Friday, May 24, 2013

On The Origin and Future of Nomads

Nomads - Ancient & Modern
Regular readers know that on Fridays Dredd Blog often discusses a scientific mystery, or a new or unusual scientific discovery or issue, because sometimes the scientific establishment is too busy to offer some subjects for your perusal (e.g. Weekend Rebel Science Excursion - 16).

So, today let's extend that Dredd Blog tradition by asking and discussing: "What do microbes, the Mayan Long Calendar, and space travel have to do with nomads, nomadic history, as well as the future of human civilization and even the human species itself?"

The discussion will be utterly scientific at its base, but will investigate, extrapolate, hypothesize, and hopefully reveal to you something that you did not know until you read today's Dredd Blog post.

I. Introduction

The post today will show that microbes (which make up 99% of our genetic material, as well as upwards of 90% of the cells of our bodies) are nomadic due in part to the Earth's Global Climate System.

As will be seen, the same is true for the Earth's flora, fauna, and even civilization itself to some degree, because today we hypothesize that the Earth's Axial Precession is a part of the Earth's Global Climate System.

This post will argue that the Global Climate System mandates some degree of nomadic ecology and culture because of the effects that the Earth's Axial Precession causes during its ~26,000 year cycle.

It will be shown that some of our traditional misunderstanding of climate, weather, and nomadic culture is because we do not take into consideration the cosmic aspects of the Earth's Global Climate System.

Finally, assuming arguendo that biological and cosmological evolutionary theories are true, the cosmic aspects of the life cycle of the Sun will be shown to require us to become cosmic nomads in order to persist in this galaxy.

II. The Global Climate System

The standard description of the Global Climate System tells us that it has five parts:
The climate system is the highly complex system consisting of five major components: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the cryosphere, the land surface and the biosphere, and the interactions between them.
(Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)), "Climate System"). That organization goes on to say more about it in terms of "built in" contrasted with "external factors" that make changes to the system:
The climate system evolves in time under the influence of its own internal dynamics and because of external forcings such as volcanic eruptions, solar variations and anthropogenic forcings such as the changing composition of the atmosphere and land-use change.
(ibid). I don't know of any other sources that include or consider the cosmic portion of the climate system, in terms of calendars, so that is one of the things we will consider in today's post.

First, we add one item to the list, which is cosmological influences (e.g. axial precession and orbital permutations).

Having added the Earth's Axial Precession to the list, let's discuss it first because it brings up the "Mayan Long Calendar" which we can discuss at the same time:
Only one calendar I know of synchronizes with the Earth's axial precession.

The graphic to the left depicts that phenomenon, described as "Precessional movement of the Earth. The Earth rotates (white arrows) once a day about its axis of rotation (red). This axis itself rotates slowly (white circle), completing a rotation in approximately 26,000 years" (ibid).

The phenomena of axial precession and axial tilt are important for civilizations to take into consideration in their long range planning.
(A Savvy Ecocosmological Earth Calendar). The ~26,000 year calendar that synchronizes well with the Earth's axial precession has useful segmentation:
One calendar that does so is the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar since it has a method of synchronizing with axial precession as follows:
1 Day = Kin (keen)
20 Kin  = 1 Uinal (a.k.a. Winal)
360 Kin / 18 Uinals = 1 Tun (toon)
20 Tuns = 1 K’atun (k’a toon)
20 K`atuns = 1 Baktun (back toon)
(see e.g. Mayan Long Count, and Mesoamerican Long Count). We can calculate how close the Long Count Calendar is to the axial precession cycle:
Earth's axial precession = 25,771 years
26,000 Tun * 360 Kin per Tun / 365.25 solar days = ~25,626 years
25,771 years - 25,626 years = 145 years (axial precession variation)
145 is ~0.56% of 25,771 (very slight degree of variation)
(see e.g. Precession of the Equinox). Therefore, the 26,000 Tun figure is within about a half of one percent of being equal to one complete cycle of the Earth's axial precession as calculated by other astronomical means (we don't know which of the two is more accurate, but a ~0.56% variance between the two is not significant).

[Note that current calendars of civilization do not even take axial precession into consideration at all.]
(ibid, "A Savvy Ecocosmological Earth Calendar"). What is popularly called the "Mayan Long Count Calendar", which scientists call the "Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar", synchronizes with the Earth's axial precession.

We learn in elementary school that the four seasons, spring, summer, fall, and winter are caused by the Earth's axial tilt (Wikipedia, "Season").

Since the Earth is tilted to one side, as it orbits the Sun areas of the Earth get more or less directed sunlight, and therefore become colder or warmer depending on which side of the Sun we are on during the orbit.

Long term, the axial precession changes the orientation of the tilt, and therefore causes changes to the climate on a very long term basis, peaking each ~13,000 years, which is half of the full ~26,000 year cycle when the tilt orientation returns to the position it was some ~26,000 years previously (see short video below which depicts the phenomenon).

