A mile and a half (two and a half kilometers) underwater, this alien-like, long-armed, and--strangest of all--"elbowed" Magnapinna squid is seen in a still from a video clip recently obtained by National Geographic News. (See video and read full story.)
The history of life can be great theater. . . . The development of the gas-and liquid-filled chamber in the shell liberated the nautiloids from the sea bottom and set in motion an evolutionary history that is still unfolding today. -- Peter Ward
Paleontologist Peter Ward studies mass extinctions -- periods of Earth's history during which thousands of species died off in a short time. One animal of particular interest to Ward is Nautilus. The ancestors of Nautilus were molluscs that developed the ability to regulate the mixture of water and gas in their shells, increase their buoyancy and rise off the sea floor. Millions of years ago, these large nautiloids dominated the oceans. Today, only a few species of its descendants remain.
After extensive study of nautiloid fossils, Ward craved seeing a living Nautilus in its natural habitat off the coast of New Caledonia. Unfortunately, these animals spend most of their time on the sea floor, over 1000 feet below the surface, much deeper than a human in SCUBA gear can safely dive. However each night, the creatures rise to the surface to feed and then before morning return to the bottom to avoid being eaten by faster moving animals like fish. Ward traveled to New Caledonia, and dove at night in dangerous waters in order to observe this ancient species of mollusc in its natural habitat -- a species that has survived nearly unchanged for hundreds of millions of years.
Sponges, members of the phylum Porifera, are considered the oldest living animal phylum. The name Porifera means "pore bearer" in Latin. Sponges are the only animals that if broken down to the level of their cells can miraculously reassemble and resurrect themselves. These seemingly inanimate creatures are also fantastic pumps, filtering tons of water to harvest just a few ounces of microscopic food.
How do we know sponges were our ancestors? It turns out that all organisms in their genes carry clues to their evolutionary history -- a unique set of acquired genetic changes passed on through countless generations. This fact allowed Mitch Sogin to compare and contrast specific sets of genetic differences between sponges, flies, fish, frogs, humans and other organisms. He discovered that sponges, indeed, were the start of the animal kingdom and laid the foundation for all animals to follow.
"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."
"There lies before us, if we choose, continued progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we instead choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal, as human beings, to human beings: remember your humanity and forget the rest."
-Albert Einstein (his last signed letter)
"We all have to share a small planet and we need to learn how to live together."
"Just as Socrates felt that is was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood."
-Martin Luther King, letter from a Birmingham jail
"Everywhere new technology and communications brings men and nations closer together, the concerns of one inevitably becomes the concerns of all.
And our new closeness is stripping away the false masks, the illusion of differences which is the root of injustice and of hate and of war. Only earthbound man still clings to the dark and poisoning superstition that his world is bounded by the nearest hill, his universe ends at river shore, his common humanity is enclosed in the tight circle of those who share his town or his views and the color of his skin."
"Man uses his ideas for the defense of his existence, to frighten away reality. This is a serious game, the defense of one's existence."
One of the most identifiable nebulae in the sky, the Horsehead Nebula in Orion, is part of a large, dark, molecular cloud. Also known as Barnard 33, the unusual shape was first discovered on a photographic plate in the late 1800s. The red glow originates from hydrogen gas predominantly behind the nebula, ionized by the nearby bright star Sigma Orionis. The darkness of the Horsehead is caused mostly by thick dust, although the lower part of the Horsehead's neck casts a shadow to the left. Streams of gas leaving the nebula are funneled by a strong magnetic field. Bright spots in the Horsehead Nebula's base are young stars just in the process of forming. Light takes about 1,500 years to reach us from the Horsehead Nebula.
From afar, the whole thing looks like an Eagle. A closer look at the Eagle Nebula, however, shows the bright region is actually a window into the center of a larger dark shell of dust. Through this window, a brightly-lit workshop appears where a whole open cluster of stars is being formed. In this cavity tall pillars and round globules of dark dust and cold molecular gas remain where stars are still forming. Already visible are several young bright blue stars whose light and winds are burning away and pushing back the remaining filaments and walls of gas and dust. The Eagle emission nebula, tagged M16, lies about 6500 light years away, spans about 20 light-years
Newborn stars are forming in the Eagle Nebula. This image, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995, shows evaporating gaseous globules (EGGs) emerging from pillars of molecular hydrogen gas and dust. The giant pillars are light years in length and are so dense that interior gas contracts gravitationally to form stars. At each pillars' end, the intense radiation of bright young stars causes low density material to boil away, leaving stellar nurseries of dense EGGs exposed. The Eagle Nebula, associated with the open star cluster M16, lies about 7000 light years away.
Alex Filippenko is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences. His research accomplishments, documented in more than 600 published papers, have been recognized by several major prizes, and he is one of the world's most highly cited astronomers. In 2009 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He has won the top teaching awards at UC Berkeley and has been voted the "Best Professor" on campus six times. In 2006, he was selected as the Carnegie/CASE National Professor of the Year among doctoral institutions.
Just as Galileo discovered that the Earth is not the center of a human centered Universe, Darwin's tree showed that Humans are not the center nor the end of the Animal Kingdom.
“We talk about the ‘march from monad to man’ (old-style language again) as though evolution followed continuous pathways to progress along unbroken lineages. Nothing could be further from reality. I do not deny that, through time, the most ‘advanced’ organism has tended to increase in complexity. But the sequence [allocated in most texts] from jellyfish to trilobite to nautiloid to armored fish to dinosaur to monkey to human is no lineage at all, but a chronological set of termini on unrelated evolutionary trunks. Moreover life shows no trend to complexity in the usual sense — only an asymmetrical expansion of diversity around a starting point constrained to be simple.”
Stephen Jay Gould
"H. sapiens is but a tiny, late-arising twig on life's enormously arborescent bush — a small bud that would almost surely not appear a second time if we could replant the bush from seed and let it grow again.”
“History includes too much chaos, or extremely sensitive dependence on minute and unmeasurable differences in initial conditions, leading to massively divergent outcomes based on tiny and unknowable disparities in starting points. And history includes too much contingency, or shaping of present results by long chains of unpredictable antecedent states, rather than immediate determination by timeless laws of nature. Homo sapiens did not appear on the earth, just a geologic second ago, because evolutionary theory predicts such an outcome based on themes of progress and increasing neural complexity. Humans arose, rather, as a fortuitous and contingent outcome of thousands of linked events, any one of which could have occurred differently and sent history on an alternative pathway that would not have led to consciousness.”
Stephen Jay Gould
"The neurotic is having trouble with the balance of cultural illusion and natural reality; the possible horrible truth about himself and the world is seeping into his consciousness. The average man is at least secure that the cultural game is the truth, the unshakable, durable truth.
For the neurotic however, as Camus said, "the weight of days is dreadful."
Finally, with these questions we saw that we could call into doubt the pretensions of the whole therapeutic enterprise. What joy and comfort can it give to fully awakened people? Once you accept the truly desperate situation that man is in, you come to see not only that neurosis is normal, but that even psychotic failure represents only a little additional push in the routine stumbling along life's way. If repression makes an untenable life liveable, self-knowledge can entirely destroy it for some people.
Not everyone is as honest as Freud was when he said that he cured the miseries of the neurotic only to open him up to the normal misery of life."
"Our lives begin to end the day we are silent about things that matter"