Friday, February 06, 2015

On Deep Time... SETI... the Neolithic... immortality... and science!

Next week, in San Jose, California, commences the greatest general scientific conference in the world, the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, bringing together sages from every field. What better place for me to come on-stage and debate the issue of "Messaging Extraterrestrials" with the small coterie of radio dish mavens who want to shout into the cosmos, on our behalf.  

To be clear, those of us who oppose charging into this arrogant activity, based on unexamined assumptions, aren't aiming to "stifle humanity forever." What we want is something that all of you would enjoy! A worldwide discussion of all aspects of this matter, televised and webbed so that all of us can look over the full range of fascinating concepts and evidence -- before giving the nod to yelling "yooho, aliens! Lookit us!"

On February 14 there will be - in parallel - an open to the public session at the SETI Institute. Come on by, if you can. 

Oh, at one AAAS I got to watch the epic keynote given by author Michael Crichton, who spent a whole hour repeating "I DON'T hate science!" I had to... just had to... make him a character in EXISTENCE.

== Related matters? ==

Okay, some of these will be along the "edge".  But then, I just came back from Cape Canaveral and a meeting of NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts group. (I'm on the external council of advisors.) We are a wise people if we keep paying a small but steady and eager glance at the edge.

Will we detect life on other worlds through their vibrations? It is suggested that all living cells emit a variety of sonic vibrations — potentially a valuable aspect for future instruments aiming to detect life elsewhere in the Solar System. Not just bacterial flagella create vibrations. “or more complicated eukaryotic cells, there's lots of internal movement, as cellular components are shifted along tracks called actin filaments and microtubules. We have drugs that disassemble these tracks, and the authors used these and showed that again, the resulting vibrations changed. In fact, they changed in stereotypical ways: "Large fluctuations of the sensor can be associated with movements inside the actin network whereas less intense but more frequent fluctuations can be attributed to the tubulin network.””

How to Find Faster-Than-Light Particles: Actually, this article about the (very) slim possibility of FTL neutrinos is cogently written.  “A new paper claims to demonstrate that neutrinos not only travel faster than the speed of light, but have the brain-twisting characteristic of “imaginary mass”, a property that means they actually speed up as they lose energy.  -- The phrase “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” has seldom been more appropriate, but Professor Robert Ehrlich, recently retired from George Mason University, believes he has that, with six different measurements from different areas of physics. All of these, Ehrlich claims in Astroparticle Physics, provide matching results that not only indicate that neutrinos have imaginary mass, but point towards the same value, making it less likely the readings are in error.” 

 == Were we “nicer” before the Neolithic? ==

I am fascinated by the Neolithic - after we developed farming and stratified specialization and towns... but before writing and empires.

When We Were Nicer: Stephen Mithen's review of On Deep History and the Brain by Daniel Lord Smail exposes some interesting ideas... e.g. that the feudal lords, kings and priests began manipulating the body chemistry of their subjects (without knowing it) by inducing and relieving stress through religion, alcohol, ritualized sports and so on....

...and that the western enlightenment started taking off when large middle classes gained access to the tools to regulate their own chemistry -- with coffee and tea (which let them stay hydrated healthily, unlike purifying water with gin, switching in one generation from shambling lushes to caffeine-propelled merchants and organizers. These may have been as important as the opening of "frontiers" of trade and of colonization.

Sure, these are good insights.  Still, one commenter, below this piece, offered a good observation about something that has always irked me... the romantic notion that pre-agrarian hunter gatherer tribes were "egalitarian."

"I assume that it was an editorial decision rather than the reviewer’s to title Steven Mithen’s review of Daniel Lord Smail’s On Deep History and the Brain ‘When We Were Nicer’ (LRB, 24 January). There are good reasons to suppose that our hunting and foraging ancestors were ‘egalitarian’ in the sense that would-be dominant self-aggrandisers were held in check by joking, teasing, enforced sharing, vigilant monitoring, counter-dominant coalitions, and occasional assassinations. But that didn’t mean they were ‘nice’. Presumably some were and some weren’t, then as now. The difference is that sedentism and a sustainable sufficiency of food (fish will do as well as grain) made possible, as Mithen says, a return to primate-like social structures in which the nasty could get away with self-aggrandisement by means that the environment of hunting and foraging lifeways precludes." -- writes WG Runciman, Trinity, Cambridge.

