In the beginning this blog was centered on San Francisco parks and open space issues with special emphasis on natural areas and natural history. Over time it began to range into other areas and topics. As you can see, it is eclectic, as I interlace it with topics of interest to me.

I welcome feedback: just click this link to reach me.

Monday, September 26, 2011


1.   Caltrans wants to widen Highway 1 in Pacifica
2.   Save the date:  Oct 9 - Green Fire:  Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic For Our Time
3.   Two whale watching trips:  Sept 30, October 7
4.   Deadline Sept 28 for comment on helicopters and aircraft over GGNRA and Pt Reyes
5.   Mostly Natives plant sale in Tomales through October
6.   Mission Blue Nursery plant sale October 1 in Brisbane - exclusively SBM plants
7.   Copious information on gardening for bees
8.   Update on Knowland Park/SOD Blitz
9.   Critical population battle in Congress
10. Feedback
11.  Fall Song, by Mary Oliver
12.  The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World
13.  Michael Hart, father of e-books and founder of Project Gutenberg, dies
14.  Biocentrism, the new face of the cosmos
15.  E=MC2 celebrates 106th birthday

1.  Pacificans Wary of Widening Highway 1

The "Calera Creek" proposal of the Calif Dept of Transportation and San Mateo County Transit Authority (TA) to widen 1.3 miles of Highway 1 in Pacifica from four to six lanes has generated controversy on the coast.

At two public meetings, speakers have overwhelmingly given a wary response to the proposal, which require the demolishing of several roadside businesses and a home, as well as the paving over of wildlife habitat.

Widening opponents have suggested solutions which could be implemented sooner, at lower cost and without the environmental impacts, such as carpooling, better bus service and a reversible lane, as on the Golden Gate Bridge.  However, the transportation staff ignored them all.

The TA receives county sales tax monies, and can fund bus service as well as highways.  The Board is comprised of seven local government officials.

The DEIR, which reads like a brochure for the project, says that coastal views will be improved once the roadside trees are cut down.  The deadline for public comment on the DEIR is October 7.  Send comments to

The DEIR can be found at:

The  TA will meet on October 6 in San Carlos. Comments may be sent to


2.  SAVE THE DATE:  Sunday 9 October, 2 pm
Green Fire:  Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic For Our Time
San Francisco Public Library

“To our engineers this flora is merely weeds and brush; they ply it with grader and mower.  Through processes of plant succession predictable by any botanist, the prairie garden becomes a refuge for quack grass.  After the garden is gone, the highway department employs landscapers to dot the quack with elms, and with artistic clumps of Scotch pine, Japanese barberry, and Spiraea.  Conservation committees en route to some important convention whiz by and applaud this zeal for roadside beauty.”

"Near by is the graceful loop of an old dry creek bed.  The new creek bed is ditched straight as a ruler; it has been 'uncurled' by the county engineer to hurry the run-off.  On the hill in the background are contoured striped-crops; they have been 'curled' by the erosion engineer to retard the run-off.  The water must be confused by so much advice."  Sketches Here and There


3.  Two whale watching trips

Come Whale Watching on Friday 30th of Sept with Oceanic Society out of San Francisco!
Tickets are half price ($60 as opposed to $120 regular price).

September is a lively season with Humpback Whales feeding and some great pelagic birding.  Its also White Shark season and the best time of year to spot Leatherback Sea Turtles.

Limited places, call (415) 441-1106 to book. Offer just for this special day.


The Watershed Project has chartered a boat and hired a naturalist for a whale watching trip to the Farallons on October 7th. It's not a fundraiser but we need to sell enough tix to cover the charter.

If you, your colleagues or friends would like to join us, click on this link:

Last year we saw 11 blue whales, 6 humpbacks, 1 minke whale, and dozens of porpoises and seabirds. Our naturalist has reported record-breaking numbers this year as well. We are looking forward to another great trip!


