Oh, there’s a platypus!

Here’s a nice article and soundbyte describing the task of keeping track of platypus numbers in the streams of Victoria.

Oh, there's a platypus - Off Track - ABC Radio National Australian Broadcasting Corporation

The closest I’ve ever come to seeing a platypus in the wild was viewing the remains of his dinner – the scattered remains of a yabbie on some rocks in a creek, torn apart as we would tear a lobster to get to its meat.

Here’s a pic of a yabbie, for those of you who were wondering .

If you’ve read this far, you might enjoy this tune: the  Perry the Platypus Theme:

” He’s a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action…”

Advertisements

People need to hope in something

If people set no store in God, it seems that they need to turn to something else to give them hope.

A modern alternative is to hope in life on other worlds and a future for mankind on a celestial  scale.

But are science fiction stories affecting the modern performance of scientific observation of our universe?

According to an article over at R & D Magazine,  the expectation of extraterrestrial life is built more on optimism than evidence.

If life on Earth is all the life there is, what hope do we have?

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.”

Jeremiah 23:16

The English Language is Failing Evolution

I was watching a three part BBC documentary called “How to Grow a Planet” about the role of plants in the evolution of life on Earth, when it struck me, once again, that the English language hasn’t really developed a suitable lexicon to describe the evolutionary process effectively for the scientific layman.

I’d noticed this before with documentaries from David Attenborough and, in fact, nearly every documentary I’ve seen which has anything to do with Evolution.
When trying to describe the development of life on Earth through Evolution, the presenters are almost always forced to use language which sits uncomfortably with the concepts being explained.

Let me give you an example of some of the language used:

Design. There seems to be no alternative to the group of words which imply that the Evolutionary process itself has taken on some anthropomorphic ability and developed sentience, so as to be able to plan, design, attack, counter-attack, adapt and modify. Of course this is an untruth. The Evolutionary process has no consciousness: it has no ability to think, design, create or adapt. The Evolutionary process describes a series of accidental occurrences which by chance mean that  mutations in a life-form end up being beneficial for that life-form. These changes are then passed on to its descendents and become part of the life-form’s hereditary identity. There is no plan in the process. It is a simple accident. In effect, all life on earth is the deformed, mutated  by-product of its more pristine ancestors, the by-product of chance and accidental deformations.

Adaptation. This word is used to describe the outcome of mutations which have lead to an organism having better suitability to survive in a given environment. But the organism did not adapt. It has no ability to adapt. It cannot think, or plan or change. The word is trying to describe the fact that a freak mutation, which arose by pure chance, gave the organism more chances of surviving to the next generation.

Collective words are often used to describe the response of a whole species to a threatening situation, as if the species as a whole had a collective consciousness and a corresponding ability to do something about perceived threats. It doesn’t. Remember, plants, animals and other organisms are all individuals. Even animals which do live and work in collectives, such as ants, bees and termites are ultimately just individuals. No life on earth has a collective brain. No group of living individuals on earth can collectively make decisions to change its physical characteristics or DNA for the benefit of the whole group. Individuals don’t know that their whole species is under threat. Very, very few individual organisms have the  ability to respond to situations by purposely changing their physical form, or by deliberately changing their DNA sequencing, let alone that of their offspring.

From the script of How to Grow a Plant we have phrases like:

“Plants…created an atmosphere.” No they didn’t. Each plant just made oxygen – the overall result is an atmosphere, but plants did not create an atmosphere. It came about as a consequence of their individual respiratory processes. Using the creation verb in the active voice confuses the explanation.

 “Plants took a a barren rock (the Earth) and transformed it into the home we know today.” Again plants did not actively transform anything. They have no ability to think, plan or purposely create. The planet was transformed as a result of the life processes of plants.

“A seemingly arbitrary event…” in relation to bacteria absorbing one color of light rather than another and hence appearing green instead of purple. How seemingly? It is definitely an arbitrary event, at least in terms of Evolutionary Theory.

“How the green bacteria did this is so complex that scientists are still grappling with the details.” Again the green bacteria did not ‘do’ anything. The changes they underwent were a product of chance mutations. No external force caused these mutations, either. They were just chance changes.

