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“Causality is the way we explain the link between two successive events.
Synchronicity designates the parallelism of time and meaning between psychic
and psychophysical events, which scientific knowledge so far
has been unable to reduce to a common principle.”
― C.G. Jung, The Portable Jung

A friend loaned me the book There Are No Accidents: Synchronicity and the Stories of Our Lives years ago because I had been talking to her about synchronicity. Carl Jung coined the term to describe coincidences that are related by meaningfulness rather than by cause and effect. ” Jung introduced the idea of ​​synchronicity to get away from the “magic and superstition” which surrounds some unpredictable and startling events that appear to be connected.

I found another similar book, There Are No Coincidences: Synchronicity as the Modern-Day Mystical Experience, whose title suggests that the “more than” part of these experiences may be mystical.

“We do not create our destiny; we participate in its unfolding.
Synchronicity works as a catalyst toward the working out of that destiny.”
David Richo, The Power of Coincidence: How Life Shows Us What We Need to Know

I would think that all of us have had some otherwise-unrelated events occur to us for which we assumed some significance beyond the ordinary. The common example is when you happen to remember a person you have not thought about or seen for many years, and at that moment your telephone rings and it is that very person. What is the statistical probability that this can happen? Very small; very unlikely. For some people, the explanation moves to the paranormal.

I was looking at an almanac page online on March 13th and came upon a story from 3/13/1997 about when thousands of people reported mysterious lights over Arizona. Around 8 p.m., a man in Henderson, Nevada, saw a V-shaped object “the size of a 747,” with six lights on its leading edge. The lights moved diagonally from northwest to southeast. Other people sighted seeing the same thing over the next hour throughout Arizona. They were seen as far south as Tucson nearly 400 miles away.

A rendering of the object seen created by witness Tim Ley that appeared in USA Today.

I remember those “Phoenix Lights” being covered by the media in 1997. Having grown up in the late 1950s and 1960s, I heard many tales of UFOs.

A repeat of the lights occurred February 6, 2007, and was recorded by the local Fox News television station. But, as was the case with almost every UFO appearance in my youth, it was explained away by officials. In this case, the military and FAA said that it was flares dropped by F-16 aircraft training at Luke Air Force Base.

Reading that account made me think of my own one and only possible “close encounter.” That phrase entered the mainstream with the release of Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

My own encounter would be of the first kind – seeing a UFO fairly close (within 150 meters).

My sighting was in the summer of 1993 in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. UFO sightings in the Pinelands seem to be fairly common. I saw what I would describe as a ship that was (as I later discovered) a lenticular saucer. It was motionless over a lake in the early morning (about 3 am). It had no sound or flashing lights, but a thin red-lit ring encircled it.  I had no camera. No one else was there with me. I watched it for about a minute and then it lifted vertically a few feet, tilted at an angle, and took off rapidly, vanishing from sight in a few seconds.

An encounter with a UFO that leaves evidence behind, such as scorch marks on the ground or indents, etc., is said to be of the second kind. Spielberg’s film deals with the third kind – an encounter with visible occupants of a UFO. The fourth kind involves the person being taken and experimented on inside the alien craft. The fifth kind involves direct communication between aliens and humans, as portrayed in the 2016 film, Arrival.

I don’t know what I saw. I never read any news reports about it. I never reported it.

After I read that almanac entry on the Phoenix Lights, I looked at another almanac website for more information and that site that told me that on March 13 in 1855, Percival Lowell was born. Who was he? Born to a wealthy family, he graduated from Harvard, but he passed on working in the family business and instead did a lot of traveling and travel writing. In the 1890s, he read that astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli had discovered what appeared to be canals on Mars. Lowell was fascinated by that idea and put his fortune into studying the Red Planet.

He believed that the canals offered proof of intelligent life. He built a private observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Astronomers and scientists were skeptical of his view of intelligent life on Mars, but the general public was intrigued by his view. Lowell’s writing and observations had an impact, not as much on science as on the infant literary genre that became known as science fiction.