4.  Current Planning and Air Tour Operations
The FAA proposed to allow hundreds of low-flying helicopter and small aircraft flights over GGNRA and Point Reyes National Seashore. The FAA and NPS are required to review environmental impacts on the natural resources, cultural resources, visitor experiences, and tribal lands within the Seashore and GGNRA under the National Environmental Policy Act. Comments are due by the close of business on Wednesday, September 28th. See below for information on how to submit comments.

Currently, two air tour operators have been granted Interim Operating Authority to operate tours over the GGNRA and the Seashore.
Under this Authority, the FAA has granted:

**      2,190 Seaplane Tours over GGNRA and the Seashore per year, and

**      2,900 Helicopter Tours over GGNRA and the Seashore per year.

Unless heavily contested, the FAA would establish these levels of overflight as the baseline – allowing by right this many low-flying plane and helicopter flights over our national parks per year!

Your comment letters are essential to stop these commercial uses from destroying our natural and cultural resources, disturbing wildlife, and invading the visitor and wilderness experience at our national parks.

Talking Points
· GGNRA and the Seashore are national parks for people – not private commercial use – and these commercial overflights should be prohibited.

· Resident and migrating birds and marine wildlife are already subject to a number of potential human disturbances, including motorized water craft, motorized aircraft, recreational users, commercial, government, and industrial marine transport, oil spills, plastic in the ocean, marine debris, and climate change. Given the increasing number of negative pressures on birds and marine wildlife, EAC strongly believes that an outright prohibition of low over-flights is necessary for these national parks.

· The special national significance for which the GGNRA and Seashore were established, combined with the adjoining Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and Tomales Bay recognized as a tidal estuary and wetlands of international significance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and the importance of providing marine wildlife protection from undue disturbance, warrants an outright prohibition against motorized aircraft flights below 5000 feet except in the case of an emergency.

· Low-flying helicopters and planes will drastically diminish the ability to experience wilderness and the many wilderness values, including solitude, renewal, reflection, and immersion in wild nature, at the Seashore.

· A full environmental impact statement – not merely an environmental assessment - is necessary to ensure that the individual and cumulative impacts to resident and migrating marine wildlife and birds are considered under best available science. Such science shows adverse impacts to birds and marine wildlife from motorized boats and aircraft.
· The Interim Operating Authority establishes exceptionally high numbers of annual flights as a baseline – the FAA must submit factual evidence for the public to review from the air tour operators before establishing and allowing this level of operation.

Submit Your Comments on or before Wednesday September 28th
Submit your comments online at:

or by mail to:
Keith Lusk
Special Programs Staff, Western Pacific Region
Federal Aviation Administration
P.O. Box 92007
Los Angeles, CA 90009-2007

Background Information
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in cooperation with the National Park Service (NPS), is developing Air tour Management Plans (ATMP) for Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) and Point Reyes National Seashore (Seashore). The ATMP will only apply to the airspace below 5,000 above ground level over the area encompassed by the park and to the half-mile buffer zone surrounding the park’s boundary. The ATMP will apply to all commercial air tour operations in this airspace.

Thank you for supporting our beloved Bay Area national parks and protect their airspace for the peace and enjoyment of all!!


5.  Mostly Natives Fall Sale 2011
It's time again for our fall plant sale starting Saturday, October 1st and running through Sunday, October 30th. ALL plants will be discounted 25%. Bagged goods, seeds and posters will be 10% off.

Mostly Natives Nursery
27235 Highway One
PO Box 258
Tomales, California 94971


San Bruno Mountain Watch
MIssion Blue Nursery Plant Sale

The Mission Blue Nursery grows only San Bruno Mountain Native Plants. The mountain and the native plants growing on it represent the last intact remnant of the Franciscan ecosystem that once covered the hills of the North Peninsula.  Please join us in cultivating and celebrating these plants.  Come to the sale.

