The white armor will have to be replaced

Another day, another dollar.
First mission of the day...
 With a success! Believe me, the odds against this are huge. Must be a trap.
 And a relaxing evening spent at the park, with a job well done.

Have a good weekend!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Policeman

Does this look like a guy there to help you? Or, is he there because our entire society is under attack - we're at WAR! - and you should be very afraid? Do you think he feels friendly and helpful, or paranoid and defensive? What do you think dressing up in black Stormtrooper gear does for your mindset?

I'll tell you what it does: It makes it easy to taser ANYONE who does not immediately comply with whatever it is you're demanding they do.

If you'd like to get some chills about the state of our society, read up on police use of tazers in America - just cover the last couple of years. You'll get the full flavor of what it means to live "in the home of the free, land of the brave".



Caught in the gears

In Tijuana recently there was a massive pot bust that netted around 140 tons of marijuana, some of it shown above. They burned it all, in order to "prove" to the drug cartels how serious they are about stopping this evil scourge:
The local cartel said their response would be swift. Indeed - a few days later, 11 people were killed in a drug rehab clinic (ironically tragic, eh?), and then 15 more at a local car wash. I linked to a site in the previous post with some images from this drug war. Here's one of the tamer ones:
 Those are the body parts of 4 people. And at least in Mexico, this is what really takes this drug war to another level - the sheer depravity of the violence. There are beheadings, indiscriminate mass murders, shootings at schools and hospitals... it's completely out of control. And for what?

1. Because the profits to be made in America are so great, these cartels are willing to go to great lengths to protect their business interests. When a commodity is illegal and you cannot rely on contracts or legal remedies, violence becomes the language of business. This in fact is what society is supposed to do - substitute orderly proceedings to remedy conflicts that would result in violence. Hence my assertion that the Drug War is actually ripping at the foundations of our societies.
2. To stop these people:
 Hippies and fellow travelers. This pic is from a 420 celebration in Colorado this past April. That's all pot smoke.

When one of the main political parties in America deals in fear, then you can see how beneficial the Drug War can be to them - another avenue in which to scare people. And to make a profit.

You have rich people on both sides profiting, and as always, it's the little people in the middle who pay all the costs. In many cases, this cost is their lives.

And there's no winning in sight. The only way to win is not to fight. And perhaps we're almost there...


A monkey on all our backs

We all have a monkey on our back that has served to seriously degrade the entire world over the last 30 years. And that is the so called "War on Drugs". The very concept is ludicrous, and there's mountains of data to show that prohibition does not work, but in fact only serves to enrich criminal organizations, and, as a consequence, police forces.

I have been following politics very closely, as always, but it's too depressing to talk about (TEABAGGIN' INSANITY!), but there is one issue that is of vital importance, and that's Proposition 19 in California, which is a full marijuana legalization bill. If passed, it would be legal to grow your own marijuana, and/or buy it from licensed stores. In California, of course, for now.

You may smoke, you may not, but this is not really about smoking. It's about logic, and personal responsibility, and addressing the insanity that is our current criminal system.

30-40% of all people in jail right now are there because of drug crimes, and that's just the overall prison population. Incarceration rates for minorities are off the charts. Once convicted of a felony in the US, your productive life is basically over, as there are whole swathes of jobs, and rights, that are no longer open to you. In essence, your life can be destroyed because you sold a plant to a willing customer.

Is that worthwhile? Should America - The Land of The Free - have the highest stated percent of people in prison in the Western world, all in the name of a "War" that cannot possibly be won, and in fact is highly corrosive to the foundations of our society? Look at what's become of police forces in the last 30 years - they've become militarized. They can seize all of your assets if you are convicted of a drug crime, leading to the heavy incentive of proactively busting people for no reason other than you need revenue. Think of the foolish young people who's entire lives are ruined because of one indiscretion. On and on.

And it's not just the USA. Because of our 800lb gorilla status, what happens in the US greatly influences other countries. Mexico is being ripped apart right now because of OUR drug war. Columbia is completely militarized, with our assistance. All in the name of stopping willing people from consuming an easily grown plant. Here's a link to a site with pictures from the Drug War in Mexico - beware, though, as some of the photos are very graphic.

