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Archive for the ‘science’ Category

“How very wet this water is.”
― L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz

d_oh_posterWell … yeah.

A keen grasp of the obvious can be considered a skill, and often is by those who take pride in noticing something everyone notices, then bringing it to the attention of other noticers as if “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born” and such are revelations. (Quote attribution: Ronald Reagan. Yes. Really.)

Yes, it is hot and, yes, politicians lie and the earth is not flat and water is wet; film at 11 FFS!

“I figured something out. The future is unpredictable.”
John Green

It’s as plain as the nose on your face … but this is where the obvious gets tricky. No, not the future, but right here, right now.

Try this little exercise: Let’s assume you’re reading this post at the moment; pause after this line to think about what you see.

Words on the page? A glass of white wine? Some scenery? The covers of some books?

Okay. Now think about what you don’t see. Not the existential angst residing between the lines or possible motives for a woman to pass time so far up her own ass that she is compelled to write the shit down, but what you don’t SEE.

Your nose. You don’t see your nose, even though it’s right there in front of your organs of site, and depending on genetics could be blocking the view a bit, which is the reason the “Got Yer Nose” trick freaks little kids out.

This isn’t an ‘elephant in the room’ sort of thing, intentionally ignored for sake of convenience, but a part of your very own physical presence … and you miss it completely.

Despite the amazing resolution and sophistication the visual system has, what could be argued as one of its most interesting features is a mechanism of noise filtration in which the brain effectively ignores irrelevant information it receives, even resulting in features in the environment being completely deleted from the scene a person sees. One of the most familiar examples of this is that you can’t see your own nose when you look at a scene. The position of the nose means it should take a commanding, even blocking position in the visual field, and prevent us seeing objects in front of it. However, we never see the dark shadow of our nose when we look around. This is because the brain filters out the stimulus. Instead, it seems the scene is ‘filled in’ where the nose should be with what the brain ‘expects’ to see- the nose is there all the time, but rarely provides anything informative, so can usefully be ignored.

Which begs the question: What else are we missing?

Quite a lot, actually, and the more attention we pay, the more we miss through what is known as ‘inattentional blindness’:

One would imagine, that when a person is concentrating intensely on a task which involves vision, that they would be more observant. It seems, the opposite is the case, and they are in fact much more likely to miss obvious features in a scene presented right in front of their eyes. A famous example is what happens when subjects are shown a video of a basketball match, and are asked to count the number of passes that happen during a game sequence. During play, a person dressed in a gorilla costume crosses the shot. When asked to report on what they saw, a 1999 study showed subjects could report the number of passes observed, yet, incredibly did not report seeing the gorilla if asked whether they noticed anything unusual about the video. In fact, people appear flummoxed when they are told the gorilla featured, and are astounded when they watch the video back, knowing that it will appear.

Whether through inattentional blindness, preconceived notions or rose-tented specks, our capacity for a truly keen grasp of the obvious is greatly limited, and would serve us well to keep that in mind as we stumble more-than-half blindly through the world.

So, the next time you decide to point out that ‘it’s so feckin’ hot’ or ‘sitting in traffic sucks’ or ’Trump is a moron’, don’t worry too much about some Charlie Fletcher-like dude calling you “… the grand bloody panjandrum of the painfully bleeding obvious.”

Just give a smile that lets them know they might well have missed those bits. That’s my plan, so you who spend time in my company … you’re welcome.

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Last night’s spectacular electric storm put paid to any thought I’d be alone in my bed as bursts and rattles and booms brought the kids to me fairly quickly. Hunkering down in a mass of cuddles through blinding flashes and rumbles of thunder that shook our livers, conversation naturally turned to nature before broadening out toward what may hover beyond the power of a local light show, it being, no matter the magnificence, merely a little blip in the weather over a mere slip of land in just one of Earth’s oceans; Earth itself being a small bit of stuff amongst billions.

Perspective of place and significance isn’t an easy concept for kids, it being a child’s mandate to consider him/herself the center around which all else revolves until the socialization process seeps in and a sense of the importance of contribution shifts the pivot point … hopefully.

Humans, however, are hardwired to see the species as unique to the point of some dedicated idea that, although individually important only to a degree, we are the very definition of intelligent life … a frightening concept with Fox news on the air and all.

The question of whether or not we are alone in the universe is a mind-bender for many, the subject of much science and no little religious opinion.

On the science front, recent discoveries are tending to indicate the possibility of life on other bits of stuff.

