Friday, September 19, 2014

The Dawn of Someone Else

   The Dawn of “Someone
Apr 2014 -Dale Alan Bryant
    It is April 29, 3012 N. E. (New Era) – exactly 1,000 years to the day later than you had thought. Since that time, just one millennium ago, due to the political uprisings as a result of the Great Final War, which began on the 21st of December 2012, something terribly important has happened; in fact, something frighteningly important...
   The Great Final War had caused a separation—a rift in Mankind. Most of its numbers had been unable to reproduce. It was once believed that the three sub-species of humans would eventually intermingle and interbreed to the point of becoming one, homogeneous sub-species or race. But after the war, the races grew slowly and farther apart mentally, spiritually and now physically – a sure sign of the coming speciation. And on this day, one of those races has reached a new dawn - it has become so very different in every way from the others, that it has become a new species in its own right; a new, separate species almost wholly unable to breed with the remainder of its kind...
   On another day in pre-history, this world experienced a similar transformation that would forever change its face – the day Australopithecus afarensis (southern ape of the Afar region) became Homo habilis – “Handy Man” – the first true human. That day will forever be remembered as “The Dawn of Man”. But on this day, April 29, 3012 N. E., the speciation of the human race was nearly complete. Man had become a regular traveler to other, nearby worlds, after almost a thousand years of practice in space travel within the solar system.
    A new dawn has begun for Homo sapiens sapiens (Man, the wise, the wise) - the dawn of someone else: he is Homo sapiens cosmosis (Man, the wise, the star dweller).

   Let the remaining races of men - and their savage ways - come to extinction. Let this new creature – this new inhabitant of planet Earth, prosper and spread to the stars. May he never repeat the mistakes of his ancestors in developing the terrible weaponry of war. Let him be a gentle, reasoning creature who can find peace with his fellows, and for the first time, Peace on Earth – and in the galaxies beyond…

The Dawn of Man

The Dawn of Man
2013 Dale Bryant

If you have not seen the opening, moving, 8-minute scene, titled, "The Dawn of Man", in the movie, "2001: A Space Odyssey", I would implore any thinking person to watch it with thoughtfulness. The scenario is, of course, fictional in that a monolith has been planted at Olduvai Gorge in the Serengeti Plains of Africa, some 3 million years ago, by an extraterrestrial race which somehow enlightens the local inhabitants, Australopithecus afarensis (southern ape of the Afar region) for the first time to tool usage, thereby transforming, at dawn on this particular day, one member of the tribe to Homo habilis - the first Man - Man the toolmaker.
The help from extraterrestrials is, of course, unnecessary; the important thing about this clip is that A. afarensis, at any rate, became H. habilis. I have to admit to both clapping aloud and weeping every time I see it. See it for yourself. Even if you don't subscribe to evolution by means of Natural Selection, it is important for any thoughtful person to watch. The accompanying musical score, "Also Sprach Zarathustra", composed by Richard Strauss, is, by itself, worth the experience.

Strangers in a Strange Land

Strangers in a Strange Land
   2013 Dale Alan Bryant
 It is felt by many anthropologists, astronomers, chemists, geneticists and zoologists that life on this planet didn't actually originate here; the early Earth wasn't conducive, chemically, to conditions to support life. This thinking has even helped to spawn a relatively new multidisciplinary science (in which I was recently certified), known as Astrobiology, or, the study of the possibilities of life of extraterrestrial origin and how it might relate to Earth-based life forms.
  On the early Earth, there wasn't enough oxygen present in the atmosphere to sustain organic compounds or support anything like the multicellular, known-earthly forms of life; also, there was too much water and not enough dry land (today, 75% of the globe is covered by ocean; four-billion years ago, only about 3% of the Earth was terra firma). However, conditions on Mars, our second-nearest planetary neighbor after Venus, were ideal for the necessary organic compounds to have formed. It is now known that large quantities (on the order of ‘oceans’) of liquid water once flowed in ancient Martian rivers. The remaining, now-dried riverbeds have been documented, both photographically by orbital laboratories and chemically by analysis by several roving laboratories. These compounds would have traveled to Earth via the meteoroidal material produced by the ejecta from both asteroid impacts and volcanic eruptions on the Martian surface. Having quickly and easily achieved escape velocity, much of this material would have eventually assumed an orbit around the Earth and eventually impacted the surface. From there, evolutionary processes, e.g., natural selection, would have driven and shaped them to their present, earthly configurations.
 Hard as this scenario may be to imagine, the proof that the solar system shares its materials in this way is in the many confirmed fragments of the Martian crust in the form of meteorites that have been found on Earth, particularly lying atop the Antarctic ice-sheet as well as confirmed fragments from the asteroid Vesta and the Moon (I've seen these for myself), that were transported here by the same processes. Accordingly, it shouldn’t be any more difficult to imagine life having emerged elsewhere than it is to imagine it having emerged here on Earth.
  This sharing of materials in the solar system is due to repeated bombardment and the overlapping gravitational fields of its many components, e.g., planets, moons, comets, asteroids, etc. In the case of comets, their materials are primordial, or, original, left over from the very formation of the Solar system. Moreover, the chemical composition of early Mars. as mentioned, has been calculated back with great accuracy, thanks mainly to JPL’s Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) rover. The chemical signature of each body in the solar system is unique to that particular body (as can be determined even by remote analysis by spectroscope) and its presence here on Earth sticks out like a sore thumb.
  But Mars and Earth were formed at the same time; why should they be so different? Simply put, Mars is geologically older than Earth. Not in that Earth and Mars have different times of origin, but in that Mars is one-third the mass of the Earth and this is the cause of many geological differences between the two. Lower mass means a more rapidly cooling interior and therefore declining geologic activity (volcanism), essential for life on Earth. Mars would have lost most of its atmosphere earlier due to its weaker gravity, along with its, at one time plentiful, stores of liquid water because a certain atmospheric pressure is necessary to sustain H2O in the liquid state (the average atmospheric pressure on Earth is 15lbs./p.s.i.; on Mars it is 1.5lbs./p.s.i.). However, interestingly, liquid H2O can and does, exist on the red planet for brief periods- In essence, Mars has aged more rapidly than Earth – but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t thrive at one time. Ancient Mars had a robust atmosphere containing more oxygen than Earth currently does. Just like Earth, Mars’ regolith (rocky surface debris) is a record of its past. Mars did have an atmosphere supporting lots of liquid water and these two things are known to support Earth life. In fact, within its first 45-days of operation, the Curiosity rover had already completed its primary mission of determining whether Mars once had all the necessary conditions to support life. Curiosity confirmed this. It would not be too surprising if, one day, Martian fossils are found buried beneath its surface; it is possible that Mars was once home to a civilization of some kind.
   Whether Mars is the origin of life here on Earth, or whether it once supported life of its own – or both – seems certain; so, like strangers in a strange land - we may all be Martians! Whether or not we will one day find intelligent life on Earth remains, as yet, to be seen...


“Say WHAT?!"
  Ever wonder why doctors are so notorious for their atrocious handwriting? The reason is two-fold. Firstly, when it comes to anything written out long hand, they’re in a hurry. Secondly, prescriptions are written out partly in English and partly in Latin.
  Among probably too many other things, I was a P.A. (physician’s assistant) in the Army and have written out lots of scripts myself. Let’s take a typical doctor’s prescription for pain medicine in pill form and break it down; it reads:

Drug Name 5mg
Sig: T-TT tabs po q 4-6° prn pain
Disp. #15

  On the first line below the “Rx” (Latin for “Recipe”) symbol, “Drug Name” is the brand or generic name of the drug, “5mg” is the amount of the active ingredient in milligrams.
  On the second line, “Sig:” is the abbreviation for “signature”, meaning, “Take as follows”, “T-TT” is the dosage, meaning “one-two”, usually written “tabs” meaning tablets (“caps” for capsules), “po” is Latin for “per os” meaning “by mouth”, “q” is Latin for “every”, “4-6°” means “four to six hours” using the degree symbol for “hours”, “prn” is the Latin “pro re nata”, meaning “as needed” and “pain” of course means “for pain”.
  On the third line, “Disp.” means “dispense” and “#15” means fifteen tablets.
  The pharmacist filling the prescription is familiar with which terms and symbols should appear where and in what sequence and doesn’t really need them to be perfectly legible. if we could only improve the doc’s bedside manner…

2012 -Dale Bryant

Reintroduction and Introspection

Retrospection and Introspection
  Apr 2008 by Dale Bryant

Whenever I visit an anthropology exhibit in a museum - chills run up and down my spine, standing there - frightened to the core - face to face with the upright skeletal remains of Homo erectus or a Neanderthal man, a man who occupied his days hunting great animals and building shelters out of some available natural material - a man who had not yet heard of metal; a father who loved his children; who would have sent them to college, had there been such a place; a man who would have enjoyed watching reruns of "The Honeymooners" or "Star Trek" - a man, in fact who still thought that the stars in the sky were his dead ancestors...

