Aliens Are Among Us And Available to Help Us and Our Planet

Aliens Are Among Us And Available to Help Us and Our Planet

I know some of my hypotheses sound rather extraordinary.
I may be a little weird, but I’d rather be weird and right than normal and wrong.
– Paul Stamets, scholar of ancient mycotechnology, owner of Fungi Perfecti

Paul Stamets is definitely not like you and me. He knows stuff. He knows how to clean up the land around Fukushima without burying millions of tons of contaminated dirt. He offered a method to clean up, naturally, the oil spill from Deep Horizon. Despite his proof, yes proof, no one in power took him seriously.

Frankly, after reading what I have about him, I would not be surprised if one day I learn that he has ways we can adapt to global warming and its inevitable consequences. (But not yet for that. Bear with me.)

This article is not about Stamets, but about the beings he cares about. You may think you know about these beings, but chances are you will be more than a little surprised.

When I was a kid (maybe when you were too) I was taught that everything could be divided into three categories: animal, vegetable or mineral. Everything we could think of fit into one of those three categories.

The beings I refer to are living things on our planet. Yet not animal, vegetable or mineral, by common definitions. These things may be more shocking, based on what they can do, than any you might have imagined. True, a few people have died over the years through contact with them, but the fault was with the ignorance of the people, not of the beings in question.

Note that these are not the vicious conquering type of aliens we have read about or seen in movies for decades in science fiction. They are about as friendly and helpful to humans as it’s possible to be.

I never could figure out why humans thought of aliens from other worlds as conquerors who would destroy us and what we know. Would we do that if we sent a ship through space to another inhabited planet? Would our astronauts be expected to destroy any life they may find on Mars in coming decades? No.

Before we get to the names, descriptions and modus operandi of these alien creatures, I want you to try to imagine what you think aliens might look like. The fact is, we have no idea. We don’t even know if we would recognize aliens as life forms if they did not conform to our sci-fi images. Remember, it was not that long ago that homo sapiens without white skin were considered to be subhuman, simpler life forms, with much lower intelligence than those with white skin. We really know very little about life of any kind.

Might an alien breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide? Ours do. At least some of them do. How would they move? On feet, hoofs, paws or flexible skin (think snakes), as we are familiar with? Ours don’t. They have roots, at least some of them. They spread or “re-seed” as some plants do. In fact, one being in the west of the USA is so large that it lives in the ground under four contiguous states. No other living thing we know is that large.

Would it have a brain? Almost certainly. At least something we might consider a brain. In fact, some of our beings contain pathways inside that, under a microscope, look very similar to pathways of the human brain. Hmmm.

Might they engage in agriculture? Some of our creatures are known to feed trees, from which they later gain nutrients for themselves. In fact, evidence suggests that they have been known to provide extra nutrients for young trees that are suffering because they can’t get enough sunlight because other nearby taller trees are blocking light from reaching them.

Might they create chlorophyll, as plants do? Ours don’t. In fact, they might consume dying plants (as we do) to extract chlorophyll and other nutrients from them. Keep in mind that all life forms we know consume other life forms to continue their existence–every single one of them.

Some of our aliens live in a symbiotic relationship with plant life we are more familiar with. Some live in a symbiotic relationship with animal life we are familiar with.

You may even have some of our alien life forms in your refrigerator. In fact, health aficionados recommend them highly as extremely beneficial for your health. Not long ago they were considered junk, not worth eating, parasites to the plant world. How our thinking changes as we learn more.

Enough with the teasing. The aliens in your refrigerator are mushrooms. The dangerous ones are called toadstools. Both are fungi, a huge group now considered to be a Kingdom (like animals and vegetables) of their own. When you look at a mushroom in the ground, what you see is the fruit, what you eat is the fruit of the organism.

Fungi are now known to comprise an enormous Kingdom with some 1.5 million members. Among the more familiar ones are yeasts and molds. Yes, they do breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, like animals. Yes, some do have neural systems that look similar to that of human brains. They are subject to many of the same diseases as animals. Like animals, who lack the ability to make chlorophyll and to photosynthesize, they eat other forms of life.

