As I said in my email to her after Jeannie and I had listened to it:
OK. Have listened to it just now.
I don’t know what to say.
Frankly, I’m overwhelmed. I need some time to let it settle down but it’s going to be featured on the blog very soon.
I’m still ‘processing’ it but that doesn’t stop me from sharing it with you.
Ralph spends the whole hour with independent journalist, Dahr Jamail, author of “The End of Ice,” his first person report on the front lines of the climate crisis.
In late 2003, award-winning journalist, Dahr Jamail, went to the Middle East to report on the Iraq War, where he spent more than a year as one of only a few independent US journalists in the country. Mr. Jamail has also written extensively on veterans’ resistance against US foreign policy. He is now focusing on climate disruption and the environment. His book on that topic is entitled, The End of Ice.
“So much of what we talk about is so dire and so extreme and so scary and also disheartening that I quote Vaclav Havel, the Czech dissident writer and statesman. And he reminds us that as he said, ‘Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something is worth doing no matter how it turns out.” And that’s where I get into this moral obligation that no matter how dire things look, that we are absolutely morally obliged to do everything we can in our power to try to make this better.” Dahr Jamail, author of “The End of Ice”
On January 21st this year I republished a post by Tom Engelhardt and called it The song this planet needs to hear. His post was essentially a piece written for Tom by Dahr Jamail. It was called A Planet in Crisis and it included reference to a recently published book The End of Ice.
Subsequently, I decided to order the book by Dahr Jamail, it arrived a week ago and I ended up finishing it last Saturday.
I was minded to publish a review of the book, and here it is:
The End of Ice by Dahr Jamail
This is a book that I wished I had not read.
Yet, this is a book that once started I wanted to finish, and finish quickly.
It’s a brilliant book. Very impressive and very readable. But I speak of it from a technical point-of-view.
Now that I have finished it life will never be quite the same again. Nor, for that matter, for anyone else who chooses to read it.
Dahr Jamail has a background as a reporter, with some other books under his belt. But his reporting skills really come to the fore with The End Of Ice. For he has travelled the world speaking to experts in their own field and listening to what they say about the future prognosis of the planet that you and I, and everyone else lives on.
Earth has not seen current atmospheric CO2 levels since the Pliocene, some 3 million years ago. Three-quarters of that CO2 will still be here in five hundred years. Given that it takes a decade to experience the full warming effects of CO2 emissions, we are still that far away from experiencing the impact of all the CO2 that we are currently emitting. (p.5)
And if you are below the age of 60 or thereabouts you are going to experience this changing world head on. To be honest, whatever age you are things are starting to change.
We are already facing mass extinction. There is no removing the heat we have introduced into our oceans, nor the 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere every single year. There may be no changing what is happening, and far worse things are coming. (p.218)
It really is a grim read. A grim but necessary read.
The eight chapters in the book spell out what is already happening. The diminishing glaciers and rising snow levels, the loss of coral, the rise in sea level and the loss of vast tracts of land as a consequence. Then there is the future of forests around the world. As I said, it is a grim read but a necessary one.
Towards the end of the book Dahr Jamail quotes author and storyteller Stephen Jenkinson:
“Grief requires us to know the time we’re in,” Jenkinson continues. “The great enemy of grief is hope. Hope is a four-letter word for people who are willing to know things for what they are. Our time requires us to be hope-free. To burn through the false choice of being hopeful and hopeless. They are the two sides of the same con job. Grief is required to proceed.” (p. 218)
Upon finishing this superb book, that you really do need to read, the one emotion that I was left with was grief. For what we have done to this planet. For what we are doing to this one and only home of ours.
P.S. Dogs would not have done this to our beautiful planet.
One of the Christmas cards that we received said this:
So glad we are friends and neighbors. And I will pray you will have a year full of the peace, love and hope that Jesus promises.
With Love, Hugs and Prayers.
Now I understand to a degree why the sender, a neighbour of ours, would write that. But at the same time I do not. We are clearly atheists. Indeed, back in 2012 on first meeting I happened to say that I was not a believer and it produced a shock; a reaction that how could anyone not be a believer.
And I think yesterday’s post supports the view that the reality of the existence of our solar system, all 2.6 billion years of it, shows that religious beliefs of all forms come from an age where the world beyond one’s doorstep was unknown and scary. Things are different now.
But to go back to the age of things.
That existence of our solar system came about some 9.2 billion years, give or take some 60 million years, after the Big Bang.
In other words, the Big Bang, that started the whole thing off, came about three and a half times earlier than the creation of the solar system.
Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago
As the West becomes more and more secular, and the discoveries of evolutionary biology and cosmology shrink the boundaries of faith, the claims that science and religion are compatible grow louder. If you’re a believer who doesn’t want to seem anti-science, what can you do? You must argue that your faith – or any faith – is perfectly compatible with science.
