August 25, 2013


Lecture No. 12 -- 

“A Broad Overview of Western Civilization”


L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D., Lecturer in Gerontology

UCLA Molecular Biology Institute

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Adjunct Professor of Clinical Neurosciences and the Psychology

of Aging at The Chicago School in Los Angeles



            By selecting a few items from the following 28 pages and dropping them into a social cocktail-party conversation, you might give the impression to those around you that you were especially clever.  But remember the problem of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Complete understanding is important, and partial understanding is risky).  The outline for a book chapter below is intended merely as an index for future independent study.


If you read three major national newspapers such as The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, or The Wall Street Journal, as I do, cover-to-cover every day for a week, you will have consumed more information than an average 17th-Century citizen would have in an entire lifetime! That’s a lot of (digital) data, but it’s nothing compared to what is on the immediate horizon. By comparison, from the beginnings of civilization ~10,000 years ago to the year 2003, all of humankind generated a grand total of 5 EB (Exa Bytes) of digital information. An Exa Byte is one quintillion Bytes or 1,000,000,000 GB (that’s 1 followed by 18 zeros). But from 2003 through 2010, we created 5 EB of digital information every two days. By next year (2013), we will be producing 5 EB every 10 minutes. How much information is this? The 2010 total of 912 EB is the equivalent of 18x the amount of information contained in all the books ever written [on paper, parchment, or stone tablets]. This means that the world is not just changing quantitatively, it’s changing qualitatively.  The change is not just accelerating -- the rate of the acceleration of change is itself accelerating! [1]


  1. Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler  Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think (2012).


If Moore’s Law holds true for the next 20 years, as I expect it will (the cost of computing comes down systematically as the density of electronic circuits increases exponentially every 18 months) then the cost of a CPU chip with sensor(s) and telemetry circuits will cost less than US$1.00.  That means that every single car, appliance, piece of furniture, and even clothing/shoes in your home will be “intelligent” (connected to the cloud [Internet] with a fully recorded life history of everything that has ever happened to it since it was manufactured in a factory), as it will be cheap enough and trivial to do so.  The implications of this new world with an audit trail of everything that happens and ubiquitous personal home robots everywhere will be hard to comprehend.  But let’s try.



I.      Nine Cultural Revolutions in the Self-Image of Human Beings


            Over the past 2,500 years, eight revolutions in our self-image have helped us mature or evolve from troglodytes into rational, literate human beings.  Because the Mayan Calender stopped abruptly in the year 2012, this led some to believe that this year should be considered the predicted end-of-the-world (the apocalypse).  Many still suffer from “magical thinking.”  One can distinguish at least seven major revolutions in man’s self image over the last three thousand years.


1. The Aristotelean Revolution


            The world is a very large spheroid, not, according to an ancient Hindu Myth, a flat plate held up by four elephants and/or turtle(s):


2. The Copernican Revolution (Nicholas Copernicus; a Heliocentric Model; not a Ptolmeic Model)


            The Earth spins on its own axis and revolves around the Sun (along with other planets).  Galileo helped to prove this empirically with his invention of the telescope.


3. The Newtonian Revolution


            Sir Isaac Newton of Cambridge/London: Calculus, Light/Optics, and Laws of Motion.


4. The Darwinian Revolution (Charles Darwin)


            All animals and plants, including humans, descend from a common ancestor by means of a simple evolutionary mechanism called “natural selection” or “survival of the fittest.”


5. The Pasteur Revolution (Louis Pasteur, Koch, and Jenner)


            The Germ Theory of Disease. Bugs cause infection, not sin, as the church would have us believe.  Disease-causing pathogens are microbes (viruses, bacteria, fungi, rickettsia, helminthes, and other parasites).         



6. The Freudian Revolution (Sigmund Freud/Carl Jung)


            The human mind is not fully rational, but subject to unconscious [even mutually antagonistic] drives.  Three parts: (1) Id [Hunger, Thirst, Libido]; (2) Ego [will to power]; (3) Superego [accountability; responsibility for right/wrong behavior; sin/guilty conscience).


7. The Simonian Revolution (Herbert Simon and Allen Newell of Carnegie-Mellon University)(1965)


            Artificial Intelligence (AI) may someday be achieved by simulating human problem-solving processes on a computer (Expert Systems) (Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy: The jury is still out; Chess [IBM’s “Deep Blue”] doesn’t support this hypothesis; neither does “Watson” an IBM computer in the TV game show Jeopardy)(Robots: Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics and the problem of a disembodied intelligence [The Imitation Game and {Turing Test}; The Krell in Forbidden Planet]). 


8. The Watsonian Revolution (James Watson of Watson and Crick)(2000)


            With the sequencing of the human genome, we can now start to read the “Book of Life” (Francis Collins, Craig Venter, Eric Lander, and Leroy Hood).  Synthetic Biology will be the major application of this knowledge that will someday lead to a cure for all chronic diseases, possibly through stem-cell therapy.


9. The Hawking Revolution (Stephen Hawking and the Multiverse)(2010)


            There are many parallel universes constantly being spawning with their own Big Bangs; most do not support galaxies or light given the variable amounts of dark energy in empty space.  See Brian Greene on The Fabric of eh Cosmos


II. 50 Key Events in the History of Human Civilization

A. The Stone Age

1. Death. The discovery that aging occurs relentlessly for all members of one’s tribe (and, by extension, the frightening contemplation of one's own demise). As a corollary, this incomprehensible prospect leads to the invention of religion [immortal god(s) who “made it so” that we shall perish, while they themselves don’t die; and furthermore, they didn’t bother to ask for our consent, except for providing us with a Prime Directive to  “Go forth and multiply.”] Respectful funeral ceremonies for burying the dead with things they cared about in life are established (otherwise, corpses begin to smell like putrid meat). Cannibalism is generally rejected as a survival strategy.
2. The ability to distinguish individuals of the same kind from another tribe who are friends and not foes. As a corollary, trading for food and trinkets is recognized as an acceptable survival strategy. Knowledge of the location of water becomes valuable during times of drought.
3. The invention of complex spoken language, to include "story telling" and a variety of Genesis myths to teach children who we are and where we came from.
4. The creation of tools (clubs, knives, axes, sharp throwing spears, walking sticks).
5. The discovery of fire and how to control it and use it for (1) heat [to keep warm in winter; (2) light to see in a dark cave [torches]; and (3) the cooking of raw meat [to increase the efficiency of protein absorption].  As a corollary, a gender-specific division of labor between males (hunters) and females (gatherers/cooks) increases the survival-prospects of the tribe. Distinguishing edible plants/nuts vs. poisonous plants {mushrooms} and medicinal herbs become important for women. Long before Homo sapiens (200 KYA), Homo erectus did some open fire cooking in caves 1.7 MYA in what is now called SOUTH AFRICA.
6. The invention of clothing sewn from hides using needle-and-thread to keep warm in winter and shoes to facilitate walking over long distances.
7. The discovery of a cause-and-effect relationship between fornication (sexual intercourse) and procreation (birth of a baby) [intercourse and birth are separated in time by approximately nine months]. As a corollary, the concept of a monogamous/polygamous family is established within the tribe with words for mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew [and by extension words for husband, wife, parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, ancestor, etc.] are incorporated into the native language. The notion of primogenitor is fashioned -- inheritance by the fist-born son of a married couple. The creation of professions: tribal elders/leaders, lawyers/judges (to resolve disputes), witch doctors, priests, midwives, fortune-tellers, soldiers/warriors.
8. The creation of music and instruments to play it; composers and musicians to play music.
9. The creation of jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, and rings), hair combs, cave ornaments, and decorative cosmetics (lipstick and face paint). (barbers, hair stylists); Pottery
10. The creation of cave drawings (art) as a way to teach group-hunting to children as a survival strategy.
11. Canine breeding [wolves are domesticated and become dogs after ~10 generations; they are further specialized as hunting dogs (blood hounds and sight hounds) and low-maintenance security dogs (barking to wake you up in the event of danger, so you can sleep soundly without fear of being eaten by a predator during the night.]
12. Animal husbandry (chickens, ducks, pigs, cattle/oxen, cows [for milk], sheep [for wool], goats, horses, llamas, camels) and, as a corollary, dogs are bred for herding.

