Category: consciousness

Dogs and cell phones!

This may be so!

We have people with us so forgive me for being brief. I saw this article the other day and wondered if that was the case.

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Too Much Time On Your Phone Might Be Making Your Dog Depressed 

He might be sad about all your screen time.

By Ellen Schmidt

Published on the 18th May, 2022.

It’s fair to say that our relationships in life require mental presence and a willingness to connect in order to thrive. Well, the same goes for your relationship with your dog.

In a busy world of daily distractions (social media being a prime example), what happens when we spend too much time on our phones — do our pets notice? Is your phone making your dog depressed?

Dr. Iain Booth, a veterinary surgeon in the United Kingdom, made this assertion more than four years ago. We’ve decided to revisit the topic because during the pandemic, many people became pet parents while simultaneously spending more time on their phones.

We spoke with Colleen Safford, a dog trainer, behavior expert and owner of Far Fetched Acres, for more insight on our relationship with our pets and what dogs might be thinking when we’re on our phones.

Is your phone making your dog depressed?

While no two relationships are the same, each benefits from communication and attention. When it comes to the friendship between humans and dogs, we should try and understand their wants and needs so every pet can live their best life. While we rely on our dogs for love and companionship, they rely on us for, well, everything.

“While I hesitate to ever say that humans can fully understand exactly what is going on in the brain of man’s best friend, dogs by their very nature are deeply dependent on humans,” Safford told The Dodo. “We control every resource in their life, including food, exercise, affection, guidance and support. By their very nature, dogs are codependents in the world of domestic living! Simply put, we are their everything.”

While the larger issue of our dependence on phones is worth countless studies, a few things are clear: Too much screen time can lead to depression and anxiety in humans, among other issues. And it can isolate us from anyone in our presence — including our dogs.

“In relationship to dog depression, if an owner has thumbs too busy to provide petting, eyes too distracted to see that their dog is trying to play fetch, and a brain too busy to provide all those verbal ‘good boys,’ it is easy to understand why phone use can impact a dog’s overall health,” Safford said. “By not supplying our dogs with exercise, verbal attention or physical contact, we are ignoring their needs and increasing the chances of behavior issues and anxiety.”

As Booth said in his interview (in reference to ignoring your dog in favor of your phone), “You do that consistently for weeks, months and years on end, and you’re going to get some real behavioral issues.” So some dogs may even start misbehaving to get your attention.

While wholly dependent on the individual dog, this is something that every dog parent should be aware of, especially considering current events — as mentioned above, during the pandemic, dog adoptions went up as did smartphone usage.

Putting the phone down is step one

“Humans and dogs both release oxytocin from petting and affection, and release endorphins during exercises,” Safford said. “No petting or affection — no love hormone. No movement — no feel-good hormones. It’s as simple as that.”

Physical activity is necessary to maintain a bond with your dog. “Grab a ball and leash, and nurture and deepen that bond. Give your dog all those words of affirmation,” Safford said.

He definitely deserves it.

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I guess the question is how much is too much. But I have my doubts that the majority of dog owners are that disconnected from their precious animals

Back again, and with a guest post!

It has been a great time and yet too short!

Last Sunday week, the 22nd May, seems both a long time ago and yet seems as though it was yesterday. Having my son here was fabulous and he was able to take plenty of mountain bike rides and photographs of birds, in particular hummingbirds at our hummingbird feeder.

But that picture does not make a post. What does is an article written by Cara Achterberg about very special mothers and their work in rescuing dogs. It was published on the website Who Will Let the Dogs Out.

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Moms Who Rescue

BY CARA SUE ACHTERBERG

Polk County, Florida is ranked first in Florida and fourth in the nation for the number of dogs ‘euthanized’ each year. The Polk County shelter killed 5000 dogs in 2020. Which is even more remarkable considering 2020 was the year so many shelters were emptied (momentarily).

The only way a dog labeled a bully breed can leave the Polk County Shelter alive is if a rescue pulls it. They are not allowed to adopt out any bully breeds. In 2020, the county took in 16,000 dogs; they killed nearly a third of them.

