Albino Redwoods

My family took a vacation the the Redwood forest, where we found this beautiful treasure.DSCN3856Albino redwoods are incredibly beautiful. They are unable to produce chlorophyll, which causes its needles to be pure white. They live parasitically off a non-mutated redwood tree, usually the one they have sprouted from. Albinism in organisms is caused by a mutation of certain genes that make it impossible for the organism to make a certain protein or pigment.

Albino RedwoodThe albino redwood is growing off of the large tree in the center of the image above. Isn’t it amazing?

 

 

Website Redesign

I redesigned my website!

In the past it’s been a bit unorganized and I didn’t really have a specific topic I wrote about, but now I decided to narrow my posts down to three things:

Art: I love making art, so this seems appropriate! Posts in this category will be my own art.

Naturalism: I love nature, so this seemed appropriate. In this category I will talk about nature and science.

Humanism: I am also a humanist! In this category I will talk a bit about humanism and the American Humanist Association, but mostly I hope to write short bios on influential people in history and today.

I hope you enjoy the new look!

History of the Universe Part 1: The Big Bang Theory

Nature is an amazing, beautiful thing. Anyone who’s gazed at the stars at night or taken a hike in the mountains has probably wondered at how the beauty and complexity of our world has come to be. This is the first post in a four part series exploring our knowledge of the natural world and how we’re able to explain how we came to be, also known as the modern scientific point of view. This post looks at the origin of the Universe in the Big Bang and what might have happened before it.

Let’s start at the beginning of the universe. The Big Bang theory is currently the “prevailing cosmological model for the universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution (Wikipedia).” This theory says that the universe started small and then expanded to its current state, which is still expanding.

The Big Bang theory explains a lot of phenomenon we observe in the universe today. Among those is Microwave Background Radiation, a thermal imprint of the Big Bang that the theory predicted before the MBR was observed (Wall).

The redshift that is observed in all galaxies is another phenomenon that is explained and supports the Big Bang theory. Edwin Hubble discovered the redshift of galaxies and made the connection to an expanding universe (Howell).  The galaxies appear to be shifted towards the red end of the light-spectrum because they are moving away from us (Howell).  As objects move away from us, the wavelength of the light they emit is lengthened, making the objects appear to be “redder” (Wikipedia).

There are numerous other lines of evidence for the Big Bang, including abundance of primordial elements, galactic evolution and distribution, and primordial gas clouds.

But what happened before the Big Bang?

Some physicists say that something—our universe—came from nothing. Stephen Hawking, a theoretical physicist, says that asking what happened before the Big Bang is like asking what’s north of the north pole—the Big Bang is possibly the beginning of time, so asking what happened before time began is a meaningless  question.

But we don’t actually know for sure whether or not our universe came from nothing. Scientists are able to look back a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang…but before that moment when the universe started expanding, the laws of nature break down and we have no predictive power. There are a couple of theories that explain what might have happened.

  • The Singularity Theory

This theory says that all the matter in the universe was once in one point that was infinitely hot and dense, which then started expanding rapidly. Some physicists oppose this idea because it is based off general relativity, and doesn’t consider quantum mechanics (the study of the very small) which is hugely important when things are happening on such a small scale.

 

  • The Cyclic Model/String Theory/Multiverse Theory

The cyclic model states that our universe didn’t start from a single point, but goes through an endless cycle of “Big Bangs” and “Big Crunches (Wall).” In this theory, our universe is actually made up of eleven dimensions, but we only experience four of them. The universe could be spurred to collapse again when the membranes of these dimensions collide.

 

  • Quantum Fluctuations

It is also possible that before the Big Bang, there was just empty space. Our universe could have started as a quantum fluctuation of energy. Quantum fluctuations are a natural phenomenon and have been observed. For example, a matter particle colliding with its antimatter particle and disappearing, then reappearing somewhere else when they separate.

We can’t know what happened before the Big Bang right now because the laws of physics break down at that point, but these theories attempt to explain it.

If you’re interested in looking into the subject more, follow these links:

https://www.khanacademy.org/science/cosmology-and-astronomy/universe-scale-topic/big-bang-expansion-topic

https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/big-history-project/big-bang

 The next post will be about the development of the universe and our solar system.

Works Cited

Howell, Elizabeth. “http://www.space.com/25732-redshift-blueshift.html.” 2 5 2014. Space.com.

Wall, Mike. “The Big Bang: What Really Happened at Our Universe’s Birth?” 21 10 2011. Space.com. <http://www.space.com/13347-big-bang-origins-universe-birth.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=more-from-space&li_campaign=related-test>.

Wikipedia. “Big Bang.” n.d. Wikipedia. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang>.

—. “Redshift.” n.d. Wikipedia.

Auditory Illusions and TED Talk

Auditory illusions are illusions of hearing. I recently was watching a Ted talk with this really creepy auditory illusion:

I definitely don’t believe that there is actually a Satanic message hidden in the reverse of this song. I do think that once you are told what to hear, your brain will pick out these sounds and fill in the blanks where words or sounds are missing. Humans have evolved to be pattern-seeking animals, and once we find a certain pattern it’s really hard to un-hear it.

This is an excerpt from a TED Talk that included some other really interesting pieces on things people think are real (like crop circles or a fake device used to find marijuana in students’ lockers). Here’s the full talk if you’re interested:

 

 

 

Pale Blue Dot[s]

Carl Sagan said the following of the Earth:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

This was inspired by the following photo, taken by one of the Voyager satellites as it left our solar system.

 

 

The tiny blue dot in the orange stripe on the right is the earth our home.

And we are not special. I look at the sky at night, at the billions and billions of stars, and I realize this: planets orbit each of these stars. And these planets may harbor life, we just don’t know it yet. There are billions of other pale blue dots out there…we just haven’t found them yet.

We Are the Universe

“I assert that if you are depressed after learning and being exposed to the cosmic perspective, you started your day with an unjustifiably large ego.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson

This video is, in essence, how people should look at new scientific knowledge as it is discovered. It’s not depressing to think about how huge the universe is, or that we are beings of atoms and energy. It’s amazing. Embrace it, because it is the truest thing you can know.

Novel Preview!

I am working on a novel right now! It follows two girls (Quark and Twiggy) as they live out their lives on Earth while the sun is dying. The atmosphere has been burned off the the sun’s hot radiation as the star nears the end of its life. Some people may be able to make it to the nearby galaxy Andromeda in hopes of finding a new home, but others will be left behind to witness the death of a star and the end of humanity as we know it.

Here’s a section of what I’ve gotten done already:

I was laying on my back. Quark was next to me, on the grassy crest of the hill. The trees around us photosynthesized with filtered sunlight and the carbon dioxide we breathed out. 

“Did you know,” Quark said, “that we are all made of stardust?”

“Yeah,” I nodded.

Quark continued, “A star had to die for me to live, and I’ll die because another star is about to.”

My teeth clenched. 

“Nothing’s changing,” Quark continued. “I’m just a collection of atoms–energy. Who was it? That said that about us being part of the universe?”

“Eckhart Tolle,” I replied, petting the grass. “He said we are a focal point where the universe is becoming conscious of itself.” 

“Yeah,” Quark agreed. “I like that. I’m going home.Returning to my original state. Death isn’t so bad.”