Fungi are a diverse Kingdom. Some, such as yeast, are single cells. Others, like molds, are multicellular. And, yes, the largest known living being is under four states in the western USA. But don’t plan a vacation to see it, it is underground. It feeds trees and it feeds off trees. Strange, huh? Kind of….alien.

If humans did the same sorts of things as some fungi, they would be said to be farming, acting in sympathetic or even empathetic ways to other beings, possibly altruistic. As it is, most people think of fungi as some kinds of strange plants.

To conclude, let’s look at several ways in which fungi could help us to save our planet.

People have made use of fungi for thousands of years. Ötzi, the famous 5000 year old “Ice Man” whose body was discovered a few years ago, carried amadou with him. The spongy inner layer of the horse hoof fungus, amadou has been used for everything from making clothing (it feels and is worn like felt, and is as warm), as tinder for starting fires, for dressing wounds because of its antimicrobial properties, and for preserving foods.

Amadou is the first medicinal ever recorded. Hippocrates (he who created the Hippocratic oath, sworn by new medical doctors– basically: first, do no harm) recorded it in 450 BCE as an anti-inflammatory. Of course you would not likely see it for sale today because it is available naturally on every continent and cheap to make (thus making it of no interest to drug manufacturers).

Agriculture

Soil could be enhanced with mycorrhizal fungi which would eliminate the need for toxic chemical fertilizers while improving crop yields.

Biofuels

Biodiesel made from mushrooms would require less soil and other resources than crops used at present. And mushrooms grow fast.

Environmental Cleanup

Petrochemicals and radiation could be removed from contaminated soil and water as mushrooms can break them down and absorb them. Slimy spike-cap mushrooms gobble up radioactive cesium-137, for example. Mushrooms will not harm the environment, rather they improve it. They would improve soil formerly contaminated with glyphosate.

Wastewater Filtration

Mushrooms could be used to clean runoff from storm drains, farms, logging roads or contamination from mines.

Pesticides

Select fungi could be used to kill off certain species of pests while remaining safe for others and not harming the ground in which they are grown.

Medicines

Carefully selected mushrooms could be used to make new antibiotics, antivirals, immune-boosting compounds and even chemotherapies. Agarikon mushrooms, for example, could be used to protect against bird flu, swine flu, even smallpox.

Forestry

Mushrooms could be used to symbiotically enhance growth of new forests or reforestation of clear-cut land. They help trees grow and, in turn, gain nutrients from the same trees.

Famine Relief

Mushrooms grow quickly, provide many essential nutrients and grow in almost any environment. They could be used to provide quick and fresh relief in disaster zones and refugee camps using just wood chips or saltwater-soaked straw as a starting medium.

Space Travel

Mushrooms could be used not only as freshly-grown food for space travelers, but also as materials for terraforming on new planets due to their ability to create new soil relatively quickly.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book of solutions for problems that affect every family and every community, but almost everyone believes they are simply consequences of modern society.

Learn more at http://billallin.com

[Primary Resource: “Mushroom Manifesto”, by Kenneth Miller, Discover, July/August 2013]

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The Myths Surrounding Alien Life Forms

The Myths Surrounding Alien Life Forms

Bookmaker Paddy Power is offering odds of 16-1 that the existence of extraterrestrial life will be confirmed this year.
Maggie Aderin-Pocock, There IS life out there: Space scientist says there could be four intelligent alien civilisations in our galaxy, Mirror News, 2 July 2012

Note the dates: “confirmed this year” and “July 2012”. Apparently bookmakers know little more about extraterrestrial (aka alien) life as the scientists who study the cosmos looking for it. That’s not much.

Let’s put a little perspective into this. Scientists who believe they know about such things as life on earth claim that the chances of life happening on a chunk of rock at just the right distance from a relatively small and remote star as our sun would be about the same as you or I winning a big lottery each and every day in the coming year.

They would be primarily biologists and others who have studied the intricacies of life on earth and its relationship with the respective environments of each. The odds against us being the way we are seem staggering.

Over on the physics side of science we have those who look at where earth is relative to the rest of the Milky Way galaxy and the universe and say there must be countless planets similar to ours. They conclude that the components that are necessary to generate living things (call them chemicals) exist in abundance in the universe, so there must be thousands, even millions, of planets like ours with life already growing and evolving.

