FROM LUCA TO LOVE

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POST 6 – 18-02-2014

 

Baby Panda/Malay Pygmy Grass - Pogonatherum paniceum. This small, fine leafed plant is actually a grass but it looks like a tiny bamboo.  This is a young one but when mature it grows in a round shaped clump with a width about the same as the height.

Baby Panda/Malay Pygmy Grass – Pogonatherum paniceum.
This small, fine leafed plant is actually a grass but it looks like a tiny bamboo.
This is a young one but when mature it grows in a round shaped clump with a width about the same as the height.

 

 SENSITIVITY

In the last POST on the cosmic saga I said that the next would be on IRRITABILITY. It is a rather technical usage and just means the ability to be stimulated.

Using this term has caused a bit of a stir so I will revert to “sensitivity”.

 

  1. SENSITIVITY TO THE ENVIRONMENT
  2. PRIMITIVE CELL
  3. EARLY CHANGES
  4. LATER PLANTS AND ANIMALS
  5. MAMMALS AND BIRDS
  6. HUMANS

 

 

  • 1. SENSITIVITY TO THE ENVIRONMENT

 

Each primitive cell was a separate individual living item with a cell wall and the ability to conduct chemical reactions (metabolise – obtain and use energy), to grow (develop and repair), to produce progeny (reproduce), and to respond to stimuli.

Even the most primitive organisms were intimately involved with their environment and had to survive there. This meant they had to have some primitive awareness of change in that environment. Some sort of signal must have been received by the organism and some response mounted by it. A primitive stimulus-response mechanism providing feedback was needed. How this primitive mechanism evolved into our nervous system is a fascinating study.

  • 2. PRIMITIVE CELL

 

Charles Darwin in his book On the Origin of Species, proposed a single original cell saying, “Therefore I should infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed”.

 The first cell, sometimes called the Last Common Universal Ancestor (LUCA) had to be able to survive in an environment that was conducive to its survival or it would not have existed at all. A change in that environment may have been beneficial, harmful or neutral. The possible responses of the cell to harmful stimuli were limited. It could have slowed down its metabolic processes, toughened its cell wall (perhaps simply as a result of drying out), or gone into a temporary quiescent or latent phase. Or, of course, it may have died and that was probably the most common response to changes in the environment. The pressure was on to develop more alternatives and later evolution favoured things like mobility ( so it could move away from noxious stimuli), more elaborate protective mechanisms like tough shells (as in spores of bacteria and fungi, oocysts in coccidia, or seeds and nuts in plants), or claws, horns and other defensive or offensive weapons.

The primitive response enabled the organism to react to the environmental stimulus. The evolution of this response led to the more sophisticated stimulus-response mechanisms we see in higher animals and to the arms race involved when the predator evolves greater speed, agility or cunning and the prey evolves greater speed, agility or cunning to defend itself and so on … and on ….

 

  • 3. EARLY CHANGES

 

Some early cells benefitted from combining with other cells to form multicellular organisms where mutual benefit to component cells became a benefit to the whole organism. In the multicellular organisms there soon developed a differential function of some cells which led to specialisation, with some cells dedicated to separate functions such as digestion or reproduction and some to signalling – sending messages to the nervous system and back to the muscles

 

The stimulus response mechanism seen in an early form in primitive cells is the basis of our nervous system. A plant or animal cell could benefit from having developed an improved ability to be stimulated by (or be sensitive to) its environment as well as by having developed an ability to respond to those stimuli.

Even a simple organism, presented with a change in environmental circumstances has some, though limited, alternatives. It did not have any mechanism to make decisions, but there is the appearance of some choosing mechanism that enabled those progeny that could survive to do so. Surviving progeny clearly already had the appropriate pathways to allow survival. A cell that survived had mechanisms that allowed it to respond appropriately to changes in the environment and could muster up an appropriate response to stimuli. This may not look like a voluntary action but there is something like a primitive expression of a preference or a choice going on.

Quorum sensing in bacteria is a good example of an early mechanism that is a stepping stone towards more sophisticated stimulus-response mechanisms. Some bacteria excrete chemicals into their surroundings that act as signals to their neighbours. The receivers of these signals respond by taking clear actions which do not occur in the absence of the signals.

