The NULL Solution = Episode 92

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The NULL Solution = Episode 92

…That leaves me with a handful of nothing…

Kiddo & Daddio will make a good team!” Sampson lobbies for his son.

“Yes to a co-pilot. No to Deke.”

Ekcello places limits on his magnanimity.

“Deimostra then; father and daughter can dance through the stars!”

“Not from the seeds of your loins –

  1. Deimostra needs the companionship of her mother
  2. Deke will serve as a sentinel to monitor your progress to Earth from here on Eridanus. 

– I call him a “sentinel” because Deke views the Great Expanse with a reasonable eye, not merely focused on Earth.”

“That leaves me with a handful of nothing. Can we build a robot in such a short time? I prefer something that lives, breathes and likes to go fast!”

“Skaldic the Null,” he prescribes plain and simple.

“Skaldy?” Sam had not given his new-ish pal a thought. He likes the way Skaldic thinks for sure, but the day “Gifted Daddy” gives him the keys to the family car, well this will go down as a red-letter day. “Yeah, Skaldy has been itching to experience TSF, or anything to get out of this quagmire you call an atmosphere.”

“I have instructed Deke to preset a heading into Defender’s triangulation. You will not be able to stray more than .0000005° off the designated route. Your purpose is to locate both Cerella and her child and transport them home, where they belong.”

“So Deke was in on this before you even asked me? He didn’t so much as give me a clue what he was doing in the navigation array… said he was checking on the details of our trip out to the Selljunks, the rascal!”

“It is Seljuk and they are our ally.”

“I know, I know. That Chasonn is an alright dude; a little paranoid, but alright for an alien.”

“It is you, Sammy Mac, who is the alien. We have known of them long before you showed up at the Spaceflight Expository.”

“Touché old man, we are new at this space travel thing, but we’re fast learners, not to mention “good aliens” to have as friends.”

“Skaldic the Null will join us soon. He is also a fast learner, as you say. You will show him the way of space. And remember, you must go undetected on Earth, excepting the ones for which you care for most, the ones you speak of incessantly.”


The NULL Solution =

Episode 92


page 93

The NULL Solution = Episode 59

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The NULL Solution = Episode 59

Župzïð the Last is so named because he will be the final ruler of the Ÿ€Ð star system, which will soon be meeting the end of a very long run…

CHAPTER SIX

Milky Way Apprehensive

 A star’s glow, however bright the shine, travels at a prescribed rate of speed; unless it is altered, bent, skewed, accelerated or absorbed.

Similarly, not everything stays exactly the same forever.

And so it is with the temporary peace in the Milky Way. Some are content to let the other shoe to drop, others do not.

The Ÿ€Ð are not about to take the loss of their “exploratory” fleet lying down. The #13 ship may well have been their unlucky downfall. Would 12 ships have fared better? Is number thirteen a universal bane? Do not all the civilized of space count upward from zero?

Once upon a time, Župzïð the Last would have been one of those 13 commanders whose ship was dispatched into the vacuum of space… on the fringe of a puny star system in the Milky Way. In what is Stardate 2052, his thick blood is boiling.

 Župzïð the Last is so named because he will be the final ruler of the Ÿ€Ð star system, which will soon be meeting the end of a very long run. The home planet’s {of three} orbit is slowing down. That deceleration will upset the heretofore convenient parade around their white giant of a star.

The funny thing about gravity is that it is the single true universal influence.

Župzïð the Last was revered by all,

Župzïð the Last’s world was about to fall.

All of Župzïð’s spaceships and all of his brightest,

Couldn’t help Župzïð save the Ÿ€Ð planet.

And so goes the folk tale that is shared around Ÿ€Ð gatherings in these final days. Most of the most have already scattered themselves among nearby **inhabitable planets {**anything round w/atmosphere}. Panic induced and uncontrollable, the once proud, if not revolting, societal fabric of the Ÿ€Ð has been torn from apart from within.

But that doesn’t mean that the transcendent core was about to go the way of inconsequence. With the aid of waning planetary resources, Župzïð is building a space oasis of the grandest scale. In his inimitable way he crows, “Cowards will regret not joining the Ÿ€Ð sanctuary.”

The Collapsar Axis will be completed soon. The good news for neighboring galaxies is the Collapsar Axis is too large to move very far… yet.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 59


page 61

Alien Scenarios – WIF Speculation

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Scenarios:

If Aliens Landed

on Earth

It’s time for some good, old-fashioned speculation. What would happen if aliens visited earth? Now, the speculation and assumptions we’re about to make are based on logic, philosophy, educated guesses, probabilities, nature, and of course, our own history. After all, our frame of reference is quite limited when it comes to possible encounters with extraterrestrial life. So, we have to imagine the most plausible scenarios, as well as try to think outside the box as much as possible.

 If intelligent alien species were to discover Earth (if they haven’t already), will they just take a look and decide it’s not worth the hassle to deal with our primitive ways, or will they enrich our lives with knowledge beyond our current understanding? Will we recognize them as life in the first place, or will they treat us like we would a nasty parasite?

