I’m currently working on a relationship with diabetes by eating all the sugar I can reach. I guess you could say I’m sweet on sugar.
I might hack away at it in the next couple of days. It’s been almost a year since last I cut it ^_^
Everyone who has ever lived has seen the moon, and he was the first man to touch it. It’s a sad day today.
Rest easy, Commander.
Picture: the end of stellar evolution - the Helix Nebula surrounds a rapidly fading star.
In roughly 5 billion years, our Sun will begin to run out of the the fuel it needs to keep itself alive. Hydrogen burnt during gravitationally confined thermonuclear fusion is the only thing keeping our star from collapsing under its own tremendous weight - the solar titan accounts for over 99% of the mass in our system.
Its core will shrink and heat up as the helium produced there continues its steady accumulation, eventually becoming hot enough to fuse into heavier elements like carbon. The subsequent increase in radiation pressure from within the Sun will cause it to swell into a colossal Red Giant, its radius growing by a staggering 250 times.
Fluctations in the ailing core will cause thermal pulses, whose propagation will see the Sun cast off its outer layers (see picture); the fractional mass and consequent gravitational field of the star now unable to hold the vast clouds of plasma in place at the surface. As they drift outwards, intense radiation from the now exposed stellar core will ionise the clouds of gas, causing them to fluouresce and illuminate the final soliloquy of the dwarf star which remains.
[Picture: the death of a massive star. Supernova explosions like this one often release a burst of energy so luminous that they outshine entire galaxies.]
Minerals and metals are older than the Earth itself - they are star dust. Fused in stellar smelting pots at the centre of high mass stars, they colour the life that inhabits this planet. Red from iron, black from carbon, blue from copper, yellow from sulfur - life exists in precious harmony, guarding pieces of ancient, long-dead stars within.
Wood - a fibrous material and arguably the oldest fuel utilised by man - releases significant quantities of these and other stellar by-products during combustion.
- Carbon - outdating our Sun, it once resided in the heart of a titanic, now-extinct star;
- Light - travelling 150 million kilometres through the freezing vacuum of space, it arrives at Earth just over 8 minutes later. A relatively short journey when compared to the 30 million years that light spends being emitted and re-emitted before it reaches the surface of the Sun.
Our unencumbered dominion of this planet ensures access to plants, the fauna that rely on them, and their collective fossil-fuel legacy, and upon their backs we have farmed the distant Sun and engineered life to the wonder that is human civilisation.
We are the conscious voices of hydrogen, carbon, and calcium - the fledgling progeny of a nuclear family spanning the course of almost 14 billion years.
[Above: stellar accretion disc, HH-30]
When the Earth formed from a storm of molten rock and agglutinated stellar debris, it took 600 million years for the inferno to stabilise to a point where rudimentary life could form. Almost 4 billion years later, heat from this titanic process of accretion remains deep in the planetary core, accounting for 20% of geothermal energy generated by Earth.
We are surrounded by amazing things everywhere we look.
As a post script, the other 80% is produced through radioactive decay of naturally occuring radio-isotopes, such as uranium-235 and thorium-232. As much as 90% of the heat radiated by the Earth comes from the fact that our entire planet is radioactively decaying, generating more energy (by far) than that which we absorb from the Sun.
An Experiment in Nihilism
We are all made of roughly the same stuff – water, hydrogen, protons; quantum physics teaches us that if you look really, really carefully at something, you can determine the probability of an event occurring as a result of the thing you’re observing. That is to say, if you could look closely enough at a particular object and the circumstances that led it to this point in time, said object would have a probable outcome – a deterministic future; the chance of an electron being at location A, at time B, is X, given the observed parameters Z.
Now the obvious implication for this is that if humanity ever becomes really good at this – this process of observation – we could predict the likelihood of macroscopic events with unrivalled accuracy, perhaps even certainty. To a degree, this process is already evident almost everywhere you look – meteorologists predict the weather, engineers predict the mechanics of a system, market analysts predict trends in share prices. Undoubtedly, the accuracy of this process will be heavily influenced (if not solely determined) by computers in the future – the vast calculations required to extrapolate the conditions and parameters involved in even the [apparent] random swerving of a single electron is, to this day, beyond our grasp.
Beyond our grasp, to this day. Moore’s law teaches us that the number of transistors one can fit onto the central processing unit of a computer doubles roughly every two years – in layman’s terms: we are currently experiencing an exponential growth in computing power.
Imagine then, if you will, a moment in the [not-so-distant] future: man has devised a computer which can predict with certainty the outcome of a single event. This computer is so powerful, so awe-inspiringly perceptive, that it can extrapolate – with absolute certainty – the outcome of one event. Just one. This single event – even if it is only the behaviour of a lone electron for a fraction of a second – has the potential to reshape the entire universe.
Let me explain.