Saturday, October 1, 2011, 9 am - 3 pm  
Mission Blue Nursery located in Brisbane, 1000 feet North of the Brisbane Fire Station on Bayshore Blvd. Follow the signs.

For directions:

View the Plant List


7.  From Jeffrey Caldwell:

I wrote an article suggesting suites of plants that go together and provide maximum native bee attraction value:
"San Francisco Bay Region Native Plant Species Supporting the Greatest Diversity of Bee Species" -- published on the web site of the Western Horticultural Society:

The "Goldfields Suite", "Yerba Buena Suite", "Deerbroom Suite", "Golden Yarrow Suite" and the "Hollyleaf Cherry Suite" include the locally native naked buckwheat, Eriogonum nudum, which is also a superior butterfly larval host, supporting the caterpillars of at least 7 species of San Francisco Bay Region butterflies.

For each plant in each suite I have provided the number of bee species known to be attracted, and anyone is free, of course, to mix and match species groupings according to their own tastes and needs. Best to arrange all plants for maximum sun exposure afforded by the situation. The plants in each suite are listed in order of flowering; the first flower the earliest, the last flower the latest, with the months of flowering given for each.

Any of the suites could be useful guides for creating a bee-friendly garden; for the tastes of many people the "Hollyleaf Cherry" suite will probably be most useful.

Any of the native Californian Eriogonums is likely to provide good value for native bees.

The results of actual garden research on attracting bees to the garden are here:

with many plants noted and the bees they attracted in gardens being studied by Gordon Frankie, et. al.

Very handy and a little simpler, with photographs, is their "Bee Garden Builder":

Many of the plants listed are native to California (and so indicated) though their lists also include many species that are not. Animals, like people, generally don't care where their food came from, just whether they can eat it.


8.  Dear Knowland Park Supporters,

As you know, some of the Friends have participated in the “citizen science” project to try to track the spread of Sudden Oak Death (SOD) in Knowland Park, collecting Bay tree leaves and submitting them for analysis. SOD has been identified in some areas of Knowland Park and in our comments on the Zoo expansion project, we expressed concern about how the effects of construction could spread the disease. As a result of our raising the issue, some measures were added to the construction requirements to try to address this, and while we still do not feel they fully address the issue, it was an improvement over not even mentioning SOD at all in the original environmental documents.

For those of you who may be interested, I wanted to forward this email from Dr. Matteo Garbelotto, the leading scientist working on the disease, who is at UC Berkeley. He invites members of the public to attend community meetings to learn about the results of this year’s surveys and to hear more about the disease. This could change the entire look of the East Bay hills as it has already changed parts of Marin county. All of us need to learn more about how we can avoid inadvertently spreading the disease. Dr. Garbelotto is warm, personable, and dedicated. I can’t attend this meeting, but thought some of you who care about keeping our heritage Oakland oaks from succumbing might want to try to go.

Ruth Malone
Friends of Knowland Park
Subject: Sudden Oak Death SOD Community Meetings

Dear SOD-Blitzers,
First of all accept my heartfelt "Thank You !" for having become dedicated citizen scientists and having made the understanding of the distribution of SOD  on a yearly basis a reality.  I wish I had better news, but as we had predicted, infection levels almost doubled in 2011 compared to previous years.  My prediction is that the 2012 Blitzes will yield even more disturbing results, and it is imperative we plan ahead and organize a new round of Blitzes.  In the meanwhile though, let's see what we can do to slow down the epidemic.  As you are all aware, there are management options to mitigate the spread of the disease.  Please join us in one of the follow-up meetings in October to discuss the current distribution of the disease.  These meetings will be by area and are organized by your local environmentalists, to whom we are all deeply grateful.