B. The Bronze Age


13. Agriculture (Irrigation) (baking bread) and by extension, solar observatories to know when to plant seed and when to harvest. Plow
14. Domestication of cats (they prevent stored grain from being eaten by vermin)
15. Metallurgy: Towns and Villages built (digging water wells and pumps, aqueducts.

16. Windmills to grind grain to wheat.

C. The Iron Age

17. Blacksmiths to make iron horseshoes, hammers, hatchets, and metal swords/sabers/shields, saddles with stirrups.
18. The wheel, and as a corollary, flat roads; wheel barrows, chariots, carriages, wagons (first civil engineering)
19.Architecture: Construction of cities (urban planning) with thousands of people and civic monuments/statues/sculpture with massive temples to the gods (clergy are needed for maintenance).

20. Money (coins, and by extension counterfeiting; government tax collectors; precious metals [gold and silver], salt and spices).
21. Writing (literacy, scribes, ink, papyrus, chiseling of stone tablets, head stones in a cemetery, an arithmetical number system for counting and settling debts); libraries of scrolls and illuminated manuscripts in monasteries à bound books; the printing press and movable type.
22. Maps (the Aztecs and Mayans didn't invent them [sigh]).
23. Mathematics (geometry; trigonometry; algebra; the digit zero as a place holder).
24. Bow and arrow; reflex bow, crossbow.
25. Dugouts, rafts, canoes, sailboats, multi-mast ships.
26. Alchemy --> Periodic Table of the Elements.

27. Gun Powder; canons, rifles, pistols, revolvers, machine guns.

28. Glass blowing, optics: spectacles, bifocals, telescopes, microscopes

D. The Industrial Revolution

29. Steam engine (James Watt)
30. Railroad locomotive (steam --> diesel)
31. Radio (Ham Radio --> AM/FM --> CB Radio --> Satellite Radio)(Marconi)
32. Medicine: Anesthesia, Surgery, C-sections, Germ Theory of Disease, antibiotics, vaccines
33. Electrification of cities: Power Distribution by DC --> AC (Tesla, Westinghouse)
34. Light bulb (Thomas Edison --> tungsten filament)
35. Telegraph (Morse) Telegrams, Teletype machines
36. Telephone (Alexander Graham Bell) Cell Phone --> Smart Phone (six billion people have accounts out of nine billion people on Earth)
37. Phonograph (wax cylinder --> 78 rpm --> LP --> 33-1/3 rpm --> 45 rpm --> 8-track tape --> cassette tape --> Music CD --> digital download to iPod
38. Movies (Silent, B&W Talkies, Color, 3-D Imax)
39. Steam ships (Fulton); Nuclear Submarines (Rickover)
40. Automobile (Ford Models A,T gasoline-powered internal combustion engine with 8 cylinders --> Google Automated Driving on freeways using GPS; Nevada will require red license plates for robotically-enabled cars)
41. Airplanes (Wright Brothers à Boeing 747 à Concord).

200 years ago powered, heavier-than-air flight was thought to be an impossibility;

100 years ago, the Wright Brothers gave us a prototype (proof of concept)

50 years ago, aircraft became indispensible 
42. Atomic Bomb (1945); Hydrogen bombs; nuclear power
43. Rockets (USSR Sputnik (1957); US [NASA] Moon Landing (1969); JPL Missions to the outer planets)
44. Satellites (GPS [resolution = 1 meter; 1 microsecond response]; Hubble Space Telescope --> Webb Telescope)
45. TV (B&W; Color; flat-screen).
46. Video Recording (Beta Max, VHS, DVD, BlueRay).

Ref.: Andrew Shyrock and Daniel Lord Smail, Deep History: The Architecture of Past and Present (360 pages; University of California Press; November 2011).


E. The Digital Information Age


47. Computers (IBM Mainframes, Cray Supercomputers, Time Sharing, Computer Graphics; PC’s (Windows OS, Office Applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Mac’s, Cordless Mouse, BlueTooth) John von Neuman (Johnniac at RAND Corp.) stored programs, Software, Automata Theory, Alan Turing and the Turing Machine (Turing Test = “Imitation Game”), Emile Post (Post Correspondence Theorem), Claude Shannon (Information Theory); Norbert Weiner (Cybernetics), Alan Perlis (Algol), John Baccus (IBM/Fortran), Peter Naur (BNF), Noam Chomsky (Computational Linguistics/Transformational Grammar)

48. Digital Biology (Watson and Crick DNA) DIYBio Synthesis (Britten and Davidson)

49.Internet: Vannever Bush, Douglas Engelbart, (“Augmenting Human Intellect”), J.C.R. Licklider (ARPA/IPTO), Ivan Sutherland, Lawrence Roberts, The ARPA Net. Vint Cerf (Google),  The world wide web (www), browsers (Netscape, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome) Hypertext markup language (html), XML, Search Engines (Yahoo, Google; {Encyclopedia Britannica --> Microsoft Encarta on CD-ROM --> Wikipedia}), Social Media {Twitter, MySpace, Facebook}
50. Artificial Intelligence (Deep Blue for Chess; Watson for Jeopardy à Watson for each person; Industrial Robots à Personal Household Robots [General Factotum]). Automatic simultaneous translation of foreign languages to and from English. Herbert Simon, Allen Newell, Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Arthur Samuel. Soon, teleprompters will no longer needed, as all text will be displayed in real time on your contact lenses.  At a medical workstation in your bathroom, an AI Med System will analyze samples of your breath and bodily fluids {blood, tears, sweat, saliva, urine, and feces} along with your vital signs {temp, RR, Pulse, BP, EKG} in real time and provide you with immediate feedback on any significant change in your health status. 

F. Thirty Years in the Future


51. The Singularity (Ray Kurzweil, based on Moore’s Law)
52. Biological Immortality


G. The Systematic North-Western Trajectory of Modern Civilization {excluding China}

1. Central Africa (200 KYA) (Abstract Language; Stone-Age Tools)
2. Thebes (Egyptian Nile River Valley with Pyramids/Sphinx) (2000 BCE) (Seti, Rameses the Great)
3.Athens (300 BCE) (Socrates, Plato, Thucyddies, Herodotus, Euripides, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Aristophenes, Homer, Pythagorus, Euclid, Hippocrates, Aristotle, Alexander the Great)
4. Alexandria (30 BCE) (Babylon, Persia) (Cleopatra, Julius Caesar)
5. Constantinople (1 AD) (Turkey/Arabia)(Galen)
6. Rome (300 AD)(Emperor Augustine)
7. Florence (1400 AD)(Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Ghiberiti, Botticelli, Donatellie, Galileo)
8. Venice (1500 AD) (Dodge)
9. Madrid (1600 AD) (Queen Isabella [1451 - 1504])
10. Paris (1700 AD) (Emperor Napoleon [1769-1821]; Louis Pasteur [1822­-1895])
11. London (1800 AD) (Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin)

12. New York City (1900 AD) (Bos/Wash: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Miami)
13. Los Angeles (2000 AD) (San/San: San Diego, Irvine, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Jose, San Francisco, Berkeley, Davis, Sacramento)

14. The Internet/Cloud (2100 AD) (Civilization is no longer focused at a single geographical location)

________________________________ __________________________________

Recent References on Paleontology, Archeology, and Anthropology


1. Ian Tattersall, Masters of the Planet (Macmillan, 266 pages; $26.00).

Neanderthals perished 25 KYA, and so Homo sapiens became the last hominids standing.

Nevertheless, due to interbreeding, some of their DNA survives in our genome.


2. Chris Stringer, Lone Survivors (Times Books, 320 pages; $28.00).


3, Brian Switak, Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature (Paperback; 320 pages; Bellevue Literary Press; 2010; $11.73 on

Switak explains that “all life forms on the Earth have not ‘progressed’ through evolution to end up with Homo sapiens becoming the highest such life form; rather, evolution has produced ‘a wildly branching tree of life’ with no predetermined path or endpoint.”