Quorum sensing has been seen in number of bacterial species but was first observed in Vibrio fischeri, a bioluminescent (light-producing) bacterium that lives in the light-producing organ (photophore) of the Hawiian bobtail squid. When the bacterial cells are free-living, the trigger chemical (auto-inducer) is at low concentration, and cells do not luminesce. However, when they are highly concentrated in the photophore (about 1011 cells/ml), the enzyme luciferase is induced, leading to bioluminescence.

Bacteria can talk to one another in this way and co-ordinate their behaviour.

“As environmental conditions often change rapidly, bacteria need to respond quickly in order to survive. These responses include adaptation to availability of nutrients, defence against other microorganisms which may compete for the same nutrients and the avoidance of toxic compounds potentially dangerous for the bacteria. It is very important for pathogenic bacteria during infection of a host (e.g. humans, other animals or plants) to co-ordinate their virulence in order to escape the immune response of the host in order to be able to establish a successful infection”.

 

  • 4. LATER PLANTS AND ANIMALS

 

Evolutionary led to the eventual arrival of more sophisticated, and more complex, organisms that were able to detect or sense, a variety of environmental changes (stimuli) and also to respond appropriately.

They evolved other ways to send and receive signals and how to distinguish between different demands upon the available responses. As cells evolved such responses they were adding mechanisms that could be stepping stones into later adaptations. With added complexity, adaptations such as multicellularity, specialisation of structures (cells, tissues, organs and systems) and functions (mobility, thermoregulation, homoeostasis) evolved.

The ways in which living organisms adapt to their environment are a separate subject, but for this exercise it is clear that natural selection is the way to survival through the evolution of an elaborate stimulus-response mechanism.

Plants evolved mechanisms allowing them to react to environmental stimuli including gravity, light, temperature, moisture, injury and disease. Some plants are sensitive to touch and will close up their leaves when stimulated by something such as an insect walking onto its surface. Plants also appear to have some sort of proprioception or sense of the relationship of their own parts to one another.

In addition, animals evolved mobility and the specialised senses and the big difference being the brain.

 

  • 5. MAMMALS AND BIRDS

    Non-human animals and birds have a nervous system appropriate to their needs. Some of them have evolved quite sophisticated memories and show learning abilities that are indicative of evolutionary responses that are suitable for their survival in the environment. Evolution has gone so much further in the human nervous system where the feedback operations are partly unconscious and partly under our voluntary (autonomic) control.

 

Some animals seem to have preferences and have the ability to make choices. The classical conflict is the choice between flight and fight. Does the baboon make a choice when it hears a sound in the bushes (which could be a predator or a harmless fellow baboon), or does it have an automatic weighing-up process that gives it the best possible outcome? A predator would require an immediate flight response without further checking while a fellow baboon would need a second look to see if it is a stranger or not.

One of the best examples of an isolated but advanced animal ability is the bird practicing eight separate actions to get at a food reward as seen in the video of this smart crow.

 

  1. HUMANS

 

When the central part of the nervous system recorded the inputs from the sensory organs the organism was able to store the information and to retrieve it when needed was a clear advantage in the competitive life it lived. The sensory system evolved a mechanism which allowed the animal to sense and to be aware of the information that was stored in the memory and awareness, including self-awareness, emerged. Some animals show primitive self-awareness. Most animals are unable to recognise themselves in a mirror but elephants are able to do so.

In humanity that level of self-awareness became what we call consciousness.

As the evolving organism became more complex, the ability to perceive preferences and to make a choice came to have more significance even though it was, and is still, an ability limited by the constraints imposed by biology, by habit and by the limited range of realistic options. In fantasy or in imagination we can overcome these limitations and that opens other doors to the mind.

A very early single celled organism can find some things in the environment attractive, some neutral and others repellent. This sensitivity or irritability was beneficial to survival and soon was discernible when the organism exhibited preferences which implied giving value to some things in the environment over others. The first sign of an ability exhibit a preference and to make a choice emerged.

This ability to have preferences and to choose, flowered as other abilities evolved and ultimately survives as ethics, the choices we humans make about our behaviour. The things we have acquired through our biological heritage modified by what we acquire through our cultural associations and learn during life’s experiences all inform our beliefs and behaviour. Some say we have no free will but it seems clear that, as even primitive animals had mechanisms for making choices, so we also have a limited ability to do so within the constraints. Perhaps free will is not an absolute and we are deeply influenced by our biology and our history but it seems to me that there is some limited room for responsible choice.

