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Is `normality' anything like `reality'?


Fri Mar 24, 2006 11:18 am

Re: Evolution Predictable Elsewhere in the Universe, Scientist Says

From: "T. Peter"
Sent: Wednesday, March 15, 2006 9:36 PM
Subject: Evolution Predictable Everywhere in the Universe, Scientist Says

> If the history of life on Earth could be rewound and replayed,
> many of the same innovations would reappear, although at
> different times and in slightly different forms.

> This is the conclusion of Geerat Vermeij, a paleontologist
> at the University of California, Davis.
> "Some traits are so advantageous under so many circumstances,
> or arise so relatively easily by virtue of self-organization,
> that you're likely to see the same things again and again,"
> Vermeij told LiveScience.

Article's mention of Gould (snipped) notwithstanding, they've not absorbed the message of several folk (Stewart & Cohen) but pre-eminently Gould, that, although basic processes are bound to be used (and re-used) - the result of a `play again from the beginning' (or play on a different planet) is going to be vastly different.

As Gould et al show, each `decision' (like: `let's produce oxygen as a waste product') meant those bacteria able to tolerate oxygen literally erased (ate) all record of the other options alive at the time.  (Although a few anerobic bacteria survive).

And, although certain tricks could be, and were advantageous at a certain time in our history - that needed all the the previous `decisions' to have been taken, and roughly in the "proper" order.

The further back you re-start the tape - the bigger final differences are going to be.  `Initial conditions' are / were the knife-edge at any stage.  That's what self-organization is all about - it's attracted to the edge of `chaos' conditions.

In fact you could say that `organization feeds off chaos' - which always means that tiny changes give hugely different outcomes.

(Ever read any of those`alternate histories'?)

Ray D

From: "Steve"
Sent: Friday, March 24, 2006 11:39 AM
Subject: Re: Re: Evolution Predictable Elsewhere in the Universe, Scientist Says

It is striking, though, how often almost identical things evolve completely independently.  Like Cephalopod and Vertebrate eyes.  Incidentally, also a good argument against Intelligent Design.  Vertebrate retinas are 'back to front' (nerve cells in front of light sensitive layer) which is why we have a blind spot.  Cephalopod eyes sensibly have the nerve layer behind the optical layer - so no blind spot.

Either there is no designer (and the order of the layers is an accident of embryonic development in the two very different phyla), or Squid are in fact the Chosen Species.

> Sun Mar 26, 2006 12:24 pm
> Dear Ray, Steve
<snip> > Looking at the variety of earthly life, from a human being
> to an elephant, to a blue whale to a hermit crab, he argued,
> we have seen that while all these forms share genetic
> ancestry, they are still widely different in physiological
> configuration. How much greater, then, he wondered, must
> be the range of physical types among creatures
> which must surely exist in our galaxy alone?
> If all this is and long has been true of our own Earth,
> I've always thought, it would only make sense to find
> it paralleled throughout the Cosmos, whenever one
> finds comparable ecological niches.

Hi T Peter,

That (in full) is a very interesting and very complete review of the genotype v. phenotype (body shape etc) situation on Earth att.

Think you would really like `Evolving the Alien' by Stewart & Cohen, as some of your conclusions are very close to theirs.  They've put their own labels on the two different types of characteristics - as follows:-

`Parochial' - the precise `number of fingers' say, is not going to be important or likely to be duplicated due to any evolutionary pressure, so that's a `parochial' item.  Hair versus feathers versus scales might similarly be arbitrary evolutionary choices.

`Universal' - whereas bilateral symmetry has a lot going for it and might be a `universal' characteristic of intelligent life - if organic / material beings, that is.

Going through a list of possible variations can get interesting if you discard all `parochials', especially - given ever-present `human-interest' in these matters - when you get to possible behavior patterns - ultimately derived from food sources? and acquisition? - and social - and mating - systems and structures.

Even here on Earth there are some startling variations on what we tend to think is "normal" behavior [there's a small write-up at "female societies which produce males on demand" in Google].

Steven Jay Gould has already considered some of those phenotype probabilities - fr'instance he said most Earth animals have large active females, but only relatively tiny males, acting as mere providers of sperm. Now, is that likely to be a `universal' tendency or not? If it is - we're going to feel a little out-of-place in galactic society - yes?

And there could be other shocks in store - much of what we think of as normal or even necessary might be only `parochial'.