With odds like those, it’s no wonder bookies can offer grand looking odds to those who believe they have a decent chance of winning a big lottery.

Scientists claim that it’s likely that life on another planet somewhere must be more evolved than we are, thus they have figured out how to travel astronomical distances (literally) in a relatively short period of time. They never explain why this could have happened faster elsewhere than it did on earth. Nor how the aliens could have found us amongst billions off possible locations.

Light from the nearest star system to earth takes over four years to reach earth. Scientists have not even imagined a way to travel faster than a tiny fraction of the speed of light. Indeed, most still believe Einstein’s claim that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Even at the speed of light, the stressors on life forms inside a vessel would likely be greater than their bodies could withstand.

Meanwhile science fiction writers have so influenced real scientists that the latter now believe that alien life forms coming to earth will want to destroy it, or at least turn humans into slaves. They never explain how a few alien life forms would manage to conquer and overcome an entire planet. Or why, as they would not come in massive numbers as they would only be explorers and adventurers anyway.

We know that distances between earth and other planets that could be somewhat like earth are so great that it would require propulsion systems far advanced of anything science could conceive of today in order to make such a trip in fewer than several successive lifetimes.

Think about that for a moment. Would you send your astronaut son or daughter into space knowing they would (could) never return and that their children and grandchildren and even generations beyond that would be born and live their entire lifetimes on a vessel moving through uncharted space? Never to set foot on land. That doesn’t make sense.

If one of our space vessels made it, over several generations of humans, to a distant planet that could sustain life, what are the chances that the vessel could turn around and make the trip back to earth without a problem that would destroy it? Remember, two of those very dependable American shuttlecraft were destroyed right here on our own planet.

Protection against space debris, wandering space litter such as rogue asteroids and radiation science has not even discovered yet–to say nothing of living in cramped quarters for decades at a time, with resulting muscle atrophy–would present problems beyond what science today can address with confidence.

Other small questions should enter the picture. We know that unmanned space vessels are the way to go when exploring beyond our own atmosphere, so why would an alien vessel travel with a complete crew (including earth-shattering weaponry) for generations, only to return home generations later to say “Hey, we found one!”?

If we were to send out an exploration vessel today, which direction should we go? Science has no evidence from decades of watching and listening to space that suggests there could be life anywhere else in the universe. A “shot in the dark” would have a much greater possibility for success than a probe with no known or prescribed destination.

We have sent out messages into space and listened for incoming messages for decades, but heard nothing. The SETI (Search  for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) had to be shut down after decades of searching for lack of evidence of any kind.

This is not to say that there is no life out there, be it microscopic or even more advanced that we are on earth. It is to say that the effort may not be worth the cost, at least at this point.

In other words, finding a distant planet to which we could send a sampling of life from earth, in order to preserve what we have today, will not likely be feasible in the foreseeable future. Maybe never, as the universe itself is expanding at a horrendous rate, making everything in it farther apart.

We had better get busy cleaning up our own backyard before we have nothing left to send out into space in order to preserve life as we know it.

We allow some 300,000 chemicals to be poured into our waterways from factories and half a million chemicals to be whooshed into the air from smokestacks. We know very little about what effects they have on life right here on our planet. Yet our governments and our industries want us to worry about the temperature of our atmosphere warming by half a degree.

Of course industries want us to be concerned over global warming, it will take our attention away from the countless chemicals they put into our food, our medicines and our vaccines (dozens of which are now given to very young children, by law, with no evidence of their effectiveness or their long term effects on health, but an increasing body of evidence telling us they do more harm than good).

If you were an intelligent species that had travelled for hundreds of years through space, would you want to adopt homo sapiens as slaves?

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents, teachers and governments who want to make the future of our planet livable.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

It’s About Time: What You Don’t Know But Should

It’s About Time: What You Don’t Know But Should

Humans invented the concept of time. It didn’t exist, in the way we know time, before we came along. No other creatures on the planet have the same concept of time as we do. Or, if it did exist, who would know?