Here is the list of meetings: please attend the one designated for your area, as problems are of different magnitude in different areas:

East Bay (Berkeley/Oakland/Orinda): 7 pm, October 3rd, 159 Mulford Hall , UC Campus, Berkeley, Susan Schwartz -

Atherton/Los Altos: 7 pm, October 7th, Los Altos Hills Town Hall, Los Altos Hills, Susan Finocchio -

Sonoma/Marin:  10 am, October 15th, UCCE Sonoma County133 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa, Lisa Bell -

Woodside/Portola Valley/South Skyline/Saratoga: 7 pm, October 21st, Portola Valley Town Hall, Portola Valley, Debbie Mendelson -

Napa:  7 pm, October 28th, Skyline Park Social Hall or alternate location, Bill Pramuk -

Carmel Valley:  10 am, November 4th at the Garland Ranch Regional Park Museum meeting room at the ranger station, Tim Jensen -

Presidio National Park and SF-PUC: TBA, Christa Conforti -

We will organize at least one hands-on training meeting within a week or so in a field location in your county.  Exact dates and locations will be announced at the follow-up meetings.

Yours truly,
Matteo Garbelotto & SOD-Blitz local organizers

(JS:  Matteo Garbelotto will deliver an SOD update for the general audience on November 3 at a meeting of the California Native Plant Society, which is open to the public.)

9.  The Population Institute

In the on-going war on women a key budget battle is looming. The opening salvo of this fight came in late July when the House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee approved a 25% cut in international family planning assistance for FY2012.

Along with the cut in funding, the Subcommittee also voted for two policy-related restrictions: a ban on any support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and reinstatement of the global “gag rule” that President Obama repealed by executive order during his first month in office. The gag rule prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. family planning assistance from using their own non-U.S. funds to perform abortions.  In countries where abortion is legal, it also bars them from referring patients to an abortion service provider. In countries where abortion is illegal, it bars family planning providers from advocating for its legalization.

This week the Senate Appropriations Committee fired back with their response and approved a State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012 that would provide $700 million for international family planning assistance, including $40 million for the United Nations Population Fund.  The Senate action would boost funding by $85 million over this year’s appropriation level ($615 million).  The Committee rejected the House’s position on the gag rule, and voted to make President Obama’s repeal of the gag rule permanent.

The Senate Committee’s action sets up a budget battle with the House that will have to be resolved through upcoming House-Senate negotiations. The new fiscal year begins on October 1, but neither the House nor the Senate is expected to complete action on the State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill by that date.  Congress in the next few days is expected to pass a “continuing resolution” that will provide temporary funding for federal programs until agreement can be reached on a final “omnibus” appropriation bill for next year.

The result of this battle will have profound impacts on the lives of women around the world. The Guttmacher Institute has calculated that cutting U.S. family planning assistance by 25% would result in:
·         9.4 million fewer women and couples receiving contraceptive services
·         Almost 3 million more unintended pregnancies
·         1.3 million more abortions (mostly unsafe)
·         1.3 million more unplanned births
·         7,700 more maternal deaths

There is still time to tell Congress that family planning and reproductive health care services are vital to the health and well-being of women and their families in the developing world. Make your voices heard…before it’s too late.


10.  Feedback

Arthur Boone:
In my opinion, education makes people better mirrors. "The trick to raising children is like breaking horses; you want to get a bridle in their mouth without breaking their spirit." ARBoone
Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times; few are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. -Sydney J. Harris, journalist and author (1917-1986)

David Tomb:
Jake, Thanks once again! BTW Jeepney Projects has sold 15 benefit prints for the Philippine Eagle Foundation thus far - a good start considering the economy.


Fall Song

Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,

the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back

from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere

except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle

of unobservable mysteries - roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This

I try to remember when time's measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn

flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay - how everything lives, shifting

from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.

~ Mary Oliver ~

(American Primitive)


12.  Energy

The power of infinity

How will mankind keep the lights on and the temperature down?

Sep 17th 2011 | from The Economist

The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World. By Daniel Yergin.

