I’m writing this 40 metres under the ocean bed (about 100 metres from the surface). I’m typing on a powerful computer the size of my hand as thousands of tonnes of water rush past above me. It’s the stuff of science fiction 20 years ago, but like many such things, quite everyday in today’s world. I am of course in the Eurostar train returning from Paris to my current home, London.
The channel tunnel is a masterpiece of engineering, quite rightly it’s officially one of the ‘7 wonders of the modern world’ (nb, why does every kid these days want to be the next big pop star/rapper/film star/celebrity famous for doing nothing? It’s strange and a bit sad not only in the artistic sense (many ‘recording artists’ these days no very little, or care very little, about music for example), but in terms of a bigger picture.. I bet the amount of kids who’d love to be the next Brunel, Hawking, Einstein, Stravinsky, Picasso..(you get the point I’ll stop there).. is tiny in comparison ).
30 dark miles later, daylight! Ish. We arrive in England (unsurprisingly it’s rainy here too), leaving the tunnel I remember a funny event I witnessed at Glastonbury festival a few years ago..
The festival is notorious for security (in terms of not letting people in without a ticket, not “anti terror” action), and so each year a more ridiculously monolithic fence is constructed around the site perimeter, and each year some enterprising crusties find a way of breaking in. This year it was particularly amusing, as these guys quite brilliant system attempted not to climb over, or break through the fence as in previous attempts, but to dig underneath it. Outside the fence was a small, inconspicuous 2 man tent (the tunnel entrance) and the other side of it, another two man tent (the exit). One by one, several hundred happy punters emerged (minus their 5 pound entrance fee) from the tiny tent, prompting nearby watching revellers to wonder if the wacky-baccy they had been smoking for breakfast was perhaps a little strong for them.
Anyway, back to the bigger picture.
We’ve come a long way in our short time on Earth. A historical timeframe Carl Sagan explained succinctly in his ‘cosmic calendar’ – a simple timeline which shows us how events unfolded if the entire 12-15 billion year history of the universe were to be compressed into just one year..
Jan 1st. Big Bang
March. Milky Way forms
August. Our sun, the Earth, and nearby planets formed
Sept. Beginnings of primitive life in Earth’s seas (single celled organisms & Robbie Williams fans)
Nov. First multi celled organisms
Dec 15. the ‘Cambrian Explosion’ of new life forms on Earth (still in the oceans)
Dec 17 first vertebrates
Dec 18 first land plants
Dec 20 first four limbed animals
Dec 21 insects flourish
Dec 24 Dinosaurs rule the Earth
Dec 25 Early ancestors of mammals appear
Dec 27 First birds
Dec 29 Dinosaurs become extinct
Dec 31 –
1015am first apes..
934pm apes walk upright
1048pm homo erectus – beginning of modern man appears
1154pm anatomically modern man.
1159pm (and 45 seconds). Writing is invented
1159pm (and 50 seconds) the great pyramids built at Giza
1159pm (and 59 seconds). Columbus sets sail for America
.. on this, more universal, timescale, the past couple hundred years, the entire ‘modern world’ is but a fleeting fraction of a second. Almost everything we take seriously in life has only just happened and is most likely pretty insignificant. A pleasantly sobering thought and reminder to not take life too seriously, or worry about that nasty gas bill..
So I’ll end this lofty blog (log?) with a bit of toilet humour..
1. I saw this sign in the gent’s loo of a train. I believe it’s esoteric symbolism is instructing the occupier to sit down to do his business. Of particular note is his bowler hat, which implies his masculinity will remain intact throughout any ladylike proceedings.
2. I saw this at a sweet counter. A popular new sweet for kids here in the UK, which encourages them to eat bits of candy crap (literally) from a colourful mock toilet bowl. The generation to come may have some scatological issues to deal with..