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Archive for the ‘Earth’ Category

The Spectrum

In Culture, Earth, Life, Philosophy on July 4, 2014 at 6:27 am

 

You can’t even begin to imagine the scale of experimentation that Mother Nature has been up-to regarding propagation of life in various forms. Most of them might end up as a dead end on the evolutionary branches but a large number of those do turn out to be successful and thrive in their niche.

 

Humans constitute one species among all of this flora & fauna, albeit a flourishing species, if not the most. What I wanted to speculate on today, much like most of these blog entries are speculations, was about the wide range of characteristics spread out over these billions of human beings. The fundamental hereditary units are so numerous whose survival depends on ‘lucky & favorable circumstances’, rather than ‘survival of the fittest’. (The luck mentioned previously can be manufactured by manipulating resources that you may possess, or acquired, or stolen.) This range of difference is not conducive for social amalgamation of individuals, resulting in creation of artificially concocted ‘lowest common denominators’, or totems.

 

Do you believe in what I believe?

 

If not, then we have a problem. The most primitive solution to this quandary was the evolution of totems which lead to religion and now you have that totem hanging around your neck, placed nonchalantly around spots that your community gathers. Even when it comes to the application of these totems, we find the spectrum of human behavior varies. The only religion that mimics this endless variation is Hinduism. Crores of Gods for crores of humans. Islam and Christianity vouch for a single entity as their God-totem, which inevitably leads to  squabbles of the violent kind especially when given political connotations, emerging from, ‘you don’t believe what I believe’.

 

Coming back to the spectrum analogy, the sheer variety of human characteristic is visibly evident in physical traits. The same variation exists in the mental makeup of these vast number of people. People are predisposed to kill & usurp. That is how apex predation works. The notable point is that this instinct gets wired differently in individuals. It is spread out over a huge spectrum just like varied physical appearances in hominids, old and new.

 

If you ask me, altruism is the greatest experiment concocted by Nature. You will go so far in altruistic methods as long as those actions don’t cost you unfavorable outcomes, but as soon as there’s not enough ‘return on investment’ of altruism, the stakes are back to every man for himself. This is most probably the reason for emergence of conscience & reasoning, to gauge altruism. 

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Rebirth

In Cosmology, Earth, Universe on September 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm

We have successfully boarded in ourselves and laid claim to an insignificant planet in an insignificant outer region of an unremarkable spiral galaxy, Milky Way, with long arms winding towards the bright central bulge. Instead of searching for absolute truth or any nonsense of that sort we have resorted to a plastic rationalization for the reason of our existence.

Milky Way Galaxy with Sun

The Sun’s location is indicated, along with various arms of Milky Way galaxy.

For the voracious reader, here’s a link to the original paper on today’s topic – MASS EXTINCTION AND THE STRUCTURE OF THE MILKY WAY

The study points out that six major extinction events have occurred on planet Earth till now, or to put in humbly, been discernible as of yet.

These are:

  • Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) at 66 million years ago
  • Triassic-Jurassic (T-J) at 200 million years ago
  • Permian-Triassic (P-T) at 250 million years ago
  • Late Devonian (LD) at 375 million years ago
  • Late Ordovician (LO) at 445 million years ago
  • Late Cambrian (LC) at 488 million years ago

Our present global civilization is driven by the 7-day work week, and millions in currency denomination bears more relevance compared to a time-scale of million years. The fickle human brain has not been programmed to comprehend cosmic time-scales. But what needs to be understood is that the present civilization came to be because at particular points in history there have been periods where flora and fauna have flourished. We, the present human race is a result of mammals taking over a planet without an apex species. A vastly overlooked fact is that our Universe is pretty much indifferent to everything – both inanimate and animate life – the tables can be turned on an apex species in the blink of an eye.

Coming back to the published article, speculations have been abound ever since these extinction events have been detected on what caused it. Even more mystifying was the fact pertaining to how life flourished abundantly for long periods following these extinctions only to be massacred later on in the orbit around Milky Way. This new study states that the Sun revolves around the Milky Way at 26.3 km s-1 kpc-1 which happens to be at a differential increment of 11 km s-1 kpc-1 when compared to arms of our galaxy. Our solar system moves faster than Milky Way’s lethargic arms, cutting its way across life sustaining as well as hazardous regions of the galaxy.

Sun's orbit around Mikly Way galaxy

Sun’s orbit cutting across Milky Way’s arms. The Sun moves faster than the arms of our galaxy. The circled points are extinction events.

Just as the scriptures and religious diktats proclaim rebirth an essential ingredient for human spiritual development, our cosmic home is no stranger to this concept. We are but mere vessels, rolling and clanking about, crashing into each other, awaiting to be emptied and refilled, just like our planet.