But I argue that this is misguided: that science and religion are not only in conflict – even at “war” – but also represent incompatible ways of viewing the world.
Opposing methods for discerning truth
My argument runs like this. I’ll construe “science” as the set of tools we use to find truth about the
universe, with the understanding that these truths are provisional rather than absolute. These tools include observing nature, framing and testing hypotheses, trying your hardest to prove that your hypothesis is wrong to test your confidence that it’s right, doing experiments and above all replicating your and others’ results to increase confidence in your inference.
And I’ll define religion as does philosopher Daniel Dennett: “Social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought.” Of course many religions don’t fit that definition, but the ones whose compatibility with science is touted most often – the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – fill the bill.
Next, realize that both religion and science rest on “truth statements” about the universe – claims about reality. The edifice of religion differs from science by additionally dealing with morality, purpose and meaning, but even those areas rest on a foundation of empirical claims. You can hardly call yourself a Christian if you don’t believe in the Resurrection of Christ, a Muslim if you don’t believe the angel Gabriel dictated the Qur’an to Muhammad, or a Mormon if you don’t believe that the angel Moroni showed Joseph Smith the golden plates that became the Book of Mormon. After all, why accept a faith’s authoritative teachings if you reject its truth claims?
Indeed, even the Bible notes this: “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”
Many theologians emphasize religion’s empirical foundations, agreeing with the physicist and Anglican priest John Polkinghorne:
“The question of truth is as central to [religion’s] concern as it is in science. Religious belief can guide one in life or strengthen one at the approach of death, but unless it is actually true it can do neither of these things and so would amount to no more than an illusory exercise in comforting fantasy.”
The conflict between science and faith, then, rests on the methods they use to decide what is true, and what truths result: These are conflicts of both methodology and outcome.
In contrast to the methods of science, religion adjudicates truth not empirically, but via dogma, scripture and authority – in other words, through faith, defined in Hebrews 11 as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In science, faith without evidence is a vice, while in religion it’s a virtue. Recall what Jesus said to “doubting Thomas,” who insisted in poking his fingers into the resurrected Savior’s wounds: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
And yet, without supporting evidence, Americans believe a number of religious claims: 74 percent of us believe in God, 68 percent in the divinity of Jesus, 68 percent in Heaven, 57 percent in the virgin birth, and 58 percent in the Devil and Hell. Why do they think these are true? Faith.
But different religions make different – and often conflicting – claims, and there’s no way to judge which claims are right. There are over 4,000 religions on this planet, and their “truths” are quite different. (Muslims and Jews, for instance, absolutely reject the Christian belief that Jesus was the son of God.) Indeed, new sects often arise when some believers reject what others see as true. Lutherans split over the truth of evolution, while Unitarians rejected other Protestants’ belief that Jesus was part of God.
And while science has had success after success in understanding the universe, the “method” of using faith has led to no proof of the divine. How many gods are there? What are their natures and moral creeds? Is there an afterlife? Why is there moral and physical evil? There is no one answer to any of these questions. All is mystery, for all rests on faith.
The “war” between science and religion, then, is a conflict about whether you have good reasons for believing what you do: whether you see faith as a vice or a virtue.
Compartmentalizing realms is irrational
So how do the faithful reconcile science and religion? Often they point to the existence of religious scientists, like NIH Director Francis Collins, or to the many religious people who accept science. But I’d argue that this is compartmentalization, not compatibility, for how can you reject the divine in your laboratory but accept that the wine you sip on Sunday is the blood of Jesus?
What is not disputable is that today science is practiced as an atheistic discipline – and largely by atheists. There’s a huge disparity in religiosity between American scientists and Americans as a whole: 64 percent of our elite scientists are atheists or agnostics, compared to only 6 percent of the general population – more than a tenfold difference. Whether this reflects differential attraction of nonbelievers to science or science eroding belief – I suspect both factors operate – the figures are prima facie evidence for a science-religion conflict.
The most common accommodationist argument is Stephen Jay Gould’s thesis of “non-overlapping magisteria.” Religion and science, he argued, don’t conflict because: “Science tries to document the factual character of the natural world, and to develop theories that coordinate and explain these facts. Religion, on the other hand, operates in the equally important, but utterly different, realm of human purposes, meanings and values – subjects that the factual domain of science might illuminate, but can never resolve.”
This fails on both ends. First, religion certainly makes claims about “the factual character of the universe.” In fact, the biggest opponents of non-overlapping magisteria are believers and theologians, many of whom reject the idea that Abrahamic religions are “empty of any claims to historical or scientific facts.”
Nor is religion the sole bailiwick of “purposes, meanings and values,” which of course differ among faiths. There’s a long and distinguished history of philosophy and ethics – extending from Plato, Hume and Kant up to Peter Singer, Derek Parfit and John Rawls in our day – that relies on reason rather than faith as a fount of morality. All serious ethical philosophy is secular ethical philosophy.
