and there. The essence of any ecology is the balance of all the interacting varieties. A living balance, ever renewing itself, not running out --------- until, of course, the planet is no longer warmed by the sun. Then entropy... the river is flat, no flow.
But as far as we know that is far in the future, a few billion years.
On a much shorter time scale:
Sixty-five million years ago, give or take a million, the earth was warm and watery, plants and trees grew lush and thick in soft ground and swamps. In the background volcanoes spew hot ashes in the atmosphere, One kind of animals gets bigger and bigger; we call them dinosaurs. There is not enough energy in plants to move and maintain such enormous beasts, so they must eat each other. Protein becomes a resource in short supply. We don’t know what happened, but it is not difficult to imagine that dinosaurs got so big that there weren’t enough other dinosaurs to provide the necessary protein. Starvation. In a short time (say, a hundred thousand years) dinosaurs disappeared from the planet. We now have their distant descendants, much smaller of course: chickens, offspring of the spookiest of dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Sixty-five million years later, gave or take a million, the earth now colder and dryer. Apes learn to survive by standing up, using now free hands to make tools. The new and better apes, now called men, also have bigger heads, albeit precariously supported at the very top of a skeleton designed for a horizontal not a vertical structure, to dream up new ways to flourish. The hands manipulate (from the latin “handfull”), and the big heads can dream up objects that never existed, and ideas never experienced. Hands, no longer needed for walking, can make the objects the big heads imagine. Now, the big heads, always busy, think of new ways to BE: they imagine change, better, newer, MORE. More things, more food, more mobility, longer life times, and on and on. The slogan of our civilization is more and better forever and ever.
We, homo sapiens as we call ourselves (“wise Man”), now use five times more resources than the planet can replenish in the same time. Unless we change our ways, the planet will be so impoverished that there will be no more food, nor air to breathe.
The end of another of Nature’s experiments that did not quite make it. Will there be a species in 65 million years that can claim distant relation to us? If so, then probably less smart, more wise; less I, more we.