AS THE American presidential election approaches, expect to hear plenty of talk in the months ahead about “energy independence”. Some candidates may also express fears over “peak oil”. The merits and terrors of nuclear power will be discussed. Anthropogenic climate change, or Republican denials of it, already has been. Energy is a critical issue in today’s political debate—as is only appropriate. Providing sufficient energy to seven billion increasingly affluent humans without burning up the planet may be humanity’s greatest challenge. “What is at stake”, writes Daniel Yergin, “is the future itself.”

, “The Prize”, a history of the global oil industry, had the advantage of an epic tale and wondrous timing. Years in the making, it was published, to critical and popular acclaim in 1990, two months after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, thereby putting Saudi Arabia’s oilfields in peril. “The Quest”, as its more open-ended title suggests, is a broader and more ambitious endeavour. It is, first, an account of the many ways in which people have sought to produce energy—by burning fossil fuels, harvesting the wind, brewing biodiesel and trapping the sun’s heat. It is also an analysis of the increasingly fraught political context in which this business is conducted, especially with regard to three big and longstanding fears: energy scarcity, energy security and, more and more, the environmental ruin that energy can cause.

The first is nothing new. People have been warning of peak oil almost since they began putting the stuff into barrels in Pennsylvania in 1859. Both world wars saw surging demand for oil—in inflation-adjusted terms America’s highest ever petrol prices were in 1918—and both ended amid dark predictions that it was running out. Mr Yergin counts five such scares in all. Yet there is plenty of oil left, with perhaps only a fifth of the world’s endowment so far produced. Indeed estimates of the remaining reserves keep growing. This is proof of something the doomsayers routinely discount, the wonderful combination of human ingenuity and market forces.

As oil prices have risen, from less than $10 a barrel in the mid-1980s to nearly $150 in 2008, so oilmen have got much better at retrieving more oil from smaller deposits and remoter places. The digitalisation of oil production will make far more oil recoverable from any field. The complex deepwater drilling recently perfected by Petrobras, Brazil’s state-controlled company, has suddenly raised the prospect of Brazil becoming one of the world’s biggest producers. Refinements in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, whereby water and sand are squirted at high pressure into shale beds, have made massive reserves of American gas available—sufficient to maintain current levels of production for a century. Such breakthroughs do not end concerns over scarcity because the coming surge in global energy demand, chiefly from Asia, will be massive. Between 2006 and 2010 China doubled its capacity for electricity generation; between 2010 and 2030 India’s electricity consumption is expected to increase fivefold. Yet peak oil and gas look to be many decades off.

That exacerbates the other worries. In the realm of energy security, a nuclear-armed Iran, holding its oil-rich region to ransom, looms large. The possibility of a cyber-attack on the world’s ever more interlinked energy system is another concern. Yet these threats seem to be dwarfed, in Mr Yergin’s analysis, by global warming. Burning fossil fuels has sent the atmospheric carbon-dioxide level rocketing. In 1958, when an American scientist, Charles Keeling, began measuring carbon-dioxide levels on a volcano in Hawaii, it was around 315 parts per million; half a century later, it was about 387 parts per million. Stopping the increase at 450 parts per million—when the climate is generally expected to be no more than two degrees warmer than in pre-industrial times—is the world’s ambition. How likely is this?

Not remotely, Mr Yergin suggests. Fossil fuels supply 80% of the world’s energy needs and, as the main driver of China’s and India’s growth, they will remain pre-eminent for decades. That is a lot to worry about, and Mr Yergin’s book, which includes almost 100 pages on the history of climate science and politics, should be required reading for all those in warming denial. The author finds at least some cheer in recent breakthroughs in alternative sources of energy, chiefly solar and wind. On current form neither is remotely able to stand against coal. Yet a rising wave of innovation—what Mr Yergin calls an unprecedented “‘great bubbling’ in the broth of energy innovation”—suggests that one day they may. Most of this is of course happening in America. Between 2001 and 2010 investment in the American clean-tech industry increased tenfold. Most of the climate science that Mr Yergin describes, with an appealing fondness and respect for its obsessive practitioners, happened in America too.