10. Aliens in History

Our biggest fear when it comes to alien encounters has a lot to do with our own history, and what we know can happen if a technologically advanced civilization encounters an inferior one. Let’s take a look at the Age of Discovery, and particularly the Colonization of the Americas at the turn of the 16th century. As many of us know, the Europeans were looking to find alternative roots to India due in part to the break-up of the Mongol Empire, which up until the 15th century assured safe passage for trade caravans on land. And secondly, because of the Ottoman Turks, who took over the East Mediterranean and were hostile towards the Europeans.

As a result, they took to the oceans, virtually stumbling upon the Americas in 1492. The technological difference between the Native Americans and the “alien” Europeans was, at best, a few centuries apart. But that small difference proved fatal for the natives. In fact, with a handful of conquistadors, a few native allies, several horses, and a few cannons, Hernan Cortes was able to singlehandedly bring down the mighty Aztec Empire. If an alien species were ever to visit us, the same thing might happen, but on a global scale.

After all, if an intelligent species is capable of interstellar flight and reaching Earth from a faraway star system, then you can be sure they’re likely thousands of years ahead of us in technological terms. And like the Aztecs, who had the numbers and the weapons to defeat Cortes and his men, they had little chance in standing in his way. And even if they did, that would have only postponed their inevitable demise at the hands of the technologically superior Europeans, who now knew of their existence. Even Stephen Hawking has a dire warning for the human race when it comes to alien species: “The history of advanced races meeting more primitive people on this planet is not very happy, and they were the same species. I think it would be a disaster.”

9. The Cultural Shock and Ensuing Panic

If alien species ever decide to pay us a visit, there are several near certainties that would happen, regardless of those aliens’ intentions toward us. For starters, if we were to wake up one morning with a huge spaceship hovering above our house, and then hear reports of similar sightings all over the world, we can be fairly certain that panic would ensue. Even if we humans are inquisitive by nature, we’re not really fond of surprises, especially of that magnitude. This reaction would stem, of course, primarily from past experiences in our own history.

Moreover – and this shouldn’t come as a surprise – we’d be hit with an enormous wave of cultural shock. Even in this age of technological advancements, when people are more connected than ever, there are still large numbers of people who cannot and will not accept other people’s cultures, traditions, or different ways of thinking. But, for better or worse, we have had previous contacts with each other over the centuries, and even though we’re still not used to other opinions or points of view, we are somewhat influenced and accepting of them… to a certain degree.

But what would happen if we come across a species which will most likely look totally different, and maybe have a totally different view about life, and existence itself? Will they be religious, or not? Do they even need to eat, and if so, do they use mouths to do it? There is virtually an infinite number of things that can be construed as different, and if we still can’t accept other people’s habits and traditions, then we can be sure that we won’t accept alien ones. One good thing that might come out of all of this is that, if aliens visit Earth and decide to contact us, we will most certainly forget all of our current disagreements with each other, no matter how different or crazy they might see them today.

8. But What Would They Look Like?

We’re all familiar with the “Greys” as the generic alien. They’re… well, gray (duh), bipedal, and hairless, with big eyes and big heads, long fingers, shorter in stature than we are, and very skinny. But isn’t this more of an interpretation of how we might look in the far future? In fact, some theorize that, according to our own evolutionary trends, slowly but surely this is what humanity will turn out to be.

The first time these Gray Aliens made an appearance as presented here was in the 1893 article “Man of the Year Million,” written by famous author H.G. Wells. The article, as the title suggests, was an interpretation of how humans would look one million years into the future.

Anyway, chances are that aliens will look totally different than these “Greys.” But, nevertheless, for an intelligent species to evolve far enough in order to master space travel, it will need to be terrestrial. As Fermilab physicist Don Lincoln, puts it: “There could be alien cavemen underwater. But truly, you can’t smelt metal [down there],” meaning that dolphins, if left to their own devices, may one day become even more intelligent than they are today. But because they live underwater, it is highly unlikely that they’ll be able to develop any kind of moderately advanced technology.

Furthermore, there could be other similarities we’d share with technologically advanced alien species via a phenomenon evolutionary biologists call “convergent evolution.” This is a process through which organisms not closely related to each other independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar conditions. These include some organs, like the eye, or behavior, like pack predication. Humans have also developed similar scientific and technological advancements while completely isolated from each other; things like basic tools and weapons, language, writing, the domestication of plants and animals, and even mathematics.

But when it comes to the differences, it is more statistically probable that aliens would live on habitable planets unlike Earth, and will look unlike us humans. Again, even though we don’t have any other frames of reference other than what we see on our own planet, this is still enough for physicists and statisticians to come to the conclusion that the majority of alien species out there will be different than our own. Chances arethat they’ll be bigger than us, roughly 770 pounds – the size and weight of a polar bear. Moreover, they’ll be living in smaller groups than we do; some 20 million strong or less, and on smaller planets than Earth – less that 80% its size.

