Tag Archives: Science

Science Fiction Technology

(Image from CERN (modified): Here)

Hello again folks,

I’ve been writing a lot lately, and a fair bit of that has been on some pretty serious topics. As such I want to take a step back for a moment, and write what I will consider a “just for fun.” post.

It should come as no surprise to anyone here that I am big time sci-fi buff, as well as a science fiction writer. Shameless plug; have you had the chance to check out my books? They are available on Amazon for Kindle as well as print for $2.99 – $11.99. You can also get them for $10 (includes shipping) from my Etsy Shop, and have them SIGNED!

Now that the plug is out of the way, today I want talk about some of the technology that inspired a lot of the ideas I use in my books.

Fusion Power

As my books take place in the the 24th century, the primary source of power for most cities, colonies, and starships is fusion power. For those that are unfamilar, fusion is a kind of nuclear reaction that fuses together smaller atoms into larger ones; and releases a crap-load of energy in the process. As the Wikipedia article on fusion power points out, it is the process that fuels stars;

The fusion reaction normally takes place in a plasma of deuterium and tritium (hydrogen isotopes) heated to millions of degrees. In stars, gravity contains these fuels. Outside of a star, the most researched way to confine the plasma at these temperatures is to use magnetic fields. The major challenge in realising fusion power is to engineer a system that can confine the plasma long enough at high enough temperature and density.”

There is a few important points I want to highlight here, because they will be important as we go forward. The first is the fact that nuclear fusion takes place in a plasma, which is the fourth state of matter. Plasma is basically a highly ionized gas, and is found in nature as things like lightning, and stars. Neon lights are also plasma-based.

The other important part here is that, aside from gravity, plasmas can be shaped and contained by electromagnetic fields. This is the property that has allowed countless numbers of fusion experiments to take place on Earth.

Because some of these fusions reactors look really awesome, I wanted to just post a few of them here as examples;

NSTX Reactor, a tokamak style reactor;

(Image from Wikipedia)

Wendelstein7 Reactor, under construction;

(Image from Wikipedia)

I hope you can why some of these experiments inspired me. They look like something straight out of a science fiction movie! When I imagined the power reactors on my ships and planets, I pictured things like the NSTX reactor.

But you might be wondering to yourself, why fusion? Not only is it a staple of science fiction, it gives a rather efficient means of creating energy on a starship. All of my ships and cities require electrical power, and fusion represents one of the best way to do that.

Can you imagine the power of small star to power a city or a ship? I can, and that’s why I went with fusion. Plus, many of my ships I also imagined would have supplementary solar panels and others means to create power as well. Let’s talk about that for a moment.

Power Plant Design

Alright, so we established that fusion reactors are at the heart of my ships and colonies. These systems create all the power and energy my ships and cities need to thrive. But let’s take a closer look at how they do that.

Like our own Sun, a fusion reactor would create two very important resources; light and heat. The heat is probably the most notable of the two. But how do we turn a sustainable fusion reaction into electrical power? The answer is in steam turbines, just like nuclear (fission) power plants use on Earth.

(Image from Here)

I want you to look at the image above, and imagine that this is a fusion reactor instead of the fission one pictured. The reactor core would be pretty similar in function, and still create quite a bit of heat. The rest of the cooling and electrical system would work pretty much the same way. The heat would be ran through a coolant, which would create steam, which would turn the turbine in order to make electrical power.

But instead of the electricity going into a city, it would be fed back into the ship. That electricity would be distributed via an inner ship electrical network, and probably also stored in some kind of battery system.

Another important aspect of the function would be the cooling system, which could also be hooked into the water circulation systems. That way, you could have things like on board plumbing, and hot water too. I imagined these systems would be a lot like what we see on modern ocean cargo ships.

(A system for liquid natural gas.)

Hall Thruster

Alright, with power systems out of the way, I want to talk a bit about what inspired my designs for propulsion in my books. The short answer is the technology behind both the Hall Thruster, and the technology used at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern. We will start with the Hall Thruster.

