Hubble humbles, a.k.a. talk about insignificant!

Sitting here, writing this, I don’t feel particularly insignificant. And yet in the scheme of things I am. Entirely, as, and I’m sorry to have be the one to point this out, are you.

‘Yeah,’ you might say, getting a tad shirty, ‘but actually we’re not insignificant at all. Where’s your proof of this outrageous statement?’

If it’s proof you want then here, courtesy of NASA and the Hubble space telescope, it is. But firstly I need to set the scene (cue drum roll):

Imagine you’re standing outside in the middle of nowhere. It’s pitch dark and you can see all of the visible sky – remember you can only see a little bit of the sky as you’re on a spherical planet looking in only one direction. It’s captivating. It’s amazing. All those dots of light are stars and they’re so far, far away.

It’s the night of a full moon. The moon is BIG compared to the rest of the white dots and the planets, but still the moon is small in relation to the sky you can see.

Now, look at the picture above. Look at the small square that says ‘XDF’.

Then check this out!

eXtreme Deep Field image taken by the Hubble space telescope

Hubble humbles

This is the proof of our true insignificance. This is an amalgamation of ten years worth of photographs taken by the Hubble of an area equivalent to the small square that’s labeled XDF (extreme deep field). Yet still, still it contains around 5,500 galaxies.

“The universe is 13.7 billion years old, and the XDF reveals galaxies that span back 13.2 billion years in time. Most of the galaxies in the XDF are seen when they were young, small, and growing, often violently as they collided and merged together. The early universe was a time of dramatic birth for galaxies containing brilliant blue stars extraordinarily brighter than our sun. The light from those past events is just arriving at Earth now, and so the XDF is a “time tunnel into the distant past.” The youngest galaxy found in the XDF existed just 450 million years after the universe’s birth in the big bang.” – NASA.

There has to be a point to it all. Surely? But trying to grasp the idea of such vast amounts of time and space is hard enough, without trying to fry your brain and analyse our place in it.

Thus our insignificance. 😉

QED.

Find out more at the NASA XDF site: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/xdf.html

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Rear windows

Watching them watching me watching them

 

When you Live in town your personal space and allowed privacy is very, very different from when you live in the country. We’ve been living here, now, for nearly six months, and lack of privacy is axiomatic. Not that I gave it a second thought before we moved. Moving seemed sensible: rent was cheaper and, for me, the main draw was doing without the expense of a car – stupid me. Have you ever tried shopping in a supermarket and then walking home? No? I didn’t think so. It seems to me that cars have become a requisite wherever you live. Feeble, I know. But fact.

This post, from the 13th describes the surveillance camera that ‘appeared’ in the street to the front. The picture above is the view from the back garden door. Windows. Lots of windows, and more curtain twitching surveillance.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind – and if I did there’s bugger all I could do about it – but inside each and every window  is a person. A stranger. A complete and utter total stranger who might be my next best friend … or might be an axe murderer. How do I know? And the truth is I can’t know, unless I traipse around and introduce myself and then I become the local loony. Or, my luck runs out and I vanish in a newly turned flower bed in said axe murderer’s garden.

Oh, I wish I hadn’t recently seen Alfred Hitchcock‘s ‘Rear Window‘.

I suppose this mild, bubbling, ever present sense of being perpetually observed, is paranoia. So I’m paranoid. Paranoid and proud! I wonder if there is some sort of multi coloured plastic wrist band I should be wearing that proclaims me?

So, the upshot is – and yes, this might possibly be paranoia speaking (or writing, as you do in blogs) – we are being watched from the street at the front by some bloke in a council office with a vast bank of monitors, and by those in the houses opposite. And then we’re being watched from the back by pretty much the same demographic, except the poor bloke from the council is missing out.

Moving back to the country seems eminently sensible, now. Far far out in the country where you need a serious 4 x 4 and the nearest possible ‘surveillance’ is a couple of miles away.