Indeed, the number of injury scars that we see in pre-neolithic bones, from weapon-related injuries, suggests a very violent era. Only a small fraction of tribal folk, at any time, were buried with rich grave goods and we see other skeletons - contemporaneous - whose bones reveal life-long privation and (in some cases) clear signs of subservience.  

No one on the planet opposes a return to brutal feudalism more intensely than I do -- or expresses a stronger determination to keep our Enlightenment Experiment moving forward.  

But I hold no truck with those romantics who claim to see feudalism's solution to be a "return to wise, primeval ways."  Such folk see a just-so story that they want desperately to believe, without any substantial evidence.  Their (typically "leftist") romantic RENUNCIATION ethos is almost as troglodytic and crazy as today's far-larger and even-more-insane Right.

Science will show us how to regulate our own chemistries and get the best out of ourselves... and how to hold accountable all elites who want to regulate those things "for" us.

==A creepy way to fight aging ==

Parabiosisis a 150-year-old surgical technique that unites the vasculature of two living animals.  Experiments with parabiotic rodent pairs have led to breakthroughs in endocrinology, tumour biology and immunology. By joining the circulatory system of an old mouse to that of a young mouse, scientists have produced some remarkable results.  The blood of young mice seems to bring new life to ageing organs, making old mice stronger, smarter and healthier.

If that were all there was to it… then the darkest sci fi would be for young people to be well-paid to donate blood, or even drafted to donate monthly.  Big deal. I just completed my 80th donation, earning me my 10 gallon hat from the blood bank(!)  I’d have doubled that rate, when young, in order to revivify old folks.  

No, that’s not the scary part.

What’s scary (and not at all mentioned in this article) is that the strongest effects appear not to come from just receiving younger blood, but from sharing the younger animal’s circulatory system, meaning the older creature is also using the younger one’s kidneys, liver and other organs.  And the younger one pays a price for this parabiosis, with apparent ageing of those organs.

NOW there comes to mind a much more horrific sci fi scenario — of rich struldbrugs kidnapping and using up young people in order to extend their own overdue lives.  Yipe!

Perhaps science will speed ahead and make the benefits non-parasitic and cheap for all!  But meanwhile only one thing can prevent this horror from playing out....

== miscellany ==

Wave energy, a coastal resource of prodigious potential, and possibly much less disruptive then wind (which can becalm) or solar. A new analysis of its costs/benefits indicates that wind energy will be competitive with other energy sources.

Illegal fishermen, the value of whose catch is estimated at up to $23.5 billion annually, operate with near impunity in some areas where they think themselves safe from tracking. But a new satellite tracking system launched on Wednesday aims to crack down on the industrial-scale theft known as "pirate fishing." 

Might Dark Matter contribute to the existence of stable wormholes in our galaxy? In the galactic halo region, dark matter may supply the fuel for constructing and sustaining a wormhole. Hence, wormholes could (maybe) be found in nature. 

Femto-second laser pulses make some surfaces super hydrophobic, repelling water and keeping clean and rust-free… valuable for solar arrays and many ther uses.  

Ancient palindrome!  An ancient, two-sided amulet uncovered in Cyprus contains a 59-letter inscription that reads the same backward as it does forward.

“CicretBracelet".  This device was invented in Israel and is not yet available on the open market. In fact, I doubt it will be for a while yet.  Still, its patents are probably worth billions. And I want it as my first smart phone. 


Paul Shen-Brown said...

Parabiosis sounds like the kind of creepy, exploitative process great for a Hollywood dystopian movie, but I doubt it will go anywhere. We are getting better at cloning organs, which should have the same effect of extending lifespan.

Your quote by Runciman fairly well sums up what I got out of studying anthropology - we haven't really changed that much, it's mostly a question of how our institutions have manipulated and constrained us, and how we have manipulated and constrained our institutions.

The wave power piece is good news, especially since 80% of the human species lives within 100 miles of a sea coast.

A carryover from the last post, you suggested that a Buddhist meditates for his own self interest, but this is only true of the Theravada tradition, which is in the minority. In the Mahayano tradition meditation is believed to benefit all life. They think that meditation (as well as chanting) creates some sort of positive energy that helps all living things. Theravadas think this is nonsense, but Theravadas are only in the majority in Sri Lanka and Thailand.