7. They’ll Most Likely be Machines, Though

Humans were able to invent the radio around the year 1900. Then, 45 year later, the first computer came into existence. And now, we’re able to manufacture relatively cheap devices with greater computing power than even the human brain itself. What’s more, artificial intelligence is not that far off in the foreseeable future. On this trend, Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute Seth Shostak bases his prediction that any advanced form of intelligence we will encounter will take on the form of a machine. He believes that any alien civilization capable of space travel will also follow this path. He even states they’ll integrate technology into their bodies, to the point where there will be no more organic matter left. “It’ll be like — you build a four-cylinder engine. You put it in a horse to get a faster horse. And pretty soon you say, ‘Look, let’s get rid of the horse part and just build a Maserati,’” said Shostak“So that’s probably what’s going to happen.”

He goes on to say we humans are the result of 4 billion years of Darwinian evolution, based on random variations with no particular goal or master plan. But machines, on the other hand, are totally different. Their evolution is based solely on efficiency and improvement on older models. What’s more, machines don’t require a myriad of conditions in order to survive, like an Earth-like habitable planet, and they certainly wouldn’t be tied to their ancestral homes. As long as they have a steady supply of raw materials and energy – something which the universe certainly doesn’t lack – they will have no problem in traveling great distances or even living in outer space indefinitely. By this logic, Shostak believes that the best chance to find these machine beings is in the center of galaxies, where there’s lots of available energy. That, or wait another 30 or so years, until we invent autonomous AI for ourselves.

6. The “Perfect Utopia”

 At first glance, the best case scenario if aliens were to descend on Earth is for them to completely disregard our primitive and vengeful ways, and take us under their wing. They would then go on to teach us the way toward a utopic future where we not only live in harmony with them, each other, and the surrounding environment, but also continue on striving toward our own betterment, both technologically and socially. Sounds good, right? And hey, by the sheer size of the observable universe and the seemingly infinite number of planets out there, there could be at least a handful of alien species that have made it their business to seeking out underdeveloped ones, like ourselves, and lifting them up from their “uncivilized” ways. They could share with us new technologies and reforms for all sorts of things, in terms of medicine, society, energy, education, transport, and whatever else we might think of.

But the question here is whether this is the best thing for us in the long run? Be careful what you wish for, right? Being exposed to too much technology and too much change, too fast, can have dire repercussions on society. After all, it took us an incredibly short amount of time from when nuclear weapons were invented, to when we first used them on other people. It was war, yes, but still – the effects of radiation and radiation poisoning were barely understood. Or what about fossil fuels? They are, indeed, an incredible source of energy, almost unequalled in terms of caloric value per pound (which is the reason we’re now struggling to find alternatives). And because of their awesome power potential, we’ve used them to the point where we are now faced with our own possible self destruction.

Indeed, some benevolent aliens could teach us to avoid these shortcomings and use powerful technologies responsibly. But in doing so, these aliens would make us completely dependent on them, and thus negate the whole “uplifting” thing in the first place. After all, there is no such thing as perfect, or a Utopia, and especially, there is no such thing as a pleonastic “perfect Utopia.” The only thing that exists, though, is our own striving toward these ideals.

5. Remote Observation or Indirect Guidance

Who here can, without a shadow of a doubt, say that aliens haven’t visited us already? Or who can say that they’re not here still? For better or worse, aliens could now be living among us and we would be none the wiser (Mickey Rourke, anyone?). They could also be orbiting our planet, hidden from sight and studying us continuously, avoiding interfering, and with the sole purpose of mapping out the universe and everything in it. This was, after all, the primary mission of Star Trek’s own Enterprise; to map the Milky Way galaxy and not interfere with the natural development of any life forms they might encounter.

There is, of course, the chance that these hypothetical observers might have a plan for us after all. By infiltrating our society, they could, slowly but surely, be influencing us in one direction or another. They could be trying to direct us towards a “Utopia” state without taking any of the credit, or they could have a more sinister goal in mind. And if this were to be the case, and they were trying to influence us in any direction, then chances are that their actions are not particularly aimed towards our own wellbeing,regardless of their intentions.

4. Divide and Rule

“Divide and rule” is a political, social, and military strategy through which one can gain or maintain power by breaking up other concentrations of power into more manageable pieces that individually can’t pose any serious threat. By causing and igniting rivalries and generating discord among people and groups of people, one can effectively break up already existing centers of power, or prevent smaller ones from ever coming together. Machiavelli identifies this idea as a military strategy in his sixth book from The Art of War series. Here he talks about any military captain and how he should, by any means possible, divide the enemy’s forces, either by making the other captain suspicious of his own men, or to somehow cause him to split his own army, becoming weaker as a result.

This strategy would make complete sense for any potential warlike alien species that wants to take over Earth with minimum casualties on their part. After all, even Hernan Cortes broke off parts of the Aztec Empire by drawing various peoples to his side first, before bringing the Aztec Empire to its knees. What’s more, these people who allied themselves with Cortes in favor of the ruling Aztecs ended up sharing the same fate. And by looking at the world today, we can, more or less, see these strategies being implemented, either by aliens or ourselves.

