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“If We Have One Survival Trait…It’s Not Our Intelligence”

The Steady-State Environment Delusion

By Pointman — February 25, 2011

Cosmologists have calculated that our particular universe is 13.7 billion years old. It came into existence with the big bang, as did space and time. It’s big. It consists of lots of matter, especially hydrogen, which has aggregated into different objects. The ones we see in the night sky are the stars. We call our star the Sun….

Around a star, other aggregations of matter called planets form and are captured by the star’s gravitational field. We call this arrangement of a star with planets revolving around it a solar system and it seems to be pretty common. We live on the third planet in our solar system and we call it the Earth. Over the last two decades we’ve become better at being able to detect extremely large planets revolving around distant stars. I’ve no doubt that as our detection methods improve, we’ll start to detect more Earth-sized planets as well.

Solar systems tend to aggregate into collections of solar systems called galaxies. Our solar system is located in a galaxy we call the Milky Way. It’s a spiral galaxy and we’re located far out in it, near the end of one of its swirly arms which is why, when we look towards the centre of our galaxy, we see that broad strip of stars in the night sky we call the Milky Way. Essentially, we’re near the edge of a disc of stars looking in. How many stars are in our galaxy? Well, nobody knows exactly but estimates range from 100 billion to 400 billion, so if we take the mid-point then a workable number is 250 billion. Let’s pay that number some respect. That’s 250 with nine zeroes after it or 250,000,000,000  or 30 Suns for each one of the 7 billion people on the Earth. Spiral galaxies are quite common and there’s nothing particularly distinguished about our one. It’s approximately 100,000 light years in diameter and our solar system revolves once around the galactic centre every 250 million Earth years or so….

The nearest star in the Milky Way to our solar system is Proxima Centauri, which is just over four light-years distant. The light from it takes four years to reach us. Light from our Sun takes four years to reach Proxima Centauri. What this means is when you look at that star, what you’re actually seeing is what it looked like four years ago. Some stars are light-millenia or more distant from us. The night sky is a time machine, a view into not just the past but the past at several different time points depending on the distance of the particular object you’re looking at. It’s almost certain that some of those stars we admire in our night sky no longer exist and that there are new ones that have been burning brightly for millenia whose light has yet to reach us….

Everywhere we look, we see remnants of novas and supernovas, galaxies colliding, galaxies forming, neutron stars, black holes and other even more esoteric and dangerous objects and materials. There’s a lot of interesting stuff out there which I won’t be going into but feel free to dive into in yourself; you won’t be disappointed. The energies involved are simply titanic.

Our own planet was hit very early on in its life by a smaller planet, the remnant of which, with some very large chunks of our planet, went on to form our very own satellite, the Moon. To this day, we still have a souvenir of that crust-shattering impact in the form of moving plate tectonics. Over geological timescales, the plates have come together to form new continents and then split asunder at regular intervals. Where they crash into one another, vast mountain ranges like the Himalayas are created. The borders between them give us our volcanic and earthquake zones. The continent we call the Antarctic used to be a green and verdant place till it split off and drifted to the cold south polar region to be encased in ice. Everything on it died…..

It’s only in the last billion years that multicellular life appeared on Earth. Simple creatures appeared about 600 million years ago and mammals about 200 million years ago. Several species of proto-humans and I’m being very generous here with the “humans” bit, came along contemporaneously about 2.5 million years ago and our particular species, Homo Sapiens (that’s you and I by the way), only appeared about 200 thousand years ago. As a species, we’ve come far and fast and in a very short period of time.

One very hard figure to find is the average lifespan of a species or even any agreed consensus on any number; we simply don’t know. Various studies come up with various figures, the most optimistic by a very long chalk being 2 million years. Allowing for that, 99.9% of all species that have ever existed on the face of the Earth are extinct and the overwhelming majority of them left no offspring species behind. No species has ever survived forever and extinction rather than speciation, seems to be the general rule…..

Even in our relatively short time as a species, we’ve had a few brushes with extinction. The Black Death swept across Europe in the Middle Ages and killed one-third of the population….

If you’ve ever been at sea in a big storm or caught out in open country when some extreme weather arrives, you’ll know on a personal level what every creature on the face of the Earth knows. Anytime Mother Nature decides to do so, she can reach out and snatch the life right out of you. As in individuals, so in species, planets, stars and galaxies. The forces ranged against us and all other species are massive beyond any real meaningful comprehension and our climate is just another one of them. Nature is indifferent to our very existence. The idea that we’ve any effect on forces like these and can also somehow conserve things in some supposed ideal balanced state, is not just childish but simply ignorant beyond all belief.

If we have one survival trait in the face of these forces, it’s not our intelligence. It’s our ability to adapt to what’s coming at us.

Complete article (Go read it. It’s good for you.)

 

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Wind Turbines — The Titanic of our Times. « Quixotes Last Stand - March 6, 2012

    […] discussed in the Pointman article that I posted a couple of days ago, we don’t have that power or intelligence.  Oh, we have […]

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