Ray D

Sun Mar 26, 2006 5:08 pm Re: Re: Convergent evolution

Dear Ray,

Thanks so much for your summary of Stewart & Cohen's `Evolving the Alien' distinction of `Parochial' versus `Universal' characteristics.  Your reference to to "possible behavior patterns (ultimately derived from food sources? and acquisition?) and social (and mating) systems and structures" reminds me of something I myself wrote a few years ago about many human cultural practices and social institutions being reflections of our food acquisition & ingestion and reproductive biology.

That we eat food which we place in our mouths with our hands and/or with tools manipulated by our hands (rather than, say, absorbing nutrients from the soil through roots or from the water we swim or wade in through pores in our skins) has given rise to such human institutions and practices as mealtimes, lunch or dinner dates, kitchens, restaurants, grocery stores, cookbooks, dieting as a health regimen, fasting as a method of religious or moral discipline, Holy Communion, and cannibalism -- none of which would probably arise among "plant-men" or skin-pore environmental nutrient absorbers!  Our particular mammalian method of bisexual (M & F) live-bearing (as opposed to egg-laying) reproduction with internal sperm/egg fertilization again is the biological basis and context of human institutions and practices as the family, marriage, dating, romantic love, adultery, rape, pornography, prostitution, pre- and extra-marital sexual restrictions, celibacy as a moral or religious discipline, etc. -- none of which could have probably arisen among a species who reproduced by budding, or like social insects with their queen bees or ants fertilized by drones (not workers!) on nuptial flights, or like frogs by all the females communally laying eggs which the males then communally fertilize!

T. Peter

Date: Sun, 26 Mar 2006 18:57:56 +0100

Right T Peter,
you'd very ably illustrated what I was thinking of - that many life-forms will have very different attitudes, depending on their food sources, amongst other `necessary' differences.

Even Earthly animals show this: horses are basically friendly, humorous and philosophical folk, because they're vegetarian ('tho their history of being hunted by carnivores has left them easily spooked).

And did I read, other day, that researchers are now claiming `intellectual activity' in plants or trees?  Expect they're probably very contemplative types!  Do we hear the voice of Tolkien there.

So a higher life-form evolved from a soil-extracting feeder might be deeply horrified to meet a carnivore!

Which might be something we should be considering - since the higher life-forms would probably have the science know-how with which they can express their disapproval or reflex disgust - fatally and maybe finally.

Ray D

Aug '06
Seems we have agreement from the late Carl Sagan -

"Were the Earth to be started over again with all its physical features identical, it is extremely unlikely that anything closely resembling a human being would ever again emerge. There is a powerful random character to the evolutionary process."

`Cosmos' - p. 309


Fort's research and reports - of possible Visitors

`The Book of the Damned' - `New Lands' - `Lo!' - `Wild Talents'

Subject: Re: HPL and QM?
Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2006 19:10:04 +0100

Hi Lawrie,
This isn't side-tracking your investigation - think it's valid (and've been quoting - "`The Cosmic Winter' by Victor Clube & Bill Napier" and Solon's "report on returning to Athens" - (poss. root-Milesian) for several years on several pages).

Cyclical comet(s) strikes [below] and maybe more should be regarded as inevitabilities - if we used our intellects rather than running from our fears.

Yet think Fort was forced, by a surfeit of reports and a lack of dependable astronomy data, into a paradoxical conclusion.  Many reports, e.g. Wolverhampton's falls of stones, were detailed, and re-occurring over a long period [at least ten years].  Whereas, as said repeatedly in `New Lands', the astronomical info available to the public att. was often shallow bombastic self-advertisement - and contradictory, as Fort also shows.

Fort well knew that the Earth's `theoretical' movements (rotational, orbital, plus the Sun's galactic orbit) would preclude `accidental' falls over the same area, if caused by occasional collisions or somesuch.  So, lacking hard astronomical facts, he had to believe either that the Earth stands still or that there was a `source' hovering above Wolverhampton (and other places) for the whole period - or both.

From our more privileged position think we should re-examine all `falls', to include the (sometimes) identical but much smaller-scale falls that have been labeled as poltergeist (and then mainly ignored).  Again stones, liquids etc falling, but onto or inside one house, or in one room, or following one person about.

Here the laws of physics are more readily seen to be apparently defied.  In addition the `cause' or `agent' would seem to be making decisions, implying `intelligence' of some sort.  See `Unexplained Phenomena - A Rough Guide Special' 2000 ISBN 1-85828-589-5 for some interesting well-witnessed cases.