In the end, it’s irrational to decide what’s true in your daily life using empirical evidence, but then rely on wishful-thinking and ancient superstitions to judge the “truths” undergirding your faith. This leads to a mind (no matter how scientifically renowned) at war with itself, producing the cognitive dissonance that prompts accommodationism. If you decide to have good reasons for holding any beliefs, then you must choose between faith and reason. And as facts become increasingly important for the welfare of our species and our planet, people should see faith for what it is: not a virtue but a defect.
Just this past month, California suffered its worst wildfire in the state’s history. Camp Fire in Paradise, California burned 220 acres and claimed the lives of 85 people. The vast majority of residents had little-to-no warning to evacuate, and many pets were left behind and left to fend for themselves along with the wildilfe.
Several dogs and cats burned in the fire ended up at Valley Oak Veterinary Center in Chico. When Dr. Jamie Peyton, chief of the Integrative Medicine Service at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, heard about the animals, she volunteered to treat them with the innovative method of using tilapia skin on their burns. (This is the first time dogs and cats have been treated with tilapia skin for burns.) The kitten pictured above suffered third degree burns on some of his paws and lost the pads to all his feet.
“Their paws have been badly burned,” said Dusty Spencer, a veterinary surgeon at VCA Valley Oak Veterinary Center. “Their whiskers are singed or gone. Some of them have had really bad burns on their eyelids and nose.”
An 8-year-old Boston terrier mix named Olivia was one of the first dogs to receive treatment.
Olivia’s owners, Curtis and Mindy Stark, were out of town when the blaze began. Fortunately, Olivia has a microchip and was reunited with her owners. She suffered second-degree burns to her paws, legs and side, but it wasn’t long till she was feeling better thanks to the tilapia skin.
“It was a day and night difference,” said Curtis Stark. “She got up on the bed and did a back flip. That is the first time we saw her acting like she was before.” Treatment also works for the most severe burns
Pets weren’t the only animals to suffer during the wildfire. Many wild animals desperately tried to flee but couldn’t.
A bobcat was also brought in for treatment. Peyton tells MNN the bobcat suffered third- to fifth-degree burns on his paws. A fifth-degree burn means the burn goes down to the bone. The animal was very thin due to his inability to hunt for food and lack of food sources after the fire. In the week since the bobcat received his first treatment, he has had three tilapia bandage changes. “Each one seems to be showing marked improvement and he is moving well and showing a lot of spunk at his rehabilitation home,” said Peyton.
It will be several months before the bobcat can be released back in the wild, but Peyton’s goal is to “help him heal as soon as possible to allow him to get back to his home.”
Previously, Peyton treated a bear cub injured in California’s Carr Fire back in August and before that two bears and a mountain lion from the Thomas Fire earlier this year.
Previous success for other injured wildlife
This summer, the Carr Fire near Redding, California burned for more than a month and scorched more than 229,000 acres — also forcing many wild animals to try and escape.
On Aug. 2, a Pacific Gas & Electric Company contractor spotted an injured black bear cub lying in the ash, unable to walk on her paws. She was the latest victim of the Carr Fire — and luckily, one the contractor knew he could help. The contractor called Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, a certified wildlife rehabilitation facility.
A team was quickly mobilized to rescue the cub. Officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) cleared a safe path and tranquilized the cub to carry her to safety. The cub was brought to a lab to be treated by a team of veterinarians from CDFW and the University of California, Davis.
“Generally speaking, an animal that has survived a fire and is walking around on its own should be left alone, but that wasn’t the case here,” CDFW’s Environmental Program Manager Jeff Stoddard said. “In addition to her inability to stand or walk, there were active fires burning nearby, and with the burn area exceeding 125 square miles and growing, we weren’t sure there was any suitable habitat nearby to take her to.”
How does tilapia skin work for treating burns?
“The tilapia skins provide direct, steady pressure to the wounds, keep bacteria out and stay on better and longer than any kind of regular, synthetic bandage would,” Peyton said. “The complete treatment also includes application of antibiotics and pain salve, laser treatments and acupuncture for pain management.”
The cub is the third bear in the state to be treated for burns with tilapia skin. Earlier this year after the Thomas fire, two bears and a mountain lion also received similar treatment. With each animal being treated, Peyton and her team grow more optimistic that tilapia skin is an effective treatment for burns that can be used in veterinary hospitals around the world.
“Just like we’ve seen in other species, we’re seeing increased pain relief. We’re seeing wound healing and an overall increased comfort,” said Peyton. “One of the most important things about being at UC Davis VMTH is that we are learning new techniques, but they don’t make much of a difference unless we can use them in the community.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in August 2018.
