Tag Archives: life

Where Are the Aliens?

Out of all the theories about the origin of life, I always considered panspermia (the idea that life originated in space) the least satisfactory. To me, all it does is delay the explanation: yes, OK, life came from space. That doesn’t explain how it came to be, nor the chemical processes that made it possible. So as a theory it seems pretty useless.

A recent article made  me consider changing my mind.

The authors of the paper argue that Moore’s law proves (or shows compelling evidence) that life couldn’t have originated on Earth. For those not familiar with futurism or computer science, Moore’s law states that the number of transistors in a chip doubles every 18 months. It is a logarithmic law which has been accurately predicting trends in IT for the last 40 years. The graph below will give you a clearer idea: you can see how it’s remarkably straight.

You can see how Moore's law seems to apply almost perfectly.

You can see how Moore’s law seems to apply almost perfectly.

The authors found that the number of functional genome base pairs in an organism follow exactly the same pattern. Plotted logarithmically (that is, plotting the time against the logarithm of the number of base pairs) you get this graph, which has a spooky resemblance to the one before:

Origin of Life

Also a pretty straight line. It speaks for itself.

If you take a closer look, you’ll notice something weird: by the time the Earth was born (4,5 billion years ago if you listen to science, 6,000 years ago according to other sources) the number of DNA base pairs should already have been 10,000. Which means we’re 10,000 short. In fact, if you follow the line, you can see life should have originated some 10 billion years ago, obviously not on Earth, since by then there was not Earth to speak of.

Pretty cool, huh?

It is a possibility: the Earth is a comfortable place for living organisms, but that doesn’t mean life can’t survive in other environments. Bacteria, for example, have been known to hitch rides in space. So it’s not crazy to suggest that some kind of proto-life originated somewhere in the galaxy (in a dust cloud, in a comet, in pieces of rock… take your pick) and it just happened to find Earth, where it was able to thrive.

I don’t know about you, but the idea that we’re the direct descendants of some primeval living forms originating some 10 billion years ago, far away from this Earth, and that we may have cousins spread around the galaxy, not evolved independently but from those same original creatures, gives me a feeling of wonder.

Where are the aliens? Very, very close…

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The Theories of Everything

Who told you we haven’t found the theory of everything? We’ve found plenty! A quick search on Youtube reveals many different theories, most of which have found no support whatsoever from the physics community. Why is that, you may wonder? Is there a conspiracy to cover up the work of these fine gentlemen? Or is the answer much more mundane? Take a look at some of these hilarious theories to find out.

1. Each photon creates its space-time

I found this video on youtube while looking for explanations of the Everett multiverse. It actually makes sense, in a way. In another way, most physicists would start pulling their hair off and screaming. Judge for yourself (by the way, for a really entertaining  and more rigorous introduction to Everett’s multiverse, watch the documentary parallel lives).

2. Theory of everything: God, Devils, Dimensions and Illusion of Reality

The title says it all, doesn’t it? If you have two and a half hours to spare, I highly recommend this one. It’s a mix of everything with a gripping music score and a highly charismatic host. A must.

3. Athene’s theory of everything.

This one comes with a disclaimer at the beginning, warning you that the complexity of the concepts presented may require several viewings. Be forewarned. Some of it actually makes sense, until it gets into, well, physics. The Stephen Hawking-like voice is particularly hilarious.

4. A theory of everything: physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics

Sacred geometry and government conspiracies: what more could you want? It’s only two minutes, so give this a try. You won’t regret it.

5. The power of spin

This one explains how “spin” is at the heart of everything (after all, everything “spins”, right?) but it “hasn’t been calculated by physics”, whatever that may mean. So we need to think about spin to understand consciousness and the universe and spirituality and the meaning of life. It’s a new life-changing paradigm that will open your eyes. Or not.

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How Would You Like to Be Immortal?

I have never wanted to die. I guess most people don’t, but my reluctance towards dying goes a bit further than the average. I don’t want to die, ever. Not of old age. Not of cancer. Not of laughter. I want to live forever.

The majority of people I know express no desire to cease to be, at least not in their immediate future. It’s rare to hear someone say “it would be nice if I could die next week.” Even old people have a tendency towards fearing death instead of welcoming it. Of course, there are exceptions. However, when asked whether they would like to live forever, most answers are in the negative. Why?