Experts examining results from the Kepler telescope have identified more than 1,200 planets in orbit around distant stars, 54 of which are a similar size to Earth and in habitable zones from their suns.

The research follows several recent discoveries which point to the possibility of life on other planets.

There appears to be a rather strong NO on the idea of extraterrestrial life from the Christian side.

The Bible’s ‘big picture’ seems to preclude intelligent life elsewhere in God’s universe. But what about bacteria on other planets for example? It’s possible that God made these, but exceedingly unlikely. What would be their purpose? The entire focus of creation is mankind on this Earth; the living forms on Earth’s beautifully balanced biosphere are part of our created life support system.

No matter the background, it seems takes on the possibility of life elsewhere assume it will look something like us, carbon-based, water-reliant and built of blocks of DNA even though we have already found exceptions to at least some of those long-assumed rules right here on terra firma:

“The idea of alternative biochemistries for life is common in science fiction,” said Carl Pilcher, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “Until now a life form using arsenic as a building block was only theoretical, but now we know such life exists in Mono Lake.”

Is it possible that if we can be so wrong about what constitutes ‘life’ on our planet we are equally mistaken in our ideas of intelligent beings elsewhere?

With neutrinos maybe breaking a bunch of rules that have long parsed understanding of the basic of basics, if it turns out we’ve been wrong about how fast light can move, what else have we missed?

Our grasp of energy is challenged again in today’s news with this report on happenings in the Crab Nebula …

Astronomers have spotted gamma ray emissions coming from the Crab Pulsar at far higher energies than expected.

This challenges notions of how these powerful electromagnetic rays – like light, but far more energetic – are formed, researchers suggest in Science.

They found emissions at more than 100 gigaelectronvolts – 100 billion times more energetic than visible light.

When we speak of the “spark of life” are we not suggesting, even in our limited understanding, that energy may have as much to do with being as being carbon based?

Even the idea of ‘universe’ needs challenging, as what we have long thought the be-all-end-all could in actuality be two a penny

Our universe might be really, really big — but finite. Or it might be infinitely big.

Both cases, says physicist Brian Greene, are possibilities, but if the latter is true, so is another posit: There are only so many ways matter can arrange itself within that infinite universe. Eventually, matter has to repeat itself and arrange itself in similar ways. So if the universe is infinitely large, it is also home to infinite parallel universes.

And if matter doesn’t matter?

Is it possible that we’re biased toward matter because that’s what we think we are, what we can see and can grasp?

And what about antimatter?

There is considerable speculation as to why the observable universe is apparently composed almost entirely of matter (as opposed to a mixture of matter and antimatter), whether there exist other places that are almost entirely composed of antimatter instead, and what sorts of technology might be possible if antimatter could be harnessed. At this time, the apparent asymmetry of matter and antimatter in the visible universe is one of the greatest unsolved problems in physics.

An unsolved problem, but as real as the nose on your face, as those neutrino chasers at CERN point out:

Antimatter – a mirror image of matter – is an idea so revolutionary that even its discoverer initially feared its consequences. It annihilates with ordinary matter, disappearing in a puff of energy – the ultimate scientific experiment.

This annihilation is a compelling scenario for science fiction. The first example was robots with brains having antimatter pathways.

Now antimatter is used every day in medicine for brain scans.

Transforming all its mass into pure energy, antimatter is the perfect fuel. Star Trek’s faster-than-light science-fiction spaceships use antimatter power, but research projects have also investigated the use of antimatter fuel for real.

What if it’s that “puff of energy” that is the foundation of ‘intelligent life’, rather than the box it comes in?

There was a time not so very long ago that people didn’t believe in bacteria because they couldn’t be seen until instruments came along allowing us to count and classify the buggers. What if we’re as surrounded by energy critters?

What if, in fact, we are energy critters merely shuffling about in temporary structures of cells and atoms?

So …

While watching the lightening and feeling the thunder, the energy firing between synapses in three carbon-based skulls shaped by DNA contemplated the nature of what makes us sentient beings … breathing in and out and reproducing facsimiles, or thought sparks that travel beyond the storm into the unknown … and wonder if shucking the shell, as we all will do someday, might just make the speed of light inconsequential to our travels between universes and time.

Big questions on stormy nights pass the hours quite nicely.

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Ten years ago today I was on a sofa in North Carolina staring into the beautiful eyes of my granddaughter who had just passed her first month on earth. My daughter had handed her into my care so she could get a bit more sleep and I was about as content as I’ve ever been with perfect, tiny fingers grasping one of mine as the baby girl dozed in my arms.