4. Emma Maris, The Rambunctious Garden (224 pages; Bloomsbury; August 2011; $16.50  on  

A good conservationist should not strive to maintain an ‘ecological balance’ among species; Nature has no such need.  The jungle is not a zoo.  Conservations would only meddle if they tried to establish their own personal notion of a balance.  If Nature could, she would merely laugh at our conceited attempt at stewardship over the fiction of a ‘pristine wilderness’.


5. Michael Ruse,  The Philosophy of Human Evolution (Cambridge Introductions to Philosophy and Biology) (Paperback;  282 pages; Cambridge University Press; February 2012; $26.99 on

__________________________________________________________ _

III. Memory


            Five different types of memory serve to enhance our species’ evolutionary progress (Richard Dawkins; Oxford University)


1. DNA; our human genome (3.1 Giga Base Pairs; ~25 K genes)(speciation took place 200 KYA [thousand years ago] with mutations for a large brain [Broca’s Area and Wernike’s Areas] and an adipose thumb that gave rise to language and tool using, respectively [fire for warmth and cooking of meat, clothing].  Weapons for hunting in ancestral hunter/gatherer stage.


2. Epigenetics (scattered methyl groups on DNA and acetyl groups on histones, which are influenced by the environment, determine gene expression)(identical twins reared apart have greater phenotypic divergence over time more than identical [congenic] twins reared together)


3. The human Immune System (the ability to distinguish self from non-self at the tissue level)


4. The human Brain (neural pathways and synapses for short-term and long-term memory)


5. Culture (Oral and Written Recorded History) ~8,000 years ago; agriculture/animal husbandry

(Egyptian Hieroglyphics and the Rosetta Stone [in three different languages])


IV. Five Branches of Philosophy


Philosophy seeks to answer at least three fundamental questions.  In plain English, they are…

1. Who am I?

2. Where am I?

3. Where am I going?


Surrogate questions are…

1. How does the brain work?

2. Why do we get old and die?


1. Metaphysics


a. Ontology (Theory of Reality)


The Mind/Body Problem (Three Hypotheses: Materialism, Dualism, Solipsism)

Materialism: Self awareness and consciousness are emergent properties of the complexity of brain architecture shared to some extent with other mammals and to a lesser extent with all biological creatures.


(1) Sentience (Sensory Capacity)

(2) Sapience (Tropism; Rationality)

(3) Instrumentality (A Disembodied Mind possessing no Motor Functions cannot serve)

b. Teleology (Theory of Intentionality, Purposeful Actions, Free-Will vs. Fate [Karma])

Autonomy (Independent Agency, cosmogonyWill, Drive = Conation)

c. Cosmology (Theory of Creation [Cosmogony]; The Big Bang Theory with continuing expansion accelerating due to dark energy/dark matter)

d. Existentialism (Absurdity of reality and Despair)(Satre, Camus, Heidegger, Kierkegaard)

2. Epistemology (Theory of knowledge)

“When a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody around to hear it, did it make a sound?”

What constitutes evidence for an uncertain hypothesis or cause and effect?

Qualia (Intrinsic properties [mass, momentum, shape] vs. epiphenomena [like color, texture, warmth which are in the eyes of the beholder {perceiver}])

3.  Ethics (Theory of Right and Wrong)

a. Deontology (Duty, Altruism, Philanthropy): The ends do not justify the means (Behavior Optimality with all actions being subject to ethical constraints) (deception/mendacity/prevarication);

b. The Ten Commandments (Old Testament)

c. The Golden Rule [Jesus]: Do unto others have you would have them do unto you;

d. Negative Golden Rule [Confucius]: Do not do unto others that which you believe they do not wish to have done unto them;

e. Four Cardinal Virtues [Greek]:(1) Justice; (2) Wisdom (Prudence); (3) Courage; and (4) Beauty;

Justice is “the having and doing of that which is one’s own.”  Plato’s Republic

f. Sin (Cardinal vs. Venal)(Felony vs. Misdemeanor)/Guilt/Confession/Repentance

f. Definition of Happiness and the Good Life

(1) In your choice of a profession, strive for excellence (e.g., become a cook who prepares delectable dishes)

(2) Hedonism (maximize pleasure, luxury, sybarites)(e.g., Hugh Heffner’s Playboy Philosophy)

(3) Epicureanism (collector of fine art)

4. Aesthetics (Theory of Beauty; Art [paintings, sculpture, music, literature (prose {short stories, novels}/poetry {lyrical/rhyming, narrative/non-rhyming, figures of speech: alliteration, metaphor, simile, tone color, onomatopoeia}, theater: opera, plays])

5. Logic

a. Inductive Logic

(The Laplace Sunrise Problem)

b. Deductive Logic (Dialectics)

(1) Symbolic Logic (Propositional Calculus; truth tables)

(a) Tautology (proposition is always true)

(b) Contradiction (proposition is never true)


(2) First-Order Predicate Calculus (Existential and Universal Quantification)


Example: Syllogisms

All men are mortal.

Socrates is a man.

Therefore, Socrates is mortal.


(3) Modal Logic (it is possible that... rhombus or vertical-diamond operator)


(4) The Situation Calculus (time embedded in “s”)


(5) Mathematical Logic (Russell Paradox; Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem; Post Correspondence Theorem)


(6) Logical Positivism -- The Vienna Circle (Alfred J. Ayer; Ludwig Wittgenstein)


c. Rhetoric

The art of persuasion; argumentation; sophistry, dialectics

Table of Classical Fallacies (Examples:

(1)    “Begging the Question” demonstrates a conclusion by means of premises that assume that conclusion.

 Argument: Billy always tells the truth, I know this because he told me so.

Problem: Billy may be lying.

(Also called Petitio Principii);


(2)   Argumentum ad hominum,


(3)   Non sequitur: incorrectly assumes one thing is the cause of another. 

Argument: I hear the rain falling outside my window; therefore, the sun is not shining.


Problem: The conclusion is false because the sun can shine while it is raining.

(4)   Special Cases: post hoc ergo propter hoc: believing that temporal succession implies a causality.


Argument: After Billy was vaccinated he developed autism; therefore, the vaccine caused his autism.

Problem: This does not provide any evidence that the vaccine was the cause. The characteristics of autism may generally become noticeable at the age just following the typical age children receive vaccinations.

Sophistry; marketing/advertising (manipulating the gullible into making you rich while you sleep “... 1-800- ... Call Now!”)

d. Magical Thinking and Superstitions

As Sir Arthur Clarke, who died in March of 2009, has said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."  Our use of reason has served to safeguard us against religious fundamentalists and charlatans (mountbanks) who would profit from concealing the truth. Yet today, we have an epidemic of irrational thought running rampant in our society (new-age mystics, astrologers (zodiac, horoscopy, “What’s your sign”), Tarot-card readers, palmists (chiromancy), graphologists, crystal balls readers, people who will read your aura or tea leaves, speak-in-tongues, [glossolalia], and what have you). I assert that irrational thought is not harmless: alchemy, phrenology, Ouija Boards, claims of UFO abductions by aliens in the night, crop circles, dowsing, the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot (Sasquatch), Abominable Snowman (Yeti) [cryptozoology, chimera/theriantropism {Anubis, centaur, griffin, minotary, satyre, dagon, epimetheus, sphinx, pegasus, phoenix, basilisk cockatrice, unicorn, gorgon, hydra, cerabus, harpy, moloch, hippogriff, dipsas, bucentaur, pan, lamia, devil (Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan), incubus, succubus, siren, mermaid, triton, Cyclops, ogre}], ghosts, witches, warlocks, goblins, elves, gnomes, sprites, dwarfs, Leprechaun, sylph, cherub, angel, archangel, Tinker Bell, Thumbelina, Vampires (Vlad the Impaler, Count Dracula [garlic, crosses, mirrors, wooden stakes] bats), Were Wolves/Were Tigers [full moon, silver bullets], Frankenstein (Dr. Victor? or Dr. Henry?), mummies [nine tana leaves], ghouls, zombies, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Clause, can be relatively harmless, but dangers occur when we teach Creationism to school children as part of the academic curriculum, flock to witch doctors or spiritualists to heal our loved ones, Voodoo (Haiti), Santeria (animal sacrifice), Macumba (Brazil), use homeopathy or moxibustion, call on psychic surgeons [Indonesia], employ a professional medium in a séance to communicate with the dearly departed (our late relatives), perform ritual sacrifices of virginal maidens (the Aztecs in Mexico), burn heretics at the stake [the Spanish Inquisition], interrogate military prisoners using "extreme rendition" employing forms of torture like "water boarding," it can profoundly undermine the ethical basis for Western Civilization. Unsound beliefs in pseudoscience like Telepathy (mind reading), Precognition (forecasting the future), Clairvoyance (Extra Sensory Perception [ESP]), Psychokinesis (bending spoons or stopping/starting clocks without touching them), or other forms of parapsychological intervention [J. B. Rhine of Duke University], such as remote group prayer for infertile women to get pregnant at a higher rate than normal all lead down a blind alley.