Relatively Speaking

Relatively Speaking...
or, "The 'Ever-so-Cocksure' (but incomplete and very short) List of Impossible Things"

Nov 2013 -Dale Alan Bryant

  Writing science can be fun (honest!)--but there are times when it can be a royal pain in the neck. At any rate, I only write about topics I don't have to research--things I am already familiar with. There are two reasons for this; the first, is that I'm inherently lazy so I don't want to bother with all the fuss of fact--checking. The second is that, I don't feel it would be fair to the reader if the author he or she is reading really doesn't know what he's talking about. I would like things to be this way, always.
  In reality, I end up checking dates anyway and at least some facts. This is especially true for astronomy - and its related sciences: astrophysics, astrobiology, radio astronomy, etc. Those sciences are moving ahead so fast that things are subject to change daily as refinements are made.
  Moreover, there is one aspect of writing that I won't give myself a break on and that's proper punctuation. There is almost no good reason for punctuation that is misleading--and no excuse whatsoever for poor punctuation. A sentence is a thought. Thoughts are "ideas" with very specific meaning and feeling; here's a really good example: "A woman without her man is nothing." Now read it again: "A woman, without her man, is nothing." Now one more time: "A woman: without her, man is nothing." See the difference just a colon, comma and some italics can make? Three entirely different meanings. The first and last examples are 180 degrees from each other.
  Now, I did mention that there was almost no good reason for improper punctuation, meaning that there are times when my sentences are seemingly unnecessarily too long or that I could have been more efficient by cutting a word or two here or there or by at least adding a few commas so that the reader can catch her breath now and then... whew!... see what I mean?... ahh, but I have even other reasons for doing this (you might not like 'em, but I have 'em!)
  Like times when I want the reader to spend a little longer assimilating a point, so I'll not end the sentence, just yet, with a period, but, rather extend it with commas, semi--colons or dashes instead. Other times, I need the reader to only briefly link two or three ideas so that she can see a relationship before continuing any further. Yet even other times, a scientific idea can be a real challenge to try to explain in plain English. It can be very satisfying to break some idea down until it can't be reduced any further, but the sentence that explains it might run on a bit. This can't be helped; it's either that or start throwing in some rather obscure or vague math expressions, that may - or may not - get the point across faster, or more thoroughly. Consequently, many of my sentences become, perhaps, a bit complex--but, hopefully, not too tedious.
  So, I've got all kinds of excuses for my writing but, mainly, I'd like to see the reader to get some enjoyment out of it and, maybe, at the same time, learn something previously unfamiliar along the way -- and with that, I offer you the following...

  Last night, I was thinking about the significance of cosmic distances and the time it can take to cross them (alright, alright, so my social life is a bit dull!) Anyway, it is one thing to know that the distance to the nearest star - other than the sun - (yes, it is a star--a type 'G2 yellow dwarf'), is 4.2 light-years, and with the name Proxima Centauri, one of three stars in the triple-star system Alpha Centauri--by the way, our sun's proper name is Sol (pronounced "soul"). It is quite another thing to realize that, at 26,000mph, the fastest speed yet attained by man, via a Saturn-V booster just before trans-lunar insertion, it would take 116,000 years to get there. That equates to 1,560 lifetimes--LIFETIMES--(assuming a lifetime to be that of the average American male, at 76 years). That is an absurdly long time, considering that you and I haven't even experienced one lifetime yet (nothing implied here). And 26,000mph is no stroll in the park either; that breaks down to 433 miles per minute, or, 7 miles per second--roughly the distance from here to the geographic center of Martha's Vineyard--in the time it takes you to count from one to two!
  You might wonder how man can possibly tolerate traveling at such speeds. Well, speed may be "of the essence", as the saying goes (or does it?) but it is of no consequence, whatsoever. You see, the concept of "speed" is relative--it only exists comparatively; in the case of the traveler(s) in the Saturn-V booster, the traveler's measured speed of 26,000mph is that speed as determined by--and relative to--a stationary observer on Earth. But, to two astronauts seated side-by-side, traveling on the same rocket, each one sees the other as being perfectly stationary. Can both cases be true? Indeed, BOTH are true. This is what Albert Einstein showed (and had the proof to back it up) in his theories of Relativity (there were two: Special Relativity (1905) and General Relativity (1915). There is no, one, absolute or privileged reference point anywhere in the physical universe. During an event, taking place anywhere, its properties can only be determined by - and again are relative to - some other event in some other place (an event is defined as any given incident or experience where a given interval (time) and its given position in space (location) intersect). Law--enforcement agencies are very much aware of the inconsistencies in the reported times and locations of incidents by different persons as witnessed from different positions. Only in rare cases do any two witnesses agree on all aspects of an event witnessed by both. Though the reasons for any disagreement are as much psychological, as they are physical, it is still Relativity at work--differing opinions caused by differing perspectives, values, etc., real or imagined.
  To a statistician here on Earth, that Saturn-V booster and its two passengers is traveling very, very fast. But to a photon (a particle of light that can only travel at the speed of light - never faster or slower - or 186,282.3976 miles per second, in vacuum), that same rocket and its passengers is traveling at a dreadfully slow 0.000037% of the speed of light--crawling along! Well, that's the reason human beings can tolerate such a velocity--or any other velocity, for that matter. The problem for any being built of flesh and bones is 'acceleration'. The average man can only withstand 8 or 9 g's of acceleration (one 'g' is the force of one Earth gravity) for periods of just a few seconds, before losing consciousness. Acceleration is different from velocity. An acceleration is a change--whether an increase or decrease--in speed, whereas, velocity is a measure of constant and unvarying speed. For these same reasons, nothing can ever be measured as being absolutely stationary (Stationary?--compared to what?) One thing is stationary only as can be compared to some other thing - that believes it is moving. When you walk down the sidewalk, is it you or is it the Earth rolling from under your feet that is doing the "moving"? Believe it or not--and this is what gives Relativity its notoriety for being "counter-intuitive"--there is no way of determining that one is moving and the other is not and, in reality, it isn't one way or the other. Try to prove otherwise--it cannot be done (Einstein went on to prove this via some pretty heavy-duty equations you'd rather not mess with, take my word for it.)
  And the quaint, little notion that "all things are possible" is just that--a quaint, little notion; it is impossible to square the circle--and always will be. No matter how hard anyone tries to do it, it will never be done. Interestingly, there are things that, while inherently impossible, are still able to be imagined, even visualized--while still others cannot be. Here are a few examples that include both (don't bother trying to 'prove' these situations otherwise; it's already been tried. If, however, you should succeed in doing just that--NOTIFY ME IMMEDIATELY!!!):
   *Achieving temperatures colder than 'absolute zero'
   *Going slower than 'stop'
   *Trying to imagine a 'new' primary color
   *Imagining a time longer ago than '15 billion years'
    and just to break up the monotony –
   *Folding any piece of paper in half more than seven times (go ahead and try it!)
  Of these three interesting--but impossible--scenarios, the first two are closely related. The temperature of an object is determined by its molecular motion. All parts of a molecule vibrate (atoms and their constituent parts, e.g., electrons, neutrons, protons, etc.) All molecules exhibit this atomic motion, known as "Brownian" motion. What is Brownian motion? You just had to ask...
  Refusing to open a new can of worms here, I'll just give you the universally accepted answer--Brownian motion is the residual kinetic energy (heat), or, shock left over from the Big Bang event and the reason that the entire observable, measurable universe stands at 3.5 degrees Kelvin above 'absolute zero'. O.K. - back to the temperature-vibration relationship. Temperature is an artifact and measure of this Brownian motion--though it might make more sense to think of it as being the other way around, temperature affecting speed (go ahead, I'll let you off the hook for the moment.) Anyway, the faster the motion or vibration of a molecule--from whatever has caused a change--let's not go there--the higher the temperature of the molecule; the slower the motion, the lower the temperature. At the temperature known as absolute zero, all molecular motion has ceased and the object has reached -459F (-273K Kelvin). You couldn't get that temperature one little degree colder--even if you packed freezers inside of freezers inside of other, still bigger freezers. Even if you used 'smoke and mirror' technology, it just wouldn't work (although, I have a friend whom I believe could pull it off if he really wanted to!) In other words, there is no such thing as "-460F"--because there is no such thing as going slower than 'stop'. Our first and second impossible scenarios are, very neatly, mutually exclusive.
  Interestingly enough, there doesn't seem to be a similar rule that "officially" applies at the other end of the thermometer. At least, I'm not aware of there ever having been any kind of discussion on a condition that would prohibit further increase in temperature from some "universal maximum". But, it seems to me that a sensible place to start would be the "speed of light limitation" as it applies to the speed of vibration of elementary particles as just discussed. Absolute zero is the point where maximum entropy in a system is reached; i.e., all order in the system concerned has disintegrated and only chaos exists in the system. I guess the question from here would be, "What is the point of "minimum" entropy called and what goes on there?..." Well, I haven't got the foggiest notion; this in an area I am totally unfamiliar with so I don't know the first thing about it and could only speculate--time to crack a few books!...
  The solution to the third scenario is simple enough; the reason you can't imagine a 'new' primary color is because there isn't one! All colors are some combination of red, yellow and blue. Black and white aren't colors per se; white is the presence of all colors and black is the absence of all colors. In between is gray, which is a measure of 'luminance'. Color is a measure of 'hue'.
 The next to last entry on our "ever-so-cock-sure" (but incomplete and very short) list of impossible things: 'A time longer ago than 15 billion years'. Put another way, there is no such thing as something being older than 14.5 billion years old. There is excellent evidence to support this but it has yet to be proven. The reason for the statement however, is because everything, it is believed--including 'time' itself--came into being 14.5 billion years ago. Before that--which there is no such thing as, remember--no dimensions whatsoever existed, including the fourth dimension, 'time' (the other three being, of course, height, width and depth.)
  Last, but not least (perhaps even foremost), no piece of paper – however long or thin (try it, even with toilet paper!) can be folded in half more than seven times.
  Some things (like our universe – and the toilet paper) must be allowed to be unintelligible--and probably best left that way. Is truth really stranger than fiction?--you bet!  