"But when you get right down to it...
What am I? And why should I consider my soul's condition so much more important than a hundred thousand other things that are clearly so much bigger than my miserable self? Like truth? The planet? My species? Posterity? Fairness?"

There's a spirituality I can get behind.

Tony Fisk said...

The strange properties of FTL neutrinos are a direct consequence of (1-v^2/c^2)^-0.5 where v > c, and we move away from the energy singularity.

Hopefully, medical science will stay ahead of the 'organ-legging' scenarios of Niven's early Known Space tales. However, in The Dark Crystal, the Skeksis found that parabiosis worked better with gelflings than pod people. (Mmm-hmmmm!)

The femtosecond laser induced hydrophobia sounds a little like an invention of one of Clarke's characters in 'Ghost of the Grand Banks'

Lorraine said...

I always had difficulty with primitivism, mainly because if paleolithic humans are in some sense "between" wild animals and humans living in civilization, then there's reason to believe interpolation may hold some clues to the nature of their lives. And the nature of wild animals is almost always a very implicitly understood pack hierarchy. And of course that goes double for primates.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Lorraine, this is exactly why we (meaning our species) need to keep looking ahead, using verifiable science to make meaningful comparisons. The past sucked, but that doesn't mean we can't make the future better.

I was just trawling for articles to share with my students and I came across one I wish I had when I was teaching the placebo effect last month. It is about how experiencing feelings of awe lowers our cytokine levels, a marker of good health. Last night I felt a little of that when I took out the garbage an hour after sunset and saw Jupiter, then went to the front of the house and picked out both Venus and Mars. The article suggested that engaging with art, the grandeur of nature and religion have this effect. Oddly enough, the principal investigator on the study was named Jennifer Stellar. It made me wonder if reading awe-inspiring science fiction would have the same effect.

Here's the url:

Admittedly, the study does suffer from the chicken or egg question, but often these scenarios turn out to be recursive. The old saying "Fake it till you make it" often works wonders because you initiate a feedback loop between your nervous and immune systems.

Happy cogitation!

Forget primitivism! Science is constantly revealing things that improve our lives, and you don't get that from new age gurus.

Alex Tolley said...

Wave energy. It it fanciful to claim it will be cost competitive when there are no commercial wave energy generators to verify commercial viability. There are obvious advantages, but these have yet to be proven with real hardware.

Parabiosis. Enough already. Researchers are already working on human clinical trials with specific proteins. Whether this is life extending is unproven, but if the anti-aging effects are confirmed this would be potentially interesting to retain youthfulness. We will need small chemical drugs to make this useful.
In related news, a company is going to bypass the FDA by selling compounds that are life extending in other organisms as unregulated nutraceuticals. Their first products are NAD and resveratrol.

@Lorraine - when you talk about animals, I think you mean mammals. Even there, herding and social grouping is far from universal.

Neutrinos travel FTL? I seriously doubt it. However well argued, how does it square with known physics? What is the the response from other physicists? What experiments are proposed to falsify the claim?

Life vibrations. It assumes life with terrestrial forms? It it certainly a novel approach, so perhaps worth investigating if the instrumentation can be made small and sensitive enough.

@DB good luck with your SETI position. Please report back on the discussion and outcome in a future post.

LarryHart said...

Alex Tolley:

Neutrinos travel FTL? I seriously doubt it. However well argued, how does it square with known physics?

This is a completely non-expert comment, but IIRC, Einstein's physics don't prevent a thing from moving faster than light, only from crossing the light barrier. So presumably these FTL neutrinos have simply always been moving FTL?

David Brin said...

Lorraine a flick that had fun showing our ancestors still grunting some animal-like ways was QUEST FOR FIRE, which had many howlers! But also a couple of scenes that made me choke up and almost cry.

Paul451 said...

Re: Parabiosis

Even if the drugs don't work and you really have to link up, I'm okay with wealthy creeps hiring kids (well, at least no younger than teens) in poor parts of the world as life-donors. The kids may have shorter lives as a result, but as long as they get paid adequately, it should be no worse than other life-shortening means of living available to them, and hopefully otherwise less harmful (after all, the parasite wants his bio healthy.)

But mostly, I know it will be self limiting. The people you need to most worry about are precisely those who will experience the greatest body horror at the thought of spending weeks or months sharing blood (and life) with "one of them".

Most forms of third world exploitation, you can close the door on. This one must be up-close and so very personal.

Alex Tolley said...

