Author Archives: ozmansoor

About ozmansoor

Public Health Physicians treat populations rather than individuals. How to treat the world's sickness? That's my worry. We have new solutions with new technologies, but first need to deal with humans and the cognitive biases that lead us astray.

Our story: 2. Earth

To recap, Space-Time is created by a Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago (BYA).  It expands faster than the speed of light, and as it does so the plasma energy cools down and the first atom is formed: hydrogen.

Clumps of hydrogen become solar systems; ours has 4 rocky plants and four gas giants formed from an earlier star’s dying explosion, a supernova, some 5 BYA. In its life, and even more its death, a star creates the progressively larger elements, including Nitrogen, Carbon, Oxygen and Phosphorous.  These are the key elements of organic life.  And, of course, hydrogen.  Both as water and as a central player in molecular machinery or chemistry of life.

It takes about a billion years or the first evidence of life from these elements combining into molecules.  Earth is not the gentle planet she is now, but a fierce rock that is only slowly developing an atmosphere.  Earth is constantly changing over geological time, including periods when the entire planet was entirely covered by ice: Snowball Earth.

From the first atoms that create a molecule that is able to make a copy of itself, this molecular life becomes more complex leading to cells.  Sex, the sharing of genetic matter, is a relatively recent discovery for these cells, but once initiated accelerates cells progress in complexity leading to multi-cellular organisms.

For our line the fish are the first to develop a backbone, a group called vertebrates, meaning to have vertebra  – the bones that protect our spinal cord and carry our torso and head.

From fish to reptiles to mammals to primates to apes to humans is our evolutionary history.  And our connection to different families of animals, close and distant.  We share a basic body plan, but have progressively invested more energy in offspring.  Fish create countless embryos, then do little to help then to maturity.  Frogs don’t look after their tadpoles, but reptiles start looking after their eggs. Mammals care for their young; called mammals because of breast feeding is needed by infants.  Is this the origin of love?

I heard that the Earth has spent 85% of its 4.5 billion year life without any ice caps. But we live in an ice age, when there are polar ice caps.  We are currently in a deglaciation  period of the ice age, in contrast to some 15 thousand years ago (TYA) when the ice covered most of the earth.  The ice has been progressively moving back, and today is doing so at an accelerated thanks to humanity’s contributions.

Unless humanity reduces the amount of energy it is burning, especially that coming from fossil fuel, it seems inevitable that we will soon have no more polar ice caps.  What will be the effect of sea levels and shoreline.  Literally unimaginable, in that these kinds of predictions are not really included in near-term scenarios.

If we expect a linear continuation of trends, we have plenty of time.  Perhaps that explains why our efforts are still just to limit the rate of increase of greenhouse gas emissions; not even to reduce them.  It assumes that the reserve of the Earth is infinite; that the oceans, the current store of the excess energy we put into the atmosphere can continue to store increasing amounts.  Complex systems exhibit linear change up to a threshold when suddenly a totally different kind of change takes place.  This is what some people mean they talk about the catastrophe of runaway climate change.

Positive and negative feedback loops are part of our biology and of the Earth itself.  The former accelerates change, the latter prevents it.  The emergence of Snowball Earth was driven by the spread of ice.  This reflected back more sunlight energy, leading to lower temperature; and thus more ice.  Now that the ice is melting, one side-effect is that it aggravates the heat retention, that water does much better than ice.  Thus, further increasing the heat on Earth.

Imagine, you’re on the Titanic.  You know that it’s heading for an iceberg that will sink it. All it would have taken was a small change of course, and accepting a slower time for the crossing.  We have to stop burning fossil fuels or face a catastrophe for Earth. Can you imagine your world when the water is 5 to 10m higher?  It could be as much as 60m when all the ice-caps are gone…

It was climate change that took our ancestors from the rain forests to the savannahs of Africa, where standing on two feet became more of an advantage.  Climate changes over 100-year cycles in Africa selected for the ability to pass stories that would prepare future generations for the recurring cycles of drought and flood.  Thus our brains allowed us to be adapted to more than one environment.  And as modern humans emerged, were able to take over every corner of this Earth.  No other species has ever done that; different species are selected for in different environments.