Hmm, maybe an idea worth pondering. 😉

 

Holy Gobsmacked Hell! And other news.

 

I get excited about the strangest things, but this … this is just the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. Watch it and be amazed, too!

I’ll bet you watch it more than once! 🙂

In other news:

SOPA/PIPA Blackout Day

It seems the SOPA/PIPA blackout, led by Wikipedia yesterday, was successful. Eight U.S. lawmakers – including two of the co-sponsors – have withdrawn their support. The event caused Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to make his first tweet in three years – which linked to this.

Stargazing

The BBC’s yearly Stargazing Live had an amazing success when one of its viewers discovered a planet. The program, which ran for three nights, asked viewers to join www.planethunters.org which uses data gathered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope and gets people to spot anomalies that their computers missed.* And so Chris Holmes from Peterborough did! I watched the program for two of the three nights and it really was riveting viewing.

* Humans are better at pattern recognition than computers. It’s nice to know there’s something we can do that’s better than computers. 😉

Costa Concordia

Captain Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia is in deep, deep doo doo, and appears to be heading for crucifixion. Admittedly, from what I’ve read and seen on the news, crucifixion might be warranted. But I thought we worked under ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ Yes, he seems to be an abject coward who fled the scene. But is he really? The recording of the ‘conversation’ between Schettino and the coastguard is pretty damning. Still, time will tell. At present Schettino is under house arrest for possible multiple manslaughter.

The captain’s supposed cowardice brought back memories of a joke that did the rounds at school: ‘did you know an Italian tank has one forward gear and five reverse?’ Boom boom! or rather Glug glug!

Dropbox apps

Finally, if you use dropbox – and who in their right minds doesn’t use this wondrous sanity saving thing – then this article is well worth perusing: The best apps for your dropbox.

Too intrusive by far

Too intrusive by far. This street camera can see into my living room.

This country I live in, this England I call home has changed beyond all belief. We use to pride ourselves on standing up for the weak; for being in the right. The saying suborned by comics ‘Truth, honour and the American way’ use to refer to us, but sadly no longer. We use to be the home of the free and now we’re the home of the surveilled. The U.K. now has more surveillance cameras per head of population than anywhere else on the planet. And, stupid git that I am, it didn’t bother me until very recently … when this camera appeared on the lampost opposite my house.

Supposedly it’s only there to put traffic wardens out of a job. Supposedly. Maybe you loath traffic wardens and maybe you don’t, but putting them out of work by increasing CCTV coverage is out of order. It is an excuse: this is not a big road I live on: it’s a little side street.

Worse: the camera is exactly opposite my living room windows. Underneath, a facetious little yellow on black sign – complete with smiley face – says: “Smile you’re on CCTV.”

No wonder we’re all slowly going downhill and becoming paranoid – in my case not quite so slowly.

Upping Sticks

From Pett to Bohemia - and about time, too!

We’re upping sticks and moving from countryside to town: from Pett Level to Bohemia, St. Leonards.

The reasons are numerous, but probably the most salient is the saving of £250 a month in rent, plus, it’s a house and a place we can be ourselves. For the last two years we’ve been living in this … umm, well, to be frank, a tarted up shack. The owner bought it at the very top of the market for £250,000 and consequently has to charge a ludicrously high rent for it. We viewed on a beautiful may day and, obviously, had on rose tinted shades. In summer it’s sweltering; in winter it’s bloody freezing. Worse, this year we’ve been bitten to death by mosquitos, to boot.

We’ve never put pictures up, B wants to paint murals and can’t, and I’ve felt trapped. The house we’re moving to is a different kettle of frogs entirely. We can do what we want there. Paint it how we like; do what we want, and provided we pay the rent, and don’t raise it to the ground, all is peachy.

Another BIG motivation in moving into town is travel. Whichever way you look at it, if you live in the country you have to travel to get anywhere. The nearest shop to us is six miles there and back: a supermarket fourteen, and petrol ain’t cheap!