I lunged for the phone when it rang, hoping my daughter wouldn’t be disturbed, and was surprised, yet happy, to hear my son’s voice on the other end. It was very early in California, an unexpected time for him to be calling the East Coast.

“Mom,” he said, interrupting my queries as to what the heck had him up at the crack of dawn. “Turn on the TV.”

Tucking the phone under my chin and the baby against my chest, I fumbled for the remote to the huge set and clicked.

Of course everyone saw what I saw.

“What the fuck is happening?” I asked Jaren.

“We’re under attack, Mom.”

The second plane came in before I’d managed to absorb anything but terror, and like the rest of America the only words that came to mind were: Oh my god!

The juxtaposition of realities … the new life in my arms, the new horror in New York … could only compound the distress.

“What sort of world do you have now, Baby?” I asked.

Part of the answer I knew then: her world was one in which people drove planes into buildings full of other people.

In efforts to try to gain perspective, I conjured an image of another woman at another time holding another newborn as a radio announced the attack on Pearl Harbor, that woman asking the same question I just had just posed to the cosmos.

The specter rising from that was World War III.

Over the 10 years between then and now that has not happened. We have not experienced mass conscription or concentrated conflict inflicting colossal damage across great swathes of the developed world or food rationing or bombs dropping on our beds or that-country-against-this-country, but rather sporadic terrorist attacks and religious fanaticism and fear.

Civil wars and oppression and human rights abuses continue as they always have, people starve and fight and kill and rape and poverty breeds the hungry, the uneducated and the dangerous while wealth motivates those hungry for power and equally dangerous. While many strive to survive, others do what they can to protect, to inspire, to effect change for the positive to varying degrees of success and failure.

The world of my granddaughter turns out to be not much different, in human terms, than the one my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother … and so on … and I were born into — a world where people perform deeds of great kindness and acts of almost unimaginable horror.

No, my granddaughter will not be able to sling on a backpack equipped with a Swiss army knife and a couple of pints of contact lens solution then board a plane like I did. She’ll learn to travel without belts in slip-on shoes and allow 3 hours for check-in. She’ll probably never sip a cocktail in a rooftop bar overlooking a major city without at least some trepidation. She may look askance at those who dress and worship differently and choose to surround herself with the familiar for illusions of safety.

History will show her that paradigms shift, that deadly enemies, the evils incarnate, eventually become familiar trading partners no matter how dissimilar they may be in look and faith and culture and background as it absorbs the dead and those imprinted with images of fire and smoke and collapsing monoliths full of humanity pass along.

We no longer tremble at the thought of Japanese or Germans, no matter the price they exacted from the world only a bit more than half a century ago in their bids to accomplish their goals, but have contextualized the horrors and moved beyond as we comprehend new evil, new enemies,

This is how we humans do things. This is how we have always done things, and it’s history that dictates wrong from right as it divides winners from losers.

What will be far different for the children born with the rubble and toxic dust of the Twin Towers in their path are the impacts of events less dramatic in the making but much more in outcome and harder to live with — the results of the relentless attack of man on the planet.

There is no template for putting the climate back together after an onslaught, for negotiating a truce between rising seas and inundated land. No reconciliation can be won once patterns of weather are so drastically changed that the seas no longer function as Earth’s lungs.

Reparations will be futile and even discussion of them will set human against human, as will attempts to share out slices of the ever-diminishing pie. Once again, wars will be waged and many will die, a circumstance that will relieve a bit of Earth’s burden, but when she’s too wounded to carry on we’re done and all fights are over.

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Pierre Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

On the blog no topic is ever really dead, so no surprise at today’s resurrection of overpopulation of this planet by humans as issue du jour again.

A recent reference to Soylent Green as a menu item that would reduce burdens created by more mouths to feed on fewer resources brought recycling into the discussion. What the heck, heh?

As this article in today’s BBC points out, we’re quickly running out of room for storing all the empty containers we will all drop …

Resting beside our loved ones when the time comes is a reassuring notion for the living. Families pay thousands of pounds for land where generations can rest in peace together for eternity.

But in the UK at least, the ground is filling up.

Should I wish to, I could not be buried near to my relatives at Yardley Cemetery in south Birmingham. Space there ran out in 1962.

Similarly, I would struggle to find a place near another strand of my family in Halesowen. There is no room left underground there and other facilities at nearby Lye and Wollescote are expected to run out in the next four years.

