Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Big Bang

Have you ever wondered why the beginning of the universe was called the Big Bang? You might have thought that this moniker represented the loud explosion that brought the universe into existence. That's what I thought, too. But after reading about the eccentric physicists who named it, I realized that explanation would be way to mundane. I could imagine these guys, who are generally a quirky bunch, sitting around with a couple of beers at the end of a long day reminiscing about their more youthful days when they made whoopie several times a week. The Big Bang was probably their tongue-in-cheek tribute to those youthful days of ardor and romance.

Actually, these smart fellows may have been on to something. Many cosmology tales speak of sex as the origination of the universe. Not in the physical sense of which we are so familiar, but rather as it relates to energy. Ancient Wisdom reveals that in the beginning were the two Origins: positive energy and negative energy, attractive energy and repulsive energy, life and love.

Could it be that the Big Bang was actually an orgasm of universal proportions which produced the galaxies and other planetary structures we see today? In the initial intense heat of mega-millions of degrees every electron was born that will ever exist, and it is from these electrons every material thing in the universe is created--over and over and over in a never-ending process.

It could be from these
positive/giving and negative/receiving archetypes planted deep in the universal consciousness that males and females continue the process of physical creation. Some say that over many lifetimes, humans experience every conceivable sexual state and finally come to know the real meaning of sex in all its truth and beauty. When the initiate knows sex as energy, he is safely past the potential abuse of its potent, creative power, and all is revealed to him.

Looking around us, sex is everywhere and defines every aspect of nature, from the tiniest to the gargantuan. Even DISCOVER magazine this month joined the tabloids in exploiting its titillating properties. On the last page ran the enlightening story, "20 Things You Didn't Know About Mating." You might be interested to know that even though life emerged on Earth almost 4 billion years ago, the act of sex did not evolve until a billion or so years later. Or maybe not.

I have to admit, the list does gets more informative as it goes on. Did you know: that an octopus called the paper nautilus impregnates its female counterpart by shooting his penis-tentacle into her, leaving it there? One might say that's a gift that keeps on giving. That an male Australian anteater has evolved a penis with four heads and only two are used in copulation? It probably keeps the other two as spares.

That French-kissing is very rare as is having sex face-to-face? Only one breed of parrot and humans French-kiss while only a few mammals breed looking at each another. The utilitarian doggy-style is the position of choice, it would appear. That abundant alcohol makes male fruit flies hyper-sexual while it makes human males just the opposite? That homosexual behavior is found in 1500 species of mammal, fish, reptile, bird and invertebrate? Actually, probably in plants and minerals too, if the truth be known.

Which brings us back to the quirky scientists with sex on their minds. The DISCOVER magazine article went on to detail the mating habits of a tropical monkey, and the scientist who recorded the loud orgies:
"Barbary macaques have a distinctive way to get their mates to make a sperm donation: Yelling. If the female does not shout, the male almost never climaxes. How do we know this? German primatologist Dana Pfefferle watched a group of macaques, counting the females' yells and the males' pelvic thrusts. She says this works is 'quite weird, but it's science.' "
This month SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN magazine, not to be outdone, described the work of David Levy, the artificial intelligence researcher at the Museum of Sex in New York City. Dr. Levy, who has written a book Love and Sex With Robots, believes that soon robots will become mates in marriage. Not in all marriages of course, but it will give folks an alternative to marrying a real, live person.

Recall the robotic dinosaur, Pleo, that was discussed in detail a few blogs back? As robots "learn" by interaction with humans as Pleo did, marriage to a human android might not be that surprising and could have its advantages. When Dr. Levy was asked about this, he responded:
"If the alternative is that you are lonely and sad and miserable, is it not better to find a robot that claims to love you and acts like it loves you? Does it really matter if you are a happier person? I know that people think the idea is totally outlandish. But I am convinced it's inevitable."
Levy goes on to say that even now robots can be made to look decidedly human and can fool the uninitiated for about 10 seconds. Over time, the resemblance will increase as will the fooling factor, I'm sure. Whats more, the goodly researcher stated emphatically, "It's just a matter of time before someone takes parts from a vibrator, puts it into a doll, and maybe adds some basic speech electronics, and then you'll have a fairly primitive sex robot." I hate to tell the obviously sheltered doctor, but that's already been done, and it didn't take a PhD.

Heck, I would expect much more from a robot than "primitive" sex. After all, I'm sure the Japanese, who are undoubtedly the world's foremost android experts and venerate the sexual act, can figure out how to create a life-like mechanical creation to satisfy a sex-hungry human, male or female. The possibilities are endless, as are the ethical concerns.

We have no idea what the future will look like exactly, but we do know that it will be radically different than what we see today. No matter what technological advances are made, we must be certain that the factors that make us human continue to evolve in an ethical manner. Thus, to be a part of our collective lives, robots must add to our experience and not adversely change the values we live by, which are ideally:
"The love of truth, which is essential for a just, inclusive, progressive society;
sense of justice, recognition of the rights and needs of all;
spirit of cooperation, based on active goodwill and the principle of right human relationships;
sense of personal responsibility, for group, community and national affairs;
Serving the common good, through sacrifice of selfishness; only what is good for all is good for each one. these are the spiritual values, inspiring conscience and the consciousness of those who serve to create a better way of life" (Lucis Trust.)
And finally, if robots are to become sex partners, the pricier the better as far as human satisfaction is concerned. On March 5th, the WSJ reported that MIT conducted an enlightened study of placebos suggesting that "the cost of the placebo drug affects expectations." Mind you, these are fakes, not the real thing, which means that our brains translate expensive into better, even if it is not the truth.

These researchers conducted a thought-y experiment--the kind that MIT is known for--in which two groups of volunteers were given fake pain pills: one that supposedly cost $2.50 vs. one that supposedly cost 10 cents. Following the trial in which the duped groups underwent various real shock levels, they were asked to describe their experience.

The results were unequivocal. 85.4% of the expensive-pill group reported a reduction in pain, while only 61% in the cheap pill group did. The MIT researchers concluded that people's experiences are driven by many factors, including price. My conclusion was less diplomatic: the mind is a wonderful thing, but easily duped. Which explains why robots as marital partners may turn out to be a hit, but only if they are expensive.

Of note: The accompanying photo reminded me of the light/male and dark/female aspects of the Big Bang and was contributed by M. Huffman from a recent picture taken at her house in Texas. Thanks so much!

Todays Weather Report: Day in and day out we awake to well below zero! Enough already. My maple tree under glass in the house has started to leaf out, a sure sign that spring is coming soon. Day light savings time starts tonight, the earliest ever.

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