Is time real or imaginary? Einstein considered it real, counted it as a component of what he called the fourth dimension, space-time. Space-time figured prominently in projections based on his theory of relativity.

But so did gravity and some physicists (albeit far from a majority) wonder now if gravity is everything Einstein says it is. For example, where is all that Dark Matter that supposedly comprises far more of the universe than the matter we can detect? For that matter (excuse the pun, I couldn’t resist), where is all the “real” matter that should exist but we’re having difficulty finding since we became aware of the Big Bang and developed big telescopes? University of Maryland astronomer Stacy McGaugh’s study shows that many galaxies have much less matter than should be there to account for their gravitational pull.

If gravity is not what Einstein said it is, then that messes up our concept of time. So does the average U.S. city commuter really lose 38 hours a year to traffic delays or is that just imagined? The answer (you’re not going to like this, I didn’t) is that most of what we believe about our lives is based on how we perceive it (what we imagine it to be) more than on reality. (Okay, I wouldn’t have time to explain that even if I could.)

After nearly a century of using Daylight Saving Time (DST), we still aren’t sure why we use it. Benjamin Franklin introduced it as a joke. He said that if we got up an hour earlier each morning we could get an hour’s more work done in daylight and save candles in the evening. The U.K. adopted DST in 1917, most of the rest of the world followed. (Personally, I can’t see sleeping through daylight in the early morning hours in summer when that’s often the best time to work outside. The mosquitoes in our area agree.)

Daylight Saving Time accounts for a drop in electricity use. The U.S. Department of Energy claims power demand drops by 0.5 percent during DST, saving three million barrels of oil in the U.S. alone.

By the way, it’s not Daylight Savings Time. It’s Saving. Savings is an account you have at the bank. That is, you would if you had any money to keep in it.

One study watched how quickly bank tellers made change, pedestrians walked and mail clerks spoke and concluded that the fastest paced U.S. cities are Boston, Buffalo and New York. (As an aside, I have often wondered if rats are insulted when we refer to the fast paced life of humans in cities as the Rat Race. If so, they had better get over it because half the population of the world lives in cities today, most in big cities.)

The psychologist who did that study found the slowest paced cities were Shreveport, Sacramento and Los Angeles. (Nothing in the report about the pace of life of rats in those cities.)

Back in the old days one second used to be defined as 1/86,400 the length of a day. (We’ll pause here while you fetch your calculator if you like.) A second can still be defined that way, but it will be a longer second. The friction of tides as a result of gravity by the sun and moon slow earth’s travel, lengthening our day by three milliseconds each century. (Feel free to think of it as “mutual attraction” not gravity if my previous statements made you uncomfortable with that word.)

Let’s put that into perspective. In the time of the dinosaurs the day was only 23 of our hours long. (You don’t suppose they had a dinosaur version of Rodent Race that caused the dinos to die off.)

Speaking of things that slow earth’s rotation, even the weather can do it. El Niño winds can cause earth’s rotation to slow by a fraction of a millisecond over just 24 hours.

Technology can do better than that. In 1972 atomic clocks in more than 50 countries were made the final authority on matters of time. They’re so accurate that they lose about a second in 31.7 million years. But in 31.7 million years our day will be a half hour longer, so won’t all our atomic clocks be wrong?

Actually, no. To keep the clocks in synch with earth’s rotation we now add a “leap second” every few years. The most recent leap second was added this past New Year’s Eve. (I thought 2009 seemed longer for some reason.)

One clock does even better than the network of atomic clocks. The clock at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in Boulder, Colorado, measures the vibrations of a single atom of Mercury and is accurate to less than one second of loss in one billion years. (Who knew an atom of mercury could shiver that long?)

We think of timekeeping as standard now. In fact we call it Standard Time. Until the age of trains that had to meet set schedules in the 1800s, every village had its own version of standard time. They used solar noon in their respective areas. As odd as it seems now, a few watches were made in those days of confused standard times for trains that kept track of two times, one the local standard time and the other “railway time.”

The U.K. adopted Standard Time first through an act of Parliament. The U.S. came on board on November 18, 1883. Some people speculate that the adoption of Standard Time may have prompted Einstein to think about how space and time might be united in his theory of relativity.

