Friday, October 9, 2015

Studies Suggest Water Flowed on Mars

By and large, the more we learn from information gathered by the Mars rover Curiosity sampling the terrain and elements on Mars, the more interesting the story of Mars potentially becomes. Could there have once been life on the red planet? While scientists are still unsure whether any evidence directly points to the existence of life on Mars, there is certainly evidence to support the possibility.

It is believed that lakes and rivers once flowed on Mars for anywhere from 100 to 10,000 years, and that there may have been a common groundwater table on the red planet. Water, of course, has long been held as one of the primary foundations of life. Even the human body is comprised of roughly 60% water. So if water actually did exist at one time, the chance that life was able to develop on Mars becomes an even greater likelihood.

Granted, there is still quite a lot to be explored, and no one is saying for certain that there is any absolute proof that water or life ever existed on what is now a dry, cold, dusty terrain. But the prospect is both intriguing and fascinating. It also confirms for me the very real need to continue to explore space and planets in our solar system and beyond because really, in order for us to understand better our own origins and the development of life on Earth, we have to know what happened in the past and is happening in the present in the Universe, There are answers out there, and we should never stop the process of seeking them out.

Many have argued that space exploration is a waste of time and resources, and of course I disagree with this idea entirely. In fact, I would be for more funding to the space program. Not less. To that end I also think that the space program should be funded by multiple governments and through private donations—while the United Nations is definitely to my mind a waste of time, effort, and resources, I think NASA could perform well as an entity that has cooperation from many nations combined.

I have not been convinced of intelligent design theory, a tenet of theological explanations for the existence of the Earth, of the Universe, and of life itself. And so space exploration, for me, provides for a better understanding of the purpose of life, and the origins of life—answers that I seek on the order of natural selection or natural processes.

I look forward to even more being gleaned from our exploration of Mars, and I think any current findings will further fuel the desire to ramp up a manned mission to Mars so that we can gain even more valuable information that could provide some clues as to whether or not we are truly alone in the Universe.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Countdown to the End of the World

I keep looking to the sky. It is about to fall. Or at least according to the eBible Fellowship website it is. The last day is today. October 7, 2015. So I am writing this probably in vein since in about six hours the Earth as we know it will be no more. It will be annihilated.

In the words of the eBible Fellowship church founder, Chris McCann, "According to what the Bible is presenting it does appear that 7 October will be the day that God has spoken of: in which, the world will pass away."

Of course we all know what happened with the Y2K thing (although it was not end of the world stuff). And incidentally there was that end of the Mayan calendar thing that said we'd be done for in 2012. There have been countless other predictions of doom in the past. God fearing men have walked the streets with signs saying the doom is nigh. None of these predictions has come to fruition since we happen to still be here making them. I suspect there will be more to come.

The simple truth is that you will be here tomorrow potentially reading this post over again. Life will go on as we know it. Nothing will change. Except for maybe the date of the prediction, or a hot air explanation as to why the prediction was wrong.

Like many things religious by the way.

While not all religious people are haphazardly crazy in their own way, believing in things like rising from the dead, walking on water, or making things out of nothing, there are a good many that are seeking their day of affirmation. They just want to have their entire pie in the sky beliefs confirmed, and what better way to do that than to experience the apocalypse. Or, as those religious folks like to call it, the day of reckoning.

Yeah, we are all doomed to have our heads lopped off and damned to whatever if we don't bow down to some God figure and give our very lives to It or Them or Whatever. Sounds a bit to me like Nazi Germany or Stalin lead Russia, or some other crazy thing in history that was horrible. Conform or die. Conform or be damned. Pretty scary stuff actually if you think about it. Talk about cleansing.

And of course we all know that the Bible is rife with facts; like the fact that the Earth is only 2000 years old for example. Umm. Yeah. Okay. And despite everything we know scientifically about genetics Adam and Eve created the grandest of an incest based population without any problems at all, and even broke the genetic code and somehow all of these races got going on. Blacks, whites, Asians, Indians...

That is a marvelous feat ladies and gentleman.

Sorry. But truly if the Adam and Eve story were to be believed I think there would be no races at all. Just descendants of those two folks who created the entire population of humankind. By the way, none of us would be healthy. Ahem. In fact, we probably would not have our intelligence either as we would be suffering severe deformities, including brain ones.

But this commentary is not to bash religion, although I am openly admitting to taking more than a few liberties here. It is to simply say that the Bible for all of Its goodness, for all of Its great and amazing stories, for all of Its meaningful teachings, is just a nice story.

As for any predictions of the end of the world? It will happen eventually. Everything has a life cycle. Including the Earth itself. But it will not be the hand of God that will be at the helm of destruction. It will not be divine intervention that will take the bad people and lead the good to some grand exit. Every single living thing will die. Nothing and no one will survive. There will be no reckoning. There will be no second coming. There will simply be the end. Plain and simple. Just like the truth of death. Who knows what will be the cause of it? Our sun may supernova. There could be a catastrophic meteor that takes us out like it did with the dinosaurs. Or it could be something else.

But it won't be today. October 7th. That I can be sure about.

All of this aside I know that most religious people actually find this prediction to be as crazy as I do. Despite everything else, at least I can take some comfort in the idea that while I think religious beliefs are a bit crazy, not all religious people are...well...totally crazy.