The clear solution to any drug problem is to treat it as a medical issue - like with alcohol. And of course to hold people responsible for their actions while under the influence, like with alcohol. 

But we're almost free. IF California votes to legalize, they will have broken the dam in the Drug War. Other states will surely follow, eventually forcing the Feds to address their policies. And while it's just for marijuana, which alone would have a huge impact in reducing the nihilistic destruction of the Drug War, it would no doubt also usher in a change in mindset which would allow for discussions to begin about legalizing other drugs.

If you value freedom, and personal responsibility, it should be incumbent upon you to support this initiative, regardless of your own use or non-use of marijuana. And once it passes, and the doomsayers are proven wrong (again), we can begin addressing real drug abuse issue the only way they can be addressed: As a medical issue handled between a patient and a doctor, not a prisoner and warden. Take it from this monkey if you don't believe me:
All better! Go CA!


Monkey Equestrian Spectacular!

From the majestic heights of a goat perch, this monkey looks down upon you small, small mortals.
 This monkey, on the other hand, is all about mixing it up. "Rubbin' is racin', y'all!"
 And this monkey just don't care.


Animals riding Animals

From the heartwarming...
 To the imperiously cute...
To the "Ancient Prophecies Foretold in the BOOK OF DOOM".....

There's a lot animals can teach us about being human. For example, how about terror?


Ask and ye shall receive

Example #23 in the lesson "If it can be thought of, it's already been done".

The Point

I realize all this science stuff ain't everyone's cup o' tea. "Boring!" You might say. "Bring on the pics of monkeys riding in kangaroo pouches", others might proclaim. And I agree with you all! To a point. This blog, however, is big, and all encompassing. There's really no limit to my interests - pray I don't bog down in financial derivative chat!

But, my point through this last series of posts is to really lay out a vision on Perspective. You'll note that Perspective is one of the main themes of this blog. It determines everything, since we are bound in a series of systems which by default sets certain perspectives on us - our senses. For example, we are evolved to see in a small sliver of the radioactive spectrum - what we call "visible light". But that's just the way it worked out. If things had gone differently, perhaps we could also see in infrared, or ultraviolet, or in radio waves. And if that were the case, you, me, and everything we humans have built would be dramatically different. Probably no humans, for example.

So, through these last series of posts, I have gone from the smallest of the small - the quark, and the theoretical particles that might make up quarks, and the theoretical strings that might make up these particles; through protons, atoms, molecules, chemical compounds, higher and higher up the chain of existence, of complexity, to life itself; and then onto the general environment we find ourselves - citizens of Sol, our Star, re-giver of all the energy we see around us. 

Then we moved on past our star to the galaxy of stars we live in, and the wonders/terrors present in neutron stars and black holes, and finally onto the idea of the Multiverse, or even a Multiverse of Multiverses, scales of existence beyond our ken, and our Barbie.

And through it all, I keep highlighting the idea of "phase changes", for the simple reason that there is no binary, no on/off switch for anything, but rather, everything exists in a continuing spectrum of existence, crossing dimensions, spacetime, cellular boundaries, you name it. Remember: E=MC2, and thus there is no dividing line between energy and matter, but simply phase transitions between different states of existence - like ice turning to water, turning to steam, turning back to water, turning back to ice, and so on. No energy is ever lost, nor created - just transformed.

This is the reality we find ourselves, trapped really. Except we have one thing that nothing else on Earth has: Minds that can reach outside our bodies, outside our senses, and transport ourselves to completely different realities. Einstein was daydreaming on a bus when he came up with his first major breakthrough, and all of his major breakthroughs happened quite quickly in the "miracle year" of 1905.  In that one year, Einstein re-wrote our entire Universe, and moved us from creatures largely determined by our senses, to creatures that now can look past our noses and perceive the true wonders of existence - like the Multiverse, for example. Yes, Einstein built on all the work from his predecessors, and he would not have been able to accomplish what he did without them, but his revelations were truly revolutionary. He in fact took us to another level of reality - a reality beyond our senses.