Ploughing through the 800-plus pages of “The Quest” also consumes a fair bit of energy. Mr Yergin’s book is not always an easy read. Its scope is vast, parts of the book are confusingly structured and the author sometimes shies from pushing his arguments to a satisfying conclusion. That aside, “The Quest” is a masterly piece of work and, as a comprehensive guide to the world’s great energy needs and dilemmas, it will be hard to beat.


13.  Michael Hart, father of e-books and founder of Project Gutenberg, died on September 6th, aged 64

Sep 24th 2011 | from The Economist

AMONG the episodes in his life that didn’t last, that were over almost before they began, including a spell in the army and a try at marriage, Michael Hart was a street musician in San Francisco. He made no money at it, but then he never bought into the money system much—garage-sale T-shirts, canned beans for supper, were his sort of thing. He gave the music away for nothing because he believed it should be as freely available as the air you breathed, or as the wild blackberries and raspberries he used to gorge on, growing up, in the woods near Tacoma in Washington state. All good things should be abundant, and they should be free.

He came to apply that principle to books, too. Everyone should have access to the great works of the world, whether heavy (Shakespeare, “Moby-Dick”, pi to 1m places), or light (Peter Pan, Sherlock Holmes, the “Kama Sutra”). Everyone should have a free library of their own, the whole Library of Congress if they wanted, or some esoteric little subset; he liked Romanian poetry himself, and Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha”. The joy of e-books, which he invented, was that anyone could read those books anywhere, free, on any device, and every text could be replicated millions of times over. He dreamed that by 2021 he would have provided a million e-books each, a petabyte of information that could probably be held in one hand, to a billion people all over the globe—a quadrillion books, just given away. As powerful as the Bomb, but beneficial.

That dream had grown from small beginnings: from him, a student at the University of Illinois in Urbana, hanging round a huge old mainframe computer on the night of the Fourth of July in 1971, with the sound of fireworks still in his ears. The engineers had given him by his reckoning $100m-worth of computer time, in those infant days of the internet. Wondering what to do, ferreting in his bag, he found a copy of the Declaration of Independence he had been given at the grocery store, and a light-bulb pinged on in his head. Slowly, on a 50-year-old Teletype machine with punched-paper tape, he began to bang out “When in the Course of human events…”

This was the first free e-text, and none better as a declaration of freedom from the old-boy network of publishing. What he typed could not even be sent as an e-mail, in case it crashed the ancient Arpanet system; he had to send a message to say that it could be downloaded. Six people did, of perhaps 100 on the network. It was followed over years by the Gettysburg Address, the Constitution and the King James Bible, all arduously hand-typed, full of errors, by Mr Hart. No one particularly noticed. He mended people’s hi-fis to get by. Then from 1981, with a growing band of volunteer helpers scanning, rather than typing, a flood of e-texts gathered. By 2011 there were 33,000, accumulating at a rate of 200 a month, with translations into 60 languages, all given away free. No wonder money-oriented rivals such as Google and Yahoo! sprang up all round as the new century dawned, claiming to have invented e-books before him.

He called his enterprise Project Gutenberg. This was partly because Gutenberg with his printing press had put wagonloads of books within the reach of people who had never read before; and also because printing had torn down the wall between haves and have-nots, literate and illiterate, rich and poor, until whole power-structures toppled. Mr Hart, for all his burly, hippy affability, was a cyber-revolutionary, with a snappy list of the effects he expected e-books to have:

Books prices plummet.
Literacy rates soar.
Education rates soar.
Old structures crumble, as did the Church.
Scientific Revolution.
Industrial Revolution.
Humanitarian Revolution.
If all these upheavals were tardier than he hoped, it was because of the Mickey Mouse copyright laws. Every time men found a speedier way to spread information to each other, government made it illegal. During the lifetime of Project Gutenberg alone, the average time a book stayed in copyright in America rose from 30 to almost 100 years. Mr Hart tried to keep out of trouble, posting works that were safely in the public domain, but chafed at being unable to give away books that were new, and fought all copyright extensions like a tiger. “Unlimited distribution” was his mantra. Give everyone everything! Break the bars of ignorance down!

