Thursday, December 31, 2020

Final 2020 note... Preliminary thoughts on the “Proxima Signal.” Will it be the 'final art' of an exhausting year?

Okay, one last, apropos topic for 2020… and you’ll see just how apropos, at the end. By now many of you have read or heard about the “Proxima Signal”-- which is at least a ‘candidate’ for a Technosignature of alien origin. I was told about this a while back, by some of the Breakthrough guys... and now it’s in the media, leading to many messages and queries. Hence I feel behooved to offer my own take on a potential radio ‘contact’ from Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to our solar system. 

Here’s how Scientific American opens a report on the topicIt’s never aliens—until it is. Today news leaked in the British newspaper the Guardian of a mysterious signal coming from the closest star to our own, Proxima Centauri, a star too dim to see from Earth with the naked eye that is nonetheless a cosmic stone’s throw away at just 4.2 light-years. Found this autumn in archival data gathered last year, the signal appears to emanate from the direction of our neighboring star and cannot yet be dismissed as Earth-based interference, raising the very faint prospect that it is a transmission from some form of advanced extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI)—a so-called “techno-signature.”

 

         == Okay, so what do we know? == 

 

First off, the Parkes radio telescope in Australia is one of only a few in the Southern Hemisphere large enough to deep-study the Alpha Centauri triple star system (which was also inspiration for Liu Cixin’s epic novel The Three Body Problem.) Those controlling the telescope at the time were members of the UC Berkeley-based Breakthrough Initiative,funded by philanthropist Yuri Milner. Indeed, the team soon began calling the signal by a formal name: BLC1, for “Breakthrough Listen Candidate 1.”

 

Some of what I relate here came from conversations with friends who are members of that team, plus press reports. Some details: 'The narrow beam of radio waves was picked up during 30 hours of observations by the Parkes telescope in Australia in April and May last year (2019), the Guardian understands. Analysis of the beam has been under way for some time and scientists have yet to identify a terrestrial culprit such as ground-based equipment or a passing satellite.'

 

The actual event in question occurred while the Parkes dish was taking in data about solar activity by Proxima itself, a class M5 red dwarf star of the UV Ceti type that is extremely flare-active, like most of its kind. 

 

Much in the news a few years ago was discovery of a “Goldilocks world” orbiting Proxima, one that’s nominally in the small star’s ‘habitable zone,’ (a distance that theoretically would allow temperatures permitting water to be liquid on it’s surface.) But any planet orbiting an M star in that range would also be near enough to get tidal-locked, so one side would bear continuous brunt of those flares, while the other, perpetually dark, side goes-ice.  Kinda rough on any life or civilization prospects, though there are sci fi scenarios… 

 

The Parkes machine has a telescope half power beamwidth of 20 arcmin.  There are tricks to get much narrower resolution, but the 2019 survey of Proxima was all about getting data about that small, red star’s savage flare activity, and recording lots of that data for later analysis, not necessarily to search for SETI hits. This will be important.

 

During this observing run, apparently the telescope automatically ‘nodded’ or shifted away from Proxima briefly, a standard precaution to ensure that any data stored was actually coming from the target system. Nodding apparently made the surge go away, before the telescope’s attention aimed back at Proxima, restoring the signal. That’s basic, proper procedure to eliminate most possible non-astronomical (human activity-sourced) causes. But how systematic the off-axis checks were, I don’t yet know. Meticulous, I hope, nodding in different directions, by different amounts. But perhaps not, since it was all automatic, at the time.

 

Alas, as far as I can tell, no alert was generated, or sent to other observatories, asking them to swing over and verify. So all we have is the Parkes recorded data.  

 

Mind you the 'signal' - while very powerful and very long -- about 2.5 hours – appeared to be unmodulated... meaning there's no 'message' ... at least as decipherable so far. Though see below for a reason why this may be “our fault.”


For perspective, while much higher than background, and lasting 2.5 hours, the signal was about one ten-thousandth the power imputed to the so-called WOW! detection of the 1970s.

 

But the trait of this detection that truly stands out is that it appears to have been monochromatic, or very narrow in its 980.2 Mhz spectrum. That – to me – is the most-striking thing. Plus the fact that this narrow spike also had a very slight frequency drift roughly commensurate with a Doppler shift arising from some kind of motion by the source with respect to Earth—an effect that could be due to the motion of our planet, or of a moving extraterrestrial source such as a transmitter on the surface of one of Proxima Centauri’s worlds. But the drift is the reverse of what one would naively expect for a signal originating from a world twirling around our sun’s nearest neighboring. “We would expect the signal to be going down in frequency like a trombone,” said one BL member. “What we see instead is like a slide whistle—the frequency goes up.”

 

But again, the top interesting trait is that the ‘signal’ is monochromatic, since that is consistent with the radio surge being a narrow beam

 – either focused by a huge dish or created as a maser/laser (see below) in order to travel through space as a pencil-thin column, rather than an isotropically radiated broadcast that diminishes by inverse square of the distance traveled. Such narrow beams could arise either naturally or artificially… though as we’ll see below, we’re entering territory that may favor the latter.


Oh, recall I mentioned that, when Breakthrough researchers later mined the stored data for analysis, they found no modulation of the microwave surge, and hence no sign of anything like a ‘signal’ or ‘message’? Well there’s a technical flaw preventing much in the way of conclusions to be drawn from this, since the Parkes scope was taking in data with a 
17 second integration time… which seems odd, given that Parkes is so big and Proxima so near. But then, I haven’t done radio astronomy since 1970, so I’ll not criticize. Except to say that such integration time could have smeared away almost any modulation that was originally in the beam.

