THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 119

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 119

…What do you do when you are given a ring full of keys and only one lock to open… oh and there is a mysterious treasure on the other side?…

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Cryptomaniacs Anonymous

 


The Cryptomaniac Creed:

“God grant me the…

Serenity to accept Riddles I cannot solve

Courage to solve the ones I can

And the Wisdom to know when to give up”


Admitting you have a problem is the start of real healing. An epic riddle is stuck in the craw of an entire galaxy.

The Milky Way Chapter of CA-Intergalactic is the largest addiction recovery group in the Universe, boasting membership on Earth, Eridanus and most recently, Mars. The greatest minds, living/breathing or circuitry/A.I., continue to pour over the annoying cryptic challenge.

The Triangulum Chapter of CA-Intergalactic is about to form, having been reeled into the nasty habit by that master of temptation, Sampson McKinney, who passes his addiction on to Chasonn, who never met a challenge he could not resist. The “Harmonia Query” should mean little to Seljuk, but there is something about that Space Family McKinney that hits close to home. Those Earthlings are a compelling story, seemingly tossed about the Great Expanse by circumstances they rarely have a handle on.

But that is the problem with wisdom; it comes slow and it comes hard.

What do you do when you are given a ring full of keys and only one lock to open… oh and there is a mysterious treasure on the other side? This one – no this one – maybe this key will open the door. The requisite anxiety level is a variable, not a constant, depending on the interested individual.


THE NULL SOLUTION

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Episode 119


page 118

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 106

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 106

…Have you been holding back Ekcello; is there something you’re not telling us…

“All the mechanicals, the circuits, the guts are intact,” the Epsilon Eridani chapter of The Space Family McKinney has combed through Defender’s TSF issue, leaving no stone unturned. Deke, Sam and Celeste have attacked the retrieved schematics with the greatest urgency.

Skaldic has his own theories about the whole situation, including the riddle, but he has been conditioned to keep things to himself.

Not a single soul looks forward to a “real time” rescue mission.

Try as they might, all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put TSF together again.

Frustration and impatience are bleeding into the faithful. “Are you sure this is all of it? There has to be something missing Ekcello.” One simulation after another has failed to attain that time-space-compression magic.

The shine is wearing off the Eridanian mystique. Ekcello himself has been reduced to regretting the decision to mothball the tangible wings of a long-gone generation. Panic is setting into a previously panic-free zone.

The Keeper may have been paying closer attention. “Did not XAT tell us there is an unquantified essence to TSF?”

Have you been holding back Ekcello? Is there something you’re not telling us? My God, you may never see Cerella back here on Eridanus, is that what you want?” Sampson McKinney will present you with the brass tacks.

In order to completely reinstate TSF, Ekcello must hearken back to the time when there was no difference between the Gifted and the Null.

And so it is retold by the most Gifted of all: The complete and sordid story of how one class of citizen represses another. In the days when spaceflight was abandoned, a segment of Eridanian society seized the opportunity to lift & separate from the rest; to be Gifted, with all the privileges that they built into it.

The Null had been intentionally stunted, the details of which may never have been admitted.


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 106


page 106

Human Trafficking – WIF Atrocities Spotlight

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Worst Countries

for

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is one of the most despicable crimes that one person can commit against another, and it is sadly way too common. The FBI says that it is the third biggest criminal activity. Anyone can become a victim of human trafficking, which is modern day slavery, and according to the United Nations, about 20 percent of victims are children. It’s also a global problem and countries in every region of the world are affected by it; this includes first world countries.

 Often, people who are desperate for work or food can either be tricked or even kidnapped into slavery. Then, through force or coercion, they are made slaves who work for little or no pay. This work includes forced labor, domestic servitude, and prostitution, to name just a few.

The most comprehensive study on human trafficking is the annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), which is published every year by the American Department of Justice. The reports go back to 2001 and they have a three tier rating system. The worst countries are Tier 3, which are “Countries whose governments do not fully meet the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.” Currently, every single one of these countries are Tier 3, and have a history of being Tier 3.

10. Algeria

Algeria is the largest country in Africa, and because of its location, it’s a hotbed for human trafficking. It’s a North African country and is the gateway to Europe for migrants from Mali, Niger, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nigeria. It’s common for people to voluntarily enter Algeria so they can take a boat to Europe. However, many times after entering Algeria their journey to Europe is thwarted; usually they run out of money, or their money is stolen. Being in a foreign country with no money means that these people are sometimes left with no choice but to work as sex workers, laborers, domestic servants, or they are forced to beg until they collect enough money to pay traffickers to get them to Europe.

Another possibility is that they are brought into Algeria by traffickers, and then owe a debt that needs to be paid before they can continue on to Europe. The problem is that it’s very hard to get out of debt because they don’t make a legal wage, while interest on the debt always makes the debt larger. Or the employer could give them a place to live and food to eat, and that adds to the debt, essentially making them slaves.