Prove It! (Go ahead...try)

“Prove It!” (go ahead...try)
MAR 2014 -Dale Alan Bryant

Once you set out to prove something, you must stay within the known laws of physics. Science is the self-correcting tool of observation and experimentation. If you make allowances for anything beyond known physical laws, you are in the realm of speculation; any product of this realm, can be neither observed for evidence of existence (observation), used for comparison with some known object (experimentation), nor demonstrated, nor proven - especially since you won’t even be able to prove the science behind it. And here's someth, would

On the Philosophy of Determinism

On The Philosophy of Determinism
2011 by Dale Bryant

 Among the many philosophies and ways of looking at the world that there are, I came across one in particular several years ago that I, in fact, subscribe to. Let me share it with you:

 For a moment, think of the Big Bang event as an exploding grenade (I do believe that the Creator’s method of bringing the universe into existence was the Big Bang, that it was His idea and His intent, and that the contents of space did not simply materialize in its present state out of nothingness.)

 The explosion of a grenade and the expansion of the universe, granted, differ fundamentally in their mechanics, but the outcome is the same. Now the grenade contains bits and pieces of shrapnel that will move from their positions inside the grenade to their eventual resting positions on the ground when the explosion is over. Trigonometry and ballistics can predict the path that the shrapnel will follow and its distance from the center of the explosion to its position on the ground, dictated by the force of the explosion, the position of the bit of shrapnel inside the grenade’s casing, its moment of inertia, etc. In other words, the future history of the shrapnel's location in space at all times during its journey from the center of the grenade is pre-determined from the moment of the explosion.

 In the philosophy of “Determinism”, every event is pre-determined; not directly by the Almighty, necessarily, but if nothing more than by the choreography of effects on space-time which was brought on at the moment of creation by the explosive action of the Great Expansion (the Big Bang) event itself. Everything else follows naturally and exactly as it should and can never vary. This also includes what we call “free will”. The decisions you make in your day to day life, based on what appears to you as freedom of choice, are the only decisions you can possibly make – they have already been determined. Now, I’ve heard from many people who believe that free will exists and is a gift from God and that our limited, simple human minds simply can’t understand that. I’d like here to use that same reasoning exactly against that idea. Those very same minds couldn’t possibly grasp, at least at this point in our evolution, all of the physics and chemistry behind the running of the universe. Now, I’m not, in my opinion, an atheist but an agnostic. Obviously, the universe came into being and it was created by something. I simply refuse to anthropomorphize that something. Whatever it was certainly has no need of resembling us in any way whatsoever, either physically or mentally, any more than it has need to resemble a dolphin or an elephant, as we are all (including the dolphin and the elephant) the products of a very specific evolutionary chain of events. Go ahead, shoot me.

 Our universe is, to this day, still expanding – moving in response to the inertia of the moment of Creation. It's entire contents of stars, comets, planets, galaxies, dust and gas particles, metals - and people - are moving apart, following a very exacting script. Every event that follows and it's eventual outcome, including the experiences of ourselves - ourselves being an intrinsic part of the system - was determined at the moment of Creation. Nothing we can ever do or think – or hope to think - can change that.

On the Human Tail (and other rudimentary organs)

On The Human Tail
(and other rudimentary organs)
2012 By Dale Bryant

 The human embryo is indistinguishable from any other vertebrate animal (animals possessing a spinal column, or, notochord with extended extremities, e.g., arms, legs, etc.) This is due to the law of phylogenesis, which covers a period of many millions of years of vertebrate evolutionary development. Another law, the law of ontogenesis, explains the brief period of development from conception to birth.
   The embryos of all vertebrates, including us, exhibit our entire evolutionary development, starting out with the fishes, extending to the amphibious vertebrates, then on to reptiles and eventually birds and mammals. Our entire developmental sequence over millions of years is apparent. The human, dog, fish, chimpanzee, tortoise, whale and all other vertebrate embryos have gills, legs (yes, even whales), and tails as well as other rudimentary organs which, in the case of the mammals have been abbreviated or aborted. Humans still possess a short tail, consisting of four to five fused vertebrae at the end of the spinal column, called the coccyx (kok-six).

   This, of course, suggests that all extant life forms (99% of all life that has ever existed is now extinct), developed or evolved from a common ancestor in the remote past and that Man was not instantly placed here on this planet, in his present, "unchanging" form by a Creator with a definite plan outside of mechanical causes. This is a very sensitive issue for those who subscribe to a dualistic approach to creation, and those averse to changing previously accepted thinking. I do feel for you as I was once one of you, but then I transferred my interests from professional astronomy to paleoprimatology and saw for the first time the very obvious.
  I can recommend a good book by Ersnt August Haekel titled “The History of Creation” available free online at Google Books. Do it!

See ya!