This means that we are able to make commitments and keep to them – albeit with varying degrees of attention, determination and success.

Thus we have come a long way from LUCA to love.

 

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CEREMONY

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POST 5 – 11-02-2014

CEREMONY

My proposal for a ceremony for the opening of Federal and State Parliaments and for Council meetings – to replace the prayer.

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Silence – All stand

We, the elected representatives of the people of Australia (– The State of … : The ….. Council)

  • Pay respect to the traditional owners of this land and recognise their long history of careful stewardship.
  • Recognise the influence on our society of British laws, customs and institutions.
  • Welcome the beneficial contributions of other cultures
  • Recognise the responsibility of Australia as a member of the international community.
  • Recognise that we cannot change the past but must endeavour to transform the future.
  • Acknowledge our responsibility to seek to protect the rights and to promote the fulfilment of the aspirations of each citizen.
  • Seek to work together to further the welfare of all Australians.

Raise the flag

Sing the National Anthem

 

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POST 4 – 11-02-2014

Click here to go to the BLOG page

POST 4 – 11-02-2014

CONTENTS

THE FIRST BEING

EVOLUTION – BIOLOGICAL

REPLICATION

VARIATION

SELECTION

THE NEW REPLICATORS

IRRITABILITY

NOTES

THE FIRST BEING

In the last Post I took us through a brief mention of

  • Cosmic events, following the BIG BANG, with their innate variability.
  • Subsequent events that led to the formation of galaxies, stars, planets and moons.
  •  Life was able to arise from some uncertain prebiotic conditions.
  • Those conditions may have occurred more than once here on earth and possibly numerous times on other planets or planet-like bodies elsewhere in the vast universe.
  • If those conditions occurred here on more than one occasion it appears that, with that one exception, the others were unsuccessful.
  • The biological similarity of all forms of earthly life is such as to show that all life came from a single common origin.
  • That first being must have been able to reproduce itself and so must have had a mechanism that allowed it to copy itself.
  • Each of these beings was a separate unique entity, occupying its own unique piece of real estate, separate in space and time from each and every other being.

EVOLUTION – BIOLOGICAL

Since the Darwinian discovery of the principle of natural selection our knowledge of the process by which it operates has grown. In Darwin’s own terms, if there is “descent [i.e., replication] with modification [variation]” and “a severe struggle for life” [competition], better-equipped descendants will prosper at the expense of their competitors. We now know that the genes with their coded instructions in DNA are the underlying elements that allow evolution by natural selection to occur. Darwin had however identified the key elements of the process when he referred to “descent”, “modification” and “struggle” or as we now call them replication, variation and competition.

Evolution

The word is used more generally to mean incremental change from the status quo to some new condition and by itself it does not fully describe the process that operates in biological evolution by natural selection. We need a new word or else we need to focus on the key element of the process. Replication may be the key element but it also has many applications.

Evolution is not purposeful and is not aimed at achieving some sort of objective. In colloquial contexts, the word evolution can be used to refer to any sort of progressive development, and often bears a connotation of gradual improvement. This is erroneous in the biological as evolution is not necessarily beneficial. In reality, the evolution of organisms does not entail objective improvement; advancements are only situational. Biological evolution is a process that may result in greater complexity but survival of a genetic variant means just that. The survivor is fit to survive.  If a change survives it has won out in the competition. If winning is progress, then OK, but some successful survivors seem to have undergone regressive steps. How do you attribute progress or regress to a parasite? It is a success in its environment even if it seems to have lost some useful traits.

REPLICATION. There are a number of things that replicate or reproduce or copy themselves and thus they may be candidates for evolutionary change. Living things are the first exemplars but there are others.

VARIATION. Anything that replicates may be subject to copying errors during the process. Most of those errors are detrimental and the changed product of copying is fatal.

SELECTION. Those copying errors that are successful may lead to modifications in the later generations of replicators.

THE NEW REPLICATORS

Darwinian evolution results from natural selection and leads to an increased prevalence of particular inherited traits or characteristics. Cultural evolution results in the increase in the prevalence of a particular cultural element or meme. The concept of “memes” identified by Richard Dawkins is now used in applying the concept of replication/variation/survival to cultural entities. See two articles that talk of memes in cultural evolution in The Conversation and in the Smithsonian.