And that's where we are today, cautiously wading out into an unknown ocean that often seems counterintuitive - for example, time moves at different rates depending on your speed. Weird, huh? And now that we've entered this new reality, the revelations are unfolding with greater and greater speed - it's been said, for instance, that the past 20 years have been the golden age of astronomy, such as with the discovery of exoplanets, black holes, infant galaxies, etc. 

And it continues. For example, a current theory posits that everything you know, our very Universe and everything within it, is a hologram from a higher dimension. It could be true! And perhaps we'll find out soon enough.

Regardless, the vistas that are now revealed to us are so breathtaking, so enormously vast and mind boggling, that I approach it all with the sense of the mystic: These great mysteries can be understood, but it requires one to give one's self over to the idea that everything you think you know is not the full story. In fact, it's just the surface, and beneath that surface, wonders await. Wonders that make the miracles of the Bible seem as card tricks. It's your job to dig, and keep digging, always.

And this is where I am driving all of this: The merging of science and wonder, of knowledge and faith. Faith IS important, it's just almost always misused, corrupted, or otherwise an excuse to refute knowledge. But faith and knowledge are not incompatible. I approach the Universe with Faith, since for sure, I'll never understand more than an iota of it; but! I have faith there is a System, and that system CAN be understood. Eventually....

I also am inspired by how often scientific revelations accord with Buddhist philosophy. When I first heard the phrase "Form is emptiness, emptiness form", I took it from the nihilistic perspective - nothing matters, man!

But now I see precisely what it means: We are - Literally! - empty. Atoms are 98% emptiness. We never touch anything, ever (what we think of as touch, as solid, is really the electromagnetic fields of the atoms which compose us). The galaxy is vastly empty, yet filled with everything. But underneath everything is something else, and underneath that is something else, and so on - all the way down, all the way up. Again, nothing you know in this world is as it seems - it is in fact far more miraculous than anything we could ever dream of.

And yet, still, we suffer with our petty hates and biases, bogged down by our various ignorances, ignoring the miracle which is our very existence. It's sad.

But there's always hope. Through Preachin' the Word, of course, no matter how difficult it can be to get the point across.

And finally, I find all this stuff sexy as hell. These fine ladies no doubt agree:

Peace out, y'all. 

Coda (and so much more)

As always, click for big. This nifty illustration shows my current favorite theory of the Multiverse - to wit: Our Universe (containing hundreds of billions of galaxies, each of them containing hundreds of billions of stars) is but one of many Universes - billions of them, perhaps. Perhaps an infinite amount. As you see above, this theory posits that black holes are actually conduits which feed energy into another Universe - everytime a black hole is created in our Universe, in other words, this is in fact the birth of a new Universe, in a new dimension. Our Universe was in turn created by a black hole in another Universe. And this would go on and on and on.... forever.

Here's another view:
As you see here, in this view, there are multiple Multiverses branching out - such that there might be an infinite amount of Multiverses out there, each one representing an entirely separate dimension of spacetime, each perhaps with their own, unique physics. Here's another view of the same theory:
Same idea - each link from one "bubble" universe is a black hole which created the new Universe. Again, there's no end to the number of these "bubbles". Perhaps it looks like this:
Think of it - the scale of it all. This might be the higher dimension we exist in, with our entire Universe but one small bubble amongst an infinite and ever growing dimension of bubbles, each a Universe in its own right.

That's one theory of the Multiverse, in a nutshell - Black Holes in all of them create new bubble Universes, which in turn develop Black Holes that thusly create yet another new Universe, and so on till the depths of infinity. There is another, similar, theory, however, called "Membrane Theory", or "M Theory". Here's a pictorial representation of the theory:
In this theory, rather than Black Holes being the source of creation, it is the impact between two (or more) membranes, floating in a higher dimensional space. Essentially, the Big Bang was the moment of impact, and everything since has been the energy of that impact spreading (expanding) throughout the brane. One could imagine, again, an infinite amount of these membranes, floating along gracefully in a space we literally cannot comprehend, each of them home to their own Universes, or many Universes (perhaps there's multiple impacts on each brane, and each of the impacts is its own Universe).