(Image from NASA)

So, you saw the picture of the thruster above, but you might be wondering how exactly a Hall Thruster works? For that we turn to Wikipedia;

In spacecraft propulsion, a Hall-effect thruster (HET) is a type of ion thruster in which the propellant is accelerated by an electric field. Hall-effect thrusters trap electrons in a magnetic field and then use the electrons to ionize propellant, efficiently accelerate the ions to produce thrust… “ 

In short, Hall Thrusters function by accelerating an ionized propellant as exhaust to create thrust. Most of these ionized propellants are in the forms of plasmas, often from noble gases such as Xenon. You see, I said that fusion plasma thing would be important.

In addition to creating power for ships in my books, the fusion reactor is also the source for ready-made plasma. This plasma, being heavily ionized, is then accelerated through a futuristic version of a Hall Thruster in order to create thrust.

However, it must be said that current Hall Thrusters are relatively weak in thrust department. There has been a lot of improvements over the years. For example, the recent work into the X3 thruster has produced the highest thrust level to date.

All that said. I had to imagine something more advanced (about 3 centuries), and a little bit bigger. That is where the inspiration from the Large Hadron Collider comes in.

CERN

(Image from CERN, found here)

The Large Hadron Collider is the largest particle accelerator in the world, and is found at the European research complex at CERN. The accelerator itself is huge, at 27 kilometers in length. It is “big science” in every sense of the word, and has cost billions of dollars from sources across the globe.

The purpose of the LHC is to accelerator particles to nearly the speed of light, and smash them together. It’s designed to probe the deepest mysterious of our universe, and is a sheer monster of scientific discovery and engineering. It should come as no surprise that it inspired the propulsion systems in my universe. Hey, if you want to power everything from small fighters to huge interstellar battleships; you have to go big.

While their function is not exactly the same, both the Hall Thruster and the LHC use electromagnetic fields to accelerate either ionized plasma, or elementary particles. As such, assuming three centuries worth of innovation and plenty of writer liberties; the LHC and the Hall Thruster provide the inspiration for my propulsion systems.

In addition to requiring a lot of electrical power (courtesy of the fusion reactor), those systems would also be funneling extremely heated plasmas. That means all my engine systems have extensive coolant and heat dissipation methods. These are on full display in my fifth book; Of Origins and Endings.

Do you want to know what other technologies inspire my fiction? Feel free to ask!

Thanks for reading!

Sources/References;

https://www.space.com/38444-mars-thruster-design-breaks-records.html

https://home.cern/topics/large-hadron-collider

https://home.cern/about/engineering/pulling-together-superconducting-electromagnets

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokamak

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_power

https://phys.org/news/2017-01-fusion-power-limitless-energy.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hall-effect_thruster

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Walking with the Ancestors Part 7-A

The next stop on our journey is a little bit west of the Anzick Boy, as discussed in Chapter 6 of this project. This time we are around 9000 years ago, in the state now known as Washington.

anzick-kennewick

We are at the teal dot on the west coast of the USA, circa 9,000 years ago

This find is known as the Kennewick Man, or The Ancient One, and has a long and controversial story behind it. I am going to use a few selections here to set the scene.

In the summer of 1996, two college students in Kennewick, Washington, stumbled on a human skull while wading in the shallows along the Columbia River. They called the police. The police brought in the Benton County coroner, Floyd Johnson, who was puzzled by the skull, and he in turn contacted James Chatters, a local archaeologist. Chatters and the coroner returned to the site and, in the dying light of evening, plucked almost an entire skeleton from the mud and sand. They carried the bones back to Chatters’ lab and spread them out on a table.” (Smithsonian/history)

What was evident right away was how complete the skeleton, which is often not the case with these kind of finds. To see a picture of the skeleton, be sure to check out the NPR link below. There is some great material there, which I am only going to be able to discuss a small segment here.

Okay, so a couple of college students stumble over this really complete skeleton, and almost immediately a controversy breaks out. One of the big reasons being, and something I have mentioned before; the conflict between respect for the dead and the need for future study and research. I will take a few more excerpts to really put this into perspective.

The fight has been raging for 20 years, ever since a couple of college kids stumbled — literally — across a human skull while wading in a river in Washington state. They thought they’d found a murder victim, and flagged down a nearby cop, who called in a local expert. Instead, they had discovered some of the oldest, most complete human remains ever dug up in North America.