For years, Algeria denied that they had a human trafficking problem, despite being a Tier 2 or 3 country on the Department of Justice’s Trafficking In Persons report (TOP) since 2004. It wasn’t until 2015 that they acknowledged the problem, and in December of that year, the Algerian government rolled out a plan on how to deal with human trafficking. However, in the year that followed, no one was convicted of human trafficking related crimes.

9. Venezuela

Since 2002, Venezuela has drifted between Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3 on the TIP report, which is like hovering between a D- versus an F. However, things got really bad in 2015 when the Venezuelan economy had a downturn. When it did, the rates of human trafficking tripled.

Among the people who are trafficked out of the country, 55 percent are adults, 26 percent are young girls, and 19 percent are young boys. Often, they are lured into trafficking by the promise of high paying jobs. Instead, they are sent to countries in the Caribbean, where they are forced into the sex trade or domestic servitude.

The main reason that Venezuela is constantly on the bottom of the list when it comes to worst countries for human trafficking is because they do very little to combat it. They have strict laws surrounding it, but it’s rare if anyone is prosecuted under the laws. Since 2013, only three people have been convicted under the human trafficking laws in Venezuela. Unless the government cracks down on human trafficking, it will continue to be a plague on the country.

8. Sudan and South Sudan

Two civil wars between Muslims, who live in northern Sudan, and Christians and Animists, who live in the south, led to South Sudan gaining its independence in 2011. When South Sudan seceded, they were debt free and it was a middle income country because they exported oil. However, within just five years, thanks to corruption, South Sudan is now impoverished and the 16th poorest country in the world. Sudan is a little better off, but it’s still the 52nd poorest country. Both countries also have a horrible problem with human trafficking.

Both countries are source and destination countries for human trafficking, and Sudan is also a transit country. People are brought into countries by Sudanese and South Sudanese employers, especially those who own restaurants, construction companies, and hotels. They lure people from Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the promise of work and then enslave them.

A big market in both countries is child slaves. Children, as young as 10, are used for a whole series of jobs, including construction, market vending, shoe shining, car washing, rock breaking, brick making, delivery cart pulling, and begging. Girls are also subject to sex work in restaurants, hotels, and brothels.

7. Belarus

Belarus is a country in Eastern Europe that is landlocked between Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Latvia. It is different than many of the other countries on this list, because in a lot of countries, human trafficking is usually controlled by organized crime syndicates. However, in Belarus, it is state-sponsored.

There are several ways the Belarus government can enslave people. One is through a 2015 presidential decree that makes unemployed people pay a fee to the state or they are forced to do community service. If you’re unemployed, there is a good chance you can’t pay the fee, so this leads to community service, meaning unemployed people are forced to work for the government without being paid.

Another presidential decree ordered that workers in the wood processing industry would be given bonuses every month. However, if they resigned, then they would have to pay back the bonuses. If they don’t repay the bonuses, the courts can force them to continue to work in the industry while being watched by law enforcement.

A third decree that is troubling to the DOJ and the UN is that alcoholics and drug addicts can be detained for 12 to 18 months in something called “medical labor centers.” At these centers, people are forced to work, and if they don’t, they can be locked into solitary confinement.

Other laws in Belarus that show the systematic use of human trafficking is that high school and university students are forced to work on farms without pay. Parents who had their paternal rights taken away are subject to compulsory labor, and the government keeps 70 percent of their wages. Finally, government workers and private businesses are forced to work occasionally on Saturdays and then donate all their earnings on those days to state projects. If they don’t, they can face fines, or lose their business licenses or government contracts.

Due to the conditions in Belarus, people try to leave the country, making it a source country for human traffickers, while others are lured there with the promise of work and then they are subjected to forced labor.

6. North Korea

North Korea has one of the most unique human trafficking situations in the world. One reason is that it is almost exclusively a source country for people to be trafficked out of. That’s because of how terrible the conditions are in the country, which includes forced labor camps that house 80,000 to 120,000 people – many of whom have not been charged with a crime. This means that North Koreans fleeing the country can be highly susceptible to human traffickers.

Another way that North Korea is unique in the human trafficking industry is that they also deploy 110,000 to 120,000 forced laborers to 20 to 40 other countries. This apparently makes the Kim Jong-Un regime anywhere from $150 million to $2.3 billion a year. However, the workers only receive 10 percent of their pay after they return to North Korea, usually after a three year stint.

One of these countries that rent slaves is Qatar, who are preparing their country for World Cup 2022.

5. Russia

By surface area, Russia is the biggest country in the world, and is home to 140 million people. It is also the only G8 country that is a Tier 3 country when it comes to human trafficking.

It’s believed that anywhere from 5 to 12 million migrants are working in Russia in conditions that are close to slavery, if not outright slavery. This includes working in underground garment factories, being public transport drivers, and working in construction and agriculture. Also, women and children are forced into prostitution.

