Just A Few Million Years

I really am enjoying this blog writing. I have said so before, but it is good therapy to write, not just from memory though that is beneficial in keeping us thinking. An aspect which I especially like is the research. The more I do, the more I am learning and the more I can share. I did mention this the other week and it is fascinating to me, just as I hope others find it to be. I have seen that there are a few new television programmes appearing now and I have noticed one series presented by Brian Cox which is all about planets, highlighting many things that may not have previously been known. They are certainly unknown to me! I do appreciate that a series like that will take quite a time to prepare, I am learning that aspect from how long it takes for me to sort and set out this weekly blog. I have had one person suggest that I might consider writing more often, but I’m sorry, I cannot – it takes me quite a while to research, compile and proof-read the work I am already doing! As many of you know, I worked in quite a few different departments as well as locations in my time with British Telecom and this included a few years in a Directory Compilation group. That has helped me a great deal, especially with all the proof-reading. Only the other week I saw and learned a new word, along with the proper spelling and meaning of it and whilst putting together this particular blog post I saw another, in this case it was ‘cartulary’. I researched it, just as I was taught to do from a very young age and I discovered that a cartulary or chartulary, also called pancarta or codex diplomaticus, is “a medieval manuscript volume or roll containing transcriptions of original documents relating to the foundation, privileges, and legal rights of ecclesiastical establishments, municipal corporations, industrial associations, institutions of learning, or families. The term is sometimes also applied to collections of original documents bound in one volume or attached to one another so as to form a roll, as well as to custodians of such collections.” Not a word in common use today, I guess. But some may know of it.

A great deal has changed in this beautiful world and we can sometimes not stop and look at the beauty which surrounds us. We have reached a new month and temperatures may be dropping, despite what forecasters said could happen! But it was a Bank Holiday. That which has been causing lockdowns may be easing slowly, more and more folk are getting out and about too. For now I spend my time as an inmate in this Care Home, doing my best to get better and stronger with the help of the Carers here, who by the way have a difficult job and they do it very well. My aim too is to get out and about, though it may be just a little while yet. I did make the mistake of trying too hard too soon and found myself back in hospital, something I do not wish to repeat. So for now, as well as my regular, gentle exercise I research, I read and I write. I am well fed, I do my morning and evening meditation, which is the relaxation therapy I have previously mentioned. It keeps me calm in these troubled times and my writing helps me stay quite focussed on each day as it passes, sometimes quite quickly. But it can be difficult at times when just as I am expecting a degree of peace and quiet as most of us inmates are resting after lunch, one who has dementia starts calling out ridiculous statements yet again. I cannot be angry with the inmate, as they cannot help it, the dementia is the cause. So I quietly call for a Carer and they settle them down. It also lets the people working here see how this inmate is, as I understand that what they have is a degenerating disease. All I can do when this occurs is sit, meditate, then return to my work. As I read, I learn and I also see a number of questions posed that at first I am amazed at, but then I am reminded that whilst I was taught by excellent parents and at good schools, there are very many people living in this beautiful world who have never been to any school, nor been told anything of this Earth. Some have not been properly taught even their native language, they may have only heard it. So if they then have to write, it is no small wonder that they make what many consider to be the simplest of spelling errors. As for the wider world outside, I feel sure that many have simply no concept of the absolute and utter vastness of space. But work is being done now to address this. Right now we have around us this global pandemic which is causing us to change quite a bit on how we communicate, how we learn. Thankfully, technology is with us that enables not just sound but vision too, in many cases live broadcasts that others may interact with. Some do still raise questions on a few issues that many would consider surprising, for example “What if the Earth were a little bit closer to the Sun?”. That question was answered politely online by someone with far greater knowledge of such matters than I. They explained that the Earth’s orbit around the Sun is not a perfect circle, it is elliptical, meaning there is one point in the orbit where Earth is closest to the Sun and another where Earth is farthest from it. Every object orbiting a single mass, for example our Sun, makes an ellipse, containing a point of closest approach that’s unique to that particular orbit. But the question prompted me to do research of my own. Some of this I knew, though not the detail which I found interesting. It seems that for the past 4.5 billion years our Earth has orbited the Sun in an ellipse, just as all the other planets orbiting their stars in all other mature solar systems throughout the galaxy and the Universe do. But the Earth’s orbital path doesn’t remain the same over time, it spirals outwards. In 2019 our perihelion, the point at which the Earth is closest to the sun, was 1.5 centimetres farther away than it was last year, likewise it was more distant than the year before. It’s not just Earth, either, as every planet drifts away from its parent star. Every object that is orbiting a single mass, for example our Sun, makes an ellipse, containing a point of closest approach that is unique to that particular orbit. For the past 4.5 billion years, our Earth has orbited the Sun in that manner, just like all the other planets orbiting their stars in all the other mature solar systems throughout the galaxy and Universe. That is a scientific fact.

