At the start of September in Aptos, California, an elderly man slipped peacefully away, almost unnoticed. Aged 92, Frank Drake was one of the founding fathers of SETI ( search for extraterrestrial intelligence). Through his life’s work, he pioneered a scientific approach to a topic that in the early years, was seen as fringe at best and downright crazy at worst.
50 years. That’s how long it’s been since man last roamed about on the surface of the Moon. December 1972 to be precise. On December 11th, the lunar lander from Apollo 17 touched down on the Moon and spent a brief 75 hours there. The two astronauts on board, Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent 22 hours outside the lander, walking and driving about on the Moon’s surface. They collected over 110 kg of moon rock, drove almost 40 kilometres and explored distances up to 8 km away from their lunar lander. When they were finished, they packed away their collection of moon rock, took off their dusty space suits, took a brief nap and blasted off the surface of the Moon.
The placebo effect has to be one of the strangest phenomenon known to science. It is a measurable effect that is produced by a placebo pill or treatment that has been designed not to have any effect.
Christmas can be a hectic time, office parties, catching up with friends and family, up early for Santa and and days spent visiting and being visited. It can also be a time for reflection.
With that in mind, allow me to present two pictures that give us a unique insight and pause for thought, to contemplate our place in the universe.
Recent reports in the press have highlighted the sad case of a 14 year old girl’s search for immortality and her fight to have her body frozen after her death. Her hope is that medicine will advance enough to allow her to be brought back to life, cancer free at some point in the future.
Ever since time immemorial humans have endeavored to extend our natural life span. In the middle ages, life expectancy was in the order of 40 years. By 1900 you could expect to live to around 59, and today average life expectancy has reached 80 years give or take. The oldest human that ever lived has reached 122 years and the annual rate of mortality amongst any given age bracket e.g. over 80’s continues to fal