On Natural Selection

 On Natural Selection
 2012 by Dale Bryant
    Still need proof of Darwin’s theory? Read on. The fact that new species develop according to adaptation and inheritance is known as the Theory of Selection, whether it be naturally or artificially induced. It was proposed by naturalist Charles Darwin in the mid-1800’s and is known as “Darwinism”. It’s a common misconception that Darwin was the originator of the Theory of Evolution. Actually, the idea of the formation of new species by descent was proposed by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck 50 years earlier and is called “Lamarckism”. It was even suspected by Aristotle. Darwin only explained the descent of organisms by means of Natural Selection, in his book, “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”, and only used the term 'evolution' once in this work. In fact, this theory was independently developed by Alfred Wallace at about the same time. Darwin actually put off publishing the results from his observations in his book for twenty-one years, until he was convinced that there was no other explanation possible.
    The fact that breeders of dogs, cats, horses, tomatoes or strawberries breed their stock to achieve some desired result – whether it be a tastier strawberry, a smaller dog, a faster race horse, etc., is the proof. You might think that it is "only a theory", but that implies that theories don't provide proof. All scientific ideas and natural laws are backed by theories. The Theory of Selection is a mathematical constant: that is, the relationship of available space for an organism to exist and the number of organisms competing for that space. Obviously, some organisms thrive while most others die off, an invariable consequence of the mechanism of the 'Struggle for Existence', a.k.a. 'Survival of the Fittest'. The fittest, according to genetic adaptation and inheritance, tend towards survival while the least fit tend towards extinction. Very sensible, is it not? In fact, the seemingly endless variety of organisms, still very much in transitional states today, as can be seen in the rudimentary, atrophied hind legs of whales and dolphins, or the now defunct internal organs of many species, including the appendix of man--can only be explained by the Theory of Selection; otherwise it is left to the unfathomable realm of miracles.
    The Theory of Selection is a self-evident law of nature and requires no further proof any more than you require further proof that more than one breed of dog exists. The fact that people from around the world look differently, or that there are German Shepherds, Chihuahua’s, Beagles and Irish Setters, is all the proof of the Theory of Selection you should require. These breeds, or, sub-species, were intentionally created – bred from a common ancestor of the genus' Canis (dog) and Lupus (wolf). In fact, some breeds of dog are so distantly related that they cannot reproduce together – although they belong to the same genus, they have, through Artificial Selection (selective breeding induced by man) become distinctly separate species. Selection induced by nature is called 'natural selection' and works in exactly the same way, only much more slowly.
 Darwin also provided proof of another weighty philosophical question when he explained natural selection; that is, the question of how arrangements serving a purpose can arise mechanically without causes acting for a purpose. If you’re at all familiar with some simple math and statistics, you’ll see the logic in it immediately. If you still require proof at this point, you either don’t thoroughly understand the theory or are not sufficiently acquainted with the fundamentals of biology; and if that is the case, you really should familiarize yourself with those two components before coming to any conclusions on the subject.
    Oh, just one more thing... I realize this little essay of mine smacks of sacrilege but that is not my motive at all. Like most of my writings, it was only meant to spark a little controversy and bring your blood to near boiling (contrary to popular belief, I like to have a little fun too!) But, unfortunately, like the rest of us, I was not present at The Creation (though I feel I could have given the Creator a few pointers) but, alas, the truth is, I have an agreement with God--I don’t tell Him how to design universes--and He doesn’t tell me how to interpret the obvious.
    I need to stop here – hell, I’m in deep enough as it is!... would it help if I said I didn’t mean it (yes, I did), and I won’t ever do it again (yes, I will)--I promise (no, I don’t!)....
   I’ll end with my favorite quotation on the obvious, as it applies to nature: “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck – it’s a duck.”

On Extraterrestrial Evolution

On Extraterrestrial Evolution
2011 by Dale Bryant

Virtually all reports of contact with, or sightings of, alleged creatures of extraterrestrial origin, describe these beings as humanoid, i.e., possessing large heads with two eyes, a thorax or torso, with two pair of extremities or limbs, the lower pair functioning as legs, as these beings primary mode of locomotion happens to be bipedal. This is all very interesting; the form that a body takes is dictated by its geological surroundings - including and especially available food sources, atmospheric composition, air temperature and pressure, amount of received sunlight, natural enemies - even variations in the gravitational pull of the host planet itself according to geographic location. All of these factors are highly variable at any given locale and conspire to shape our bodies - even as finely as the cusps on our molar and pre-molar teeth, to accommodate the foods we will eat as we begin a solid food diet. This is why humans look the way they do and why gazelles, rabbits, fish and spiders look the way they do, not to mention all the different general body types involved (vertebrates, invertebrates, arthropods (those with articulated limbs or segmented bodies), etc.)

The possibility that intelligent extraterrestrial beings would be humanoid in form is barely even remotely possible. The evolutionary chain of events, through the process of natural selection, which includes physical and mental adaptation and inheritance of favorable characteristics, that led to H. sapiens, was a very specific one and occurred only once on this planet; its recurrence on some other world is unthinkable; any life forms on another planet would likely be something other than humanoid and not even remotely resemble any form of life on Earth.
 The humanoid form is based on an anthropoid body plan, one of the many body plans of earthly fauna. The anthropoid cranium positions two eyes, anteriorly, or at the front of the skull. This arrangement provides binocular, or stereoscopic vision to the possessor, which is very sensitive to the movement of its prey, indicating a predatory carnivorous ancestry. Our earliest mammalian ancestors were herbivorous, with eyes positioned at the sides of the head, providing a more panoramic view much less sensitive to movement. The anthropoid body plan also includes four limbs in two pairs--the upper pair was used by our last common ancestor for swinging from branch to branch among the trees and even included hands for that form of locomotion known as brachiation. The bottom pair of limbs became important in our upright, erect posture for moving across large swaths of ground after we transitioned from an arboreal existence to the necessary mode of locomotion adapted for the savanna, bipedalism. To expect that beings from another world would have taken essentially the same evolutionary pathway as human beings is akin to expecting that they speak English too! Given any similarities, it would be even more likely that these alleged humanoid forms are actually us--from a very distant future and evolutionary development--come back to visit ourselves, via some unlikely, but plausible, manipulation of the fourth dimension--time.
 The scientists who study the possibilities of life on other planets are called Astrobiologists and Exobiologists. What do you think an extraterrestrial intelligence, should they actually exist, might look like?

Of an Overpopulated Earth

Of an Overpopulated Earth Nov
2013 Dale Alan Bryant

A friend posted recently on FB that she was wondering how we might be able to solve many of the social issues that continually plague this planet; at the risk of sounding like I didn't understand the question, I offered the following: To approach this monstrosity, we must find a way to reduce the population of our planet by something like two-thirds. Overpopulation is the cause of nearly ALL of society’s ills. There are currently 7,200,000,000 (7.2 billion) people alive today, each one of us competing to survive in all of society’s diversity. In high-density areas of society, tests of our endurance and tolerance can stress us to near insanity - like in cases of the assorted ‘-rages' - for example, ‘road-rage’, and the mishmash of umpteen other possible flavors of ‘-rage’: how about "supermarket check-out isle” rage or "on-line ‘pop-up’-ad rage"? Our social media is full of alarmingly inappropriate and disproportionately bold commentaries - an all-too-obvious form of ‘virtual’ rage. People will say, (or rather, ‘text’) things to each other on-line that they wouldn’t dare say to each other in their right minds face-to-face. This overzealous, false sense of ‘empowerment’ is in itself disturbing. It seems people would rather ‘socialize’ with others by curiously ‘holing-up’ in the peculiar, dark safety of their bathrooms, detectable only by the unearthly glow of their iPad screens, and passively type lifeless, yet “urgent” alerts to trusted, phantom ‘Friends’ (rather than calling and telling them) of any spontaneous cravings for chocolate mousse, urges to booby-trap their bathtubs - or other important current events. When I was born, in 1957, the world’s population was 2,800,000,000 (2.8 billion). That means that, today, I'm running into almost three times as many people in any given situation than I was in 1957; on average, three times as many people on the road, three times as many at the beach, in the theater, and in the Men's room.
  It was my uncle who first introduced the idea of population reduction by means of warfare to me when I was 19. I thought he was nuts! (He was, but that's not really important) He had served in three wars, and in his mind, war was an efficient solution to overpopulation; it not only reduces human numbers, but also stimulates the economy as nothing else could.
  If only we could be smarter than that!
  However, I don't believe that human beings are capable of imposing on themselves such a drastic idea as active, aggressive, voluntary population control, let alone reduction. At our current rate of population increase, we will be at 11,000,000,000 (11 billion) in only 60 years. Your children, and theirs, are going to have to live in that world. There may be an alternative solution. If our society's collective space programs remain healthy, we, as a species, can begin to populate -- and export large numbers of ourselves -- to at least one other planet -- Mars. In fact, the Dutch-based space industry's 'Mars One' Human Habitation Project is well underway in its quest to send six volunteers to the red planet as the pilgrimage of a permanent Martian settlement. This project is slated for a launch date of April 23, 2023. For these volunteers (I have applied for this mission, BTW), it is a one-way, no-return trip. The prospective ‘Martians’ must be dedicated to the idea of living out the remainder of their lives on another planet--there are no plans for returning disillusioned participants. It won't be easy, but exploration involving new and trying situations never was. Other future colonist missions are planned for extending the colony by up to six at a time at roughly two-year intervals, as are periodic supply shipments, until the colonists have become fully self-supporting. As Mars has only a tenuous atmosphere containing almost no oxygen and no open bodies of water, the new Martians will occupy a system of living-pods connected by tunnels, containing the necessary life-support systems. Voice communication with Earth will even be established by radio, and e-mail service via a Mars-Earth Internet web-server will be maintained, but a 3 to 25 minute delay each way will need to be tolerated, due to the nature of the speed limit of light, radio and other electromagnetic transmissions, and the two planet's relative orbital positions. Whatever the answer to an overpopulated Earth may be, I hope it comes in time to prevent a decision by an utterly hopeless humanity to bring itself to extinction for lack of any other way out.