Archaeologists dubbed the skeleton Kennewick Man, after the place he was found, and hoped his bones could help settle one of the greatest mysteries in the story of human migration: how did Homo sapiens, originating in Africa, end up in the Americas?” (NPR)

That sets up one side of this conflict. The archaeologists that excavated the skeleton had a lot of questions, and there was a great deal of testing and research to do before they could even begin to answer some of those questions. It is well known that research and testing is a time intensive process, and so they would need to hold onto the bones for future study. In addition, this says nothing about tests and research tools that have not been discovered yet. If a skeleton is reburied, scientists and future researchers won’t have access to it for future study.

However (and this is kind of a long excerpt;

But a group of Native American tribes considered The Ancient One, as they call him, a direct tribal ancestor — and they didn’t need science to explain how people ended up here. “From our oral histories, we know that our people have been part of this land since the beginning of time,” a leader of the Umatilla tribe wrote in a statement at the time. “We do not believe that our people migrated here from another continent, as the scientists do.”

Working together, five tribes demanded that The Ancient One’s remains not be poked or prodded in the name of science, and instead be promptly reburied in accordance with tribal custom — and under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. That federal law, passed in 1990, requires certain Native American artifacts and remains to be handed over to culturally affiliated tribes or provable descendants.

“The tribes had good reason to be sensitive,” writes Smithsonian Magazine’s Douglas Preston. “The early history of museum collecting of Native American remains is replete with horror stories. In the 19th century, anthropologists and collectors looted fresh Native American graves and burial platforms, dug up corpses and even decapitated dead Indians lying on the field of battle and shipped the heads to Washington for study. Until NAGPRA, museums were filled with American Indian remains acquired without regard for the feelings and religious beliefs of native people.” “ (NPR)

The Native American’s claim was wrapped in a deep history of colonialism and oppression on top of the rights of the dead. This is a big issue, and I certainly don’t have the space to detail it all here. I think the excerpt above gives a rough idea of what we were talking about. It is the intersection of a lot of issues that have had a strong (and often negative) effect on Native peoples across the county.

It is an ongoing struggle for sure; as it highlighted nicely by this excerpt from NPR,

“It’s the chafe between science and spirituality,” writes Kevin Taylor at Indian Country Today, “between people who say the remains have so much to tell us about the ancient human past that they should remain available for research, versus people who feel a kinship with the ancient bones and say they should be reburied to show proper reverence for the dead.” “

I have a lot of thoughts about this, as both a student of anthropology AND a spirit worker/shamanic practitioner. I will come back to this at the end of this piece, because there is more of this story to tell.

So we have these two “sides” in conflict about the ultimate fate the Kennewick Man (anthropologists et al)/ The Ancient One (Native Peoples et al), and is the case with many of these things, the conflict has played out of the last twenty years or so.

But for these bones to fall under the protection of NAGPRA, there had to be proof of a connection between the remains and the people fighting to reclaim them today. The scientists said no such connection existed. The tribal leaders insisted it did; they could feel it in their bones. “ (NPR)

That was the crux of many of the ethical as well as legal fights that took place over the last two decades.

That question ended up spawning an unprecedented legal and ethical battle in which prominent archaeologists and anthropologists would sue the U.S. government for the chance to study the bones. Femur bones would go missing under unexplained circumstances. Bitter arguments would be pitched over the migration patterns and feeding habits of sea lions, the curvature and racial implications of cheekbones, the validity of oral tradition as courtroom evidence. “ (NPR)

The skeleton was found on federal land, so it technically fell under U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ control.” (Smithsonian/history)

In 2004, a San Francisco federal appeals court sided with researchers, citing previous analyses that showed Kennewick Man was not Native American, writes Guarino.” (Smithsonian/history)

On and on it went, and for the most part to verdicts favored the scientists. Now, I am not trying to set up the scientists as bad guys, but they didn’t come out looking spotless either. That being said, it is hard to underestimate what we have learned from the Kennewick Man. I wouldn’t be here writing about my ancestral connection to him if we didn’t.

For perspective;

Eventually, the scientists did get a legally approved (though very brief and highly constricted) look at Kennewick Man, and what they learned is truly amazing. Based on the shape of his skull and other features, they theorized that he or his forebears may have been Asian coastal seafarers. They may have journeyed by boat along the south Alaskan shoreline and ultimately all the way down the Americas, hugging the coast and living off kelp, fish, sea lions and the like.”