3. We Are Alone… or Maybe Just the First

Even though, statistically speaking, this is next to impossible, there’s still a faint chance that we are completely and utterly alone in the seeming infinite universe. Governed by the natural laws of physics and with the vast quantities of stuff around, some say anything that is possible, according to these laws, has already or will inevitably happen. This idea, however, weakens the claim that we’re alone even further, doesn’t it? But even so, after almost 14 billion years of the universe since the Bing Bang, space seems devoid of life with the exception of us. To be fair, though, we’ve just begun to stare into the abyss. But given these many opportunities for life to arise, and the ample time it’s had at its disposal to develop, shouldn’t we see alien spaceships zipping by on the “galactic highway” on a daily basis?

This seemingly inconsistent situation may have something to do with the Fermi Paradox. This principle simply states that complex life may have a way tougher time at developing than we previously thought, and the chances of any one advanced civilization to emerge are very slim. Maybe the exact conditions for complex life weren’t there up until fairly recently in the universe, making us among the first, if not the actual first intelligent species to emerge. Or maybe there are still some unforeseen hurdles ahead of us, or even some cosmic or highly-advanced alien traps that we’re not aware of, at which any civilization developed enough to reach them would be instantly destroyed. If this is the unfortunate case, then, according to our own level of technological development – some decades after actual space travel, and several centuries before interstellar travel – we are now closer to our end as a species, than to our inception.

2. Forever Lab Rats

Reality is, as many of us already know, inside our heads. And more importantly, reality is what the collective society believes it to be. Any deviation from that collective consciousness is seen by others who don’t share in it as either outdated, barbaric, backward, illogical, or even downright crazy. This idea also comes to us through Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Anyway, gravity, the Earth, your car, your friends, and possibly even you yourself, could be just your own perspective on what they are, and there could be a multitude of other faces to those particular “coins.” Humanity wasn’t handed any sort of guide book about life and where it’s going, so we had to make the rules ourselves as we went along. But did we? These sorts of questions can spark endless debates and may never be answered or even fully understood.

But for the sake of argument, if we were to take a lab rat and somehow tap into his mind and understand his thoughts, as simple as they may be, what do you think it would consider reality to be? Let’s suppose that the lab rat was bred in captivity and that he knew nothing else outside the cage he’s kept in, the room that cage is in, and the scientists who pass by. How do you think he would perceive the world in front of him? Normal, everyday reality of life would be the right answer. Then, who’s to say that we’re not currently living in our own cage, living out our normal, everyday lives while under constant scrutiny from an unknown intelligence, performing all sorts of experiments on us? Who’s to say we have to die in the first place? After all, scientists have discovered a built-in “self-destruct timer” in our very genes. So, if this is actually the case and we are actually lab rats under strict control from something or someone else, then do you think that we’ll ever escape our condition? Let’s ask the rats that question, or the scientists themselves.

1. The Natural Laws of Physics are… Alive

It’s theorized that the universe came into being approximately 13.8 billion years ago with the Big Bang. Subsequently, life on Earth appeared nearly the instant the planet formed, according to a new study, 4.1 billion years ago, and 300 million years earlier than previously believed. But between these two cosmic events there’s an almost 10 billion year gap in which we can’t really say what happened in terms of life. What if life began somewhere else? Let’s say, 5 billion years prior to life here on Earth? That’s quite a head start! Imagine you could go back into the past 200,000 years while driving a 4×4, wearing jeans, holding a smartphone, and handing out candy bars to all the early humans you meet. How would you appear in their eyes and minds? Now think about how a 5, or 6, or 8 billion-year-old alien civilization would look to us. You can’t. No one can. But some theorize.

 We could be staring alien life in the face and not even recognize it. Astrophysicist Caleb Scharf even goes as far as saying that the entire universe and all the physical laws of nature that go with it are possibly alive and a result of billions of years of technological evolution. This theory would explain why we haven’t yet encountered other life in the universe, regardless of the countless other planets it could have “sparked” on. He also states that, given the possibility of other building blocks suitable for life to exist outside of molecules, an alien civilization could then transfer itself and its entire physical world into that new form. By this logic, our universe could be just one of these new forms of existence. Scharf also points out that only about 5% of everything out there is matter as we know it, while 27% remains mysterious and unseen. This is what’s known as dark matter and it’s everywhere, even here on Earth. Dark matter is what holds the universe in its current state, and here, alien life could exist, all around us, but always hidden from our sight.

Alien Scenarios

– WIF Speculation

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 207

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 207

…“What do these people look like Mommy?” asks the pupil who has become a sponge of curiosity…

“They will be expecting a reproduction not a response. Boy, are they going to be in for a shock when they find out who they’ve been “jamming” with, probably thinking that their crew had tinkered with the out-of-office message; We’ve Gone Fishin’!” Sammy Mac toys with the possibilities.

About fifteen minutes passes without further tonal interaction. The builders of the NEWFOUNDLANDER may be mulling over the unusual way their ship is responding. If there is any doubt in their minds about malicious behavior, Celeste has tempered that. Pity the people who are expecting an empty cabin, on one of their vintage 4000 year-old spaceship models.

Indeed, judging by the intervening musical bantering between Celeste and the home base, these people have to know something is amiss. Did they expect a crew member to have survived millennia, when he could have flown home on his own?