How it usually works in Russia is that wages are withheld, or come extremely late. This makes the migrants incur a debt that is impossible to get out of. Employers will also take away migrant workers’ passports, so they can’t leave.

One reason that human trafficking in Russia is such a problem is because of corruption within the Russian government. There are allegations that Russian officials facilitate the entry of migrants into the country for exploitation, and other officials receive bribes to not investigate human trafficking crimes.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Russian government is also directly involved in human trafficking. In the last entry, we talked about how North Korea deploys workers to other countries for slave labor. One of those countries that “lease” North Korean slaves is Russia. In a state-to-state agreement, 20,000 North Korean workers every year are sent to Russia to work in different industries, especially logging.

Since the Russian government is benefiting from human trafficking, don’t expect Russia to move up any tiers on the TIP report any time soon.

4. Syria

Something that helps human trafficking flourish is instability in a country, which makes Syria one of the worst places for human trafficking. Of course, the source of their instability is the most devastating war of the 21st century, so far.

The civil war got its start in March 2011, after 15 boys between the ages of 10 and 15 were brutally tortured, one to the point of death, for writing graffiti supporting the Arab Spring. This led to protests, and to quash the protests, President Bashar al-Assad’s government ordered hundreds of protesters to be killed and imprisoned. This led to defections in the army, and the defectors organized rebellion forces to bring down the Assad government. The war, which is still ongoing, displaced half of Syria’s population, which is 12 million people. Four million were able to flee the country, but 7.6 million are still displaced inside Syria.

People fleeing from dangers, like a civil war, create ideal conditions for human trafficking because traffickers are parasites that thrive on desperation. It makes victims easy to lure into slavery. Imagine if your home was destroyed by a missile, and the only thing you had were the clothes on your back? Not even the government can help you, because they could have been the ones that fired the missile at your home. What choice do you have when someone comes up to you and says that they can help?

Unfortunately, this is a reality for many Syrians who were forced to flee their homes. Once in the custody of the traffickers, the people, especially women and girls, are shipped out to neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, where they are forced into prostitution, labor, and domestic servitude.

What makes the human trafficking situation so much worse in Syria is that it is also a destination country. During the civil war, the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was able to seize two areas of the war torn country. Women and children are trafficked into these two areas. The woman and girls are forced into marriages with ISIL fighters, where they become domestic slaves and face abuse and sexual violence. Boys as young as 6-years-old are used in warfare. Sometimes they are sent to school and taught how to use weapons or they are trained to be suicide bombers. Others are used as human shields and executioners; ISIL has been known to get Syrian children to behead Syrian soldiers.

Besides ISIL, other armed groups, like Ahrar Al-Sham, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and Kurdish forces control different areas of the country, and they also traffick in women and children. Needless to say, the situation in Syria is horrifying. Until there is peace, human trafficking in the country will be impossible to stop.

3. Yemen

As we mentioned in the opening, based on the DOJ’s TIP report, the worst offenders of human trafficking are considered Tier 3. However, there is another category called “special cases.” They’re “special” because the countries are so unstable that it’s hard to get any real figures to understand the true scope of the human trafficking problem.

The first of those countries is Yemen, which is an Arab country found at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. For the past five decades, there have been several civil wars in Yemen. In 2011, the country became more tumultuous after President Ali Abdallah Saleh stepped down after being injured in a rocket attack. The hope was that his resignation would end the civil unrest, but it didn’t work and in March 2015, civil war broke out between forces that are loyal to the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, which is internationally recognized, and forces that are loyal to the Houthi rebel movement. Added to the mix is that ISIL and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an Al-Qaeda franchise, both control areas of the country.

Before the civil war, Libya had a terrible track record for human trafficking as a destination and transit country for migrants from the Horn of Africa. It was also known as a sex tourist area for people from the Gulf. Child labor was also fairly common, as there were 1.7 million children under the age of 14 who were subject to forced labor.

Experts believe a lot of those activities are still going on, but they have no official data because of how unstable the country is. What they do know is that, due to the conflict, over 3 million people have been displaced, and much like in the case of Syria, human traffickers prey upon those displaced people.

Children are particularly hard hit in Yemen. Boys are forced to be laborers, work in shops, or beg, while both boys and girls are shipped to Saudi Arabia, where they are forced to work as prostitutes. Boys, sometimes as young as 10, are also used as soldiers by government forces (yes, the same one that is internationally backed), the Houthi rebel forces, and the AQAP.

2. Libya

The second special case is Libya, which is found in northern Africa between Algeria and Egypt. Libya is an oil rich country that was controlled by dictator Muammar Gaddafi before a civil war led to Gaddafi being ousted and killed in 2011. However, even before his downfall, Libya was a magnet for human traffickers because of its position between Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, and because Gaddafi’s regime profited from trafficking.

However, after Gaddafi’s ousting, no real government has taken its place and different areas of the country are controlled by different armed groups. This includes ISIL and Al-Qaeda, and has led to an explosion of human trafficking. It’s the second biggest industry in Libya, just behind oil.