I’ve heard several arguments over the years. A common one says that having to live forever is a curse. It would mean seeing all your loved ones die and being left alone in the world. Of course, that is not the immortality I have in mind. When I say I want to live forever I mean I want to have the possibility of doing so. Committing suicide should still be perfectly doable. But not dying should always be an option. Nowadays, we have no choice. When your time comes, you die. End of the story.


Death (Photo credit: tanakawho)

The point that we would see all of our loved ones die is also objectionable. After all, if the technology existed to make you immortal, then presumably it would also be capable of making your friends and family live forever, unless you had some extremely peculiar physical characteristics. The perspective of an eternal life surrounded by my loved ones, without having to witness their deaths, is appealing to me. Maybe it is for you too. The way things are now, things will go this way: you will either die first or see everyone you care about die before your very eyes. There is no third option. My contention is this sucks.

Another objection is that, immortal or not, you would age anyway and waste away, without ever finding release. Again, if we manage to achieve immortality it is a good guess that ageing will also not be an issue. Otherwise what would be the point? So of course, I want to live forever, but I want to live healthy and reasonably young. Not old and in pain. That goes without saying.

The Ankh is a Kemetic symbol of eternal life i...

The Ankh is a Kemetic symbol of eternal life in both antiquity and modern times. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But there’s more. Some people say that death is what gives life a meaning. If we didn’t have the perspective of dying we wouldn’t do anything at all. Our life would have no purpose.

There are several counter-arguments to this. Firstly, life has no meaning anyway. It doesn’t matter at all whether you live forever or not. The universe is a barren, meaningless place and your death or lack of it adds nothing to the equation. The universe does not care.

Secondly, I would argue that death actually takes the meaning away from life. Even if it is objectively meaningless, our life has meaning for us. That meaning is built on what we learn, which in turn is possible thanks to our memories. When you die it doesn’t just mean your life ends. It means you don’t remember any of it. For all practical purposes, it’s as if you never existed. All of your struggles, your hopes, your fears, have been lost. Not only lost. They never happened in the first place. I find that extremely depressing.

Fan Death (Caution)

Fan Death (Caution) (Photo credit: kang_a_ji)

Thirdly, I am a great counterexample to the argument that if we thought we’d live forever we’d stop doing stuff. I’m actually convinced I will live forever (because of some consequences of the Many World Interpretation that I will discuss at some later posts) and I still get out of bed, work and write my blog. So there.

One last objection is that, should we never die, we will never go to heaven (or hell, depending on what you’ve been doing with your life).  To that, I can only say that, if you believe in the afterlife, you already believe you’re immortal and therefore agree with me that dying is not what’s cracked up to be. To that, I will add a “lucky you” and an “I wish I could believe the same, I’d sleep much better.”

Is immortality desirable? I believe it is. Is it possible? I think so. Is it far?

God, I hope not.

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Why Life is Like a Game of Solitaire

David Yerle likes to play solitaires. They are a mindless game that keeps him entertained for a couple of minutes while he waits for his wife to come out of the bathroom or while he waits for the train.

Solitaire is a card game you can download for iPad or Android and which you can also play in Windows. David Yerle is pretty sure most people have enjoyed it at least once. The objective is to arrange all the cards in ascending order, coming from a random arrangement.

Lately David Yerle has been musing about the resemblance between life and this seemingly pointless game. The first similarity is, of course, that they are both pointless but pretty entertaining. Just because the solitaire is pointless it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want to play it. The same goes for life.

In the solitaire you can win or you can lose. Winning involves a bit of strategy and a great deal of luck. Some games can be won, while others are impossible from the start. Nothing you can do will get you to win the game. The same goes for life: sometimes your game is rigged from the get-go and your odds will not improve no matter what you do.

Some games are possible to win, but it is still possible to screw them up. While there is a certain amount of strategy, at the end your success will depend on a number of random decisions along the way. Decisions you have no rational way of making, but which have to be made nonetheless. Decisions with unpredictable outcomes which will affect the rest of your game. Just like life, you can improve your chances by using your head but, unfortunately, your future will will remain chancy. On the other hand, that’s what makes the game – and life – exciting.

David Yerle likes the start of the game the best. All your options are open and it’s easy to make noticeable advancements in very little time. Nothing has been settled yet, so the future is open and full of possibilities.

