Posted tagged ‘Life source’

BONDING WITH “WHY”: The Citizen-Scientist

November 12, 2010

“We are unlikely to survive if we do not make full and creative use of our human intelligence” The preceding and prophetic observation was made by astrophysicist Carl Sagan in his book,The Dragons of Eden. We quote it here to emphasize the increasing need for the citizen-scientist as an evolutionary energizer.

It is usually a very rapid event after a young child begins to talk that he or she will, one day, use the why word. This is the vital and first step of both an inquisitive mind and a potential, future citizen-scientist. Oh yes, some of those children will go one to become professional scientists, but many, many others will follow different life patterns; however, in each case that inquisitiveness exists and if properly cultivated lives on as an agile mind.

Oh dear, this is one of those techy talks that expect the reader to run and gather up scientific paraphernalia in preparation for some unique little experiment, right? Actually no, although some of those programs or exercises can be both interesting and instructive. We are writing this blog to acknowledge the value of appreciating those who chase why and the benefits it can bring to all of us.

The basic, all-purpose citizen-scientist: Becoming a citizen-scientist is a nurturing process that, as we have indicated above, begins in childhood. That natural curiosity is encouraged by parents and later by teachers to the point where the youngster feels very comfortable asking why and following its implications. As we also stated, some of these youth will go on to become scientists or teachers of science. We, however, want to consider those followers of science not as an intellectual pursuits, but as ongoing delights in their exposure to the revelations and issues that come from answers to why. Just like the child that gets responsive explanations or demonstrations from a supportive respondent, the basic citizen-scientist looks for and responds to the products of scientific exploration.

The amateur anthropologist, archaeologist, astronomer, biologist (ecologist), botanist (horticulturist) and so on are specific and highly defined examples of the citizen-scientists that go beyond the basic stage. We are talking about the individual or even family that takes a very broad interest in science in different ways. They can be described as generally responsive to all scientific revelations and are usually eager to share this information with others. Their excitement comes from both reports of the exploration process and generalized reports of results. They identify with the explorers and often regard them as heroes. On the other hand, they can often become disappointed, even losing interest, when there is a stifling of the flow of science progress’ exciting exploration stories. We write more on this issue, below.

Simple joys from personal discoveries: The broad, general, scientific interests we are discussing here often encourages its followers to explore on their own. This can produce stunning and memorable moments and rewards. The image included in our blog header for this issue is an example.

Walking along a narrow trail in a deep, shadowy forest the citizen-explorer follows a trail that leads to a sunlit patch of wildflowers. There, in bright humility, a jewel of nature shares its breathtaking beauty. It is an awesome moment that is never forgotten. Most importantly,  the encounter exposes the citizen-scientist to the same kind of exultant reactions that the professional scientist often experiences. This is when his or her research yields breakthrough results. Both are “eureka” moments.

The scientists share their discoveries in very formal and careful ways with colleagues and the science community. The citizen-scientists with a generalized interest tend to share their discoveries or new information with friends and family and usually with a handful of fellow citizen-scientists. The more specialized citizen-scientists listed above tend to officially present their findings within an organized group. A group that can be global in size and reach. Regardless, the products of chasing why are shared and invigorated by this extended, public interest.

The art of sharing: So why is there not more of those exciting citizen-scientist discovery exchanges, and why are there not more generalized citizen-scientists? Now, we are considering two interactive why’s. A common factor is the need for broadly effective and interesting information exchanges. In some cases the exchange is too tightly wrapped in the learned vocabularies of the special interest citizen-scientists. These tend to either overwhelm or even coldly exclude the general interest citizen-scientist. This can be quite off-putting.

In the public venue, the media (print, radio and television) have produced some totally astounding science programs that capture both the generalist and specialist citizen-scientists. The problem is, these highlights are random and vary in the quality of their content and accuracy. This problem is confounded by some presentations that are more editorial than informational. The results in these latter instances distract the audience with sociopolitical issues forcing their followers to lose their link to the basic scientific content. Informational and inspirational outcome is shut down! This can cause more than an incidental reaction it can, sometimes, push a fledgling citizen-scientist away.