Origins

In Cosmology, Earth, Life, Universe on January 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm

WMAP is an explorer launched by NASA in June 2001 which successfully produced a new Standard Model of Cosmology. It was tasked with measuring the faint cosmic background radiation left over from an early developmental stage of our universe. In the beginning, before God, the universe was filled with a uniform glow from its white-hot fog of hydrogen plasma. The expansion of the universe continued with the plasma and radiation filling it becoming cooler. This led to protons and electrons forming neutral atoms. Atoms thus formed stopped absorbing the thermal radiation resulting in a transparent universe instead of an opaque one.

Data stream for WMAP has ended and according to a publication released on 12/20/2012:

The WMAP science team has determined, to a high degree of accuracy and precision, not only the age of the universe, but also the density of atoms; the density of all other non-atomic matter; the epoch when the first stars started to shine.

The present age of the universe that our solar system is a part of is said to stand at 13.77 billion years and counting, while the Cosmic Microwave Background is the afterglow of a young universe at only 375,000 years old.

The WMAP observation lends credibility to the theory of an ‘inflation’ period for our universe where it expanded dramatically, growing more than a trillion trillion-fold in less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a second. Tiny fluctuations were generated during this expansion that eventually grew to form galaxies.

The exploration probe was able to determine the varying amount of components that constitute our universe. Atoms that make up human beings, animals, plants, planets, stars and galaxies account for a meager 4.6% of the total. A different kind of matter that has gravity, but does not emit any light, called dark matter constitutes 24%, while the majority of our universe is composed of dark energy, which acts as a source of anti-gravity and is accelerating the expansion of the universe.

Image

Why are they given names like dark matter or dark energy? Well, for one noone knows what it is and of course they aren’t emitting any form of light either. We are ordinary(?) matter and we don’t emit light either but atoms in stars are capable of it. Is dark energy an area of the universe where the stars have failed to form?  All the while we bicker and fight over local economy and destruction of our natural habitat, dark energy menacingly pushes away all our neighbouring clusters of galaxies, gradually isolating atoms to a cold and dark end.

Water II: The Water Hazard

In Earth on March 23, 2012 at 6:47 am

Education in the present era gives utmost priority to foresight. They teach you to think ahead and submit your soul to slavery for the purpose of industrialisation. If you see through this tomfoolery, rejecting subjugation then you’re labelled a slacker who doesn’t know what’s essential for survival. The hypocrisy becomes increasingly evident when the masters overseeing the industrialisation conveniently pay no heed to warnings pertaining to our finite resources. The war over oil comes to mind as a shining example of this inefficiency in societal management.

Contrary to popular belief, the human body is not made up of oil. Another liquid functions as the fundamental building block of life throughout our rocky planet. Water, as I had already mentioned in a previous post, is the front-runner for displacing gold as the most precious substance on the face of the planet. Yet, we consume this precious life-sustaining ambrosia without any concern of what it might entail for the coming generations. Life on earth is a never-ending relay system of handing over the planet, generation to generation, and it is always the prerogative of the older generation to give back a functioning planet to their children. This foresight eludes the present era. We have deemed space exploration too costly, instead focusing on military spending to sate our geographical narcissism. We are fighting over a grain of sand while the entire beach sits empty.

Owing to this geographical narcissism we live in an age where even though blessed with intelligence, certain segments of the elite society considering it fitting to utilise their resources to construct golf courses in the middle of deserts. This is made possible by diverting water supply towards these arid regions. This happens in a world where 1 in 8 humans don’t have access to clean drinking water. Las Vegas appears to be the first casualty of this mindless hedonism with its water-free era slated to begin in 20 years.  The middle-east is another hedonistic civilization that comes to mind.

Ocean Carpet

While the privileged few inland have usurped the right over this precious resource, Neptune is crestfallen at the destruction inflicted upon his dominion offshore. The oceans function as the ultimate car-trunk. You can hide your dirtiest of secrets inside it without anyone ever finding out about it, but for Neptune and his children of course. Coupled with this is the fact that the oceans act as a sponge and absorb some of the excess Carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere resulting in ocean acidification. The acidity of global surface waters has increased by 30% in just the last 200 years. The rate at which this is happening is unprecedented.

It is the duty of inhabitants around the globe to pull their government’s head out of the sand forcing open their shut eyelids making them see the inevitable future. Nationalist jingoism can only get you so far. There comes a time when humans will have to transcend petty geography bringing about a global conscience supported by immense local kinship.

[Read Water – Part One]

Water – Part I

In Earth on November 14, 2011 at 8:47 am

This year we witnessed the arrival of the seventh billionth earthling. Global population continues its exponential growth voraciously. What we find ourselves muddled in is a paradox of human welfare and destruction. The trouble is that there is no consensus on this. The planet hasn’t tried to support this many of its children at the same time. As with any parent, she gives us free will and resources to accomplish what we think is right. Self-harm is categorized as prudent morality, or in this case, unprudent. The majority follow the conventional morality and stick to the program of unsustainable immediate growth all the while grabbing more and more of the resources. How much is too much?

