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Visualizing BIG Numbers

Millions, Billions, Trillion; we hear these terms used about large values so often people have become numb to their actual meaning. I heard a fellow employee asked one time what he would do if he won a million dollars in the lottery. He replied, “a million isn’t enough to do anything.” He had no clue how much a million is. So, let’s take the most common object and use it to illustrate what these values are.

A dollar bill is .0043 inches thick. A stack of 1000 one-dollar bills would be 4.3 inches which are also 109.2 millimeters. For the sake of mathematical simplicity, I will be using the metric system from here on. I will convert the here and there so people using “Standard” and are not familiar with the metric system can understand. I will also round-up from 109.2 cm to 110 mm because by the time we get to billions, trillion, and beyond that small difference becomes negligible (if you’re picky, you can go back and use the precise value I’m just too lazy to deal with it).

Back to our stack of a thousand one-dollar bills. A 1000 one-dollar bills are 110 mm. A million, which is one thousand, thousand one-dollar bills (1000 x 1000) on top of each other would be 110,000 mm tall, or 110 meters high (see why metric is easy? 1000 mm = 1 meter). 110 meters is approximately 120 yards, longer than the length of a football field. That’s a million one-dollar bills stacked one on top of the other. So much for my fellow employee’s statement.

A billion is one thousand million. 110 meters is .11 kilometers and when you multiply that by a thousand, to get one billion, (.11 kilometers x 1000) you get a stack of one dollar bills 110 kilometers (approximately 68 miles) tall. Mount Everest is 8.85 km (5.5 miles). 110 km is almost 12.5 times the height of Mount Everest. Twelve and a half Mount Everest mountains on top of each other would equal a stack of one billion one-dollar bills. Presently, there are 7.5 billion people in the world. What if each dollar bill represented one person alive today that stack would be 825 km (approximately 513 miles) tall or 93.75 times the height of Mount Everest! This is the height most low orbiting satellites travel at.

 Take a moment to think about this. A stack of one billion one-dollar bills stacked on top of each other representing each person would be tall enough to reach space. I’ll wait.

That’s a lot of people living on Earth today.

This is why I find apocalyptic scenarios that speculate the complete extinction of human being so far-fetched. One billion is a large number and seven and a half, well, you see. Even if you were to kill off 99.99% of the human population there would still be 750,000 people alive. 750,000 is the estimated number of humans alive 10,000 years ago at the dawn of agriculture and city-states. From 750,000 to 7.5 billion in just 10,000 years, a blink of an eye in geological time! Hardly an extinction event in human terms. Nothing human beings have created thus far can kill every man, woman, and child on this planet. Yes, the human loss would be devastating but not complete. We are as indestructible as the worst of any infestation. Considering the number of species that have become extinct by our hands, beginning with the megafauna around 12,000 years ago, animal life on Earth has more to fear by our presence than any other natural event. By the end of the 21st century, if present trends continue, the human population on this planet will reach 10 billion! Not even climate change will kill us all off but the human suffering will be incalculable. Now, let’s take it up a notch and see what a stack of one trillion one-dollar bills would look like. That is if we can.

A trillion of anything is thrown around these days with as little true meaning as a billion was decades ago. A trillion is, in fact, a huge number. We just saw that our stack of one billion one-dollar bills would reach outer space. Doing the math as we have done before, multiplying by one thousand, our stack is now 825,000 km tall (512,630 miles). The distance to the moon is 363,100 km (238,900 miles). That would make our stack a little over two and a quarter-time the distance from the earth to the moon. Another way to think of it would be to make two equal stacks reaching the moon with a lot of change leftover. The stack laid on its side would circle the Earth a little over 33 times! The United States’ national debt is now at $28.3 trillion and growing every year.

I’ll give you another minute to think about that one.

$28 plus trillion dollars is an amount in debt your great, great, great-grandchildren would barely make a dent in paying it off. And like I said, it grows every year. The United States would have to run on a balanced budget up to its quadricentennial to pay it all off. It’s just impossible. Yet, politicians are always talking about how cutting a million here, or a million there makes them fiscally responsible. Who are they kidding if it’s not their constituents? Quibbling over a billion dollars, and cutting vital programs in the process, seems a little like trying to empty an ocean with a teacup.

