Thoughts about space

The thing you don’t realize when you live in a city, or even the suburbs, or really anywhere, is how much space there is on this planet. Even though we have seven billion people, and trillions of other life forms, and 75% of the planet is water, and much of the land is uninhabitable, the earth is so big that it just doesn’t matter.

We could fit every human, standing side by side, into 17 square miles. It would be pretty tight, and there wouldn’t much room to stretch or do yoga, but we could make it work.

You see that square in southwest Kansas? That’s seventeen square miles.

17sqm

Humans, however, don’t live two dimensionally. We live three dimensionally! We can stack people on top of each other. In fact, it *only* takes a building that’s 1.2 billion cubic meters to do this. In theory, we could build this thing. If we made it as tall as the Empire State Building (443 meters) and made the height and length about 52,000 meters, every human could fit inside of it. We could build it on Manhattan. Let’s add a really big air conditioner, too. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t do this.

My point here is that there is a lot of space, and humans take up very little of it.

I was reminded of that on a drive out west last month. My friends and I drove from Denver to Vegas, with a stop in Zion National Park. First, we drove through the Rocky Mountains in Denver. I looked outside, and there was space:

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Then we drove through Utah. More space.

utah

Then we arrived at Zion National park. I hiked to the top of a canyon, sat down, and thought about how much space there was.

zion

But as much space as we have on this planet, it doesn’t come close to how much space we have in our solar system. And you know what, our educational system doesn’t really do a good job of explaining that most of space is, well, space.

Here’s a typical map of our solar system that you might see at a school:

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Pluto is included because Pluto will always be a planet and this is the way I learned it.

Look, I understand why the map is drawn like this. There isn’t enough room to draw the solar system to scale, because if it was, it would be really big, and 99.9% of it would be black, and schools don’t have enough money to show a map ten miles long with a few tiny dots on it. NONETHELESS, I would like for that to happen.

Thankfully, we have the internet. Here is website that shows the solar system to scale, if the moon were only 1 pixel. Take a scroll through to get a sense of how much nothing there is in our solar system.

Thing is, the solar system is pretty small in the grand scheme of things. There are 100 billion more stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. Look out a little farther, and you’ll see our sister, the Andromeda Galaxy*, which contains a trillion stars. Look out a little farther, and you’ll see hundreds of billions of other galaxies. Travel at light speed, and you’ll see it all in about 13.7 billion years.

*The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies will collide in about 3.75 billion years. Should be fun!

We will never see most of the space in our universe, unless we become a Type IV civilization, which is probably not going to happen. See the gray blob below for an explanation of what this means.

Hello! Welcome to the gray blob. So, in 1964, Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev figured that civilizations can be categorized by the total amount of energy available to them. The Kardashev Scale, as it is called, now lists 7 levels of civilizations based on their power consumption, and implicitly on their technological advancement and extension.

TYPE 0: A civilization that harnesses the energy of its home planet, but not to its full potential just yet. This is where we are right now.

TYPE I: A civilization that is capable of harnessing the total energy of its home planet. We may get there in 100-200 years.

TYPE II: An interstellar civilization, capable of harnessing the total energy output of a star. This is the next stage in the evolution of a civilization, and presumes a level of technological development that allows for gigantic constructions (like Dyson structures) and utmost efficiency.

TYPE III: A galactic civilization, capable of inhabiting and harnessing the energy of an entire galaxy. Such a civilization would use planets like building blocks, being able to move planets from one solar system to other, merge solar systems, merge stars, absorb supernovae, and even create stars. The galaxy is their playground, and everything in it becomes a toy. It would be pretty cool.

TYPE IV: A universal civilization, capable of harnessing the energy of the whole universe. This civilization would be supergalactic, able to travel throughout the entire universe and consume the energy output of several, or all, galaxies. A Type IV civilization could also manipulate space-time and tinker with entropy, thus reaching immortality on a grand scale. This would be an indestructible and highly utopian civilization.

But we’re not done yet…

TYPE V: A multiverse culture, capable of harnessing the energy of multiple universes. It would span countless parallel universes, being able to manipulate the very structure of reality.

We’re STILL NOT DONE.

TYPE VI: Exists outside of time and space, and is capable of creating universes and multiverses, and destroying them just as easily. At this point, we are God.

When I look at the night sky on a clear night, and I think about space, I feel…something. You know what I mean? It’s like a bit of wonder and profound sadness at the same time. I kinda freak out. I ponder about our place in the universe, and whether we will ever understand the scope or complexity of it all. Spoiler alert: we won’t. And that’s fine. Then I go home and forget about it and eat some ice cream.

But I think it is important to think about these things. It is important not to ignore the universe. So I look at space – the open road, a national park, the night sky – and I just sit quietly, and I think, this is all frikkin weird and crazy.

And sometimes I just there and I don’t think about anything. To quote the Australian rocker Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit.

City pics

Ever since I moved back to New York, I’ve taken a lot more pictures. Here are some:

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96-98 St. Mark’s Place. The same buildings used on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti.
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McCarren Park, Brooklyn. You can see the Empire State Building peaking through in the background.
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Wilco, King’s Theatre
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40th St and Park Ave, 8:30am
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The Bedford Ave subway stop
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A list of 2016 resolutions

Snow day

A snowstorm is a weird thing. It’s the one natural disaster that is entirely quiet. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, volcano eruptions – yeah, you feel those. But a snowstorm is just a trillion trillion trillion little snowflakes falling silently to the ground. Sometimes there’s wind, and sometimes there’s ice, but most of the time it’s eerily quiet.