Many people are detained on their way from Africa to Europe and held for ransom. During detainment, people are held in overcrowded centers where they’re tortured, arbitrarily murdered, and sexually assaulted. The conditions are so horrendous that before women head to Libya, they take contraceptives to avoid getting pregnant by rapists. Sometimes these detention centers are state-sponsored, while others are controlled by militias.

Besides the horrid detention centers, like many other countries on this list, men are forced to become laborers, women and girls are forced into the sex trade, and boys are recruited by militia groups. Unfortunately, until Libya starts to get some stability, their nightmarish human trafficking problem will only get worse.

1. Somalia

If you were hoping that “special cases” were just temporary designations for a country because something horrible and unforeseeable happened that would dramatically increase the amount of human trafficking, like a natural disaster, war, or genocide, and the label would go away once that issue was dealt with… well, the African country of Somalia should demystify any notions of that. In 2016, Somalia was labeled a special case for a 14thconsecutive year.

Somalia is at the tip of the Horn of Africa and is one of the poorest countries in the world. A lot of problems in the country stem back to 1991, when President Mohamed Siad Barre, who assumed power in 1969 after a military coup, was ousted. After that, the country fell into anarchy. Different areas of the country were controlled by warlords who ruled over clans. Since then, there have been attempts at peace, but the war is still ongoing 26 years later. A new government was finally elected in 2012, after 21 years without a central government, and they have been slowly moving towards stability. However, the government doesn’t have much control over the six states that make up the country. Also, Al-Shabaab (a terrorist organization) controls some rural areas of the country.

Of course, since Somalia had the same amount of laws as the world of The Walking Dead for over two decades, human trafficking has been pretty rampant there. It’s hard to verify any of the trafficking problems, but it’s believed that men, women, and children are used for forced labor, domestic servitude, and the sex trade. Things are so bleak in the country that sometimes parents are forced to give their children up to traffickers.

Child soldiers are also quite common, as the Somali government uses them, as do two states. To be fair, the Somali government doesn’t issue birth certificates, so it’s hard to verify ages. However, Al-Shabaab has been known to recruit neglected children and use them as soldiers, assassins, suicide bombers, to plant roadside bombs and other explosives, and finally, as human shields during incursions.


Human Trafficking

WIF Spotlight

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 61

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 61

…22 years later Sampson feels that same ~~~ immediate rage!…

Rage by Sarah Goodyear

A pall has been cast and no one on Earth can explain what it is exactly.

“I cannot help but feel bad about whomever, whatever, wherever those ships came from,” is Gus’ pilot lament.

“Even though they may have been on their way here to say, wipe us out?” Prez Roy always considers the worst case scenario.

Fletcher Fitch pipes in, “I am only 3 weeks from acquiring enough juice to power the planetary force field!”

“That is comforting to know, but it would have been too late old friend.” Pragmatism is required to spearhead planetary policy. “And no Gus, SEx would not have helped either.” He isn’t through, “Please tell me that Lorgan…” he asks FF.

“… Yes, it was there.”

“Of course!”

Roy Crippen and his merry spacemen are only aware of a 1/4 fraction of the entire scope. How would full knowledge of Lorgan’s clout affect their posture?

“Just be thankful you can go home to Mindy at the end of the day.”

Deke McKinney’s gut reaction to the apparent loss of his mate, is to start sprinting for Explorer, as if it were a horse and he was a one-man posse determined to chase down a bank robbing gang.

Daddy Sam musters enough footspeed to run down his son. He sees so much of himself in the fleeing new father. Just what wouldn’t he do if he were in the identical shoes? What was his own reaction after witnessing the destruction of Space Colony 1? He wanted to jump back into Tycho, the clunky Martian lander and chase whatever was responsible for marooning them. 22 years later he feels that same~~~

{Mars 2030In the moments following that breathtaking {not in a good way} flash of light high above the Martian atmosphere, several seconds elapsed before the ominous explosion could be felt. It was as thunderous as any blastoff of an old Atlas rocket.

If the cornea-singeing light and the eardrum-piercing sound were not enough, the shock wave that swept down to the surface got Tycho to rockin’ as if it were a 150 yr. old oak tree in a tornado. Sampson had all he could handle in stabilizing the lander during the 20 second maelstrom.

Even after these unpredictable twist and turns, light and darks, the real scope of their predicament does not sink in until after the dust settles. It is Celeste who verbalizes the obvious, “My dear God Sam, we are castaways!”