Also see the article on the New Replicators in the “Encyclopaedia of Evolution” for background. It suggests that this three step process can be undergone by a number of replicators including:

“The best candidates are the brainchildren, planned or unplanned, of one species: Homo sapiens”.

 

The article goes on to describe behaviours and artifacts that are such “brainchildren”. I will later consider nerve impulses as replicators.

IRRITABILITY

To be considered in the next issue – Irritability is the trait of living things that enables them to be responsive to their environment. As they are receivers of inputs from the environment via their sensory mechanisms they have evolved ways of responding to those signals by their motor mechanisms. Seeing how simple organisms respond to stimuli leads to an examination of how more complex organisms make selections between possible responses and thus demonstrate preferences or make choices among the options available to them.

SOME NOTES and READINGS
Have a look at this smart crow and then see the hour long video about the science behind it.

Do not forget that the fundamental forces or attractions in the universe are:

Electromagnetic

Strong nuclear

Weak nuclear

Gravity

Wikipedia has useful introductory information about them.

A new concept of Time! Time may be an artifact of mathematics.

The “reason physicists have come to reject the reality of time is that they have been bewitched by the beauty and success of the mathematical models they use into mistaking those models for reality”.

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POST 3

5-02-2014

 

CONTENTS:

THE OTHER BANGS

    PREBIOTIC CONDITIONS

    THE FIRST BEING

READINGS

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THE OTHER BANGS

On the long trek from the BIG BANG to today there have been a number of significant steps taken. Nick Lane (2009) selects ten of them for close study. He calls them the great inventions of evolution. His choices are:

  1. The Origin of Life
  2. DNA
  3. Photosynthesis
  4. The Complex Cell
  5. Sex
  6. Movement
  7. Sight
  8. Hot Blood
  9. Consciousness
  10. Death

Of these evolutionary giant steps there are two that stand out in my view as special cases. Both “The Origin of Life”, with the arrival of the first living being and “Consciousness”, with  the arrival of creativity stand out as occurring as the result of an all or nothing change. I think that the arrival of The Complex Cell is the other one to which I would give a guernsey and more of that later.

It seems impossible for there to be an almost-living being or an almost-conscious being. In my view the arrival of the first being that was truly alive and the first being that was truly conscious must have happened as a result of an emergent phenomenon. Most of evolution’s inventions occurred as a result of the incremental changes resulting from natural selection. This is the process by which heritable traits make it more likely for an organism to survive and successfully reproduce and become more common in a population over successive generations. It is a key mechanism of evolution.

An emergent phenomenon occurs when a situation reaches some particular tipping point. The classical example is the pile of dry sand formed as you empty successive handsfull of sand onto a sandcastle. Eventually you reach a point when small avalanches form and slide down the side of the sandcastle. It is true that it would not happen but for the buildup of the handfulls of sand but the little avalanche happens where there was no avalanche before. Similarly I maintain that the first living being and the first conscious being emerged by such a phenomenon. There was plenty of slow evolving happening before-hand to allow this “avalanche” to occur but the significant change happened only once the groundwork had occurred. The prebiotic condition in the primeval swamp or the submarine blue-smoker had evolved so that life could happen and the pre-human brain had evolved so that consciousness could happen.

I cannot see that any of the other of Lane’s “inventions” required this emergent phenomenon. It is for this sort of reason that I have chosen these two events as so significant in the story I tell.

PREBIOTIC CONDITIONS

As with the BIG BANG there is a system-shift or emergent phenomenon when a living being happens. There is no gradient between the two states of living and non-living. Both before and after there was a living thing, there was plentiful opportunity for changes of an incremental nature that eventually led through a long detailed process of response to local environmental changes. Beforehand there were opportunities of a quite different kind. Change had been occurring before-hand or else things could never have got to the starting point for life to begin.

The study of how life on Earth could have arisen from inanimate matter is called abiogenesis. It is the study of how the first nucleic acids came into existence. The environment before life began was not a stable chemical mix. From the time of the Big Bang matter had been changing as a result of the interactions between sub-atomic particles, atoms and molecules due to changes in conditions including gravitation, radiation, pressure, temperature and chemical evolution.