The power of plain words

He lived without a mobile phone, in a chaos of books and wiring. The computer hardware in his basement, from where he kept an unbossy watch over the whole project, often not bothering to pick up his monthly salary, was ten years old, and the software 20. Simple crowdsourcing was his management style, where people scanned or keyed in works they loved and sent them to him. Project Gutenberg books had a frugal look, with their Plain Vanilla ASCII format, which might have been produced on an old typewriter; but then it was content, not form, that mattered to Mr Hart. These were great thoughts, and he was sending them to people everywhere, available to read at the speed of light, and free as the air they breathed.


14.  Biocentrism, the new face of the cosmos

Five hundred years ago people used to think the earth was flat. Evidence to the contrary was dismissed as absurd: "If the world was really a ball of rock," some claimed "people at the bottom would fall off." And before Galileo, it seemed stupid to think that we were whirling around the sun at 67 thousand miles per hour. It would have blown the hair off our head, right? Once again, puzzles of science are forcing a rethink of the world that goes far beyond anything people think is possible. Biocentrism explains how life is not a mere accident of physics, but rather is essential to the existence of the universe.

A string of new scientific experiments suggest the universe is not the dreary play of billiard balls that we've been taught since grade school. For all intents and purposes, our view of the world is the same as a chipmunk or a squirrel. The squirrel opens his eyes and the acorn is just miraculously there - he grabs it and scurries up the tree without further thought. We humans aren't any different: we wake up in the morning and- and voilà! -the world is just magically there. We think there are all these atoms 'out there' just bouncing around whether we're looking at them or not.

However, experiments have routinely shown just the opposite: Particles don't have real properties if no one is observing. Consider the famous two-hole experiment. When scientists watch a particle pass through two holes in a barrier, the particle behaves like a bullet and goes through one hole or the other. But if you don't watch, it acts like a wave and can go through both holes at the same time.

Bizarre, right? But these are real experiments that have been carried out so many times that no physicist questions them. In fact, the results have been described as impossible to comprehend. Richard Feynman, the Nobel physicist, once said: "I think it is safe to say that no one understands quantum mechanics. Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, 'But how can it be like that?' because you will go 'down the drain' into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped." But biocentrism makes sense of it all for the first time.

Consider the color and brightness of everything you see 'out there.' On its own, light doesn't have any color or brightness at all. The unquestionable reality is that nothing remotely resembling what you see could be present without your consciousness. Consider the weather: We step outside and see a blue sky - but the cells in our brain could easily be changed so we 'see' red or green instead. We think it feels hot and humid, but to a tropical frog it would feel cold and dry. In any case, you get the point. This logic applies to virtually everything.

Consider space and time themselves. What are they? Wave your hand through the air. If you take everything away, what's left? The answer is nothing. So why do we pretend space is a thing? The same thing applies for time - you can't put it in a bottle like milk. Space and time are not objects. Look at anything - say the print on this page. You can't see it through the bone that surrounds your brain. No, everything you see and experience right now is an organized whirl of information occurring in your mind. It's all organized in your head in technicolor. That is, unless you're colorblind - then your brain weaves objects together without colors. In fact, with a little genetic engineering, you could probably make everything that's red vibrate or make a noise instead, or even make you want to have sex. Space and time are simply the mind's tools for putting everything together.

