Thursday, June 19, 2008

ice cubes for polar bears

On the front page of USA Today there's a headline stating that Americans drove 30 billion miles less than usual between November of last year and the end of April. That sounded pretty good until I started reading the article where it stated that 30 billion miles is only 1% of average mileage for US drivers. Now that's scary. What makes it all so much worse is that for the last 50 years everything has been set up in such a way that most people have no choice about driving if they want to keep their jobs so they can afford to drive their cars to the stores where they buy stuff that has been driven, flown, shipped and driven some more from goodness knows where.

Have I ever mentioned I love reading what is called 'hard' science fiction? Essentially, they're books written by science professionals who I presume have graduate students and assistants who do all their science work while these guys head off in flights of intellectual fancy about what human beings might get to do in the universe at large if we ever get through this difficult 'Age of Waste'.

I've just re-read Iain M. Bank's 'The Algebraist' in which one of his assumptions is that a particular alien civilization dropped by Earth 8000 years ago and made off with a sample group of the populace, raised them on planets already inhabited by other races and introduced them to the larger galactic community. They became ahumans (advanced) so when the rest of humanity, or rhumans, eventually figured out not only how to leave the gravity wells but to travel at light speeds they found a galactic society already used to people.

It's never a bad thing to remember that what we call reality might be very different from what we think we know. We can even change direction once we understand we've taken the wrong road. I found a video today called 'The Story of Stuff' which is nearly 20 minutes long but I enjoyed it while doing some paperwork. You might like it too or know somebody who would benefit from its message.

I rather like to imagine there are ahumans out there getting into the adventures people are prone to and learning the lessons that life provides or.. maybe somewhere there's a zoo with 21st Century People as the main exhibit. It could happen :-)


  1. I love the idea of reality. What it is. What we think it is. What we like to pretend it is......

    Is that one of our paintings?

  2. Susan...thanks for adding me to your blogroll! Verynice&such! I have returned the favor! I will check out the 'Stuff' video later when I am not wasting time working.

  3. The part about essentially being forced to drive is never brought up. Believe me, if I had a Star Trek transporter, I'd use the thing.

    Someday, assuming we haven't killed each other off - a BIG if - we'll be floating around the cosmos. I want to know whether the white stuff they found on Mars this week is ice, some other substance or, my guess, Bush's coke stash.

  4. "reality might be very different from what we think we know"

    I thought it was the other way around. What I know is different from anyone else's reality. That's what makes reality special- it has a billion faces. It also intrudes at the most inconvenient times!
    I'm stuck at the Denver airport, trying to get home. :(

  5. dcup - We see ourselves as outside observers but we're not that.

    Thanks, but no.. it's another Michael Sowa.

    okjimm - No obligation, compadre. It's just easier than going elsewhere for a link to what's going to be an entertaining blog.

    randal - Hey, I'd use one of the damn things too esp. for the grocery shopping.

    Getting to travel the galaxy is another good reason for believing in reincarnation :-)

    sera - We think we live in our heads but if you gesture toward yourself in a conversation look where your hand goes. Invariably toward the center of your chest where the 'heart' is. That's the place where all our realities converge.

    I hope you've made it home safe, sound and happy.

  6. ps sera - Have you ever listened to Warren Zevon? One of my favorite songs by him is called 'Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead'.

  7. I drove 20 billion miles just this past week.

    Mescaline is a beautiful thing.

  8. Thanks Susan, always good to think about things from a different perspective entirely. And with art!

    I like Iain Banks a lot - usually his mainstream fiction like Espedair Strret, and need to find this one.

  9. fairlane - So how many miles to the gram?

    gary - I seem to be spending so much time looking at the big picture it's getting hard to relate to the details.

  10. Hi Susan
    It pays to look behind the figures as you do, possibly a reduction of about 250 miles per year per driver. Not that much!

    It’s fascinating to think about time and space. I note that NASA now think the Universe is not spherical or saddle shaped but flat; new scientific discoveries invariably are counter intuitive; stranger than we could have ever imagined, even to the science fiction writers to whom you refer.

    But what of the universes in other dimensions which we cannot see ?
    Our observations and calculations are all confined and influenced by the observer; for we all remain trapped within our Universe unable to view it independently from outside it and even if we were one day able to do that; it’s likely we would be unable to view those parallel universes.

    We cant even get a handle on dark matter and gravity waves, thought to make up to 90% of the Universe!

    In that context the idea of the shape of the universe becomes a meaningless idea, unless you think of it as a fully independent enclosed self supporting system which is not influenced by other dimensions, which I reject.

    Best wishes

  11. lindsay - If you drop by again you might just enjoy this long article written in 1994 by Iain Banks describing his hypothesis about the Culture. It's pretty fascinating as the framework for some extremely entertaining and stimulating thought-game novels. Of course, it's all nonsense but stuck as we all are in our current forms in our current reality it's fun to imagine other states of being. He also does a wonderful job of describing dimensions beyond our usual three and how FTL could work in such a scenario.

    I agree with you that the universe couldn't possibly be a fully enclosed self supporting system and, even though Banks states he's an athiest, he doesn't seem to believe that either.

  12. I've been driving less. I go through my mind, this place is x miles which will take x gallons of gas which will cost me x dollars. I never used to do that. I know it makes more than a 1% difference to me.
    So drive 1% less, eat less, drink less, it all adds up.
    I'll spend 1% more time talking to somebody I care about.
    I'll bet that makes me at least 2% happier!

  13. I think the universe is controlled by Shatner. We're merely products of his imagination.

  14. rg - Yeah, and he's losing the fight with his evil twin.

  15. Sera - The best kind of math is the arithmetic of reasons to be cheerful :-)

  16. //People as the main exhibit. It could happen//

    Gees, it has happened. Some days I just take a lawn chair to the local Walmart parking lot and the zoo walks right on by.

  17. okjimm - I don't fly (in airplanes) quite as much as I used to but one of my favorite things was going outside during layovers to people watch. Ahh.. life's rich pageant.