__________________________________________________________ _______

       Here are five of the most well-known discredited substances in history [1]:


1. Phlogiston -- In 1667, German alchemist Johann Joachim Becher identified Phlogiston as the

essence of fire.  It was ostensibly contained within all combustible substances.


2. Miasma -- The Greeks were convinced that Malaria was spread by bad air.  Medieval Europe burned incense to prevent the spread of this disease.


3. Orgone -- In the 1940's, psychologist Wilheim Reich posited that Orgone composed the sexual energy could be collected for medicinal purposes.


4. Ether -- Descartes asserted that light and gravity traveled through Luminiferous Ether that was more subtle than air as a transparent medium necessary for the propagation of light.


5.  Alkahest -- In the 16th century Swiss alchemist Paracelsus discovered Alkahest, the "universal solvent," the active ingredient in the "Philosopher's Stone."  (See Harry Potter)


Ref.: 1. Jeremy and Claire Weiss, "Best Discredited Substances," Wired Magazine, Vol. 19, No. 12,  p. 44 (December 2011).

____________________________________________ __________

e. Mathematics (Axiomatic Pure vs. Applied Mathematics)

(1) Euclidean Geometry/Spherical Non-Euclidian Geometry/Topology/Trigonometry

(2) Calculus (differential, integral, [partial] Differential Equations [linear/non-linear], Measure Theory [based on integration by distributions rather than simple variables])

(3) Algebra (matrix algebra, set theory, group theory, ring theory, field theory, homology theory)

(4) Probability Theory (Markov Chains; Stochastic Processes)

            a. Mathematical Statistics

            b. Gaussian Distribution (Bell-Shaped Curve or Normal Distribution; mean [mu],                   standard deviation [sigma], variance [sigma squared])

            c. Game Theory (Two-person vs. n-person zero-sum games; Broward’s Fixed Point                  Theorem in topology)

(5) Cryptography (coding and code-breaking, steganography)

(6) Graph Theory (Nodes and Arcs; Critical Path Analysis; PERT [Program Evaluation and Review Technique])

(7) Occam’s Razor - When alternative explanations or models of the world have equal power of explanation or prediction, choose the simpler one.


V. Theology

  1. Comparative Religion:

Piety (Those certain that God(s) is/are known to exist)

A.                 Polytheists: Pagans (Stonehenge), Babylonians, Hitites, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Norse, American Indian, Mayan, Aztecs, Incas

B.                  Monotheists: {God, Lord, Supreme Being, Mysterium Tremendum, Elijah, Immanuel}, {omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient}]) Zoroastrianism (Ormazd [also Ormuzd]), Hinduism, Buddhism {Zen; Reincarnation; Tibetan {Dalai Lama [*]; Compassion}; Temple), Confucianism, Abrahamic Religions: (a) Judaism (Yahweh, Jehovah, Rabbi, Synagogue; Old Testament)[orthodox and reform; Kosher Slaughter, Incest], (b) Islam (Muslim, Mohammedanism; Shiites, Sunnis Sharia Law)(Allah, Imam, Ayatollah, Mosque; Koran) (c) Christianity (Roman Catholics/Greek-/Russian-Orthodox with separate Popes in Constantinople/ Istanbul/Moscow {Pope, Cardinal, Bishop, Priest {Nun, Monk}, Deacon, Laity} Church, Cathedral, Vatican {Holy See}; [Orders: Franciscans Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience}, Dominicans, Jesuits], Trinity {Father, Son, and Holy Ghost}; New Testament; Saints; (d) Protestantism (Minister, Vicar){Lutheran, Calvinist, Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormon Church  of Latter Day Saints (Joseph Smith and Brigham Young; 1830), Fundamentalist Mormon Church (Warren Jeffs founded a modern polygamous cult), Christian Scientist (Church of Christ Scientist founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879 [The Christian Science Monitor is an international newspaper now on the Internet]), Quakers {Friends}, Amish [beards are sacred]}[Evangelical Churches {Pentacostal [Assembly of God]/speaking in tongues}{Book of Revelation}, Rastafarian Church, The Church of Scientology (L. Ron Hubbard, 1954), Unitarian Universalism (Europe, 1556), Ethical Culture Society (Founded by Felix Adler in New York, 1877), Theosophical Society (1808); Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) Yogi Paramahansa Yogamande (1920) with HQ on Mount Washington above Pasadena or Glendale, CA; Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Transcendental Meditation (1955)); Hare Krishna (1966); New Birth Missionary Church; Raelians (located in 80 countries claiming over 100,000 members). ***


*** The Raëlian Movement teaches that life on Earth was scientifically created by a species of extraterrestrials, whom they call the Elohim. Mon. Claude Vorilhon, a former French journalist, is their spiritual leader, whom they call Rael.  They are headquartered in Montreal, Canada and are very interested in human cloning.  They are primarily interested in maximizing their parishioner’s pleasure per unit of time.


Given the uncertainty in the historical record (and contradictory New Testament accounts), scholars now believe that Jesus of Nazareth was not actually born on December 25th of the year 0 AD (Anno Domini), but sometime earlier between March and June in one of the years between 6, 5, or 4 BCE (Before the Common Era).  In pagan traditions predating Christianity, the Winter Solstice was a very important time for celebration -- in the hopes that the days would again get longer (in the Northern Hemisphere) and the warmth of Spring would ultimately return. Thus, many gods and goddesses were presumed to have been born on or around this time.  For example, the following births occurred in December (Julian Calendar): The Egyptian God Horus, Mithras (the Unconquered Sun of Persia), Amaterasu (The Japanese Goddess of the Sun), Rhea (who gave birth to Saturn, son of the Father of Time), Quetzalcoatl and Lucina ("Little Light"), Lucia (Saint or Goddess of Light, who is honored from Italy to Sweden, crowned with candles to carry us through the darkness), Sarasvati, the Hindu Goddess of Knowledge  and the Queen of Heaven.  Do you see a pattern here?  It would have been trivial  to establish the birth of Jesus as December 25th in the absence of an official birth certificate and thereby obviate the need for more than one celebration at Yule-Tide among Christian practitioners.

C.                   Agnostics (Unsure of the existence of God; He/he may or may not exist, but I need to hedge my bets on the grounds that there is insufficient evidence.);

D.                 Atheists (Sure that God doesn’t exist) [modern atheists include, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens {recently died of throat cancer, but didn’t change his position at the last moment}The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.]