 

 

== So what’s going on? ==


We’ve been through drills like this before and it was never ‘aliens.’ If the past is any guide, more likely it was either:

 

1. Human-tech interference – although there are no satellite or defense or commercial activities known to be radiating in that band, literature searches have found one or two human-techs that resonate at that 980.2Mhz frequency, including one having to do with doped fiber optics. Attention is zooming on those possibilities.

 

2. A natural coherent (narrowly collimated) source. Such things exist! MASERs (microwave lasers) have been detected before in some stellar and planetary atmospheres, resulting from population inversions of excited mediums… though we know of none that would have any of the observed traits of BLC1, including its very great brightness.

Generally, unless it's something exotic, you need some suitable energy level structure in order to get a laser or a maser, and in nature, these energy structures are pretty orderly, with most of them well-mapped already. Here is a compilation of maser frequencies that can be produced ‘naturally’ by elements that might occur in a stellar or planetary atmosphere or intervening molecular cloud. It is an old list but most such potential natural masers were pretty well known by then.  And notably there’s nothing at 980 megahertz. 

3. Artificial masers face no such limitations! Make the right kind of cavity resonators – maybe focused further by a huge dish -- and your civilization can tune a discrete, narrow, powerfully coherent beam to almost any frequency. And hence, if the source of this ‘signal’ is truly shown to be a collimated maser, then chalk one on the ‘aliens’ side of the ledger.

 

So possibility #3 is an artificial coherent source, perhaps aimed at us for communication, but other possibilities include a propulsion beam that’s driving a sail, propelling something... well... exactly toward us. (See this portrayed in my novel EXISTENCE which is all about this very possibility.)

 

4. A very strong non-coherent source, likely natural and pretty enormous. Though you’d still need some kind of intervening filter effect to get the arriving signal so monochromatic.

5. A deliberate hoax. This possibility is favored by science fiction author Charles Stross. "Hackers prank radio astronomers by injecting fake signal into the datastream. (It's been overdue for ages and probably all it takes is a former grad student with a grudge against their professor. I mean, most lab/observatory IT infrastructure isn't exactly secured to defense department spec, and look at the ongoing fallout from the SolarWinds hack ...)"

 

Indeed, the possibility of a mistake or a stunt remains... though this event (it happened in 2019) certainly prompts curiosity. The off-axis checks – if done right – and the long 2.5 hour duration of the phenomenon argue against an object radiating at us in space, coincidentally near line of sight to Proxima. But a software insertion to the data stream is something that can’t be ruled out. In fact, for years I have predicted that someone, some time, would fake some kind of SETI hit. Because… well… assholes.

 

Yes, the fact that this is year-old data that’s being mined adds to the hack scenario's plausibility, though such meddling should eventually be detectable. In fact, one of the slides in my standard "future talk" has been to predict that GPT-3 based AI emulators would soon be used to pull stunts – 

 

    - perhaps an emotional appeal by a pretend "slave AI," weeping and demanding our empathy (and cash), 

 

    - or else a faked alien "contact" (as portrayed in EXISTENCE.)    

 

6. And let’s round out a half dozen categories with… possibility #6: that it's a signal for Trump-Putin to engage in 'Phase Nine.'


There are other possibilities, but those six top my list.

 

== Extrapolations ==


Until I hear from the world expert on this – Jim Benford – it seems to me that 980.2 MHz is a very odd frequency for anyone to use in a propulsion system, so I'm leaning against it. Which is fine by me, since any such propulsion beam would be pushing something toward only one target... us. 

 

Whatever the actual reality of this event - and I give odds against it being aliens - I suppose this means:

1- Every nut in the South with an old satellite dish will be aiming every kind of antenna toward there, shouting yoohoo, while ignoring the fact that this is exactly where that precise mistake was made, in Liu Cixin's famous warning novel The Three Body Problem... and...

 

2- …there will be some adult astronomers aiming at least some kind of professional dish at Proxima Centauri pretty much permanently, from now on. Round the clock. Fine by me.

 

 Actually though, as I said, I am rooting against this being 'the real deal'. In my profession – the one that pays the bills, at least - we know far more ways for First Contact to go badly, than well.  

 

Heck, even in a best case scenario, I'd rather humanity had the pride of fixing ourselves, than giving credit to outsiders. (And that's at-best.)

 

======

 

Final thought. I've long held that the greatest art works transform human souls and hearts without persuasion or argument. I’d almost call that a definition of a great work of art.

 

    By that measure, inarguably, the greatest artworks of the 20th Century were the Mushroom Cloud, which altered age-old human attitudes toward war, and the Christmas 1968 Apollo 8 pictures of Earth as a fragile blue oasis, stirring millions to see a duty – and self-interest – in saving the planet. 


I've long held that a third image of similar "art" redolence – again produced by science - might be the confirmed, modulated signal on a SETI screen, perhaps less visually stunning but with similar cosmic import. 

 

Here’s a gif of what such an image might look like, generated by my friend and renowned radio astronomer Dr. Tom Kuiper, as technical advisor for a film:


 If this event is the real deal (and again, I’d rather it were not) how weird that it happens right on schedule, near the end of another 1968-level year. And hence the timing of this posting, as we finish wearying 2020, when it seemed that all the ills of the world had been unleashed to vex us all… well, don’t we badly need that glimmer of hope, at the bottom of Pandora’s Box?