These two coincidences on March 13 led me to check out that date on Wikipedia. The event that caught my attention on yet another March 13, in 1781, was that the English astronomer Sir William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus. Well, “discover” may be too strong because John Flamsteed had observed it in 1690, but thought it was a star. Herschel was the first to figure out that it was a planet and not a star.

He observed the planet’s very slow movement and determined that meant it was very far from the Sun – farther than Saturn, which was the farthest known planet. He named it after Ouranos, the Greek god of the sky. Since then, astronomers have discovered 27 moons orbiting the blue-green ice giant. The moons have literary names, mostly characters from Shakespeare’s plays. Uranus is an odd planet in that its axis is tilted so far that it appears to be lying on its side with its ringed moons circling the planet vertically.

Was it a coincidence that I found these three stories that day? Is there some synchronicity that these three events occurred on the same calendar date?  Is there a connection among these three March Thirteenths?

Though I believe in synchronicity, they seem to be coincidental. I found connections because I was looking for connections. But I am open-minded about the idea. I do believe in coincidences, and I do sometimes believe that things occur which stretch my belief in coincidences.

“Coincidences give you opportunities to look more deeply into your existence.”
Doug Dillon

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
– Albert Einstein

“I live for coincidences. They briefly give to me the illusion or the hope
that there’s a pattern to my life, and if there’s a pattern,
then maybe I’m moving toward some kind of destiny where it’s all explained.”
Jonathan Ames

overgrown civilzation

If all the insects were to disappear from the Earth,
within fifty years all life on Earth would end.
If all human beings disappeared from the Earth,
within fifty years all forms of life would flourish.

That quote is sometimes credited to Jonas Salk, though the source is not confirmed. But the idea has been put forward by a number of people. It is an interesting “thought experiment.”

Since insects are much of the base of the food chain for macro-life, it is likely that loss of insects would result in a great loss of plants without them for pollination. Humans certainly depend on plants for food and also depend on plants to fed the animals that we consume.

Many animals also eat insects as their primary source of energy. They would die off. The food chain would be broken. Many of the remaining animals are dependent either on the plants or smaller animals that eat insects or eat animals that eat insects.

I don’t think all life would disappear. Microorganisms would continue living much as they have for millennia. And there are plants that self-pollinate, or wind pollinate, or have non-insect pollinators. For example, wind pollinators like grasses and angiosperm trees (like oaks and hickories) would continue to live and also feed some of the seed eaters. Some plants spread by runners, corms, etc. without seeds even being needed.

The oceans would probably flourish without us. Life there is not dependent on insects.

But the insects aren’t going to disappear. Or are they already disappearing? An article on Discover says that “Insects, the most abundant and diverse animals on Earth, are facing a crisis of epic proportions, according to a growing body of research and a rash of alarmist media reports that have followed. If left unchecked, some scientists say, recent population declines could one day lead to a world without insects.”

The World Without Us is a non-fiction book about what would probably happen to the natural and the manmade environment if humans suddenly disappeared. In this book by Alan Weisman, the insects remain.

He outlines how our cities would deteriorate, not unlike what happened to the Mayan civilization. Some man-made artifacts would last longer than others – radioactive waste, bronze statues, plastics, and stone and concrete would be among the longest-lasting evidence of human presence on Earth.

Life forms would evolve as always, but in different ways. The warming climate of today would begin to shift in the other direction.

Weisman concludes that residential neighborhoods would become forests within 500 years.

One example Weisman uses is New York City. He says that the city would deconstruct as sewers clog and underground streams flood subway corridors, tunnels and basements. The soils under buildings and roads would erode and cave in. Native vegetation would return, spreading from parks and out-surviving invasive species. On this island city, he predicts that without humans to provide food and warmth, rats and cockroaches would die off. I suspect they would survive and probably make their way off the island. rats and insects, including cockroaches, will certainly flourish on the mainland.

Weisman is a journalist and though he did a lot of research, his book is speculative. I find it interesting speculation. Geologist Jan Zalasiewicz’s take on this idea is written in The Earth After Us: What Legacy Will Humans Leave in the Rocks? But he goes 100 million years into the future to a time when the human race is extinct.

His thought experiment is to consider what a visiting geologist to Earth in that future might determine from “the rocks” about the history of the planet, and the humans who once lived here.