The gist of it is that at 13,000 years from now the winter will be in the months that summer months take up now, and in 26,000 years it will return to the winter months that are now winter months.

Since this is a very slow progression taking 13,000 years to reverse, then another 13,000 years to get back to square one, the climate system is in constant flux as a natural and normal characteristic.

But, the process takes long enough to allow biological and ecological systems (including high flexibility microbes) to slowly adjust (including those in the atmosphere).

Unfortunately the "anthropogenic forcings such as the changing composition of the atmosphere and land-use change" (see IPCC above, meaning damage done to the Global Climate System by current civilization using fossil fuels) has disorganized and damaged the natural slow process of change by injecting green house gases into one of the parts of the climate system: the atmosphere.

We can observe the reaction of the flora and fauna (as nomadic behavior) to this atmospheric damage we see happening today:
Vegetation around the world is on the move, and climate change is the culprit, according to a new analysis of global vegetation shifts led by a University of California, Berkeley, ecologist in collaboration with researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

In a paper published June 7 in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography, researchers present evidence that over the past century, vegetation has been gradually moving toward the poles and up mountain slopes, where temperatures are cooler, as well as toward the equator, where rainfall is greater.
(Ents & The Entities Become Nomadic). Perhaps you have guessed that this nomadic behavior also naturally takes place during the Earth's axial precession process, however, the human civilization induced version of climate-change-induced nomadic behavior (mentioned in the quote above) is not good (The Damage Cannot Be Undone? - 2).

Anyway, the segments of the Long Count Calendar could be useful even to a sane human civilization, because for example, the design of buildings, location of harbors, agricultural practices, and the like, would all have to change during the transition from one climate phase to another during the 13,000 year "reversal," followed by another 13,000 year return back to square one.

That is, taking the example of July as a summer month, 13,000 years later the climate system will have reached the apex and July will have become a winter month; then another 13,000 years later July will have returned back to being a summer month, completing the 26,000 year cycle.

Which could all easily be anticipated via the segments of the Long Count Calendar (e.g. "in the 14th Baktun, the weather in location 'x' begins to change from 'y' to 'z'").

The axial precession induced climate changes could have the effect of the U.S. and Australia swapping winter months for awhile, and vice versa, which is mentioned to show that even though change takes place slowly, it is significant change (but it is not catastrophic).

We see normal, unsurprising change when we take the cosmic climate factors into consideration when projecting the schedule of anticipated change coming at any given point on that comprehensive Long Count Calendar.

We seem to have forgotten that all around us are nomadic species (Microbial ecology) that move around the globe as needed (Microbial Climate Factors) in response to slow and normal climate changes caused by the Earth's natural cosmic axial precession.

Thus, civilizations that forever build static structures in the "wrong places" (because our "modern calendars" do not see the big picture of these cosmic influences) will suffer accordingly.

For example, beach houses built in Florida under static building codes today may not work well 13,000 years from now, and progressively may not work as time moves in that direction, that is, as the climate slowly reverses cold and hot months over and over.

Likewise, harbors built at sea level today may become too high or too low as sea level changes slowly take place as the ice sheets slowly change (thaw, freeze) during the 13,000 / 13,000 year segments that make up the entire 26,000 year axial precession cycle.

III. The Ultimate Nomadic Adventure

The greatest event in this solar system we inhabit, in terms of requirements that we become nomads, is the demise of the Sun:
Earth's fate is precarious. As a red giant, the Sun will have a maximum radius beyond the Earth's current orbit, 1 AU (1.5×1011 m), 250 times the present radius of the Sun. However, by the time it is an asymptotic giant branch star, the Sun will have lost roughly 30% of its present mass due to a stellar wind, so the orbits of the planets will move outward. If it were only for this, Earth would probably be spared, but new research suggests that Earth will be swallowed by the Sun owing to tidal interactions. Even if Earth would escape incineration in the Sun, still all its water will be boiled away and most of its atmosphere would escape into space.
(Life According To Science). That eventuality would lead to a forced nomadic migration into space:
I found an old photo of New York City before the steroids, so I thought I would share it with you.

A post over at The Ecocosmology Blog points out that the survival of the human species requires that we move into a mobile home of sorts to then travel to another home world.

The reason that post was published is because scientists tell us that our star The Sun will utterly destroy this planet Earth in the future.

The theme song for that future adventure into space was written by New White Trash ("music of the post paradigm"), which some of our best scientist astronauts listen to as they orbit the Earth in a mobile home we call The Space Station.

Yes, as they practice to be ready for that long haul down Highway 61 someday in the future, a trip to be taken in a thin-skinned metal container not attached to real estate.