My Friends

My Friends…

 “Cosmos” - Carl Sagan
“The Collapsing Universe”- Isaac Asimov
“A Brief History of Time” - Stephen Hawking
“The Nine Billion Names of God” - Arthur C. Clarke
“ABC of Relativity” - Bertrand Russell
“Starlight Nights” - Leslie Peltier
“The Demon-Haunted World (Science as a Candle in the Dark)” - Carl Sagan
“The Oxford English Dictionary” - Oxford Press
“All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” - Robert Fulghum
“Childhood’s End” - Arthur C. Clarke
“Science, Numbers and I” - Isaac Asimov
“Burnham’s Celestial Handbook” - Robert Burnham
“A Complete Manual of Amateur Astronomy” - P. Clay Sherrod
“The Encyclopaedia Britannica” - Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.
“On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” - Charles Darwin
"The Wind from the Sun" - Arthur C. Clarke
“The Decent of Man” - Charles Darwin
“The Naked Ape” - Desmond Morris
“The Holy Bible” - (because I enjoy controversy)
“Write Better, Speak Better” - Reader’s Digest Assoc.
"Future Shock" - Alvin Toffler
"Primate Evolution" - Glenn C. Conroy
“A Father’s Book of Wisdom” - H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

  These books are a few of my best friends. I’ve known most of them since I was small and I visit them from time to time. For the most part, we’ve always gotten along well, albeit with an occasional disagreement here or an argument there. But they’ve been faithful, open, sincere and good company… and they’ll never ask me for a divorce!

2010 -Dale Bryant, misanthrope

It's About Time

It's About Time!

  Is it possible to travel in time? Would you believe that it would be easier to travel into a future that hasn't happened lyet than it would be to travel into a past that has? Odd as that may sound, of the two options, travel into the future would be the more feasible. If we can't travel backwards through time, we can at least see back in time.
  When you see the moon in the sky, you see it as it was one and one-quarter seconds ago, or the sun, eight and one-half minutes ago. This is because it takes light 1 /1/4 seconds to travel from the moon to the Earth; 8 1/2 minutes to travel from the sun; 4.2 years from the nearest star, Proxima Centauri; 2 million years from the nearest galaxy, the Andromeda galaxy, and 65 million years from spiral galaxy M-66, the galaxy in which I co-discovered a supernova on February 11, 1989 (SN1989b).
  Lets say we were to magically travel to M-66 and brought along a very powerful telescope. If we turned the scope back in the direction of the Earth, we would be able to watch (assuming the scope were sufficiently powerful) Tyrannosaurus Rex and his friends romping about the landscape--for the light that would just be entering our eyes originally left the Earth 65 million years ago. We are able to judge the age of the universe in this way by the distances of the furthest objects we can see (the so-called 'quasars', or 'quasi-stellar' objects at 14.5 billion light-years distant.)
  In an essay I wrote about a year ago, called "The Twin Paradox", I described a space traveler who was traveling in his ship at nearly the speed of light and who had left a twin brother back on Earth. One of the consequences of general relativity is that time passes more slowly for someone traveling at nearly the speed of light than it does for someone (in this case the traveler's Earthbound twin brother, Marvin) who remains at rest.
  When the traveler (Harvey) returns to Earth after a few years, he finds that Marvin has long since passed away of old age, and in fact, that centuries have passed on Earth while only a few years have passed for him. In this way, Harvey has 'traveled' centuries into the future while on his three year journey in his spaceship (since it was Harvey who did the moving it was also he who did the traveling 'forward' in time and not Marvin 'backward' in time.) This interesting and hopelessly un-intuitive phenomenon is called time-dilation and is described in Albert Einstein's second or, 'general' theory of relativity.
  I should mention here that all this traveling and not traveling assumes that events in 'time' are not static events - in other words, they have no 'fixed' place in relation to other events. I am assuming that all events are of the "here and now"; in other words, all events are laid out before us and are available to access on demand. There are no "past" or 'future" events--only events--regardless of how it might appear otherwise, and they can be accessed from more than one vantage point. Depending on one's approach, one event may or may not come before or after another event and, in fact, may be approached in such a way that all events appear to be simultaneous, and in reality, they are simultaneous. Because of this 'fluid' nature of events, time can be manipulated (bear in mind that this is just the opinion of this writer, but it seems to me that Harvey has irrefutably proved this to be the case.) Harvey's travels not only demonstrate time dilation but seem to demonstrate "event dilation" by compressing or expanding one's physical position in space and time, as measured by an outside observer, of course. Harvey experiences the same events as Marvin, but in one order or at one interval, while Marvin experiences them occurring in quite another order or at another interval.

  As far as any traveling 'backward' in time, it doesn't seem to be a possibility, if only in that it would introduce one or more paradoxes, e.g., killing one's mother before one is born, etc.

Air Sucks!

Air Sucks!
©Mar 2014 Dale Alan Bryant

    Keyboard Bill Cosby once posed a question in the title of one of his early, classic albums of stand-up comedy – ‘Why is there air?’ I used to listen to Cosby as a kid and I once told myself that if I ever found the answer to his question, I'd let him know - well, I hope you're reading this, Bill!...
 To answer Bill's question, let's start with another fundamental question: “What is air?” In the Earth's case, air is its atmosphere - a blanket of various gases approximately 250 miles deep surrounding its outer crust. Air can be any gas, or combination thereof. Earth's atmosphere is mostly nitrogen, carbon dioxide and argon - but also contains a highly questionable component - oxygen, at 21%. Most planetary atmospheres contain very little oxygen if any, and indeed, the early Earth's atmosphere contained none. Earth's oxygen (O2) is mainly a by-product of living organisms, specifically vegetation. Vegetation converts the ambient CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere into oxygen, which higher forms of life have been adapted to utilize.
 The ‘Great Oxygenation period, as it is known, occurred sometime during the Cambrian period of the Paleozoic era some 542 million years ago, just preceding the ‘Cambrian Explosion’ of life. During this period, vegetation began to spread worldwide, which in turn began producing an abundance of oxygen. Only simple, unicellular life forms existed before this time which had no need of the nasty stuff! Nevertheless, as more-complex multicellular forms arose, they began to adapt to the increased oxygen levels generated by the abundance of early plant life. The present level of oxygen in our atmosphere is, as mentioned, 21%, but it actually got as high as 61% during the reign of the great reptiles, the dinosaurs. By this time, living organisms had begun to utilize oxygen so efficiently, and it was so abundant, that a general trend toward growth and increased size of multicellular forms of life took place - fossilized spiders have been found measuring up to 3 ft. across!
    (Egads, I'm feeling a little faint...)