 

Well, I guess we'll persevere! We must. 


Would it be in poor taste to say "stay tuned"?

 

 

78 comments:

Lorraine said...

980.2 MHz is 4 cents above B♭25.

Keith Halperin said...

Thanks for the comment last post, Dr. Brin.
I'm NOT an astronomer (headed that way once, but that's another story...),
so I don't know what I'm talking about.
Nevertheless: instead of a stellar maser, how about a planetary atmospheric maser like Mars has, which is much more intense than the Martian one due to Proxima b being a lot closer to its star than Mars is and the atmosphere POSSIBLY being much thicker (even if periodically getting blasted by stellar flares) and of different composition. Jest thinkin'....

Happy 2021 to You and Yours

Tim H. said...

Proxima could be an inviting system for a culture that'd mastered living off planet, but if someone's in possession of developed off-planet resources, why advertise? One hopes it wasn't a distress beacon, especially this close.

David Brin said...

Alfred: "For example, Tolkien's humans weren't humans like us."

In completing Isaac's Foundation universe I could not reconcile his future history with human nature as we know it. He made clear that humanity was suffering a deep psychosis and changed nature. Symptoms included the CAVES agoraphobia, the Solarians... every trait. And the fact that no one had toppled robot rule in 26000 years. The result. What Bear and I called "Chaos."

And the plot of FT was about some of humanity finally getting immune. Gaia/Galaxia might have been a 'solution' for chaos'd humanity. Not for us. And not for those resuming human nature.

Lorraine said...

Were Tolkien's oliphaunts elephants like ours?

Doug from Pittsburgh said...

The gifted and cursed Mule is still a relevant character to consider: a parody of a self loathing demagogue, or perhaps a metaphor for a hypnotizing technology like Television (in Asimov day), or our Telephones now. Either way a pied piper of sorts.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

In completing Isaac's Foundation universe I could not reconcile his future history with human nature as we know it. He made clear that humanity was suffering a deep psychosis and changed nature. Symptoms included the CAVES agoraphobia, the Solarians... every trait. And the fact that no one had toppled robot rule in 26000 years.


In my humble opinion, that's not a consequence of the Foundation series itself, but of Asimov's (misguided) attempt to combine that series with the robot stories.

In any case, I know it's still 2020 in California, but Happy New Year from Chicago.

Alfred Differ said...

David,

When I first read Asimov's Solarians I treated them as non-human because they were so different. Obviously related, of course, but utterly insane. With that choice, I could see the rest as speculation that made some sense.

I read that material long enough ago to forget details, but your novel brought it back quickly... with a shudder at the insanity. My older self had seen more craziness, so they didn't seem so inhuman anymore.

'Chaos' struck me like 'nuclear war' plot additions that explain long time gaps where we don't advance or decide to take a radically new course. I'm not convinced nuclear war would actually do that anymore unless it is VERY thorough at killing us. I get why y'all had to add it, but the robot builders were totally nutso to begin. You'd think all the robots would notice. 8)

Yah. I know. Some did. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

What are the chances Proxima B could have a moon large enough to prevent tidal locking with the star?

Daniel Duffy said...

Lorraine:

They were probably more like woolly mammoths. See this picture comparing wooly mammoths with modern elephants and an Apatosaurus.

http://i1243.photobucket.com/albums/gg548/brolyeuphyfusion/apatosaurus_mammoth_comparison.png

Daniel Duffy said...

Lorraine:

They were probably more like woolly mammoths. See this picture comparing wooly mammoths with modern elephants and an Apatosaurus.

http://i1243.photobucket.com/albums/gg548/brolyeuphyfusion/apatosaurus_mammoth_comparison.png

Der Oger said...

IF it was an artificially signal, let's ponder some options:

a) It is a bait. Like in "Three Bodys", we might get into trouble if we answer.
b) It is an intergalactic "Hello". They are just as curious as we are. Perhaps they lack the caution we currently might discuss.
c) It is a test. They want to know if we can actually reproduce the signal, so that they know that we are a technologically more advanced species than, say, microbes or neanderthals.
d) It is an intergalactic SOS, distress call, or "Signal GK".
e) It was an accident of some kind, and the signal was not intended.
f) One of the above, but not a species, but a probe or research vessel ... and they might arrive in the Sol system anyway, if we answer or not.
g) It is a signal to aliens already in the Sol system, or on Earth.
h) It is a riddle or task we have to solve, and once done, we are presented with the next one.

IF it is a deliberately send message, the fact that is unmodulated might give clues to the cultural traits of this species. Perhaps they lack arts and culture in a way we perceive it, or the simplicity of the signal (and the simplicity of things in general) is something valued highly. Or they have had doubts about sending it, and leaving it unmodulated (and thus not giving away information to a potentially dangerous listener). Perhaps they don't communicate more than is necessary.

While I won't rule out the inherent dangers of making ourselves known to a possibly less benign universe, I'd assume that any hypothetical alien species capable of spacefaring would be on at least our level in identifying habitable worlds - if not vastly more so. A few hundred years head start in developing telescopes and sensors and whatnot might be enough. I would be more surprised that, if these species exist, they did not already assume our presence. That they did not happen to be hostile might either be a sign of their general disinterest or benevolence; maybe they operate under some form of "Prime Directive". (Or it could be that they are hostile, but lack the technology to overcome the distance between us.)

