Friday, May 28, 2010

Road Trip

So we're going on a road trip. As we leave my daughter keeps saying "oh everything is so perfect!" Talk about totally freaking me it with a heavy jinx premonition. I was freaking out at every intersection fearing a t bone.

Mcdonalds 4am is only serving lunch and no coffee. Who the fuck eats lunch at 4am? What planet are these people from?

My daughter kept saying everything is perfect so my wife said "someone hit her she's skipping"

my daughter asked "what is skipping? "

generation gap 2010 ... 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Are We Alone in the Universe?

What is the chance there is carbon based life somewhere out there in that vast universe? Human life as advanced, or more advanced than we are, and that could some day (soon?) visit us?

Is our existance based on chance, or design?

Many think that in the billions of years the universe has existed, the chances are that other carbon based intelligent life forms must have come into existence and evolved into civilizations the way that we humans have. The universe, so old and vast MUST be repleat with a variety of life forms, some of which may have even visited earth from time to time in the past millenia.

One theory, or principle may disagree with that. This group of theories is outlined in far greater detail and precision in John D Barrow and Frank Tipler's excellent tome The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (shown at left) ISBN 0-19-282147-4.

Let's consider, at least, the idea that it would be impossible for there to exist in this universe another carbon based life form even slightly more advanced than our own. That we, the humans of earth, are the most cutting edge thing going in the area of advanced civilizations. Scary? You bet, but how could that be?

Consider please, how old is humankind? Depending on who you talk to, the modern answer for the age of humans is in the ball park of 2.5 million years old.

So let's say that THAT is about average for a carbon based life form to evolve from a pre human into an intelligent, modern form. Add to that, the average of about 500 million years for life to evolve from a basic, complex life form, into the first fishes and eventually into human form.

So, a planet would have to be AT LEAST 500 million years old, right? Right, but there is more...

To begin with, it would take about a BILLION years for the earth to cool after forming, for the gases to stablize and produce enough elements to set the stage for carbon based life. In that billion years those elements could develop into simple life and about another half a billion years, a process would evolve to turn the power of the sun into energy on earth - photosynthesis.

Tack on another billion years for life to become complex cells and another billion for those to become multicellular.

Therefore, after about 3 1/2 billion years, we would start to see small animals on a typical planet. At 4 billion years we would see those complex life forms and fishes.... hey we were there already. That took place about 500 million years ago. Which means that, on average, advanced carbon based human life would take about 4.6 billion years to grow and evolve out of the nothingness of a new planet. And how old is earth? 4.6 billion years old.

The sun is only about 30 million years older than the earth, which would tend to indicate that things formed up pretty quickly when the solar system formed around the sun.

One of the problems is that 1 billion years is not enough time for the planet to 'cook up' all the carbon and oxygen needed to produce life. So our theory has it that those primordial elements - nitrogen, helium, hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, came from OUTSIDE the planet and were formed earlier and were partially coalesced when the sun and our planets formed.

These primordial elements came from other suns. To be exact, they came from the death of other suns. When those stars died, they cooked off the carbon and oxygen and those elements were then set free into the ever expanding universe (until it stops expanding anyway).

So the first stars had to be born and die. How long does THAT take? Well, in the case of a star about the size of our sun, that would be about 10 billion years.

So let's add that up. Assuming our sun is an average star, how long would it take, at the earliest, for some stars to be born at the start of the universe (Big Bang?) and then grow and die and then, using earth as a typical example, how quickly could life form?

The life time of a star would be about 10 billion years, from that a star (our sun) would be born, along with its planets. 4.5 billion years later, we would have intelligent life capable of determining the age of the planet, the sun and the universe. All in all about 14 billion years at its quickest.

And how old is our ENTIRE UNIVERSE?????

About 13.7 billion years old.

Well, I'll be damned. If that IS the case and those ARE the averages, the chance of any carbon based civilization being older or more advanced than ours is just about impossible. Chances are, we may be the Best and the Brightest the universe has to look towards. God save us, we aren't up to the task quite yet....

Copyright 2010
Rev Mike MBA BEB

Friday, May 7, 2010

Is ' pi ' Really THAT Mysterious?

Thousands of words have been written about the history and study of the mathematical constant called ' pi '.  Some might be confused that we can call pi a 'constant' when we don't even know part of what pi is.

Okay, I stand corrected here, although it isn't really pertinent. It seems there IS a formula out there whereby given a value N of the nth position to the right of the decimal on PI, the next number can be determined.

In a sense, to some nerd-ish technical degree, pi is only an estimation. {perhaps it would be better to say that PI need only be as accurate as the problem requires}
Of course, pi has always been an estimation (rounded).  Throughout history pi has been estimated to be everything from 2, to 4.  When they started building big things like the pyramids, the ancients either had a close approximation which worked, such as 3, or they used actual ratios which closely approximate pi and fractions of pi.

[For some insight into the significance of the mathematics of the pyramids, check out this old classic by Charles Piazzi Smyth:

New Measures of the Great Pyramid (1884) courtesy of - a site I highly recommend ]

Pi is fascinating as a number by itself.  Many have looked for patterns in the non repeating decimal or solved it to thousands of places hoping to see a repetition or a finite end.  Of course it goes on forever.

But these fascinating features of pi, are easily explained.  Perhaps so easy that it is overlooked.  The fact is that pi is what makes a circle ROUND.  it is a constant - present equally in every circle, but it is an endless, un-resolvable constant.

But isn't that true of the circle itself?  Would we expect to find something finite in a circle that is REALLY a line which continues forever?  If pi were a finite number, then a circle wouldn't be round, it would be made up of a bunch of short flat lines, which, if you zoomed in close enough, you could see on every circle.  But they aren't.

{Again, I will accept a clarifying point here. All irrational numbers are finite in the sense of where they stand on the real number line. PI is greater than 3 and less than 4 or greater than 3.140 and less than 3.142. So, technically, finite. But in the sense of its exactness, its fractional portion is infinite and unknowable as a whole just as the set of real numbers is unknowable because it is infinite, even if there is a predictable pattern to the set of real numbers.

So next time you are pondering the mysteries and simple beauty of the earth, remember that pi isn't an enigma, it is merely the number that makes a circle curved.

Reverend Mike
Copyright 2010

Stonehenge - National Geographic photograph