This is the harsh reality that Shannon and Angie, of the Polk County Bully Project stepped into. Like so many others, they never set out to create a rescue. They met through their children, and their relationship should have revolved around play dates and pool parties, but when they learned the plight of bully breeds in Polk County, they instead bonded over saving lives.

Initially, they volunteered with the Polk County SPCA to secure rescues and transport dogs out of Polk County a handful at a time. That simply wasn’t enough for these smart, driven, passionate women and they realized that with their own rescue they could save more than a handful of dogs. The Polk County Bully Project was born. PCBP saves about 600 dogs a year – almost all bully breeds, but also dogs with medical needs and lots of heartworm positive dogs—the dogs that would otherwise be killed at the shelter.

I asked how they were able to save so many of the breed of dog that others struggle to rescue or find placement for and Shannon shrugged, “We hustle,” she said.

But it’s also that they don’t know any different. They’ve never tried to rescue any other kind of dog. They don’t know there are easier dogs to rescue. To my mind, they jumped right in the deep end of rescue with very little swimming experience. And the remarkable thing is they are succeeding in every measure.

When we visited the rescue a few months ago, the dogs we met were sweet and happy and obviously well-cared for. The shelter is small, a remodeled brick rancher in a nondescript neighborhood. The dogs are divided into separate rooms with maybe four dogs in a room. We arrived at naptime when everyone was contentedly in their kennels, listening to soft music or watching TV. The staff had already had everyone out for walks and playtime, something that happens several times a day.

PCBP is big on enrichment—something critical to these smart, active dogs who need to be challenged. At Christmas they had 25 days of enrichment and every day brought the dogs special treats (anchovies, cheeseburgers, special individual cakes baked by a volunteer) and special activities (like a bubble machine and dog art, which they’ll be auctioning off).

On rainy days, the staff keeps the dogs busy with puzzles and their doggy treadmill. In their play area, where they also have regular play groups (all the staff has been trained to run playgroups), there is AstroTurf, lots of toys, even an agility teeter.

PCBP is a 501c3 run on 100% donations. Many of their adopters become their supporters, but they work hard with fundraising and events to pay for not just the staff (although Angie and Shannon do not take a salary and both work the rescue fulltime and more), but for their medical bills. Last year their bill was 115K! (If you’d like to donate directly towards their vet bills, give Lakeland Vet a call 863-648-4886.)

Beyond treating so many heartworm positive dogs, the rescue takes on lots of medical cases who would otherwise not make it out of the shelter. We met Aspen, a sweet little pitmix whose scarred face, protruding teeth, and wiggly butt combine to make him adorable. He was removed from a home where he’d had a leash wrapped so tightly and permanently around his nose that it was embedded in his skin. He’s had eight reconstruction surgeries to repair his face. But now he’s ready for an adopter.

Other dogs have had amputations, orthopedic surgeries, and Agatha, a sweet senior bulldog mix, has had vaginal reconstruction and eye surgery. We watched as Pippi, one of the staff brought her out to meet us off-leash. She’s 102 pounds of sweetness. When it was time to go back inside, Pippi pointed the way and Agatha ran/ambled back inside to her kennel on her own. Agatha is 11-12 years old, but the rescue would love to find an adopter, or even a foster for her because every dog deserves to live out their lives in a home not a shelter, even one as nice as this.

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Polk County is a tough county for dogs, but even tougher for pit bulls. There are no animal laws, no spay/neuter vouchers available for community animals, and backyard breeders abound. At the time of our visit (January), the rescue had 64 puppies.

Beyond that, it’s simple prejudice (my words, not theirs). The leadership in Polk County judges these dogs not adoptable and condemns them based on their appearance. The rescue hopes that with education and advocacy, they can influence the commissioners in the county to enact anti-tethering laws, require dog licenses and breeder permits, and prioritize spay/neuter resources. Any of those would help to turn the tide.

To reach the next generation (these are two moms after all), they created an Ambassador program to get kids ages 8 and up involved at the rescue. They make toys, treats, and paint rocks in honor of the dogs at the shelter, but more than that they learn about the situation and how important it is we do better for our animals.

Rescues that focus on pit bulls are few and far between, but rescues who do it so well in such numbers are even harder to find. The Polk County Bully Project is saving the dogs who are the hardest to save. As their van says, “We fight for them, so they don’t have to.”