An aggregate of abiotically produced organic molecules surrounded by a membrane or a membrane-like structure is called a protobiont. Protobionts exhibit some of the properties associated with life, including simple reproduction, metabolism and excitability, as well as the maintenance of an internal chemical environment different from that of their surroundings.

These prebiotic conditions may be formed spontaneously, in circumstances similar to the environment thought to exist on an early Earth. Some experiments have been conducted which formed liposomes and microspheres with membrane structure similar to the phospholipid found in cells. The formation of RNA may have been the critical link in the process.

A recent paper by Powner et al (2009) on the subject of RNA formation from a number of “plausible prebiotic feedstock molecules” adds weight to the case for this pathway to life’s beginning.

The nature of this change is such as to be described as a system change rather than an incremental build-up.

Once the system change occurred the protobiont is called a biont which is a discrete unit of living matter, an individual organism. The term is then used to apply to all living matter whether unicellular or multicellular. The path from the first Biont to current living organisms is the story of evolution by natural selection.

THE FIRST BEING

The first being must have had certain identifying characteristics to enable it to have moved on.

It must have had a cell wall (no matter how primitive or simple – perhaps a “skin” of fatty material. This was needed to give it. Prebiotic matter had some of the characteristics of life, namely reproduction, metabolism and excitability. The new cell must have had these same traits plus an ability to survive in its new living form.

  • individual integrity
  • Survivability
  • Development (metabolism)
  • Reproduction
  • Excitability (sensitivity)

It had to survive or it would not have become the progenitor of all other life forms. It occupied space and time. Its environmental space was affected by change and while the space may have been limited and the change may have been passing at a geologically slow rate, it still had to be able to adjust to change. The rate of development and of reproduction may have been slow but the changes in the environment were probably also slow.

Once the first cell was operational and it commenced reproduction there was an opportunity for evolution by natural selection to occur.

Excitability or sensitivity or as some biologists prefer to call it, irritability, lies at the origin of preference selection and thus of choice and that concept will lead us on to the ethics of human behaviour. In the beginning (of life) there was a reaction (response) – because survival was dependent upon it.

READINGS

Vaccination and alternative lifestyles shows that there is hope for the children of trendy alternative parents.

Black holes still exist; we just know more about them. Hawkins has not really dismissed black holes.

Don’t let denial get in the way of a good science story by Ian Lowe tells us something of the problems of marketing Science.

Will The Overselling Of Global Warming Lead To A New Scientific Dark Age? Patrick Michaels also tells us of the marketing problem.

BLOG 2.1 Revised and corrected 4-02-2014 – 3-02-14

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warraba  Issue Number 2

3-02-2014

Email pgilchrist108@gmail.com                  Facebook paul.gilchrist.9889@facebook.com

Contents

MY MUSINGS. 1

Self-evident Things. 1

Big Bang. 2

CURRENT AFFAIRS. 4

Climate Change. 4

Meditation. 5

THIS BLOG IS EVOLVING.. 5

NOTES on RECENT READING.. 5

MY MUSINGS

I will use this section to work my way through thoughts that have developed from my reading over recent years and which I hope may find an audience somewhere of folk who find some attraction to the ideas. If it seems arcane information please be patient as the path I follow will lead to considerations that should affect you more personally.

Self-evident Things
My first step is to spell out some of the thoughts I mentioned in the last post, and I quote:

“I start from the point that is available to each of us at any time. We may each stop at any moment and consider what there is that we actually know in an unequivocal fashion. I suggest that each of us is fully aware that:
• I am unique – I am not anyone else
• I am constant – I was present to myself yesterday and I will still be present to me tomorrow
• My thoughts are private – While I keep my trap shut
• I am “here” – I am not anywhere else
• “Here” is part of a wider place – Space
• Where I am, changes – Time is a measure of that change
• I am present in both space and time or, more correctly, space/time”.

This approach developed for me when I first started on my scholarly approach to a study of evolution which arose from the question “How did we get here?”