Ref.: * His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York; Dec. 6, 2011; 208 pages, $16.32 on  {Secular ethics means that you don’t need religion to lead a happy and ethical life. But the difference between ethics and religion is like the difference between tea and water.  You clearly need water to live, but if you have an ethics grounded in religion, it is more like tea, which includes water, aromatic tea leaves, spices, sugar, and, in Tibet, a pinch of salt.  Prayer, although important, cannot match the achievements of modern science, including physics, cosmology, biology, psychology, and neuroscience.  At the genome level, the differences between different races is less significant than the difference between different individuals, so all humans are as one regardless of race.  Buddhism has a history of adapting to changing times and cultures and today, a new American hybrid of Buddhism is blossoming.}


  1. There are many Creation Myths (Genesis)/Flood (rainbow)/Babel (language)/Messiah (Christ/Immaculate Conception/Miracles {Lazarus}/Transformation of Bread and Wine recapitulated during Holy Communion/Resurrection)(Baptism: Limbo/Purgatory/ Salvation/Heaven/{Hell}) (See Joseph Campbell’s various Comparative Mythology books);

Unique Libraries Destroyed by Barbarians:

1. Alexandria, EGYPT (272 CE and again in 391 CE)

2. Timbuktu in MALI (2012)


3. Thanatology (Eschatology or “last rights”)(Recognition of mortality => sacrifices, ceremonial funerals, autopsy)

Primogeniture [inheritance by first-born {legitimate} sons])

Methods for disposing of human remains (corpses) throughout history…

  1. Do nothing (side effect: bacterial decomposition with subsequent foul odor);
  2. Allow the body to be eaten by vultures,  jackals, or other carrion scavengers;
  3. Mummify  (remove internal organs, including the brain through the nose, and wrap the body with spices and gauze);
  4. Cremation (burn the corpse on a funerary pyre with two coins covering the eyes to pay the boatman, as you seek to cross the River Styx);
  5. Bury in a coffin in a grave six-feet-under with a head-stone marker in a cemetery (reserved real estate by consensus) or in a mausoleum [sarcophagus/crypt/inscribed stone ossuary box to hold bones of the deceased] above ground or in a cave [catacombs]; bury at sea. Morticians/undertakers perform miraculous improvements in the appearance of the decedent with cosmetics even after an autopsy; they use formalin (formaldehyde) as an embalming fluid to preserve the body for an open-casket funeral service that may require a week or more to schedule, so the remains will be well preserved;  
  6. Donate the body to science for dissection by medical students in a course in human anatomy (In Europe, dissection was once declared  illegal, an invasion of a sacred body);
  7. Donate/sell  body parts to private companies (surgeons in training);
  8. Plasticize (Gunther von Hagens, M.D., German Pathologist with a traveling show);
  9. Cryonic suspension (in liquid nitrogen) [Alcor, Inc. of Scottsdale, AZ].


4. Pantheism vs. Montheism: Deism (passive God, creator), Theism (an active God who answers prayers and performs miracles)


5. Theodicy (The Problem of Evil)(Book of Job)


6. Apostasy (conversion to another religion) – in Islam, apostasy is punishable by death (stoning).

7. Quasi-Religious Fraternal Organizations/Civic Groups:

1. Knight’s of the Round Table moved to Malta

2.  Masons (Lodges)

3.  Knights of Columbus

4.  Kiwanas Clubs

5.  Rotary Clubs International

6. Lion’s Clubs

7. Optimists Clubs

(Real estate agents typically network for lunch once a week.)


VI. Science

1. Physics

a. Four Forces: (i) Gravity; (ii) Electro/Magnetism; (iii) Weak Force; and (iv) Strong Force

b. Kinetic Energy/Potential Energy

c.  Thermodynamics

(i) First Law (Enthalpy)

(ii) Second Law (Entropy)(entropy always increases in a closed system)(Information Theory)

c. Astronomy (Dark Matter/Dark Energy/Hyperinflation)(Drake Equation)

d. Particle Physics (Quarks) String Theory/”Brane” Theory


2. Chemistry


a. Alchemy

b. Inorganic Chemistry (Periodic Table of the Elements)

c. Organic (Carbon) Chemistry {Created by German Scientists}


3. Biology

Three components of the Definition of Life:

(i)     Autosynthesis (reproduction)

(ii)   Autocatalysis (metabolism)

(iii) Tropisms (phototropism, geotropism, hydrotropism, electrotopism)

Prokaryotes [naked DNA] vs. Eukaryotes [nucleus with chromosomal DNA plus cytoplasmic mitochondria with mtDNA])(The Watson and Crick (Linear) Central Dogma

DNAà mRNA à protein (structural and enzymatic);

feedback loops and gene expression control; message splicing, post translational modification)

(1) Botany (plants)

(2) Zoology (animals)

(3) Parasitology (Viruses, Bacteria, Yeast, Fungi, Rickettsia, nematode worms, etc.)

(3) Evolutionary Biology

(4) Systems Biology (cluster genes into vast networks)

Preformation Theory – Regression of homunculus(es) over “n” generations from Adam and Eve up to the present day 


4. Computer Science


(a) Algorithms (a step-by-step procedure guaranteed to terminate in a finite number of steps) (Turing Machines – Busy Beaver/Halting Problems)

(b) Heuristics (Rule of Thumb; Guideline, not guaranteed to produce a result)

(i) Means/Ends Analysis [difference reduction; Monkey and Bananas Problem]

(ii) Hill Climbing

(iii) Trouble Shooting [a partition into a set of mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive subproblems; non-linear problems cannot be partitioned; you push-down here and it pops-up there; Divide and Conquer; trouble shooting; puzzle solving; e.g. turn on switch but light bulb doesn’t light: Is the bulb burned out?, the wire unpluged?, the lamp broken?, No power in the wall outlet?]  

(iv) Avoid premature closure on a single hypothesis without definitively ruling out alternatives or you may go down a garden path.


5. Linguistics


a. Field Linguistics


b. Computational Linguistics (models of a natural language)(The Imitation Game – Turing Test)


Semiotics (Five components of a linguistic description)(Charles Peirce)


(1) Phonology (phonemes phonetics)

(2) Morphology (inflections “ing” = present participle; “ly” = adverb; “ment” in French; exceptions “vitement” doesn’t exist as a word in French.  Why not?)

(3) Syntax

(a) Core Grammar (nouns, verbs, prepositions, etc.

Baccus Naur Form (BNF)

<Sentence> ::= <declarative> | <interrogative> | <imperative>

(b) Transformational Grammar -- Noam Chomsky)[active voice/passive voice; interrogative; imperative]

(4) Semantics (meaning; Dictionary: denotation/connotation; Thesaurus: Synonyms, Antonyms, Homonyms)

(5) Pragmatics (use of language in context of the real world; “Tact” vs. “Mand” “It is hot in here.” = “Open the window!”)


6. Psychology

a. Cognitive

b. Clinical (Diagnosis, Prognosis, Therapy, Endpoints)


VII. Professions


1. Medicine


2. Law


3. Engineering: (a) Electrical; (b) Mechanical; (c) Chemical; and (d) Civil


4. Architecture


5. Clergy (Seminary)

6. Military Science (soldiers, sailors, Academies for Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Cyber Warfare, Outer space)

7. Economics

9. Political Science

10. Business/Commerce/Marketing


VIII. Communicating Our Legacy to Future Generations

A. Categories of Knowledge:

1. Books and Periodicals (newspapers, magazines, Radio, TV, Movies on film, tape, or DVD’s, Music CD’s, Internet Blogs)

2. Proprietary Product Brochures and Specification Catalogs published by commercial companies

3. Patents ( (intellectual property); Requirements:

            a. Original (novelty)

            b. Non-obvious (non-trivial extension to existing state-of-the-art)

            c. Potentially Reducible to Practice

4. Classified information (Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, TS/SI/TK, Q-clearance, Unique Compartmented Data with a “Need to Know”; Not everyone signs the register!) There was nearly a military coup within the Pakistani government following the violation of sovereignty in connection with the assassination of Osama Ben Laden and the unmanned drone strikes targeting  militants in the unchartered tribal territories).


B. New Knowledge is Growing Exponentially

1. Scientific Medical Literature in Peer-Reviewed Journals

2. Moore’s Law of Computer Chip Density

3. “The Singularity” (Ray Kurzweil) (Date = ~2038)    


C. Worry in a Straight Line:

1. Identify what we already know [Google; Wikipedia; Old Encyclopedias {Britannica, Encarta}, Dictionaries (OED, Webster), Atlases, Thesaurus, CIA World Fact Book, Almanac, Book of World Records] and how to exploit it (it is known, it’s just that you personally don’t know it)

2. Estimate what we need to know that we don’t know yet (Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld explained to us that there are “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns”)

Of the former, figure out

(a) What is unknowable, in principle (and hopefully ignore it)

(b) What is, in fact, knowable; but in what period of time and at what cost (affordability)?