What if I head south? I lived in Brighton once and a seaside burial sounds quite nice. But four of the seven cemeteries run by Brighton and Hove Council are already full, and of the three remaining, one is for Orthodox Jews only.

Yes, the days of great whopping tombs constructed over the illustrious dead are about done, and even the standard single 3’x7’x77″ plot is only a short term stopgap measure in some places.

Some countries use a “double decker” approach to avoid overcrowding.

In Germany, graves are reused after only 30 years, the existing remains usually being exhumed and cremated. In Australia and New Zealand, “dig and deepen” is carried out in urban areas as a matter of routine.

Tim Morris, chief executive of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, says it is time to change tack.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he says. “Re-use is common in lots of other countries, and was common practice in the UK until the 1850s. I’ve spent some time with some German gravediggers and there the limit is 30 years, but people aren’t happy with that, they want it lowered to 20.”

With my son buried between my father and my grandfather within feet of my great-grandparents, the idea of breaking up the family appalls me, but I do understand the need to free up space in areas more populated than the tiny town in Northern California where they lie. Even there the population of dead outnumbers the living by about 300%.

Those laid to rest in one spot in perpetuity add up over the centuries, after all, and even though the real estate per occupant may be no bigger than a broom closet acres can covered in just a couple of generations. Where habitation has been continuous for hundreds of generations … well … a visit to Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris gives a clue to what crowding looks like.

Cremation, of course, is not only an option but a societal dictate in some cultures. There’s no doubt it leaves more land available for the living, but it’s not everyone’s idea of an appropriate exit strategy.

With death being such a huge part of life, traditional methods of dealing with our dead are almost hardwired, and although some of us couldn’t care less what happens with our form once we shuck it those we leave behind usually react with strong feelings and attachments to one comforting protocol or another.

Even the realm of the dead is changing, however.

With space for the living growing more spare and precious and increasing concerns over our impact on our Earth, another method of dealing with the dead has been invented … and patented.

Promession may just be the way to go in future.

Promession is different from all other alternative burial methods because it is a gentle and clean process which uses vibration to reduce the body remains.

The method is based on three steps:

— Reducing the body of the deceased to a fine powder, thereby allowing subsequent decomposition to be aerobic. This is achieved by submerging the body in liquid nitrogen, making the remains so brittle that they shatter into a powder as the result of slight vibrations. The powder is then dried, reducing the deceased remains to around 30% of their original body weight.

— Removing and recycling metals within the powdered remains.

— Shallow-burying the powder in a biodegradable casket.

It is clear that to produce liquid nitrogen or LN2 on its own would be relatively costly, however this is offset by other factors when it is used to replace environmentally hazardous alternatives; Nitrogen is a by-product of the essential oxygen industry and for every 1 part oxygen, there are 4 parts of nitrogen produced; therefore the Promession method effectively recycles this waste product which otherwise is released back into the atmosphere.

Sweden, Great Britain and South Korea are already close to opening Promatoria (facilities for Promession-based funerals) that will fill the bill environmentally and legally.

The volume of remains left is about a third of the original body weight; the advantages include avoiding the release of pollutants into the atmosphere (for instance, mercury vapour from dental fillings) and the rapid decomposition of the remains (within 6 to 12 months of burial) and the return of the body to life’s cycle. Promession allows for families to be buried in the same plot without disturbing previous remains and meets the requirements of new European Union pollution laws.

It is yet to be seen if Promession will catch on, but I suspect some will sign up to have liquid nitrogen with their obsequies. It is more palatable than ending up on a cracker.

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Wiki imageFor those of us living on islands surrounded by miles and miles of water, as these clearly are, the tragic shark attacks of the past weeks convey a resonance that goes deeper than the horror of the deaths.

With the Indian Ocean on our doorstep we’re used to seeing the sea almost every hour of every day, but we’re looking at it a bit differently for now, contemplating what lies beneath the barrier between air and water, and from many angles.

For sure, sharks are scary and we’re keeping our kids to the shallows, but many are also considering what the seas may still promise when these children are adults. With part of the reaction to the recent shark attacks amounting to a virtual war, a petition is circulating advising caution.

In response to a government statement by Mr St Ange, director of Seychelles Toursim (sic) Board who said “We need to find the beast and get it out of our waters,”

We would like to highlight the following misconceptions implied within this statement1. Sharks are not beasts they are ancient fish highly specialized and adapted to hunting in aquatic environments.2.Sharks have for centuries lived, reproduced and hunted in the oceans travelling (sic) thousands of miles each year, therefore, the notion of a land based species i’ll adapted to the aquatic environment owning the seas is a little ridiculous. 3. By “get it out” do you mean remove humanly to another location or as some reports have stated begin a shark hunt?
As we are sure you understand culls of species without knowledge of their impact can destroy ecosystems and be tragically detrimental to other species reliant upon them.

