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| Carl Sagan's COSMOS is one of the most influential science programs ever made.
Q. Does the moon have a dark side?
A. The moon does have a far side which is impossible to see from the earth, but it doesn't mean that it's always dark. Each side of the moon is dark for no longer than 15 days at a time.
Q. Where does sound come from?
A. The air is always filled with sound waves. All things give off vibrations, but some have a low frequency which most cannot hear. The reason: it may take 3 minutes to make a single vibration. They may be caused by earthquakes and storms.
Did You Know?
The microwave was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket.
Coke-a-Cola was originally green.
Rubberbands last longer when refrigerated.
The Exploratory Ape
by Wayne Smith
Wayne Smith is the founder of NuclearSpace (the Pro-Nuclear Space Movement). Its mission is for the promotion of nuclear power as a means of enhancing the manned exploration of our solar system. Wayne's web site is NuclearSpace. It features excellent articles and interested persons can visit the online discussion forum. Wayne accepts and welcomes all feedback. We would like to thank Wayne for sharing "The Exploratory Ape" with Light-Science.com, formerly known as BiologyofNature.net.
Photo courtesy of "Welcome to the Stone Ages Exhibit.
For opportunists life is hard. The animal kingdom is largely
divided into those who are specialists and those who explore. Specialists have discovered a niche of their own. They have beaten the competition by taking one narrow path in evolution and
excelling in it. It is a simple yet relatively safe existance. As long as the food is available they flourish. The wider world generally has little impact on their lives because they inhabit
only a very selective part of it. Koala bears only eat Eucalyptus leaves, Giraffes the higher foliage, Anteaters are self explanatory. Each has gone past the point of 'difficult' return. They
are too specialised to alter their food habits quickly should the need arise. Undoing millions of years in evolution is painful and sometimes fails, leading to extinction. Specialisation
therefore is a trap. The security of it is illusory because of susceptibility to environmental change.
The way of opportunism is more difficult but those who do follow this wider path are more adaptable. It demands vigilance. Non-specialists can never relax, because nothing in their lives is
very certain. Where their next meal may be coming from is a complete mystery. To survive they have to be cunning and alert to the possibilities surrounding them. That requires an intense
familiarity with the world they inhabit.
Such familiarity is only obtained by exploration and a good memory to store knowledge gained from past experience. A wariness of all possible danger is
essential. This must somehow be balanced against preparedness to take on risks and try new things. They are forever investigating and gambling on their judgement and this is why they have
sharper wits than the sedentary specialists.
This deeply ingrained curiosity is most obvious among the Apes and singularly highest in degree among Humans. Our ability to ask questions knows no bounds. Juveniles of all Ape species are more
curious and experimental with their surroundings than Adults. This applies to Humans also. However, while the high inquisitiveness of juvenile chimpanzees, for example, diminishes rapidly in the
early stages of adulthood, we still retain a large measure of curiosity all the way into full maturity and beyond.
So we are aware that everything unfamiliar is a potential threat yet we are drawn towards the new and strange. How can this possibly work? This contradiction is the secret behind intelligence.
Our ability to scrutinise a situation intensely, analyse it from every angle, drawing on past experience for clues and then making a final life risking decision. Opportunists are gamblers but
we like to believe the dice are weighted in our favour before taking on too much risk. This is how we grew in smarts and why we became the dominant life form on this planet.
So we learn by first taking calculated risks and exploring everything within our reach. It is those adults whose childlike curiosity burns brightest who provide the inventiveness and daring to
progress society. Our biological need to explore will never go away. It is an intrinsic part of what we are and where we came from. When the spirit of adventure dies in our hearts, so will
Sometimes, we try to suppress our childrens natural urge to explore. We want to keep them safe. Not realising that this inhibits their mental growth by denying them first hand knowledge.
Governments are often guilty of the same mistake. Regulating human ingenuity out of society in the interests of keeping us 'safe'.
We need adventure, we hunger for knowledge and we thrive on challenges. Humans are not cattle. So where does this leave us when no obvious frontiers remain? We have to seriously weigh up the
risks of opening up a new frontier. It will be the riskiest and most challenging environment we have ever faced but the rewards will be equally high. We will need to be realistic and use the
most advanced technologies we have. The most compact and frightening energy sources available. People will die during the colonisation of space no matter how careful we try to be. It's no use
trying to kid ourselves about this. In the end, the question isn't whether or not we should use nuclear power to conquer space, it's whether or not we want to remain explorers.
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