As a kid I was ever so slightly geeky, and rather obsessed with space. My parents, always keen to support my quest for knowledge, bought me a telescope one birthday and I used to spend many an evening gazing up at the moon and the stars in awe. Eventually hormones kicked in, and my interest in heavenly bodies shifted somewhat closer to home.
There are approx 300 billion stars in our galaxy. And there are more than 200 billion galaxies in the known universe. So, doing a quick bit of maths, there are a shitload of stars out there. And although not all of them support intelligent life, a heck of a lot of them surely must.
Of course whether ours can be said to do so is increasingly debatable in the age of Trump, Brexit and the ongoing spectacle of a race seemingly intent on bringing about its own extinction. On the plus side, Donald Dumpf is a gift to comedy, although in the minuscule cluster of neurons that passes for his brain, he probably thinks we are laughing with him and not at him. How deluded can one person get?
There was a survey a while back that showed that a quarter of the American population believe that the sun revolves around the Earth, and not the other way round. This was of course the mainstream view until our old chum Nicky Copernicus upset the apple-cart with his heliocentric model, published in the 16th century. At last the Earth was put in its rightful place, although not everyone was thrilled with this particular advance in human knowledge. There were certainly some major grumblings from the Catholic church. Still, at least Mr C managed to avoid the fate of his defender and fellow astronomy clever-clogs, friar Giordano Bruno, who apparently was just too much of a rebel for the church and had his chestnuts roasted on an open fire, along with the rest of him.
Evolution has brought about a spectacular abundance of plant and animal life that we are trying our very best to eradicate, perhaps so we can have the planet all to ourselves. Of course the interdependence of humans and the flora and fauna of Earth makes this behaviour slightly baffling. It sometimes appears we are like a cartoon character, sawing through the branch that it sits on. Or in our case chopping down the whole forest.
When I was young I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, apart from taller.
I showed a keen interest in science and space exploration at an early age, but sadly my eventual application to astronaut school was rejected, on the grounds of my flat feet and shortsightedness. That, and the complete lack of a science degree, flying experience, courage, or any of the usual qualities they tend to look for in potential astronauts.
Beliefs are a funny thing. I once believed, like many others, that a black cat crossing your path was bad luck. Of course I was rather biased, because of the unfortunate Panther attack. Nowadays I am older, wiser, and stay out of the big cat enclosure at the zoo.
Growing up I can recall Gypsy women in the street selling ‘lucky Heather’ (although Heather didn’t seem to feel it was so lucky, based on her expression) and some kids in my class had ‘lucky’ rabbit’s-foot keyrings – yuck.
Sports people are notoriously superstitious and many players and fans apparently wear the same ‘lucky’ socks, shirts or underpants to a match, imagining that this somehow mysteriously influences the outcome.