So, not only do we exist in a Universe of hundreds of billions of galaxies - each of which is beyond our mental comprehension - but our Universe might be one of a billion billion billion other universes, all going about their business. It's a sweeping vision of existence.

That said, I don't see how these theories could be proven - how would you test for the existence of an independent Universe in its own dimension? I can't even guess. But, that's what scientific progress is all about. I'm sure no one could have even conceived of fusion in 1630. Perhaps there's some young genius out there right now, dreaming up some crazy way we could measure the presence of another Universe.

Until then, be sure to enjoy this one.


The End (The Beginning)

And we've reached the end of the line - the Black Hole. This is an artistic rendering of what they might look like. It's doubtful anyone will know for sure for a long, long time, since they don't emit radiation of the type that allows us to see, and in fact, suck it in (the whole "Not even light can escape a Black Hole"). Perhaps you've wondered how this could be? I'm glad you asked!

Black Holes are a rather clear example of what I was talking about a few days ago, regarding "things" as opposed to "ongoing processes". There is nothing which actually makes up a Black Hole. Rather, everything we call a "Black Hole" is merely the result of a massive (and I mean massive) gravitational event which effects all of the space-time around it - we call these effects a "Black Hole". Semantic distinction, perhaps, but what isn't semantics?

So, a Black Hole is really an extreme gravitational event. I find myself amazed all the time to know that no one really understands what gravity is. You might think that's the most knowable force in the universe, since we experience it all the time - drop a rock on your toe, there's gravity. Thus, we understand the dynamics of gravity really well - this allows us to fly planes, blast off rockets, etc. However, no one knows what causes gravity, or what it actually is.

There are three main theories of gravity that have gained general currency over the past 300 years: 1. Most well known is Newton's Laws of Gravity. It's quite accurate on a day to day perspective, and in fact we got to the Moon using Newton's theory. Roughly, Newton posited an attractive force that binds matter together - he had no idea what that force is though. However, it's been shown 100% conclusively that it's not entirely accurate - for instance, our GPS system would not work using Newton's theories. Which leads us to, 2. Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. This is essentially the working theory everyone uses now. And while it has been proven in many, very conclusive ways (the GPS system again; the orbit of Mercury was accurately predicted with it; the bending of light by stars was predicted by it), no one seems very confident it's the final answer, since, when it comes to Black Holes (the most extreme gravity), it doesn't work either (it results in an infinite gravitational field within zero space [THE SINGULARITY] - both results are absurd according to current theories). We'll no doubt be sticking with Einstein's theory for a while, because it is very, very accurate. For instance, this theory introduced the concept of Spacetime - a single entity of the spatial dimensions and time. (The 3rd theory is Quantum Gravity, with an actual particle that transmits the gravity force - the graviton. No proof however of this particle, yet).

Gravity in the Einstein perspective is NOT a force. This should be stressed, as it's quite radical. All it is in the geography of space time. To wit: things with mass bend spacetime, and this bending is gravity. Objects with more mass bend it more. We are bending spacetime right now by our very existence, and when move, we create ripples in space time. Objects with the greatest mass bend spacetime to the extreme, as shown here:
As you see, Black Holes appear to rip right through spacetime, and thus our nonsensical, absurd conclusion that it has infinite gravity in zero space. Makes no sense, but this is one of the greatest mysteries in history. I suspect if we ever do find out what's going on in the Singularity, we will have opened the door to an entirely new level of science.

Black Holes vary greatly in size. When big stars explode, they create stellar black holes, and there are no doubt billions of these in the Universe. But black holes can merge with each other, and this merging process was probably quite active in the early universe, when the first stars were being born than quickly dying. They can get so big, in fact, that entire galaxies form around them - it's now believed all major galaxies formed around a "supermassive" black hole.

Black holes also go by different names  - but this is only because until recently, we did not know these different things were the same phenomena. For instance, a supermassive black hole can also be known as a Quasar. Here's a pic:

That's an entire galaxy in the center, with two giant jets of gas shooting out of the poles of the active black hole at the center of this galaxy. Such that quasars = active black holes. They're feeding, in other words.