Now, I’m going to skip a great deal of order of magnitude and discuss another term widely used but little understood by the general public, infinity. Just what does infinity mean? To most people, it means “something that goes on forever”. But can anybody truly picture what “forever’ means? Is it to the end of time? Well, no. Because the universe has a beginning, the Big Bang and, if physicists are correct, there is an end. One theory states that the “End” will come when the universe has expanded so far that star formation will come to a complete halt because the matter will be so thinned out no material could clump to make new stars a quadrillion years in the future. That’s one followed by fifteen zeros. What stars are left would form black holes that would eventually, due to the escape of Hawking radiation, will slowly fade away in ten to hundred quintillion (one followed by nineteen or twenty zeros) years from now. The only thing left at this point is a thin soup of basic particles that too will eventually lose energy and decay after a huge amount of time (1 followed by 200 zeros years from now). At this time, in the far, far future, with no movement, no particles, not even enough energy to register, time cannot be said to have any real meaning, and, so, it can be considered the “End of Time”. But this is not infinity for it goes on forever. This is why physicists hate infinity for to them it means simply “I don’t know”.

There you are, working on equations that will solve the Grand explanation of Everything and after years of work your answer comes out as “infinity”. Talk about frustration. Yet, the general public throws it around like it’s a household word. There are Infinity Stones, infinite multiverses (redundant, really), infinite possibilities (but, really, only a few possibilities). Infinity is, in human terms, an unknown and one that, by definition, can never be known.

-A. M. Holmes

Author’s Note; I’m not going to include any citations for the piece because I went to Google for such things as “how tall is Mount Everest” and “how far is the moon”. If I could do this, so can you if you have any doubts. I do think my math is pretty sound but if I did make mistakes please point them down in the comments along with the correct answer. -A. M. Holmes

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Defining Science Fiction.

I just listened to an intriguing podcast on Science Fiction with Damien Walter where he tries to answer, ‘What is Science Fiction?’ (https://damiengwalter.com/2021/07/20/what-is-science-fiction/). In it, Walter brings up what he calls the three fallacies concerning science fiction. He says science fiction is not a genre as it is more like an artistic movement, it is not just “speculative fiction”, and not entertainment. I agree with what he said about two of these fallacies and slightly disagree with him on one.

First, what I agree with. Having viewed and read science fiction since I was a small child I have been inspired to write science fiction stories. For most of my life, I’ve done this as a hobby, something I did as a form of expression, to tell stories to myself. Now, encouraged by my wife’s publications, I wish to take this hobby and turn it into something that I can share with others. One of my wife’s questions, she writes epic fantasies, was what specific subgenre I was writing in. Well, I never considered that because to me science fiction is just that, and to break it down to a subgenre, or a sub-sub-genre seemed to me to be a ludicrous idea. Why would I want to pigeonhole myself into a specific slot and limit my creativity? Why does a story need to be limited to a specific arbitrary group when it can be more than that? “Who’s your target audience?” she answered. So the idea is a marketing tool and not a real literary definition. I agree with Damien Walter in that science fiction, with its crossover into many media forms and influence is more of an artistic movement no different than, say, post-modernism. It is only defined into its narrow literary definition of “genre” and all its “subs” to make it easier for the people who market it. So, the difficulty in defining it comes from it not being a specific product.

Is science fiction speculative fiction? Yes, it can be. But is it speculation? Not necessarily so. If you take science fiction out of being a genre you can do so much more with it along other avenues of thought. Rod Serling’s ‘The Twilight Zone’ did this in many of their stories. It wasn’t always about the “if this now, this is where we’ll end up” but at times about “here we are, now take a good close look at it”. Science fiction is storytelling with one foot in reality and the other in fantasy. It is the combination of the imaginative and the rational into one narrative. Technology, physical phenomenon (e.g. time travel, black holes, etc.), and non-human encounters are aspects of the setting unless they are the protagonist/antagonist of the story. They do not define science fiction but are part of the framework. I think Damien Walter’s explanation of science fiction as the melding of the “Mythos/Logos” is very much true. It is storytelling using the abstract notion of creativity with the rationality of realism. It is a form of expression distinctly unique as in any other artistic movement, for a movement it is.

