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Precession: The Great Year

As humans on Earth there are two celestial motions that affect us most obviously. Earths diurnal motion, its rotation on its axis responsible for day and night, and Earth’s revolution around the sun, determining our yearly cycles (winter, spring, blooming, hibernation, migration). A third and less obvious celestial motion is precession. Its time scale hides the immediate impact of precession, as the human being has a life span of one-360th of a roughly 24,000-year precession cycle.

In the book Hamlet’s Mill, Giorgio de Santilla, former professor of the history of science at MIT, and coauthor Dr. Hertha von Dechend, explain how ancient cultures viewed consciousness and history as a cyclical cycle. In contrast to our linear model of time, these cultures believed in a vast cycle of time that consists of the rising and falling of ages, and moves with the precession of the equinox. Santilla and Dechend show that more than thirty ancient cultures believed in this cycle that Plato called The Great Year.

In the hyperlink above, you can read about the thinking behind these precessional cycles and how a moving Solar System might provide a logical reason for The Great Year and alternating ages.

Moore's Law & The Cosmic Calendar

Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Calendar is an insightful concept that provides essential perspective for the development of the universe. The universe itself is apparently organic, and as a natural entity it seemingly evolves over time. By packing roughly 14 billion years of existence into a relative calendar of one Earthly year, Sagan enables people to grasp something as boundless as the evolution of the universe on a tangible and relatable scale. What is possibly most impactful about the Cosmic Calendar perspective is the notion that humans arrived on Earth as recently as December 30th. So, if one year represents the entire existence of our universe, all that humans have known and accomplished occurred in a period of about two days. If it took the Milky Way Galaxy four months to form, another three months for our solar system to form, and one day to go from the extinction of dinosaurs to the beginning of the human age, it seems like the universe exponentially evolves.

In his 2005 book, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, Ray Kurzweil presents an alternative model of the Cosmic Calendar that consists of 6 Epochs, arranged according to the evolution of information:
Epoch 1 – Physics and chemistry (information in atomic structures)
Epoch 2 – Biology (information in DNA)
Epoch 3 – Brains (information in neural patterns)
Epoch 4 – Technology (information in hardware and software designs)
Epoch 5 – Integrated Technology and Human Intelligence (human biology integrated with human technology)
Epoch 6 – Universal Awakening (patterns of matter and energy in the universe)

Kurzweil theorizes that we are entering Epoch 5 and approaching what he calls a “technological singularity,” the point when non-biological intelligence matches the power and subtle capabilities of the brain. Kurzweil’s work is supported by Moore’s Law (Figure above), which shows the exponential growth of complexity for semiconductor circuits (computer chips). According to current mathematical models, some believe a technological singularity will happen by 2045. The potential for integrating technology into biological systems was born in science fiction and is slowly becoming a reality. In fact, professor Kevin Warwick in England is a cybernetics professor and pioneer. In his book, I Cyborg, you can read about his experiments with cybernetic technology in his own body. Although these ideas are outlandish and almost uncomfortable to think about, it is becoming necessary to consider technology as a factor in our cosmic evolution. In a few decades, it may even be that December 31st on the Cosmic Calendar represents a new age of bio-technological humans.

Astro 201: A Space Odyssey

Hey Astro 201, this is a picture from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I love music, movies and space, and this film has it all. There is no single piece of media that has ever made me wonder so far into the curiosities of human travel through time and space. What is really absurd about this movie is that despite his incredibly accurate depictions of space (including a stellar view of earth), the movie was made before we ever stepped foot on the moon.