I had two totally unrelated realizations yesterday. One concerning file sharing and another space. Two subjects as far appart as you can imagine.

First came from visiting a web site that monitors the activity of peer-to-peer sharing networks, or p2ps. It’s called Slyck and it also shows how many users are there on a given day. The numbers from those stats intrigued me, because I was a bit surprised by how small they are. So I did some estimating.

The sum of users of all p2p networks Slyck tracks is about 8 million. Some of those use more than one network, so the actual number of unique persons using any of those is probably smaller. On the other hand some are not constant users – they show up in the statistics for a day or two, then show again in a month. So, let’s assume optimistically it’s 10 million. Now, there is the BitTorrent which is not tracked so closely due to it’s serverless nature – let’s put that optimistically at 10 million, too. Even if we add another 10 million for all other forms of file sharing (like traditional file swapping over IRC/FTP or secure, small network) and end up with 30 millions of P2P users it is still just 3% of the total estimated number of Internet users.

This means that file sharers are a tiny minority and therefore file sharing can be successfully stigmatized and kept at bay as a marginal, shameful activity. The indoctrination starts very early on now that downloading a song from a friend is “stealing” and somehow more abominable than, say, shoplifting. These numbers show that no matter what those of us who live in the Internet long enough (or too long) would like to believe it works. I believe it’s those numbers that make lawyers for media corporations think they can win. And I can say I’m not sure they won’t once I did this estimating.

The other realization or epiphany even came to me when I read about a recent publication in “Nature” discussing the influence of meteorites on… formation of clouds on Earth. It turns out micro-meteorites that arrive into Earth atmosphere quite frequently don’t totally annihilate on entry, but instead get converted into microscopic dust which affects cloud formation among other things, which can even influence climate.

And then it came to me that we, humans, intuitively associate natural environment with our environment. We somehow think that Earth’s atmosphere is a kind of border behind which there is nothing really, emptiness, vacuum filled with hostile celestial bodies more or less like our own Moon. This a totally wrong intuition, nature is continuous, environment is continuous. It’s like a deep ocean squid thinking the environment ends on the water’s surface, while it is just another part of same environment, same nature.

It’s so simple, so obvious, and yet as I realized it I smiled to myself at my minuscule discovery with deep satisfaction. My world somehow became bigger, limitless even. At least within my small mind.