Einstein said that gravity affects the passage of time. So a passenger in an airplane, flying where gravity is weaker, would age a few nanoseconds more than a person who kept his feet on the ground.

Quantum theory claims that the shortest possible period of time (known as Planck time after the German physicist whose work began the whole study of quantum theory) is 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 second.

Most scientists today believe that time as we know it began with the Big Bang, created with the rest of the universe 13.7 billion years ago. If you care, stay tuned because that belief could change any time now.

Will time ever end? Three Spanish scientists claim it will. They say our expanding universe is not really expanding at all. Rather time is slowing down, making it seem to us as if the universe is expanding. According to their calculations, time will eventually stop, at which point everything we know will stop as well. (I was going to calculate when that would be, but I don’t have time.)

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want their children to develop all aspects of their lives at the right time.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

[Primary source: Discover, March 2009]

Fascinating Stuff About Time

Fascinating Stuff About Time

It’s about time! Or is it?

What is time anyway? Isn’t it just something we humans invented? A second used to be defined as 1/86,400 the length of a day. As greater accuracy was needed, that method was dropped. Earth doesn’t always take exactly the same length of time to rotate once on its axis.

Tidal friction as influenced by the sun and the moon affect earth’s rotation time. As earth is closer or farther away from the sun (it varies by two million miles–3.2 million km–from us from winter to summer), the sun influences our planet differently. In fact, the influence of the sun is not just a fluctuation back and forth. The length of an earth day increases by three milliseconds each century.

Not much you say? In the time of the dinosaurs, earth would have taken 23 of what we call hours to rotate on its axis. That’s not like setting your clocks back an hour in autumn as daylight saving time ends. That’s sunup to sunup every day, 23 hours.

Even weather can change earth’s rotation slightly. When El Niño years take place, strong winds alone can slow earth’s rotation by a fraction of a millisecond each day. If that doesn’t sound like much of a change, remember that it’s nothing more than wind blowing over the surface of our large planet that slows its rotation.

Philosophers and physicists (at least some of each) debate among themselves as to whether or not time actually exists. One school of thought in philosophy says that time doesn’t exist at all, that each “moment” in our lives is like a snapshot instance that comes with memories of a past, sensations of a present and anticipation of a future. Some say we live only in once instance, ever, while others say life is like a flipbook of life instances and no one knows how fast the book flips (we just made up seconds, minutes, hours and so on to satisfy ourselves).

Some physicists speculate that time comes out of some reality even more basic. And timeless.

How sure are you about the length of a second or a minute? In A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams claimed that “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.” Most scientists today believe that time was created with the Big Bang, some 13.7 billion years ago. They decline to speculate on time before the Big Bang because that’s too “outside the box.”

Astronauts and Cosmonauts age differently from those of us on earth when they are in space. According to Albert Einstein, time slows the faster you travel. As you approach the speed of light, time almost stops. Because the space station people travel around earth faster than we do on the surface, time passes slower for them and they age slower as a result. Or do they age faster in space? (See below.)

As a large part of work on space and the cosmos depends on Einstein’s theory of relativity, which uses space and time as its basis, scientists really hope that time exists. At the moment, the space part of the theory seems to be considered differently. Space is no longer considered an empty void, but is filled with dark matter and something else. What is visible in space comprises only four percent of what is out there, according to recent studies.

You have likely heard that the universe is expanding at an increasingly faster rate. No one can explain that reasonably, so dark energy was devised as a theory to explain why the universe that should have been coming back together by now is spreading out faster. Does that mean that time should be slowing or speeding up for us if we are part of what is moving away from the central core of the universe at an increasingly faster rate? Science isn’t clear on that.

Three Spanish scientists claim the expanding universe is a myth. They say that time is actually slowing, thus measurements that show the universe expanding fast seem longer when it is in fact not at all. According to their mathematics (it’s all very formal, not just idle speculation), time will eventually come to a dead stop and everything will stop dead as well. (If that time comes, we had better have some good memories to count on.)

Getting back to something more understandable about time, a study recently calculated that a commuter in a U.S. city loses about 38 hours a year of his or her life waiting in traffic delays.

