No New Tricks

Another year in science and technology has passed and there are still no flying cars. There are no three-course meals in easy-to-swallow pill form, no two-hour trans-Atlantic flights, and we still can't breathe underwater.

Among our many illustrious achievements we can count the wheel, the telephone, antibiotics, and the internal combustion engine. We consider ourselves the most intelligent, successful and well-adapted species on the planet. But just how far have we come in the estimated 52,000 years since early man migrated from Africa, and colonized the rest of the world? Actually, not so far.

We still visit the dentist regularly, broken bones still take six weeks to heal, and, in the United States, the average lifespan for a male is still only about 75 years. In China, it's only about 68 years. In Tanzania, it's 42 years.

With the onset of old age, comes memory-loss, wasting, impotence and general infirmity. And there is no cure. Likewise, there is still no cure for AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury or the common cold. And in places like Tanzania, there is still no cure for cholera, dysentery, anthrax, or polio either.

We still don't understand the mechanisms that control learning, consciousness, laughter, sleep, or memory. And we still don't understand why some people decide to kill other people. But according to the National Clearing House for Alcohol and Drug Information, alcohol is a key factor in 68% of manslaughters, 62% of assaults, 54% of murders and attempted murders. In 1997 there were over 18,000 homicides in the United States.

The death penalty is still not a deterrent.

Nor was Prohibition.

Crops still fail, rivers still flood their banks, and we're still no better at anticipating earthquakes or volcanic eruptions than the people of Pompeii, reduced to statues and buried in ash by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

According to a report by the Cremation Association of North America, over 2,345,000 people died in the United States in 1999. Almost 600,000 of them were cremated. That's about 25 percent. The rest were put in the ground. Or maybe buried at sea.

Burial at sea must comply with the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 40, Volume 17, Parts 190-259, Revised as of July 1, 1999 which states: "Burial at sea of human remains which are not cremated shall take place no closer than 3 nautical miles from land and in water no less than one hundred fathoms (six hundred feet) deep and in no less than three hundred fathoms (eighteen hundred feet) from (i) 27 deg.30'00" to 31 deg.00'00" North Latitude off St. Augustine and Cape Canaveral, Florida; (ii) 82 deg.20'00" to 84 deg.00'00" West Longitude off Dry Tortugas, Florida; and (iii) 87 deg.15'00" to 89 deg.50'00" West Longitude off the Mississippi River Delta, Louisiana, to Pensacola, Florida. All necessary measures shall be taken to ensure that the remains sink to the bottom rapidly and permanently."

So, there are rules to follow. Even in death.

Evolution hasn't given us gills, webbed toes, night-vision, telepathic powers, or peaceful dispositions. Men haven't given birth, or been shrunk to the size of a pea, developed cars that use water for fuel or mined the Moon's valuable resources.

There haven't been any meteors, plagues or alien invasions of Earth-threatening proportions, which is fortunate because we still haven't developed any measures to protect ourselves against them if there are.

Light still travels at 186,000 miles per second, sound still travels at about 344 meters per second and neither is going to speed up or slow down any time soon.

The planet Earth is still 40,077 kilometers in circumference and 12,756 kilometers in diameter; it still orbits the sun every 365.26 days and revolves on its axis every 23.93 hours. Over seven tenths of its surface are still covered with water. Its temperature range is 136ºF to --128ºF. It is now home to over 6 billion people. It is still the third planet from the sun in a solar system found in a spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy. There are billions of similar galaxies in the Universe that also could also potentially contain life-harboring planets just like Earth. One of those galaxies is called NGC 891. Another one is called M81. They're everywhere.

There is still no time travel, no ray guns, and no treatment for jetlag. We haven't cloned Jesus, bagged the Yeti, found Atlantis or stepped foot on Mars. There is still no viable substitute for fossil fuels, human blood, or the ozone layer.

On average, we each still take approximately seven minutes and twenty seconds to fall to sleep and we each need about eight hours of restorative sleep to function efficiently.

We are still each made up of over 75 trillion cells, 10 billion neurons, 206 bones, 46 chromosomes, 32 teeth, seven meters of small intestine and our skin, on average, still weighs about six pounds.

Our body temperature is still 98.6ºF.

At 29,035 feet, Mount Everest is still the highest point on Earth. A total of 1172 people have reached its summit since 1922 and 163 people have died trying. It beats being buried at sea. At 36,198 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, and lying 210 miles southwest of Guam, the Marianas Trench is still the deepest point of any ocean on Earth. It was first reached in 1960 by two men in a US Navy bathyscape called The Trieste.

Trieste is also a city in Italy.

According to the US State Department, there are currently 191 countries in the world and there is still no global language. Unless you consider Esperanto a global language. Invented and introduced in 1887 by Dr L. L. Zamenhof, it is supposedly spoken by millions.

But more people probably speak Klingon.

"Goodbye" is "Qapla'" in Klingon.

Now, isn't that something?


Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal
{{ }}