This is the “coastal migration” theory of the peopling of the Americas, which suggests that a wave, or waves, of people traveled and lived along the Pacific coast long before other travelers chased herds of tasty mastodons and mammoths across a land bridge into Alaska.

They also learned a tremendous amount about what Kennewick Man’s life may have been like. Here’s more from Preston:

“Kennewick Man spent a lot of time holding something in front of him while forcibly raising and lowering it; the researchers theorize he was hurling a spear downward into the water, as seal hunters do. His leg bones suggest he often waded in shallow rapids, and he had bone growths consistent with ‘surfer’s ear,’ caused by frequent immersion in cold water. His knee joints suggest he often squatted on his heels. … Many years before Kennewick Man’s death, a heavy blow to his chest broke six ribs. Because he used his right hand to throw spears, five broken ribs on his right side never knitted together. This man was one tough dude.” “ (NPR)

It is hard to understate how much we have learned from finds such as this one. Like I said, without his DNA data, I would not know I was related to this man in any way. However, the case of the Kennewick Man is one I learned about in my college days; for exactly the reasons I have laid out here. This find is a great case study concerning how we practice science, as well as how we treat the dead.

I am not trying to mince words here. I do feel that the Native Peoples really got the shaft in this case, up until 2015 (I will get to that in a minute). The unethical practices of some of the scientists was really distasteful, and how both federal law (NAGPRA) as well as the legal system being used for a further tool of exploitation and oppression of Native People’s really leaves a foul taste in my mouth.

But the story doesn’t end there. In 2015 new research began to pour out that supported the claims of the Native Peoples.

A group of scientists based in Denmark made a major breakthrough in 2015, after they recovered DNA from a fragment of hand bone and used it to map Kennewick Man’s genetic code. When they compared that code with DNA from different populations around the world, the geneticists found it was closest to that of modern Native Americans. Their findings, published in the journal Nature in July 2015, contradicted previous assertions by scientists linking Kennewick Man to Polynesians or to the Ainu people of Japan.

At the initiative of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, scientists at the University of Chicago were recently able to independently verify the results of that unprecedented DNA study.” (History)

That DNA is why I am able to talk about this at all. Not only did it confirm my relation to the Kennewick Man, it was also the reason that the bones will be given back to Native Peoples, and proved that their claim was a valid one.

Now, members of the Colville tribe and four others say they’ll work together to complete the repatriation — or reburial — process, and the government has shown zero interest in standing in their way. “ (NPR)

I do not know whether or not the Kennewick Man/Ancient One has been reburied as of this time. But this case does open up a lot of questions about the practice of archaeology, and the role of Native Peoples, as well as the general treatment of the dead.

One of the scientists involved in revealing a genetic connection between Kennewick Man and living Native Americans invited members of the five tribes into the lab, where they put on body suits and entered a “clean room” to pay their respects to The Ancient One. In the wake of Kennewick, scientists have been reflecting on ways to work with indigenous communities when these kinds of conflicts come up:

“Many other researchers are taking a similar approach. [Dennis O’Rourke, a biological anthropologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City] says that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy to working with native communities. He finds some of the North American Arctic groups he works with eager to contribute to his research, others are less so; and their opinions shift over time.

” ‘We really have to change the top-down approach, where we come to people and say “these are our research questions and you should participate, because — SCIENCE,” ‘ says Jennifer Raff, an anthropological geneticist at the University of Texas at Austin.” (NPR)

Yet, on the other hand;

Other scientists say there’s a real danger in altering scientific methods to accommodate religious belief. Elizabeth Weiss, an anthropologist at San Jose State, outlined impediments to her own work in a 2001 paper on the Kennewick controversy, and argued that regulations like NAGPRA require far too little evidence proving a cultural connection to modern-day native communities. She also suggested that such regulations — which increased around the world in the wake of NAGPRA — can have a chilling effect on scientific research:

