Watchful eyes, thoughtful mind

Earth and us ….. past, present and future ….. connected?

Intelligence? Life? December 24, 2009

Filed under: evolution,space research,unconventional — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

A recent article on PhysOrg.com by Clara Moskowitz of Astrobio.net reports on a new study that has found that the most probable place to find intelligent life in the galaxy is around stars very similar to our own sun. The researchers involved in this study talk about a Goldilocks region around a star in which a planet would be just right for life – not too close that its surface would be boiling, and not too far that it would be frigid either. The article goes on to say, “Indeed, sun-like stars seem to have the right balance: They are of high enough mass that they are more likely to host habitable planets, but they are of low enough mass that they live long enough for intelligent life to develop, and are not extremely scarce.”

As I read this article I couldn’t help but feel surprised at the conclusions the researchers had reached and the logic they had used for it. The entire argument is based on assumption that what we see here on Earth is what “life” is and the capabilities of human brain are what comprise “intelligence”. How reasonable is such an assumption? In my humble opinion, not at all. It just serves to highlight the egocentrism of us homo sapiens. Studies in various branches of biology in last few decades have uncovered living creatures in conditions that we did not expect to harbour life until then. These are called ‘extremophiles’. The most well known example is probably the whole ecosystem flourishing around the hydrothermal vents on the ocean floors, in either very acidic or alkaline conditions, in total absence of sunlight. And we keep finding more of them thriving under various conditions considered extreme for human beings. So is it logical for the scientists to talk about ‘the Goldilocks region’ mentioned above?

Slightly more difficult to refute is the definition of “intelligence”. Because it is hard to imagine what else, other than what we do, could be called intelligent. But I think it is easier if we consider the “signs of intelligence” that we look for rather than intelligence itself. And that’s how we have been looking for extraterrestrial intelligence so far. Can we detect any electromagnetic signals? Can we see any organised structures on other planets that don’t look natural? But who is to say that life forms with completely different physical structure to us and living on a planet that not necessarily has similar elemental composition as Earth and its atmosphere are to “progress” in a way recognisable to humans? We have various electronic devices transmitting signals because we have plenty of silicon. We have built the machines and structures we have because that’s what we could do with our 2 hands, 2 legs, one brain bodies. Our languages developed like they did because of the way our vocal organs evolved. If we take movies like Men in black seriously for a second, it is easy to see how any of those weird looking aliens could probably not achieve the same feats. All the ET themed movies so far are a bit misleading in the sense that they show the ETs coming to Earth in their own physical forms, different from ours. But they seem to be perfectly alright in the Earth’s atmosphere, breathing our air, walking comfortably under the influence of Earth’s gravitational field. So once again, the assumption is the conditions “back home” for them are the same. I think what was shown in the movie The day the Earth stood still is more logical. The aliens gather our DNA sample, make a placental tissue to encase themselves in during their journey to Earth and then “be born here on Earth” to be physically identical to homo sapiens.

[Image source here] Do you not think there is a chance that we have not recognised other intelligent life because we are looking for what is familiar to us? May be their buildings don’t look like ours. May be they don’t communicate using a form of energy (electromagnetic) that we can detect. And may be it is the same for them that they can’t recognise Earth as a planet inhabited by “intelligent” “life” because they’re looking for something completely different to homo sapiens. So is the universe designed such that all intelligent life forms remain isolated from each other? Or will we progress to a stage where we will find something that pervades all substance (living or non-living by our definition) of the universe?

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Big brother … REAL BIG!!! December 17, 2009

Filed under: animals,evolution,oceanography — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

Yeah, I know … try and close your mouth now. That picture above would have given you a pretty good idea of what’s coming. Science reporter Rebecca Morell of BBC News reports about the colossal sea monster, Pliosaur, whose fossilised skull has been unearthed along the UK‘s Jurassic Coast by a local collector. In the video on the webpage (which I could not embed here) Palaeontologist Richard Forrest explains why the T. rex was a kitten compared with this monster.

Richard Forrest, a plesiosaur expert, said: “Pliosaur skulls are very big, but not that robust, in general, and you tend to find them crushed flat – completely ‘pancaked’. “What is fantastic about this new skull, not only is it absolutely enormous, but it is pretty much in 3D and not much distorted.”