Is it entertainment? Now, here is where he and I disagree. The reason I want to be a published writer is not that I want fame or notoriety, or to make a butt-load of money but to tell a good story. Storytelling is one of the oldest endeavors that first evolved in humankind. Our ancestors told stories around the campfire to educate and, depending on the manner it was told, to entertain. You can make the daily hunt more interesting if you tell it in a certain way. Storytelling is entertainment and science fiction is or should be, about the story.

-A.M. Holmes

Past, Present, and Future

The future is the undetermined existence, space/time in a flux. The present is the coelising of the future into a fix point becoming the now. The past is those fixed elements existing as would a string within a tapestry. To pick the future is to fix it and so make it the present. To choose the past is to live within it like an insect trapped in amber. I would choose the present, because only there am I the master of both the future and the past.

-A. M. Holmes

Just A Few Things About Me

Me, early in the morning working on my wip.

This started out as a prompt on another platform (IG) that got a little out of hand and I liked it so much I decided to use it as my “About Me”. I’m posting as a blog as well because, okay, it’s the Fourth of July, hot, and lazy. I’m also trying to get back into the “writing mood” which is why I answered the prompt in the first place. Anyway, this is who I am.

I’m currently working on my first novel, ‘White Noise: A CDI Rachel Durran Story’, (a tech-noir set in the near future) and hope to finish it by the end of the year. Occasionally I will post excerpts and your comments will be greatly appreciated. When I’m not doing that, I will post some of my other works and ideas.

I’m a science geek (biology, astronomy, geology, paleontology, anthropology, and physics to name a few of my interest), writer (I have a wip), sometime editor (I can help if you ask), and a BIG science fiction and fantasy aficionado (‘Star Wars, ‘Star Trek’, ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Battlestar Galactica’, LOTR, Harry Potter, just to touch on the most popular. I know quite a bit about a lot of obscured stuff and if I hadn’t read it, watched it, or heard of it you can believe I will read, watch, and become familiar with it). I have ASD (Autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s to be specific) but I’m not “autistic” (I will not be defined by my disorder!) I’m also an immigrant from Mexico (I was 6 years-old when I came to the U.S.) and became an American citizen when I turned 18. English is my first language and I love it (to me there is no other language that can do what English does. You can describe anything in numerous ways. You can take a noun and make it a verb or an adjective. If it isn’t proper wait long enough and it will be. English is a TRUE LIVING LANGUAGE!) But mostly, I love pondering the idiosyncrasies of a Life On a Small Blue World. 🌎🌊🧩

I look for people with diverse interests and who are open minded. I seek ideas and thoughts and people who are willing to express themselves and be themselves. I don’t like anyone who tries to sell me something or pass “copy and paste” chain postings or messages.  If you want to spew hate and bigotry YOU WILL BE BLOCKED! If you try to convince me that you are a lonely, nubile, 18 to 20-something from a 3rd world country looking for love and older men, I’m happily married to a wonderful woman and even if I were to remotely believe you I still wouldn’t be interested. DIRECT MESSAGE ONLY IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING INTELLIGENT TO SAY OTHERWISE SHUT-UP, DON’T BOTHER ME, AND MOVE ON!

Otherwise, welcome, Friend.

-A. M. Holmes

What You Should Remember On November 3rd, 2020

“Trump will attempt to start or buy a media company that can compete with Fox News and do battle with everyone else.” This is what Timothy L. O’Brien wrote in a Bloomberg Opinion article on June 7th, 2020  (https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-06-07/trump-s-ugly-week-reveals-how-he-wants-to-be-remembered).  I see this as a strong likelihood because if there has been one constant in the Trump administration it’s that everything centers around him. If you have any doubt of this just remember this, he has publicly referred to himself as “the Chosen One”. His arrogance, his megalomaniacal view of self-worth, lacks any justification. Donald J. Trump is a farce of a man with no substance.

This administration has given us no peace treaty with North Korea or Afghanistan. We have no trade agreements with China, Japan, the European Union (though NAFTA has been tweaked it still cannot be called “NAFTA 2”), or OPEC. “Law and Order” President? No reforms in gun control regulation at any time in the foreseeable future despite the school and public mass shootings. On the global scene, North Korea is still a “rogue” nation, the Taliban is leaving peace talks, and we have no SALT Treaty with Russia. Healthcare? Despite the over 50 attempts to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act by the GOP, Trump has not come up with a replacement (he does want to make changes to Medicare and Medicaid by allowing coverage through private insurers and cutting government spending). Immigration reform: increase in arrests and still pushing for a costly and mostly inefficient wall (there are alternatives in technology like the use of drones that would be more efficient and less costly).