Reading this article leaves me with the impression that there are a great number of good people out there!
‘Rigel and the Witch Head Nebula’ (Photo: Mario Cogo)
An aurora borealis that lights up the night sky in Iceland. The Milky Way that illuminates in a remote area in Australia. Even nebulae that display dazzling colors. All these phenomena have delighted astronomy enthusiasts for years, and many people travel the globe to capture such events.
The Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition honors amateur astronomy photographers who capture stunning images of space. The organization released several dozens images out of the more than 4,200 entries it received ahead of its announcement this October of this year’s winners. The competition began in 2009 and is organized by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in the United Kingdom.
The photographers featured here are a mixture of amateurs and professionals, but their images are universally stunning.
The photo above entitled “Rigel and the Witch Head Nebula” was taken by Mario Cogo in Namibia. “The dark Namibian sky was the perfect location to capture the wonder of the Witch Head Nebula and Rigel,” said Cogo in his submission. “The Witch Head Nebula is a very faint molecular gas cloud which is illuminated by supergiant star Rigel, the seventh brightest star of the sky and the brightest star in the constellation of Orion.”
The caption listed below each photo was written by the photographer and provides additional context.
“A glorious Milky Way looms over a thunderstorm that lights up the Florida sky. The photographer wanted to show the great contrast between stable (Milky Way) and moving (thunderstorm) objects in the sky.” — Tianyuan Xiao
“One of the brightest nebulae, the M42 or the Orion Nebula, is located in the Milky Way south of Orion’s belt. It is an emission nebula about 1500 light years away in the constellation Orion. This image was produced by combining 36 hours of total exposure using six different filters; Ha, SII, OIII, Red, Green, and Blue. The central Trapezium cluster of the nebula is so bright that it is usually over exposed with the long exposures needed for the nebula. In this image a series of short 3-second exposures in each filter were blended with the long exposures to create a high dynamic range image that produces detail in the faint nebula and bright Trapezium.” — Bernard Miller
“Taken from Tivoli Southern Sky Guest Farm in Namibia, the great Horsehead nebula is overlooking the striking and often overlooked Nebula NGC 2023. At 4 light years in diameter it is one of the largest reflection nebulae ever discovered.” — Kfir Simon
“Camelopardalis, also known as the Hidden Galaxy is one of the largest Galaxies visible from the Northern Hemisphere; however it is also obscured by foreground stars and dust, as it lies in the Milky Way plane. The photographer added a Ha filter to this LRGB image in order to enhance the emission nebula regions in the galaxy and after stacking single exposures (subs) the brilliant spiral arms at the core were revealed.” — Tom O’Donoghue and Olly Penrice
“The Eagle Nebula, also known as Messier 16, is a young open cluster of stars, surrounded by hot hydrogen gas in the constellation Serpens and lies at a distance of 7,000 light years from Earth. Taken at the Baerenstein Observatory in Germany, the photo is a RGB-Ha-OIII image and shows off the radiant red and blue colours of the nebula. In the centre you can spot the famous Pillars of Creation.” — Marcel Drechsler
“Taken during a summer night in Mingantu in Inner Mongolia, star trails are sweeping over the colourful and extraordinary sacred altars, called Ovoo, creating a spectacular painting.” — Qiqige Zhao
“These spectacular reflection nebulae in the Corona Australis constellation depict the characteristic vivid blue color produced by the light of hot stars, reflected by silica-based cosmic dust. A rare high resolution view of the cores NGC 6726 and 6727 is captured on camera. The data was acquired by Star Shadows Remote Observatory at CTIO’s PROMPT2, using LRGB filters, stacked with CCDStack and post-processed in Photoshop and PixInsight.” — Mark Hanson, Warren Keller, Steve Mazlin, Rex Parker, Tommy Tse, David Plesko and Pete Proulx
“The Orion Nebula, also known as Messier 42, M42, or NGC 1976, is a diffuse nebula situated in the Milky Way, south of Orion’s Belt in the constellation of Orion. It is one of the brightest nebulae and is visible to the naked eye during a clear night sky. M42 is 1270 light years from our planet and is the closest region of massive star formation to Earth. It is estimated to be 24 light years across and it has a mass of about 2,000 times more than that of the Sun. This image is the result of the efforts of two astrophotographers using different equipment from their observatories. Located hundreds of kilometres away from each other, they chose the Orion Sword are as a common target to render. The software suites used in this image are Maxim DL, Pixinsight and Photoshop CC 2017.” — Miguel Angel García Borrella and Lluis Romero Ventura
“The Milky Way stretches across the night sky between four columns in the ancient Atashkooh Fire Temple near Mahllat city in Iran. The camera was placed on the ground in the centre of the four columns, and with no use of any other equipment, the photographer managed to capture our magnificent galaxy using just one image.” — Masoud Ghadiri
“The magical Aurora Borealis explodes from the clouds and looms over the mountains in Stokknes on the south coast of Iceland. Snow has melted and created pools of water between the dunes, creating a perfect foreground for this image.” — Jingyi Zhang