It is a far more scientific thought experiment that goes into topics like fossilization and plate tectonics. We have studied our planet and its shifting continents, ice ages and rising and falling sea levels. Those future visitors would find a thinner surface layer of rock with remnants of humans. They would find within that layer dramatic climate changes, mass extinctions and strange movements of wildlife across the planet.

In the petrified remains and fossilised bones of our lost civilization, they would find the era in which humans dominated the planet – the Holocene. But that period is actually a quite brief 10,000 years in the context of geological time.

Further reading: After Man: A Zoology of the Future i- a speculative evolution book written by geologist Dougal Dixon with some interesting illustrations.  Dixon has written several other books in this vein including After Man: A Zoology of the Future.


There are a good number of videos online about what would happen to the planet if humans were gone.

 

March hare

The March Hare as illustrated by John Tenniel.

“Mad as a March hare” is a common British English phrase. It is still in use today and was in use in the time of Lewis Carroll when he was writing his books about Alice’s adventures. The phrase appeared in John Heywood’s collection of proverbs published in 1546.

The origin of this is thought to come from a popular (though not scientific) belief about hares’ behavior at the beginning of the long breeding season. (In Britain, it would be from February to September.) Early in the season, unreceptive females often use their forelegs to repel overenthusiastic males. It used to be incorrectly believed that this “fighting” was between two males competing for breeding dominance.

The March Hare as a character is called Haigha in Through the Looking-Glass. The March Hare most famously appears in the tea party scene in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Alice says, “The March Hare will be much the most interesting, and perhaps as this is May it won’t be raving mad – at least not so mad as it was in March.”

hare

A Scrub Hare (Lepus saxatilis) with prominent ears

Hares and jackrabbits (leporids belonging to the genus Lepus and classified in the same family as rabbits) are similar in size and form to rabbits and have similar herbivorous diets, but generally have longer ears and live solitarily or in pairs rather than in groups or families. They are very independent creatures and unlike other rabbits, their young are able to fend for themselves shortly after birth. They are generally faster than other rabbits.

illustration from Alice in Wonderland

The March Hare and the Hatter put the Dormouse’s head in a teapot – illustration by John Tenniel.

The March Hare character is certainly more hare than rabbit. he is friends with The Hatter character. The Hatter also appears in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. Readers often call him the “Mad Hatter” but Carroll never uses that adjective for his name. But at the tea party, the Cheshire Cat refers to The Hatter and the March Hare as “both mad.”

In Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations, the March Hare is shown with straw on his head, which apparently was a common way to depict madness in Victorian times, perhaps alluding to to a straw-stuffed scarecrow head.

For all you language fans, jackrabbits are hares, rather than rabbits. Should they be jackhares? A hare less than one year old is called a leveret. A group of hares is called a “drove.” And the march Hare’s real name in the books, Haigha, should be pronounced to rhyme with “mayor,” according to Lewis Carroll – which would mean it is pronounced “hare.” Madness indeed.

Well, you haven’t quite missed out on the National Day of Unplugging. Here you are, once again, online. All day you have been checking your phone’s email and messages, working online, posting photos to Instagram, checking on who tagged you on Facebook and Twitter.

Need a break? The National Day of Unplugging this year is from sundown March 1 to sundown March 2, so you can still give it a try.

Sign the Unplug pledge and disconnect. Talk to people you meet. Eat a few uninterrupted meals. Read a printed book to yourself or aloud to a child or partner.

This project is an outgrowth of The Sabbath Manifesto, which was a practice of our ancestors of carving out one day per week to unwind, relax, reflect, get outdoors, and connect with loved ones. Our ancestors at one time did have to “unplug” but nowadays that is the hardest part of any Sabbath Manifesto.

Tuesday’s First Quarter Moon got me thinking about how we view the Moon as far as the light and dark portions are concerned.

Half the moon is always illuminated in space. We often talk about a “dark side” of the Moon, but you don’t hear the “bright side” referenced too often.

Our moon has a day side and a night side, just as Earth does.