Tourism relies on the ocean and any widespread shark culling will have a widespread negative effect on the reefs and the reasons people travel to your beautiful islands.

With an estimated 100 million sharks killed by humans every year, shark populations are crashing in oceans all over the world, some species depleted by over 90%, so the idea of a massive cull does not sit well with everyone.

Many governments and the UN have acknowledged the need for shark fisheries management, but little progress has been made due to their low economic value, the small volumes of products produced and sharks’ poor public image.

That “poor public image” thing hasn’t been helped by the deaths of two young men calmly taking to our beautiful waters. Seychelles depends on two industries for financial security: tourism and fishing. With the world’s second largest tuna processing plant here fish are a very big deal.

Located in the Seychelles International Trade Zone, IOT is the second largest tuna processing and canning plant in the world. In the year ending 31 March 2009, IOT processed almost 66,000 metric tonnes of tuna and sold 4.6 million statistical cases of tuna cans, mostly to the UK, French and Italian markets.

That’s a whole lotta dead fish, folks, and doesn’t even begin to take into account the bycatch that never makes it as far as the factory.

This article published in Australia this morning illustrates many of the issues surrounding the tuna industry.

It will come as a surprise to some that eating fish is bad for the environment. In the past, fish was seen as a healthy and sustainable food option with few ethical implications.

But we know now that fishing fleets are completely dependent on fossil fuels, and have to travel longer and longer distances to find fish in commercial quantities. We also know seafood stocks are crashing at an alarming rate.

The methods we use to improve catch rates harm habitats and kill other species we never meant to eat in the first place.

Unfortunately, farming fish does not solve these problems.

The best solution to this growing problem is to eat only those fish you know to be harvested sustainably.

The issues, of course, are not only local, not limited to the local economy, happy tourists or putting tuna in tins.

Nope.

The issue is a global human population at close to seven billion and growing daily which puts paid to any idea of sustainability over the long haul.

Shark-free seas and cupboards full of tinned tuna may actually sound okay to some, but when the oceans die we’ll go with them.

There is, however, the option put on film way back in 1973:

In the year 2022, the population has grown to forty million people in New York City alone. Most housing is dilapidated and overcrowded, and the homeless fill the streets and line the fire escapes and stairways of buildings. Food as we know it in present times is a rare and expensive commodity. Most of the world’s population survives on processed rations produced by the massive Soylent Corporation, including Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow, which are advertised as “high-energy vegetable concentrates.” The newest product is Soylent Green, a small green wafer which is advertised as being produced from “high-energy plankton.” It is much more nutritious and palatable than the red and yellow varieties, but, like most other food, it is in short supply, which often leads to food riots.

For any who may not know where this goes, we’ll skip to the last line of “Soylent Green” …

“Soylent Green is PEOPLE!”

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Tonight's sunset.

I think of my son often, and on evenings alone on the veranda watching the sunset he comes to mind in a way that always makes me smile.

The opening line of one of Jaren’s songs, “Swedish Nutball”, resonates as the sun sinks way too fast into the western sky.

I can feel the rotation of the earth …

I pretty much stop right there, as the rest of the lyrics aren’t exactly conducive to contemplating a lovely end to a day, but there is no doubt I do … feel the rotation of the earth.

Those who’ve never seen the face of Sol plunge at speed into that end of the ocean called Horizon near the Equator are missing one of our planet’s best thrill rides.

From the first kiss of sun to sea to the last wink of brightness over Horizon’s lip all of about 4 minutes pass … the sucker drops like a stone, so fast there is no question or quibbling over just how fast this globe we’re stuck to spins. Whooooooosh!

I own a vast amount of E tickets for this ride and try not to miss it as it comes around almost exactly every twenty-four hours, year in and year out. Being four degrees south of the North/South dividing line, the time varies by no more than a few minutes. Rather than longer days and shorter nights, or vice versa, we in the middle just see the sunset swing from one area of ocean to another, then back over the course of the year. (Google “Declination” if you’re interested, as for some reason the link won’t post.)

Most days I sit and watch, either a cup of tea or glass of wine at hand, but sometimes I do choose to stand for the event. Staring at our star as it does its dip, the beautifully illustrated awareness of how bloody fast this planet spins, can almost make me dizzy.