Have you read about people speculating as to why clocks get changed for daylight saving time each year, most claiming how foolish it is? As the story goes, the practice began as a joke by Benjamin Franklin. He said that people should wake up earlier on summer mornings so they could get more work done during daylight hours and burn fewer candles at night. The U.K. instituted daylight saving time first in 1917, then it spread across the globe.

The U.S. Department of Energy claims that power usage drops by 0.5 percent during DST, saving the equivalent of close to three million barrels of oil.

Where is the rat race fastest, the places where the pace of life is faster than most others? Psychologists in the U.S. studied how quickly bank tellers made change, how fast pedestrians walked and the speed that postal workers spoke and found that the three cities where life is the fastest in the U.S. are Boston, Buffalo and New York. The slowest three are Shreveport, Sacramento and L.A.

In 1972, with technology of the day demanding greater accuracy for timing, more than 50 countries agreed on an international time system that was so accurate that it would lose only one second in 31.7 million years. The world’s most accurate clock today is in Colorado, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It measures vibrations of a single atom of mercury. The clock will not lose as much as one second in one billion years.

As noted above, the earth’s rotation is not so accurate, in fact it’s slowing down. Every few years international time systems must add a “leap second” to the year in order that the solstices and equinoxes remain around the same dates. The last year a leap second was added was 2008 (2008 was one second longer than most years, the additional second being added on New Year’s Eve).

When train travel became common in the 19th century, schedules had to be kept. As each community tended to have its own timekeeping system, there were usually two kinds of time–local time and railway time. Because this was too confusing, American railway systems forced the adoption of a national system of standardized time, in 1883. The forced synchronizing of timekeeping systems may have inspired Einstein’s thinking about relativity.

Einstein said that gravity slows the passage of time, so the less gravity influence you experience the slower time passes and the slower you age. That means that airplane passengers at high altitudes and people on the international space station, experiencing less gravity than those of us on the surface, should age faster by a few nanoseconds each day.

According to quantum physics, the shortest possible period of time should be 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 second.

Which reminds, me, I don’t have time to write more about this.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want to know the right times to act with their children to make their teaching conform with the developmental needs of the kids. School curriculum rarely conforms.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

[Primary source: Discover, March, 2009]

It’s About time

 For most of human history since the dawn of the agrarian age (about 12,000 years ago) our ancestors looked outside their homes in the morning, checked the sky and thought OK, I can do this task today (or I can’t because the weather’s not right). Though they had sundials and clocks existed in some places, most people told the time by the sun, or by the fact that they were hungry. And checking the weather meant looking up.

Today many of us check the weather forecast first thing after we put the morning coffee on, even though the chance of weather preventing us from doing most of the task we want to accomplish in a day is very small. We check the weather as if it might affect our whole future.

Time surrounds us, with clocks in every room and watches on our wrists. Though a few of us can still tell the time of day within a few minutes by the location of the sun, most of us don’t have to look up to tell the time because we have checked a clock or our watch within a previous few minutes.

Time is so important to us that we speak of life ticking away, of each succeeding year seeming to be shorter, of our personal schedule (daytimer or PDA) being what keeps us on track to get done everything we have planned. We even have pithy saying such as “Time is money” that encourages us to avoid wasting time.

According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, we use the word “time” more than any other noun in the language. “Year” holds third place, with “day” coming in fifth and “week” seventh.

Although we invented the concept of time (no other living thing uses our system of timekeeping), it’s not really a fixed thing. An hour spent waiting in a doctor’s waiting room seems endless, whereas an hour spent enjoying the company of a loved one passes like lightning. In one experiment at UCLA, researchers rang a bell after test subjects had sat in silence for 53 seconds. Healthy-brained people thought that 67 seconds had passed, while those who were wired on stimulants such as caffeine thought that 91 seconds had elapsed.

In another experiment, the researchers found that people with a healthy brain who stared at a photo of an angry person for five seconds thought that more time had passed than if they looked at a picture of a neutral face.

