Member 286
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Contributor to project:
What happened to nature?
Austin, US
Immortal since Dec 11, 2007
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    From Athila
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    What happened to nature?
    How to stay in touch with our biological origins in a world devoid of nature? The majestic nature that once inspired poets, painters and...
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    Random Thoughts
    So I was browsing through the gallery on this site, trying as best I could to avoid studying for exams and whatnot, when I came across the Hydrozoa Picture Gallery. I started scrolling down the page looking at all of the stunning images when I realized, wow, there are a lot of hydrozoa out there...

    If there are this many different types of, well, jellyfish, how many different species of animals and plants are there on Earth? I did a little bit of research and came across the wikipedia article on Biodiversity. Heres what it had to say on the number of species:

    * 287,655 plants, including:
    o 15,000 mosses,
    o 13,025 ferns,
    o 980 gymnosperms,
    o 199,350 dicotyledons,
    o 59,300 monocotyledons;
    * 74,000-120,000 fungi[11];
    * 10,000 lichens;
    * 1,250,000 animals, including:
    o 1,190,200 invertebrates:
    + 950,000 insects,
    + 70,000 mollusks,
    + 40,000 crustaceans,
    + 130,200 others;
    o 58,808 vertebrates:
    + 29,300 fish,
    + 5,743 amphibians,
    + 8,240 reptiles,
    + 10,234 birds, (9799 extant as of 2006)
    + 5,416 mammals.

    However the total number of species for some phyla may be much higher:

    * 10-30 million insects[11];
    * 5-10 million bacteria[12];
    * 1.5 million fungi[11];
    * ~1 million mites[12]

    Those figures are, simply put... amazing. I was literally stunned (and still am) by the sheer abundance of life there is to be found everywhere we look. The diversity of life on this planet is practically incomprehensible to us. 70,000 different types of mollusks??... 40,000 different types of crustaceans??... What the hell??... Nature truly is an artist.

    And to think, this diversity of life that we see here on Earth is just that: here on Earth. The Earth is like a grain of dust in the universe, or, as a friend of mine once put it, "we are less than .0000000000001% of the matter in the universe (and in reality, much MUCH less). It is closer to say that we make up 0% of the matter in the universe than it is to say anything else."

    Imagine the most absurd, ridiculous creature you can think of. It's probably got multiple sets of eyes, tentacles coming out of its ass, a purple exterior etc etc... Well, when you consider the vastness of space and the Picasso-like vision of nature and evolution, theres probably a good chance that something like it exists somewhere out there in the cosmos (hell, it might even exist here on Earth!). Talk about diversity of life...

    Another thing that caught my eye in the wikipedia article:

    "Biodiversity found on Earth today is the result of 4 billion years of evolution."

    4 billion years... What does that number even mean? We think 100 years an incredibly long period of time; longer than most lifetimes in fact! How can we be expected to grasp a number like 4 BILLION??

    Generations of human beings are separated by about 20 years, meaning we can't even relate to people TWENTY YEARS younger or older than us!... What the hell does 4 BILLION mean to creatures who consider two decades an almost unbridgeable gap??

    I don't know... I really don't know...

    Thu, Dec 13, 2007  Permanent link

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    feanne     Thu, Dec 13, 2007  Permanent link
    Ooh jellyfish... pretty :3 Mother Nature never ceases to amaze.
    alborz     Thu, Dec 13, 2007  Permanent link
    What also blows my mind is 4 billion years. A year is how long it takes the earth to go around the sun. To use that unit of measure to describe events as the earth was coming into being seems absurd.

    "How long it takes"...what does that even mean?
    partymarty     Thu, Dec 13, 2007  Permanent link
    Great point. It seems like we're not adequately equipped to comprehend the universe on the largest (and smallest) of scales. Sure our brains can make feeble attempts to understand concepts such as 4 billion years (we know that a day is 24 hours, a year is 365 days, a century is 100 years and on and on), but to say that life has been evolving for 4 billion years... theres really no way around it other than just accepting it and moving on.

    And I'm not saying that because its so hard for us to grasp these concepts that we should give up and say, "well, if we can't understand it, lets just forget it." Far from it. I'm just saying that sometimes we should step back for a moment and think about some of the things we seem to take for granted, like the boundless immensity of space or the ever advancing arrow of time.
    rua     Fri, Dec 14, 2007  Permanent link
    Generations of human beings are separated by about 20 years, meaning we can't even relate to people TWENTY YEARS younger or older than us!... What the hell does 4 BILLION mean to creatures who consider two decades an almost unbridgeable gap??

    That hit me hard. I never thought about it like that. Think of all that we've gone through, all the history we've created. We look back a thousand years, and the multitude is inconceivable. That is a flash of humankind's history. Every species crawling across the earth or flying in its air has a history. Many, a deeper one. And in a way, it's infinitesimal.