“On a family trip to Cornwall after visiting Kynance Cove, on the Lizard Peninsula, the beautiful landscape seemed to be the ideal place for the photographer to capture the glimmering stars and the striking colours of the Milky Way illuminating the beautiful rocky coastline. This is a composition of two separate exposures, one for the sky and one for the foreground blended together post-processing to achieve the desired result, producing a more even exposure.” — Ainsley Bennett
“The Milky Way rises above an isolated lighthouse in Tasmania. The photographer planned his position to shoot the perfect composition positioning the Milky Way in conjunction with the lighthouse and observing how to best light the tower for artistic effect. This image is part of a time-lapse sequence, allowing the photographer some time to climb the tower into the lantern room of the lighthouse and reflect on the hard and lonely, yet incredible life the former lighthouse keepers would have lived.” — James Stone
“The International Space Station (ISS) was captured between two massive sunspots, the AR 12674 and AR 12673, during its solar transit. The image was taken in Madrid and it took ISS less than a second to cross the solar disk.” — Dani Caxete
“A remarkable display of the Northern Lights reflecting shades of green and yellow on the snow. Squeezed into a tiny cave on Lake Torneträsk, in Swedish Lapland, in minus 26 degrees with the camera lens just a few centimeters away from the icicles, it was a challenge well worth it for the photographer.” — Arild Heitmann
“The Black Church at Búðir in Iceland beneath the stripes of the Aurora Borealis and the bright stars in the night sky. Fighting the worst weather the photographer had ever encountered in Snæfellsnes Peninsula and with strong gale winds around 30 meters per second on the night the image was taken, his hard work paid off.” — Mikkel Beiter
“A weathered juniper tree in Montana’s northern Rocky Mountains is filled with arced star trails and in the centre sits Polaris, the brightest star in the constellation of Ursa Minor. It took several test frames of long exposures to make sure that Polaris was in the right position, but eventually things lined up and the Moon provided enough light to the foreground, yet plenty of dark skies to allow a high enough ISO to capture lots of stars.” — Jake Mosher
“The Milky Way rises over some of the oldest trees on Earth in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, set within the Inyo National Forest along the White Mountains in California. Growing at altitudes of over 10,000 feet, these trees can live for over 4,000 years. The high elevation also results in thin air and incredibly dark skies on display. This photograph was taken in between rolling thunderstorms which were passing through the Eastern Sierras, leaving time for only a few exposures.” — Jez Hughes
“This panoramic image, composed out of eight photos, depicts the Milky Way emerging over the rocky Dolomites in Tre Crime on the left and on the right the lights from a house illuminating the beautiful terrain. The photographer noted that the image represents sharing unforgettable moment with the ones you love.” — Carlos F. Turienzo
“After a few days of cloudy skies the photographer finally got the chance to use his birthday present, a new telescope. The clouds were moving fast so there was not much time to capture the Moon. With the help of his grandfather who kept moving the telescope and trying to keep an iPad at the right position, he managed to capture this wonderful and artistic image of his first viewing of our Moon.” — Casper Kentish
“The photographer captured the splendor of our galaxy in Badlands National Park, in South Dakota and is a panoramic view of a 6-shot composite, three for the sky and three for the foreground, all of which were taken successively using the same gear and equivalent exposure settings, from the same location, within a short period. The raw files were initially processed in Lightroom for lens correction only, followed by merging to panorama in Photoshop. Final retouching was applied back in Lightroom, including WB correction, basic toning and local adjustments.” — Jingpeng Liu
“A flared up Aurora reflects bright pink and yellow colours on the water at Southern Bays near Christchurch, New Zealand. The incredible combination of the radiant Aurora colours, the wide green fields and the dark blue, starry night sky paint a spectacular picture and accentuates the wonders of our galaxy.” — Paul Wilson
“During a solar eclipse, the brightness of the solar corona hides the details of the moon. By layering 9 exposures ranging from 2 seconds to 1/2000th of a second and with Extreme High Dynamic Range photography or XHDR the image shows not just the radiant solar corona, but the newest possible of new moons, seen here illuminated by sunlight reflecting off the earth.” — Peter Ward
“Exploring the remarkable underbelly of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacial tongue in Iceland. With this image the photographer wanted to pay tribute to the serenity and wonder he felt while he spent some time in this peaceful and magnificent place.” — Dave Brosha
“Earth’s only natural satellite is situated above the horizon of our planet so it is visible during daytime and the waxing gibbous phase can clearly be seen in the sky. The photographer captured this imposing image in Malaga, Spain while vacationing with her children.” — Helen Schofield
