Thursday, September 14, 2006

It came screaming out of the cosmos at a speed of just over 10-20 kilometers per second and in an instant the fate of over 90% of all living species. The roughly 6-mile-wide (10-kilometer) space rock carved out the Chicxulub crater off Mexico's Yucatan Penninsula as it slammed into the earth's surface. At that point, it is speculated that all unprotected creatures and those unable to adapt - most especially the dinosaurs - were baked by the equivalent of a global oven set on broil. This was the turning point for small rodents' advancement, such as mammals, as anything not underground or protected by water was wiped out...


According to scientists, our species was able to hole up and hide from this event when it occurred approximately 65 million years ago. It seemed to work in our favor back then, but our tendency to carry on this evolutionary practice of hiding doesn't seem to be faring lately.

In a recent study published by the American Sociological Review (see complete article below), Americans report that they are "more socially isolated than they were 20 years ago, separated by work, commuting and the single life. Nearly one fourth of all surveyed state they had ZERO close friends to confide in concerning personal matters and more than half could name only two or fewer confidantes.

When one first reads this report, it is very easy to say, "That's a phenomena that's hard to fathom." But take a moment to assess your own personal life. Can you identify on one hand close confidantes with whom you confide on personal matters - not email "buddies," but close personal friends? If so, consider yourself blessed, my friend.

Different opinions are stated as to the primary cause of this pattern. It may be the television we stare at in the evenings and mornings, rather than turning it off and turning on our family conversations. It may be the steel coffin, the hardtop, we drive to work and play by ourselves - shut off from all those around us. It could be the isolated cubicle/office we sit in all day so as to "not be interrupted" by unnecessary noise. It may have instinctually worked well millions of years ago to "hide out," but, my friend, it's time we come out of hiding and band together - especially in times of difficulty and trouble.

We live in troubled times of social and global uncertainty and we need to start taking the hand of those next to us in church, at school, and at work and start "making a friend." Velociraptors, triceratops, and hardtops - it doesn't matter - if we continue find ourselves out there in the open, exposed and alone, we may collectively find ourselves the next living species to slowly diminish. Talk to the person next to you today - strike up a conversation that may eventually lead to a lifelong friendship. You are only one person to this world, but to that one person you may be the world.

As a final sidenote, at a recent conference of the Practical Astronomy Institute in St. Petersburg, scientists identified a real threat from a 2004 MN 4 asteroid. Initially the 500 meter asteroid was projected on a collision course with Earth in 2028, but the latest calculations show that in 2028 the asteroid will only pass very close to Earth. However, there are some scientists that say that their research predicts that the asteroid’s orbit could change and it may return in seven years this time crashing into the Earth’s surface, wiping out all life on the planet...

A very somber projection, isn't it? Well, at least plan to have a few friends close on hand for the final party (smile).


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans are more socially isolated than they were 20 years ago, separated by work, commuting and the single life, researchers reported on Friday.

Nearly a quarter of people surveyed said they had "zero" close friends with whom to discuss personal matters. More than 50 percent named two or fewer confidants, most often immediate family members, the researchers said.

"This is a big social change, and it indicates something that's not good for our society," said Duke University Professor Lynn Smith-Lovin, lead author on the study to be published in the American Sociological Review.

Smith-Lovin's group used data from a national survey of 1,500 American adults that has been ongoing since 1972.

She said it indicated people had a surprising drop in the number of close friends since 1985. At that time, Americans most commonly said they had three close friends whom they had known for a long time, saw often, and with whom they shared a number of interests.

They were almost as likely to name four or five friends, and the relationships often sprang from their neighborhoods or communities.

Ties to a close network of friends create a social safety net that is good for society, and for the individual. Research has linked social support and civic participation to a longer life, Smith-Lovin said.

People were not asked why they had fewer intimate ties, but Smith-Lovin said that part of the cause could be that Americans are working more, marrying later, having fewer children, and commuting longer distances.

The data also show the social isolation trend mirrors other class divides: Non-whites and people with less education tend to have smaller social networks than white Americans and the highly educated.

That means that in daily life, personal emergencies and national disasters like Hurricane Katrina, those with the fewest resources also have the fewest personal friends to call for advice and assistance.

"It's one thing to know someone and exchange e-mails with them. It's another thing to say, 'Will you give me a ride out of town with all of my possessions and pets? And can I stay with you for a couple or three months?" Smith-Lovin said.

"Worrying about social isolation is not a matter of nostalgia for a warm and cuddly past. Real things are strongly connected with that," added Harvard University Public Policy Professor Robert Putnam, author of "Bowling Alone," a book on the decline of American community.

He suggested flexible work schedules would allow Americans to tend both personal and professional lives.