“Consider having dedicated a large part of one’s life to unearthing the materials that are now being examined. Even casts and other important works — such as videotapes, photos, and excavation records — are in increasing danger of confiscation. Some scientists have expressed fear that their federal grants would be in jeopardy if they objected too openly to current policies. Under such circumstances, most scientists do not even begin ‘high-risk’ projects. Finds that could threaten Native American origin beliefs are especially likely to be targeted. Defendants could become embroiled for years in expensive lawsuits that neither they nor their institutions can afford …

“The politics of bone gathering in Africa are notorious … and one shudders to imagine what might happen if activists could convince modern Africans to claim early human skeletons as their ancestors, so that they too could be reburied.” (NPR)

I said I would circle back to this, and here it is. This whole case sets up a clear example of how science can conflict with oral histories, indigenous traditions, and the general respect for the dead. In my opinion, I think it is possible to have our cake and eat it to, it is a question of balance to me. I agree with Raff, in which there is no silver bullet for these issues. That being said, I think there is certainly a case to be made for collaboration instead of competition. When we are talking about skeletal remains, we are not just talking about objects without a context. We are talking about the remains of the dead, and their relationship to their possible still living descendants and traditions.

As both student of anthropology and a spirit worker, I can see this from both sides. I agree partially with Weiss, that there is a real possibility that science may suffer if that uneasy balance is disturbed. As I have already said, I wouldn’t be here talking about the Kennewick Man if it wasn’t for everything we have learned from studying the finds.

If this series has shown anything, is that I can claim “early skeletons” among my ancestors. However, I wouldn’t have been able to do that without science. I think we can find a balance between science, and respect for the dead.

Kennewick Man/The Ancient One: Sadly, I do not have an exact percentage match for this one. The data is not included in the calculation tool I use. However, I do know that I do match this one, but it is a low count. I would put our relationship in the “distant relative category.”

Thanks for reading!

Sources/References;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kennewick_Man

http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/05/05/476631934/a-long-complicated-battle-over-9-000-year-old-bones-is-finally-over

http://www.history.com/news/army-corps-of-engineers-confirms-kennewick-man-is-native-american

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/meet-kennewick-man.html

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/kennewick-man-finally-freed-share-his-secrets-180952462/

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/over-9000-years-later-kennewick-man-will-be-given-native-american-burial-180958947/


The World of Tomorrow

I have been spending a fair amount of time recently reviewing scientific and technological breakthroughs, and some part of it over at Futurism. It has given me quite a bit to think about, and as a writer, more than a little to inspire me. I am starting to feel that sci-fi itch again.

Some really cool things are in the works in the world right now folks, and it all has left me wondering what the world (Solar System?) is going to look like in my lifetime. Inevitably, most science fiction comes out to be speculation. Sometimes we writers get things right, and some times we are way off the mark.

There was an article I read recently here, that talks about some of the inventions that the Star Trek Franchise got right. It is no secret of course that I am a big fan of Star Trek, for a great many reasons. I grew up watching The Next Generation with my father, and that cemented the love of sci-fi in my mind real early. In addition, the amount of science, philosophy, and tackling of complex social issues strikes a special cord in my heart and mind.

But all my gushing about Star Trek aside, I make it a point to (at least) try to keep up with a lot of exciting things that are happening now, or just over the horizon. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of bad in the world, and plenty to come but the ways things are heading, gives me a little room to be optimistic. Maybe not Star Trek optimistic, but cautiously and realistically optimistic.

So the question is what the future of humanity might look like? The podcast shared by Futurism is a good start.

Things like Solar Farms…

And renewable energy more generally. I written here before about some of the problems that we might face in the near future, with oil being a renewable resource and all. Still, there was an article recently by Bloomberg that suggests we might be turning a corner in the near future. The short point being that we might be reaching peak fossils fuels, and not because of supply, but because of DEMAND. I think that is a very important thing. Still, there are some very real problems there, most of them to do with climate change.

Things like Sustainable Communities and Future Cities

I am going to be tracking the Regen project with much interest, because I think we really need to rethink how we structure our cities and our communities. We need to be operating in as closed of loop as possible, from extraction to deposition/recycling. We need to rethink our entire consumer culture, and get as far away from disposable goods as we can. We need to be creating things that can endure, instead of things that are used once and thrown out. On the whole, I also think we need to be creating things that are easier to recycle. Not only should our products last longer, but they should be easier to reclaim once they come to the end of their life. Seriously, check out The Story of Stuff if you have not already.