Psychology Today reports that nostalgia–remembering times past–may be healthy. Reliving pleasant, happy or exciting events of the past can give our spirits a lift. Loyola University Chicago researchers found that thinking of good memories for 20 minutes a day can make people more cheerful and happier than if they think of their present lives. Most people don’t indulge in such reverie. They don’t have time.

Our media do everything they can to make us unhappy, even depressed about the condition of our lives and the state of the world in present times. Television news almost always reports bad news. Can you remember a newspaper ever reporting that we are living in good times? Newspapers always tell us that some times in the past were better–indeed, were good times–but never that the present times are good and rarely that the future will be better. The media thrive on presenting items that, if taken out of the context of the rest of our lives, would be depressing.

Alas, nostalgia for the good times of the past deceives us. The past was never better, in total. The present is never as bad as it seems, unless we persist in focussing on the negative parts of reality while ignoring the good parts. What we persist in seeing in the present is what we believe is the condition of our life and of the world in the present. If we believe the dark news the media presents, we will believe that the world is getting worse. Despite the evidence that the world today is a much better and healthier place than it has been for humans ever before.

Can we slow down the pace of our life? According to author James Gleick in his book Faster, “The historical record shows that humans have never, ever opted for slower.” However, that claim is deceptive. Humans of the past had little option in most cases to slow down the pace of their lives because they spent almost every waking moment trying to earn a living to support a family (or to provide for one at home) and to survive the hardships of life as it was in their time. Today most of us spend time entertaining ourselves, though we claim to not have enough time to do it justice.

Our ancestors, in most cases, could not afford to slow down. We can. Much of the rush of our lives exists because we have adopted so many interests and responsibilities, often more than we can manage comfortably. If we give up those activities and responsibilities we have adopted because we believed someone else’s claim that they made life better, more interesting, more worthwhile, we could devote ourselves to actually making our lives more rewarding.

Is it necessary that we commit so much of our life to time-oriented pursuits? We invented time and we invented the belief that time is critically important, that being late is a grievous mismanagement of time, that procrastination is bad and that so much of our time must be filled with doing something that we believe our own creations.

We should each rethink our commitment to a lifestyle oriented around time. We can’t avoid some things related to time, such as our jobs. We can consider how devoted we must be to living a lifestyle proposed for us by people who have something to gain (usually a financial one) by having us centre our life around time.

For one thing, getting enough sleep is important to how we view the world and the life we live. So many people deprive themselves of so much sleep over a long period of time that they suffer from some symptoms of sleep deprivation. Those symptoms ensure that we can never be truly happy about our life. Get a good night’s sleep every night and the world seems like a much better and more manageable place each morning.

Take the time. If the world and your life looks better as a result, it was worth the investment.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow children who have a balanced view of the important things in life, who don’t want to provide more entrants for the rat race.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

What Are The Limits Of Possibility?

The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.
– Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction novelist (1917-2008)

It wasn’t possible for humans to fly, with or without wings. Perhaps the greatest genius of all time–certainly the greatest polymath of all time–Leonardo da Vinci designed a few flying machines, but none proved workable. Now people can “walk” in space, move through air with jet-power packs strapped to their backs, and even travel in airplanes, snoozing and dining at their leisure.

It wasn’t possible to see past that glass ceiling known to astronomers from ancient times as the visible heavens. Now telescopes allow astronomers to see light that began its travel up to 13 billion years ago, in places we can’t even imagine.

It wasn’t possible to speak with someone who was not within shouting distance from you, unless you used a drum whose beat could be heard a little farther away. Now I can use my cell phone from a seat in my boat to speak by phone with someone who lives on the opposite side of our planet. People in desert communities speak with others in desert communities or on mountain tops by satellite phone.

What’s possible? Does it indeed have any value to claim that something is impossible?

Judging by what has developed out of impossibilities of the past into possibilities of today, we would not be on certain ground to state categorically that anything is impossible. The question should not be “What is possible?” or “What is impossible?” but “What do we want to do and how can we do it?” Asking the question “How can we do it?” opens the gateway to previously unimagined possibilities.

What purpose is served by claiming that something is impossible? Believe it or not, it has some value. It serves as motivation for those with vision beyond the immediate to show that the “impossible” really is possible. I used to be functionally illiterate, going back about 20 years. This article will be read by people on six continents today. As a middle-aged adult, I learned to read and write. Some say that’s impossible, or nearly so.