Don't be too surprised that most people of the earth have no clue that the cosmos has scheduled their utter destruction if they do not move into a space trailer to get on down Highway 61 to find the next homeland.
(New White Trash: Doublewide Doublespeak). That brings us to the nomadic proclivities of the microbial world on and in us.

IV. The Original Biological Nomads

We are told by scientists that the first biological life forms on the Earth were the microbes:
Single-celled microorganisms were the first forms of life to develop on Earth, approximately 3–4 billion years ago. Further evolution was slow, and for about 3 billion years in the Precambrian eon, all organisms were microscopic. So, for most of the history of life on Earth the only forms of life were microorganisms. Bacteria, algae and fungi have been identified in amber that is 220 million years old, which shows that the morphology of microorganisms has changed little since the Triassic period.

Most microorganisms can reproduce rapidly and microbes such as bacteria can also freely exchange genes by conjugation, transformation and transduction between widely-divergent species. This horizontal gene transfer, coupled with a high mutation rate and many other means of genetic variation, allows microorganisms to swiftly evolve (via natural selection) to survive in new environments and respond to environmental stresses.
(A Structure RE: The Corruption of Memes - 4). By now they have settled in with the human species, and we cannot survive without them:
Justin Sonnenburg, a microbiologist at Stanford, suggests that we would do well to begin regarding the human body as “an elaborate vessel optimized for the growth and spread of our microbial inhabitants.” This humbling new way of thinking about the self has large implications for human and microbial health, which turn out to be inextricably linked.
Our resident microbes also appear to play a critical role in training and modulating our immune system, helping it to accurately distinguish between friend and foe and not go nuts on, well, nuts and all sorts of other potential allergens. Some researchers believe that the alarming increase in autoimmune diseases in the West may owe to a disruption in the ancient relationship between our bodies and their “old friends” — the microbial symbionts with whom we coevolved.
Human health should now “be thought of as a collective property of the human-associated microbiota,” as one group of researchers recently concluded in a landmark review article on microbial ecology — that is, as a function of the community, not the individual. Such a paradigm shift comes not a moment too soon, because as a civilization, we’ve just spent the better part of a century doing our unwitting best to wreck the human-associated microbiota with a multifronted war on bacteria and a diet notably detrimental to its well-being. Researchers now speak of an impoverished “Westernized microbiome” and ask whether the time has come to embark on a project of “restoration ecology” — not in the rain forest or on the prairie but right here at home, in the human gut.
(Microbial Languages: Rehabilitation of the Unseen). That trip into space will require that we take "our" microbes with us, which means that we will have to learn more about them and protect them as they have protected us.

In closing this post today, we could ask "will the microbes be returning to their home in the cosmos, and in effect be taking us back with them?"

Some scientists have hypothesized as much:
How did these early Earthly life forms arise? And did they include archae, bacteria, and eukaryotes? Joseph and colleagues (Joseph 2009a; Joseph and Schild 2010ab; Joseph and Wickramasinghe 2010) have detailed and reviewed a large volume of evidence suggesting life arrived here encased in the debris which formed the surface of this planet. By contrast, Russell and colleagues (Milner-White and Russell 2010; Nitschke and Russell 2010; Russell and Kanik 2010) have presented an impressive body of data indicating Earthly life (and even extraterrestrial life) may have been fashioned by the fortuitous mixture of the necessary chemicals within a watery thermal environment. Certainly early Earth was hot. Likewise, evidence of the earliest life was left in rocky formations bathed in water, i.e. banded iron formations consisting of alternating magnetite and quartz dated to 4.28 bya (O'Neil et al, 2008)
(Journal of Cosmology, emphasis added; see also New Hypothesis Says Life Began Before The Earth). It would mean that the oldest life forms are cosmic nomads, and that the newest life forms, humans, must become cosmic nomads as well.

The next post in this new series is here.

The Earth's axial precession:


  1. Thanks Dredd...helped in my formulation of a quite similar theory using Hamlet's Mill and this idea>>

    1. Unknown,

      Yep, cool scientist.

      His flaw was over emphasis on orbit and under emphasis of axial tilt, and therefore axial precession.

      We are closer in orbit to the Sun in the winter and further from it in the summer.

      But the tilt is at the extreme with respect to solar orientation in both cases, and is controlling.

      We also know a lot more, observation wise, now -- and the bulk of scientists (98%) know the global climate system is sensitive to even human perturbations.

      Still, we know less than we need to know because we ignore important things, preferring glittering generalities.


  2. The nomadic movement of the flora is quite important too.

    The trees, grasses, and other plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

    So, as they migrate because of the axial precession caused climate change (so as to stay alive), they have a good impact on the green house gas problem by regulating carbon dioxide.

    If they were to remain fixed in place instead of migrating, and die out as a consequence of changing climate, there would be more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and consequently more warming.