Imagine a world where there is no death

death

Imagine a world where there is no death.

Or better yet, imagine a world where there is no concept of death.

People would die, but it just wouldn’t enter into the experience of anyone around them.

On this imaginary world, when someone passes they disappear into a puff of air. The deceased’s loved ones don’t miss them because when someone dies, they are also erased from all memory.

People only notice that there is a new uninhabited house or new things which have no apparent owner just lying around to be taken.

Art, literature, and poetry would be very different because a lot of it here deals with death, either our own or of people we love.

Relationships would probably not consist of the strong bonds we find between family and loved ones here. In fact, the concept of a family might be hard to visualize.

And history would be impossible. What are you studying in history except for the doings and accomplishments of people who lived and died? If one had no concept of death, and immediately forgot those who were gone, history would be impossible to create.

There probably wouldn’t be religion in such a world, at least, not a religion like anything we know. Religion is primarily a function of helping us deal with the idea that one day we will no longer exist. We dream of an afterlife of some kind to help assuage the terror of non-being, something that is difficult for us even to conceive.

So it seems to me we would barely have a civilization at all was it not for death. The awareness of death, knowing that it’s hanging over our heads, seems to be the precise thing that makes us human. That makes love possible. That creates art, literature, and history, and the willingness to build and do great things, to leave a legacy behind. It also enables us to understand and appreciate someone else’s legacy.

As Todd May writes in “Death,” “the fact that we die is the most important fact about us. There is nothing that has more weight in our lives.”

So, death may be scary. We find so many fascinating (and sometimes frightening) ways to whistle past the graveyard, but it makes us human. Even if one doesn’t believe in an afterlife, we still believe in death. It still drives us to build, to do, to accomplish, to love, to remember.

We would not be human beings without death.

The completely terrifying heat death of the universe is coming ever closer.

Imagine you are sitting in a room. It is a magic room, protecting you from time. It has windows at which there are the most powerful telescopes ever made, enabling you to see to the edge of the visible universe. You will be able to survive there and observe reality for trillions of years.

Trillions of light years beyond you, there is a point beyond which you cannot see. That is because the universe is expanding, and at the very edge of this expansion, stars are moving away from you – relatively speaking – at the speed of light, so they fall behind this dark event horizon, beyond which you will never be able to see.

But the universe is continuing to expand because there’s not enough matter in it to slow it down or reverse it. In fact, the expansion is increasing. That means the event horizon is moving closer to you all the time. The edge is always falling away from you. In a few million years, the farthest objects you know will become unseen and unknown.

This expansion will continue, and at some point, in the far future, you might never have known any such thing as other galaxies exist, because the closest ones will have moved away from you at the speed of light, falling out of your sight.

But it doesn’t stop there. Eventually, the farthest stars in the galaxy will expand beyond your view. Closer and closer the event horizon will come. You look through the telescopes in the windows of your magic room, and the farthest objects you can see are the outer planets. Beyond that, all is dark. There are no stars.

But still, the expansion goes on. The outer planets fall out of your sight. Then the inner planets. Then, even the sun. It is moving away from you at the speed of light.

And there in your room, the farther points on the earth would fall behind the ever-approaching event horizon. And then your town. Everyone you know and love is expanding away from you at the speed of light, lost forever from your view.

And then, eventually, the walls of your magic room would go dark. And there you would be, alone in the darkest cold and the coldest dark that could ever be, infinitely far away from everyone and everything else that ever existed.

Eventually, your limbs will expand away from you. Then your senses. Then whatever it is that makes you, you.

This cold, dark emptiness is the final entropy, the profound death that awaits all that has ever existed.

Sometimes, science is like a teenager whose girlfriend just broke up with him.

A radio dream that didn’t involve dead air

Old radio micI had a dream the other night. I was downtown (I assume L.A., but it wasn’t clear) when some kind of unknown, toxic substance was released. Because I was so close to the scene, I was excited to call into KNX and be the on-site reporter.

In the course of reporting, authorities began blocking off the area, and men in chemical suits started corralling us into an intersection. I was still excited to be the on-air eyewitness… until an official told us that while they didn’t know what the substance was, people who were nearer to the initial release were already dying, and they believed we were also already fatally exposed.