For many of us, finding answers to why has taken on spiritual connotations that offer soothing but also often inexplicable answers. At the same time, either through a fear of science with its direct statements asserting it does have an answer or our needs for reassurances about life on Earth, we turn to the orderly structure of a religion. This should not prevent our desires to follow the why’s in life while also getting many answers from the sciences. The net personal effect is peace of mind and personal fulfillment as we understand more about all that surrounds us. We also come to find that although we are not eternal as humans, we are forever eternal as a glorious composite of energy that goes on, and on long after our human shell has expired. We are, and always will be one with the universe.

Let science abound: The more involved with science, to any degree, that we become the greater evolutionary strength and progress we make as humankind. As this happens, and as Carl Sagan has advised, our awareness of a host of issues that threaten that progress inspires us to unify and speak-out.

Oh no, you mean we have to become political activists? I don’t like that at all. No, activism in that respect can be expressed in one simple act – voting. The political system looks to dominant influences (dollars, political theories, and even public interests). A unified electorate that have a large population of citizen-scientists can gain important influence that serves to both save our home planet, and assure that humankind will continue to evolve. In short, we become more comfortable with our neighborhood; the Universe.

We are so busy. Family life is scattered and demanding. How can we do this too? It seems just too difficult. Yes, it can, but within a family, an ideal starting place is with your children. The younger they are the better, but age should not be a barrier. Let science come to dinner, let it also join the soccer, or baseball or football team your child is involved with. As you, the parent, look for general science links to share, you are on your way to becoming a citizen-scientist too.

Science is not drudgery. Visit a science museum, a planetarium, an aquarium, or even watch good (not wacky) scifi TV or movies that don’t necessarily educate, but do stimulate questions. In this latter case, your responsibility is to have or know where to find the correct answers.  Guess what? Your family is becoming a citizen-science enclave.  See over there, Einstein is doing a happy dance.

Well, that is interesting and I agree possible. My problem is our kids come home telling us their teachers got angry with them when they tried to use their new science awareness to correct the teacher. Yes, that will be a challenge, until you as citizen-scientist, parents take positive action to improve education in our schools.  No, don’t cry about not having enough time. If your child is gravely ill you rush to the doctors or hospital. Likewise, when your child is suffering from cognitive starvation you must rush to your school systems and get them fixed.

Science seems so remote and distant from our daily lives. We suggest that is wrong, and urge you to think about it obviousness and simplicity as did Galileo when he wrote:

” The Sun, with all the planets revolving around it, and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the Universe to do.” – Galileo Galilei

Get started today on your journey to becoming a citizen-scientist. When you hear or read the word why, follow through and seek the answer or if not that seek those who seek the answer and follow them.

On that wonderful, day-off,  fishing trip, while you wait for that exhilarating moment when a fish takes the bait, let your eyes follow the flight of a bird. There before you is nature’s mastery of what we still struggle to perfect.

Be amazed; seek answers; share answers, and welcome science into your mind and heart.


Cartoon Image of Child with Questions: Courtesy of Parents in Education: Link>>

Wildflower image in header. From photography collection of Waddell Robey (c) 2007


BIRD BRAIN? Well, Thank You For The Compliment!

October 30, 2010

I see you, I hear you, I know you.

Brains, regardless of their hosts, are immense organs of great power and facilitation. The bird brain title for this blog acknowledges that relative power. If you have doubts, take some time and birdwatch. Watch small birds, big birds, seabirds, raptors and of course the great Bald Eagle. All are examples of the majesty of coordinated movement and navigation – while flying under their own power. Something not one of us can do; unassisted.

This blog article seeks to honor science’s explorations of the brain, especially the human brain. Most importantly, we need to understand we are still groping. Really? How so?

The work of neurologists, neuro-psychiatrists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists and philosophers all contribute, on a constant and ongoing basis, to our knowledge about the brain. As we learn more we discover one revelation after another of the amazing uniqueness and power of the brain, regardless, as I have stated, of its host organism.

Like our exploration of the universe, the cosmos of the brain constantly teases us to look further and deeper. It can be coy, confrontational, demanding, illusive, and always in power. It rumbles with laughter as we, with our brains, seek to discern brains in general. Who is in charge here? Personally, I remember how I stunned a radtech after I had an MRI of my brain by stating: “Hmmm, here my brain is looking at images of itself. What can it be thinking?”