Things like Vertical Farms…

Part of sustainable communities will come down to land use. While things like Regen are really exciting, not all cities and communities will thrive on that kind of model. In addition, there are 7+ billion people on this planet, and so land use issues and feeding all those people become important considerations. Let’s be honest, agriculture is incredibly land intensive. It leads to things like deforestation, because those pesky trees are taking up all the arable lands.

For the record, I happen to like those pesky trees.

I think vertical farms are one possible solution to those issues, and one way to feed people in urban situations. In addition to things like community farms, and rooftop gardening, vertical (up or down) farms could be one method of feeding populations without the need for more acreage of land. There is also the potential with vertical farms to solve some of the land use issues associated with biofuels. Ethanol and bio-diesels will be needed, at least in the short term. In an ideal world, we would move our transportation sector to full electric, which would be powered with solar, wind and others in the mix. But that might not work for larger vehicles, such as trucks and ships. They might need a little more oompf than electric can provide. Maybe that is where ethanol or bio-diesels can come in.

But we have to face facts, more than just oil is finite on this planet. Livable space, resources such as metals and minerals, eventually we are going to run into limits on many things. No matter how efficiently we recycle our metals, our glass, our plastics, eventually there just won’t be enough to go around. Especially if we can’t get the population rate to stabilize. And even if we do, there is that whole entropy thing, and that waste happens.

Which leads me to conclude, no matter how sustainable our civilization, in the long run one planet won’t be enough.

Which brings us to things like… Starbases

Larger stations and “hubs” for space travel will be essential as we move out into the Solar System. The fact that the ESA already has near-term plans for such things is an impressive feat, especially as things like the ISS are more geared for research than jump-off points. The research is essential of course, and the knowledge and practical know-how learned from the ISS will be used for future endeavors. Plus, there are countless applications for manufacturing and space ship construction without those pesky things like gravity.

Things like the Moon

I have made the case for many years that we need to return to the moon on a more permanent basis. Not only does it have about 1/4 the gravity of Earth (making things like rockets easier to launch), it could also serve as a way station on the way to Mars, or further out destinations. It could also serve as a source of select resources and minerals, and maybe even as a refueling station for farther treks.

Things like… Mars

There are countless Mars-based projects in the works, from Elon Musk to NASA, and more besides. They vary quite a bit in timeline and ambition, but I think that Mars is a logical step in our journey out into space. Like the starbases and the Moon, Mars could be useful as both a waystation, and for resources as well as well research. In addition, it gives easy access to one of the most resource abundant locations in the system. The Asteroid Belt

And things like asteroid mining

I am all for making our civilization(s) as sustainable as possible. Hell yeah let’s go for that green revolution. But at the same time, I still harbor dreams of moving out into space, and for that we are going to need greater access to resources. Whether increased population and development on Earth, or on other worlds, we are going to need these things. Asteroids provide a great opportunity for resource extraction. Many mineral and metal resources are finite, and with asteroids we don’t have to go tearing up ecosystems and habitats to get at them.

As I have said many times before, as cool and as geeked as I get about all the science and technology; those things alone won’t be enough to create the world of the future.

We will need changes in policy that are forward thinking, as well as changes in culture and economics as well. I have made it no secret that I closely align with the ideas in the Nordic model, a kind of social democracy. A big part of that is because I believe strongly that we are in this together, no matter what color our skin, our gender, or our religious beliefs.

And we need to start acting like it. Sustainability, reciprocity, equality, democracy.

That is what I would like to see in the world of tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

 


Walking with the Ancestors Part 1-A

In the beginning… The Narrative from Science

As an animist and material being, the story of my ancestors starts at the beginning of our universe nearly 14 billion years ago. The current leading theory is called the Big Bang, in which our universe expanded from a singularity back at the beginning of time. Materialistically, this is when the first building blocks of our entire existence came into being. Over time, sub atomic particles condensed into atoms, molecules, and in time stars, planets and galaxies.

Animistically, I also have to wonder if this is when the first spirits/people started to work in the universe. From a scientific perspective, matter is not a life form. It takes a certain level of complexity before we reach the point that biology recognize something as a life form. And no, the material present at that early time could not be scientifically defined as living. Still, this does not deny that sub-atomic and atom particles do some very interesting things. Two hydrogen and an oxygen gets you water, which is essential for all life forms we know of.