She prevents her husband from throttling up for a wasted chase.

~~~immediate rage!


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 61


page 64

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 47

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 47

…Skaldic has chosen his own path, he chooses the Null way…

CHAPTER FIVE

Null Not Void

 In times of doubt, when what she sees does not compute, Deimostra McKinney will pursue it to the point of understanding. Just why the Null are labeled as inferior eludes her. And why do the so-called Gifted have the right to lord over them. As far as she can tell the Null she has met are as pleasant, maybe even more genuine than their counterparts.

It is time for Cerella to finish the subject she hurriedly brushed aside when the Null first met the Space Family McKinney. At the time, O was the topic that dominated any discussion that shed light on the Null and their secluded Tower.

That Deimostra is a societal infant and that she can identify injustice is telling for sure.

“It has always been so Deimostra. It has never been an issue. They are not intuitive of the mind. They are inferior. They are well cared for. They lack for nothing. They are Null.”

“And yet Eridanus’ welfare has been in Skaldic’s capable control until the time we got back,” she takes exception to inferiority.

Skaldic has chosen his own path. He chooses the Null way.

“Then why weren’t we banished to our own tower or the Null Tower when stepped off the NEWFOUNDLANDER? You must have thought us to be less-than-nothing. Stowaways on your precious property… that’s what we were.”

“It was Celeste who convinced us that you were intelligent beings. She communicated in the Olde Language and you were not considered a threat to us.”

“There, don’t you get it Cerella? Why can’t the Null learn what we learned? Or why do they even need to?”

“We have the left old behind and have embraced the new. The Null have no interest in the ways of the Gifted.”

Celeste is near, picks up on her daughter’s argument discussion and adds her perspective. “On Earth, we had people we called slaves. They were savages from the wilds of the continent Africa. They were bought and sold like a commodity… the Null are not slaves.”

“But until The Gifted fell silent, the Null were not allowed out of their tower, like they have some strange disease. They aren’t slaves, but there is a distinct separation going on here.”

Mother Celeste raises both arms and shrugs, “She has a good point Cerella.”

Defeating centuries of perception is like running into a brick wall; the inexorable force meets the immovable object.

“All but Skaldic and his attendant will be permitted outside the Null Tower.”

And that, is as they say, is that.


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 47


page 51

Simply Not Simple – WIF Human Mysteries

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Simple Things

We Still

Don’t Understand

Some have said that the human pursuit of knowledge is like awakening naked in a dark forest, and being asked “how did you get here?” Despite the many difficulties and false beliefs, man has undoubtedly made great strides in having a better understanding of our world. However, there are still ideas, behaviors, and concepts that we still fail to understand. Even the most simple concepts, like the world being round, hasn’t necessarily found footing. We’ve decided to investigate 10 simple things that we don’t fully understand, in hopes that we can come to understand that we’re not out of the wilderness yet.

 10. Some People Don’t Need Sleep

We know, we know. You’re thinking, what is sleep doing on this list? We all know the function of sleep and its importance for brain health and overall wellness. It’s widely believed that the brain needs sleep to generate new pathways and connections. Without sleep, the body would be unable to hold onto these connections and it would also struggle to rejuvenate itself, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones.

The curious case of short sleepers, profiled in Ying-Hui Fu’s lab at the University of California-San Francisco, demonstrates that we haven’t come to understand sleep as well as we think. In 2009, a woman entered Fu’s lab and gave a surprising account. No matter what time she went to bed, even if it was late at night, she would still wake up at the crack of dawn. She could never sleep in. Never. And according to the subject, it was the same for several members of her family. Skeptical at first, Fu and her colleagues, decided to compare the genome of different family members. The result was an amazing discovery: a tiny mutation in a gene called DEC2. The mutation was present in family members who identified as short sleepers, but not in members of the family who had normal length sleep, nor in 250 unrelated volunteers.

However, without more conclusive evidence the finding would not be well received. Fu was left with a conundrum: how do we prove that the DEC2 gene is tied to sleep?

In order to test their hypothesis, Fu and her team decided to breed mice to express the same mutation of the “short sleepers.” The results proved that their hypothesis was correct: the mice with the mutation performed just as well as regular mice, in terms of physical and cognitive tasks, while sleeping substantially less.

Fu’s subject would relay that her short sleeping abilities allowed her to finish college in just two and half years and has generally given her ample time to become a more fulfilled person. Imagine, having 60 extra days a year. That’s a reality that future generations will certainly enjoy.

9. We Still Don’t Know How Many Species There Are on Earth

Since Noah and his Ark, human beings have attempted to categorize and catalogue the different species that we share the planet with. You’d think we’d be able to have a concrete understanding of the other creatures that roam this planet with us, but we really don’t. In fact, it’s almost embarrassing how far ranging our estimates are. Most taxonomists believe we haven’t even scratched the surface in discovering all the creatures that live on the planet. After nearly 250 years of work,  and the findings of over 15,000 new living beings each year, taxonomists still shy away from coming up with concrete estimates of how many species inhabit the planet Earth.