(c) Create a strategy, a plan, and a budget for learning the needed knowledge subject to the specified time and financial constraints.

IX. Extinction of the Human Race


Are Homo sapiens on a slippery slope toward species extinction? And if we are, when might this happen? Furthermore, if we had sufficient warning, would we be able to do anything about it beforehand?


            The Biblical “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” are still alive-and-well (as they were revealed in the Book of Revelation {war, pestilence, famine, and death}), but they are  probably not the surest path to the complete extinction of our species.  Humans have overcome a wide variety of  repetitive catastrophic natural disasters over  the last 200,000 years (when we first evolved to became the dominant hominid/primate species on the planet). We have survived earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes, typhoons, tsunamis, volcanos, meteor showers, sun-spot cycles, floods, droughts, ice ages, lighning-induced forest fires, variation  in ocean currents (El Nino, El Nina), plagues of locus, and a variety of pathogenic microorganisms/parasites, including (in no special order) anthrax, bubonic plague (or the black death [Yersinia Pestis]), Spanish Flu, bird (avian) flu, swine flu, small pox, measles (causing shingles), mumps, German Measles, Pertusis (whooping cough), Scarlet  Fever, Polio (infantile paralysis), Hansen’s Disease (leprosy), malaria, Ebola (hemorrhagic fever), syphilis, gonorrhea, AIDS/HIV, HPV (venereal warts), Hepatitis A,B,C, rabies, trichinosis, yeast infections, fungus, Giardia Lamblia (protazoan in feces), Trypanosoma  cruzi (a flagellate protozoan that causes Chagas Disease), Typhoid Fever, Amoebic Dysentery, Yellow Fever, Rickettsial Fever, sleeping sickness, bed bugs, ticks (Lyme Disease), fleas, mites, lice,  etc., but nothing has stopped us from propagating ourselves for very long -- in recent centuries, only plague and flu have resulted in a noticeable but temporary down-tick in our global population statistics that are otherwise increasing exponentially now at seven billion and counting.  Humans have continued to flourish on every continent despite any sort of adversity that Nature has thrown our way, at least so far.


            Yet there are a set of potential extinction events that we really need to worry about (20 of them are cited below in approximately chronological order):


1. Accidental Nuclear Exchange (Yield >=100 MT [Mega Tons])


            Given that both Russian and US missiles are still on hair-trigger alert (a Mutually Assured Destruction [MAD] strategy left over from the days of the Cold War that ended quite some time ago with the collapse of the USSR), multiple hydrogen bombs (# > 100) could result in a “Nuclear Winter.”  Under this scenario, dust in the high atmosphere, could extinguish all vegetation on the surface of the planet due to a block of sunlight for more than a decade.   Deep ocean species like tube worms fed by funnels of hot water containing sulfur may survive, but all land mammals could be obliterated for lack of food (sunlight is on the critical path to plant  photosynthesis, which are eaten by herbivores, which are eaten by carnivores, which are eaten by omnivores (like us) (as you rise up in the classical food chain/web).


Ref.: Watch the 90-minute documentary film “Count Down to Zero” (2010) which contains the following quote by Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, Chief Scientist of the Manhattan Project in New Mexico,  at the time of the first test of the Trinity atomic bomb... “We knew the world would not be the same. a few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent.  I remembered the line from the Hindu Scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita...

‘Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,’ – Vishnu, the muti-armed Hindu God.”

The documentary explains the precarious state of our modern nuclear arsenal with many examples of accidents that were first classified “Top secret” before they became known to the public.


            The most likely immediate nuclear scenario, however, is of a small number of dirty bombs (containing radioactive cobalt, cesium, etc.) exploded by terrorists within  major cities.  This probably won’t obliterate our species, but it would be a non-trivial set back to lose Hong Kong, Tokyo, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Rome, Berlin, Madrid, Paris, London, Toronto, Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Miami, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Sydney all at the same time.


2.  Biological Warfare


            A single terrorist attack using a sophisticated form of (chemical or) biological warfare (WMD’s) - a  weaponized viral or bacterial microorganism that spreads in air by sneezing and kills infected people with ~100 percent fatality in approximately three days. (There is a Hollywood movie scenario that suggests this event would be survivable – see the film Contagion.)





3. Cyber Warfare


            A terrorist cyber-attack transforming all worldwide Internet-connected computers/servers  into “dead bricks” (These “blue screens of death” would be survivable.) 


4. Detonation of Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) Weapons in the Upper Atmopsphere


    Such weapons could  interrupt worldwide communication, cell phone, and GPS systems for a long period.  (This problem is survivable.)


5. Human Population Exceeds Earth’s Carrying Capacity (> 10 billion people in < 100 years)


            Over-population will lead to global conflict over increasingly scarce fresh water supplies, assuming that sea-water desalination is not economically feasible in the time frame we would need. (This unsustainability problem is survivable for the species, however; since the excess population would suffer famine and die of starvation, but not everyone would die.)


Ref.:  Prof. Stephen Emmott of  Oxford University, UK”Ten Billion” (referring to the number of humans soon to be on our planet)  

Species on Earth are becoming extinct at a rate 1,000x faster than the normal evolutionary rate, as we consume our way through our planet’s resources by clear cutting forests.  Our air mileae figures are the most shameful:  By 1960, we had flown 100 billion miles; by 1980, we had flown 1,000 billion miles; today, we jet 6,000 billion air miles per year. The resultant climate change will leave us literally high and dry in a dystopia (recall the movie Blade Runner with a one percent of the City of Los Angeles’s wealthy citizens living behind a gated community and the rest living in extreme poverty.


6. A Large Meteor Impacts the Earth


            Even a potential large impact is survivable providing we detect it’s presence and calculate its ETA with a lead time of [10  - 20] weeks, allowing for a controlled deflection of the trajectory (SciFi Movie = Meteor).  (BTW, we should not try to blow-up the block of ice/rock into small harmless pieces with a nuclear detonation in outer spaace;  this could be foolishly counterproductive by creating a shower of multiple concurrent impacts A gentle nudge of the “big guy” would be sufficient for gravity to allow for a near miss, and we will have successfully “dodged a bullet.”)  


7. Climate Change and/or Destruction of the Ozone Layer


            Global warming due to elevated CO2 concentrations by burning wood/coal/oil/gasoline for the last 100 years,  and a resulting “green house” effect, assuming we don’t convert the atmosphere  into a Venus-like green-house “heat trap.”  Sea  levels rise from a few feet to a few yards as all the ice in Antarctica slowly melts. (This problem is disruptive but survivable, however, by using geo-engineering with space- based mirrors or chemical sequestering methods.)   The protective ozone layers over the North and South Poles modulate the amount of dangerous radiation that the Sun regularly puts out to which we  might be exposed if the upper atmosphere ozone holes were to expand indefinitely.


    Another possibility is the start of a new ice age  in which the surface layer of all the world’s oceans would freeze solid.  Although this is likewise not a welcome prospect, it is survivable.




Climate Central, Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas, and the Weather of the Future (214 pages; Pantheon Books, New York; 2012).


Mathew E. Kahn, Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future (Basic Books, New York; 2010).


8. Bobbing of the Sun within the Plane of our Galaxy


       As our solar system floats (or bobs) up and down above and below the plane of the Milky Way (our Sun is located  in one of the outer arms), the Earth moves in an broadly-curved sinusoidal trajectory with respect to our disk of stars (with a period of ~62 million years) thereby exposing us to variable amounts of radiation depending on whether we are above or below our asymmetric plate (with North/South faces) at any particular time. This variation would be a function of other active processes that are presumably going on within our Local Cluster as well as the orientation of our galaxy in 3-D space while it is also moving away from the former center of the universe (the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago), but subject to local turbulent gravitational effects from near-by galaxies.   The galactic disk takes about 200 million years to rotate once; its center is assumed to contain a large black hole.  The Earth may be exposed to a radiation shock wave from the rotation of the galaxy in the intergalactic medium as it passes from below to above and then blow again, and this may account for periodic global life-extinction events (punctuated evolution) on the Earth.  Synchronizing these cycles to find out which are causal is not easy.  It is clear that, if the rate of bobbing changed capriciously, this could result in a catastrophic consequences for the human race.