We arose from water and our demise is inscribed in it. The third planet in our home solar system has 1,386 million cubic kilometres of water. The mathematical building block of our Universe is an efficient & elegant sphere, hence lets envision that all of the water(life-sustaining and otherwise) could be compressed into a sphere…

Comparison by volume of Earth and its water

...if all of Earth's water(ice, liquid, vapour, freshwater, saline) were to be compressed to form a sphere, it would measure 1,385km in diameter. (source: USGS)

Almost 97% of this is saline and hence not suitable for drinking. Of the drinkable freshwater, 68% is locked in ice and glaciers, 30% is underground and the rest is found on the surface as rivers, lakes or swamps. The freshwater on the surface amounts to just 1/10,000th of one percent of the total water.

Distribution of water resources

The global population growth is apparantly on a decline but the people are indeed living longer. And we all know that none of the nation states are ever going to put an end to human reproduction. What we have here is a taut struggle between the exponential growth of users and an irreversible eradication of a finite utility asset. The asset just happens to be a life-sustaining resource, more valuable than gold or currency ever will be.

(End of Part I)

Gold Rush – Part II

In Earth, Politics on October 2, 2011 at 5:21 am

Proponents of a multipolar global society may have to re-evaluate the extent of interdependency and mutual co-operation among nations considering the huge amount of political clout enjoyed by big brother, U.S.A.  The superpower’s main objective since World War I has been to ensure sufficient inflow of oil and its products to sustain the American military-industrial complex.

1913 –> Henry Ford, 50 years of age, recast the face of automobile manufacturing by introducing the automated assembly line.

1914 –> Assembly time reduced from 12&1/2  hours to just 1&1/2 hours.

1921 – 1925  –> Declining production costs enable Ford to cut automobile prices upto six times, essentially reducing the cost to $290. This was less than the combined three-month wage of an average American worker.

And that is how, my children, Americans got their ride.  Cars were the symbol of the consumer driven society in 1919 and it continues to be even today.   There were 6.7 million cars on American roads in 1919  but by 1929 it inflated to 27 million!  When big brother got cars, everyone else wants one and here in Trivandrum(India), we have the latest Audi and Mercedes trudging along on tiny pathways. Because, you see, the imported cars are manufactured according to global standards but the road they travel on is unfortunately locally manufactured, lead by your ruling masters(or cretin – used interchangeably), who spend every moment scheming new ways to sponge-off their constituency’s revenue and hence public amenities get the brunt of it. [Pardon the digression]

The American search for energy security began  from the early 1900s, which took them into regions of the globe where its national security interests would not otherwise have been at stake. The stalemate between the U.S and the Middle-East is not slated to end anytime soon. If you don’t believe me, take  a look at the jet black area towards the middle of the map below.

Worldwide distribution of petroleum deposits

Worldwide distribution of petroleum deposits

This explains why the Americans are hell bent on bringing democracy to the Arab nations while not blinking an eye in the aftermath of terrible human rights violations in Myanmar or East Timor.

Go back to bed, child…big brother will protect you now, on his terms of course.

sea turtle was up ashore after gulf oil spill

A dead, endangered sea-turtle washes up ashore at Pass Christian, April 16, 2011. Following the Gulf oil spill the number of turtles stranded in the Gulf coast was up by seven times in March, as reported by NWF - (Mario Tama/Getty Images/Boston.com)

(End of Part II)                                                                                Read Gold Rush – Part One

Gold Rush – Part I

In Earth on September 30, 2011 at 2:36 pm

The price of gold bullion and his bastard half-brother, the barrels of  grease is in the ascendancy. Today, we’ll be analysing this insatiable hunger for gold of the black variety.

Even though we laud ourselves on our technical progression, the present age will be characteristically encompassed in the petroleum era.  As you have been taught, animals are differentiated from plants by their inherent ability of movement, among whom, the humans came out the brightest. We wanted to travel faster than the fastest on this planet. Coal became the staple fuel for transportation in the initial part of our journey. Petroleum had made it’s presence felt from ancient times as well but humanity was blissfully unaware of  its potential. Oil was derived from bamboo-drilled wells in China by 347 AD and we had to wait till the 1850s to get kerosene.

Initially, gasoline was an unfortunate by-product that used to flare off during the manufacturing process of paraffin, made by the Royal Dutch on Sumatra. The 1900s saw the rise of the automobile which irrevocably changed the terrain of Earth criss-crossing  it with hardened black tar, holding the planet in a deadly embrace. Gas and speed was too much to resist for man. As Shakespeare would have commented:

‘Twas a match madeth in heaven. 

We traveled, we cooked, we anointed and rejoiced in it. Here, as  we stand at the peak of a scientifically revolutionary age, it would only be appropriate to excogitate how exactly have we  repaid the planet for her providence.

pelican in oil

An exhausted brown-pelican struggling in a pool of oil, June 2010 (Sean Gardner/Reuters/Boston.com)

(End of  Part I)

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