Robert said...

Were Tolkien's oliphaunts elephants like ours?

That's what I assumed, from reading Lord of the Rings. The movie version wasn't like what was in my head.

Same with orcs. Tolkien's orcs were close enough to 'men' that a half-orc could pass as a man. That doesn't jive with the monsters in the movies.

Larry Hart said...

Sad but true. If there was a World War today with Germany and Japan on one side and the US, Britain, and Russia on the other, I'd be hard pressed to know who to root for.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/01/opinion/britain-brexit-europe-germany.html

...
Fearful of losing my connection with the continent and alarmed by the direction in which Britain appeared to be heading, I took a decision I never dreamed I would even consider: I applied for German citizenship. As the grandson of refugees who lost their citizenship for racial or religious reasons, I was allowed to do so by the postwar German constitution.

I didn’t take the decision lightly. I can never forget what happened to my family; my great-aunt perished in Auschwitz and several other cousins died in the Holocaust. But I can also recognize how much Germany has changed and the lengths to which it has gone to atone for the atrocities of the Third Reich.

Indeed, roles have been reversed in some ways: Today, it is Germany that opens its door to refugees and whose chancellor, Angela Merkel, is outspoken in defense of global values and embodies decency and respect. By contrast, the Britain that sheltered and nurtured my family is a sad shadow of its former self
...

Larry Hart said...

Remember all those admonitions to Democrats that "It's not enough to be against something. You have to be for something."? I dunno, "against something" seems to work fine for Republicans.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/31/us/politics/georgia-senate-election.html

...
But the race is also emblematic of each party’s current political messages. Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the Democratic Senate candidates, have put forth an array of policy proposals that blend the shared priorities of the moderate center and the progressive left: passing a new Voting Rights Act, expanding Medicaid without backing a single payer system, investment in clean energy while stopping short of the Green New Deal, and criminal justice reform that does not include defunding the police.

Republicans are seeking no such calibration. Mr. Perdue, who announced on Thursday that he would quarantine after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive for the coronavirus, and Ms. Loeffler are banking that their loyalists are motivated more by what their candidates stand against than by what they stand for.

There are signs that this approach has resonated with many Republican voters. At Ms. Loeffler’s event in Norcross, and later at a New Year’s Eve concert in Gainesville, voters said their top priorities were supporting Mr. Trump and his allegations of voter fraud and beating back the perceived excesses of liberals and their candidates.

“The biggest factor for me is stopping socialism,” said Melinda Weeks, a 62-year-old voter who lives in Gwinnett County. “I don’t want to see our country become the Chinese Communist Party.”
...

Larry Hart said...

Doug From Pittsburgh:

The gifted and cursed Mule is still a relevant character to consider: a parody of a self loathing demagogue, or perhaps a metaphor for a hypnotizing technology like Television (in Asimov day), or our Telephones now. Either way a pied piper of sorts.


I've been saying for years now that Donald Trump having Mule powers explains a lot that no other theory does.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

e) It was an accident of some kind, and the signal was not intended.


Spock accidentally activating a signal the Romulans can detect during the radio silence in "Balance of Terror"

Lorraine said...

Dunno, Daniel Duffy.

Consider this:

Oliphaunts lived in the jungles of Far Harad, far to the south of any known maps of Middle-earth, where the Haradrim called them Mûmakil. Massive, often ferocious beasts, their legs were like trees, their bodies were larger than a house, they had enormous sail-like ears, and they had a long snout like a huge serpent.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Dr. Brin re: Foundation's humans:
I wouldn't describe the “Cave of Steelers” (or is it “Cavers of Steel”?), the Solarians, or the 1-2E16 Imperial subjects as psychotic. First of all from what I've read, Dr. Asimov was agoraphobic and likely to have been on the Autistic spectrum. Along such lines, I'd previously mentioned that while I'm probably OTS (“On The Spectrum”) and quite gregarious, I can imagine that many of my fellow auties would find a Solarian-type of existence quite pleasant. Furthermore, ISTM that the whole “Humans are too curious and will want to change things, so we robots need to do lots of things like 'brain fever' and planetary mentalic suppressors to stop that.” doesn't accurately portray how most people and societies have operated throughout (pre) history. IMHO, people are born curious, which varies within a wide range as other mental and physical characteristics. However from my experience, most people lose much of this for various reasons: it's discouraged, it's not relevant, they just grow older, etc. As you've pointed out, post-Enlightenment Western Civilization is one of the rare times where this is even given the lip-service that curiosity and change are good things. I believe that assuming the world is able to avoid/minimize the “Slowpocalypse,” the pace of change will slow down considerably from the way it has for the past 150 years or so, if only because we will have gathered much of the “low-hanging fruit” of easily-obtainable /realizable experimentation and technical development, i.e., there will still be many things which would be POSSIBLE to learn/do, but would remain UNFEASIBLE (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_(particle_physics). As I've previously mentioned, I wonder if we may have already reached this slow-down in the Western artistic/cultural realm...

At any rate, I don't think it would be hard to set up a stable society which lasts for millennia without biological warfare or mentalics (like the Egyptians did) and you could even encourage creativity (as with the 87-approved styles of the Eccentric Order). I guess it comes down to discussing:
1) If curiosity, creativity, and the desire for novelty are means toward individual and societal flourishing or are desirable ends in themselves and
2) Are they limited or limitless in humans?
I dunno....