FTL is mathematically possible, as is -ve mass. Doesn't mean it is real.
The FTL quality may conflict with other properties that rule out FTL.

sociotard said...

I thought this would tickle Dr. Brin's amusement:

When Superintelligent AI arrives, will religions try to convert it?

A favorite quote:
"I don't see Christ's redemption limited to human beings," Reverend Dr. Christopher J. Benek told me in a recent interview. "It's redemption to all of creation, even AI. If AI is autonomous, then we have should encourage it to participate in Christ's redemptive purposes in the world."

As for the Lady Bathory rejuvenation technique, it seems like a good reason to perfect those transgenic pigs.

David Brin said...

Paul, who is to say the poor kids get fair value? In traditional power arrangements, it would be the most extreme form of rape. Sure, if it happens in utter, utter transparency, with very strong legal advice and public oversight, then a libertarian argument might be made. But establish those safeguards first.

Tacitus2 said...

I had not thought of Quest for Fire for years. Love the scene where a couple of shaggy cave dudes get chased up a tree by a ginned up sabre tooth. (looked like a long of tooth lioness made much longer of tooth with implausible prostheses). Said cave dudes looked so......forelorn! Just sad sitting up there. It caught the interface between man and beast at just the right "barely sapient" stage.


Ioan said...


I realize why you think the first order effects of parabiotics might be beneficial. However, the second order effects might be monstrous.

Right now, the west has a huge incentive for the rest of the world to become wealthy. If this technology becomes viable, that would change. There will be huge incentives to ensure a country remains war-torn and unstable, simply to guarantee a supply of desperate kids.

Second, you overestimate the revulsion such monsters would feel. Only a small subsection of the populace who would use this technology have THAT strong a revulsion.

What about the West? With this technology, there is incentive to lock up young people and give them the following options: 10 years in prison or you give 10 years of your life to someone else via these connections. Perhaps jaywalking would now carry a 20 year prison sentence? Heck, it could be mostly targeted towards minority youths. I shudder at the monstrosity this would create. I mean, our prison industrial complex is bad enough!

Could this result in the return of segregation? Few people remember that the Civil Rights Act is NOT a constitutional amendment. A future Supreme Court would have HUGE incentives to get rid of it, and so would a future congress.

Historically, racism and chattel slavery carried far fewer benefits for the slave owners than this would. Remember, there are still 30 million slaves in today's world? Would the world 20 years out have 3 billion slaves?

Midboss57 said...

And all the more reason not to want this sort of vampiric arrangement, think of the sort of people who would be prepared to have this sort of thing done to extend their lives.
We are talking about people sociopathic enough to literally suck the life out of young people, which, regardless of whatever rationalizing one can come up with, is sith lord level of villainy here. Having these people live even longer than they already do is not good in any way, even for those of us not having the life sucked out of us.
Fortunately, I am fairly optimistic that no 1st or second world society would ever be quite insane enough to make that process legal. This is one of the few times the crazy religious right would agree with the rest of the civilized world for once. Trying to make this legal would be political suicide.
However, what we should be concerned about is that organised crime is about to get a lucrative new business, find a new use other than slavery and prostitution for these desperate refugees. On a smaller scale, I expect we'll soon get stories of cult leaders pulling this stunt off with the children of their brainwashed members.

Laurent Weppe said...

"Fortunately, I am fairly optimistic that no 1st or second world society would ever be quite insane enough to make that process legal"

Unless our western democracies collapse and end up being replaced by fascistic corpocracies, in which case, such process may become similar to Voltaire's Droit du Seigneur: not technically legal, but happening in societies where the upper-class' impunity is so high that it boils down to the same.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Many people seem to have missed the significance of Sociotard's comment about the importance of transgenic pigs.

Pigs that are genetically engineered with a human immune system, plus just enough additional human tissue that the transgenic pigs could share circulation safely with humans, could be of great significance.

Humans sharing circulation with young transgenic pigs could possibly reverse the aging of humans. Of more immediate importance, though, would be the use of living transgenic pigs for hemodialysis in humans with kidney failure.

Today's machine dialysis is quite crude and imperfect. Biological kidneys would work much better, especially those of a living animal.

Dialysis using the kidneys of young living transgenic pigs could be a tremendous advance for those humans with end stage kidney failure, giving them a much longer and healthier life.

We need to stop dragging our feet on the genetic engineering front.