Sometimes they would attempt to mimic and other times they would throw out some more ornate orchestration. Everything they send out has a distinct classical flavor, like they had stepped right of the baroque era on Earth, like that four centuries hence.

Celeste does her best to parody Beethoven or Vivaldi, with her skills and endurance tested at musical message central. She does not dare leave the console during these exchanges and it is apparent the responder(s) do not sleep much or take breaks. —

***LATER IN THE YEAR THEY CORRECTLY BELIEVE TO BE 2035***

— When the amount of days was less than the months of space behind them, the tension and excitement is compounding. The dueling concertos had stopped, substituted with occasional honks, toots & beeps.

As part of her space-schooling, Deimostra was learning to do the simple 3-note stuff. “What do these people look like Mommy?” asks the pupil who has become a sponge of curiosity.

“We can’t be sure exactly dear, but they would most certainly be classified as humanoid at the very least, but they are definitely far more advanced than us.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 207


page 246

Contents TRT

Turtle Shells, Knuckles, Aliens and Appendix – WIF Science

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Questions Science Took

Forever to Answer

Questions WO Answers-001

The scientific method is all about getting to the bottom of questions large and small. It will be an invaluable tool for as long as there are questions to be answered. That’ll be until such time as science gives us a quantum computer that can compute the Universe. And then, said computer will still be an end result of the scientific method.

That said, it can sometimes work very… very… slowly. From the mundane to the fantastic to the extraterrestrial, here are 10 questions scientists banged their heads against for a very long time until the answers came.

10. What Causes Volcanic Lightning

volcanic lightning

A long-observed quality of violent volcanic eruptions are the crackling electrical displays associated with their ash plumes. While awesome to look at (from a safe distance), the phenomenon has long puzzled scientists in that it is obviously a separate one from regular, earth-bound lightning, and had no apparent cause.

 The answer, according to University of Munich researchers, lies within the ash itself. Specifically, tiny particles of rising ash that are electrified by magma. Particularly in the violent lower regions of the ash plume, where the turbulence generates complex charge distributions, this eventually leads to an electrostatic discharge. One which often propagates upwards, instead of downwards like regular lightning, due to the rising ash.

The answer to this question isn’t just useful for satisfying curiosity. The study also unexpectedly showed a correlation between the frequency of the lightning and the total volume of ash that the eruption will generate. Observing the phenomenon could therefore lead to accurate predictions about the sizes of each ash cloud. That, in turn, could result in better evacuation planning and air quality alerts.

9. Why Turtles Have Shells

turtle

The question of what caused turtles to evolve their shells would seem to have a simple answer. Turtles are notoriously slow, making them easy pickings for predators. A hard protective shell is an obvious evolutionary advantage. But examination of the turtle’s evolutionary process shows this to be false. Turtles are slow because of their wide, flat ribs, a feature distinct from almost all other animals, and which is necessary to support their shells. That is, turtles are slow because they have shells. So why have them at all?

Well, for protection, yes. But not from predators; from the harsh South African desert environment in which turtles evolved. Specifically, the turtle’s shell began as a means of digging underground, creating caves to escape the heat and aridity.

 Though long suspected, final confirmation of this theory did not arrive until an 8-year old South African boy stumbled upon a well-preserved, only partially shelled “proto-turtle” fossil while working the family farm. Fortunately, the family took the specimen to a local museum and enabled researchers to put this burning, slowly ambulating question to rest.

8. Why Jet Lag is Directional

jet lag

Frequent fliers know that when traveling from West to East, the effects of jet lag are much more pronounced than when traveling from East to West. This was long suspected to be all in the head of the traveler, or perhaps due to public consensus that this is just how jet lag works. But it was recently found that the effect is real, and there is a reason for it. It has to do with your Circadian rhythm, and its role in how long it takes your brain to “sync up” after a time zone shift.

Simply put, the body’s natural clock is generally set to be slightly longer than 24 hours, and it varies for each individual.  This being the case, the body is naturally geared toward adjusting to longer days rather than shorter. Certain cells in the brain control this rhythm, but these cells are themselves controlled by variations in sunlight.

When days are lengthened and sunlight is prolonged, there is still a “signal” (sunlight) feeding information to these cells. But they become confused in the absence of sunlight, or when days are shortened. This throws off the body’s internal clock. Since traveling from West to East has the effect of shortening the day, our internal rhythm is thrown more severely out of whack in this scenario – our natural inclination toward longer days being a contributing factor.

7. Why Knuckles Pop

knuckles

You may have heard that the popping sound when cracking your knuckles is the result of bubbles in the joint fluid, which collapse when the joint is moved a certain way. You may have even taken this as fact for a very long while. But it turns out that this whole time, that was pure speculation. In an experiment that we honestly can’t believe it took somebody so long to perform, University of Alberta Canada researcher Greg Kawchuk got somebody who is really, really adept at cracking his knuckles, stuck his hand in an MRI machine, and got to the bottom of the whole thing.

