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5th September 2014

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5 billion years from now

Around 5 billion years from now, give or take, the sun will expand into a red giant, absorbing all the inner planets back into its fiery womb. At that point, water ice will thaw on Saturn’s moon Titan, where the temperature is currently 290°F, and some interesting things may eventually crawl out of its methane lakes. One of them, pawing through organic silt, might come across the Huygens probe that parachuted there from the Cassini space mission in January, 2005, which, during its descent, and for 90 minutes before its batteries died, sent us pictures of steambed-like channels cutting down from orange, pebbled highlands to Titan’s sand-dune seas.

Sadly, whatever finds Huygens won’t have any clue where it came from, or that we once existed. Bickering among project directors at NASA nixed a plan to include a graphic explanation that Jon Lomberg designed, this time encased in a diamond that would preserve a shred of our story at least 5 billion years – long enough for evolution to provide another audience.

Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (2007)

Tagged: futurefuturismbooksspaceSaturnCassinievolutionlifespace explorationAlan Weisman

9th June 2014

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You have a right to experiment with your life. You will make mistakes. And they are right too.
— Anaïs Nin, A Woman Speaks

Tagged: lifefreedomphilosophyAnaïs Ninbooks

30th March 2014

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Life is tragic simply because the earth turns

Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death — ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)

Tagged: bookswritinglifedeathreligionphilosophymysteryJames Baldwin

17th October 2013

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Into the Abyss (Werner Herzog, 2011)

Into the Abyss (Werner Herzog, 2011)

Tagged: filmsmoviesdeath rowlifeWerner Herzog

25th October 2012

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Something unknown is doing we don’t know what
— Sir Arthur Eddington describing the uncertainty principle in The Nature of the Physical World, 1928

Tagged: physicsscienceArthur Eddingtonquantum physicsmysterylifephilosophyuncertaintyelectrons

1st October 2012

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Nuclear war and life on earth

But do not worry about the life of the earth itself. No extinction, no matter how huge the territory involved or how violent the damage, can possibly bring the earth’s life to an end. Even if we were to superimpose on the more or less natural events now calculated to be heading toward a mass extinction the added violence and radioactivity of a full-scale, general nuclear war, we could never kill off everything. We might reduce the numbers of species of multicellular animals and higher plants to a mere handful, but the bacteria and their resident viruses would still be there, perhaps in greater abundance than ever because of the expanding ecosystems created for them by so much death. The planet would be back where things stood a billion years ago, with no way of predicting the future course of evolution beyond the high probability that, given the random nature of evolution, nothing quite like us would ever turn up again.

Lewis Thomas, The Fragile Species (1992)

Tagged: bookslifeecologybiologyfuturewarnuclear warLewis Thomasextinction

8th August 2012

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The geological layers of our lives

The geological layers of our lives rest so tightly one on top of the other that we always come up against earlier events in later ones, not as matter that has been fully formed and pushed aside, but absolutely present and alive.

Bernhard Schlink, The Reader

Tagged: bookshistoryBernhard Schlinklifememory

28th June 2012

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The stars emerge one
by one into the names
that were last found for them
far back in other
darkness no one remembers
by watchers whose own
names were forgotten
later in the dark
and as the night deepens
other lumens begin
to appear around them
as though they were shining
through the same instant
from a single depth of age
though the time between
each one of them
and its nearest neighbor
contains in its span
the whole moment of the earth
turning in a light
that is not its own
with the complete course
of life upon it
born to brief reflection
recognition and anguish
from one cell evolving
to remember daylight
laughter and distant music

W.S. Merwin, from The Shadow of Sirius

Tagged: poetrystarslifeearthW S Merwin

7th June 2012

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'The Middle', by Ogden Nash

'The Middle'

When I remember bygone days
I think how evening follows morn;
So many I loved were not yet dead,
So many I love were not yet born.

—Ogden Nash

Tagged: poetryogden nashtimelifedeath