“A phenomenal image depicting the incredible colours and details of the surface of the Moon. The photographer applied a similar procedure he used for capturing the solar eclipse and noted that this lit up the full Moon like a Christmas tree ornament, with a great variety of hues and shades.” — Nicolas Lefaudeux
“The magnificent Milky Way stretches across the night sky reflecting on the Cable Bay near Nelson, New Zealand. The photographer had to take the picture before the light washed out the sky. 42 individual images were stitched in to a large multi row panorama to create this image.” — Mark Gee
“The conditions the night the image was taken were not ideal because of the bright moon lighting up the sky. The photographer managed to overcome this obstacle and capture the incredible Aurora Borealis above the fjord at Haukland in the gorgeous Lofoten archipelago, Northern Norway. The small pool of water with rocks made the perfect foreground and a natural leading line into the frame.” — Mikkel Beiter
“From the city of Yaroslavl in Russia to the coast of the Barents Sea in the Arctic Circle, a party of three travelled 2000 kilometers to capture the magnificent Northern Lights. The photographer stayed in the village of Teriberka in the Murmansk Oblast district for five days. After four days of bad weather, with heavy snow and thick clouds the sky finally cleared on the last day and the Northern Lights appeared in all their glory.” — Michael Zav’yalov
“The sunspot AR2665 was one of the most active regions in 2017 on the right you can see a phenomenal quiescent prominence extending from our star, the Sun. This type of prominence lasts for a very long time and its structure is quite stable. The photo is a composition of two images: one of the magnificent prominence and one of the Sun’s surface. The surface is much brighter than the prominence so it is a negative to reveal details of Sun chromosphere (spicules and filaments).” — Łukasz Sujka
“Andromeda Galaxy has always amazed the photographer. The dust lanes and bright star clusters in its arms, the emblematic galaxy shape of it, and the magnificent look of this great star city make it one of his most desired objects to photograph. This image was taken using a 200mm mirror and creating a three panel mosaic.” — Péter Feltóti
“In high resolution planetary photography having a good view of a planet is a key factor but also completely out of a photographer’s control. In this image the photographer was lucky to capture our second largest planet, Saturn, in all its glory. After stacking 4,000 out of 10,000 frames we can admire details such as the beautiful polar hexagon, the Encke Division and even the crepe ring.” — Avani Soares
These are the most beautiful images of the cosmos that I have ever seen!
Just the view at night from one small planet, the one that I happen to live on, Planet Earth, reveals millions upon millions of stars. It is then beyond inconceivable that there are not, in turn, countless numbers of other planets.
Extending this line of thought and recognising that a ‘mere’ billion years after the formation of our solar system and Planet Earth, some 4.54 billion years ago, the earliest life appeared, we can’t surely be alone!
Granted it was only cyanobacteria, as in blue-green algae, but, but, but ……… that this evolution of life on Planet Earth, and that evolution eventually leading to intelligent life, including the gift to us humans of the genetic separation of the dog from the wolf some 100,000 years ago, has not occurred on other planets is also totally inconceivable.
So, dear Mr. Cosmos, why have we not detected any signs of that intelligent life. Where are they?
At the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1950, physicist Enrico Fermi famously posed to his colleagues a simple question borne of complex math: ‘Where are they?’
He was asking about aliens—intelligent ones, specifically. The Italian-American scientist was puzzled as to why mankind hasn’t detected any signs of intelligent life beyond our planet. He reasoned that even if life is extremely rare, you’d still expect there to be many alien civilizations given the sheer size of the universe. After all, some estimates indicate that there is one septillion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, stars in the universe, some of which are surrounded by planets that could probably support life.
So, where are they, and why aren’t they talking to us?
Now, as the article reveals, there is a lot to tackling this question, much of it involving statistics and mathematics, but it does prove one very important fact: Finding another planet as good for life and humanity as this one is just about impossible.
This is our only home!!
My wish, dear Mr. Cosmos, to you is this: That before I die it becomes clear beyond question that the peoples of this sweet Planet, from the lone individual living on some island out in the wilderness to the Governments of the most powerful nations on Earth, understand that nothing is more important than loving, caring for and looking after Planet Earth.
I remain, dear Mr. Cosmos, your respectful servant.
The last in this recent series on me examining my navel!
Dear Mr. Cosmos,
Clearly, I have no idea how many letters you receive from us funny inhabitants on Planet Earth. Can’t imagine you get floods of them but then neither can I imagine that this is the first one you have ever received.
Why can I not imagine this is to be your first? Simply, because us funny folk on this incredible planet of yours have been around for quite a while. I mean that over in that country we folk call Israel there has been found evidence of “control of fire by humans nearly 790,000 years ago.”