9. Extinguishing the Geomagnetic Field that Shields the Earth from Solar Radiation


            The Magnetic North/South Poles periodically swaps direction (flips with an oscillation cycle of ~4,000 years).  This is evidenced by ocean floor sampling revealing a stripped pattern of  directional iron compounds. During the time of the reversal, the Earth’s protective magnetic field might be annihilated  (This problem is survivable if it takes place gradually enough or in a magnetic quadrapole rather than simple-dipole manner.)


10. Lunar Detachment


            The Moon escapes from the gravity field of the Earth, altering the normal tidal pattern in our oceans   Our Moon, Luna, with a dead core, is gradually drifting farther and farther away from the Earth (already only one side faces us and the phases of the moon from “full” to “new” are not wellsynchronized to the months of the year resulting in what is called a “blue moon.”). The Moon stabilizes the rotational speed of the Earth (giving us a 24-hour day, that at one time was a lot shorter [~10 hours]) and therefore our terrestrial weather/climate.  (Later on, the Moon could spin back-in much closer and thus break up and turn into a collection of rocks like the rings of Saturn, but that will be about a billion years from now, and the Earth is likely to be uninhabitable by then anyway; so we'll have to enjoy this spectacle from a distance if we’re still around ourselves. Another theory says that the Moon will fly away into space if it escapes Earth's gravity; by then all oceanic tides (neap tides, etc.)  will be determined exclusively by the the Sun's gravity, assuming there still are oceans). (This problem is survivable).


11. The Diameter of the Sun Expands on Its Way to Becoming a Red Dwarf


            In 200 million years, our Sun will expand to include the orbit of Mercury in its natural evolution as a star of its size (not sufficient for a supernova)  that consumes all its hydrogen fuel (having converted it to helium by fusion).  Anyone still on Earth will fry, after the oceans evaporate and then boil away. The sand (Earth’s crust) will be sterilized and then take on the texture of molten lava.  Long before then, however,  we should make a mandatory visit to Europa, where temperatures will be  more hospitable, there would be a watery ocean > 100 miles deep, but, sadly, the atmosphere would not be breathable [likewise for Io, Callisto, and Gannymede].)  Nevertheless, we would get a good up-close view of Jupiter.


12. Imminent Galactic Collision


            In about 400 million years, the Nebula-in-Andromeda is expected to collide with our own Milky Way galaxy.  Due to the large empty space between stars, there may not be mutual star collisions and the two spinning wheels may pass through each other, but gravitational turbulence may cause different stars to be pulled hither and yon.  (This event is survivable, assuming that the naked  Earth is not cast off into deep space by a gravitational sling shot and we weren’t able to find a near-by star to hook up with at the proper distance.) 


13. Rogue Stars

            We are about to be "rained on" by stars that have been thrown our way by a smaller galaxy that the Milky Way already collided with quite some time ago. This collision shot the small galaxy's stars toward the far side of our galaxy, but gradually the gravitation of our galaxy captured the stars and drew them back toward us. We may be located right where these stars are, and they may be  due to hit our solar system.

14. Rogue Black Holes

            Black holes have been detected moving around in odd locations, so there's always the chance one could drift into our vicinity from an unexpected direction, which could reduce our warning, not that we could do anything about it other than watch it from somewhere else! There are also rogue planets shooting around out there -- planets that have been torn loose from their original stars and could come careening in from any direction. Fortunately, the odds of one of these hitting us is low, and we wouldn't have the same action-at-a-distance threat that a black hole (even a micro black hole) would.


15. Atmospheric Gas Composition

            The relative concentration of nitrogen/oxygen/carbon-dioxide/argon/neon/xenon in our atmosphere is in a delicate balance. Too much (or too little) oxygen could be horrific.


16. Sun Spot Cycle Anomaly (Coronal Mass Ejection or a Hugh Gamma Ray Burst)

            The 11-year sunspot cycle could be disrupted. Just one big solar flare (like a belch in the liquid hydrogen as it bubbled up to the surface) might be very dangerous. Who knows what that would entail for all the species on our planet?


17. Change in the Earth's Obliquity, Radial Distance to the Sun, or Orbital Eccentricity

         The spinning of the Earth on its axis makes an angle with respect to the plane of the ecliptic called its obliquity or “angle of declination.” It could tilt beyond 22.45 degrees. There is also a wobble or precession associated with the spinning (like a top) which explains why our current North Star (Polaris) has changed over the centuries. An increased angle would make our Winter and Summer seasons far more extreme. A flattening of the angle toward zero would eliminate the seasons, making the Earth look more like Jupiter with large horizontal weather bands and long lasting (centuries) cyclones. (Note: Magnetic North pole is not the same as Due-North due to the presence of iron ore in a big lump and the dynamo effect of a rotating spheroid.)  An increase in our eccentricity would change the number of days per year from ~365 (an ellipse is not a circle ).  A change in the radial distance from the Sun ([91 - 94] million miles or ~8 light seconds) would not only change the number of days per year but have other temperature effects depending on whether it was an increase of decrease.. Milankovitch Cycles can be used to determine the periodicity of ice ages by means of mathematical formulas.


18. Disruption of Techtonic Plates

            An abrupt positive feedback loop in the internal temperature dynamics of the Earth’s crust, mantle, and liquid core could be  catastrophic.  Techtonic plates could be disrupted and all the known continents could be swallowed up in a short time with no land to replace them whatsoever!  Remember Pangaea was a single supercontinent 300 million years ago (it had a number of different predecessors before it, each with exotic names) that gave rise to today’s seven continents {North/South America, Asia, Europe Africa, Australia, and Antarctica} separated by oceans that we know and love (these continents drift  with respect to each other at the same rate as our finger nails grow, so it’s hard (without GPS) to track their motion precisely (centimeters per year), but who is to say that this rate will remain constant, and it couldn’t speed up 100,000x abruptly).


19. Invasion by Aliens from Mars or Wherever

            After an invasion by an  intelligent but nasty species of aliens from outer space (like The Borg of Star Trek) who mean to do us harm, “all bets are off.”  This scenario is rather fanciful. Nevertheless, Dr. Stephen Hawking warned humanity that “we should not shout out when we’re walking in the jungle.” Dr.  Carl Sagan already did the equivalent of shouting with our  gratuitous Voyager disk. It instructs whomever finds it exactly where to locate us  (SciFi Movies:  War of he Worlds, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Prometheus [July 2012]). (The SETI project is still listening for extraterrestrial signals, but hasn’t found anything so far, despite decades of scanning.)


20. The Big Rip

            In about 100 billion years, according to our current cosmological dogma, our universe will have continued to expand to the point  that at first only the stars in the Milky Way will be  visible, making the night sky look pretty dark, and then all stars will be extinguished  (so it’s really, really dark).  If all local stars are extinguished then the terms “day” and “night” can no longer be distinguished; finally, all molecules/atoms/protons/neutrons are annihilated (the “Big Rip”), decomposing into bosons/quarks.  Subsequently,  the “strong force” becomes irreversibly damaged,   “All bets are off.”  “Exit stage left.” through a “worm hole” to another more hospitable universe within the ostensible “multiverse,” assuming this is at all possible.  Calling all physicists... please rescue us from this pernicious scenario. 








Conclusion for Section IX:


            As far as our human species is concerned, we've moved a long way forward.  Civilization has progressed from the days of our hunter/gatherer ancestral tribes.  Just a few thousand years ago (2000 BCE), we concluded that there were only four elements {Earth, Fire, Air, and Water} and only four body fluids that needed to be kept in balance for good health {blood, phlem, black bile, and yellow bile}. {The words “sanguine” and “phlegmatic” in our current language are derived from this false model of physiology.} Note that none of these so-called elements is in reality an element based on our current understanding of chemistry (The Periodic Table of the Elements). Water is a compound; earth (dirt, beach sand) is a mixture; air is a mixture; and fire (combustion) is an artifact of rapid oxidation {just like rust is an artifact of slow iron oxidation}.   But, we can’t rest on our laurels, amused by the foolishness of our ancestors; we still have a long way to go to make sense of the world, even though the 11-dimensional Brane/String Theory of Everything (ToE) that integrates gravity with quantum mechanics with the four forces and the standard Boson/Quark model of particles is close at hand.