Scientists have identified nearly 8.7 million species, but that number is constantly challenged by scientists presenting new methods and models for extrapolation. One concept proposed by Richard May, an evolutionary biologist, is that the diversity of land animals increases as they get smaller and, granting that we’d discovered most species of big animals, he used them as a model for smaller species and concluded that there are 10 to 50 million species of land animals.

Many might be asking why it is so difficult to come up with a finite number? One of the biggest reasons is that 99 percent of all living space is under the ocean, and we’ve explored less than 10 percent of it.

8. We Know Dreaming is Important, but We Don’t Know Why

Sigmund Freud believed that dreams are a window into the unconscious mind, which express hidden feelings that are repressed or that we’re simply unaware of. And while that may not be true, it’s just one of the many theories on the nature of dreams that have not resulted in fundamental answers. What we do know for certain is that everyone dreams. The most vivid dreams occur during the REM cycle, when the brain is most active, and while it may not feel like it, but experts claim we dream at least 4 to 6 times per night.

If we’re said to dream 6 times a night, and rarely remember our dreams, what could possibly be the purpose? Why do we remember some dreams and not others? We simply have no answers. What we do know is that dreaming is important to our health and well-being. A study in which researchers woke subjects just as they were drifting off into REM sleep found that those who were not allowed to dream experienced: increased tension, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, lack of coordination, weight gain, and a tendency to hallucinate.

We guess that we’ve found new meaning in the phrase “never stop dreaming.”

7. Laughing: A Universal Language?

Something as universal as laughter would seemingly be easy to explain. It’s not. Like dreams, laughter is a powerful display of our unconscious. Laughter is involuntary, and thus is a window into our sensibilities. Think about it. Laughter changes our facial expressions, elicits noises (some more flattering than others), and is without question contagious. Who hasn’t been a room where everyone breaks out into fits of laughter?

So what triggers it? It’s not as simple as you think.

Studies have shown that laughter is less about humor and more about social interaction and communication. Laughter is first exhibited in a child at three and a half to four months of age, well before speech, and as such laughter, similar to crying, is a way for an infant to interact with the mother. The idea that laughter is another form of communication was studied by researchers who went to local malls and city sidewalks and recorded what happened just before people laughed. Over the course of nearly ten years, and observing more than 2,000 cases of naturally occurring laughter, “[they] found that most laughter does not follow jokes. People laugh after a variety of statements, such as ‘Hey John, where ya been?’ and ‘Here comes Mary.’” It is not a leap to suggest that laughter supplements language to undress situations and to better form relationships or create bonds.

6. Yawning Cools the Brain

Another involuntary action that we’ve been unable to come to terms with is yawning. A behavior that occurs across species still has managed to puzzle scientists. A widely held belief that yawning occurs so oxygen can enter our bloodstream and to wake us up when we’re becoming drowsy has actually been disproven. Steven Platek, a psychology professor at Georgia Gwinnett College, is one of the many scientists who have said there is zero evidence that yawning affects levels of oxygen in the bloodstream, blood pressure, or heart rate.

The pervading theory is that the purpose yawning is to cool down the brain. The importance of scientific inquiry is that while eliminating one hypothesis it can make way for another. Subsequently, with studies showing that yawning does not affect levels of oxygen in the bloodstream, other experiments showed that yawning actually changes the temperature of the brain itself.

A Gallup study that took place in 2007 revealed that holding hot or cold packs to the forehead influenced how often people yawned, in instances where they saw others doing it. Additionally, when subjects held a warm pack to their forehead, “they yawned 41 percent of the time… (and) when they held a cold pack, the incidence of yawning dropped to 9 percent.”

Mechanically speaking, stretching our jaws leads to an increasing rate of blood flow to the skull and by inhaling at the same time, the air changes the temperature of the flow, leading to cooler blood flowing to the brain.

Experiments done on our favorite test subjects, mice, supported the conclusion that “an increase in brain temperature was found to precede yawning. Once the tiny rodents opened wide and inhaled, the temperature decreased.”

5. Mosquitoes Like Some More Than Others

“They like you more.” That’s the common refrain when a night out on the beach leads to one family member being left ravaged by mosquitoes. The truth is that remark has almost been taken as explanatory. In reality, most of us don’t know why some individuals are targeted more than others. Scientists have come to the believe that 20% of population is more attractive to mosquitoes than others.

Scientists have not settled on what exactly distinguishes that 20 percent, but one of the leading theories is blood type. A study found that Type O blood was twice more likely to be bitten than Type A.  The data is less conclusive with Type B with researchers concluding that it falls somewhere in the middle of desirable and undesirable for mosquitoes.

4. Blushing May Have Started as a Social Custom

“Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.” The eternal words of Mark Twain need only to tell us why exactly man “needs to.” It seems to be the most basic of human behaviors. We blush when we’re embarrassed. Being the product of an evolutionary process that eliminates characteristics that lower survival, how did blushing, a response that shows vulnerability, manage to manifest itself in all cultures and peoples?

Darwin remained puzzled until his death, but that did not stop other scientists from attempting to explain this behavior.

Currently, one of the leading theories of the origin of blushing is that it began as an appeasement ritual: to submit to the authority of dominant members of a group. Naturally, submitting to said member would then increase one’s chances of surviving in that group.

Scientists believe that as our social interactions later became more complex, it became intertwined with emotions like guilt, shame, and embarrassment. And as the rearing of family became of the utmost importance in agrarian societies, neuroscientists note that it may have been viewed as socially desirable and attractive for women to blush and therefore reveal honesty to men.

3. What’s the Deal With Pubic Hair?

No longer hairy apes, we’ve evolved and lost most of our thick wool of hair that seemed to represent that earlier period in our evolutionary past. However, a reminder of that history remains in the most unlikely of places: hair in our genital regions. What purpose could pubic hair possibly have? If you’ve been following along, you’ll know the answer is far from straightforward.

One of the most popular theories is that “since thicker hair gathers in regions where we have apocrine (scent) sweat glands as well as eccrine (cooling) ones, it may serve to waft odors that signal sexual maturity.”

Just another example that we’re just one small piece in a long fabric of evolution.

2. Kissing Isn’t Universal

We were surprised to learn that kissing was not a universally practiced show of affection. It turns out just 46% of cultures engage in the locking of lips.

Probably the most likely proposition is that the custom began during child rearing, where the connection between a mother and an infant comes from the “mouth sensations associated with breastfeeding.”

In addition, earlier epochs, probably engaged in mouth-to-mouth feeding of chewed food, is a custom that’s still carried out by the Manus cultures of the Admiralty Islands.  The act of this is used by women to remind children and descendants of their obligations to her.

Lastly, in terms of physiology, our lips are among the most sensitive parts of our bodies, with sensory neurons linked to our brain’s pleasure palaces. The benefits of which has shown that kissing reduces levels of the stress, hormone cortisol and increases the bonding hormone, oxytocin.

1. Consciousness is a Puzzle That’s Ever-Changing

The most complex concept on our list has been puzzling great thinkers for generations. In the 17th century, Descartes, a French philosopher, posited the notion that mind and body were completely separate. That began a philosophical battle that continues to this day. Without any answers, we will ask you to choose what camp you’re in.

Descartes was the earliest proponent of idealism – the idea that the mind and body are entirely separate. On the other hand there are the materialists, like Karl Marx, who believe that nothing exists apart from the material world (i.e. physical matter like the brain); materialist psychologists generally agree that consciousness (the mind) is the function of the brain.


Simply Not Simple

WIF Human Mysteries

THE RETURN TRIP – Next to Last Episode

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THE RETURN TRIP – Next to Last Episode

#The enemies of your United States of America, the United Korean Peninsula would take advantage of Stellar Explorer’s imminent failure…

Bitterness To Enemies – Painting by Nicholas Roerich

Ekcello explains the reasoning behind Gus McKinney’s allowed “escape” from Eridanus:

#When the High Counsel convened, some time ago, we had one specific issue to deal with; the effect of the humans on the stability of our society#

#We were prepared to deal with the introduction of change, until the drumbeat of a young pioneer became deafening. Your son Gus’ reluctance to accept his situation Futureforced us to reconsider some of our positions and we discovered we could solve one problem, the one of temporal tampering.

#We had originally assumed that should Stellar Explorer and your sons be allowed to return to Earth, after we made the necessary corrections to their flaws, that it would destabilize the time-stem they were operating in. What we found farther out in the future changed our minds.

#The enemies of your United States of America and treacherous infection to your planet, the United Korean Peninsula would take advantage of Stellar Explorer’s imminent failure and embark on their own space program, go on to dominate your Solar System, and eventually force its flawed ideology on inferior planets they meet along the way. It is not our practice to tamper with the future, its past or its current, but we could not allow that reality to exist in a galaxy where coexistence is so vital, not dominance#

Memories of the long-past Ÿ€Ð invasion is never far from their minds.

#Gus McKinney travels in a vehicle of which there is no match. He will return to the 2051.025 time-stem without knowing how the improvements came to be. He will experience strange dreams in the aftermath, dreams that will haunt him, taunt him, and cause him to search for their meaning.

#We on Eridanus will be watching and waiting#

Those that Gus leaves behind, the Space Family McKinney on Eridanus stand together, bolstered by the wise Ekcello, pinning their hopes on Gus and his indomitable spirit of exploration.


THE RETURN TRIP

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 265

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 265

…The Time-Masters have been scanning the future of multiple worlds: theirs, ours and even the dreaded Ÿ€Ð…

Time Masters

“There is a need for a consensus assessment of the growing emotional influence of these earthlings on our world,” Ekcello stresses.

“Have the newcomers caused us trouble? The original three have had a positive effect on my tower, as I believe yours?”