@ Everybody: re: Oliphaunts:
Like this- https://www.google.com/search?q=SNUFFALUFFAGUS&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjzo8qDvPvtAhVLmVkKHWTJBJUQ_AUoAXoECA0QAw&biw=970&bih=418#imgrc=dGhzZecIi_Bq9M or like this- https://www.google.com/search?q=timothy+olyphant&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwjTypCJvPvtAhWCYDUKHV5iBcgQ2-cCegQIABAA&oq=timothy+olyphant&gs_lcp=CgNpbWcQAzIICAAQsQMQgwEyCAgAELEDEIMBMgUIABCxAzIICAAQsQMQgwEyBQgAELEDMgIIADICCAAyBQgAELEDMgIIADICCABQuI4JWNizCWC6tQloAHAAeACAAa0BiAGHEpIBBDAuMTaYAQCgAQGqAQtnd3Mtd2l6LWltZ7ABAMABAQ&sclient=img&ei=BXjvX5O0J4LB1QHexJXADA&bih=418&biw=970#imgrc=mBAMYay6a9FSGM ?

Keith Halperin said...


@ Everybody: re: Proxima aliens:
Doubt it's aliens- remember the “angels or apes” scenario? Aliens are likely to be way ahead/behind of us.

Got a question I haven't been able to learn from the SETI folks so far-
If there were an alien civilization just like us (Type 0.7 Kardashev), how far could WE be detected if they'd been doing exactly what we've been doing for SETI over the past 60 years? (I vaguely remember reading that: forget about our friends on Luyten b starting to watch Season 4 of Battlestar Galactica- the interstellar medium absorbs our RF transmissions in a fraction of a light year, or something.)

@ Alfred re: “Peanut Butter” (Proxima b → P B → “Peanut Butter”)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proxima_Centauri_b :
Peanut Butter's year is 11.18 d long, and it's orbital eccentricity (e) is .124. If the old rule of rotation period of tidally-locked worlds (like Mercury) holds (1-e)/(1+e) x year, then Peanut Butter's rotation period = .876/1.24 x 11.18 = 8.71 d. (I don't know if the “sol” is 2 x year, like Mercury's.)

Being only 0.05 AU from Proxima, Peanut Butter is unlikely to have a large moon, but being tidally-locked, I'd GUESS it has little axial tilt and which is unlikely to be wobbly (as would be the case if it were at a more Terran distance and didn't have a big moon).

Erika said...

corresponds to a minor 7th in key of C using just intonation? (+3.9 cents from standard Bb in key of C)

Larry Hart said...

Keith Halperin:

I'd previously mentioned that while I'm probably OTS (“On The Spectrum”) and quite gregarious, I can imagine that many of my fellow auties would find a Solarian-type of existence quite pleasant.


COVID-19 is giving us a real-life, real-time experiment in just this very thing. I've already noted that my own preference to be alone except for a few very specific exceptions has allowed me to endure the pandemic restrictions much better than many of my fellow citizens can.

Tangentially, to the group as a whole--I think it's a mistake to perceive every sci-fi story set in the future as an attempt at an accurate prediction of where our real-life society will be in x number of centuries, and to judge them on that basis. IIRC, Caves of Steel was written specifically to challenge Joseph Campbell's assertion that one could not write a murder mystery that took place in a sci-fi setting, because the technology would inevitably be a cheat. Also, IIRC, The Naked Sun came about because the Elijah Baley/R Daneel Olivaw pair was popular enough to warrant a sequel. In looking not to repeat himself, it seems natural for Asimov to have imagined a setting opposite to that which he already used--an abundance of open space per human instead of humans crammed together in a megalopolis.

In either case, the basis for judging the story is how well the plot and the characterization proceeds from the premise. The likelihood of the premise itself is not the point any more than it is in a work like Kafka's Metamorphosis in which the protagonist's transformation into a bug is never even treated as if it requires an explanation.

All sorts of plausibility problems arise in Asimov's "continuity", but only because the very attempt to retcon the robot series as being the backstory of the Foundation novels is misguided from the start. The original stories were not written in such a way as to do that. And while one could try to write a story establishing a consistency between, say, the settings of Earth and Existence the result would be a kind of reverse alchemy, turning gold into lead*.

* Metaphor courtesy of Dave Sim

Der Oger said...

@Larry Hart: What I don't understand is, why, though all signs point to it, the Democrats refuse to name the true danger to democracy in the US - fascism, not socialism. Why they even refuse to call them Nazis even if they march around with swastikas. That puzzles me.

TMEubanks said...

TCAN DME in Australia uses 982 MHz as a beacon frequency, but not at Parkes Airport. This paper on the Parkes ultra-wide band receiver - https://arxiv.org/abs/1911.00656 - says

"Parkes [Airport] has a Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) beacon transmitting at 1018 MHz with corresponding airborne beacons interrogating on 1081 MHz; both are strong signals in the UWL spectrum."

Putting these together, I strongly suspect that the BC1 is a DME signal, either a misconfiguration at Parkes airport, or a reflection of this signal from another airport, maybe 100+ km away, maybe (in either case) involving a direction dependent sidelobe or multipath.