Brain Recovery: My own experience in working with clients who had suffered traumatic brain injuries confirmed, on a daily basis, the power of the brain to not only survive, but to restore itself into full power.  Yes, in some cases there were memory and motor deficits that needed therapeutic assistance, but in most cases the brain responded with vigor and renewal of lost functions. Two classic examples: (a) The brain injured young man in a deep coma who physicians were now advising family to consider pulling the plug and agreeing to organ donations. That same afternoon, the young man is found sitting upright in his hospital bed asking a nurse why he was here and what had happened. This was five months after his initial injury, and (b) The young man seriously brain injured in a motorcycle accident. Staff writes him off as a candidate for placement in a permanent custodial facility. He fights it, both unconsciously and consciously and begins to return to full function. A thorough screening including an IQ evaluation reveal he had a recovery IQ of 135. This young man is now a successful auto-electronics systems specialist.

Despite these natural and assisted recovery efforts, sometimes the damage is so extensive and so deep that even the die-hard brain gives up. Tragic and sad? Yes, but also a reality. The important thing is that the research (explorations) of brain function and recovery continues, and as mentioned above, provides bountiful insights and surprises. It is possible that in the future there will be fewer cases where the brain gives up. One of these future breakthroughs, in my opinion, is the research associated with stem cell therapy.

Brain Death: Brains never want to die, but deprived of their vital nutrients and oxygen filled blood they begin to collapse and slowly shut down their host’s life support systems. Regardless, in reality, I believe they are the last to go. When they shut down because their host’s life support systems (heart, lungs, kidneys, etc) have failed they are still the last to go, albeit quickly in most cases. Well, what about deep comas? The host’s systems still function with external help, but the brain seems essentially shut down. This is where, in my opinion, we will find Stem Cell therapy may come to the rescue.

We still do not know fully how the brain exercises its repair and recovery process, but research in this area that involves the use of Stem Cell therapy may open entirely new pathways for recovery. Exciting and rewarding research awaits us. Additionally, in a great many cases, persons who have suffered traumatic brain injury have also suffered spinal cord injuries which puts them in a very limited lifestyle. Again, application of Stem Cell therapy to address both the brain and the spinal cord damages could produce stunning recoveries.

The Exploration Theme: Stem Cell research in this case fully utilizes the exploration theme. Scientists are exploring how and why stem cells work, and in doing so they are and continue to make discoveries. They seek to explain these discoveries and in so doing they are and will continue to find applications that both repair and enrich human life. Right now, we are just on the first leg of our explorations, With a fully expanded research program the discoveries and results could easily become one of the most important and vital medical outcomes affecting all humankind. Dare we not venture forth?

For bird brains and human brains and all others, expanding our understanding of the immense complexity and power of the brain can only enrich all of us. Add to this an increased supplementary process to aid the brain in its resilience shines light into the darkest corners of its miraculous functions. Most importantly it will be the brain, not us, that finally puts to use our efforts to aid its glorious and amazing existence. So, there we are, our brains, aiding ours and other’s brains. Again, who is really in charge here?


Neural Stems Cells in the Adult Human Brain

Stromal Cell transplantation for traumatic brain injury repair.

Stem cell therapy in central nervous system injury.


Image of Common Egret, from photo collection of Waddell Robey (c)1969, 2010 All Rights Reserved

Cartoon Image of the inquiring brain: From:

EXPLORATION’S DNA: The Questing Thread

October 27, 2010

Nowhere in the annals of human history will you find that explorations were one-man acts. Yes, a single individual may ultimately get the major credit, but a total research into the events of an exploration will show a long human chain of both supportive and discouraging actions. People supply that support as well as discouragement and all contribute to the success or the failure of the exploratory event. We should never settle for a history or biography that does not show that thread of human involvement in a given epoch. As the title of this blog article announces, we believe this interaction comprises exploratory DNA.

As we all know, DNA is the thread of all life. It exists in unique form in every type of life in existence here and throughout the universe. Oh yes, there is life out there. Logic, the very orderly happenstance of how life began and developed here, and the fact that it just cannot be exclusive to just one planet in an entire universe establishes that fact. If the preceding were not true, most likely we humans would have never made it. And it is this latter acknowledgement that also applies to exploratory events. Without that unique supportive chain, most likely those historic events would have never transpired. So we perceive an exploration DNA that we term, the “questing thread.”