The structure of the universe itself is probably the best argument for biocentrism. It has a long list of traits that make it appear as if everything - from atoms to stars - was tailor-made just for us. For instance, if the Big Bang was just one part in a million more powerful, the cosmos would have blown outward too fast to allow stars and worlds to form. Result: No us. There are over 200 parameters so exact that it strains credulity to propose that they are random. Tweak any of them and you never existed. None of them are predicted by any theory -- they all seem carefully chosen, often with great precision, to allow for existence of life. The only scientific explanation (the so-called 'Anthropic Principle') says that we must find these conditions, because if we're alive, what else could we find? Of course, this isn't really an explanation unless you claim that there are an infinite number of universes and we just happen to be in the lucky-one. But there is no evidence whatsoever for these other universes anymore than there is for the existence of the Easter Bunny. The only real explanation is biocentrism, which explains how the universe is created by life, not the other way around.

According to biocentrism, space and time are not hard, cold physical objects, but rather forms of animal sense perception. When we speak of time, we inevitably describe it in terms of change. But change is not the same thing as time. Consider Heisenberg's famous 'uncertainty principle.' If there was really a world out there with particles just bouncing around, then you should be able to measure all their properties. But it turns out you can't - for instance, a particle's exact location and momentum cannot be known at the same time. They're like the man and the women in the cuckoo-clock - when one goes in the other comes out. This uncertainty is built in the fabric of the universe, but no one has a clue why. It only makes sense if we accept the fact that the universe is biocentric.

Consider a film of an archery tournament. An archer shoots an arrow and the camera follows its trajectory. Suddenly the projector stops on a single frame -- you stare at the image of an arrow in mid-flight. The pause enables you to know the position of the arrow with great accuracy, but it's going nowhere; its velocity is no longer known. This is the fuzziness described by in the uncertainty principle: sharpness in one parameter induces blurriness in the other. All of this makes perfect sense from a biocentric perspective. Everything we perceive is actively being reconstructed inside our heads. Time is simply the summation of the 'frames' occurring inside the mind. But change doesn't mean there is an actual invisible matrix called "time" in which changes occur. That is just our own way of making sense of things.

There is a peculiar intangibility to space, as well. We can't pick it up and bring it to the laboratory. Like time, space is not a thing or object. It is part of our mental software that molds sensations into multidimensional objects. We think of space as a vast container that has no walls. But this is false. Distances between objects change depending on conditions like gravity and velocity, so that there is no absolute distance between anything and anything else.

By treating space and time as fundamental and independent things, we pick a completely wrong starting point for understanding the world. In fact, new experiments are starting to confirm that quantum effects apply to the everyday world of human-scale objects.

Biocentrism unlocks the cage we have unwittingly confined ourselves. A new paradigm is usually considered nonsense from within the existing paradigm. But allowing the observer into the equation opens new approaches to understanding everything from the tiny world of the atom to our views of life and death. Above all, biocentrism offers a more promising way to bring together all of science as scientists have been attempting to do ever since Einstein. Until we recognize the universe in our heads, attempts to truly understand the world will remain a road to nowhere.

Adapted from Biocentrism by Robert Lanza with Bob Berman, published by BenBella Books.

Biocentrism, The New Face Of The Cosmos


15.  September 27, 2005 was the 100th anniversary of the most famous equation in the world--that elegant, pregnant, and beautiful equation:  E=mc2.  On this day in 1905, Albert Einstein submitted the paper that laid out the formula.  Physicist John Rigden, in Einstein 1905: The Standard of Greatness, explains the seminal formula.

(JS comment): Without this formula, it would not be possible to even conceive of the Big Bang, now accepted as the beginning of our universe.  Nor would it have been possible to conceive of a nuclear bomb.  The energy released by a nuclear bomb is accounted for by the curve of binding energy embedded in that simple, ultra-efficient equation, in which the mass of a given object is multiplied by the speed of light (a very high figure--300,000 kilometers a second) SQUARED!  If you are not impressed by that, look at it again and keep looking until you realize it is beyond comprehension; it can apprehended only by mathematics.

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