Shannon and Angie are positive people who operate on a currency of hope—that they can change the narrative here in Polk County.

They save the dogs that need them the most through sheer determination with the resourcefulness and creativity of moms, counting on their dog-loving community to come through for them. And they have.

Spending just an hour or so with them, it was clear that these two women are game-changers, rescue warriors, and then some. I believe they will do it, but they will need even more support to fight this battle.

If you’d like to help, you can donate through the secure link on their website, or by calling Lakeland Vet and donating to their vet bills directly (863-648-4886).

We are getting ready to head out on another shelter tour in two weeks. If you’d like to support our tour or sponsor one of the shelters, find out more here.

Until each one has a home,

Cara

Please help us raise awareness by subscribing and sharing this blog. You can also keep track of us on FacebookInstagramYouTube, and now Tik Tok!

The mission of Who Will Let the Dogs Out (we call it Waldo for short) is to raise awareness and resources for homeless dogs and the heroes who fight for them.

You can learn more about what is happening in our southern shelters and rescues in the book, One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues (Pegasus Books, 2020). It’s the story of a challenging foster dog who inspired me to travel south to find out where all the dogs were coming from. It tells the story of how Who Will Let the Dogs Out began. Find it anywhere books are sold. A portion of the proceeds of every book sold go to help unwanted animals in the south.

Amber’s Halfway Home  is our short documentary film produced in partnership with Farnival Films. It follows the work of a remarkable woman and one day of rescue in western Tennessee. Selected for sixteen film festivals (to date), it’s won eight awards (including Best Short Doc, Best Soundtrack, Best of Fest, and Audience Choice), and was nominated for an Emmy! It is a beautiful, heartbreaking, inspiring story we hope will compel viewers to work for change. Please watch it and share it far and wide.

For more information on any of our projects, to talk about rescue in your neck of the woods, or become a Waldo volunteer, please email whowillletthedogsout@gmail.com or carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

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I am privileged to be allowed to share this post with you.

Please help!

The never-ending sensitivity of dogs!

How about this for a story from Peru.

Not only do dogs come in a myriad of sizes and shapes, witness our own Brandy and Pedi, but they are also conscious creatures, as in they remember and grieve; albeit in a dog fashion.

The Dodo presented this story back on the 4th March about just a dog. Read it and be swept away in the world of dogs.

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Woman At The Beach Meets A Dog Who Won’t Stop Staring Out To Sea

The reason why touched her heart ❤️️

By Stephen Messenger

Published on the 4th March, 2022

The other day, Jolie Mejía and her family decided to visit Punta Negra, a small seaside community near their home in Peru.

It was there, along a rocky shore overlooking the sea, that they came to learn a story of love in its purest form.

After Mejía and her family settled down along the shore, they were approached by a random dog who appeared to be all by himself.

“He didn’t seem abandoned. He wore a ribbon around his neck and his fur was clean,” Mejía told The Dodo. “I pet him, waiting for his owner, but minutes passed and no one came.”

The dog enjoyed Mejía’s pets, but all the while his gaze remained fixed upon the ocean.

And Mejía soon came to learn the touching reason why.

Mejía and her family considered adopting the dog themselves, assuming he had indeed been abandoned. So, when a man local to the area walked by, Mejía asked him if he knew the dog’s status.

“He explained that practically everyone in the area knows the dog and is very fond of him,” Mejía said. “He told us that the dog’s owner was a fisherman who passed away some time ago, and that the dog comes to the beach every day and stares out to sea.”

The dog, it seems, has been holding vigil — awaiting the return of his friend who will never come home.

“We were very moved,” said Mejía.

Mejía believes the dog’s owner died at sea about a year ago, and that the dog has been watching out for him daily ever since.

But though the dog’s owner may never return, the dog isn’t without friends who care for him.

The dog’s sad story is evidently well-known by people in the community, who feed him, shelter him and provide him with health care when he needs it.

A local veterinarian in Punta Negra confirmed to The Dodo that the dog’s name is Vaguito, and that he’s currently in the care of a woman who lives nearby.