We are all a part of the questing thread, and it is also a part of us. In several earlier blog articles here, I have referred to the exploration ethic; an inborn drive to explore. It remains with us throughout our lives, but like some aspects of DNA, our lifestyle, our cultural and natural settings can impede some of its benefits; and so it goes with that urge to explore. Some of us respond in different ways to support and benefit from that questing drive. It is vital and a critical part of humankind’s evolution. Regardless, we have a duty to not let this inherent drive be diminished or fully stifled.

A current and classic example of Exploratory DNA is our space exploration program. The history is long, glorious and eloquent. On the surface there are a host of brave heroes as scientists, engineers, astronauts and, last but not least, all of those support personnel. They are the critical DNA elements who enable a gallant few to carry all of us many steps further into the future. They sustain and keep together the questing thread. This is not easy, and the thread is often exposed to attempts to sever it or to starve it out by diminishing political and fiscal support. This is what is happening to this program now. It poses a critical threat to all those elements, especially the support staff who are the ones that keep the entire program alive and healthy. It should be obvious that we cannot let the questing thread be severed or disassembled. Should this come about, then a major influence in human evolution will have been lost.

No, do not think you are not part of that thread. Unless you are running, blindfolded and backwards into a dark, dark past, you are a vital part of it. It is your interest, your personal support, your cheers and well wishes that boost the energy of the questing thread. Do not lose faith, do not turn away; instead reach out and enrich the DNA by pulling newcomers into the thread. Do it today, and do it especially on the first of November when once more the thread comes alive raising all our hopes and putting tremendous power back into our Exploration DNA.


Image of natives guiding French explorers in Indiana. Courtesy Wikipedia>

The cartoon image of DNA is from:

CONTACT Of The Real Kind

October 23, 2010

Oh boy this is another one of those mystery talks with an extra-terrestrial, right? No, this is about real contacts that occur every day, but most that we either overlook or ignore.

If we are alive and conscious, even in sleep, we are explorers in the sense that our brains and our sensory organs are always on some level of alertness. Also, like explorers, we can chose to follow-up on an event or chose to ignore it; even subconsciously. Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • Good Mourning Dove: It is early morning, and in the Spring. You are sipping on your coffee and looking out your window. A Mourning Dove alights on the outside sill of your window and looks in. You are startled, but you look at the bird and for a brief instance there is direct eye contact between you and the Dove. It is not fleeting. You and the bird hold your gazes looking directly into each other’s eyes. In that brief time you sense a feeling of communion, just like you might feel as you look into the eyes of your child, spouse or loved one. Then the bird looks away, but remains for a while longer. It never looks back at you.  You experience a sense of a disconnect, of loss.
  • Squid Sessions: For a several years, you live on an island in the Caribbean Sea. You enjoy a daily, morning snorkel around a coral reef just off your beach. Each morning you are met by anywhere from 3 to 5 Caribbean Reef Squid. They form up side by side and move together toward you then stop. During this entire interval they have maintained direct eye contact with you. At the same time they manage, in some way to communicate quickly with each other to keep up their formation and unity. The first meeting was alarming, and you started to turn away, but when they stopped you stopped. The eye contact was sustained and direct. In this case it is you who finally moves on. This becomes a routine and every morning that you snorkel, the squid come out to meet you. There is never any aggressive behavior and the routine and the sustained eye contact always occur. Like the Dove experience you begin to sense a link, a communication between you and the squid. You always leave slowly and with some regret, but look forward to the next meeting.
  • Squirrely Days: Where you live now, there is a bounty of small wildlife, especially gray squirrels.  Now usually these creatures immediately run to the nearest tree or light pole and put it between them and you. One day, as this begins to happen you whistle a little chirping noise. The squirrel stops, turns and raises up onto it hind legs, and direct eye contact occurs. Like with the Dove, the contact is brief, but totally direct. That sense of a brief union, of communication occurs. The spell is broken as the squirrel turns and slowly heads for a tree or light pole.

Well, there are many, many other examples, and I am sure animal biologists and wildlife specialists will have a variety of scientific and behavior explanations.  I do not doubt them, but I think what is also occurring is a moment of direct communication of some sort during those direct eye contacts. There is no wariness in the behavior or eyes of the creature, and after I become adjusted to it, there is none from me either. In my mind there is something we are mutually sharing that allows those brief eye to eye exchanges. Yes, I have the same type of silent exchanges with my pets and even with the wild animals I helped raise. These latter instances are not surprising and can be expected, but the others, of the same nature, are both surprising and fascinating.