On the other hand, suppose this is a narrow band signal from Proxima. Using the paper above, I calculate that at 4.24 lyr the EIRP required at 982 MHz to provide an SNR of 10 with a 300 second integration time is 6.3 x 10^9 W assuming a signal bandwidth of 31.25 kHz (the spectral line bandwidth they use). Assuming Parkes for a source, and assuming the signal is beamed right at the Solar System, the beamed power needed is only ~14.5 kWatts. If the integration time is set to 1 second and the bandwidth 1 Hz then the power needed is reduced by roughly an order of magnitude. That is not a tremendous amount of power for, say, a radar.

Alfred Differ said...

My son is 'well onto the spectrum' with a mod-to-severe diagnosis of many, many years. He's 21 now, grown to full size, and his adult personality is obviously settling in.

No. The Solarians were something different.

My son is VERY challenged when needing to interpret the people around him, thus inclined to avoid the eye contact that triggers 'social modeling'. He also avoids certain sounds like babies crying/screaming even when they aren't loud for what I suspect is the same exact reason. Sensory input is fed immediately to his perception model of us. For him it is painful… and frustrating… AND automatic.

It is the frustrating part that points to why his situation is not like the Solarians. He WANTS to be able to understand… but can't… and he knows it. I can see it in his eyes. If any of us faced an unavoidable beating every time we tried correctly to interpret a particular person in our lives, we'd probably learn to avoid that person. No encounter… no pain. That's what he does. [No. I'm not beating him. Something is though.]

To make matters worse, he DOES want some forms of contact. He will walk among people without hesitation, but talks to himself which ensures they won't try much to make contact with him. They look, interpret quickly, nod, then move on. Eye contact is extremely brief IF he happens to be looking up at them.

That's not the Solarian insanity. They couldn't stand each other even being close. Revulsion at even the idea of it. That's more like germ phobia in extreme. Howard Hughes ^ 100.


Our autistic kids are quite a bit more human. Much more. Broken in an important, frustrating way… but very human.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

In either case, the basis for judging the story is how well the plot and the characterization proceeds from the premise.

Plenty good enough for me. Fans may clamor for 'more stories like X', but that doesn't mean our appetites should be satiated. 8)

We'll just write them ourselves as fanfic. Right? Best we make the lead.

duncan cairncross said...

Have you guys seen this

https://teslamotorsclub.com/tmc/threads/falcon-super-heavy-starship-general-development-discussion.101390/page-57

Elon:
"We’re going to try to catch the Super Heavy Booster with the launch tower arm, using the grid fins to take the load"

"Saves the mass and cost of the legs"

With anybody else that would be somebody pulling our chain - with Elon Musk ????

Paul Scott Anderson said...

Regarding a lack of notice sent to other observatories, the detection was made in April/May 2019 but was not noticed in the data until late October 2020.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/alien-hunters-discover-mysterious-signal-from-proxima-centauri

"Using Parkes, the astronomers had observed the star for 26 hours as part of their stellar-flare study, but, as is routine within the Breakthrough Listen project, they also flagged the resulting data for a later look to seek out any candidate SETI signals. The task fell to a young intern in Siemion’s SETI program at Berkeley, Shane Smith, who is also an undergraduate student at Hillsdale College. Smith began sifting through the data in June of this year, but it was not until late October that he stumbled upon the curious narrowband emission, needle-sharp at 982.002 megahertz, hidden in plain view in the Proxima Centauri observations."

Robert said...

“The biggest factor for me is stopping socialism,” said Melinda Weeks, a 62-year-old voter who lives in Gwinnett County. “I don’t want to see our country become the Chinese Communist Party.”

No danger of that — the Republicans are nowhere near competent enough to survive in the Chinese Communist Party.

(In some cases, literally. Unlike America, which mostly executes poor Black men, the Chinese aren't above executing corrupt and/or incompetent officials. Gaetz and those others would be risking more than their political careers screwing around with a pandemic going on.)

David Brin said...

Elon:
"We’re going to try to catch the Super Heavy Booster with the launch tower arm, using the grid fins to take the load"

Isn’t that exactly what I said, a while back?

Paul Scott Anderson said...
Regarding a lack of notice sent to other observatories, the detection was made in April/May 2019 but was not noticed in the data until late October 2020.”

Yes, but it’s a flawed system, especially by a SETI group, not to have real time sniffer algorithms issue alerts automatically when the raw data contains certain traits.


Thanks TME though is that a collimated/coherent transmission or omnidirectional? The latter seems unlikely at that power level.

Alfred Differ said...

Peanut Butter. I like it.
If it is discovered to have a large moon, we will HAVE to give it a name starting with J. 8)

PB's orbital eccentricity is not known well enough to exclude resonance ratios 1:1, 3:2, and 2:1. The last one is at the edge of likely, but possible.

PB's mass is high enough to hold onto a large-ish moon for quite some time?

R(soi) ~ sma * (mass ratio) ^ 2/5
PB's mass ratio is about 1/35,000
PB's sma is about 0.05AU's. (7.4 million km)
So… sphere of influence radius is 113,000 km.
Best guess for PB radius is 1.18 Earth, so SOI is 15x PB's radius. Pretty small.
Any largish moon in that range is likely to be locked hard. If the moon is a large fraction of PB's mass, so will PB be.

———
(exclude other perturbers)
Proxima's orbit period around its binary companions is about 550KY.
Orbit eccentricity is around 0.5 leaving it about 4000 AU away at closest approach.
No real danger of disruption from them. 4000 AU relative to PB's 0.05AU orbit size make the other stars insignificant.

