07 The Ocean

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We spent billions of years in the ocean.

The sounds of the ocean are relaxing, so much so that you might fall asleep during this episode, and that’s ok. Sleep is a gift. It is the very purpose of this podcast to teach you about your animal and machine self, the product of four and a half billion years of evolution.

We were once a fish. That is to say if we look at who your parents are, and who their parents are, and who their parents are and you keep doing that back 460 million years, you find that your many times great grandpa was a fish. That’s ok, your many times great grandma was a fish too. It was normal back then.

They were the current inheritors of life that had been in the ocean for 3.6 billion years and still was in the ocean. Their lower jaw was made of two bones fused together, just as yours still is, and their upper jaw mirrored the lower giving great mouth mobility. With the four legs that came later, these two upper jaw bones would become your inner ear, which is why your upper teeth are stuck to your head.

So, without ears, were these fish deaf? Of course not. Water is 997kg per m^3. Air is 1.3 kg per m^3. At 800 times more dense, sound travels very well. Fish are literally swimming in pressure and feeling sound across its body. The jaw, lower mass and can move independently to and so relative to the rest of the body is the perfect conduit for sound. That’s how there was evolutionary pressure for the ear to evolve and why you might even be listening to this podcast through bone conducting headphones. It still works.

Each animal in your evolutionary history isn’t a step towards you, just like you are not some descendants evolutionary step. Like you, these ancestral fish are living their best life and surviving the hostile environment.

It sounds strange, but as you are built from the DNA construct of the best fit to survive the environment, and we spent billions of years in the ocean, unsurprisingly, knowing ourself means knowing this environment. We know this is true because our menstrual cycle is on average 28 days.

Side not here. Note I said ‘on average’. I won’t say normally 28 days or just 28 days which implies normality. The very point about understanding the influence of evolution is to understand it’s a constant random set of variation. If you want to know what’s normal, you tell me what’s normal for you. If your period is consistently 23 days, that’s normal. 33 days or variation every time, it’s normal if you say it’s normal. For comparison, there is no normal height that implies a correct height. If you tell a shorter person they are abnormal, the world would agree you are an intestinal sphincter.

So the statistical average tracks to the moon. Which means it must track to the tides. A lunar cycle is our month and once a month there is a tidal maximal where coastal land becomes submerged, and waves reach higher and once a month there is tidal minimal where seas are calm and vary the least with the tide. Land crabs and corral use the minimal to have minimal disturbance in the sea.

Now what fascinates me, is if we spawned on this monthly cycle, we’d see evidence of this in the males, so if you have science on this, please send it my way.

Our reproductive cycle is tied to the coastal ocean, and so I don’t think we like the sound of the ocean hitting the beach because it reminds us of the sounds in the womb. We like the sounds in the womb because it reminds us of the ocean. Our mothers in fact make us a mini ocean to grow in.

We are more entwined than this however. Our survival in the ocean is still in us. How and why? Well, diversity. Land is land and the sea is the sea, but where the land meets the sea, you have both. From the land you can eat potatoes and from the sea you meat. It’s fish and chips, it really is that simple. Generally for ocean going populations, it’s about nutrients. Upwells from the depths, or washed out in rivers from the land. More life has more opportunity to grow and so more life has more opportunity to grow, by eating that first lot of life. This was true when we were in the ocean, and it is still true now we are on the land and so the cues have not left us. As amphibians we were even more dependant on the coast.

So what are these sounds? The only place we get waves crashing is in shallows, which is generally on the beach, so waves are important. But like a Brit can have a hundred words for variations of rain, the sound of waves varies. You don’t want the violent crash of a wave as it’s stronger than you and the wave will shred you on the rocks. You want to hear them but near by, so we want the sound of breaking waves, muffled by distance. We can get closer if the beach is calm so a calm beach will sound good.

So we like going to the shore and so we should go more often. If you don’t like sand, go somewhere rocky, what is important to the animal is to hear the shore. It relaxes the animal. I’m envious of the Sydney commuters who go by ferry. The Australians really understand the beach and do it really well. The ocean is deep in you. Embrace it and love your animal. If you work in a city on a coast, find time to visit. If going that little bit further allows you to do it on a lunch time, do it. Give yourself five minutes, get yourself some fish and chips and eat it with your fingers, like an animal.