Most amazing, this is not an experience that could be explained by animals and humans in an urban environment. Certainly, the squid are not in an urban environment, and I have also been in deep wilderness areas and had similar direct eye to eye experiences with wildlife in those regions. Alligators, Cotton-Mouth Moccasins (no hiss, no bite), a variety of owls, and many others have joined me in these exchanges.

Is there some unique genetic link? I do not know. Is it because I do not behave like a predator? Maybe, but not likely. Is it because there is a link, genetic or otherwise that is an often neglected, overlooked or overridden? Perhaps, and if true, then the concept of a chain of life that threads its way through all life forms is plausible. Accepting this, following it, and practicing it could completely change humankind’s shared existence with all other life forms on this planet. It may also prove to be a vital theory to be applied across the universe as we explore and discover life in our galaxy and beyond.

On your next walk on the wild side, stop, look for that eye contact and remember it. In my opinion you have just shared something very unique, very private and very specific in that eye-to-eye moment between you and the creature you met. I think you have managed to cross an invisible bridge of communion with all life.

THE VOYAGE OF GLIESE 1 – Part I – Exploring GL581g

October 2, 2010

Voyager Spacecraft are Role Models for Gliese 1

This is a follow-on blog article that discusses the possibility of an exploratory visit to the newly discovered, Earth-like exoplanet GL581g. You may click here to view the earlier blog article on GL581 (the red dwarf) and its six (or more) exoplanets.

Based on our preliminary calculations, it will take approximately 30.2 years to travel to the GL581 area, and this is at about two-thirds the speed of light.

Human spaceflight for this first voyage is not desirable. The decision has been made to make the flight of Gliese 1 a fully robotic mission. Although this will be the most far-reaching spaceflight mission yet attempted, the great design and development progress in robotic spacecraft by many of our spacefaring nations inspires confidence.  This is especially true when we consider the Voyager spacecrafts (#1 and #2) which at this point have gone farther than any other robotic spacecraft to date.

There are a great many important issues to be considered before we even begin this program. Let’s look at some of the ones at the top of the list.

Space telescope research before spacecraft? The ideal first step would be to further verify GL581g by looking for it by using a new telescope system called the Terrestrial Planet Finder.

Yes, I have read about that, but I understand that the TPF program was cancelled or put on hold. That is correct and now the idea is to add the TPF features to the Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Planetary scientist Sara Seager discusses this in her book, Is There Life Out There?

So, we wait until the Webb Telescope is launched and in use, and will it have the occulter unit included in the final assembly? We think so, but at this writing we are not certain. We are contacting Dr. Seager to get an update in that regard. As for waiting on the JWST, that is not a long wait. It is scheduled for launch in 2014.

A Parallel Program to include JWST investigation during the design, build and test of Gliese 1. The Gliese 1 spacecraft will be designed to travel to relatively nearby exo-planetary systems. If for some reason, GL581g is found not to be an Earth-like planet with the promise of a life supporting environment, then the Gliese spacecraft is simply re-assigned (before its launch) to a different exo-planetary system. Building this system while also using the JWST to probe GL581g and other exoplanet candidates is efficient use and development of space-related, scientific technology.

Well that sounds like a great idea, but good grief we are talking about very, very large budgets. Who is going to spring for that? You are right, and to do this we are talking about an immense change in governmental commitments to space research and exploration. In this regard, as we have mentioned before, no one government or private research organization will be able to fund this. It must be a fully joint effort by all the spacefaring nations on Earth.

Gliese 1 exploratory spacecraft is expected to achieve a reconnaissance orbit around GL581g. The sensitive equipment on the spacecraft is expected to confirm that the exoplanet can and may actually support life. This is a more detailed and critical assessment than what has been accomplished byboth land-based and space-born telescopes like the JWST.

OK, then why are we not sending a lander onto GL581g to make contact? That is not an option with regard to the design of the Gliese1 spacecraft. A lander is not an included option. Additionally, until we get more detailed biochemical as well as geological assessments from the orbiting spacecraft it is too early to consider a lander probe. Most importantly, in honor of our long-held principles, “we come in peace, with intent to do no harm.”

