Searching for contentment
This is what fascinates me most in existence:
the peculiar necessity of imagining what is, in fact, real.
– Philip Gourevitch
epigraph to Blindsight by Peter Watts⩘
The basic problem
is that one believes that everything is real,
and thus everything is treated as such.
– Kalu Rinpoche
The psychology of misinformation
An insightful look at the psychological factors linked to believing in misinformation.
What to do about it? Corrections/fact-checks work! Crowdsourcing can help identify misinformation at scale. Nudging people to think about accuracy can lead them to improve the quality of what they share.
Professor David Rand, The psychology of misinformation⩘ , Jan 21, 2022; David Rand is the Erwin H. Schell Professor and Professor of Management Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, the director of the Applied Cooperation Team, and an affiliate of the MIT Institute of Data, Systems, and Society, and the Initiative on the Digital Economy.
Living in the Rockies
Yesterday, we had some very strange weather. Although the temps hovered between 20 - 25 F the entire day, it also was foggy and misting all day long. I guess the temps were warmer higher up? By evening, everything was more slippery than I've ever experienced before in the 20+ years we've lived here. Even the gravel driveway. This morning, too. Can't even step out the door without Yaktrax ICEtrekkers on my boots. The upside is that the trees and wildgrasses are simply stunning in today's early morning sunshine!
Elizabeth Kolbert, Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future
Narrated by Rebecca Lowman
According to Kolbert, this is "a book about people trying to solve problems created by people trying to solve problems." A good followup to her previous book, The Sixth Extinction, it explores how people are trying to deal with the consequences of humankind's dominance of the Earth and, especially, by the climate change we have and are causing.
While scientists and engineers are imagining and implementing some amazing possible (partial) solutions like seeding the stratosphere with tiny diamonds to attempt to reduce the amount of sunlight (and heat) reaching the planet—the costs of these solutions are enormous both in terms of budgets and political willpower, and the risks are equally huge, which are themes explored brilliantly in Neal Stephenson's recent novel, Termination Shock⩘ . Because we have put off tackling this existential challenge for so long, we may have no choice but to implement some of these expensive and risky Hail Mary pass solutions.
The choice is not between what was and what is, but between what is and what will be.
Dedicated to my good friend Thomas Hey'l
who has inspired me to look at design more deeply
and to take even more care about precision.
People walk at an average pace of about 2.5 miles per hour.
Meanwhile, light travels about 186,000 miles per second, or about 11,160,000 miles per hour. It would take light about 0.13 seconds to travel around the Earth,
1.3 seconds to travel the 238,900 miles from the moon to the Earth,
8.3 minutes to travel the 93,000,000 miles from the sun to Earth, and 1.3 hours to travel the 890,000,000 miles from the sun to Saturn. To get a glimpse of an idea of just how far away Saturn is, see If the Moon were only 1 pixel⩘ by Josh Worth.
At the scale of the solar system, the Earth is a spec of dust. 1,300,000 Earths could fit within our sun.
Our sun, as big as it is, is just a tiny twinkle of light in a suburb of the Milky Way galaxy. Its light takes about 27,000 years to travel to the center of our galaxy.
One light year is just short of six trillion miles (5,878,625,000,000). The Milky Way has a diameter of about 100,000 light-years, and contains as many as 400 billion stars.
The Milky Way, as vast as it is, creates just a smidgen of light in our local group of galaxies. Its light takes about 2,300,000 years to travel just to the Andromeda galaxy, the nearest large spiral galaxy. Isn't it amazing that by using our inherent art of visualization, we can be there, instantly, in this moment.
The observable universe is estimated to contain as many as two trillion galaxies, a tiny fraction of which are visible in this eXtreme Deep Field Hubble image.
The light from the furthest reaches of the observable universe, near the dawn of our universe, takes 13,400,000,000 years to reach us. We are part of something that is near infinitely vast and incredibly beautiful. Such a gift.
To get more perspective on the eXtreme Deep Field (XDF) Hubble image, see the short video: Hubble Legacy Field Zoom-Out⩘ . Make sure to read the notes, too. See also The Hubble Ultra Deep Field in Light and Sound⩘ at Astronomy Picture of the Day, which adds a pointer you can use to see just how far away a galaxy or star is, as well as hear a note play that corresponds to its redshift.
To get a glimpse of an idea of just how big our observable universe is, see Neal Agarwal's fun website, The Size of Space⩘ , the BBC video by Professor Brian Cox, How big is our Universe?⩘ , and CGP Gray's Metric Paper & Everything in the Universe⩘ . Here's another glimpse: What does two trillion galaxies mean?⩘
By the way, because of the Earth's spin, if we're standing still at the equator, we're actually moving at about 1,667 km/hour (1,037 miles/hour). The Earth is orbiting our sun at approximately 30 km/sec (67,108 miles/hour). Our sun is orbiting the center of our Milky Way Galaxy at approximately 250 km/sec (560,000 miles/hour). And our galaxy is moving through our universe at approximately 600 km/sec (1,340,000 miles/hour). Hang on!
If you'd like to move through time as quickly as you're moving through our universe, you might enjoy watching this TED talk by David Christian, one of the founders of the Big History Project: The history of our world in 18 minutes⩘
All distances and times are approximate.
- Inspiration: "New 3D map of the Milky Way shows we live in a warped galaxy⩘ ," NBC News, 2019.
- A related TED Talk: The Exhilarating Peace of Freediving by Guillaume Néry⩘ (really, it's related). And if you are as enchanted by the talk as I am, you may enjoy this visual experience, which is wordless, but rich in subtle sounds: One Breath Around the World featuring Guillaume Néry⩘
- Another related, and fun, video: Every Kind of Thing in Space⩘ by Domain of Science.
- As large as it is, our sun is just a spec of dust: The Largest Star in the Universe – Size Comparison⩘ by Kurzgesagt.
- Related project: A team of five French amateur astrophotographers has assembled an amazing gallery of Souther Sky deep space images from their observatory in Chile, Ciel Austral⩘ .
- Gazing into the universe: If you enjoy looking up and out: Astronomy Picture of the Day⩘ .
- Hiking trail in Cow Creek valley⩘ by Toshen, CC by NC-SA 4.0⩘
- Blue Marble, 2012, Earth image⩘ by NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring
- Full moon image⩘ by Toshen, CC by NC-SA 4.0⩘
- Saturn⩘ by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
- Sun, from the video Fiery Looping Rain on the Sun⩘ by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO
- The Milky Way in Yosemite⩘ by bgwashburn⩘ is licensed under CC BY 2.0⩘ (cropped)
- Milky Way in Summer: VL test PSP8 by gjdonatiello⩘ is licensed under CC CC0 1.0⩘ (cropped)
- Andromeda⩘ by NASA/JPL-Caltech
- Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (XDF)⩘ : NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and P. Oesch (University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (Leiden University), and the HUDF09 Team