“It is not trouble is the strictest sense, but I fear that the youngest of the newest is unstable enough to possibly attempt an escape.” He speaks of Gus like he was a grandchild, or the Eridanus equivalent.

“Is it possible to send them back without damaging the timestem?” They are discussing many of the very things to be dealt by the Counsel in general, but Fortän’s opinions are valued by Ekcello and hold particular sway.

“That is what I hope to find out this day. The Time-Masters have been scanning the future of multiple worlds: theirs, ours and even the dreaded Ÿ€Ð .”

The far-off and long-forgotten Ÿ€Ð  is an outlaw-outlying-system in Eridanus’ distant past, even though it was the Ÿ€Ð  who Eridanus emulated in their transition to transcendentalism— But there is a rub-of-the-green when it comes to Ÿ€Ð  nature; they are and likely continue to be a paranoid bunch, steeped in a shunted corner of the Galaxy Sexta A.

“The passing of time will always tell,” concludes the wise-and-only Eridanian female Elder.

Side-by-side, mates for life, with years numbering in the many thousands, make their way to the dusty Founder Shrine amphitheater which is now filled with 1500 Elders.

There are notes flying through the audible frequencies, both sharp, flat, and perfect pitch. As confusing as the sung/spoken jumble seems, to have all these Eridanians using telepathy, at once in the same tower, would be a mind-blowing folly.

The appearance of Ekcello and Fortän causes the background noise to cease.

When Ekcello beckons the gathering to order, it becomes: each man, each voice, democracy in its utmost form, “I summon you today, here at Founder Shrine, to discuss the topic of the humans, who have grown so dear to us in recent times.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 265


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 264

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 264

…“Yes Fortän, I am afraid the times are tilting back to our uneasy past.” He speaks to the female Eridanian of greatest familiarity…

The dust still uneasy on hurried graves-3 by Nilima Sheikh

As well-liked and welcomed as the Earthlings have become, their overall impact on the average Eridanian is profound and growing. This very subject has prompted the Supreme Elder of the High Counsel to gather theFounder Shrine other members, at the Founder Shrine, the point where the first settlers set foot on this Utopian and enchanted world.

The Shrine is like no other structure on Eridanus, the only such brick & mortar allowed to use the architectural look of the Mother Planet. Its opulence and grandeur stands as a haunting reminder of their sorted past. For the “average” Eridanian, special permission is needed to visit it.

Ekcello comes here most often, gliding through the hall of this edifice, to hear the echoes of a long forgotten civilization. In keeping with time-honored tradition, only the Olde Language is used here and so it will be during this special session of the High Counsel.

In this very hall, speaking the Olde Language, another of the elders is in search of his/her roots: “It is refreshing to speak aloud Ekcello,” chimes the other, in rusty tones and pitches.

“Yes Fortän, I am afraid the times are tilting back to our uneasy past.” He speaks to the female Eridanian of greatest familiarity to him. She is his mate, the mother of Cerella, and just so happens to Elder a distant towered city.

“Did you bring our daughter with you?” Her tone chills as she utters mention of her offspring.

“She is too close to this matter Fortän. Her involvement with the humans is affecting her objectivity.” He is similar in pragmatic tone.

“You have convened the High Counsel concerning the Earth people, have you not?”

“It weighs heavily on my mind, as all can sense. There is a need for a consensus assessment of the growing emotional influence of these earthlings on our world.”

LRNG | Rube Goldberg Machine

Chain reaction


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 264


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 263

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 263

…Whatever keeps these young dynamic human beings busy, Ekcello is all for it…

During the timeless days that follow, the assimilation of the two newest additions to Eridanus is as complete as it is going to get. Gus McKinney has tabled his protestations for the time being, while the elder of them busies himself by spending his days learning and understanding the essence of what it means to be an Eridanian. Deke studies the new culture.

The younger follows in his father’s track of citizenship; in, out, around, and through every space vehicle in the Spaceflight Expository, to more fully grasp the essence of space travel and the complicated fabric that is time. He learns that the manipulation of the latter unlocks the secrets of the former.

Whatever keeps these young dynamic human beings busy, Ekcello is all for it. He is relieved, about not having them weigh so heavily on his officious mind. Yes Gus is only temporarily appeased, but being anticipatory is what telepathy is all about. Dealing with this smoldering tinderbox of a human has leapfrogged to his list of priorities.

High Counsel by Wmskp12 on deviantart.com

The High Counsel of Eridanus, the omniscient ruling body of the planet, consists of one representative from each of the fifteen hundred spired cities. In nearly each case, the eldest {very high math} individual holds these mainly ceremonial positions. The need for a governing parliament has given way to a perfectly ordered society. The reasoning behind the choosing of elders is only evident when the rare problem arises.

These old-timers remember what it was like on their now molten Mother Planet, a far cry from the current state of affairs. As a body, they credit the fresh start on a new planet as the secret for their societal success and the corrections for any mistakes made on the old.

And as well-liked and welcomed the Earthlings have become, their overall impact on the average Eridanian is profound and growing.


THE RETURN TRIP

State of Affairs, mixed media on canvas by Vanessa Lam

Episode 263


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