The Incessant Cacophony

Imagine for a minute that you are an alien being, an intelligent species from somewhere out there in the universe, somewhere far, far, away, from a very distant galaxy.

Imagine that you are the alien being searching for signs of life in the universe, listening to patterns in the radio waves that whiz past all around you. You are capable of recognizing not just emissions from point sources, but also all the kinds of signaling that exist in the universe, both simple and sophisticated. You can certainly recognize all the simple forms of signaling invented on Planet Earth.

Imagine that one day you hear something from a very, very, distant source that seems to make sense to you. Somebody is trying to send some “information” to you about itself. And you are curious….

You focus more of your resources on tracking this new source of “information”, and you are able to pick the fainter signals emitted from this source. You begin to separate the many signals and the patterns in them. And you recognize that there are many, many, different kinds of signals, at widely varying signal strengths, being emitted. And embedded in these various signals are many different kinds of information coded in many different ways.  This information seems to be more sophisticated than what you first detected from this source.  Since you have zoomed in, you realize that information sources are clustered around a central location which seems to be generating most of what is being sent out into space. But there are also emissions from the space surrounding this central location, and the intensity of the emissions is  reducing gradually with distance from the central source.  Indeed, there seems to be some form of “communications” going on between the central source and the surrounding space.

And, you, the alien being, get even more curious. You find a way to focus even more of your resources on this source to find out what is going on. All of sudden, you are hearing a cacophony of signals that are getting more and more difficult to make sense of. The signals are in all kinds of frequencies and at varying signal levels, and the ones you can extract from this cacophony are of many different kinds. A lot of it is difficult to make sense of even when decoded.  There could be a lot of communications going on within the source, but it all seems so random.  It seems like chaos.  It seems like a mess. And, the intelligent creature that you are, you wonder what is going on. This source is generating a whole lot of what seems to be noise. Is it some form of pollution?  How is this being generated?  Is there a purpose? How much of the energy of the source is being used generating all of this noise?

And, perhaps, intelligent being that you are, you are concerned. This seems to be pointless, and maybe even self-destructive. Is the planet radioactive? Where is all the energy coming from, all to be expended into nothingness?  All of this cannot be sustained for too long a long time. What is going on?  What is the point?  Is there a purpose?

The Sun Sets Upside Down In The Morning

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I woke up early today.  I had been planning to drive to Forest Park for an early morning run. I peered out between the blinds of the 7th floor apartment and noticed that the sun was beginning to rise on the other side of the Mississippi.  I reached for my camera.  Little did I realize that I would be looking at the sun temporarily setting upside down between the clouds!

The Downgrading of Nature in a Dictionary

I was stunned when I first read about this. A note about what had happened was in a book that I have just finished about America’s National Parks.  I found confirmation of the facts on the Snopes website.

via Dictionary Drama

I felt a little better after getting a better context for the bigger picture.  Nevertheless,  I feel a little sad about this, and I would also argue that what is going on may not necessarily be a good thing. There are other more important people who also seem to feel the same way.

The Sideways Elevator of the Future Is Here, and It’s Wild | WIRED

The system uses magnetic levitation. It can be more efficient than a system of conventional elevators, not primarily because of speed, but because of the ability to move units across shafts and stack them when needed.

via The Sideways Elevator of the Future Is Here, and It’s Wild | WIRED

The Alligator And The Turtle

It was a very curious scene indeed!  We came upon it during our vacation down south in  the South Carolina Lowcountry, on Hilton Head Island, along the eastern shore of the US.  It is an area of great natural beauty, of woods and waterways, and of human habitation that tends to blend in with the surroundings.  The thick vegetation, and especially the old oak trees with the Spanish moss hanging off the branches, gives the place a unique look and atmosphere (especially in the fog).  Birds of different kinds, including egrets, herons and cormorants, abound. The squirrels are constantly creating a racket and startle you as you walk through the neighborhood.  It is a good place for a vacation.

Soon after our arrival we learned that alligators were quite common in this area.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving come from parts of the country where alligators are not a common sight, the opportunity to see a real live gator in its natural surroundings was something special to be hoped for and anticipated.  During the early days of our stay we did see a few of them with their heads and noses sticking out the water, but it was only towards the end of the trip that we got a good view of them out of the water.  (There are a couple of related pictures in my earlier blog about our vacation.)    But the big surprise was on the day before we departed the island, when we came upon this large alligator sunning itself on the shore on the other side of a canal.  Perhaps you did not notice it or pay attention to it when you chanced upon the relevant picture in my blog about our vacation, but there was a big turtle sitting next to the head of the alligator.

You have to picture the scene, where these two very dissimilar creatures are next to each other, and nothing is moving except for perhaps the head of the turtle that is turned to look at the disturbance that we are causing from the far shoreline.  The gator can perhaps see what is going on without moving its head.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is this huge gator that in my imagination (and to my limited knowledge) looks like an old male.  Here is this big turtle (which may be a yellow bellied slider) sitting next to it. Nobody is moving.  It is quiet. It is a very peaceful scene.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe human imagination wants to believe that these two creatures are two old and wise friends who are simply hanging out with each other.  But alligators can also eat turtles.  They are capable of cracking the turtle shells.

The experts tell us that these creatures are not capable of thinking the way human beings do.  I am sure people who study these particular creatures more closely have a logical explanation for the scene that was playing out before our eyes.  Indeed, for all we know, such a scene may not be uncommon to the locals. But for those of us who are less informed, we will have to use our imagination. The turtle and the gator must simply be good old friends. It is really a moment of magic that defies our natural instinct based on what we have been taught all our lives. Indeed, for some us, the opportunity to simply see an alligator in its natural surroundings is in itself a magical moment!