Chemical Warfare.” The occurrence of chemical deterrents in plants, which make them unpalatable for insects and herbivores to eat, is described as a form of chemical warfare, but, in fact, plants have not chosen to go to war against the organisms trying to eat them, they just happen to have inherited characteristics from their parents which make them untasty. There was no belligerent intent on the  part of the plant, nor on the part of the whole species of plants. A grass plant can’t decide to grow silica-based spikes to make it less palatable to its predators. Any such change happens purely by chance. The end result seems to be have been planned and coordinated, but no, it wasn’t. It just happened with no over-arching master plan or intention to better survive.
Grass did not decide to become more flammable so as to cause raging fires, which destroy its natural competitors, the trees. Nor did trees decide to create chemicals which suppress grasses from growing under their canopies. It looks like it was planned, but Evolutionary Theory says it was all a series of chance changes which led to the situation.

I’m afraid that presenters who use the English language the way described above are doing Evolutionary Theory a huge disservice. To describe Evolution, they choose words which have a heritage pre-dating modern scientific developments and which are loaded with unscientific connotations. They predominantly use verbs in the active voice, when a more accurate representation of the Evolutionary process can almost always be achieved by using the passive voice. The use of the active voice ascribes human characteristics to a decidedly un-human process. These language choices  make it sound like the Evolutionary process has supplanted God as the creator of the world. They merely replace a ‘mythical’ creator with a more palatable ‘scientific’ one. Yet, when they use words this way, they still do not describe Evolution, they describe Creation.

ChronoZoom

An interactive timeline of the universe.

Makes me feel very, very small.

On the large Cosmos view, the span of human life is an orange rectangle inside the Life rectangle, near the top right corner, which you can’t even see until you click on the Life rectangle, and even then it is only as big as the head of a pin until you click on it.

ChronoZoom.

Space is bad for astronauts’ eyes – New Scientist

Man, oh man! Once again the reality of life in space proves to be very far removed from the science-fiction, pop culture image we are becoming used to from books and movies.

This small article from New Scientist says that extended time in space is bad for astronaut’s eyes because weightlessness increases blood flow to the brain and therefore increases pressure in the skull – leading to eye problems.

Space is bad for astronauts’ eyes – space – 14 March 2012 – New Scientist.

Add this to the fact that muscles deteriorate in space and the fact that, at the present moment, NASA does not have the ability to land people on Mars without killing them, and we realize that space travel is a lot more difficult than Spock and the crew of the Enterprise would have us believe.

It is supposed to take 4 light years to get to the closest star outside our solar system. That’s 4 years traveling at the speed of light. But we can’t travel at the speed of light.

Travelling at the speed of today’s fastest spacecraft would take us 50,000 years.

Considering the revolutionary changes our societies have seen in even the last 100 years, this is just absurdly unthinkable. Even a spaceflight of  50 years is absurd.

Compare the life of your average 70 year old, assuming that the astronauts start at age of 20, with someone who travels in space for 50 years.

On earth: love, marriage, raising children, long-held friendships, playing sports, reading books, experiencing art, being part of a dynamic society, experiencing heartache, traveling, visiting the dentist regularly, getting broken bones, having bones heal, surviving cancer, running a marathon, photographing birds in flight, seeing the sunset, etc.

In space: 50 years in a box maybe as big as two or three rooms from an average sized house seeing the same things everyday and talking to the same people everyday.

Those guys would go stark, raving mad, not to mention becoming blind and spineless.

Why do we spend our lives dreaming about space and our wonderful future on other worlds when it is something so far beyond our ability to achieve?

We have set our hope on things which are (almost) unattainable. You might say that, through our fast-held hope in science, fuelled by science fiction, we are living in a fantasy world of our own devising.

I’m a Christian and people say I live in a world of make believe….

 

Warp Drives May Come With a Killer Downside

Here you are. An interesting tidbit about the theoretical side effects of a theoretical form of warp speed travel – like you see in Star Trek.

Put briefly – if you travel with this form of warp engine, you basically fry anyone waiting to meet you at your destination.

Warp Drives May Come With a Killer Downside.