The black hole in the center of the Milky Way was active a long time ago, but no longer. What happens is after all the chaos of creation, things settle down, and eventually all the matter surrounding the black hole stabilizes in orbits far enough away that it doesn't get sucked in. Once this happens for long enough, the black hole goes quiet, and simply spins in the middle of the galaxy, creating the momentum for the entire galaxy's rotation.

It's even possible there are micro black holes everywhere - right in front of your nose, for example. But little proof has been offered for their existence or creation.

I leave with you the most common type of black hole: the Binary star system, unbalanced. In the upper right is a real picture of what we assume is a black hole.

Bet you didn't know that the vast majority of stars in the universe are in pairs: Binary systems. Our single star is the exception to the rule. Most of these pairs are lopsided, however, with one bigger than the other. The bigger one exhausts its fuel faster, and thus enters the death spiral faster, and if it's big enough, it will create a neutron star or black hole. Which is the kiss of death for it's surviving sibling. I'm sure as it's getting sucked into nothingness, it's thinking "NOT FAIR!"

But what is "fairness" in this vastness?


The next link in the chain

Our sun, again. It's pretty big, eh? But not really - in the grand scheme of it all, our star is pretty average in most respects, which is a good thing. Because stars get a lot, lot bigger. For example:
 And that's big. Stars of this size burn hot and fast, living only a fraction as long as our star. Stars of this size play by some different rules. For example, their fusion process is different:
 Big stars were far more common in the early universe, and it is the big stars which made ALL elements in existence heavier than Iron (and a great deal of the iron too). For, you see, Stars are alive in the sense they are born, live (by burning - a hallmark of all life), and then die. Here:
 Fret not - our star is not going Supernova. Rather, it will puff up, eat all the planets out to Earth, and then shrink way, way down to a White Dwarf, and remain like that for billions and billions of years. The big stars, however, cross a threshold - a phase change, if you will, going up the chain (of temperature/pressure). As you can see, based on the size of the star, when these big guys go, they end up as a Neutron Star, or a Black Hole. More on Black Holes in the next post. 
  A neutron star is an exceedingly strange thing. First, they only come about when massive stars explode, and the remaining core shrinks down to the size of Manhattan. However, this small space contains an ENORMOUS amount of matter, so dense that a teaspoon of it would weigh more than the entire Earth. A neutron star has a solid crust, of Iron - how strange is that? It experiences "starquakes" on its surface, just like earthquakes, but on a scale beyond comprehension. But I am most interested in the interior, for, from what I can gather, the center of a neutron star sits on a line of reality - on one side is our universe, filled with energy, matter, stars, planets, etc; on the other side, is the Singularity of a Black Hole, which no one really has any idea about.
Neutron stars can go by a couple of different names. They're also known as Pulsars, due to the two jets of matter spewing out from the poles. They're also known as Magnetars, due to the incredible magnetic fields generated by this much mass/energy contained in such a small space, spinning incredibly fast. Again, the neutron star resides on the line between our reality of gravity, and the gravity of a black hole (which is "infinite"). 

My point? This line, of creation/destruction, reality/some other reality. There is so much mystery here it boggles my mind. Think of the processes involved: There was the Big Bang (another huge mystery) which produced the raw materials for everything; this material cooled over time, forming matter through phase changes; this matter aggregated, and eventually formed the first atoms (hydrogen and helium); these atoms coalesced into humongous clouds that blanketed the entire universe in darkness until, due to the vagaries of time/space, one very, very special cloud got very dense, and more matter was drawn to the center, making it denser, and so on; it began to spin, and draw in more matter, until BOOM! The birth of the first star, powered by an engine of creation hitherto unknown in existence: Fusion. Then another star was born, and another, and a million billions others. All huge, gigantic stars that burned hot and fast, and then exploded, seeding the early universe with all the elements we know today, and providing the material for the next generation of stars (ours is 3rd generation, I believe).

But they also left behind Neutron stars and Black Holes. Which might appear to be destruction incarnate, but really became the gravitational loci of the newly forming galaxies - our ultimate homes.