By day’s end, Mejía and her family eventually parted ways with Vaguito, his eyes still cast out to sea. But his bittersweet story — one of loyalty to a love he lost, and the loyalty and love he found in the community — is one she won’t soon forget.

“I have a dog at home,” Mejía said. “I love dogs in general. His story really touched my heart.”

(Photos by Jolie Mejía)

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This is the perfect story. But it is more! It is the perfect story of how special a dog is. For this particular dog, Vaguito, clearly was loved by his fisherman and even after a year Vaguito still holds a vigil for him. It is a very lovely article, but that is the unconditional love shown by dogs to humans who care and love them back.

Are we alone?

As in: Is there life on other planets?

Last Saturday, we went to the local Freethinkers meeting in Grants Pass. It was a fascinating presentation by fellow member, Chas Rogers. Chas teaches Earth Science courses for the Rogue Community College and elsewhere.

Here is a taste of what we saw:

The Rare Earth Hypothesis argues that the development of complex life on Earth, not to mention intelligence, was an incredibly improbable thing in terms of the geological and astronomical variables involved, suggesting that the galaxy is not filled with other intelligent life forms waiting to be found.

One important factor is the Drake Equation. Here it is explained on the SETI website:

How many alien societies exist, and are detectable? This famous formula gives us an idea. The Drake Equation, which was the agenda for a meeting of experts held in West Virginia in 1961, estimates N, the number of transmitting societies in the Milky Way galaxy.

Here is that Drake Equation.

N    : The number of civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.

R*   : The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life (number per year).

fp   : The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

ne   : The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.

fl    : The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

fi    : The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

fc    : The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that produces detectable signs of their existence.

L    : The average length of time such civilizations produce such signs (years).

There is a great deal of information online for those that want to look into the question in much more detail. But I rather like this YouTube video by Carl Sagan.

(Sorry about the funny ending to that video.)

Carl was speaking of the Milky Way. There are plenty of astronomers who believe that the universe holds many galaxies. Plus, the universe is expanding drawn ever outwards by something that is completely unknown!

What a way to think outside the box for a while!

John Fowler

The world of fungi.

A stark contrast to where I was a week ago.

A good friend of mine, Peter McCarthy, back in the UK, said that he had recently gone on to a supplement called Lion’s Mane. It is a supplement for keeping the cognition working and maintaining good brain function. Peter also mentioned a film called Fantastic Fungi that was available on Netflix.

At home we have Netflix and we watched the film. It was incredible, almost beyond words.

If you want to watch the official trailer then here it is:

The film is about the power of Mycelium. Here is an extract from Fungi Perfecti:

The activities of mycelium help heal and steer ecosystems on their evolutionary path, acting as a recycling mechanism to nourish other members of the ecological communities. By cycling nutrients through the food chain, mycelial networks benefit the soil and allow surrounding networks of plants and animals to survive and thrive. 

Increasingly known as the “wood wide web”, mycelium can be found underfoot with nearly every footstep on a lawn, field, or forest floor. It has been concluded that as much as 90% of land plants are in a mutually beneficial relationship with mycelial networks. Without fungi – without mycelium – all ecosystems would fail.

Mycelium and mycological applications have enormous potential to benefit the health of both people and planet. We are committed to continuing our research efforts to find new and innovative ways to build bridges between mycological applications to both human and planetary health.

We can think of it in a way of finding the mother tree.

The film speaks of protecting the old-growth forest trees. So if you have old-growth trees nearby, do everything in your power to protect them.

Here is a report including a video on Suzanne Simard’s New Book.

Forest researcher and university professor Dr. Suzanne Simard has spent years studying trees. Her research led to the discovery that the forest’s plants and trees have an underground communication system, with trees and fungi cooperating. Her Ted talk brought her work to a larger audience, while her 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals shared her research findings with the larger science community. Now, she is releasing her first book Finding the Mother Tree, published by Penguin Random House.

This is not a book about how we can save the trees. This is a book about how the trees might save us’.

Please help!

I do not very often post a request, but…

I have known John Zande for quite a few years. It has been, what they call, a virtual relationship for we have never met in person. I do have John’s book The Superstitious Naked Ape and it is a first-rate read.