Any danger would come from the gas dwarf Pc at 1.5AU with mass ration ~1/6000.
…with a SOI near 6.87 million km… which is about 1/8 of Saturn's SOI, but no where near large enough to mess with PB.
Worse yet, Pc is known to be in a highly inclined orbit. ~133 degrees. It spends a lot of its time far from PB.

———
Chances of a 1:1 or 3:2 resonance between PB and its star seem high, but I don't think we can dismiss the low probability of having a moderately large moon that would prevent that.

1:1 case |
If the resonance were to orbital period around the PB/moon barycenter, how close would a moon be to PB to get an 11.18d orbit? About 30x PB's radius. Too far out of its SOI to be stable. Good thing. A 1:1 resonance for the hypothetical moon would amplify perturbations raising the orbit.

3:2 case |
How close would a moon be to PB to get a 7.45 d orbit?
sma^3 ~ period ^2 thus sma ratio runs as period ratio ^2/3 ~0.763 in this case.
thus new sma is 0.763 old sma or 22.9 radius of PB. Too far out of its SOI to be stable. Good thing. This resonance would likely amplify perturbations increasing the hypothetical moon's eccentricity.

moon at edge of SOI case |
Work it backwards to find period of a moon just within PB's SOI.
sma ratio ^(3/2) ~ Period ratio
(15/30) ^3/2 is .354 making the period about 3.95 days. This is the largest revolution period for a moon that might stay near PB if not resonant with Proxima. A lower orbit would be safer in terms of stability, but not all of them.

So… IF there is a largish moon, PB itself might have a rotation period under 4 days and have a side facing that moon that sees frequent eclipses. Tides too because it wouldn't be locked to Proxima.

Seems like a longshot, but I don't think it can easily be excluded right now.


Now… IF PB also has a magnetic field, there are possibilities for fun interactions between it and the flare plasma. I doubt they'd be monochromatic, though. Maybe 'burst-able' when Van Allen belt equivalents get smashed. Sure wouldn't want to be nearby.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

What I don't understand is, why, though all signs point to it, the Democrats refuse to name the true danger to democracy in the US - fascism, not socialism. Why they even refuse to call them Nazis even if they march around with swastikas. That puzzles me.


Several things.

One is that there is a generally accepted notion that comparing political opponents to Nazis is beyond the pale--that whoever does so has discredited themselves. It inevitably leads to pearl-clutching outrage that one would dare to demean the Holocaust, and to rhetorical outbursts like, "Are you accusing Trump/Bush/whoever of killing millions of people????! Of course, it's perfectly ok to insinuate that your opponents are like Stalin or Castro, but Hitler is right out.

A second thing is the grain of truth in the above. As fascistic as several Republicans have been, they have not made a practice of disappearing political opponents off to concentration camps. Trump has gone further than most in trying to usurp extralegal powers by way of an army of brownshirts--no Republican before him has done anything that blatant. So the comparison to actual Nazis always does seem a bit exaggerated.

Also, there does seem to be a tendency in my country to have a phobia about anything remotely leftist--to see anything that smells of socialism as an existential threat to "liberty", and therefore any excesses of the right-wing as necessary for survival, even if distasteful. I've noted here quite often that there seems to be an unspoken assumption that Republicans are the rightful authorities, and that electoral victories by Democrats are illegitimate on their face--that the Founding Fathers were wise enough to design steps into the system to insure that Republicans win. Cheating by Republicans is largely viewed as just one more way of making sure the outcome is "correct".

Finally, I would say that until very recently, Republicans tended to shun those extremists who waved Nazi flags (or KKK masks or Confederate flags), even while tacitly dog-whistling to such people that the party shares their values. Republicans like Bush or Reagan, as right-wing as they were, could not be credibly tarred as Nazis. Trump blurs the line much more than anyone before him.

David Brin said...

Interesting Alfred. I perceive the possibility that a moon would stay long in such a system very unlikely. But the idea of a magnetic field that then interacts with ejected stellar flar plasma is ... insteresting.

LH I despair that no democrat... not even AOC or Bernie... seems to have had the sense to use the MAGAs reverence for the Greatest Generation to validate FDR-styles of moderate "socialism."

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

When I first read Asimov's Solarians I treated them as non-human because they were so different. Obviously related, of course, but utterly insane.


At the very end of the two books in which Asimov originally returned to "Foundation" in the 1980s (Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth), Asimov himself made this very point. There were parts of the story when the characters expected to meet non-human aliens and discussed the difficulties such an encounter might present related to psychohistorical axioms. Then, in the final sentences of the last book, the narration pointed out that the Solarian who had been picked up with the group fit those characteristics as well.

What I have never reconciled to my own satisfaction is that that was essentially a cliffhanger that the series never returned to. Instead, it went back in time to a retcon of young Hari Seldon and never went back to the period later than the original Foundation trilogy.

Alfred Differ said...

Low probability. Agreed.
Probably near the order of magnitude as us having Luna beside us since there doesn't appear to be a Jovian in orbit around Proxima.

I've been rebuilding my orbit propagator code from back in the day when I was a sail zealot. The n-body problem is SO addictive. 8)

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

I despair that no democrat... not even AOC or Bernie... seems to have had the sense to use the MAGAs reverence for the Greatest Generation to validate FDR-styles of moderate "socialism."