Just realised that me saying “quite a while” and writing of “790,000 years ago” will be utterly meaningless, in terms of scale, to how you describe your past. Just as it is utterly meaningless for me to contemplate that in cosmological terms the ‘Big Bang”, generally recognised as the start of your Universe, was, give or take, some 13.8 billion years ago.
I wish I could really get an idea of what a million years feels like, let alone a billion years. Ah well!
Let me stay with this notion of stuff being meaningless.
My dear, long-time friend Dan Gomez sent me a link to an item that had been published on the Science Alert website. It was about how the NASA Hubble space telescope had recently embarked on a new mission. Or in the words of that article:
Hubble Just Revealed Thousands of Hidden Galaxies in This Jaw-Dropping Photo
By Michelle Starr, September 13th, 2018
Hubble has embarked on a new observation mission: to study the farthest reaches of the Universe, using some of the most massive objects in the Universe – galaxy clusters.
And this newly released picture shows how.
At the centre is Abell 370, a cluster of a few hundred galaxies located around 4 billion light-years from Earth. And arrayed around it, never seen before, are thousands of galaxies, out even farther in the depths of space.
The reason we can see them now is because of Abell 370. All those hundreds of galaxies, clustered so close together, and the associated dark matter, create an immense field of gravity.
When the light behind that field passes through it, the gravitational force is so strong that it bends the path of the light. This creates a magnifying effect called gravitational lensing, allowing us to see objects we usually can’t.
Abell 370 is the first of these clusters.
Here is one of those photographs,
And an explanation of what we are looking at:
In the image, you can see the galaxies in Abell 370. The brightest yellowish white ones are huge, containing hundreds of billions of stars. The bluer ones are smaller, spiral galaxies, like the Milky Way, with younger populations of stars. And the dimmer, yellower galaxies are older, with ageing star populations.
The galaxies behind Abell 370 appear as smeared lines of light. The most spectacular, to the lower left of the centre, is nicknamed the Dragon (possibly for its resemblance to a Chinese dragon), with its head to the left. It’s made up of five images of the same spiral galaxy, magnified and stretched by the gravitational lens.
Mr. Cosmos, you know a little earlier I was remarking about how it is impossible to comprehend the age of the Universe. Well, dear Sir, it’s just as impossible to comprehend your distances.
Take Abell 370 out there some 4 billion light years from Planet Earth! I really wanted to have a go at understanding that distance.
First, I looked up the distance in miles that is represented by one light-year. Answer: one light year is a tad under six trillion miles.
Just one, let alone some 4 billion of them!
Next, I looked up the distance of our very familiar Big Dipper constellation. You must have heard of it? This one!
Turns out that even this very familiar sight in our night sky ranges from 78 to 123 light years away. Average that as 100 light years and, bingo, you are looking at this familiar cluster of stars that is 590 trillion miles away!
So, dear Mr. Cosmos, that puts your Abell 370 constellation about a distance that is 10 million times more distant than our Big Dipper!
I wrote above that “I really wanted to understand that distance.” In reference to how far that Abell 370 constellation truly was. My conclusion is that I will never, ever understand that distance.
Anyone able to help?
Tomorrow, Mr. Cosmos, the closing page two of my letter to you.
I went on my first scientific ocean drilling expedition in 1980, and since then have participated in six more expeditions to locations including the far North Atlantic and Antaractica’s Weddell Sea. In my lab, my students and I work with core samples from these expeditions. Each of these cores, which are cylinders 31 feet long and 3 inches wide, is like a book whose information is waiting to be translated into words. Holding a newly opened core, filled with rocks and sediment from the Earth’s ocean floor, is like opening a rare treasure chest that records the passage of time in Earth’s history.
Over a half-century, scientific ocean drilling has proved the theory of plate tectonics, created the field of paleoceanography and redefined how we view life on Earth by revealing an enormous variety and volume of life in the deep marine biosphere. And much more remains to be learned.
Two key innovations made it possible for research ships to take core samples from precise locations in the deep oceans. The first, known as dynamic positioning, enables a 471-foot ship to stay fixed in place while drilling and recovering cores, one on top of the next, often in over 12,000 feet of water.
Anchoring isn’t feasible at these depths. Instead, technicians drop a torpedo-shaped instrument called a transponder over the side. A device called a transducer, mounted on the ship’s hull, sends an acoustic signal to the transponder, which replies. Computers on board calculate the distance and angle of this communication. Thrusters on the ship’s hull maneuver the vessel to stay in exactly the same location, countering the forces of currents, wind and waves.
Another challenge arises when drill bits have to be replaced mid-operation. The ocean’s crust is
composed of igneous rock that wears bits down long before the desired depth is reached.