I wanted to picture how a mature human awakening from amnesia or from a Rip van Winkle sleep and having all cognitive abilities operating but being free of all cultural influences would make of what she found. This seemed too hard to picture so I tried to picture an alien arriving here and asking the same questions. I then thought of the likelihood that many 18 year-olds do “wake up” and find themselves in this foreign place and ask all those questions. These both seemed to be too artificial so instead I tried to spell out what I was doing in my own head. This 83 year old is asking those questions and has to identify all the cultural elements and, examine and assess them and then filter out the dross.

At first my questions were “Why” questions as we all seem to look for signs of why we are here. Many of the cultural answers offer myths that are intended to explain why we are here.

A supernatural being put us here and gave us responsibilities according to the great Western faiths and many others. Some explanations place ancestors, who can help or hinder and need to be placated, at a peak of society. Some Eastern explanations seem to be free of a supernatural source and aim at teaching how to behave.

These days there are people, mostly younger than I, who grew up in a culture free of concepts of any sort of supernatural being, but it seems that even they have a need to pause and re-examine that culture to see if their adult mind can accept all that the culture fed them. Having grown up in a particular culture means that the tenets of that culture were given to us and have become part of what we are and how we behave.

Whatever the cultural effects, either baggage or benefits, we may carry, it should be beneficial to give consideration to their relevance to our understanding of what our life is all about and what our behaviour should be. How independent can we be?  How should we treat others, both those near and far?

I will try to concentrate my first examinations of my (for each one of us) questions into looking at –

How did everything get here?

First we need to look at the Cosmos

Big Bang

I have read on my Kindle, “Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe” by Simon Singh. This will be my reference book. The author gives the history of the study of the Cosmos from the theories of the ancient Greeks up to the current Standard Model. The historical trail led through theoretical consideration through the evidence uncovered by the well known expertise of Copernicus,  which includes I am interested in the tracking back (is it reverse engineering?) from the evidence for the increasingly rapidly expanding universe, via the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (CMB) leading to the theory that there was variation – quantum fluctuation – from the beginning of the universe and that variation is intrinsic to everything that followed. Then variation led to opportunity for change (variation) in things that replicate and those changes could survive of fail in competition with other things.

The nature of sub-atomic particles is such that, in the beginning, at the Big Bang, there were only these particles which were then subjected to enormous heat and were forced into a configuration that resulted in atoms, the first of which were hydrogen atoms. As the universe of sub-atomic particles and hydrogen atoms expanded there was a conflict between the force of gravity and the expanding forces resulting from the Big Bang.

It is conceivable that some balance between the pull of gravity and the expanding force could have led to a perfectly balanced relationship with the universe being a uniform mass of particles or matter spread equally throughout space/time. This is obviously not the case so it seems that there were early variations that allowed some particles to be attracted to others by gravity leading to the formation of galaxies held in place by gravity while separated from one another by the force of expansion.

Some of the physics behind the standard model of particle physics and of gravitation is available at entry level on Wikipedia. The Standard Model of particle physics is a theory concerning the electromagnetic, weak, and strong nuclear interactions, which mediate the dynamics of the known subatomic particles. The standard model does not completely account for gravity but the basic forces or attractions in the universe are gravity, electro-magnetic, strong nuclear and weak nuclear forces or attractions.

So ,,,,,,? What is the significance of this for a person ruminating about “How did everything get here?”

Following the Big Bang the particles expanded away from one another at great speeds, cooled down and because of the built-in variation some became misaligned and grouped together forming bigger particles which then became attracted to one another eventually forming other atoms, gases, galaxies, stars, and planets including our home planet. It was, and is, in the stars that the heavier atoms which are so familiar to us on Earth – iron, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen etc. – are formed and distributed throughout the universe following explosion and disintegration of stars.

That is how our earth got here.

But we still need to know how non-living matter led to living things – beings – and then we need to know how humans got here.

I refer to these two things as the Other Bangs, the occurrence of life and of consciousness. I will write more about them soon.

When we understand these processes we can possible appreciate the mysteries of imagination and creativity.

How did everything get here? Some understanding of the Big Bang will help my reader appreciate future articles that will look at processes of change in their various forms including erosion, entropy, evolution, emergence, complexity and human intervention.

Stay with me on the journey as we may eventually get to you, standing there wondering what it is all about.

