Italy shrinks the Universe

I know now for sure that I won’t die in my childhood, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties and early sixties.    What a waste of journey time,  all those hours spent contemplating cancer, stroke, heart attack, plane crashes, AIDS, Bird Flu, whole life insurance. A man of 64 has an average life expectancy of 18 years, a 50% more than the average time spent by convicts on death row in the US – 12 years.

Much seems to have happened but at the time it was just moments of the day. I was blown up once, but the explosion did a mysterious stretching thing with time, the parts never added up to the whole, I had to read it in the newspapers to experience the scale of it, even when the blood poured it did so glacially.

As a child of 8, learning history, nearly all the past seemed an incomprehensible distance. The Romans, AD 100 were near infinity. Now from the perspective of my own lifetime of 66 years, I have a graspable unit of time.  I think of a date, the Copernican Revolution of 1543 for example and divide the interval, 468 years by units of my lifetime. The result – an entirely comprehensible 7 times. For my father in law who reached 92 – it was a just 5 lifetimes.  1066 is a stretch, but just about comprehensible at 14 times (10 for father-in-law).

Which leads me to how the 14.6 billion year age of the universe is now approaching comprehensibility as a result of growing familiararity with  Sovereign debt numbers  – the Italian national debt. 1.9€ trillion.

The debt number is 130 x larger.

The Constant Sea

A couple of weeks ago in Antibes, on the beach with my children, I watched other parents on the beach with their children

It was 1982 when I a novice parent, morphed from my father with me on the beach, into a parent with my own young children on the beach, and again 27 years later a parent again, the scene hadn’t changed.

The other parents on the beach with their children in 1982 were there still in 2009, parents and children behaving exactly as they did then, only with more tattoos.

The same sand-works, the same seeming mothers holding the arms of their toddlers as their toes flicked the wavelets in that same way.  Kids, behaving the same in front of the same sea as they did in 2009 B.C, though maybe their parents also had fewer tattoos

Was it all for Harry Potter?

The Somme, Stalingrad, Vietnam,  Korea, Norman Invasion, Stalingrad….

In 1898, between April – August, the Spanish-American War claimed a few hundred lives , and in 1805 The Battle of Trafalgar a few thousand, do you know any of the names of the dead, or care that they died? I don’t.

If none of these wars and battles  had occured, would there be any fewer mobile telephone, Starbucks, motorways, McDonald’s,  or designer handbags, on the planet?

Neither winners nor losers heirs missed out on, Who Wants to be a Millionaire (syndicated to 100 countries many of which have been at war with each other, including Argentina, Vietnam, Russia, Japan, China, India, Pakistan),  Weetabix,  Gillette,  BMW and…… Harry Potter

Ufos – do we have anything of interest to say?

Recent sighting of UFOs over Zurich, reminds me that I have now been seeing UFO reports in the media for over 50 years.  During this time sighted UFOs have been described as either cigar shapes or discs, consistent with any photographs taken.

If any of these UFOs are from another planet, whether our galaxy or elsewhere, it seems improbable that they would need to make multiple visits.  If they are one time visits from different planets, it seems improbable that the craft would look the same.

It is also difficult to think of a convincing reason why the craft would need to be manned (‘lifed’?), by ‘aliens’ – who some claim to have seen. We don’t send manned exploratory vehicles into deep space, and a technically advanced planet would presumably have no need to send along inhabitants either.

But if we are not alone in the Universe, where is everybody?

 I am persuaded by the statistical argument of the probability of other life forms on other planets in the Universe, but I am unable to imagine why if other forms of life exist, and were ‘intelligent’, they would need to communicate with us.  But many people insist that if there were other intelligent life in the Universe, it would have communicated with us by now, or at least we would have detected radio waves recognisably generated by life forms.

Really?  On Earth we have only had the capacity to transmit radio waves for a little over 100 years.  At some point in the future we may be communicating telepathically, or in some inconceivable way (remember radio communication would have seemed inconceivable in 1809) way which does not rely upon radio waves, and so the technology ‘window’ during which intelligence might use radio waves might be relatively short lived.

Suppose we had the capability to travel back in time, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 years on our own planet, we would probably do so, but why we would want to communicate with anybody we found  – what would be the point? 

Another difficulty I have is that whereas I can relate to the statistical argument for life elsewhere, I am in difficulty in believing that it would have to be intelligent life.  I see no reason why life here could not have continued for an indefinite further number of millennia, without intelligent life evolving from other life forms.

The assumption that communication is even possible between different species is also taking much for granted. As technologically advanced as we suppose we are, we cannot understand what dogs and chimpanzees are saying to each other, so why do we suppose that we could be understood by, or understand an alien intelligence?

If we can’t find a good enough reason to learn to talk to mice, for example, why should anyone from another galaxy have reason to communicate with us?