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Sci Tech    H4'ed 4/25/19

Why Are We Here? Where Do We Come From?

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Why are we here, where do we come from? Have you ever wondered about the one way arrow of time? How long have humans been around, compared to life on earth, or to earth itself? How long does it take for our solar system to go around the center of the Milky Way? Why it is that everything we do seems to proceed from order to disorder? Where do the atoms you consist of come from? Where the universe is headed in the long haul? What is so special about consciousness in the whole shebang?

If you haven't pondered such things, no need to read further. Otherwise, I confess up front that this essay is something of an advertisement (for a one week "free, intelligent Netflix" program), yet also a door to finding out these answers with a few clicks of the mouse. [Note: As I go to post this, I find the first video actually free online, which you can watch for yourself as linked to above. But I am recommending this as one reason that you should give Curiosity Stream at least a one week free trial; it's $5 a month should you wish to continue with it. For the record, I get zero commission.]

Briefly put, my background is in science and education, along with environmental interests and inventing. I was born in 1947, steeped in science, and now convinced beyond doubt that we are deep in abrupt climate change and near term extinction for most or all of life on earth. From that perspective especially, I have great interest in "the larger picture," including the questions above, and new developments in our understanding of the world and universe around us.

Thus it is that when my wife turned me on to the program "Curiosity Stream" about two years ago, I largely curtailed my reading of books and shifted gears to watching the most educational videos around.

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In this manner I learned more than I did in seven years of college, watching absolutely captivating videos on my cell phone, typically lying in bed with headphones, so my wife could continue reading her countless books without my disturbing her.

This is one scientist in particular, one among many, who has absolutely fascinated and educated me. You may have heard of Professor Brian Cox, from England, who in my humble opinion surpasses most or all science educators, past and present, including such luminaries as Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Jay Gould, Jim Al-Khalili, or Richard Dawkins, to cite a few. David Attenborough once said to Brian that if he had a torch to pass along, he would pass it to Brian. David has long been a major hero of mine, though I could easily add many others to the list I've learned from.

But it is Brian's series, "Wonders of the Universe," put out by the BBC--which spares no expense in its science productions--that I am talking about here.

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Why? I believe any thinking person knows we are hovering on the edge of extinction, even though that is not specifically what Professor Cox discusses in this captivating four part series. But Wonders of the Universe is about the larger picture of our place in deep time and space, with its broad yet specific strokes covering the history of life on earth, that is inescapable from the second law of thermodynamics, namely entropy, an inevitable progression from order to disorder, that both got us here and will ultimately take us out of here, on an individual, species, planetary, and cosmic level.

At the same time, Brian approaches this from what I have to call a deeply spiritual approach--take that as you may after seeing the series--and shows us our connection to the universe and intimate place in it, vividly demonstrating that we are an infinitesimal yet also integral "part of the whole." Indeed, we are the eyes of the universe looking in at itself. It is that spirit of connection, demonstrated in the most concrete terms, that so interests and inspires me. Particularly as we see the deterioration of the world around us, environmentally, politically, socially, financially, and pretty much any way you look at it.

Let me toss out a few ideas that Brian so aptly describes. Our entire solar system takes about 250 million years to rotate around our galaxy, one of hundreds of billions of galaxies, and last I heard trillions of galaxies in the known universe, with billions of stars in each, about 400 billion in our own local hangout (the series is a few years old and I toss in a few items and numbers I've come across since), namely the Milky Way. With similar amounts of stars in all the other galaxies we have studied, via astounding new telescopes.

The entire lifespan of Homo sapiens, one species of about 20 hominoids (last I heard), took a mere 1/10th of one percent of that trip around the center of the Milky Way!

That blink of the cosmic eye, if it can even be called that, is an even smaller fraction of the 13.7 billion years (that's 13.7 with eight zeros) that the universe has been around, starting with the Big Bang, that (again last I heard), was one one trillionth of the size of a proton, aka 1/1,000,000,000,000, or in terms we can understand, pretty much nothing! Not to mention that the atom itself is made of pretty much nothing, clearly explained in one of the four videos in the series. Meaning of course that you yourself are essentially made of nothing!

I will not even mention the conceivable infinite number of other universes that string theory strongly suggests, which this series does not delve into.

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I am reminded of "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas click here, but can only conclude that that is a mighty generous view of our place in "real time and space."