At First Quarter Moon, you see pretty much equal portions of the moon’s day side and night sides. This phase is a waxing (growing) Moon phase. You will see more of its day side each night building to the Full Moon on February 19.

What we call the dark side is the part that isn’t in sunlight, but all of the moon undergoes day and night. It’s not the Earth version and in any spot on the Moon there will be night for about two weeks and then two weeks of daylight.

That means there is a permanent far side of the moon, but no permanent dark side.

The really interesting and strangest idea is that while our Moon does rotate on its axis, it has slowed down.

It has taken billions of years, but Earth’s strong gravitational pull has slowed it down. Currently, the Moon takes as long to rotate as it does to orbit once around Earth. The term used by astronomers is that the Moon is “tidally locked” with Earth, and so one side always faces Earth.

Here’s the strange part. The Moon also has a gravitational effect on Earth. It is a much smaller effect, but give it billions of years and Earth will slow down and end up with one side always toward the moon.

I suppose the soundtrack to this post should be Pink Floyd’s most successful album, The Dark Side of the Moon. Since its release in 1973, it has sold over 40 million copies worldwide.

 

Clock-pendulum

seconds ticking away

Where did the weekend go? I looked here and it was Sunday night. No posts on Friday or Saturday. No drafts. Nothing in the queue.

It was not a overly busy weekend, but I did go out Friday night, and Saturday was an all day film conference. And then today I fixed the pump on the dishwasher (just clogged), went with a friend to a movie, and then had dinner, sat on the couch and looked at my laptop. Here I am.

Something happened to my perception of time this weekend. I have read that fear can make time seem to slow down. Is that a defense mechanism or it just that a fearful situation makes each moment unbearably long.

So would positive emotions make time speed up? Maybe, but stress is a negative emotion and it can speed up our perception of time.

So, I looked for some research and it seems that humans have no actual sensory instrument for receiving information about time. I mean we our brain is able to process time, and we have some kind of internal body clock.

I found that research often looks at emotion and time perception, but one study I found  has been designed to study the time perception of emotional events. Participants watched three emotional films: one eliciting fear, another sadness, and a neutral control film.

This seems all very clinical. Not at all like what I felt this weekend, but I don’t doubt that time perception is dependent on a number of factors, psychological and external.

Einstein

The story is told that Albert Einstein’s secretary was often asked tt explain to reporters and others the meaning of his scientific work and Einstein devised the following explanation for her to give when asked to explain relativity: An hour sitting with a pretty girl on a park bench passes like a minute, but a minute sitting on a hot stove seems like an hour.

That feels like a better explanation, though it doesn’t explain the why of it.

Wikipedia says that “Time perception is a field of study within psychology, cognitive linguistics and neuroscience that refers to the subjective experience, or sense, of time, which is measured by someone’s own perception of the duration of the indefinite and unfolding of events. The perceived time interval between two successive events is referred to as perceived duration. Though directly experiencing or understanding another person’s perception of time is not possible, such a perception can be objectively studied and inferred through a number of scientific experiments. Time perception is a construction of the sapient brain, but one that is manipulable and distortable under certain circumstances.”

Ah yes, subjective time and objective time.

Maybe this is more like the question of “Where did the time go?” that hits middle-aged and older adults. Does time pass more quickly as we age? Of course not, but it seems that way and that is a time perception that can lead to regrets.

Another study that focused on this aspect concluded that our brain encodes new experiences, but not familiar ones, into memory, and our retrospective judgment of time is based on how many new memories we create over a certain period.

In simpler terms, the more new memories I built this weekend, the longer the weekend will seem in hindsight.

The author of the study dubbed this phenomenon the Holiday Paradox. Our childhoods and young adult years tend to be filled with more fresh experiences, but as we age our lives become more routine. There are fewer unfamiliar moments. This weekend went fast because it wasn’t filled with fresh experiences.

Is that it? I thought the film conference exposed me to new things. I have never taken apart a dishwasher pump before. Not fresh enough? Or was it that my Friday night to tonight was just crowded with one thing that went to another and I didn’t have time off to process the experiences?

My mother would have said when I was a kid that “Time flies when you’re having fun.” She and Einstein had that in common.

 

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