Stars

I do not for a moment think that we will achieve some of the things we see in science fiction, at least not for quite a while anyway. However, when I was in my early teens the Star Trek series was first broadcast and that was back in the 1960s. Over the years further Star Trek series have been developed, but they are clearly based on the original. Some of the technology in use today has been thought about and developed from the devices they used and one example is the flip-phone style of mobile phone which we use and which is similar to the communicator in the original Star Trek. But I do not believe we will achieve space travel or be able to construct the transporters we see in the Next Generation series, not for a long time yet, but perhaps one day! There must be a great many others besides me who are familiar with the work of another science fiction writer, the late Douglas Adams, who created the comedy science fiction franchise called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This was at first a radio comedy series broadcast on BBC Radio 4 back in 1978, it was later adapted into other formats including stage shows, novels, comic books, a 1981 TV series, a 1984 video game, and 2005 feature film. It had a clever series of tales and really believable characters that again may contain an element of future truth. Who knows. As I said a couple of weeks ago now, in the time of dramatic climate change some 300,000 years ago the humans we know as Homo sapiens evolved in Africa. Like other early humans that were living at that time, they gathered and hunted food, and evolved behaviours that helped them respond to the sometimes dramatic challenges of survival in unstable environments. The levels of humanity have risen, we have grown, learned, I do know though that some have questioned why we are here. Some have been known to suggest that whilst some learn, others are here just to fill in the gaps! I believe that we are all here to learn, to grow and develop, then to pass on what we know to others. But we are all different. Whilst some do have a real interest in sports, others in entertainment, some like certain tv programmes, others get enjoyment from reality shows and yet more take a deep interest in sciences like history and geography. We all make mistakes but if we can benefit from these, we can help others. Surely the worst thing to do is not learn, but keep on making the same errors. That is like reading the same book or watching the same film again and again and expecting a different ending. Most of us need routine in order to live, we need others around us. Just like some animals, such as elephants, we grow and we learn together and from each other. We cannot know what will occur in the future but we can make plans. We follow the rules of where and how we live and adapt as things happen, how the world changes. I am reminded of when a few of my immediate family reached old age it seemed to me how they had almost given up on life, but with them it was physical change. With some others it is mental change that causes them to reach the end of their human existence, whilst in others it is a combination of the two. What to me is very important is that we do not give up, we remember what as a youngster I was taught, that we pray we are granted the serenity of mind to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change that which can be changed as well as the wisdom to know the difference.

Our Earth also has a limited lifespan, although it has been through many changes, including a major increase in the human population. We have been through wars, famines, pandemics and revolutions. I have no doubt that there will be more. Many years ago there was the Industrial Revolution, the transition to new manufacturing processes which included changes from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and metal production processes, the increased use of both steam and water power as well as the development of machine tools and the rise of the mechanised factory system. In the last hundred or so years we have seen the emergence of powered flight, computers and space flight. Right now the world is in the grip of a global pandemic, which I am sure we will survive overall. We are also seeing global warming, which I think we would do well to manage just a bit better than perhaps we are doing. The belief is that human life will survive for a few million years more yet, which pleases me! In all probability it will take around four billion years from now before increases in the Earth’s surface temperature causes a runaway greenhouse effect, heating the surface enough to melt it. In any event, by that point all life on the Earth will be extinct. The most probable fate of the planet itself will be absorption by the Sun in about seven and a half billion years, after the star has entered its ‘Red Giant’ phase and so has expanded beyond this planet’s current orbit. So there’s still time for a few more mugs of tea – with custard cream biscuits of course…

This week, a thought.
As a child, I used to watch the cartoon series ‘Popeye’, featuring the character ‘Olive Oyl’. But until a question came up on the television quiz show ‘Tipping Point’, I never knew that Olive had an older brother named ‘Castor Oyl’….

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