Brian jumps around the planet like a grasshopper, or more precisely like David Attenborough, travelling to some of the most fascinating places on earth. Sit with turtles that were around with or before the dinosaurs, for a few hundred or more million years, laying eggs once a year in the same manner for that entire time. Visit the "Gates of Hell" near Portugal, where thousands of ships were wrecked over the ages, and where the survivors shortly ended their days (specifically the Edward Boing, that went down on Sept 5, 1909). Visit that and other places with Brian, and watch one phase of that ship's gradual dissolution in the ever blowing desert sands. Learn about the formation of the 92 elements that make up yourself, your loved ones, myself, all life on earth, earth itself, and in fact the entire universe, formed most literally by the life and death of stars. Learn with amazing clarity that we are all, in truth, "children of the stars."

Witness the eminently sane Hindu belief in reincarnation, but from a perspective of the actual recycling of our molecules and atoms. Learn about the various kinds of stars and how different ones produced different elements, and about the fate of our own particular sun, along with the oldest known human measuring of our sun's cycles, an estimated 2,500 years ago, in a remote site in Peru. Understand how our distant ancestors watched it and undoubtedly revered it.

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In my run for U.S. Senate against Utah's Orrin Hatch, I posted many progressive ideas and principles that I internalized over the years. I'm leaving that site up indefinitely, since it describes what I believe most members of our species truly (more...)
 

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David Watts

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Thank you Daniel. You said all of that really really

well.

I will watch the video later. I look forward to it very much.

Submitted on Saturday, Apr 27, 2019 at 9:15:25 PM

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My pleasure. Want to mention that this is a low quality video and I recommend Curiosity Stream for a week free trial, not just for this, but to poke around a bit and be amazed.

Submitted on Sunday, Apr 28, 2019 at 12:14:13 AM

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molly cruz

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Thank the sheep. They took us out at night and gave us nothing to do but watch the sky. We are the fringe, the cutting edge, the Bouncer at the door who punches meteors in the face, and the Busdriver who will one day sail out of here with an Ark-load of goodies and find a new home.

The Artist with the Agenda is Nature, or Ma, as I call her; who operates on a need-to-know basis and takes no prisoners. In short, we are a device to save Life on Earth and to take it elsewhere and that's all there is to it, and it's going to take the whole planet to accomplish it all.


Ours is the most complex job, which is why She gives us such a pass. We are Her little darlings, going to save her garden! It took Ma eons to coax us to this point, and just look at us! We're climbing around the solar system like monkeys in a tree!

Submitted on Monday, Apr 29, 2019 at 10:48:28 PM

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... :)

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019 at 9:10:55 AM

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* :) *

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019 at 2:06:46 PM

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** :) **

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019 at 5:23:32 PM

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Molly, I feel the need to let you know your comment is the most insightful comment I have ever read!

A couple of the things you said particularly hit home with me -- "Thank the sheep. They took us out at night and gave us nothing to do but watch the sky." "Bouncer at the door who punches meteors in the face" "Ma, as I call her; who operates on a need-to-know basis and takes no prisoners" "Ours is the most complex job, which is why She gives us such a pass" "It took Ma eons to coax us to this point, and just look at us!" "We are Her little darlings, going to save her garden!" AND(!) "We're climbing around the solar system like monkeys in a tree!"

Shoot, I needn't have spent all that time cutting and pasting. I just should have reprinted your entire comment.

Molly, what can I say other than, :)!

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019 at 5:58:33 PM

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Thank you David. You can say, "I always wondered why all our sports involve trapping and exporting a ball, how each one describes a different technique."

Or, "What were those astronomers cum prophets, saying; as they tried to make clear to hosts of ignorant illiterate people what was in store for the planet, other than that God is angry and returning with fire, and the only remedy is prayer?"

Or, "War, what is it good for?", when it's obvious that nuclear weapons are our gift to the planet, our beaver's dam, our honey bee's hexagonal grid, our spider's web.

Our reason to be is the glorious web in which we dwell, as the only ones who can deal with the End of Days intelligently, because we are intelligence incarnate, or "spirit" if you will. You can say "Ah! That's what Jesus meant when he said 'in my Father's house are Many Mansions.'!" And it's our job to find them! And you can say to the next befuddled teen who can't seem to find a reason to love humanity, "You belong to the species that will save Life on Earth!"