John recently sent me an email. It read:

Hi Paul — How are you both, and the clan? Weather station up and going? Still has not stopped raining here. The ground is beyond saturated, and many of our big old trees around here are just falling over, which is horrible.
Just got sent this link (below), and G asked me to send it on to people I know. To celebrate Betty White’s work with animals (and her 100th birthday, which sadly she’ll not have) her sister (in Australia) just started a short Gofundme for G and me here in Brazil. She’s good like that, and at this time of year (heaps of dumped dogs and cats after Christmas) everything helps. 

This is the link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-vista-verde-animals-fund

If one opens the link then one reads the following:

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On 17/01 Betty White would turn 100 years old. Most of her life she was an advocate for the health & welfare of animals. As a tribute to her legacy, there’s a global movement to send monies to all animal shelters (thanks to my amazing friend Heather C who brought that to my attention). My sister and her husband John live in Brazil and have been working tirelessly to take stray cats & dogs off the streets for over 15 years.

Their amazing work, as much as is rewarding & noble have absolutely no financial help from the local Government. Stray animals are definitely a public health issue and depend practically solely on the private initiative.

So I’m asking my friends here to donate (any amount will help) to my sister’s VISTA VERDE ANIMAL FUND. Every cent in this campaign will go towards helping fund rescuing stray cats & dogs in the city of Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil – where my family lives – have them spayed/neutered, nurtured back to health with whatever operations/medicines/treatment they need, house them, and, with luck, get them adopted out into loving homes.

As Betty White herself summed it up best: “Take responsibility and breathe kindness.” Thank you in advance. YOUR CONTRIBUTION WILL MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE.

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To view the photographs and, more importantly, to Donate! go here

We have joined thousands of others in making a modest donation!

Dream on, dear dog!

An article as to whether dogs dream.

James Dean was an American actor. He was killed in a highway accident on September 30, 1955. But he left a quote:

Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.

My article today is yet another one from The Dodo. It was published in early August this year and I am surprised that I have not shared it before. It is whether dogs dream or not.

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Do Dogs Dream?

Those little foot twitches 🥺

By Sam Howell, published on the 2nd August, 2021.

There’s nothing cuter than when your dog’s little paws are twitching in her sleep.

But it’s probably made you wonder: Is your dog actually dreaming?

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Megan Dundas, veterinarian and practice owner at Lincolndale Veterinary Center in New York, to find out just what’s going on in your sleepyhead’s sleepy head.

Do dogs have dreams?

For a long time, no one actually knew if dogs could even have dreams.

Since your pup can’t just wake up from a nap and tell you all about the weird dream she just had, scientists had to figure it out by discovering similarities between dogs’ sleep stages and ours (since we know for sure that people dream).

“It is thought that dogs do dream because studies have shown that dogs have sleep stages, including the REM stage, which is when most dream activity occurs in people,” Dr. Dundas told The Dodo.

But just because dogs go through a REM stage, does that mean they actually dream?

Well, scientists studied rats and found that they do, in fact, dream. So, researchers concluded that dogs must dream, too!

How do dogs’ dreams work?

In order to know how your dog’s dreams work, you’ve got to know about how her sleep cycles work.

“Dogs typically sleep anywhere from 9 to 14 hours in 45-minute sleep periods, with the phases of sleep divided into a wakefulness state, drowsiness, non-REM sleep and REM sleep,” Dr. Dundas explained.

REM stands for rapid eye movement, and it means exactly what it sounds like: Your dog is asleep, but her eyes are moving rapidly and her brain is almost acting like she’s awake (even though she’s asleep).

That’s when she’s going to be dreaming.

“During REM sleep, the neurons of the brain are still active,” Dr. Dundas said. “However, there is a ‘switch’ of sorts that disconnects the motor neurons in the spinal cord from the neuronal activity of the brain.”

Basically, your dog’s brain is still going during REM sleep, but that “switch” keeps her legs from moving.

Why do dogs twitch in their sleep?

“During REM sleep, most muscles are immobile with the exception of some facial muscles, the larynx, paws, tail, diaphragm and muscles of the ribs,” Dr. Dundas explained. 

That means that when your dog’s neurons are firing — signaling her to chase that car she’s dreaming about — only her paws, tail or nose will twitch, since those muscles aren’t immobile like her legs are.