Deep Space communications with Gliese 1 could be a challenge; however, our success with the Voyager craft is encouraging. In any case it is expected that the Deep Space Network will be expanded and upgraded to ensure that we can sustain regular data and command exchanges with the spacecraft. This is certainly going to produce dramatic breakthroughs in deep space communications.

Hmmmm, we have had some problems with communications with the Mars rovers. Doesn’t it follow that in the deep space where Gliese 1 will be that these problems will be even greater? Yes, that is a good question, and the planning for this spacecraft calls for greater AI(artificial intelligence) programs and devices that allow Gliese 1 to diagnose and correct many of its problems on its own. This will be more than the automatic shut down modes we have experienced with many other rovers and spacecraft.

Like the Voyagers, Gliese 1 is a one way space exploration program. As a result this spacecraft will carry with it, extensive assessment technology that will give us as detailed information (visual and data) of GL581g. The spacecraft also, powered by radioisotope technology, is expected to continue full operation for a decade following its successful encounter and orbiting of GL581g. Again, the incredible success we are having with the Voyager craft demonstrates that we can succeed in this respect.

Whoowee, that is exciting!  What if there is human life on GL581g and they take offense at our prying and destroy Gliese1? Well, that could certainly be a possibility, but there could be no real proof that the spacecraft was destroyed by humans rather than either a malfunction on cosmic accident. This is a major risk in this type of exploration just like so many throughout the history of humankind, but look at all we have learned and mastered by taking such risks.

The actual discovery of life, in any form, on GL581g will dramatically change the lives of all of us on this planet. We expect this and in our design of the spacecraft in addition to our many assessment systems and protocols we have set up a network report protocol that will send back to Earth, for public broadcast, images and data that let all of us share in this remarkable exploration. Maybe we will even receive an image of ET waving to us.

Thinking about that feedback is both exciting and sort of spooky. I am not sure how I will really react to that revelation. I think I will be jumping with joy, but maybe not. We understand that. Reactions to proof of life elsewhere in the galaxy and the universe will have a shock effect on all of us. The joy is knowing we are no longer alone. The worry will be manifold as we are deluged with sci-fi histrionics and a new application of the superstitious warnings of those who have trouble accepting these facts. None of this will eradicate the fact that there is life out there.  Me, I hear great music and have beautiful visions of a whole new future for all of us.

Well, we have just considered a few of the important issues involved in this project.  We need to consider more. We will do this in one more blog article to follow this one. We hope you will join us and follow along.  Please we urge your comments, questions, and scientific corrections and additions. Until next week – Look up and ask: Quo Vadis?


Image of Voyager Spacecraft – courtesy of NASA.

SOUP’S ON! – Exploring the Primordial Soup

September 27, 2010

Like a gentle butterfly or a thistle-down we will alight on the sandy and or mucky shore surrounding a pool of burgeoning life. To do otherwise could easily demolish those vital secrets that will tell us how molecules of lifeless chemicals made the transition into life matter that began the replication process that led to us.

As most visitors here already know, there is an intense biological, biochemical, geobiological and astrobiological research being conducted to finally learn how life started here on Earth, and most likely on every habitable planet in the universe.

It is expected that we will find the answer to life’s beginning in our research on this planet and that will be a key to our understanding of how life will evolve or has evolved on the many habitable planets in the universe.  This is not to say that evolution will be exactly the same as our own and that humanoid life-forms that evolve elsewhere exactly resemble us. It is also possible that all life develops the same way, but evolves differently depending upon its unique environment. How will we know?

In time we will perfect our ability to travel into deep space beyond our solar system and to actually explore other planets in this galaxy and beyond. In some instances we may arrive on an exoplanet at that critical time when life is just beginning to evolve. In other words we have come upon the primordial soup. This would be an incredible opportunity to witness and assess that process that produces the earliest forms of life. Can we do this without interrupting or completely destroying the process? Dare we even venture to the point where that may happen?

In our opinion, as we continue the process of seeking the origins of life on this planet, we will learn more about both the robustness and fragility of the life-forming process and in doing so move closer to a new perspective and reverence for all life. This is expected to change how we conduct ourselves with each other and to all aspects of life on this planet. Hopefully, that critical evolutionary step will, first, assure the safe continuation of all life here on Earth, and impose extreme carefulness in our future deep space explorations. If we fail in this, then we will most likely quickly enhance our own extinction and never know more than we know now about that stunning instance when a chemical morass begins the transition into new life.