Then there is what he has done. He has rolled back EPA standards and regulations almost to pre-Obama (even pre-Bush) times benefitting pollution producing industries like coal and petroleum. His Farm Relieve directives he signed to help farmers in the trade tariff war he created with China benefitted mostly the Big Agribusinesses and suppliers than small farms. He has increased funding to the Defense Department which mostly benefitted military manufacturers. Trump has stepped on state’s rights by rolling back interstate commercial transportation taxes. Talking about taxes, he has given tax credits to the wealthy and corporations with the idea that it will get to the regular worker (“trickle-down” has never worked before it will not work now). Oh, and he has bullied, insulted, and threatened everyone who has seen through incredulous scams. I can continue with the other debacles, “Russiagate”, Covid-19, George Floyd Protest, but why? We all saw it. His lack of leadership in any situation is very self-evident.

When November 3rd comes around I want you to remember the last 4 years and ask yourself this, must we allow this petty, shallow, self-gratifying man-child to serve another four more years?  I hope your answer is no and that you vote for Joe Biden.

Donald Trump’s June 1st strolled from the White House to the steps of St. John’s Church for a staged photo-op. Moments before Washington D.C. police tear gassed peaceful George Floyd protesters to make way for the president’s entourage of White House administrators, secret service personnel, and chosen media.

Why I Want To Become a Writer.

Sounds like a silly thing an adult to write about. You would imagine that this sort of a subject belongs in some sixth grade English class. But after reading some of the comments in writing groups on social media I find a lot of people don’t have a clue why they want to write. Some said it is because they can’t find a story interesting enough so they think they can come up with one of their own that is better. Others think it is an easy way to fame and fortune and good marketing. And then, there are the ones who think, “Well, gosh, I have a really good story and people will think so too”.

I have to admit I fall into that last group. But, even though I’m a realist, I still believe people will enjoy what I create. Why?

Because storytelling is part of what makes us human beings. It’s in our nature and has been part of us since the time we gathered around the fire back in our hunter-gatherer days. Some of us like it and get better at it than others. For example, I see a pile of snow after a snowplow had come through and I imagine mountains and a valley and the people who live there. I see a forest and imagine what forest would be like on other worlds, what creatures live within it, who would visit it and why? I see the advancements in science and I imagine not a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world but one open to numerous, promising possibilities. Most of all, I see a good story and I imagine what it would be like to share it with an interested audience.

That is why I want to be a writer, to find my audience, to tell stories, and if on the way I become wealthy and famous, well…

Introvert, An Update

I find people frustratingly annoying. I find them to be more so when they simply do not understand me. It’s not that I don’t try. I believe it’s because they either think my antisocial behavior is an act, a quirk, or a mental illness. It’s really none of those things. I’m not an act to avoid certain responsibilities that I have (give me a task and I will complete it. If I need assistance, I will ask for it). It’s not a behavioral oddity I can just turn off (I’m not trying to be humorous or difficult, it just is). It’s not depression (my ASD does heighten my sensitivity to certain sounds, lighting, and touch. At such times I withdraw into a meditative mode in order to control the anxiety it produces) I’m happy with who I am in life. So, what advice can I give, what insights in dealing with a person like me can I provide other than to just “LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE”? Not much, I don’t think. But here’s a few things I can say about what I go through that may help you to understand who I am.

“Working well with others.” I’m a high voltage electrician (“medium-high voltage” technically for I deal with 480 to 14,000 AC volts) in a steel factory maintaining load carrying equipment. I deal with breakers, motor-generators, and relays that provide the power source for steel manufacturing. Most of what I do is watch and record current readings and maintain certain levels of power usage. On occasions, and this is when it becomes exciting for me, I must troubleshoot and repair equipment that has failed. If I maintain things right or act proactively, these occurrences should happen, as they should, rarely. It’s a lonely job. Does that bother me? Nope. I “do my thing” at my pace when I want to and to the standards, I set for myself. My boss calls me a “self-motivator”. In truth, being alone to do a job is when I enjoy it best. Most of the time I can handle what issues crop up on my own. The exceptions are when I have work in substations (OSHA rules, not mine) or when a task requires other people to assist me. At those times I may get a bit “chatty” but that’s only me overcompensating. It’s me trying to be friendly. Inside I’m screaming because circumstances have placed me in a position where I must rely on others. I do work well with others and do appreciate people’s help but if given a choice I would rather that do the job by myself.