Pliosaur means ‘more like lizard’ and are characterised by having a short neck and an elongated head, in contrast to the long-necked plesiosaurs. Pliosaur fossils have been found before around Norway, Mexico etc. But this find in the UK is by far the largest specimen yet found. If the pictures above and the description has still not convinced you to click on the link in the first paragraph and go watch the video, may be this will.

“It could have taken a human in one gulp; in fact, something like a T. Rex would have been breakfast for a beast like this.”

 

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Pushing it back December 10, 2009

Filed under: archaeology,evolution,oceanography — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

17644_webThis is a short post sharing two stories of latest archaeological discoveries that are once again pushing back the dates of the advent of “civilised” humans.

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK) reports on EurekaAlert of Pavlopetri — the world’s oldest known submerged town.

The world’s oldest known submerged town has been revealed through the discovery of late Neolithic pottery. The finds were made during an archaeological survey of Pavlopetri, off the southern Laconia coast of Greece. Marine geo-archaeologist Dr Nic Flemming of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton said: “The discovery of Neolithic pottery is incredible! It means that we are looking at a port city which may be 5000-6000 years old, with trade goods and wrecks nearby showing some of the very earliest days of seafaring trade in the Mediterranean.” […]”What we’ve got here is something which is two or even three thousand years older than most of the submerged cities which have been studied,” said Flemming: “And it is uniquely complete. We have almost the complete town plan, the main streets and all of the domestic buildings. “

William G. Gilroy writes in ScienceDaily, based on materials provided by University of Notre Dame, about how World’s Oldest Known Granaries Predate Agriculture.

A new study co-authored by Ian Kuijt, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, describes recent excavations in Jordan that reveal evidence of the world’s oldest know granaries. […]However, in a paper appearing in the June 23 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, Kuijt and Bill Finlayson, director, Council for British Research in the Levant, describe recent excavations at Dhra’ near the Dead Sea in Jordan that provide evidence of granaries that precede the emergence of fully domesticated plants and large-scale sedentary communities by at least 1,000 years.

These kinds of discoveries keep scientists on their toes, rethinking the flow of history and pre-history. Some day perhaps the concept of Yuga cycles and that of advanced knowledge that ancients possessed will be vindicated through such discoveries.

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Meet the super cow October 29, 2009

Filed under: animals,evolution,genetics,human interference,nature — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

I’m not sure what my reaction about this video is. It is one more of those instances where humans have used their scientific know how to manipulate the nature to their advantage. Selective breeding is used to produce these hugely muscular cows and bulls, weighing sometimes up to 1 tonne (ton). There is no cruelty to the animals involved here but even so, I couldn’t help but cringe a bit looking at these bovines.

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TED Tuesday: Aquatic ape theory October 27, 2009

Filed under: evolution,TED,unconventional — Radiance @ 9:00 AM
Elaine Morgan is a tenacious proponent of the aquatic ape hypothesis: the idea that humans evolved from primate ancestors who dwelt in watery habitats. Hear her spirited defense of the idea — and her theory on why mainstream science doesn’t take it seriously.

 

TED Tuesday: Engineering and evolution October 6, 2009

Filed under: animals,evolution,nature,technology,TED — Radiance @ 9:00 AM
Insects and animals have evolved some amazing skills — but, as Robert Full notes, many animals are actually over-engineered. The trick is to copy only what’s necessary. He shows how human engineers can learn from animals’ tricks.

 

10 Strange Species Discovered Last Year August 6, 2009

Filed under: biology,evolution,nature — Radiance @ 10:00 AM
Alexis Madrigal of Wired Science shares with us the 10 Strange Species Discovered Last Year, the article that tells us,

Every year, biologists brave the world’s deserts, jungles and industrial ecosystems looking for new species. And what wonderful things they find. It turns out that the real world is totally like the internet: If you look hard enough, you can find just about anything. This year, scientists found caffeine-less coffee plants, tiny seahorses and a 23-inch long bug that looks like a branch, not to mention a strange white slug no one had ever described that was found in a Welsh garden.
Below, you’ll find the top 10 species found and described in 2008, according to The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University.

Read it, see them and be amazed!