Jobs. Unless you want to start a small smuggling operation there aren’t any out in Pett. Besides, ‘they’ have radar and sniffer seals and you can’t ‘bring in’ much in a radio controlled boat – even if you have one, which I don’t. I’ve a gas guzzling car, but it doesn’t count.

So that’s what I’m up to. Meanwhile, in Libya, Muammar Gaddafi has legged it and the Arab Spring is trundling on and gaining ground with every day. Odd it is how there are so many different ways to live the brief time we’re allotted on our lone planet circling a sun in the spiral arm of one of billions of galaxies.

It makes you think, doesn’t it.

Nature+wars+famine+overpopulation=TROUBLE

Earthrise from the moon (taken by Apollo 8)

I am not sure where to start with this blog post, though I know what I want to say. We’re in trouble: big trouble.

See that little blue and white thing surrounded by black? Good, because that’s where I live. And so do you. We all live on it, and we have nowhere else to go if we fuck it up. And, without a shadow of a doubt we are doing just that. Big time.

There’s a large gap in this blog and the reason for it is that I’ve been shellshocked by everything that’s going on. First there was the Egyptian freedom campaign – that worked! They did it! Then everyone else leapt on the bandwagon, thinking, I’m sure, that if the Egyptians could do it so could they. With some countries it worked. With others, not so much.

Then came the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

Like everyone else I was (and still am) glued to the news on television. It’s horrifying … yet, because it’s on TV we’re slowly becoming inured to it. It’s awful and we know it, but somehow it seems unreal … filmic … almost, dare I say it, viceral entertainment. Certainly the news reporters don’t treat it that way. They report with long faces and suitable gravitas. But their producers are fighting each other for the best stories: to be the first crew to report from ‘X’ about the ghastly loss of life. To be the first to walk through some poors dead families destroyed house … to pick watersoaked photos up off partially demolished study floors and tell us ‘they are still missing.’ The long soul destroying panning shots; the overturned cars; the phonecam footage, all meshes together to turn our brains to mush and make us truly thankful we’re not there. But with all it comes a distinct sense of the surreal – and I haven’t started on the nuclear problem.

Yet it’s all happening on that little blue and white thing floating in the cold and dark of space….

We’re bankrupt in the United Kingdom: the government tells us so and yet we’re embarking on yet another war. True: this time it’s legal. This time it’s Libya.

Don’t get me wrong. I depsise Gaddafi. He’s a despot and needs to go. But if they were going to get into shit-kicking mode they should have done it a week ago when they were asked by the Arab nations. Now it’s very close to too late.

What’s my point? So sorry if you think I’m rambling. In actuality I should finish writing this, edit it and then post the result. It would probably be more cogent. But the fact of the matter is I’m a lazy git. C’est la vie. Now you know me a little bit better.

My point, and it is valid, is that we all live on the same planet and it’s too late to continue with the way we’ve all been trundling on. If we are to survive, in my humble opinon, we have to do the following:

  1. Become one people living together on our one world.
  2. Bring together the 1st, 2nd and 3rd worlds
  3. Stop reproducing. Yes, sex is nice, but not the millions of unwanted children (or children created to garner social security payments in the 1st world), especially until we have a stable planet.
  4. Take care of our planet. Earth, Gaia or call her what you will. She’s the only place we can call home.

The thing is … we need a visionary to do it. One person who we can all believe in. I suppose that’s what Religion is for, but all the different flavours aren’t working at present.

We need a visionary leading a planet wide push to sort humanity out before it is too late – if it’s not already too late.

WTF?

Taken from the ISS

So what is it?

It could be a manipulated picture taken in a forest, perhaps. Or part of a fractal, or a coloured ice crystal. Like Esher’s art it facinates me – even though I know what it is. It seems like it might have been taken under a high powered microscope … blood vessels, maybe? It looks surreal, yet is all too real.

But no. It’s none of the above. It was taken by ‘Magisstra‘ (Paolo Nespoli) on the International Space Station and it is the Somalian Desert.