            What is important is for us to understand how to reprogram (debug) the genetic code (the  DNA in our chromosomes contains 3.1 billion base pairs {A, G, T, and C}) without disrupting the architecture of our human adult tissues.  This is the next big challenge.     



Here's an update from Dr. Gunther Kletetschka... Part of my research has to do with the extinction of large mammals due to a comet/asteroid that landed in Alberta, CANADA 12,800 years ago. We published our finding this year and last year in PNAS [5-8]. I believe that we have solid evidence that all mega mammals went extinct along with nearly all human beings.

Just because we've been the dominant species on the planet for the last 10K years or so, given the advent of civilization, agriculture, written language, science and technology (the Internet), why do we imagine that we have the right to be called the dominant (alpha) species, and that "this was our destiny all along"? It might have been due to chance. And sure enough, as we look at the data, it was due to chance.

About 99.9 percent of all species that ever appeared on Earth are now extinct. Except perhaps for deep, dark ocean tube-worm locations with hot sulfur pouring out of deep cracks and boiling the cold salt-water around them, the Earth has never been a Garden of Eden for anyone with its volcanoes, tornadoes/cyclones, hurricanes/typhoons, forest fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods/droughts, and ice ages. Human stone age hunter/gatherers were no exception for the majority of our time here on Earth (~200K years), and we ourselves (Homo sapiens) almost became extinct several times in competition with other forms of life throughout our history. We were never the superior, top-predator species compared with most carnivores, until we learned how to breed dogs (domesticated wolves) to help us survive the dangers of becoming prey, ~50 KYA. Tool using and the ability to walk long distances (miles) and throw sharp spears at a distance really made a big difference, especially when we used language to coordinate our hunting expeditions in teams and teach the next generation of human progeny how to make stone tools, sew clothing from skins, and build fires to cook meat and keep warm in Winter. Along the way, we learned that death appears to be inevitable -- what we now call "The Human Condition."

So where's the luck/randomness? There were at least five major catastrophic near-extinction events in the last few hundred million years on our friendly Earth that helped shape the evolution of Homo sapiens on this planet, ultimately giving us licence to take over the whole place (every continent and even parts of the Moon). Here they are in chronological order:

1. "The Great Dying" (Toxic volcanoes split the single continental land mass [Pangea ] in half with its green land-based vegetation (that raised the level of oxygen in the atmosphere) and either cooked or froze everything around one island of land sitting above a single very-large ocean, 252 MYA [1].

2. The Dinosaur Extinction (including top predator T. Rex) 66 MYA secondary to a large asteroid impact that cooked the global environment (except for a few mouse-type mammals hiding in boroughs under ground) [2].

3. An ice age. Primates now live in trees or walk on two legs as needed. But temperatures got uncomfortably cold [starting at ~120 KYA] and those primates North of the Congo River suffered (Chimps and hominids like us that weren't aggressive didn't survive; warlike behavior was needed, since resources became scarce). On the other hand, the bonobos South of the Congo-barrier in Africa survived in a milder climate and their personality never needed to be so aggressive as to go to war to survive, and this psychologically dark trait was not selected for as adaptive [3].

4. The eruption of the Toba Volcano in Indonesia (70 KYA) left the global skies dark (without sunlight) for nearly ten years, so the human population without food dwindled down to ~2,000 folk in Africa (at the hairy edge of extinction) [4]. The proof is that more than 99 percent of our genomes are almost identical, which is a lot more than most other primate species, leading to the conclusion that we migrated around the Earth from one mid-African starting point that consisted of a relatively small tribe of "survivors." The illusion of profound phenotypic racial differences (Caucasians, Blacks, Orientals, American Indians, etc.) is not so much in new gene networks but in small SNP variations needed to adapt to the requirement for the right amount of Vitamin D from sunlight and calibration of our mtDNA to maintain metabolic rates (we're warm-blooded creatures with constant body temperatures, regardless of the external climate and different weather patterns required different ATP/caloric maintenance) making our appearance to one another superficially (cosmetically) different (skin color, hair texture, etc.), even though our genomes tell the story of how we almost didn't make it at the time of this more recent near-extinction event.

5. An asteroid that fell in Alberta, CANADA 12,800 years ago [5-8] killed all mega mammals and most humans along with them.

So there you have it. We should count your blessings, not brag about your superiority, for thenext near-extinction event could be a full-extinction event and be just around the corner, So we should get ready for one soon. And I don't mean plan an expedition to Mars to see if we can terraform it to our purposes. I mean that we need to solve the "mortality problem," so we can live long enough to figure out what to do with our precarious Earth environment, if it decides to suddenly fail. Furthermore, our star, Sol, the sun, won't last forever either, but at least, for that, we have a substantial grace period, as we discussed above.


1. The Permian Triassic (P/Tr) extinction event, informally termed the "Great Dying," forming the boundary between the Permian and Triassic geologic periods, as well as the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras. This was the Earth's most severe known extinction event, with up to 96 percent of all marine species and 70 percent of terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct.

2. This event marked the end of the Cretaceous period and with it, the entire Mesozoic Era, opening the Cenozoic Era, which continues today.

3. Ice Ages

4. The Toba Supereruption was a massive volcanic eruption that occurred [72K +/- 5 K] YA at Mount Toba (Sumatra, INDONESIA). It is recognized as one of the Earth's largest known eruptions. The related catastrophe hypothesis holds that this event caused a global volcanic winter of [6 - - 10] years and possibly a 1,000-year-long cooling episode in Earth's climate.

5. Wittke James H., James C. Weaver, Ted E. Bunch, James P. Kennett, Douglas J. Kennett, Andrew M. T. Moore, Gordon C. Hillman, Kenneth B. Tankersley, Albert C. Goodyear, Christopher R. Moore, I. Randolph Daniel, Jr., Jack H. Ray, Neal H. Lopinot, David Ferraro, Isabel Israde-Alc ntara, James L. Bischoff, Paul S. DeCarli, Robert E. Hermes, Johan B. Kloosterman, Zsolt Revay, George A. Howard, David R. Kimbel, Gunther Kletetschka, Ladislav Nabelek, Carl P. Lipo, Sachiko Sakai, Allen West, and Richard B. Firestone. (May 20 2013), Evidence for deposition of 10 million tonnes of impact spherules across four continents 12,800 years ago,
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA , Vol. 110, No. 23, pp. E2088-97 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1301760110 (June 4, 2013) PDF.

6. James H. Wittke, Ted E. Bunch, James P. Kennett, Douglas J. Kennett, Brendan J. Culleton, Kenneth B. Tankersley, I. Randolph Daniel, J., Johan B. Kloosterman, Gunther Kletetschka, Allen West Firestone, R.B., 2013. Reply to van Hoesel, et al., regarding Impact-related YDB nanodiamonds from the Netherlands. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, accepted on August 8, 2013.

7. James H. Wittke, Ted E. Bunch, Kenneth B. Tankersley, I. Randolph Daniel, J., Johan B. Kloosterman, Gunther Kletetschka, Allen West, Firestone, R.B., 2013. Reply to Ives et al., regarding the impact-related YDB layer at Chobot site, Alberta, CANADA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, accepted on August 8, 2013.

8. Bunch, Ted E.; Hermes, Robert E.; Moore, Andrew M. T.; Kennett, Douglas J.; Weaver, James C.; Wittke, James H.; DeCarli, Paul S.; Bischoff, James L.; Hillman, Gordon C.; Howard, George A.; Kimbel, David R.; Kletetschka, Gunther; Lipo, Carl P.; Sakai, Sachiko; Revay, Zsolt; West, Allen; Firestone, Richard B.; Kennett, James P. (July 10, 2012), Very high-temperature impact melt products as evidence for cosmic airbursts and impacts 12,900 years ago,
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA Vol. 109, No. 28, pp. E1903-12 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1204453109, 2012, PDF