For most of my life, I’ve had to deal with the fact that I was different. I see things differently, think differently, interact (as awkward as it was at times) with others in a different way. Because of this I was often ridiculed or shunned quite often. This led me to my attempts to conform, to falsely mimic other people’s behavior in order to fit in. Over the decades I became quite adept at it giving people the wrong idea that I was a “social person”. What they didn’t understand is how much work it took to maintain this façade. It was exhausting. I couldn’t maintain it all the time and when I wavered my interpersonal skills would falter and people, including myself, would get hurt. At times I would say “I need some alone time” or do things like isolating myself. This did not mean I didn’t care for other people’s feelings it just meant I needed to “recharge”, to be myself, before I could continue. I couldn’t make and keep friends. Relationships were nearly impossible (it may have been one of the reasons why my first marriage failed, I couldn’t be honest with her). Many people didn’t understand this, I didn’t for the longest time, and this brought about both anxiety and depression. I was not happy with myself because I was not who I am. I saw conformity as an enemy of who I really am. Inside, in my world, in my “mind’s eye”, people and things were part of an outside tapestry of interactions, patterns, that were foreign to me. It’s not that I’m antisocial, it’s that I had difficulty in understanding it unless I stood back and exam it first.

And this brings me to why I relied on years of drug and alcohol abuse and finally mental health therapy in order to cope. In my introspective search, I have come to accept who I am and have become a happier person. Quitting drugs and alcohol have relieved me of those self-abusing crutches. Therapy and the use of mood-stabilizing drugs have lessened the anxiety I would experience. Accepting myself, my “differences”, has liberated me from much of what I have struggled with for so long. I can unleash my creative mind because I no longer must work under the yoke of conformity. Because of all that I have also forged a relationship with an individual, my wife, who loves and understands me. Does that mean I have stopped pretending who I’m not? Unfortunately, my present employment situation and lifestyle keeps me from doing so. The difference now is that I have made a refuge both mentally and physically that helps me cope with the insane world of having to socialize in order to maintain other people’s emotional needs. I know it makes me sound cold and uncaring maybe even sociopathic but it’s far from the truth. I can feel, I do have empathy, I just have difficulty expressing it. My wife knows this very well. She also knows that when I truly open up to you and show you who I really am you are very special to me.

Star Trek: Discovery First Episode, ‘Brother’

Who needs movies when Disco with its special effects and script are going to be this good! Glad to see more of the bridge crew and development of Saru and Tilly. After the seriousness of the 1st season, it’s good to see some lightheartedness (“cry like a baby tribble in a kill zone” 🤣 ). Anson Mount as Captain Chris Pike-👍Good job overall! 👏 We’re looking forward to the rest of the season.

Agricultural Land versus Regional World Population

Recently in my wanderings through “Reddit-land” I came across a world map that divided the world’s population into four equally numbered regions.

https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/aeosva/world_divided_into_4_regions_with_the_same/

This recalled another world map, one of a different kind, showing all the agricultural land is located geographically.

https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/7u6enj/map_showing_where_all_the_agricultural_land_is_in/

Superimposing the two I was startled by the differing distributions and what it implies. Most agricultural lands are existing in two narrow bands that cross the globe in both north and south temperate regions. When you consider population distributions you see that two of the largest agricultural regions exist in the least dense regions, the Americas and Europe. In the densest, only India has enough farmland to supply its population. But it may not be enough as its population increases.

World Population Divided Into 4 Regions Superimposed On Where All Agricultural Regions Are Located.


When one considers how this will affect the world socially, politically and economically one only sees an increase in conflict, instability, and war.

Just a thought.

Here’s one more, all of the above doesn’t even give a consideration of how climate change will change the agricultural regions.

https://reliefweb.int/map/world/world-climate-change-vulnerability-index-2014

-A. M. Holmes