So, once again, over and over and over again - creation = destruction. All opposites are the same. Binaries are illusions. Yadda Yadda. In other words: We live in a constantly unfolding miracle that we barely perceive or understand. I find it inspiring, since there's so much more we can know. About the universe, and thus about ourselves (we are made, LITERALLY, from the material ejected by a Supernova).

And oh yeah, here's an actual Neutron star, viewed in X-ray:


Steps on the Path

The Sun. We're gonna have to work on a new name at some point, since how stupid will it seem to refer to our star as "The Sun" when we're orbiting around Sirius? We should start a naming competition! Anyways, here's our Big Brother. Many will refer to the Sun as our Mother or Father, but technically, the relationship is Big Brother/Sister who then has supported our poor asses since childbirth, since you, me, The Earth (need another new name!), The Moon (and another!), and all the other planets, all the asteroids, comets, etc, in the Solar System were created from the same ginormous cloud of dust and gas that the Sun was created from (the cast off remains of some other, far bigger star that exploded). We're all brothers and sisters in the Solar System. Represent!

The Sun (any star) is a dynamic place. By definition. This pic shows the powerful magnetic waves around the Sun, and you can see how chaotic they are. The chaos is caused by the extreme conditions within the sun coupled with its fluid nature. Magnetic effects, in part, cause Sunspots, which are like pimples on the clean skin of the star. Here's one forming:
 Looks like a ripple in a pond, which in a sense, I suppose, it is. Here's a developed sunspot at close range:
 Click for big. I suspect you might be shocked to see the surface of the sun looks like living tissue under a microscope. I was! The Sunspot is darker because it is cooler than the surrounding areas, but that's just a relative matter to you and me: Still hot! And active. Here's an even closer view of a sunspot:
As with many things, seeming order on the surface become chaotic when looked at closely (my definition of order/chaos by the way: Just a matter of perspective). You can see the turmoil at this range - again, all caused by the twisting, snapping, crazy magnetic fields that whip all across the star.

And again, like with many (every?) things, the closer you look at something, the less concrete it becomes. On a day to day basis, we think of permanent, static "things", and we base our worldview on this false view. Only when change happens unexpectedly to us do we remember the truth - but we'll suppress it. Deny it. Think of your self - are you permanent? Or temporary?

Answer: You're temporary. Like everything. In fact, it might be far more realistic to get rid of the concept of "things" - objects, and instead, think of "processes unfolding over time." Because that's a closer approximation of the truth - a set of temporary conditions that allows for certain situations to arise, situations that will disappear when the underlying conditions change. For example, take a star, any star. Our star, for example:
The business part of a star is the thermonuclear core - where fusion takes place. This is the center of creation, and the very process that defines a star. Here's what the Proton-Proton fusion process which occurs in our star looks like:
And so, I draw closer to my conclusion: As with phase changes, fusion is the result of matter being compressed to such a degree that there's literally no where for these protons to go without hitting another proton, or something else. When this starts happening, that's fusion - as simple as that: Elementary particles smashing into each other with enough energy that they fuse. This fusion process releases energy as well, and part of that is what we know as "Sunlight". 

And now that were at the core, and you see that for our Star, it is this Proton-Proton collision process which powers everything, perhaps you glimpse how nothing is a "thing", a permanent object, but rather everything's a temporary process. For this process above is massively powerful - if left un-contained, it would result in a huge explosion. However, gravity wants to compress anything with mass, and stars have lots and lots of mass (mostly hydrogen, some helium). So, gravity is pushing in with everything it's got, and nuclear fusion is pushing out, and there is a harmony reached, a balance. We call this balance a "star". That's all it is. And when the balance falters, the star goes BOOM. And then it's something else.

Do you see? How the most important object in our lives (our Star) is just an ongoing dialectic between fusion and gravity? And if this MOST important thing is simply a basic process, what do you think this world is then? Or you? Or everything?

Permanent and forever? Or just another temporary process?


Phases of everything

As the charts above show, phase transitions are the result of changes in pressure and temperature, and what they actually are is a re-ordering of the internal structure of the molecule/element in question. What we know as "solids" are densely packed, ordered collections of atoms; liquids less so, and gases the least. This is the explanation of what you see with your own eyes - the changing internal structure.