CURRENT AFFAIRS

Climate Change

Chasing up some information for a friend who is looking into climate science and, apart from ignoring the output of the IPCC as some sort of grand international conspiracy, he is fixated on “CO2 is not a potent greenhouse gas compared with water vapour”. This is clearly true on its own, but that is not the whole story so I looked up some information and found that historically, the proposal that increasing levels of atmospheric CO2, resulting from human activity would lead to an increase in the greenhouse effect and thus to global warming, was made way back in 1956. There are a couple of quotes from what appear to be significant sources:

http://www.aip.org/history/climate/Revelle.htm#L_0255

Revelle, however, was getting personally interested in the gas. He had heard the lonely voices of G.S. Callendar and Gilbert Plass, who were arguing that if CO2 ever did accumulate in the atmosphere, it would have a strong greenhouse warming effect. Not long after Revelle took up the problem, he began to say publicly that it was possible there could be great and perhaps harmful effects as early as the end of the century.(18) Meanwhile he and Suess began to apply carbon-14 methods to the question of how the oceans take up CO2.

http://cires.colorado.edu/news/press/2013/watervapor.html

For well over 100 years it has been known that increased emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide will warm the planet. As the lowest layer of the atmosphere, called the troposphere (surface to ~7 miles), is warmed, the air becomes more humid because warmer air holds more water vapor. This “tropospheric water vapor feedback” approximately doubles the initial warming caused by carbon dioxide. The new study shows that in addition to the well-understood tropospheric water vapor feedback on climate change, there is also a significant amplifying feedback associated with water vapor in the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere above the troposphere that extends to ~30 miles above Earth‘s surface. This “stratospheric water vapor feedback,” although hypothesized by previous studies, has remained elusive to quantification. The new results suggest that the stratospheric water vapor feedback may be an important component of our climate system. The researchers estimated that at a minimum this feedback adds another ~5-10% to the climate warming from the addition of greenhouse gases, and is possibly substantially more than this amount
.

As an aside I see that Prince Charles, though a supporter of alternative therapies, including homoeopathy, has supported the science of climate change. See Peter Fitz Simons in the SMH.

“On Thursday, in London, Prince Charles – the man Flint and Jones eternally champion to become the King of Australia – described denialists as a ”headless chicken brigade,” wilfully ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence, while also mounting ”a barrage of sheer intimidation” against all who speak sense on it.”

Of course we need to develop alternative sources such as photo-voltaics (solar) and wind power but also hydrogen is starting to look good – see: Why is hydrogen fuel making a comeback?

Meditation

Some of my Grandchildren have recently attended meditation training in the Blue Mountains and I looked up the website and found an outline of their approach at The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation . The wording probably suffers in translation, from some Indian language or is either Buddhist (Indian variety) or new ageist (things like iniquities; mental impurity; defilements; negativities; with a mind full of love, compassion and equanimity; holy indifference). To me it sounds very like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. As it is one of the ways for people to learn how to meditate it is a good thing.

The prospect of learning techniques of “self observation” so that we can see “things as they actually are” looks good enough to encourage participation.

THIS BLOG IS EVOLVING

Since the first blog I have mastered the use of HYPERLINK with help from a friend and I have used “Table of Contents” from WORD to allow you to click on an entry in the TABLE to get to the Chapter concerned. Now I need to find help on other layout mechanics and how to jazz up the appearance of the site. I am most concerned with the ideas and their meaning, but do recognise the need to facilitate use of the blog and for marketing ploys.

I have tried to set up two columns but cannot do it yet.

I have tried to include a link from the Contents list at the top to the major headings in the post but failed.

Any ideas?

All ideas are acceptable. You can communicate by comments on the blog or by email to:

pgilchrist108@gmail.com

NOTES on RECENT READING

There is a good site called ALDAILY which was drawn to my attention some years ago by my old friend, the late Greg Woodburne. It has a new entry each day under three headings Articles of Note, New Books and Essays and Opinion. Each one is hyperlinked to the source.

My American correspondent has sent me this one about the efforts of some atheist groups in USA to press their point. See Atheist ads

One of my favourite blogs is a treatment of current topics compiled by a consortium of Australian Universities. See The Conversation

There is a particularly interesting piece today on pseudoscience mentioning some alternative medicinal claims and includes this paragraph:

“This level is also where the waters are muddiest in terms of understanding science for much of the population, as seen in comments on social media posts, letters to the editor, talkback, television, media articles and political posturing.”