“We’ve just been informed that we are casualties,” I said on the air. “I’ll stay on the line as long as I can and describe what’s happening, but I’m told that as soon as I begin bleeding from the eyes, nose, and mouth, I’ll only have about 15 minutes of life left.”

I stopped worrying about dying and focused on reporting. Then I started imagining all the awards I’d get posthumously. And then I woke up.

The lesson I took is that if I’m going to die, might as well make it as dramatic as possible.

What happens to the military in a government shutdown?

President Trump tweeted this morning that if the government shuts down, it would be “devastating to our military.”

So, what happens to the military in a government shutdown?

US officials say the armed forces are considered essential and would still report for duty, unlike rank and file government employees.

And military personnel still get paid, unless a shutdown lasts until February 1. That’s because funding runs through midnight Friday and the last paychecks went out last Monday. Personnel must report to work and still would be paid at the first pay period after the shutdown ends.

Interstellar signed

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My copy of the script for one of my favorite films has been autographed by not one, but two living gods.

Here’s how it happened.

I loved Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, but it was the triple hit of Inception, Interstellar, and Dunkirk that turned me into an unabashed fanboy. And the latter two are now in my pantheon of all-time favorites.

So when I found out my wife Ronnie was training Nolan’s mom, I gave her my book of the Interstellar shooting script to see if she could get it to Christopher to be signed. She did one better: It just so happened that Christopher’s brother Jonathan (who co-wrote the script and also created Person of Interest and HBO’s Westworld) was there at the same time. That’s something of a rarity, according to their mother. So when Christopher was signing my book, Jonathan grabbed it, saying, “That’s my script, too!” and signed it as well.

I’m in swoonsville.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake compares Trump to Stalin

Republican Senator Jeff Flake forcefully condemned Trump on the floor of the Senate today, comparing the president’s attacks on the news media with Joseph Stalin’s.

“No longer can we compound attacks on truth with our silent acquiescence. No longer can we turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to these assaults on our institutions,” Flake said in his speech. “An American president who cannot take criticism — who must constantly deflect and distort and distract — who must find someone else to blame — is charting a very dangerous path. And a Congress that fails to act as a check on the President adds to the danger.”

He criticized the President for calling the news media the “enemy of the people,” calling it “an assault as unprecedented as it is unwarranted.”

“It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own President uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies,” he said. “It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.”

It’s easy for Flake to denounce the president in such direct language in a Senate speech because he is not seeking another term. However, depending on how this plays, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Flake is considering a primary challenge to Trump in 2020.

Game of Trek

A few years back, I wished for a return of Star Trek to the small screen where it belongs, but rather than just another iteration of every series that came before, I wanted something different. I imagined Trek going to HBO, but with a Game of Thrones-level of storytelling and production value.

I got my wish with Star Trek: Discovery. Okay, so it’s not on HBO, it’s another pay service, but that doesn’t change the fact that Discovery gives me GoT-level twists and turns, sumptuous visuals, and something DIFFERENT in the world of Trek while still maintaining the Trek worldview that’s missing from the current movie franchise.

Discovery has gotten better and better with each outing, and last week’s installment was terrific. I didn’t fall in love with the characters off the bat, but then, neither did I when Game of Thrones started.

DSC (as the franchise-masters refer to it, rather than an unfortunate STD) started slow but picked up speed as it leaned into its serialized storytelling. The writers introduced characters judiciously and built their backgrounds, sometimes twisting them off into unexpected directions, sometimes unexpectedly killing them off altogether, just like that dragon-specific show on Home Box Office.

I’m looking forward to next week’s episode and hope CBS All Access doesn’t make me wait too long for season 2. If you’re still asking yourself if it’s worth the money to pay for a subscription to CBS’s streaming service, my answer is yes, absolutely. And I say that not just because I used to be an employee of CBS (but not anymore, as the CBS Radio division was recently spun off to Entercom), but because I firmly believe it.

Get it. Enjoy it from the beginning. It’s worth the ride.