Jumper said...

I wouldn't mind a young liver and kidneys, etc., grown from my own stem cells and then replacing my older ones. Seems like the target, if we're going that direction.

Here's a fascinating look at transparency and the lack of it in the USA.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Sure, if it happens in utter, utter transparency, with very strong legal advice and public oversight, then a libertarian argument might be made. But establish those safeguards first.

To me, that's the trouble with many modern-era libertarian arguments. They like to presume that I am free to negotiate as an equal agent with the entities who own the means of my very survival. Never entering into the discussion is whether the means of survival of the species is rightly someone else's private property in the first place.

TCB said...

This parabiosis stuff works just about EXACTLY the way Norman Spinrad has it in his great novel Bug Jack Barron.

And the title character is like a premonition of Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh, but with a much better ethical system than the latter.

TCB said...

Edit: better not read that Wikipedia link about Bug Jack Barron too closely... it gives away the whole plot.

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tacitus2 said...

Congratulations on the graduation. It is a shared accomplishment.


Jumper said...
The plot's been done several times.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Dr. Brin, if you haven't heard this week's TED Radio Hour, I think there's some stuff you would like. I only caught the end of it. The subject was the Seven Deadly Sins, not something that usually gets my attention, but when I tuned in they were interviewing an epidemiologist who was treating violence as an epidemic. They never made use of the term /meme/ but you could see what they were getting at. The next speaker, on the subject of greed, was a tech industry millionaire who convinced Seattle to raise it's minimum wage to the highest in the nation under the auspices of a virtuous cycle, contra the Ebenezer Scrooge approach of zero-sum business thinking. Here's the url. I can't vouch for the rest, as I haven't had time to listen.

Hi Ioan, good to see you're still with us. You bring up a great point about slavery. For most people slavery seems like such a foreign institution it could never come back, but I'm not so sure. Given how much money people owe to credit cards, I'm sure the banks would rather have a skilled but unpaid labor force than a whole lot of people in bankruptcy. It just takes enough pro-business (corrupt) politicians at the same time to make it happen. They won't call it slavery, and it will be what slavery was through much of history - not a racial thing but a matter of debt.

More later.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Laurent, you said "Unless our western democracies collapse and end up being replaced by fascistic corpocracies, in which case, such process may become similar to Voltaire's Droit du Seigneur: not technically legal, but happening in societies where the upper-class' impunity is so high that it boils down to the same."
We're getting there already, without our governments collapsing, they are simply being corrupted by the major players in the money game - the international corporations.

Jerry, I completely agree that genetic engineering is something that needs much more work, as well as much more scrutiny. Most people seem to be terrified of it, yet in decades of it there has yet to be a Frankenstein's monster or Island of Doctor Morreau. Few realise how many people are alive today because of medicines manufactured by transgenic bacteria, or how many would starve because the human population has once again exceeded the carrying capacity without advances in technology.

However, I suspect that the pig thing will not go down so easily, not for another generation or so, at least. One of the largest religious traditions in the world considers pigs to be categorically unclean, and the one of its three branches that has no problem eating pigs still tends to not think of them very highly except on pizza. Humans have had pig hearts transplanted into them, but huge numbers of people resist such things pretty strenuously.

John's Secret Identity™ said...

I'm afraid my arms would be a bit too hairy for that bracelet to work well for me.

Years ago, though, I used to imagine using my flip-phone as a mouse while it projected a display on the wall in front of me and a keyboard on the desk or table.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"I'm afraid my arms would be a bit too hairy for that bracelet to work well for me."

Me too!
You would be able to tell the men who owned those by the shaved forarms

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Long sleeves in plain, light colors. Tells you something about the t-levels of the techies who came up with it. I'm assuming they'll make it in other colors besides that ugly orange.

SteveO said...

For you hairy-armed guys (and gals?)...use the underside of your arm, not the hairy side. Sheesh! ;-)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Steve
I was assuming I would use the underside
I will still need to shave it!

Paul451 said...

You misunderstand, when we say "hairy", we mean hairy.

There's two inches behind my wrist, and from my elbow under my upper-arm. That's it.

Hell, add the palms of my hands, the bottoms of my feet, a few patches on my upper face, most of my ears, maybe a one inch wide band around the front of my neck. And my penis.

All the rest is hair.

Oh, except a small patch at the very top/back, of my skull. {sigh}

Evolution? Never a doubt.