When this happens, the drill crew brings the entire drill pipe to the surface, mounts a new drill bit and returns to the same hole. This requires guiding the pipe into a funnel shaped re-entry cone, less than 15 feet wide, placed in the bottom of the ocean at the mouth of the drilling hole. The process, which was first accomplished in 1970, is like lowering a long strand of spaghetti into a quarter-inch-wide funnel at the deep end of an Olympic swimming pool.
Confirming plate tectonics
When scientific ocean drilling began in 1968, the theory of plate tectonics was a subject of active debate. One key idea was that new ocean crust was created at ridges in the seafloor, where oceanic plates moved away from each other and magma from earth’s interior welled up between them. According to this theory, crust should be new material at the crest of ocean ridges, and its age should increase with distance from the crest.
The only way to prove this was by analyzing sediment and rock cores. In the winter of 1968-1969, the Glomar Challenger drilled seven sites in the South Atlantic Ocean to the east and west of the Mid-Atlantic ridge. Both the igneous rocks of the ocean floor and overlying sediments aged in perfect agreement with the predictions, confirming that ocean crust was forming at the ridges and plate tectonics was correct.
Reconstructing earth’s history
The ocean record of Earth’s history is more continuous than geologic formations on land, where erosion and redeposition by wind, water and ice can disrupt the record. In most ocean locations sediment is laid down particle by particle, microfossil by microfossil, and remains in place, eventually succumbing to pressure and turning into rock.
Microfossils (plankton) preserved in sediment are beautiful and informative, even though some
are smaller than the width of a human hair. Like larger plant and animal fossils, scientists can use these delicate structures of calcium and silicon to reconstruct past environments.
The resulting acidification of the ocean from the release of carbon into the atmosphere and ocean caused massive dissolution and change in the deep ocean ecosystem.
This episode is an impressive example of the impact of rapid climate warming. The total amount of carbon released during the PETM is estimated to be about equal to the amount that humans will release if we burn all of Earth’s fossil fuel reserves. Yet, an important difference is that the carbon released by the volcanoes and hydrates was at a much slower rate than we are currently releasing fossil fuel. Thus we can expect even more dramatic climate and ecosystem changes unless we stop emitting carbon.
Today scientists from 23 nations are proposing and conducting research through the International Ocean Discovery Program, which uses scientific ocean drilling to recover data from seafloor sediments and rocks and to monitor environments under the ocean floor. Coring is producing new information about plate tectonics, such as the complexities of ocean crust formation, and the diversity of life in the deep oceans.
This research is expensive, and technologically and intellectually intense. But only by exploring the deep sea can we recover the treasures it holds and better understand its beauty and complexity.
Did the phrase in the first paragraph of the article jump out for you as it did for me?
This one: “…we know more about the surface of the moon than about the Earth’s ocean floor.”
Doesn’t Mr. Neptune hold his cards close to his chest.
Some archaeologists carry tools and painstakingly chip away at historic sites. Others might have fluffy bodies, keen senses of smell and an affinity for digging stuff up.
As Tom McEnchroe reports for Radio Praha, a very good dog named Monty recently unearthed a rare trove of Bronze Age artifacts near the Czech village of Kostelecké Horky. Monty was walking with his human, identified as “Mr. Frankota,” in a field when he began pawing frenetically at the ground. Soon, thanks to Monty’s hard work, metallic objects began to emerge in the soil.
The cache of relics includes 13 sickles, two spear points, three axes and several bracelets. The objects have been dated to the Urnfield period around 3,000 years ago. This late European Bronze Age culture is marked by the transition from inhumation burials to cremations; the remains of the dead were interred in urns, giving the era its name. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Urnfield culture first appeared in east-central Europe and northern Italy, but eventually spread “to Ukraine, Sicily, Scandinavia, and across France to the Iberian peninsula.”
It is rare to find a cluster of intact Urnfield objects, according to a press release. “The culture that lived here at the time normally just buried fragments, often melted as well,” Martina Beková, an archaeologist at the Museum and Gallery of Orlické who studied the artifacts after they were discovered by Monty, tells McEnchroe. So she suspects that the relics were tied to a ritual—“most likely a sacrifice of some sorts,” Beková says.
Additional evidence could help pin down the function of the objects, and according to Michelle Starr of Science Alert, local archaeologists have been searching the area in the hopes of finding more relics. They haven’t uncovered anything yet, but Sylvie Velčovská, a spokeswoman for the region, tells McEnchroe that there have been, “considerable changes to the surrounding terrain over the centuries, so it is possible that the deeper layers are still hiding some secrets.”
The newly uncovered objects will be on display at the Museum and Gallery of Orlické Mountains in the town of Rychnov until October 21, after which point they will undergo conservation and be moved to a permanent exhibition in the village of Kostelec.
Frankota, Monty’s owner, was awarded 7860 Czech Koruna (around $360) for his role in alerting archaeologists to the ancient treasures. One can only hope that Monty was given many treats and pets for his superb fieldwork