… except for the local news. Have you ever watched the local news during a snowstorm? Dear God, it’s terrible. Stop yelling at us! You have this amazing, beautiful thing happening outside! It actually forces us to stay inside, which is one of my favorite things to do. Yes, I understand that a blizzard – and this was a historic one in NYC – requires adequate preparation. But I also like to enjoy the WONDER OF NATURE without feeling like the world is ending.

The snow reminds me of being a kid. Snow days were the best. We had this family ritual where the night before a potential snow day, we would dance around the house and sing to the snow gods. It was called the snow dance. I’d go to bed, sweaty and tired, hoping the snow dance was enough get the job done.

And then I’d wake up, and the sun would shine through the shades a little differently, and I’d look at the clock. For a second, I’d panic. It’s 9:30! And then it would hit me that school was cancelled, and my parents let me sleep, and it was like I was given an extra day in life. I could do whatever I wanted. Like go back to sleep. Which I always did.

Snow days are different now that I’m 24. I have to work. I have to take the subway. I have to bend down and tie my boots. I have to watch out for cars and not die. I don’t get a free day anymore.

But that’s fine. It’s fine. I can do cool things now. Like drive! And drink beer! Preferably not at the same time. And make money! And travel! I like being 24. I can still make snow angels.

Here is a picture I took of my block in Williamsburg. It would snow another foot.

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A quick trip to London

I was in London this week, my first time on the island across the pond. On Wednesday I spent a few hours walking around the city, from Picadilly Circus to Leicester Square to Westminster. It was a loud night. Hundreds, maybe thousands of protesters marched through the streets, hours after British parliament authorized airstrikes in Syria.

We live in interesting times. Through the chaos, I managed to snap this picture of Big Ben.

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Hodgepodge

I was in Los Angeles last week and caught a Dodgers game. I went to a game there back in 2001. I remember that was the first time I ever kept score at a baseball game. Eric Gagne started. Sammy Sosa hit a home run. Things were different.

Roberto Hernandez (née Fausto Carmona) started for the Dodgers. They lost 6-4.

They don’t check your ticket like most stadiums, so you can basically sit anywhere. I moved down behind the first base dugout and took this picture.

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While in LA, I visited one of the best animal shelters in the country. Is there a better sign than this?

CATS


Planes are amazing. Like, in 100 years we went from this:

First Flight

to this:

televisions-airplane-seats

Now I can access the internet and watch cable television from 30,000 feet in the air. That’s nuts.


I like to arrive at airports early. Really early. It keeps the blood pressure down. This post on Medium sums up my thoughts:

Authorities recommend arriving two hours before international flights. I say four. Get there four hours before your flight. You are a hundred and fifty years old. Your friends laugh at you. Have patience.

Arrive early and move through the airport like the Dalai Lama. You are in no rush. All obstacles are taken in stride, patiently, with a smile. Approach the nearly empty check-in counter. Walk up and say, I’m a bit early but I’m here to check in to … Marvel at their surprise and then their generosity. Suddenly you are always able to get an exit row or bulkhead seat. Suddenly, sure, they can slip you into Business. Suddenly tickets that are supposedly unchangeable, cannot be modified, are, after a few calls, some frowns, upbeat goodbyes, specially modifiable for you. This is what happens when there is no one behind you in line to check in.

You are hacking the airport by arriving early, knowing that all the work you could have done at home — the emails or writing or photo editing — can be done at the airport.

Boston Calling was last weekend, the bi-annual music festival that started a few years ago. I went. It was a solid lineup – Bleachers, The Hold Steady, Girl Talk, Volcano Choir, Lorde, Childish Gambino. After The Hold Steady performed, the sky got very dark and then we were told to leave.

A few minutes later, the skies opened up and there was thunder and lightning and … it was all pretty cool. Three hours later, the show resumed.

We went back. They had to cut Girl Talk and Volcano Choir, but Lorde and Childish Gambino closed the show late into the night.

I took this picture of Lorde:

Lorde

Speaking of concerts, I finally saw Arcade Fire in August. They were awesome and very high on the list of bands I had wanted to see. Here is my updated list of top 5 bands/artists I want to see live.

1) The Rolling Stones
2) Paul McCartney
3) Jack White
4) Neil Young
5) The Black Keys

A Led Zeppelin reunion trumps all of those.


I returned to the BC campus for the first time in a year. I walked onto the football field and lied down for a bit.

Alumni

Hey, the ozone layer is coming back!


Offense has all but disappeared in major league baseball. I made some charts to show this. These charts go back to 1973, when the DH was first instituted:

Runs Per Game

Batting AVG

 

Walk %

I took this picture during a Yankee broadcast:

2-2-2-2-2-2

I will be hiking Mt. Washington next week. More on that later.

Roadtrip 2013, one year later

One year ago – May 29th, 2013 – I went on a half-cross-country roadtrip with my friends Dan and Dan. I did a series of vlogs over the eight days, and I also took a lot of pictures. I never posted them. Here they are:

Liberty Bell - Philadelphia, PA
Liberty Bell – Philadelphia, PA
Liberty Bell
Liberty Bell – Philadelphia, PA
Citizens Bank
Citizens Bank Park – Philadelphia, PA
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - Cleveland, OH
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – Cleveland, OH
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - Cleveland, OH
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – Cleveland, OH
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - Cleveland, OH
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – Cleveland, OH
progressive
Progressive Field – Cleveland, OH
notredame
University of Notre Dame – South Bend, IN
bean
The Bean – Chicago, IL
wrigley
Wrigley Field – Chicago, IL
wrigley
Wrigley Field – Chicago, IL
milleniumpark
Millenium Park – Chicago, IL
targetfield
Target Field – Minneapolis, MN
calhoun
Lake Calhoun – Minneapolis, MN
miller
Miller Park – Milwaukee, WI