Don’t rule out anything.

Can anyone prove that God exists? Likely not. Can anyone experience God? Definitely. But the people who have experienced God have little real interest in proving what they have experienced to doubters and naysayers. God doesn’t proselytize. Neither do those who know him.

Are there bigger questions than that?

Possibly.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want their children to have the best possible advantages in life as they approach adulthood. And for people who want to know what they missed in childhood so they can experience it as adults.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

Just How Dumb Can We Get?

Ours is the age that is proud of machines that think and suspicious of men who try to.
– H. Mumford Jones, US critic & educator (1892 – 1980)

Not just your age Mumford, the present one as well.

Many people have an odd fascination with machines with Artificial Intelligence (AI). Two generations ago the most popular Christmas gifts for girls were talking dolls. A generation ago people flocked to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey to hear the computer Hal conduct conversations with the spacecraft’s crew members. The Star Wars franchise brought R2D2 and C3PO (a near-android) and audiences loved them.

Today people scoop up for gifts anything automated, including video games and toys with robotic capabilities. A programmable cordless vacuum cleaner that looks like a shortened curling stone and gathers floor litter without human hands operating it is another immensely popular gift. Sony’s walking robot remains an expensive dream for most kids.

So popular are automated things, especially those that use computers or computerized chips are their hearts that Microsoft is about to launch a new all-encompassing operating system that will tie together the computerized systems in many different household appliances, some of which have not yet been released to the marketplace.

We look forward to the day when our computers and computerized robots do some of our thinking for us. Are we not afraid that they will eventually replace us and become effectively the heads of our households? Though we should, apparently we do not have such a fear.

We believe that technology will not only make our lives easier, but it will also prevent itself from taking control of our lives. Arthur C. Clarke, the British science fiction writer and co-author of 2001 (with director Stanley Kubrick), warned us with Hal, but the lesson didn’t stick. If anything, Hal (a metal box with an actor’s voice-over) prompted even more research into AI and its uses to assist humans in their daily chores.

The modern world population, those who have easy and constant access to the Information Highway which gives us more information that we can absorb, has become essentially a race of stupid animals. As writer Stephen Vizinczey said, “We now have a whole culture based on the assumption that people know nothing and so anything can be said to them.” Yet that culture wants machines that can think. think for them, we must assume.

Are we really stupid? The so-called post-modern world requires expertise in many fields, which in turn requires our best educated people to specialize in one field of study so intensively that they know less about most subjects than a high school dropout. We don’t repair anything broken any more, we buy a new one. We don’t fix broken equipment in our homes because we don’t know how. We toss it and buy new.

We hope for casual conversations with colleagues because strangers might want to talk on subjects we know nothing about. Small talk about nothing of significance has risen to an art form.

We pollute our air with half a million chemicals, warming it unnecessarily with coal-fired electricity generating stations, drive huge SUVs that emit many times as much CO2 as smaller cars, and we drive as much as we can our vehicles that use fossil fuels rather than putting pressure on science to deliver alternative energy sources. And we know we are doing it. That’s stupid.

But, as H. Mumford Jones said, we are suspicious of those who think, speak or write along any train of thought that differs from what our politicians, our industries and our pop scientists tell us is the right way to think. In fact, we often socially ostracize such people, cause them to lose their jobs or find ways to imprison them or otherwise silence them.

Perhaps we need Artificial Intelligence to compensate for the lack of intelligence we exhibit ourselves, in our personal and our public lives. Though our public lives are getting smaller as we turn our civic responsibilities over to politicians and their agencies, even to the extent of staying away from the polls on voting days.

Before you go thinking that I believe we are bound for hell in a handbasket or are dumbing ourselves down to the intelligence level of dirt, remember, we will soon be able to have transplants of brain tissue, whole brains or artificial brains.

We’ll know it has already begun when we find a revival of the name Hal for newly born babies. Or C3PO.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want their children to be able to think as adults, including the tools, resources and plan to make it happen.
Learn more at http://billallin.com