Just like life, the game comes to an end. And, just like life, it leaves you wanting to play again.

Ten Things to Do Instead of Killing Yourself

David Yerle tries to come up with ten things you can do instead of killing yourself, if you’re considering it. He is not trying to be thorough and is sure other people will have their own. He welcomes them to share them in the comments section.

1 Go travel. If everything goes wrong, especially if you live in a first-world country, you always have the option of running away. With very little money it is possible to start a new life in a developing country. Worse comes to worst, you’ll have enough stories to impress any prospective partner when you come back.

2. Try meditation. Apparently, in the meditative state you don’t care about anything anymore. Any material object, including people, becomes a temporary merging of properties which is destined to dissolve. Even your own precious self. By detaching yourself from all that, all suffering stops. All pleasure seemingly stops, too, but desperate times require desperate measures.

3. Spend some time with your family, if they’re not the reason you’re depressed. Feeling like a kid again, protected and cared for, without a worry in the world, is sure to bring back that childhood feeling of all being right with the world.

4. Create something. Art is a means of escape for many people, why should you be different? Make something valuable with your pain. Write a song or a book or make a painting. Or invent a totally new form of expression. Anything that will let you release your sadness and place it somewhere else where it can’t hurt you anymore.

5. Escape to a book or a movie or a TV show. Even though it leaves much to be desired as a long-term strategy, a little escapism can help you bring back a little joy and a little balance. If you don’t like this reality you don’t have to stay in it: there are plenty of ways to get away. Including computer games.

6. Focus on the moment. Don’t allow yourself to think about anything else apart from “I’m having a shower” or “I’m having breakfast.” Enjoy the little things, like a nice coffee or the sunshine. Animals don’t worry about the future and they seem perfectly happy. You don’t have to either. The future is a mental construct, don’t let it spoil a perfectly pleasurable present.

7. Take things more lightly. Life is probable a big cosmic joke, anyway. Don’t let God be the only one who’s laughing. Have a good time too. Don’t take anything seriously. Yes, this seems like not a good strategy in the long run. But, again, desperate times, desperate measures.

8. Cry. Yes, you read right. Crying releases a lot of endorphins, which soothe you and bring a nice, warm feeling of well-being. It is a protective strategy wisely crafted by nature. Don’t be afraid to let it out. You will feel better after you have.

9. Exercise. Just like crying, exercise releases a number of hormones that make you feel relaxed and happy. Not only it will make you healthier, it will make everything look a little rosier. Don’t be lazy and break a sweat!

10. Join a cult. OK, maybe not a cult but a religion. Anything that will tell you things are going to be alright. It is probably a lie, but a lie you could use right now. It’s not ideal as an escape route, but it can give you the self-confidence you need to come out of the hole you’re in. And it’s easier to come out of a depression if you don’t have a fear of death – or the future – constantly nagging you. You can drop your new beliefs after you feel better or keep them if they did you good.

So, that’s it. David Yerle is sure to re-read this post every time he’s feeling down. It’s probably one of the reasons he wrote it. Now he has a way of remembering what to do when he is too upset to recall it on his own. He hopes his little hints may help other people. Or at least bring a smile to their lips.

David Yerle Writes about a Chinese Wedding

Wedding decorations

Wedding decorations

David Yerle goes to a Chinese wedding and decides to write about it, even though it has nothing to do with science, technology or philosophy.

He gets to the newlyweds’ house the day before. The place actually belongs to the groom’s parents, who will give it to the couple as a wedding gift. In this case, the bride has graciously acceded to let the parents live with them, so they won’t have to move out.

Everything is new, from the furniture to the flat screen TV set, including a ceiling lamp which plays music when turned on. David Yerle wonders what that’s for.

The next day the ceremony starts at five in the morning. With firecrackers. Their function is to let the neighbors know a wedding is taking place. Judging by the power of the explosions, the neighbors are well informed. Next, the relatives start trickling in.

After the firecrackers it is time for the groom to go and pick up the bride, who is at her parents’ house. He takes a car and a cohort of relatives, who drive away into the dawn not to be seen for a good three hours.