Chaos theory teaches us that the smallest action can effect a massive change – the butterfly effect. If our aforementioned supercomputer can observe a chain of events with such precision so as to know where an electron will be, then theoretically, it can know the outcome of the entire universe (given enough input data, computing power etc), and moreover, it can alter this outcome.
If I know that your untimely death will occur if you get out of bed today, I have, in effect, the ability to change your life. I can choose to share this information with you, saving your life, or withhold it and effect your demise; an outcome that is foreknown is an outcome forechosen; indecision is still a decision, etc. If a computer ever became so powerful that it could know – not predict, but know – an outcome, it could then shape a universe unto itself. By choosing whether or not to execute rudimentary strings, commands, and programs which it knows will effect a given outcome, it has the power to forge this world anew.
It’s a bit of a stretch to imagine, but think of it this way – what is science? What is physics? At its most basic level, they represent a search for mathematical relationships that explain and quantify the physical world – an existential congruency. The DNA which resides in every single cell of your body represents a program – the result of which is [uniquely] you; the chemical reactions which take place every time your heart beats follow basic stoichiometrical formulae; thermodynamics even goes so far as to boast laws to which the entire universe subscribes. Our knowledge of the language which binds the cosmsos grows every day, and with every passing day we learn that the universe is less random happenstance and more cold, unerring precision – is it really that hard to imagine the possibility that every single thing is connected in such a way that one cannot alter the present without irrevocably altering the future? Or that the foreknowledge of one outcome could effect a chain of further outcomes? Or that a computer could potentially wield such insight?
Even if you don’t buy into the omnipotent computer theory, consider the apparent mathematical nature of the universe. We know that certain actions result in certain reactions – heating ice eventually gives you liquid water, and so forth. What if our entire universe is the result of a colossal science experiment? What if the entire purpose of this existence – the very meaning of life – is to arrive at a pre-determined result in order to complete a gargantuan exothermic reaction; that is to say, what if our universe was created to end?
Take it one step further: what if the entirety of existence is merely part of a program whose very purpose is to end in a zero – a zero at the end of a string of a cosmic binary sequence…?
Think about it. The entire universe had to unfold exactly the way it did for you to be sitting here, reading this. Any slight variation in the events preceding this lifetime, this year, even this second would have resulted in a different reality. What if those events were always going to happen the way they did because the mathematical structure which underlies this universe deemed it so? As sure as 1 + 1 = 2, the Sun was always going to be, the dinosaurs were always going to die, and you were always going to end up here, reading this.
Not growing up to be a Power Ranger. That, or various mistakes I’ve made in various relationships. I make a habit of learning from said mistakes though, so the relationships themselves are never regrettable.
Except for that time I dated a camel spider; it turns out that all those extra hands are not as much fun as you might think.
For a moment, it seemed as though all the world had stopped.
The small wooden foot-bridge, heaving as though it were about to empty a stomach it did not have; the sweeping arc of bullets, their siren song raking the desolate woods; the biting winter air, quivering in fear as it surveyed the inchoate madness beneath; all took pause to watch a violent sanguine stream explode from Joe’s sweat-stained back.
The bridge which only moments ago had extended a welcoming hand to Joe now recoiled furiously, tripping him and grazing his face as he skidded along its weathered boards. Muffled cries in the distance reached a fevered pitch: dogs barked, men shouted; the cacophany of noise drew ever closer, like a rabid beast chasing an illusory rabbit.
Joe’s tireless captors had pursued him to this river crossing for days, their spit-shined boots and resplendant badges in stark contrast to his tattered orange jumpsuit which was now rapidly turning red. Beams of light flashed angrily between the trees, probing the advancing dusk for any sign of their stricken quarry. But neither these harbingers of dread nor the crippling pain gripping Joe’s spine could distract him from the sudden terror that had begun to settle upon him like a freezing mist.
His battered face pressed against the brittle wood of the bridge, Joe’s fingers scrabbled weakly at the boards and the ropes that bound them, hoping to find something to which he could cling for dear life. Phantoms danced before his eyes before disappearing into a shroud of rapidly approaching darkness, their faint cackles taunting Joe as his mind struggled vainly to ward off the inauspicious omen. Unable to bear the sight any longer, Joe turned his gaze downwards to a gap in the bridge that was just wide enough for him to peer plaintively through.
As he watched the maelstrom of grey water beneath him, Joe discovered something; not something tangible that one might grasp with his hands, something infinitely more wonderful: an idea. Quite suddenly, and yet quietly, he realised that the water - whether it leapt in great sprays from the rocks, dug surly furrows in the earth, or sidled passively by the reeds lining the shore - the water, like all manner of life, would one day meet again. He realised that inevitably, inexorably, the aoristic streams of water would find themselves anew, and upon finding this idea, his fear, his dread - indeed his very life - began to ebb. “After all,” he mumbled, rallying his final breath, “what are we, if not water under the bridge…?”
As the last light of day faded from Joe’s eyes, for a moment, it seemed as though all the world had stopped.