It’s also the reason why you can hear your pup whimpering in her sleep.

“What seems like whining could be attributed to the movement of the muscles of the diaphragm pushing air through the larynx or voice box,” Dr. Dundas said.

And sometimes, that neuron switch that’s supposed to keep your dog’s legs from moving doesn’t actually shut off her motor functions, which is why you might feel like you can see your dog dreaming super intensely.

“The brain’s activity is then allowed to become motor activity, and the dog’s movements can become vigorous or even violent,” Dr. Dundas explained. “The behaviors seen in these situations are thought to be similar to humans acting out dreams.”

“I think it’s fair to say that it is similar to sleepwalking in humans,” Dr. Dundas said. “We can’t know what dogs are dreaming about, and we are making the assumption that they are dreaming in the first place. So we’re assuming that if they are running in their dreams that the coordinated foot movements seen when sleeping, or growling/gnashing behavior, is a sign that the dog is acting out a dream.”

What do you do when your dog is dreaming?

Honestly, nothing.

“As the old saying goes, it is usually best to let sleeping dogs lie,” Dr. Dundas said.

Even if you think your dog is having a nightmare, you’re going to want to let her ride it out.

“If you suspect your dog is having a bad dream, wait until the outward signs of the dream have ended and you can then wake your dog to give some comfort,” Dr. Dundas explained.

That’s because it could be super startling for your pup if she’s suddenly woken up out of nowhere — just like how you feel really weird when you abruptly snap awake in the middle of a nightmare.

“The combination of the excited state of a bad dream and being woken up from a deep sleep could lead to an inadvertent bite,” Dr. Dundas explained.

So if your dog is dreaming, just let her dream! Besides, it’s super cute to watch those teeny toes twitching away.

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Cleo, our female German Shepherd is a great one for moving her legs when she is asleep. So, too, is our Brandy. There are times when Brandy is sleeping on his side against one of our walls and his leg movements can be incredibly loud as his paws hammer against the wood wall.

But in one way or another all our dogs can move their limbs when in a deep sleep.

It is a shame they cannot report to us humans what they were dreaming about!

Eating out with your ….

…. dog!

The last few days have been sidetracking me from writing the blog. Apart from editing my third book The One We Feed and dealing with critical fire conditions and hoping with all our hearts for the rain due on Friday night to materialise, and … You get the message!

Anyway, The Dodo came up with a lovely snippet on the 20th August. Here it is:

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Diner Spots A Guy Out On The Sweetest Date With His Dog

Relationship goals 💞 

By Stephen Messenger, Published on the 20th August, 2021.

The other day, Gemma Colón stopped by a restaurant in New York City to grab a bite. But the visit ended up satisfying more than just her appetite.

“I was presented with one of the most unexpectedly heartwarming views,” Colón told The Dodo. “I noticed this dog seated across from his owner, perched up on a chair, acting like an absolute proper gentleman.”

The dog and his owner were apparently on a date.

GEMMA COLÓN

Colón was fortunate enough to be seated in view of the adorable pair — basking the sight of the good thing they have going.

“[The man] was doing a crossword puzzle and sipping a glass of red wine with his meal. His date (the dog) was enjoying his own bowl of water, which he slurped politely,” Colón said. “It was really amazing how well-behaved the pup was. I saw better table manners displayed by this dog than I’ve seen from some humans.”

While the man and his dog dined, Colón saw other patrons smile at the sweet scene as well. No one had the heart to interrupt their meal to comment on their cuteness, but Colón did overhear an exchange with their server — revealing that this wasn’t just a one-off outing.

“I heard a waitress comment on how good the dog was at one point, and the man replied saying he brings the dog with him everywhere,” Colón said. “It definitely seemed like a very pleasant date, with lovely company.”

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This is really a delightful story but it isn’t surprising. Because dogs that are loved and cared for by us humans are so loving and caring in return. As the waitress heard the man brings his dog everywhere. He is never separated from the dog.

Perfect!

The big question!

That I wonder if it will ever be answered?

For the first day of September I wanted to change the topic to an item that was recently published by The Conversation.