Tubes with something similar to confetti in them

Tubes with something similar to confetti in them

David Yerle stays in the background and is shown on parade to a group of relations who have never seen a foreigner before. He smiles and says “ni hao.” He doesn’t understand a word because his Chinese is not great and, anyway, everyone speaks in dialect. After a while the novelty wears off and the relatives move on to better things.

The bride arrives at eight o’clock, preceded by a couple of detonations to announce her. In the backyard, mat has been prepared so that she can kneel before her parents-in-law to show respect. A brick has been included in the mat to make the showing of respect a bit more difficult and because people find it funny.

Everyone leaves at eight thirty to go to the restaurant, where a very early lunch is being served. On one side there are the groom’s mother’s relatives; on the other, the father’s. The bride’s relatives are nowhere to be seen: the parents are not allowed to go, sending in their stead two women who are in charge of protecting their daughter from her new family. The men are in charge of the feast and are not allowed to eat; the older women have to cook and will have a morsel after everybody else. The restaurant does not have enough dishes and some of them have to be supplied by the groom’s family.

The food the women were preparing

The food the women were preparing

In the restaurant’s patio a man has a list of names written on a background of red paper. People come and give some money, normally around 10 RMB, which will be recorded next to their names. The final sum will be allotted to the groom’s parents.

When the lunch is over everyone heads back to the house for the final ceremony. In it, the bride, surrounded by their two protectors and a myriad of women from her new family, is made to bend down in front of her new relatives. When she refuses to do so, they force her. When she finally does, one of the women hits her in the head. Others follow suit and keep trying throughout the ceremony. Her protectors do what they can to make sure she avoids most of the harm.

While some people try to hit her, others give her money. An older man produces another list with names on them, which are called one by one. People give different amounts depending on their degree of relationship to the newlyweds, going from 10 RMB to 4,000. When everybody has given their share, it is over. The relatives go back home.

The house is a mess. There are sunflower seed shells all over the floor, together with packets of cigarettes and confetti. The family does not clean it: according to the tradition, it has to be left that way for a day.

At night the relatives come back. First, the women. They swarm into the bride’s new room and make her and her husband perform different actions, with the goal of amusing themselves at their expense. After a while the bride runs away, crying, and seeks shelter with her sister-in-law, who provides it. Time goes by. The women try to convince her to go back to her room. Finally she does. They are satisfied and, shortly after, they leave.

It is time for the men. They, too, come with the purpose of humiliating their friend. This time, it’s the groom’s turn. He bears it a little better than his wife, whom they try to get into the game. She refuses. In this case it’s a friendly pull and push which goes on for almost half an hour, until the men give up. At half past nine they leave.

The bride lets out a sigh of relief. Finally, the wedding’s over.

David Yerle Writes about Life

Books may give meaning to life

Books may give meaning to life

David Yerle writes his first blog post. It is supposed to set the tone for the rest, so he considers speaking about Quantum immortality. Then he decides he’ll leave that for another post.

David Yerle speaks about himself in the third person because he’s bored of the first one. He likes to think about the meaning of life and the so-called great questions, which include, but are not limited to, “why is there something and not nothing?” or “what is the meaning of truth?” or “what is space?”

David Yerle’s first blog post is about life. About what to do with it. Most people will answer something along the lines of “be happy” or “make others happy” or “be a good person” or “go to church on Sundays.” But David Yerle thinks that will not do. Those are tiny answers, microscopic, irrelevant, little more than dust in the philosophical grand scheme of things.

Nietzsche would probably say “do what you want” which may be right, but leaves much to be desired. Kant would most definitely say “do what you should” and, even though his definition of what one should do is not as foggy as others’, David Yerle finds it a bit barren. His problem with Kant’s “should” is he doesn’t get why he shouldn’t do what he shouldn’t. He also wonders about the intricacy of his last sentence.

Many scientists believe one should pursue truth, mostly through the scientific endeavor which is, in their opinions, the only legitimate way of pursuing knowledge. David Yerle agrees with them mostly, but is not so sure about life being about pursuing truth or happiness or sex or a big family.

David Yerle is unsure whether life is about pursuing things at all. He thinks life is about things having meaning, whether you pursued them or not. How the meaning comes to things, though, he does not know. But he would like to.

David Yerle doesn’t know whether his life has meaning. But if it does, he is positive he doesn’t know it.

David Yerle doesn’t give up. And has a blog to write about it.