So, if we class all `falls' as one phenomenon, and if we assign a somewhat `intelligent' cause or agent, there's no real need for either a static Earth or a floating, invisible platform of any kind.

As for that `cause' ... _did_ quote Einstein - "I consider it quite possible that physics cannot be based on the field concept, i.e., on continuous structures"

- which could (and maybe should) take us back to HPL's "terrifying vistas of reality" - and for a good reason.

Ray D

> From: "Lawrie"

> Evidently HPL was sufficiently widely read in ancient
> myth 'n history to have more than an inkling of a
> phenomenon that is now well understood:

> So you are utterly on topic here Ray. This was one
> of Charles Fort's obsessions - the formerly chronic
> myopia of astronomers and the continuing ostrich
> mentality of humankind as a whole.

> There *is* a continent in the sky and it *is* due
> to fall on our heads.

> In fact we are staring down the barrel of the
> arrival in a few short centuries of many millions
> of tons of comet debris.  It is not far away
> - it is in a 3-year orbit around the Sun and our
> orbits intersect every 2500 - 3000 years.


> I'd like to know how members of this list deal with
> this issue. Who amongst us believe that:

> 1) this is nonsense, the skies are mostly empty and we
> are mostly safe
> OR:
> 2) this might be so but it is not worth worrying about
> OR:
> 3) the danger is real and it appears to explain
> stone circles, monolithic constructions and the fall
> of ancient civilizations

>> HPL and QM?
>> Posted by: "Ray D"

>> Seems that HPL was keeping up with developments
>> more than i'd thought.

>> Although his "Some day the piecing together
>> of dissociated knowledge will open up such
>> terrifying vistas of reality ... that we
>> shall either go mad from the revelation or
>> flee from the deadly light into the peace
>> and safety of a new dark age"

>> could be taken as science-based, it's
>> possible to read it otherwise.

>> BUt just recently found clearer ref in "He"

>> "To - my ancestor," he softly continued,
>> "there appeared to reside some very remarkable
>> qualities in the will of mankind; qualities
>> having a little-suspected dominance not only
>> over the acts of one's self and of others,
>> but over every variety of force and substance
>> in Nature, ..."

>> which is surely QM based - plus the screaming,
>> of course.

>> cheers

Human - Animal - Plant - Force-field?

Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2007 18:51:12 -0000
Subject: Re: Sheldrake

From: "Lajos B"

< It leads to reasoning along the line: there was a time when
< there was no time...

Feel that is the crux of arguments so far -
The word "time" is used for too many concepts and applications to be readily meaningful,  however `the passage of time' would seem to be intrinsic to the physical mechanism of our universe and is perhaps limited to our universe.  Therefore our universe might only be a small part (and maybe only a temporary part) of whatever might be external.

We cannot hope to see or measure an external so any speculation would be wasted effort,  but a rigorous application of probability statistics (an extension perhaps of Bell's Inequalities analysis as applied to Alain Aspects' `entanglement' experiments) might well prove the `limitation' or `enclosure' of our own universe, maybe even its `artificiality'.

Additionally, feel that [Rupert] Sheldrake's main thesis ref-01  is well-founded, in view of a mass of new (though presently disputed and sometimes ignored) findings in modern physics research - although he concentrates more on the emotional and `psychic' effects than on a basic physical cause or `force'.


Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2007 17:14:14 -0000
Subject: [SSE] Re: Sheldrake

Sheldrake's necessary field or force seems to carry a form of communication, more or less instantly, across arbitrary distance, between humans and animals and maybe between all living things, including plants.

Alain Aspect's quantum experiment, repeated many times by others, has been subjected to rigorous analysis (Bell's Inequalities - iron-hard `statistical probability') resulting in the conclusion that science must accept one of two alternatives to explain the results.  These alternatives have been summarized as -
i) there's a field or force that permits communication, more or less instantly, across arbitrary distance, between certain particles; [non-locality]
ii) there's no `cause and effect' in the Universe [non-causality]

The latter doesn't seem to apply in reality so we're left with two unknown forces doing the same thing.  For the sake of parsimony (scientific working principle of Occam) we can surely accept that it is likeliest that these forces are one and the same.

The `quantum entanglement' of all Earth life could well derive from the fact - as Carl Sagan stated - we all have the same ultimate ancestor,  so [Sagan] and an oak tree are made of the same `stuff'. ref-02

That leaves an open question - `Would the field operate between Us and non-Earth life?'


Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2007 01:30:56 -0000

Interesting point.  Think John D Barrow (or Penrose?) raised the question as to `why the _negative_ energy of a gravitational field around a body (a planet say) exactly matches / cancels out the _positive_ mass-energy of the body itself.

Well, if we accept a field enforcing mass and inertia on matter - which seems to be needed (yet this need is _not_ acknowledged by science just now) then it's obvious why the negative and positive energies match - they derive from the same source.  Which also solves the perennial puzzle - why inertial mass is exactly equal to gravitational mass.

By Occam, it seems that force could be the same as needed by Sheldrake, and ERP/Bell.

But, like you say, whether mass-energy equates to information needs to be experimentally pinned down.



Update - possible Past Impacts

Subject: Re: HPL and QM? Date: Wed, 12 Jul 2006 00:37:34 +0100

Further to Lawrie's Survey
Getting up-to date on those tree-ring & ice-core events - there's been a few additions (by Mike Baillie et al - see Table 1)
[Dates are approximate and estimated using different scales]

Acidity peaks over 4 microequivalents/Kg ice
210 BCE / 260
1120 BCE
1644 BCE
2345 BCE
3150 BCE
4400 BCE

Low growth events in Irish oaks
540 CE - (from Siberia through Europe and North and South America.)
207 BCE
1159 BCE
1628 BCE
2690 BCE
3195 BCE
4375 BCE
5060 BCE

So `something' seems to have been happening at irregular periods averaging to maybe every 6/700 - 1000 yrs.

Ray D

Sometime in 2007 read the `Egypt' item below - then saw other reports of identically dated effects


IMPACT - 2,200 BCE?    Fire - then Drought and Cold

A chilling account of Egypt c. 4,200 years ago - "all of Upper Egypt was dying of hunger to such a degree that everyone had come to eating their children" - Dismissed as exaggeration and fantasy by most other Egyptologists, Fekri was determined to prove the writings were true and accurate. He also had to find a culprit capable of producing such misery.

But no records existed for 2,200BC. Then came a breakthrough - a new discovery in the hills of neighbouring Israel. Mira Bar-Matthews of the Geological Survey of Israel had found a unique record of past climates, locked in the stalactites and stalagmites of a cave near Tel Aviv. What they show is a sudden and dramatic drop in rainfall, by 20%. It is the largest climate event in 5,000 years. And the date? 2,200 BC. (link)

note (Nov. 2007) - Seems that the `science' people just aren't joining-up the dots.  Here's a Spanish `burning-catastrophe' also from 4,200 yrs ago (link) - erroneously headlined by the BBC as "Eco-ruin 'felled early society'".

A more realistic interpretation adds Spain to that Egyptian account (above), of effects, not only in Egypt, but from "Indonesia to the Mediterranean, Greenland to North America".

I.e. today's (Nov. 2007) trendy scientists - in Spain - are wrong in thinking their local effects were due to "people ... setting fires to clear the forests".

A further search found a news item that might tie them all together - `Meteor clue to end of Middle East civilisations' (link).

And the date of the `strike'?

The article says - `more than 4,000 years ago' and then clarifies - `around 2300 BC', and further suggests it was probably part of a large - maybe earth-shaking - event: `craters recently found in Argentina date from around the same period - suggesting that the Earth may have been hit by a shower of large meteors at about the same time'.

note 2 (Nov. 2007) - A bit more delving finds - `New Evidence for Global Climate Disaster in 3rd Millennium BC ... Drought Felled Akkadian Empire' (link)

Here's some key points from a longish page-
`The abandonment began about 2200 B.C., as determined by carbon-14 dating of cereal grains. Soil samples from that time showed abundant fine, windblown dust and few signs of earthworm activity or the once-abundant rainfall. All this suggested that the people of Tell Leilan, and, presumably, its environs, retreated in the face of a suddenly dry and windy environment, triggering the collapse of the Akkadian empire's northern provinces.'
and -
`Walter Dean of the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver found three sharp peaks in the amount of dust that settled to the bottom of Elk Lake in Minnesota. Dust peaked at about 5800, 3800, and 2100 B.C., plus or minus 200 years, according to the counting of annual layers in the lake sediment. During the 2100 B.C. dust pulse, which lasted about a century, the lake received three times more dust each year than it did during the infamous Dust Bowl period in the U.S. in the 1930s.'
and even more -
`In another sign that the Mesopotamian drought was global, Lonnie G. Thompson of Ohio State University and his colleagues found a dust spike preserved in a Peruvian mountain glacier that marks "a major drought" in the Amazon Basin about 2200 B.C., give or take 200 years. It is by far the largest such event of the past 17,000 years.'