Rather, the subject came to him. Jerome Fryer is a “champion knuckle cracker” who also happens to be a chiropractor. He came to Kawchuk with his theory: the sound results from the sudden formation of a cavity inside the joint fluid. Not its collapse, but the actual formation of the cavity: “It’s a little bit like forming a vacuum… as the joint surfaces suddenly separate, there is no more fluid available to fill the increasing joint volume, so a cavity is created, and that event is what’s associated with the sound.”

You may have also heard that cracking your knuckles causes arthritis, which is almost certainly untrue. However, this new study could disprove that notion once and for all. It could also lead to better early treatment and diagnosing of joint problems.

6. The Function of the Appendix

appendix

For centuries, the appendix has been thought a vestigial organ. An evolutionary leftover, with no purpose other than occasionally to serve as a ticking time bomb which will kill us if not removed immediately. While it’s true that we can function perfectly normally without one, research has uncovered the hidden purpose of the appendix. It’s a sort of reserve barracks for the additional platoons of good bacteria needed to fight particularly nasty infections.

The discovery was made by examining the appendices of koala bears, which have comparatively long and large ones. They’re needed to aid in the processing of their diets, which consist of practically nothing but Eucalyptus leaves. It’s speculated that if koala’s diets were to change, over thousands of years, their appendices would shrink as ours have.

Duke University Medical Center professor Bill Parker, who participated in the research, stressed that this by no means implies that we should now try to hang on to our appendix at any cost. “It’s very important for people to understand that if their appendix gets inflamed, just because it has a function it does not mean they should try to keep it in,” he says.

5. Whether Memories Can Be Inherited

memory

Epigenetics is the study of how genes can be altered by environment, writing changes into our DNA which can then be passed on. For example, it has been shown that things like dietary habits or exposure to environmental toxins can result in having offspring which inherit certain food or chemical sensitivities. What was not known until recently was whether experiences can have the same effect. For instance, if a traumatic childhood on the part of a parent can result in changes to a child’s DNA.

A Tel Aviv University research team recently not only confirmed that this is the case, but revealed the exact mechanism that serves as an on/off switch for inherited environmental influences. It was previously known that small RNA molecules are somehow key in facilitating inherited DNA modifications. In measuring epigenetic responses in worms, researchers were able to isolate an enzyme that essentially tells the small RNA molecules to keep replicating. This determines over how many generations the epigenetic response persists.

It was further discovered that by manipulating this “switch” that epigenetic responses – like passing down a fear response learned by a prior generation – could be prolonged or terminated at the researchers’ will. The implication, of course, is that a similar switch in humans could be manipulated to proactively help those predisposed not only to physical conditions, but emotional and mental conditions as well.

4. Why Subatomic Particles Bind

subatomic

In particle physics, the quark is the tiniest, most elementary of all particles. If quarks are composed of anything smaller, we don’t know about it yet. They in turn make up protons and neutrons, which are bound together by… force. Up until recently, nobody was sure exactly what that force was. But we now have a pretty good idea. It’s yet another kind of particle.

 Scientifically known as meson f0(1710) but referred to as the gluon (yes, really), the particle acts as the glue which binds all other particles together. They are similar to photons (particles of light) in that they have no mass of their own. Yet, similar to how photons are responsible for electromagnetic force, gluons are responsible for strong nuclear force. The key difference: photons aren’t subject to their own force, while gluons are. Meaning that they’re able to bind together.

Existing for too short a period of time to be examined directly, gluons were discovered and can be examined by their detected rate of decay. More specifically, groups of bound gluons – called “glueballs”- are basically what’s holding the entire Universe together.

3. The Nature of Gravity

gravity

Albert Einstein’s Theories of Special and General Relativity have held up better than perhaps any other incredibly significant scientific theories. Their applications have led to the development of semiconductors, to name just one thing. Without those, you wouldn’t be reading this. But even the soundest theories, backed by reams of research and decades of practical applications, can have their holes. For relativity, that hole was gravity.

 Einstein’s theories assumed that, like light, sound, and practically everything else, gravity is expressed as a wave or frequency. This was, in fact, the last major prediction of relativity to be fulfilled. This has generally been held to be true for decades, but wasn’t confirmed until recently, and in rather spectacular fashion.

Using extremely sensitive instruments, scientists recorded the distant sound of two black holes colliding. The faint, rising tone represented the energy of the collision – 50 times the power output of all stars in the Universe combined – conveyed by gravitational waves to the measuring device. This tone may soon become a hallowed recording in the annals of science, as it all but completes Einstein’s vision. Using this new discovery, astronomers will be able to construct instruments that can “hear” deeper into space than ever before. That black hole collision that was measured? It was two billion light years away.

2. Why There Are Men

men

Humans have evolved to become very efficient organisms. However, our method of reproduction does not seem to suit us in that regard, strictly speaking. While we may find it enjoyable, sexual reproduction pales in comparison to asexual reproduction, exhibited by many animal species, in terms of efficiency. If humans have followed their most advantageous evolutionary course, there should be only one human sex (female) which would reproduce all on its own. So, why are there men?

Researchers may have found the answer in a study involving flour beetles. The study had two parts. In one, 90 males and 10 females were put together and observed. In the other, just one male and one female were paired up. After 50 generations (!), it was found that sexual selection seemed to play a significant role in producing healthy offspring.