   Now, earlier, I inferred that oxygen was a bit on the nasty side. Well, fond of the stuff as you may be, this is true. Oxygen is not an inert gas; it is highly reactive, corrosive and poisonous and is almost entirely responsible for all of the corrosion, rusting and decay that takes place on our Earth. As a rule, an atmosphere - and especially one containing oxygen, is not a good thing for anything that comes into contact with it - nor is it even the norm in the universe (the near-vacuum of space is the norm; an average cubic-inch of space contains only around 10 hydrogen atoms and a stray photon or two.)
    So where did all this air come from? Almost all of our solar system’s planets and moons have some type of atmosphere with varying compositions and thicknesses. As the Earth was beginning to cool, shortly after its formation, gases trapped within its rocky mantle and outer crust began to escape through cracks and vents (this is called ‘outgassing’) to uniformly surround the planet. Moreover, because of our atmosphere, conditions here on Earth are just right for the continual re-shaping of its surface.
  Air holds both moisture and heat. Moisture, combined with oxygen, causes things to corrode and anything containing iron to rust. Air is also the source of erosion, brought on by rain and wind continually reshaping the planet's surface. Moreover, moisture and heat combined support microorganisms that cause disease and decay. Only in space can the destructive forces of an atmosphere be avoided entirely. Space is cold, dry and still. Nothing can ever rot, burn or erode in space; even food will remain eternally "fresh" there. Moreover, our metallic robot explorers, like Pioneers 10 & 11 and the Voyager spacecraft, launched in the 1970's, are in pristine condition - as new and shiny as the day they were built. (Too bad they didn’t realize this back in 1957 - they could've put a ‘57 Chevy right off the assembly line into orbit and today it’d be in factory-new condition!)
  Now, Earth’s moon has no atmosphere, making conditions on its surface the same as they are in space. Instruments left on the surface, by the astronauts of the Apollo program are in new condition and some are still in working order. Because there is no wind or rain, the boot prints of the astronauts left in the lunar dust are as fresh and crisp as the day they were imprinted there - and will remain so for millions of years to come. Only the extremely slow accumulation of meteoritic dust on the ground, coming from space, will dull their outlines slightly after many millenniums.
    On Earth - and perhaps only on Earth - we have atmospheric conditions that are both conducive and detrimental to life. Oxygen reacts with nearly everything that it touches and is highly flammable. Oxygen fuels our campfires and our spacecraft; liquid oxygen (LOX) has been used in our rockets, from the German V-2, the U.S. Mercury and Gemini program's Redstone, Delta, Agena and Atlas boosters, the Apollo program’s Saturn-V booster, to the Space Shuttle’s triple-engine booster.
  Currently, other astrobiologists, using data from the Kepler Space Telescope, are focusing on searching for exoplanets possessing atmospheres with at least some oxygen content that might support some form of life and that lie within a certain distance from their host suns, termed the habitable, or ‘Goldilocks Zone’. This is a reasonable approach, since most of the only forms of life that we know of - Earth life - utilize both of those conditions. The breadth of the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ in our own solar system runs from Venus out to about Jupiter; Earth is about in the middle.
   Nevertheless, with life being as adaptable as we have seen it to be (filling niches from the deepest super-hot oceanic vents to as deep as a mile into the Antarctic ice sheet), we may need to modify our current models of ‘acceptable’ atmospheric content and habitable zone widths.
 Oxygen - and 'Goldilocks' - aren’t necessarily the only shows in town...

E=mc WHAT?!

 E=mc WHAT?!               
May 2012 by Dale Bryant

 Folks, this is a lot easier than you think it is and we're going to demonstrate that together right now before you even get to dessert...
 The algebraic equation "E=mc2" is an expression from the first part of Albert Einstein's relativity theory, "The Special Theory of Relativity" which he published in 1905 (his "General Theory of Relativity" was published in 1915) - and here's what he was talking about:
  Although neither matter (mass)
nor energy can be created or destroyed, one can be converted into the other. Think of this as how matter is 'relative' to energy and vice-versa. Einstein showed that matter was, in fact, a form of stored up energy. Einstein's intent was to show that matter and energy are just different states of the same thing, in the same way that ice, water and steam are different states of the same thing. However, the conversion of matter to energy is accomplished through a violent nuclear chain reaction, or, reaction which takes place in the nucleus of an atom and involves tremendous amounts of heat transfer. Now let's take, for instance, an atom of zinc in a penny - one atom setting off a reaction in its nearest neighboring atom and so on and so on, but all of the atoms in the penny converting almost simultaneously. Gamma radiation, or, gamma rays (radiation with a shorter wavelength and even more energetic than x-rays, well above the ultra-violet end of the electromagnetic spectrum) was the first energy to be converted to matter in the lab some time ago, further validating Einsteinian relativity.
 Please pardon any unit substitutions I may use throughout; I use them for familiarity purposes only. The basic premise and magnitude remains unchanged. "E" stands for energy in the form of ergs or joules units. Now ergs and joules aren't units too familiar to many of us, so, though not entirely accurate - but accurate enough for our purposes here - we're going to substitute watts instead. We can all imagine what the energy output from a 100-watt light bulb looks like so we'll save that for later. Now let's take the arithmetical operator "=" to mean "is equal to" so that we can ultimately turn this vague equation into a clear sentence in everyday English. Next is the letter "m" ("m" and "c" are traditionally used lower case). "m" stands for mass measured in grams. One penny is equal to about three grams. In the equation, "m" represents 1 gram, so multiply that by the next letter "c" which stands for the speed of light measured in centimeters per second. One centimeter is about equal to half an inch, and so, is easy to imagine and makes "c" in the equation memorable for this unit of length. Now comes the numeral "2", meaning "squared" or, "c" times itself, or "c x c".
  O.K., you had to figure this was coming - a point where things were going to get a bit messy and, unfortunately, that's going to be in the value of "c" which is 30 billion centimeters. Neither one of us really wants to know that 30 billion centimeters squared is 900 billion billion centimeters, nor is there really a more palatable way to put it even if we had used miles instead of centimeters. But this obscurity and vastness is where all the excitement comes in! Here is the whole thing in a nutshell...

If you could use the total energy "E" (in watts) contained in one-third of one penny "m" (the mass of one-third of one penny) by detonating the penny using mass-energy conversion in the parking lot at the Cape Cod Mall, "c" (the speed of light) times "2" (times the speed of light again) it would immediately transform the town of Barnstable and its villages into chunks and bits and pieces!

  That's where the watts come back into the picture and that's a lot of watts of raw energy. Can you imagine how many 100W light bulbs it would take to create a light equivalent to that kind of energy? In other words, the output, in watts of the explosion is exactly equal to the mass of one-third of one penny times the speed of light squared. The first, and to date most dramatic proof of the conversion of mass to energy came in two basketball-sized masses weighing eight pounds each, of the highly unstable metals Plutonium-239 and Uranium-236 (both isotopes or by-products of the elements proper) used as catalysts for the atomic bombs that destroyed each of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - and, sadly, their citizens - in Japan in 1945. Though Einstein showed how an atomic nucleus could be harvested for its energy, he was a pacifist who abhorred violence; it was society that felt it necessary to use the equation's more vicious implications against itself.

Our above equation, "E=mc2", for the conversion of mass to energy and vice-versa is only one aspect of the Theory of Relativity and I chose it as a starting point for its dramatic potential. Other aspects of Relativity include the impossibility of travel faster than the speed of light; length contraction; time-dilation (the slowing down of time as speed/velocity increase); gravitational lenses; infinite mass and quite a bit more...

E=mc2"; use it - don't abuse it!

The Drake Equation

The Drake Equation
Apr 2013 by Dale Alan Bryant

 American astronomer, Frank Drake, proposed a simple algebraic equation in the early 1960’s for determining the number of communicating civilizations in our Milky Way galaxy, as represented by the number N. These would be civilizations that are both capable of, and are, communicating via the electromagnetic spectrum, at some radio wavelength or other EMS emission. These parameters could (and should) be applied to any spiral, or barred-spiral galaxy in the universe, comparable in size and age to the Milky Way.

Here is the equation in its entirety:
 N = R*× fp × ne × fl × fi × fc × L

N = the number of galactic civilizations releasing detectable Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) signals into space.
R* = the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy.
fp = the fraction of those stars that form planets.
ne = the average number of those planets that lie in the systems potential habitable zone.
fl = the fraction of the above planets that actually go on to develop life at some point.
fi = the fraction of the above life-bearing planets that go on to develop intelligent life.
fc = the fraction of planets harboring intelligent civilizations, who are able to develop a technology that releases detectable signs of the civilization's existence, through EMS emissions into space.
L = the length of time for which a given civilization releases detectable EMS signals into space.

 In 1961, when the Drake Equation was introduced, it was thought that very few stars harbored planetary systems and the conservative value of N was placed at 36 million. As of 2013, it is known that more than half of all stars have orbiting planets (exoplanets: planets orbiting stars other than the Sun) with as many as six orbiting one star, and one planet orbiting four stars and more than 2,400 exoplanets are known to date. These planets all lie within the only sector analyzed so far by the Kepler Space Telescope - an area of sky smaller than the size of a postcard held at arm’s length, just east of the constellation Cygnus the swan (also known as the Northern Cross).