I live on the west coast of Mahé, a situation I love since it gives me this drama rather than the early morning show of the sun doing his impression of a Pop-Tart emerging from a toaster.

I tend to avoid the bugger as much as possible during that chariot ride it takes across the sky, seeing as how fried is not my best look, but when I see him heading toward the high dive to prepare for the plunge I will drop what I’m doing to watch the form, the style and the amazing ovation the sky and clouds give once he’s gone and the way that echos across the ocean.

That the show is all mine is special, but sharing the ride makes it even better.

Here’s Jaren NOT singing about sunsets …

And, yes, what I’m thinking now, he thought of first.

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More than just crude matter ... ?

Although I’ve been gnawing on the Weiner thing for a few days, as the story keeps spurting I’m not quite lubricated enough to bring a post to whatever climax the tale deserves, so today I’m sliding away from it and onto something completely different.

What happens when you die?

There are numbers of reasons this question prays on my mind right now, involved as I am with the dead, the dying, survivors and inquiring minds, so I’ve been giving the guaranteed outcome of life a good deal of thought lately.

There are, of course, a hell of a lot of theories, and any number of them make a lot of sense when contemplated from one direction or another, and I tend to go through the list from time to time, not that I expect much of any answer until my time comes.

That, in fact, is one of the possibilities … that at the moment the bucket is kicked we become enlightened. In shuffling off this mortal coil (Hamlet – iii. i. 67) all the information kept from us during our lifetimes is once more available … it being either more than we can bear while busy drawing breath or outside the “need-to-know” limits that coil thing bars us from catching on to … and suddenly it all makes sense.

From what lessons we were supposed to learn to why we died a certain way, we see the patterns, the reasons, and judge for ourselves how well we did … and what classes we may have to repeat.

Another involves a “higher power” who does the judging for us, then sends us off toward either eternal damnation or an infinity of happy harp-strumming. Although very popular, this one doesn’t fly with me, as there seems to be something ungodly petty about condemnation after only one short course, and even those who manage to hang around for 100 years have still only managed an eye-blink of time in the big picture.

There is also the idea that when we die, we’re just dead. The staunch atheistic approach insisting we are biological beings, pure and simple; we’re born, we live, we die and that’s that.

It makes a lot of sense and science goes a long way to back this up. Every week there’s some new study out on some biochemical process that causes dishonesty or various personality traits or love or the inability to love (And I’m sorry, but I’m so not in the frame of mind to dig up links to this stuff right now, so if you’re looking for references try Google.)

This could very well be exactly the case, but it seems rather pointless.

Not only pointless to live a lifetime with worries of no more than doing your bit to ingest enough nutrients to reproduce … the prime biological mandate … but also to assume the position that this is all there is … ever.

It also seems a rather unimaginative stance.

I prefer something that could include parallel universes and essence of being that is made up of energy, rather than flesh and bone and brain. An existence that doesn’t begin and end with … and, okay, I admit I’m quoting Yoda here, but that little guy made a point I like … “this crude matter”.

If crude matter is the be all and end all, the point escapes me, and if there is no point … well, there is no point. If being dead amounts to no more than compost we’ll certainly not be aware of that state of having become, and I guess that’s okay, too. It does rather put the kibosh on any growth and learning and leaving a mark, though, if the only mark to be left could be called skid.

There is either a reason for being born, for living and for dying that goes beyond making more to be born, live and die, or there isn’t, and it seems a flagrant waste of energy if that’s the whole circle. Fleeting moments of joy, plunges into the depths of suffering, decades of acquiring knowledge, flashes of brilliance, art, music, literature, war, starvation, cruelty, benevolence … all the stuff we get up to that plants don’t … they seem to indicate we might expect something more.

On the science front, it’s pretty clear that although at any given moment in time the answers seem set in stone they aren’t and new discoveries come up. Is it possible one day it will be scientifically proven that we are, indeed, luminous beings encased, for a while, in this crude matter? That we are here as we are for reasons we aren’t supposed to know until the bell rings, the fat lady sings and we graduate from this class and pass along to another level?

I could say I hope this is the way it is, and I do, but if it’s not … if this is all there will ever be … well, I’ll be disappointed if there’s anything left of me to be disappointed with.

If, however, there is some “me” left … energy me, next-life me, other-universe me, hang-around-and-visit-loved-ones me … I will feel better about the whole dead thing.

As I put on Jaren’s funeral “program”:

Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.
_ David Searls

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