This is likely because having a choice of mate can act as a means to filter out harmful genetic mutations. That’s according to lead researcher Matt Gage of the University of East Anglia. This suggests that not only would asexual reproduction not have been more efficient for us, but that if we did not reproduce sexually we probably would have gone extinct.

 1. Whether There Have Ever Been Aliens

alien

Answering the question of whether we’re alone in the Universe is one of the holy grails of science. Almost as compelling is the question of whether extraterrestrial life hasever existed. We have no frame of reference as to how long a civilization might potentially last. Or, where on the cosmic timeline one might have existed. And we haven’t found any physical evidence. However, extremely strong circumstantial evidence has recently become available which all but answers the question definitively.

And, the answer is yes. In 1961, astronomer Frank Drake identified seven factors (expressed in the form of an equation) which identify the odds of contact with an alien civilization. They include the number of stars born each year, percentage of planets upon which life evolves, and so on, with the final factor being the average lifetime of a civilization. Most of these factors being unknown variables, there was no way to effectively use the equation to arrive at any kind of solution.

 However, in the intervening years, knowledge of the number of planets has increased exponentially. That’s allowed figures to be plugged into Drake’s equation and shed some light on the issue. In a recent paper, astronomers Adam Frank and Woodruff Sullivan ran the numbers to arrive at a startling conclusion: “unless the probability for evolving a civilization on a habitable-zone planet is less than one in ten billion trillion, then we are not the first.” Frank also stated, in a New York Times op-ed, “In previous discussions of the Drake equation, a probability for civilizations to form of one in 10 billion per planet was considered highly pessimistic. According to our finding, even if you grant that level of pessimism, a trillion civilizations still would have appeared over the course of cosmic history.”

Volcanic Lightning, Knuckles,

Aliens and Appendixes

Questions WO Answers-001

– WIF Science

In the Year 3000 – WIF into the Future

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3000-001

A Vision Of The World

In 1000 years

“What will the world will be like in 1,000 years” seems like an absurd question to even ask, especially since the degree to which the world changes in 100 years is overly ambitious enough to consider.  Yet curious people do wonder, and certain people like Ray Kurzweil (thought by many to be the Thomas Edison of today) spend all their time working to find the answers.

According to Ray, some of the same people living today will still be around in 1,000 years!  Technological visionary, leading inventor of our time, the recipient of the National Medal of Technology, inductee into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame, and the recipient of 19 Doctorates and Honors from 3 U.S. Presidents, Ray gives us the top ten reasons to look ahead.

10.  A Future With Aliens?

alien-contact

Contact with other species, other civilizations?  With technological advancements looming large in the distance, a future with aliens may in fact be on the horizon.  Ray believes that advancements in technology will soon enable us to travel farther and longer into space, where we may encounter other planets and other life.

According to Arthur C. Clarke, another futurist, inventor, and science-fiction writer, technology is advanced enough already for us to make contact with aliens.  To our good humor, some people already believe they have come in contact with alien life, and television shows like “Alien Hunters” and the like are around to prove it.  Ray, more of a humanist than an alien hunter, focuses more on technology and of the progress of humankind and our current world, which takes us to our next topic – the future of the Earth itself.

9.  The Future Of The Earth?

future-earth

When people think of the future, they tend to think of the planet Earth, and the mark we are leaving on its oceans and forests, and the havoc we have brought to it.  Which lands will be swallowed up by rising sea levels?  About climate changes: how to support a rapidly growing population in respect to food, fuel and natural resources?

Many pessimists foresee the worst (many doubt we will even survive another 1,000 years).  Material greed is swallowing up the Earth’s resources faster than it can replenish itself.  The future, in this vein, sounds rather dark, but Ray believes technology is going to help solve many environmental problems.

Still, who can stop asteroids and comets from colliding with the Earth?  Who can keep it from spinning off its axis like a marble shot out of bounds on the play yard?  And what about exploding stars in space shooting out bursts of gamma-rays stronger than millions of atomic bombs in far-away galaxies, with power strong enough to obliterate everything within millions of light years?  What kind of future exists for the Earth then?  According to Ray, much more interesting things, and less destructive possibilities, are on the horizon.

8.  Solutions To Energy And Environmental Concerns?

nanotechnology

Ray believes that environmental and energy concerns can, and will, be solved with technological solutions in the future.  He claims that that the Earth will not turn into a polluted, over-crowded, tumultuous wasteland, but instead believes that nanotechnology will be capable of cleaning up environmental damage, meet our energy needs, purify water and air, and capture the energy of the Sun through solar panels and more.

He believes that we will meet our projected energy needs by 2030, with the development of these new technologies.  Will his overly-positive predictions win out to restore the planet Earth, or will the technology only be more waste to add to the heap?  Certainly the next 1,000 years will reveal the correct answers to Ray’s claims, either about our resourcefulness or about our inability to solve the problems we have created.

7.  Population Growth Problems Solved?

population-overload

1,000 years from now, the world population is estimated to be roughly 14 billion.  Although such predictions are unlikely to be accurate, the concern is real, and more and more people are working fast and hard for solutions.  Will engineered food solve hunger and meet with growing food needs, or will it prove to be harmful to our health and environment in the end?