In summary, life is not wildness to be tamed and controlled. Right now we have not yet connected the dots leading to our understanding of the process that has produced humankind. What we have mistakenly presumed is that we are the top of the evolutionary ladder and therefore inevitably “in charge.”  Wrong! We must stay humble students who, as we learn, elevate ourselves not as masters but as grateful and enthusiastic partners of all life on this planet and beyond. This is our most important evolutionary step, and unlike all of our earlier steps, this one is solely our choice. As for me, I vote for life; all life.

Reference Links:


Are their still new life-forms to be discovered?

Astrobiology Magazine

Astrobiology Network

New study at Georgia Tech

CREDITS: Butterfly image: From “My Wild Life” nature photography by Waddell Robey (c)1997 (unpublished).


September 21, 2010

What an incredible achievement Homo sapiens are. At the moment, what an incredible flop, Homo sapiens are. What? How dare I say that. Look at all the great discoveries, scientific advances, medical breakthroughs, and great artistic contributions humankind has made. Yes, and look at all the wars, all the destructiveness, and all the ongoing disrespect for the life around us that we humans have also accomplished.

Oh no, this is going to be one of THOSE blog articles! The answer is both yes and no. Please, don’t run away, stick with us and see where we are going.

It is just a theory, but when all those myriad interactions were occurring that brought about life on this planet, there had to be considerable aggressiveness present to press the evolutionary process forward. Certainly that aggressiveness was essential to ensure the eventual development of we humans. The theory is that this aggressiveness has remained a distinct element within our genetic makeup that leads us to consider that we, and only we are the eminent life-form on this planet and possibly within the universe. This is an incorrect and dangerous conceit that stands to march us right into extinction.

Okay that is the bad news. The good news is that as we grow increasingly conscious of our celestial surrounds, and particularly the possibility of life all over the universe, we have become intensely interested in how life began. It is this exploratory process that stands to flip us out of our flop state and into an amazing joint, compatriot status with all of life. We still do not have the real answers on how life began, but our search is producing many new discoveries that tease and challenge our intellect while shaking out the smugness of our original conceit.

Oh yes, we are quite powerful, but we are also quivering weaklings before the powers of cancer and many deadly viruses. We are beginning to sense the existence of a partnership of life in which we aren’t in charge, but just a more complex, more versatile, and a more terrifying life-form. Most significantly we now know that each of us carries around with us an entire universe of life on and within us. At last we are beginning to respect that reality rather than seeking to escape or banish it. The flip is beginning!

So, according to this theory, should humankind become, tepid, non-aggressive creatures that mellow out in the shadows? Absolutely not! We, hopefully, are moving toward the process in which we redirect our aggressiveness to foster and protect all life and to devise ways to co-exist productively.  Yep, part of our evolutionary pattern is our entrepreneurial behaviors. There is nothing wrong with this. Where it has gone wrong is how we manage that urge within the life around us. Believe it or not, if we manage our eagerness to encompass and enrich our living environment we will enjoy greater achievement and wealth. Most importantly we will make sure our future existence and the safety of our home planet for millions of years to come. This is sensible and sound investing.

Meanwhile, the explorations of the life-forms around us and throughout the solar system certify that our pro-life strategy becomes not just a global strategy but one that we will apply throughout our solar system and beyond. Do not be surprised that as we make these positive changes that suddenly visitations from ET and friends will begin to occur.  Oh, oh, the fear mongers are arming up, and if they do we need to squelch it at once. The fact that ET exists at all is a clear sign that life preservation and enhancement is a success elsewhere in the universe.

No, don’t shake your head and shout out “dream on sucker!” This is not a dream,  this is a statement of the reality we must both accept and enhance in order to keep the evolution engine well oiled and on track. All that life around us, acknowledges our superior existence and depends upon us to move the entire universe of life safely forward. So we have not lost our importance, and we stand at the threshold to gather all life around us and set sail across the celestial sea. We search and explore and in doing so we sustain and enrich life wherever we find it. Homo sapiens are now the guardians of life. The flip is done, well done.


Backlight Dance by Jack Wolsky: From the Life Class Exhibit. Courtesy of the Rochester City Newspaper