I have debated with my self (and others) for some time if those earliest particles could be a really simple form of life. Once, in one of my classes, my teacher said that atoms have a drive to make themselves “happy”, by either filling or emptying their outermost electron shells. They deliberately seek out other atoms to make bonds with, and therefore make themselves “happy.”

It is not a far jump from making bonds, to forming relationships. Relationships and connections are the one of the foundations of animism. Even in these early particles, we can see the create connections and bonds. And by the time you get to something more complex, like ourselves, those bonds and connections have become very interesting indeed.

It is amazing to think about that some of those particles from the beginning of time may well be in my body right now. They have moved through stars and galaxies and time to end up somewhere in my body at the here and now. I cannot express the sense of joy and awe that that thought fills me with. To know that I am spiritually and materially a descendant of the beginning of times. It is humbling to think about, and is the first step on a long ancestral journey.

To me, that point of beginning represent something akin to a seed, from which the whole of our known universe grew. I have always enjoyed the metaphor of trees, the Tree of Life, the World Tree of Nordic myth, the shaman’s tree, all of them in some form. Well, at the point of the Big Bang we see that seed taking root, from which would expand and grow the whole sum of our universe.

Fast forward a few billion years, and you see another outgrowth from this seed in the form of the star we call Sol, our sun. It came into being, a descendant of other stars, and from it came the little world we call Earth. And on this little world, after another billion or so years worth of formation, fire and oceans, came into existence a life form from which we all are descended.

The entire tree of life, every plant, animal or other creature that has every lived or is currently living can trace it descent from that first little being (or group of beings). That too is rather humbling and awe inspiring. To know the very basics of what I am today started all those billions ago. To know I can trace my spiritual and literal ancestry back to that little creature, and back to the beginning of the universe, that fills me with a wonder that is hard to put into words.

This means that the fires of our young world, Sol, and all the stars of the universe back to the beginning of time might be counted among my ancestors. The implications alone at this level are staggering beyond count. It means that every tree that grows or creature that crawls or flies, is in a very literal way part of my family tree. Maybe there is a reason some Native Americans and other people sometimes referred to trees as kinfolk, “brother” or “sister”, or “father sky.” Maybe because there is a very real connection there, even if it is more at the level of “great to the nth degree great cousin.” We still share that common connection, even if our lines have long since diverged in kind, form and type.

The fact is that these days our family tree is really diverse and complex, and in some ways many of our distant relations are all but alien to us now. It is hard on an intellectual level to picture myself in the place of a tree. I would need entirely new conceptions to even be able to cope with something like that. I mean, how can I wrap my mind around not being able to walk? How would I deal with having to grow and age in the same spot year after year. It makes my human brain hurt, but trees and plants seem to pull it off just fine.

The fact that we are connected to everything could also be meant to imply that every time we fell a tree, kill an animal, or destroy a habitat we are in a very real sense, killing a member of our own family. And as much as it pains me to admit, year after year our family tree on this planet gets a little smaller. The rate of species lost is pretty staggering these days.

That fills me with a deep sense of regret and guilt, because like every other human on this planet, I am implicit in this.

I could go on and on about the other forms of life that are counted among my kin, but this would take up far too much space, so we move forward in time to a few million years ago when the first hominid ancestors started to roam the planet.

And that is where we will pick up next time.

Thanks for reading!

Sources/References;

http://www.space.com/25126-big-bang-theory.html

http://www.big-bang-theory.com/

http://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/what-powered-the-big-bang/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_evolutionary_history_of_life


Walking with the Ancestors – Foreword

So I am starting a new project series here on the blog, for the simple reason that it has been dwelling in my head for some time. It tried to come out in the Wanderings of Dekloka, and it failed in a spectacular fashion. There was so much that was wrong about it that I had to axe that project. The more I looked at it, the more I hated it. The sources were bad, the facts were bad, the writing was bad. Bad bad bad!

As such, that project is getting recycled and remade in a new form here. Put plainly, a good portion of it is getting thrown out. I doubt that this project will really resemble that one at all when I am through, and I will be happy if that is the case.