 Though this sounds promising, only one signal-artifact to date was found back in 1977; it is known as the “Wow!” signal. It was neither a repeating sequence, nor was it ever deciphered, nor did it ever recur. All that is known of the “Wow!” signal is that it was not of terrestrial (Earth) origin.

Death of a Star

Death of a Star
May 2010 -Dale Alan Bryant

  A few stars that are overdue and just may go supernova at any moment: "Alnilam" or ε (eta) Orionis, the middle star in Orion's belt; "Betelgeuse" or α (alpha) Orionis, the right shoulder of Orion and "Eta Carina" (ε Carinae), 7th brightest star in constellation Carina. When these stars go, they will be seen during daylight. This is because they are all relatively nearby, within our Milky Way galaxy, at distances of about 700 to 800 light-years. A typical extra-galactic supernova is so bright that, even though it is millions of light-years away, it outshines its entire 'host' galaxy of several billion stars.
  Most known supernovae have occurred in other galaxies but have been bright enough to be seen from Earth.
  It is supernovae that provide the universe with the heavier elements, like iron, nickel and most other metals. These metals are not present inside the star, however; they are forged during the star's collapse and subsequent explosion. The term 'supernova' is used to describe a normal star's catastrophic end-of-life event. 'Supernovae' spend most of their lifetimes, which can be several millions of years, as normal, stable stars, but they are considerably more massive than the sun. Like all stars, they start out as balls of hydrogen.
 At birth, a star is a cold sphere of hydrogen. Because of its large mass, its gravitational center begins to collapse under its own weight, causing the star to compress, gravitation overcoming the nuclear forces that work against collapse. At this point of nuclear and gravitational imbalance, the star's temperature rises with the increase in pressure and it reaches a state where, because of these conditions, thermonuclear ignition occurs and the star begins burning brightly, converting hydrogen into helium. The star remains in this stable hydrogen-helium conversion state for many millions of years.
 At last, by conversion, the hydrogen is depleted and only helium remains. At this time the star undergoes a second collapse where the temperature begins to rise once more under the enormous pressure of the helium, to the point where the remaining helium again reaches thermonuclear ignition and - the star's only remaining fuel is ignited. It continues to burn the helium for millions more years, all the while contracting, until, at last, the helium is finally depleted. At this point, the star collapses even further and its atoms become so densely packed that it becomes a solid; the star's atoms cannot support the weight of the continually condensing mass and finally break down to a state where individual neutrons are actually pressed against one another - the star is literally a ball of neutrons, called a "neutron star". In this state, the neutrons are so tightly packed together that a cubic inch of material from the star, containing trillions more neutrons than normal, would weigh several billion tons!
  With each collapse event, a star shrinks in size; as it shrinks, the entire mass of its atoms is inclined to move towards the center. Gravity increases with the ever-compressing atoms to the point where they can no longer support their own weight - a catastrophic event takes place - the star blows itself up. This is the point at which the star becomes a 'supernova'. Within the supernova, temperatures and pressures become so high that brand new elements are forged, from light elements to heavy elements. The heaviest elements are transformed into all of the known metals: zinc, copper, iron, etc. The lighter elements are the silicates and various other particles of 'dust'. These elements are distributed throughout the cosmos and frequently end up in a nebula of gases and dust particles, where they contribute their rich assortment of the heavier elements.
  Back in February of 1989, I had the good fortune of co-discovering an extra-galactic supernova (later designated SN1989b) that occurred in the spiral galaxy M66 in the constellation Leo, using a reflector telescope. The galaxy itself appears through a telescope as a dim, uniform oval of light. On this particular February night, M66 showed just a hint of a pinpoint or knot of light near one of its outer edges, a tell-tale sign of a very distant supernova explosion. Its not any wonder that this supernova was so dim - M66 is 60 million light-years away!

  Eventually, supernova remnants from our own galaxy become the beautiful nebulae that can be seen through telescopes. Many of these nebulae have areas of uneven mass distribution and appear to have small knots throughout. These knots, or, nodules may contain enough gaseous mass to one day condense into proto-stars and enough metals and silicates to condense into proto-planets.

  This is how stars are born and die. As for our star the sun, it will never go supernova; it doesn't contain enough mass. To become a supernova, a star needs to be roughly 3.2 solar masses. Our sun, however, being only one solar mass, will become a red-giant star after it has used up its nuclear fuel (hydrogen and helium). This will take place in about 4.5 billion years... BTW: our sun's proper name? - "Sol" (pronounced "soul"). Hence, our planetary system, we call, the "Sol"-ar system. Technically, there are no other 'Solar' systems because there are no other stars by that name. There are, however, lots of other 'planetary' systems. Their names are derived using the host star's name as a prefix, e.g., the "Vegan" system, the "Alpha Centauri" system, the "Rigellian" system and so on. These systems contain the now well-known 'exoplanets' (planets outside of our 'Solar' system). The Kepler orbiting telescope has, to date, discovered several thousand exoplanets and their host stars. Hundreds of these exoplanets are Earth-like and may harbor alien life.

'Bad' Science

‘Bad’ Science
APR 2014 –Dale Alan Bryant

  How do you tell if the ‘science’ you're reading is ‘bad’ science or ‘good’ science? If the article you're reading has an unfamiliar tone throughout, is ‘newsworthy’ or even “shocking”, or seems to defy common sense and a lot of ‘facts’ are being thrown around without any standard citations being offered (names of authors or scientists - and their supporting institutions), it’s most probably bogus.
  There is one popular science website,, that, even though the presented science is real, presents it in a cheesy, ‘tabloid’ style, using hype tactics in their headlines and by-lines to grab your attention. Selling science by sensationalizing the common to grab the consumers attention is just plain wrong. Moreover, trying to pass off pseudoscience as the real, evidence-based thing is “wrong-est” of all. In fact it’s worse than wrong; intentionally misleading an already mislead (worse yet, confused and gullible) reading or viewing audience is nothing if not criminal.
 One of the greatest offenders in these respects is the History channel’s counterpart “History 2”, or, H2 for short. At first glance, H2 appears to be a rather imaginative take on a typically solid subject like history. However, after just a few minutes it becomes shamefully obvious that its subject matter is almost entirely speculation or myth aimed at fostering a “conspiracy theorist” mentality in the casual viewer, rather than thoughtful, rational thinking and preferring to push such improbable entities as ‘Bigfoot’, the ‘Loch Ness’ monster, ‘Ancient Alien’ visitors, ‘werewolves’, ‘Bible codes’, unlikely (and evidence-starved) ‘books of secrets’ and other nonsense, under the all too telling series title, “Monster Quest” (Monster Quest promos even include the throaty snarls and a close-up of the eye of some obviously disgruntled but unidentified creature, as a warning not to mess with it.)
 These speculations are tasty bait to a scientifically naive lay public because they cannot be entirely ruled-out – even though not a shred of evidence exists in their support - if they haven’t yet been proven not to exist, conveniently allowing the myths - and their associated profits and ratings - to ceaselessly string along the gullible, one little inaccuracy at a time.
    None of this is to say that it isn’t O.K. to ask, “What if?” - after all, that’s where imagination comes in - but that question has to imply viable alternative explanations which conform to known laws of science. Otherwise, H2 is a ‘fool’s paradise’.
 Eminent science and science-fiction writer, Sir Arthur C. Clarke (who actually conceived the communications satellite for one of his short stories - 30 years before it became a reality and before aeronautical engineers could even accept the idea that such a gadget could be made to trace an orbit around the Earth without immediately falling out of the sky!), commenting on whether he thought the U.S. government had really been involved in a massive U.F.O. cover-up of the purported ‘Area-51’ crash-site incident responded, “Human nature would never allow such a cover-up, especially one of such endurance. If the incident had actually taken place, the whole thing would have completely unraveled within 24 hours.”
 So where can we find reputable sources of science (besides the far-too humble author of this essay)?          
 Every branch of science has its journals which track the general progress of the science. These journals are the “bulletin boards” for scientists to publish peer-reviewed papers announcing a major discovery or significant research. Some examples are: The Astrophysical Journal, The Journal of Cosmology, The Journal of the American Chemical Society as well as more generalized journals like Nature and Science. You won’t find those publications in the popular magazine racks, though they can be accessed on-line. Several, more conveniently accessible publications, can be found in most any store with a good magazine section, like, Barnes and Noble, CVS or even Stop & Shop: the magazines Psychology Today, Sky & Telescope, Discover, Astronomy, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, National Geographic and many others are reputable resources for real science.
 So, what can you do to protect yourself against ‘bad’ science? Use common sense. Question everything; don’t take anything at face value – including this. Check me on it. The information is out there for the taking – all you have to do is the footwork. It’s something no one can do for you. And, as is always the case, particularly with TV programming and advertising, “Let the buyer beware...”