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019 at 6:27:25 PM

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Reply to molly cruz:   New Content

Molly, first of all, you make me smile. Second of all, you do it with creative wording that says something meaningful in a dryish-humor manner. And thirdly, because of that, I understand you must be a very interesting person. I appreciate that... :)

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019 at 7:07:27 PM

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David,

I couldn't be more serious. I feel like I found a lost puzzle piece in some dusty corner, a few actually. Look at this: The Bible, or the early part, is one big riddle!

You have David slinging a stone in Goliath's eye, a minor power understanding that it ain't what you do , it's the way how'cha do it, and specifically, where.

Next, you have Noah, gathering DNA before the flood. Look at us, reducing life to digits and freezing seeds, making 'terrariums' and balancing stuff within them. What for? Space, that's what.

Finally, there goes Jonah in his "whale", a silvery tube that nurtures him in an alien environment. All three seem prescient but otherwise irrelevant in historic significance, but again, we have this time-translation affect that can distort a fact in a week, not to mention thousands of years. These myths hint at a grasp o what at the time would have been 'miraculous' technologies.

We've lost our brilliant past that rendered calendars in stone telling us to the day when an asteroid might hit, and machines doing things we only replicated in the last few decades. Clearly this enlightenment thing is a bumpy road. The idea that "In the beginning was the word" tugs at instinct, imagery, formulas, things that seem to run the fuzzy clockwork of the Universe to which Life gives the finger, metaphorically speaking. Physics dictates every move the Universe makes, thank God, or we couldn't be tracking anything anywhere, thank you baseball for making that perfectly clear.

But we get up and walk at will, take the rough ride upstream when physics suggests a free ride down; and we coil when a straight line would get us there faster. Life is abundantly different from everything around it, hence unpredictable. But as we developed, things hit this planet thousands of times, reducing every form to jelly; and there's a notch in our DNA for every one.

We have a sense of timing about these things that's engraved in our deepest places.

We know when it's coming and we're scurrying around dealing with it almost on the sly, like I said "Need to Know" is operative here. BUT IT WOULD BE NICE IF THIS TRUTH, WHEN GRASPED, COULD FOSTER THE UNITY IT WILL TAKE TO PULL IT OFF; BECAUSE THIS IS THE ONLY ENEMY ANY OF US EVER REALLY HAD.

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019 at 7:38:33 PM

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Oh my god Molly, I am without almost any sleep. I will get back to you. But I hope to god that when I awake again I can muster up the strength to understand what you said ... because what you said, I realize is something very worth understanding ...

Heading straight to the couch ... I wish myself pleasant dreams. You and everyone else tooo...

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019 at 8:40:03 PM

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It will keep. :)

P.S, the Bible part is just for fun, but cool I think.

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019 at 9:18:52 PM

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Molly, I have become best friends with Janet Supriano. We have never met in person but we exchange emails and talk on the phone. I will meet her soon. Once we even spoke about you. It was all good. I think you will understand this, Janet and I share a song. I am not religious and never have been. Janet has a Catholic story to tell. Her story comes out in the song "Canons of Christianity" by Phil Ochs. Have a listen and share your thoughts with me and I will share them with Janet. First the words and then a link to the song:

"Canons Of Christianity"

Christian cannons have fired at my days
With the warning beneath the holy blaze
And bow to our authority
Say the cannons of christianity

Oh the children will be sent to schools
Minds of clay are molded to their rules
Learn to fear all of eternity
Warn the cannons of christianity

Holy hands will count the money raised
Like a king the lord is richly praised
On a cross of diamond majesty
Say the cannons of christianity

Missionaries will travel on crusades
The word is given, the heathen souls are saved
Conversions to our morality
Sigh the cannons of christianity

Come the wars and turn the rules around
To bend your soul on the battle ground
And the lord will march beside me
Drone the cannons of christianity

Cathedral walls will glitter with their gold
And the sermons speak through silver robes
Building castles amidst the poverty
Say the cannons of christianity

Worship now and wash your sins away
Drop the coins, fall to your knees and pray
Cleanse the world of all hypocrisy
Smile the cannons of christianity

Christian cannons have fired at my days
With the warning beneath the holy blaze
And bow to our authority
Say the cannons of christianity


Cannons of Christianity - Phil Ochs Phil Ochs (1940-1976) was an American folk/protest singer known for his sharp wit and sardonic sense of humor. A movie recently came out about him called ...
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Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019 at 11:35:46 PM

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The hijackers distorted what was a dubious myth in the first place; however I see no point in disparaging the past. I bet Jesus was fab, when thought was new, a politically dangerous political upstart, laying the seeds of Democracy. My main take on all this is how little we know about anything, but we're doing a damn good job of figuring it out.