According to Ray, one day we will take in our nutrition like plants take in the sun, and as technology grows more advanced, our dependence on the Earth’s resources with become less and less.  Sounds like something straight out of a science fictionbook, only better, if it proves to be true.

6.  Technology Of The Future

merge-with-technology

Ray calls it “the singularity,” a time when technology itself will merge with those creating it.  From devices in our eyeglasses and contact lenses, to displays being written directly into our retinas, emergent technology will not only change us, but will change everything.  There will be a time when we can use space itself to generate energy.

By changing our DNA, Ray believes that farther and farther space travel will be possible.  Sound like a technological utopia?  Certainly.  Taking it a step further, the technology we are currently creating will soon grow more intelligent than we are.  What to do then?  Simple: merge with that technology in order to compete.  Due to our slower evolutionary processes, only by doing this will we be able to survive against the uprising of future intelligent machines.  One day soon, Ray says, you will not be able to tell the difference between human and artificial intelligence.  This brings us to the next section on our list: intelligent machines.

5.  Visions Of Intelligent Machines

man-and-robot

The emergence of intelligent machines, Ray believes, will quantify in the future as another species, regardless of whether we encounter life outside of our solar system or not.  He believes we will be sharing our planet with robots, who will soon surpass our own intelligence, and only by becoming like the technology we create, will we be able to compete with those intelligent machines.  Ray says “the result will be an intimate merger between the technology-creating species and the technological evolutionary process it spawned.”

Ray explains extensively the exponential growth of technology versus the growth of evolutionary processes.  Intelligent machines will make it imperative to change ourselves and, in the process, we will be changing the evolution of life through intelligent machines.

4.  Space Exploration In 1,000 Years

galaxies

Humanity has not kept its feet on the ground and, whether it be to the limits of the Earth or our own biology, we are always on a quest to discover and explore our world, and the space beyond it.  In 1,000 years, just how far will we have gone?  According to Ray, we will have mapped out much more of the the cosmos.  We will be able to foretell future cosmological occurrences that can affect the Earth, and the repercussions that any those events could incur for humankind.

The biggest reason for space exploration, however, is not only to discover how the universe works, but to scout out new and interesting planets that have the potential to support human life, should unfavorable conditions appear.  So far, possible planets to live on that we have discovered are too far out of our reach, which brings us to our next section on the list.

3.  The Future Of Space Travel

Astronaut-in-space

Futurist Arthur C. Clarke, considered a visionary about space travel, believes it is only a matter of time before we have safe and economical space propulsion systems.  The questions, however, are not just in building that technology and making it affordable, but to change ourselves to withstand the negative effects that space travel has on the human body.  Ray believes that we will soon be able to alter our own DNA with emerging technology in order to withstand space travel, as DNA does not fare well in space. By doing so, we will be able to take farther and farther journeys out into space.

2.  Progress With Extending Human Life?

nanobot-dna

Of all that has been listed, number two probably has the most evidence to support it, specifically in recent years. Gerontologists and scientists are finding more and more evidence that the aging process can be slowed down.  Ray speaks extensively on how nanotechnology and nano-bots will slow the aging process, by travelling into the bloodstream to destroy pathogens, reverse the aging process, and correct DNA errors.  To add to that, Ray even talks about downloading the mind into another carrier, which is easily the most unlikely, but most thought-provoking, idea that Ray has introduced yet.

1.  Future Visions Of The Elimination Of Death

immortal-man

If stopping the aging process wasn’t enough to shock you, try taking it even farther by saying that future technologies will stop aging completely, one day making death obsolete.  Ray believes that, one day, humans will live forever.  He refutes the idea that “the purpose of life is to accept death,” that “death always means a profound loss in relationships, talent and potential, but that up until now we have had no choice but to rationalize it.”

In Ray’s earlier book, “Fantastic Voyage:  Live Long Enough to Live Forever,” Ray writes about how people can start taking steps now to extend their lives, until the advancements in medical technology have a chance to catch up.  Nanotechnology will develop over time, becoming more capable to repair and restore our body parts.  Biotechnology is advancing and will soon make it possible to turn on and off enzymes, the workhorses of biology.  Current medical technology is taking its first steps in using these techniques to destroy HDL in the blood to stop atherosclerosis, as well as many other diseases.  By creating ever-increasingly powerful technology, the future means extending human life.  Life expectancy grows longer and longer every year: where life expectancy was 37 years in the 1800’s, a thousand years from now, according to Ray, it may just be infinite!

Technology merging with biology? There is no doubt you will peruse our Top Ten list with all kinds of skepticism, and you certainly should be; these are perhaps some of the most radical ideas about the future yet.  Still, for someone like Ray Kurzweil, who has accomplished great feats within his lifetime, is there some value in even considering it?  Whether you are a believer in science, futurists, in prophets or Gods, or merely in the “little things,” certainly these visions of the future are big enough to color your imagination, and light up a place where space, time and possibility surrounds us all on every side.

In the Year 3000

– WIF into the Future