As the temperature/pressure goes up, matter starts to break up, and if given enough heat/pressure, it will in fact cease to be matter, converting (or phasing) into pure energy (E=MC2).  And here comes my big point: Everything you see, know, are, is the result of a phase change that occurred early in the creation of our Universe. Lookee here:

Click for big. What this diagram is in fact showing is the phase transition of pure energy into matter - a distillation, if you will. From the starting point of inconceivable temperatures/pressures, everything since has been getting cooler and less dense - expanding. And from this cooling, matter formed, like ice emerging from water. We're the ice. And not just matter, but the fundamental forces of our existence - electromagnetism, for example.

There's many cool things to point out here. For example, for every particle of matter created, there was a particle of anti-matter. These particles were created, collided, and destroyed each other. Over and over and over again. Somehow (no one quite knows) though, as this matter/antimatter collisions occurred, there was a small remainder of matter. All matter in the universe today is that remainder. So, consider - the slight imperfection of the matter/antimatter conversion resulted in a small amount of matter left over, and that's our entire reality.

Look above up to the 300K year mark. The universe up to this point was hot, busy fog - light could not escape anywhere, due to the enormous amounts of particles everywhere. Atoms could not form for the same reason: everything was too hot and bothered. But with further cooling, further expansion, atoms finally formed, and when they did, almost instantly across all of creation, the fog lifted, and the Universe was transparent, but filled with vast clouds of gas.

And almost entirely dark, for there were no sources of light other than the photons randomly cast off by the "getting rarer all the time" collisions of particles. This period is called the Dark Ages and we cannot see past it through our telescopes. But then something truly magical happened: the first star was born. Here:
I think this is incredibly beautiful when pondered: the first star. There really was a first, and quickly followed by many, many others in a chain reaction of creation - the so called "reionization era". These first stars were huge, and burned very hot, and died quickly. In these first supernovae, the first black holes were created. These black holes in turn helped create more stars, and more importantly, served as the rotational centers of the first galaxies. By the end of this process, the Universe looks the way it does today, filled with bright stars, swirling galaxies, and panoramic nebula. And lots of dust.

So, the next time you're stuck in traffic, or in the office, step back from the moment and consider that you, everything around you, all that you could ever know or be is the re-working (many, many times over) of the initial energy from the Big Bang. In fact, we ARE the Big Bang; everything is an expression of this moment of creation, a phase change from the moment of conception to the "freezing out" of matter, which then in turn formed stars and everything else. Including you (we ARE star dust, literally).

Awe inspiring, eh?


Phases of methane

Here you see Methane going through all 3 of the "normal" phase transitions we know of on Earth - as a solid, a liquid, and a gas.

What's fascinating about Methane is there is another world in our solar system with running liquid, and that is Titan - wondrous moon of Saturn. Except the liquid in question is methane, not water. As far as anyone knows now, methane acts on Titan almost exactly like water acts on Earth - it can flow, it can evaporate, it can condense, it can freeze, melt, re-freeze, and so on. Such that the surface of Titan - from above - looks very Earthlike. 

This is a false-color radar image of a slice of Titan's surface from the Cassini probe. The dark areas are what you think they are - lakes. Of methane. Not good for human swimming!

 Another radar image of Titan from Cassini, untouched.

Another Cassini image (there are so many - what a wonderful spaceship!), showing the magnificent atmosphere of Titan - thicker than Earth's. There is of course a heavy methane presence in the atmosphere.

Keep in mind through all this that the average temperatures on Titan's surface is -300F, and Titan receives about 1% of the sunlight the Earth does. So, just like Earth with water, Titan just happens to reside in a temperature belt that allows all phase transitions of methane to occur, creating everything shown above. It's pure luck, but what isn't?

Finally, to put Titan in perspective, check this out:
As you can see, Titan is quite large, and would easily be considered a planet if it was in its own orbit. However, it's not the largest moon in our solar system, as that honor goes to Jupiter's Ganymede, which is just a smidge larger than Titan.

Also too:

A methane capture system for cows (prototype). Believe it, since it's true: livestock are one of the largest sources of methane on Earth, which acts as a greenhouse gas.