note: (August 2008) - just received additional evidence, from a correspondent, which initially takes us back to ancient Egypt (link).
"A team of scientists, led by Jean-Daniel Stanley of the Smithsonian Institution, has now substantiated this explanation, by analyzing sediments obtained from drilling the subsurface sediments of the Delta.  The geologists noticed a distinctly thin layer of reddish-brown silt dating between 2250 to 2050 B.C., coincident with the time of the collapse of the Old Kingdom.  The layer indicated that the delta floodplain dried up for a long period of time, allowing reddish-brown iron oxides to accumulate at the surface.  The scientists also detected a significant change in the ratio of strontium isotopes, which they interpret as evidence for a decline of rainfall in Ethiopia, the main source of Nile floods."
"The tie between low rainfall at the Nile's source and Faiyum Lake's receding levels and the Delta dryness is revealed by dry climatic conditions in Ethiopia and equatorial Africa during the period from 2200 to 2100 B.C.  For example, a conspicuous episode of aridity spans from about 2150 to 2100 B.C. in the high-resolution pollen sequences from Burundi, provided by Raymonde Bonnefille of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and his collaborators.  This dry episode is also apparent in Rwanda, the highlands of Uganda, Lake Victoria and Ethiopia.  In a study of diatoms from Lake Abhe in Ethiopia, French paleoclimatologist Françoise Gasse, also of CNRS, detected a very pronounced drop in lake level at the time of the First Intermediate Period.

The drought extended also to the African Sahel.  An investigation of the Lake Kajemarum Oasis and dune deposits in northeastern Nigeria revealed that a marked drying of climate and deterioration of vegetation commenced at 2150 B.C.  This change led to the formation of the present-day semi-arid landscape, due to a pronounced shift in atmospheric circulation with significant degradation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.  In addition, investigations at Lake Bosumtwi in Ghana reveal that the level of the lake fell in 2150 B.C., in response to arid conditions.

The 2200 B.C. climatic event was most likely due to severe cold spells more characteristic of an ice age than of the warmer conditions that prevailed before the event.  Ice cores from Greenland show a weak circulation over the Atlantic at that time, which is associated with a transition from birch and grassland vegetation to arctic conditions in Iceland in 2150 B.C.  This spell of severe cold caused a shift to a drier climate in southeastern Europe.

The impact of the cold phase was also felt farther afield in areas affected by the Intertropical Convergence Zone.  For example, dry conditions were observed in a record from Lake Sumxi in western Tibet in 2200 B.C.  In addition, a definite transition to a variable late Holocene climate occurred in 2100 B.C., as revealed by marine sediments off the southern coast of Chile.  This global event was also felt in the eastern Mediterranean, as indicated by a high-resolution study of deposits at Soreq Cave that revealed a massive reduction of 20 to 30 percent in rainfall at the time."

note added later: (October 2011) - Maybe someone's been reading this page?

"Scientists are now discovering that about 4,200 years ago, the Middle East was suddenly rocked by widespread drought - one that sent people fleeing an onslaught of hot wind and dust storms.  Drought-like conditions lasted for about 300 years.

Weiss claims that `4,200 years ago, there was an abrupt climate change, and abrupt drying, and abrupt deflection of the Mediterranean westerly winds that transport humid air into the eastern Mediterranean region.'  Rainfalls were reduced by somewhere between 30 and 50 percent." (link).

note added later: (from December 2012) - But other folk are still blinkered - and `politically correct'.

"A 200-year-long drought 4,200 years ago may have killed off the ancient Sumerian language, one geologist says.
Because no written accounts explicitly mention drought as the reason for the Sumerian demise, the conclusions rely on indirect clues. But several pieces of archaeological and geological evidence tie the gradual decline of the Sumerian civilization to a drought.

The findings, which were presented Monday (Dec. 3) here at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, show how vulnerable human society may be to climate change, including human-caused change." (link) - [here's text version - scroll for sarcastic note]

Aug '08
So, reading the facts accumulating since 2007, it shouldn't surprise us to find, say in DNA `bottle-neck' evidence, that there was a world-wide `dying-off', of plants, animals and humans - about 4,200 years ago?

Scary, and recalls an Earlier Impact , probably on Western Hemisphere - maybe c. 12,000 or 13,000 years ago [+/- 2Kyr]

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