Gathering Nature's economic outlook, I question nothing, as I perceive She doesn't waste Her time or stuff, so I assume EVERYTHING is absolutely necessary, but from our perspective it looks like slavery and martyrdom for us.

We have, within our assigned existence, all kinds of opportunity for 'deliverance' as it were. We wallow in 'expression', 'finding ourselves', 'correctness' , oh, gag.

I like ice dancing, Gothic cathedrals, microscopes and telescopes, and black Baptist church choirs.

I'm also nuts about aqueducts. Aren't they beautiful and amazing? Never mind fracked crap; we should be pumping water around and about; there's going to be a lot of it to spare I understand. I think a lot of it will soak back into the ground from where we sucked it out, but we could pipe it to the deserts and fix them up.

In short, I don't blame Jesus for nuthin. I blame Winter for everything.

The magic word for today is "Inspiration".

Submitted on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 12:26:23 PM

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Reply to molly cruz:   New Content

Molly, with each comment you write I find you ever more intriguing. I have talked a little bit about you with Janet. She said we could come to wherever it is in California where you live -- I don't remember where -- and have a beer. Janet said, and I agree with her, the only problem would be trying to keep up with you in conversation. If we drank enough beer that may not matter. :)

I have begun to wonder how the wheels turn inside your mind. I get the feeling that what you write rolls effortlessly off your tongue ... or your out of your pen or into your keyboard. In case you don't understand, that is a sincere complement.

Molly, this is where we disagree. I don't blame winter for anything. Winter just plays her assigned part in the cycle of the seasons. And winter is what makes the change of the season from the end of winter becoming spring something to look forward to and feel good about.

I don't think much about aqueducts but maybe I will start. There is one though that I had the opportunity to gaze at in about 1982. It was the Roman Aquaduct of Pont Du Gard in southern France. Beautiful. I understand your aqueduct delight.


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*** :) ***

Submitted on Thursday, May 2, 2019 at 5:53:27 AM

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A most beautiful aqueduct! You're the sweetest thing! You and Jan will have to come to Costa Rica, which is really pretty right now and I can put you up. I'd adore that because I'm bored. I live right on a private beach by the way. As for Winter, it's kind of a joke. But when one of the several ice ages hit, we were altered for good (part of the aforementioned plot) into hunters, killers, carnivores, and the whole mess of war started, so I blame Winter, whose ecological roll I quite admire actually; it's just a quip I came up with about a year ago. Winter made us what we are, and as I said, we're here to save the Earth, so I suppose we could give Winter a little medal. Notice I capitalize it, because I never understood why not. So. Are you coming? Otherwise you have to wait until July when I'll be back in Santa Cruz. But flights are quite cheap to here, and once you got here you'd be covered. Got monkeys.....

Submitted on Thursday, May 2, 2019 at 1:07:36 PM

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Reply to molly cruz:   New Content

molly, I will get back to you. Thank you for the invite offer. Janet says thank you too. It would be wonderful to be getting some sun with you and Janet and passionately engaged on a private beach in talk about whether or not the seasons and your name were meant to be capitalized while playing with and having a beer with your monkeys. If I can work it out, I will bring my monkeys with me. I am sure our monkeys would get along just great. Janet has a Packy dog who I am sure likes beer drinking monkeys. Packy is more of a wine drinker but I am sure they would get along.

Do you know if monkeys require a visa?

**** :) ****

p.s. At first consideration it probably is not possible to make it to Costa Rica. I have some issues and Janet does too. But thank you very much again for the invite. Maybe some day we can make it work in Santa Cruz...

Submitted on Friday, May 3, 2019 at 2:42:22 AM

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

C'est la vie. Santa Cruz is lovely. Esp. in July. I don't booze hardly at all, having been raised by functional alcoholics. Still, there's nothing like a good beer. I can't eat sushi without one. I'm getting the feeling we're using valuable public space for nonsense. cruzmolly@gmail. Nice chatting!

Submitted on Friday, May 3, 2019 at 12:17:23 PM

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David Watts

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Reply to molly cruz:   New Content

I agree. Nice chatting. :)

Submitted on Monday, May 6, 2019 at 9:05:06 PM

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