Space has always been fascinating to me. One of my enduring memories was standing on the roof of my Land Rover in 1969 during a long journey around the interior of Australia. We were in the Nullabor desert and it was flat, and lonely, for miles and miles. This particular night I clambered up onto the roof and just took in the night sky. There was not a single spot of human-caused light pollution and the night sky was beautiful beyond words.

Later on when I was sailing I used to regard the North Star as my friend.

Anyway, here’s a little question for this day.

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Does outer space end – or go on forever?

It can stretch your mind to ponder what’s really out there. Stijn Dijkstra/EyeEm via Getty Images

Jack Singal, University of Richmond


What is beyond outer space? – Siah, age 11, Fremont, California


Right above you is the sky – or as scientists would call it, the atmosphere. It extends about 20 miles (32 kilometers) above the Earth. Floating around the atmosphere is a mixture of molecules – tiny bits of air so small you take in billions of them every time you breathe.

Above the atmosphere is space. It’s called that because it has far fewer molecules, with lots of empty space between them.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel to outer space – and then keep going? What would you find? Scientists like me are able to explain a lot of what you’d see. But there are some things we don’t know yet, like whether space just goes on forever.

Planets, stars and galaxies

At the beginning of your trip through space, you might recognize some of the sights. The Earth is part of a group of planets that all orbit the Sun – with some orbiting asteroids and comets mixed in, too.

A diagram of the solar system, showing the sun and its orbiting planets.
A familiar neighborhood. Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library via Getty Images

You might know that the Sun is actually just an average star, and looks bigger and brighter than the other stars only because it is closer. To get to the next nearest star, you would have to travel through trillions of miles of space. If you could ride on the fastest space probe NASA has ever made, it would still take you thousands of years to get there.

If stars are like houses, then galaxies are like cities full of houses. Scientists estimate there are 100 billion stars in Earth’s galaxy. If you could zoom out, way beyond Earth’s galaxy, those 100 billion stars would blend together – the way lights of city buildings do when viewed from an airplane.

Recently astronomers have learned that many or even most stars have their own orbiting planets. Some are even like Earth, so it’s possible they might be home to other beings also wondering what’s out there.

An image showing detail of one galaxy, but visually implying there are many more.
A galaxy among many other galaxies. Michael Miller/Stocktrek Images via Getty Images

You would have to travel through millions of trillions more miles of space just to reach another galaxy. Most of that space is almost completely empty, with only some stray molecules and tiny mysterious invisible particles scientists call “dark matter.”

Using big telescopes, astronomers see millions of galaxies out there – and they just keep going, in every direction.

If you could watch for long enough, over millions of years, it would look like new space is gradually being added between all the galaxies. You can visualize this by imagining tiny dots on a deflated balloon and then thinking about blowing it up. The dots would keep moving farther apart, just like the galaxies are.

Is there an end?

If you could keep going out, as far as you wanted, would you just keep passing by galaxies forever? Are there an infinite number of galaxies in every direction? Or does the whole thing eventually end? And if it does end, what does it end with?

These are questions scientists don’t have definite answers to yet. Many think it’s likely you would just keep passing galaxies in every direction, forever. In that case, the universe would be infinite, with no end.

Some scientists think it’s possible the universe might eventually wrap back around on itself – so if you could just keep going out, you would someday come back around to where you started, from the other direction.

One way to think about this is to picture a globe, and imagine that you are a creature that can move only on the surface. If you start walking any direction, east for example, and just keep going, eventually you would come back to where you began. If this were the case for the universe, it would mean it is not infinitely big – although it would still be bigger than you can imagine.

In either case, you could never get to the end of the universe or space. Scientists now consider it unlikely the universe has an end – a region where the galaxies stop or where there would be a barrier of some kind marking the end of space.

But nobody knows for sure. How to answer this question will need to be figured out by a future scientist.

Jack Singal, Associate Professor of Physics, University of Richmond

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

ooOOoo

“But nobody knows for sure. How to answer this question will need to be figured out by a future scientist.”

I wonder if that future scientist will ever be able to answer the question.

Then there’s the thought that the universe may be infinite. That is an astounding idea, that it goes on forever.

There’s only one way to close this post. With this photograph from Unsplash.