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What happened to dinosaurs?

While I should be studying for the GRE, I keep thinking about how technology has come to be–there’s an ever battle between Microsoft and Google, also often used as a favorite topic for journalists to spin because after all, nothing attracts attention like a fight during a lunch break or a rare catfight between girls. I remember back in the 1990s, when you wanted to play PC games, you’d need to buy a PC and with Windows under it and play Freecell. So, that was cool till AOL came out, all of the sudden, people were buying PCs like crazy to be on AOL. Windows was underneath these, ofc. But now? you buy them to be on the Internet to show yourself on Facebook, to tweet away, or to Google for information.

Sometimes, I do wonder if there will be a completely new technology that will not require http because pretty much everything is transmitted through http right now. And if you wonder why http? it goes through a protocol called TCP/IP that allows every imaginable device to communicate to one another–from your PC to your pager and even a printer operates on it. Google has foreseen this and made a massive engineering to copy/store everything that’s ever existed on the web and make the information highly relevant and monetize them. Now, Google has recently announced they are going to develop a new kind of OS that will supposedly squeeze everything in between so that you can get on the web as soon as you press on the power button and then go explore on the web like a crazy monkey. Although there are people who spend their days fantasizing about Microsoft going down like the ship Titanic. I’m sorry to disappoint you but that’s not going to happen. Microsoft will remain to do business, largely in thanks to millions of users who play games like WoW, Starcraft, Quake, Counter-Strike, pokers and ofc, their beloved Microsoft Doc. My mom loves to play Freecell on Windows and that’s all it matters to her. It has no annoying pop-up ads, she said.

Once everything’s been said and done, I do have this imagination that the world will end up like the movie, A.I., where there’s not a trace of a human being left and that the only proof of us is to be found on countless hard drives from Google or maybe more like the Wall-E movie that people have long abandoned Earth because of the excessive mess they left and couldn’t be managed.

Actually, I think getting wiped by a gigantic asteroid that’s as big as the sun will more likely happen than I just describe above. Because that’s what happened to dinosaurs.

Where art thou, Bacterium!

There is no point in trying to hide from your bacteria, for they are on and around you always, in numbers you can’t conceive. If you are in good health and averagely diligent about your hygiene, you will have a herd of about one trillion bacteria grazing on your fleshy plains—about a hundered thousand of them on every square centimeter of skin. They are there to dine off the ten billion or so flakes of skin you shed every day, plus all the tasty oils and fortifying minerals that seep out from every pore and fissure. You are for them the ultimate food court, with the convenience of warmth and constant mobility thrown in. By way of thanks, they give you B.O.” pp. 302, Bill Bryson.

Before you start checking how bad your armpits smell, there are bacteria everything and there’s a reason why. They were here before we ever got here and ultimately, they are THE reason why and how we got here. Bacteria may not build cities or have interesting social lives, but they will be here when the Sun explodes. This is their plant, and we are on it only because they allow us to be. (more…)

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“Good-Bye To All That”

For about a week since, I have been reading this really mind-opening book called “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” by Bill Bryson. At first, I thought the author was joking about the title—how could you explain everything about Earth’s history and how we come in form in one book? I’m no scientist or geologist myself so I thought it’d be rather difficult reading this book but it’s surprisingly not. The sentences aren’t laden with all the technical words and the author did his best to give a brief background on each scientist that contributed to the history of Earth and us.

As I read through the book, I realize that this is not just a literary book but also a textbook cuz it has a lot of information with tons of theories, explanations, and names. It’s 100 times better than any science textbooks I’ve ever read in middle school or high school. In fact, the author criticized a lot about textbooks we used in secondary education. They were either already outdated or some theories were misinterpreted as proved by recent scientists. Anyway, back to the topic, I read a cool paragraph that summarized everything about Earth’s history. Imagine, Earth’s history in a single paragraph? Could you write like that? Bill Bryson did. Here’s the vivid paragraph.

“If you imagine the 4.5 billion odd years of Earth’s history compressed into a normal earthy day, then life begins very early, about 4 a.m. with the rise of the first simple, single-celled organisms, but then advances no further for the next sixteen hours. Not until almost 8:30 in the evening, with the day five-sixths over, has Earth anything to show the universe but a restless skin of microbes. Then, finally, the first sea plants appear, followed twenty minutes later by the first jellyfish, and the engimatic Ediacaran fauna first seen by Reginald Sprigg in Australia. At 9:04 pm, trilobites swim onto the scene, followed more or less immediately by the shapely creatures of the Burgess Shale. Just before 10 pm, plants begin to pop up on the land. Soon after, with less than two hours left in the day, the first land creatures follow.

Thanks to ten minutes or so of balmy weather, by 10:24 pm the Earth is covered in the great carboniferous forests whose residues give us all our coal, and the first winged insects are evident. Dinosaurs plod onto the scence just before 11 pm and hold sway for about three-quarters of an hour. At twenty-one minutes to midnight they vanish and the age of mammals begins. Humans emerge one minute and seventeen seconds before midnight. The whole of our recorded history, on this scale, would be no more than a few seconds, a single human lifetime barely an instant. ” pp. 337

Ok ok, so it’s not one but two paragraphs–close enough but what about this next paragraph?

“Perhaps an even more effective way of grasping our extreme recentness as a part of this 4.5 billion-year old picture is to stretch your arms to their fullest extent and imagine that width as the entire history of the Earth. On this scale, according to John McPhee in Basin and Range, the distance from the fingertips of one hand to the wrist of the other is Precambrian. All of complex life is in one hand, “and in a single stroke with a medium-grained nail file you could eradicate human history.”

There you go, you have the entire Earth’s history right across your extended arms. Isn’t that better than what we were reading in HS science textbooks?

Before you start thinking about becoming 100 years old, our existence in Earth’s history is very SMALL, no more than a few seconds into Earth’s modified 24 hour history and can be easily wiped off with a nail file. Bill Bryson says that one certain thing about life is that it goes extinct. Nobody knows when but we all will become extinct. So, what do you do? Focus not on the length of your life but the width of your life. Try to make your life as wide as you can and you shall die a rich, fulfilling life. :-)

Before I end this post, average species last 4 million years. :-)

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