Since before the industrial, and even before the agricultural era, humanity has changed the planet.  But it is only now that the scale of our capacity, in terms of total human population as well as the power of our technology are we now able to impact on the environment to make the Earth unliveable for humanity. Once the ice caps start melting, it becomes progressively harder to restore.  I know they seem so distant; and that Earth will continue to thrive as a source of life; but what will be the fate of the humans?

So, let us first consider our history; and let us start at the first human transition in social organisation: from hunter-gatherer to agriculturist….in the next chapter of the 30.  I also find this cartoon from XKCD a great way to quickly understand the change in temperatures, and that we are at the start of an exponential increase, as well human history.

 

10 ideas a day

I like James Altucher‘s quirky writing.  I know he’s not entirely reliable.  He wrote that if you google “I want to die”, the top result is his.  Perhaps that was true for him, but not for me.  It was on the first page.  I am still not entirely sure why he didn’t kill himself; perhaps too much of the Woody Allen in him?

But I drift off the point.  I am grateful for his idea of building our idea ‘muscle’, by writing down 10 ideas a day.   What kind of ideas?

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30 Days of 30 minutes daily.

This a good unit of time for those who don’t have much.  By using half the hour, you find more places to fit it in.  By daily practice, your brain creates new pathways and habits. Try it for 30 minutes every day for 30 days.  Can you commit to that?

Let me tell you a story.  I have to start abstractly, but I hope you will forgive that.  It’s to remind you of how hard and how easy it is to change – another example of the law of paradoxical truths. We know that it helps if you find the ‘right-sized chunk’ for change.

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Homo deus: what are we going to do with ourselves?

220px-the_creation_of_adam“In a healthy, prosperous and harmonious world, what will demand our attention and ingenuity? This question becomes doubly urgent given the immense new powers that biotechnology and information technology are providing us with. What will we do with all that power?”

Yuval Noah Harari. “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.”

The future is both unknowable and already past, so potentially knowable.  If we can step outside of space-time; perhaps learn to treat that strange continuum as we do space, which seems to us so plain, yet teems with subatomic life.   We experience time, as living creatures; as much as fish need water to exist, so we need time.  But time does not exist; it is an illusion of our mind.  Only space-time.

Light is both wave and particle.   This example of the law of paradoxical Truths to help you see the future as potentially knowable, despite being intrinsically unknowable. You are at the same time, no more than the dust that you return to after death; and the very purpose for the creation of the entire universe.  Ha Olam.

Future space-time exists co-equally with past, but not in human experience where past is set and future open.  In either past or future, energy is spent from the present moment.  We must learn from the past and prepare for the future, but without excess and unhelpful focus on past or future events.  “I lived through many disasters, some of which happened…”

As for the laws of physics, there is nothing special about the present; made unique to me by being alive at this point, and so, aware of this space-time, here-now.  And I think the question Harari asks must be answered; given the exponentially growing power of humanity.  Unless the question becomes redundant, if we manage to destroy our home planet….with that growing power that children fail to acknowledged

 

 

Magic words: US Constitution, 1787

Happy 230th year to you!  Pleased to be introduced to Schoolhouse Rock educational videos from the 1970s, and was again stirred by the words of the Constitution’s preamble:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The language is old, but it perfectly captures why and how we need government.  Similarly, the  4 July 1776 Declaration of Independence starts with ‘self-evident’ truths that we were all born equal, with a right to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’, and that the purpose of government is to secure these rights.  Both documents reflect Enlightenment thinking, in contrast to the traditional ideas like divine right of kings.

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“M&N have gone”

Don’t worry, it’s just the keys on a keyboard.  The loss of these letters are enough to stop all the others being a functional keyboard. So we need a new keyboard.

Because we stepped on it.  Now it’s gone.  We mourn its loss, and move on.  No point to point the blaming finger, or to punish.  Just move on.

Life is a story of losses,  and learning to accept reality, as it is.  Not how we wish it to be, or think it should be. It is.

I might want to shout and curse at my loss, find someone to blame, punish them..But does that help? Especially when we are not fully aware of causes.

 

Is Trump the Trumpet?

last-trumpet

Here-now is the space-time to speak out.

It’s hard to get my mind around: space-time.  The hyphen shows a single concept, but our minds treat space and time as distinct and essentially unrelated elements.  Not so.  Let me explain, before I get back to President Trump.  And why we need to do speak out, here-now!

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