But first, to get you in the mood, take two minutes to watch the history of the world. It certainly drives home my point that, after 5 billion years, we have just a decade or two to get onto a trajectory that will lead to unparalleled well-being — or hurtle off the rails.
(One hypothesis in the link below is that we might not be the first intelligent civilization to self-destruct.)
After thousands of generations of suffering and struggling to get this far — and in the footsteps of DaVinci, Galileo, and Einstein . . . Jefferson, Franklin, and Lincoln . . . Gandhi, Mandela, and King — are we really going to look to Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber for leadership to get us across the finish line?
That’s the immediate, urgent question, with profound ramifications for our children and their children and theirs and theirs and theirs.
And now . . .
The universe just keeps getting bigger.* Every time you turn around, there’s another even more astounding way of expressing it — and how infinitesimally small and insignificant we are by comparison.
This post (thanks, Pete Roehrig) says there are between 100 billion and 400 billion stars in our galaxy alone (Wait a minute! how can science, as advanced as it is — and with stars as big as they are — not know whether it’s 100 billion or 400 billion?) . . .
. . . and “roughly an equal number of galaxies in the observable universe” (how can you be off by two or three hundred billion galaxies?) . . .
. . . “which means that for every grain of sand on Earth, there are 10,000 stars out there.”
And — based on assumptions it calls conservative — 100 Earth-like planets for every grain of sand in the world.
And 100,000 planets with intelligent life in our one galaxy alone.
My God: think of all the new languages we’d have to learn — all with words for “hot” and “cold” and “big” and “small,” but some with dozens of different words for variants of slime.
So — asks the article — where are they? Why haven’t we heard from them?
That, we learn, is “The Fermi Paradox.”
And the possible explanations include this one (paraphrasing very loosely): No one’s out there because every time a civilization gets as close as we now are to “solving it all” — nearly free energy, nearly free communications, the ability to colonize other worlds — it hurtles off the rails.
Not to put this all on Sarah Palin, but you get my drift.
If you have time, read the whole post.
Meanwhile, how astounding that until a geological instant ago there were no posts — no printed words. That when my grandparents were born there were no radios, TVs, or computers. And that now millions of books and articles, if you have a smart phone, are in your pocket. With pictures. In color.
We are at the climax of 50,000 years’ effort. Will we live happily ever after or render our spaceship uninhabitable? Some think our best chance for success will come from lowering taxes on the wealthy, banning contraception, and allowing the free market to take care of the rest.
Others disagree. I hope they vote November 4.
*Literally — and at an accelerating rate. But that’s not what I mean.
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A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something.~Wilson Mizner
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