Anthropological 'Epiphany'

Anthropological 'Epiphany' (or
® 2010Dale Alan Bryant
  I was fortunate enough to have had what I can only call an anthropological "epiphany", early yesterday morning, around 2:00AM; it doesn't take much to amuse me, folks! I have feverishly searched for an answer to two questions in particular, regarding human origins, for just over two years now. My suspicions were validated when I recently found the answers - but I’m keeping it to myself for now...
  On a related note, I am fuming to have recently discovered that the Boston Museum of Science, as part of its Human Origins exhibit, has compromised the truth, apparently to cultivate inaccurate, "politically correct" propaganda regarding the extant subspecies of Homo sapiens in their present incarnation. The Museum seems to be refusing to recognize individuality in humanity, any further than genus (Homo) and species (sapiens). They state that the topic is 'controversial' - but that controversy is political, not taxonomic. In essence, their opinion is that, Man does not break down into subspecies, or, varieties (in human taxonomy, varieties are races). Not only is their propaganda wrong, but it is an insult to intelligence and the senses, as well as to all cultures and races of humanity. The intentional cultivation of mis-information, is, I feel, (because it involves large portions of society) a criminal act.
  It has long been known to Anthropologists and Taxonomists that, no less than three extant subspecies of Homo sapiens exist, according to the order of their descent by natural selection; they are: Negroid, Mongoloid and Caucasoid. These subspecies may include their own varieties, which would include the aboriginal Australian descendants of the African, or, Negroid race and the Native American descendants of the Asian, or, Mongoloid race. Each race (variety), has a unique set of obvious, distinct physical and mental characteristics, such as hair type, cranial shape, temperament, and susceptibility to diseases, such as 'sickle-cell' anemia, being restricted to the Negroid gene pool.
  It sickens me that an institution of their caliber would succumb to pressures from "PC" groups, who insist on a homogeneous society in the name of 'equal rights'. The division of man into subspecies, or races, is the very essence of Darwinian evolution and is due mainly to adaptation to geographical environment, or, climate. These climates, as we can see for ourselves, are in constant flux, and the varieties of Homo sapiens have become sub-species by adaptation through natural selection and the inheritance of favorable characteristics. Here are their taxonomic trinomial names:
Homo sapiens afers (African or, Negroid descent); Homo sapiens asiaticus (Mongoloid descent); Homo sapiens sapiens (Caucasoid descent); Homo sapiens tasmaniatus (Negroid descent) and Homo sapiens americanus (Native American or, Mongoloid descent).
  There's an old analogy regarding common sense that can be applied here: "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck - it's a duck."
  Who do they think they're fooling? Hopefully, this situation with the Museum has been noted elsewhere, particularly in journals like Nature or Science that deal with topics like human-origins.
  If you demand an explanation for all of this - don't shoot the messenger - take it up with God - not me.

P.S. Maybe I ought to shoot a copy of our newsletter, with this article, over to administration at the Smithsonian while in Washington next month--I understand they're in need of an opportunity for a good-natured poke at northeastern academia... Ha!
2010 -Dale Bryant, Homo sapiens chumpis gullibilis

America's First Man in Space

America's First Man in Space:
By Alan B. Shepard, Jr., aboard the “Freedom 7” Mercury spacecraft and Deke Slayton
2013 by Dale Alan Bryant

  I picked up this little cherry of a book - mint condition, first edition hard back of Mercury astronauts Alan B. Shepard, Jr. and Deke Slayton's book "Moon Shot" at a thrift store on Main St. The penciled-in price was $3.75. I already own a soft cover edition of this book but I couldn't resist thumbing through it anyway...
  Alan Shepard was the first American to enter space during a Mercury sub-orbital flight. Deke Slayton, who had been temporarily grounded because of an inner-ear infection was made chief of operations. Shepard's flight lasted 15 minutes from launch at Cape Canaveral, to the edge of space, to splashdown in the Atlantic in his Mercury 7 space capsule, Freedom 7. Alan was one of the original 'Mercury 7' astronauts, along with John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, whose full-orbital flight in his Friendship 7 spacecraft followed Shepard's. He was able to achieve 3 complete orbits in six hours.
  I was six years old and standing in the twilight on my front doorstep at 56 AMVET's Ave., Falmouth, Cape Cod, when Glenn's star-like, Friendship 7, gleaming by reflected sunlight, passed overhead at dusk that night. I witnessed two of his orbits, approximately 90 minutes apart. How could I have possibly known that just two years later I'd be sitting in the pilot's seat of that very spacecraft...
  The Friendship 7 has been on display at the Smithsonian's Institution's National Air & Space Museum, Washington, D. C., since just after Glenn's flight. At the age of eight, while visiting the Smithsonian, (pre-National Air & Space Museum), I was invited by one of the museum staff to board the Friendship 7 and spend some time in the pilot's seat - the only seat in the tiny one-man Mercury spacecraft. Once seated, I distinctly recall a mild claustrophobic sensation--the pale-green steel panels that constituted the ceiling, walls and floor of the cockpit, all being uncomfortably close-by; the hatch--which could only be opened from the outside--just inches from my right shoulder; the main control panel with its small, green circular CRT screen just elbow's reach in front of me; the infinite number of lighted rocker panels, momentary switches and toggles wrapping around both sides of the cockpit enveloping my eight-year-old frame. No one is any longer allowed inside the spacecraft--it is encased in a 1 1/2-inch-thick protective acrylic shell for its preservation.
  As for Shepard and Slayton's book, "Moon Shot", imagine my surprise when I opened up the front cover and saw that, on the first leaf, was a bookplate signed by Shepard, indicating that this particular copy was part of Shepard's personal library that was eventually released by his wife, Louise. I had Shepard's signature verified and have seen copies of this book signed in different places among its pages at auction between $950 and $15,000, according to condition on eBay. Happily, my copy is in mint condition but will never appear in an eBay listing--I wouldn't part with this volume at any price.
 "Moon Shot" is about the the American Space Program, from the first Mercury and Gemini mission, to the Apollo missions that actually landed on the moon. All three missions were geared toward this end. The book takes you through the daily lives of the astronauts of the original Mercury 7, the drama, the humor, disappointment, the trial and error, Missions that almost didn't get off the ground and on and on. It's their human story, complete with original dialog throughout... The human story of American space exploration.
 Alan Shepard's Freedom 7 Mercury spacecraft has been immaculately restored and is, at the time of this writing, on loan to the J.F.K. Library in Boston, since its arrival in Dec., 2012 and will remain at the library until December 15, 2015. It isn't easy getting to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in D. C., for most Northern New Englanders to view these and other icons of the golden years of America's Space Program--like Gus Grissom's Mercury spacecraft, Liberty Bell 7 --which spent 45 years at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Sadly, Grissom perished along with fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee in the fire that consumed the Apollo 1 command module while it sat atop the launch pad, its pressurized cockpit under 300% pure oxygen, during a routine flight test. They were unable to escape the capsule - it's hatch could not be opened from the inside.
   These were the first few of the original Mercury 7 test pilots and astronauts of America's first committed space program. What they gave in the line of duty, they gave to the men and women and children of a starry-eyed America. John Glenn had piloted the "Friendship 7" in a three-orbit flight in 1962, the first American astronaut to achieve orbit at the ripe old age of 41. He returned to space at age 77, making him the oldest astronaut in history aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
   It's so good to know that it's just a day trip to Boston's J.F.K. Library. Don't let this one slide away from you--log onto the J.F.K. Library's website for further information.