Tacitus2 said...

In the interests of staying mentally flexible I regularly visit sites that are a little to either side of me politically.

A non political post from an outfit that most of you would argue with in politics but agree that we should not mess with the Monoliths!


Alfred Differ said...

The trick with the transgenic pigs is probably going to be difficult to scale-up for all the ways some of us suffer kidney damage. Mine comes as a consequence of an auto-immune disorder. I got a lot of functionality back after the cell slaughter that is modern chemo therapy, but I learned there is a lot of unknown territory when it comes to predicting what a human immune system will do. It struck me as almost as difficult as predicting what a human nervous system does.

I suspect the pig will have to be specially tailored for many, many of us or our own immune systems will kill it in short order.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

There are still many technical problems with transgenic pigs, but progress in genomics is moving with remarkable speed.

There is no reason, however, that a transgenic pig could not be made with the immune system, heart, liver and kidneys matched to a particular human individual's DNA. There is no reason to give a transgenic pig the DNA of a random generic human.

Research transgenic animals generally have random generic human DNA, but that is because they are not intended for treatment of a specific individual human.

Domestic pigs mature enough within about nine months of the time they are a fertilized ovum to be useful for either organ transplantation or dialysis. Disorders like kidney failure often come on faster than this, but mechanical dialysis could be used to keep the patient alive during the interim.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone tried painting realistic images of diving raptors on the blades of wind towers, to perhaps scare away smaller birds and establish territory to keep out other raptors, reducing bird kills?

Not sure what you'd do about bats - something with sound?

SteveO said...


Those blades move really fast. (IIRC 200 mph at the tips) Painting things on them is not likely to be effective. Not sure birds see things that way anyway.

Options for bats and birds do include sound deterrence:

Anonymous said...

SteveO -

Google "speed of a diving falcon"...

If a painting isn't enough, mount a realistic model on the end of the blade.

Jumper said...

For comparison and proportionality:

Alex Tolley said...

@Jumper - always good to put problems in perspective.

Cats are possibly even more deadly:

It is really irritating when the anti-renewables folks claim a small number of windmill or solar thermal power plants kill birds (the horror), when vast numbers are killed by other means, not to mention by hunters.

Laurent Weppe said...

"Cats are possibly even more deadly"

Cats are evil hellspawn whose existence is fully dedicated to making other living beings suffer as much as possible.

Alex Tolley said...

@Laurent - not a welcomer of our feline overlords, nor even a cat person. Or you simply haven't been infected by Toxoplasmosis. :)

Laurent Weppe said...

@ Alex Tolley

I'm actually allergic to the critters. It's gotten better now, but when I was a kid, sleeping in a room were a cat was days before could give me heavy asthma boots which drove me very close to death by suffocation.

Also, cats are clearly sociopathic bastards: fact.

David Brin said...

Sociopathic, yes. But I find they make a decent business deal, when you are prepared to enforce it. Cat will purr and lower your blood pressure and feign "love" for you, in return for insatiable fur-scratching. A fair deal. But the widespread hallucination that they actually LIKE us? Yeesh. Gullibility thy name is human.

Laurent Weppe said...

"I find they make a decent business deal, when you are prepared to enforce it"

I much prefer Dogs' deal: their genuine, scientifically proven love in exchange of ours.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

The difference between dogs and cats, is that dogs were domesticated at least 30,000 years ago, when our ancestors were still mainly hunters. Cats only became useful domesticates when we started transitioning to agriculture and needed help protecting stored foods from much smaller pests. I'm sure in another 10- or 20-thousand years cats will be just as codependent on humans as dogs are now. Or maybe we'll replace all life on Earth with nothing but our own fecundity and our new pets will be robots.

A.F. Rey said...

We won't need to resort to robots.

Rats make wonderful pets (albeit a bit messy).

And you know that they'll outlast us. :)

David Brin said...


Tony Fisk said...

Onwards, except...
Cats and dogs: I agree in general, but have met affectionate cats and sociopathic dogs.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re bird kill and wind power

Its not a big problem NOW
The early wind machines used lattice work towers
When the blades were stationary birds would perch on them
When it all started spinning they would be disorientated and fly into the blades

Modern wind machines are designed so that there is nowhere to perch
When its stationary - nowhere to perch
When its going - birds give it a wide berth

The present numbers are about the same as any building of the same size

Not so sure about bats