There are many other reasons I have for wanting to this as a blog project. It may become a book someday, but it may not. It depends on how I feel about it when I am done, and whether I not it deserves refining/expanding into a book. It will be a longer project, that is for sure. I want to share this project with you, freely and as a kind of “open access.” This is not to say that I don’t believe my time is valuable, because it is. I just don’t want this kind of work locked up behind a pay barrier. I am doing this because I want to.

And, in some way I think I am doing it because I have to. This is a story I have worked on for several years now, and I want to share the story as much as the process behind it. I think it is important. More than that, I have landed in a kind of a strange spiritual situation lately. I have been pulling myself away from “community” in the more general sense of the word. It is time for me to really reevaluate my beliefs, and the labels I once used to describe myself.

I have had a strange and winding spiritual path so far. I was raised in a kind of agnostic household. Both my mom and dad I would say believed in something greater than themselves, but that was something that we just didn’t talk about as a family. I don’t think I ever went to church as child.

I am kind of grateful for my upbringing. I didn’t have a lot of the baggage associate with being a “recovering Christian”. A little still seeped in of course, as I recited the Pledge of Allegiance every day just like every other child. The monotheism was there, but I never really considered it and we never talked about it at home. It was always something other people did. At the same time, sometimes I feel I might have missed out on something.  All the same, while other people went to church, I spent my time in the forest. I spent much of my childhood in the woods, and in many ways that is where my animism took root. I quickly learned that there were other beings out there than me, other forms of life.

My spiritual search didn’t start in earnest until high school and after, when I was more or less an adult. I went to church then, but that didn’t last long. I discovered quickly that it was not right for me. I also started to develop my interest in genealogy around the same time. My understanding of my own ancestors took root slowly, and around the same time I was introduced to paganism.

I circled through the same phases a lot of pagans do, “Wiccan” inspired forms, neopaganish things, and so on and so forth. But as my understanding of my ancestors has grown, so has my spiritual path. When I discovered my Celtic ancestors, my attention turn to Celtic forms of spirituality. When my ancestors said, “look North”, I did, and that is where I have been for the past few years. But now that is starting to wobble.

It has left me in an odd place. Constant questioning of my beliefs is an uncomfortable practice, and certainly filled with its cycles of euphoria and depression. To use a metaphor, I feel like I am in unexplored territory. I have learned a lot over the years from writers and my mentors, people that are very near and dear to my heart. But in many ways, I feel like I have come to the end of the marked trails, and the explored paths. I have come to the place where the footsteps of others have started to disappear, and I have to find my own way through the woods.

The explorer in me relishes the idea of it. In some ways it feels like a homecoming.

It also means there is quite a bit of work ahead of me. Exploring a new territory is not easy, nor it is simple. In many ways, the ancestors have always been the center and foundation of my own path. As I outlined above, the steps along my path so far have been largely inspired by my ancestors, and now it feels like they are telling me to go get lost for a while, in order to find myself and my own way again.

And maybe, just maybe leave a few footsteps for others. That is part of the reason I decided to do this publicly here, so that others can see the process.

Which brings me back to the purposes behind this project. In no small way, it is meant to help me reorient myself with my ancestors, which are very central to all that I do. The genealogy has only grown over the years, as has my understanding of genetic ancestry, archaeology and the folklore and stories associated with my ancestors. The big purpose is to pull that all together. The one thing I have always loved about animism is how compatible it is with science. I think that is a fantastic thing, and that the understanding of both has only helped me grow.

As such, what I am hoping to do with this is to try and inter-weave scientific narratives and my own understanding of animism into a form of co-evolving narrative. The current plan is to have every part of this series to be posted as two parts, an A and a B. There may even be a part C, if I feel some kind of expanded commentary is warranted.

Part A of each post will typically deal with the “science”. Each “A” will be a blog type essay, talking about things like cosmology, physics, genetics, genealogy, archaeology or any of the other assorted studies that I feel are relevant.

Part B of each post will be a short story that draws from part A. It would be best to view Part A as the logic, and part B as a kind of interpretation. The idea being to work through this project with a balance of intellect and creativity.

Without further ado, I’ll see you all in Part 1 – A, which will be coming out soon!

Thanks for reading!