Kurt Cobain's 'Sappy'

For the rock band Nirvana, it was their song Smells Like Teen Spirit which instantly propelled them into stardom, and literally brought alternative rock smack dab into the mainstream. The song also catapulted their second album Nevermind, wherein Smells Like Teen Spirit was the lead track, high on the charts. Nirvana effectively paved the way for the entire grunge scene and provided for bands like Green Day, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and countless others to see their music receiving airplay on the radio—even some of it on stations that did not generally touch this kind of music. If there was a "sound of the 90's," that sound, which ultimately was dubbed the Seattle sound, was started by Nirvana if for no other reason than Smells Like Teen Spirit simply caught on in a massive way.

Nirvana's release of their MTV Unplugged recording to this day also remains the best selling CD of the entire collection of Unplugged, and I think that is saying something about the massive popularity and the undeniable impact that Nirvana had on the entire music scene, 

Sadly, Kurt Cobain, the band's front man, would take his own life in April of 1994, leaving countless fans shocked and stunned, and leaving us all to wonder what we could have seen had he still been alive. His talent for writing great songs was undeniable, and I think there was a lot more great music that died with him.

Still, part of what made grunge so popular was its pure rawness. It was music, simple and plain. Unclean. It defied the pop mainstream. I think that is part of what made Unplugged so popular as well in that it allowed us to hear songs in their simplest form, untouched by studio hands for the most part. As such the release of Kurt Kobain's solo home recordings, which is set to hit store shelves in November 2015, should be huge. Personally I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy. This is Kurt in real form, just doing what he loved to do, and that is compose and play music. 

The album is called Montage of Heck, and the first release is Sappy, the song that would eventually become Verse Chorus Verse.

Michigan Has A Powerball Winner

If there's one question I think most people ponder at least a few times in their lives, it is the question of what would one do if they were lucky enough to win the lottery? I know this is a question I have pondered more than a few times. One idea I have thought about is a way to pay it forward in a way that helps out hard working people. Working charity is the term I like to use for this.

One woman in Michigan has the lucky luxury to ponder this question in real time after realizing that she was the single winner of the most recent Powerball jackpot worth $310.5 million. She chose the cash option and after taxes took home $140 million. Not at all bad for a simple $2 investment.

She was having a bad day at work, which made the win especially more fun to hear about.

We all have those moments at work, or other times in our lives when we are simply fed up. We've had enough. Most of the time when that happens I simply pay myself to sort of buy myself out of my situation. Granted, it's not really what's happening. But in my mind, adding money, for example, to my investment portfolio after a bad day at work feels like I just might be accomplishing something.

Sometimes I'll even buy an extra lottery ticket.

I say extra because if there is one thing about me, it is that while I don't intend to ever actually win the lottery, I do intend to at least have a shot at winning, and that's not going to happen if I don't have a ticket in my hand.

Of course I wish the big win would have come my way. But somebody has to win, and even if it is not me, I like having at least the opportunity.

Congratulations to the latest Powerball jackpot winner.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Life on Mars?

On Monday NASA of course made a major announcement that there seems to be seasonal water that flows on the surface of Mars which at least opens up the possibility that perhaps there could be microbial life on the red planet. Scientists are saying that it is still a long shot by a mile considering the water, if that is truly what it is, is so salty that it may not be an environment conducive to supporting life at all.

To my mind, despite what the ultimate outcome is ahead, I think this is an important discovery.

Trolling the Internet one finds that when it comes to space exploration, there are myriad opinions regarding its importance. There are a great many who believe that it is simply a waste of time and money. I am not in that corner.

Yes. The government is on a massive sprint when it comes to spending valuable taxpayer dollars. There is no disputing that. But while a vast majority of what the government spends money on is arguably wasteful, space exploration is not one of them. I think it is important that humans seek the origins of life, and the possibility of life elsewhere in the Universe. The fact is that we don't have the answers. Since the dawn of cognitive thought, man has wondered how it all started, why they are here, and have made every attempt to come up with an answer.

There has long been a theory that quite possibly life on Earth was as a result of cosmic insemination, delivered to the blue planet via an asteroid or comet carrying microbes that planted the seeds for what is now a complex and diverse world teeming with living things. If life is indeed found to exist in some form on Mars this changes much of what we now know, and opens up wide the possibility that there could be, elsewhere in the Universe, more complex forms of life somewhere in the cosmos.

In some ways, and for some, the prospect is frightening. What kind of life could it be? Would it pose any danger to humankind or Earth itself? But it also challenges religious belief as well. If life is found to exist elsewhere in the Universe, what does it say of theological explanations for the origin of the world we live in, and the very existence of life itself?

I have always been one to want to know more, and to encourage the continuation of exploring ideas and truths. We cannot accomplish that if we stop on one or a few answers, either theological ones or scientific ones. As I have always said, we simply do not know what the truth is, and until we do—and we may never truly know it by the way—we need to keep on looking.

As for what we spend on NASA annually? Currently it is about a half of a percent of the total budget. Less than $20 billion a year. Making a simple comparative observation, the U.S. government spends about $455 billion a year on welfare programs, or roughly 15% of the total budget. For those who want to make the argument that we are not taking care of priorities here on Earth, I think the numbers suggest differently.

Is there life on Mars? Is there life anywhere in the Universe but here? Who knows? But I happen to think it is important that so long as we have the ability to explore the question, that we do so absolutely. As part of the opening line of the popular former TV series The X Files suggested, "The truth is out there." Unless one believes they truly have all the answers they need, we need to keep the search ongoing.