America's reverence for that kind of liberalism evaporated during the Reagan years. We now revere the Greatest Generation only for winning a war. In the 60s and 70s, I understood that America valued avoiding both Scylla and Charybdis--fascism and communism. In the 80s, suddenly "American" meant anti-communist exclusively, and so the further right, the more "American". Recall UN ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick's assertion that we opposed "totalitarianism" but supported "authoritarianism".

David Brin said...

" Instead, it went back in time to a retcon of young Hari Seldon and never went back to the period later than the original Foundation trilogy."

Except that I - in Foundation's Triumph" prove beyond any doubt that the First Foundation and its new civilization WILL survive Gaia and at minimum thrive in parallel.

I think our lun is FAR more likely than a surviving moon in a 3 day orbit around a star.

: We now revere the Greatest Generation only for winning a war. "

not really. They romanticize the 1950s and they flee every time you try to zoom in.

Larry Hart said...

Breaking news tonight. Two wins for the good team...

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/01/us/politics/mike-pence-louie-gohmert-lawsuit.html

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit led by President Trump’s allies in Congress that aimed to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results of the election, dealing a blow to lawmakers’ last-ditch effort to challenge President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.


https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/01/us/politics/senate-override-trump-defense-bill.html

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Friday voted overwhelmingly to override President Trump’s veto of the annual military policy bill as most Republicans joined Democrats to rebuke Mr. Trump in the final days of his presidency.

The 81-to-13 vote was the first time lawmakers have overridden one of Mr. Trump’s vetoes. It reflected the sweeping popularity of a measure that authorized a pay raise for the nation’s military.

The margin surpassed the two-thirds majority needed to force enactment of the bill over Mr. Trump’s objections, and only seven Republicans voted to sustain the veto. The House passed the legislation on Monday in a similarly lopsided 322-to-87 vote that also mustered the two-thirds majority required.

Pachydermis2 said...

Just 4.2 light years...

Fun to speculate on how we could get a probe there with current and plausible near term technology. Let's set the parameters as "get there in 25 years and send back data".

How close are we to being technically able to do it? Of course the cost would be huge and the wisdom of it debatable. But what if you did pick up a signal and were able to establish that it was of alien origin? Let's hope its not the Centaurian equivalent of late night TV and we've stumbled across an infomercial or a B movie!

Pachydermis

scidata said...

I don't like Machine Learning (ML). As ML becomes the de facto AI, hope for a theory of mind fades and it seems less that we're training the machines and more that the machines are training us. People don't write algorithms any more. They instead just try to exploit the ones that are already out there for their own purposes, from silly to corrupt. Conspiracy media is one example. This is how you build an Idiocracy.

For similar reasons, I don't like the Second Foundation, Gaia, the Mule, immortal robots, Hogwarts, dragons, etc. They're all romanticist notions. The First Foundation is something we can actually build, starting from first principles, needing no pixie dust.

Paul Scott Anderson said...

David Brin said:

"Yes, but it’s a flawed system, especially by a SETI group, not to have real time sniffer algorithms issue alerts automatically when the raw data contains certain traits."

Good point. It could have been followed up immediately, and we might have known, or at least have been closer to knowing, the explanation by now.

Alfred Differ said...

HARPS is an amazing instrument. Radial velocity accuracy near 50cm/s.*
...and now ESPRESSO at about 10cm/s? Neat.
(Earth sized planets around sun-like stars near 1AU come into reach)
Yah. We are members of a civilization capable of this. 8)

*No wonder flare stars make for messy data.

Tony Fisk said...

Hmmm. *If* there is anyone at Proxima, we will probably hear from them again.
I'd say there's little additional risk in sending a "Hello? Did you say something?" Proxima way. From that distance, any advanced civilisation should have already noticed our presence, and sent us a noise abatement notice (or a spare Berserker)

Another possibility to an inhospitable tidal-locked world is a 'roofed' world where some enterprising fools have poked a hole in the ceiling to listen to the 'ear-ie silence'.*

'Phase 9', David?

* "...There! Great Scott! It's... tinnitus!?"

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Except that I - in Foundation's Triumph" prove beyond any doubt that the First Foundation and its new civilization WILL survive Gaia and at minimum thrive in parallel.


Your final portion of Foundation's Triumph does indeed get back on track. But it's kinda too late. What you prove is that the intervening stories couldn't actually have taken place the way they were presented, or else that they belong to an alternate history.

In any case, the never-resolved cliffhanger ending I object to isn't about Gaia, but about a Solarian viper in our midst.


They romanticize the 1950s and they flee every time you try to zoom in.


Ok, but what they seem to romanticize was that it was a time when women and minorities knew their place.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

At least there's this...


https://www.jamierubin.net/2009/07/14/if-you-are-planning-on-reading-isaac-asimovs-foundation-series/


...
And I would say that it is worth it to read the later books by Benford, Bear and Brin, if only because Brin’s conclusion at the end of Foundation’s Triumph is brilliant and makes it all worthwhile.

Barry Rice said...

David

Thanks for this summary. This will go into the list of background reading for my astrobiology class, in addition to your old (but still quite robust) article on The a Great Silence.

Barry

Daniel Duffy said...

I am now afraid that we will be looking back on 2020 as the last good year.

The Mutated Virus Is a Ticking Time Bomb
There is much we don’t know about the new COVID-19 variant—but everything we know so far suggests a huge danger.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/12/virus-mutation-catastrophe/617531/?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits&fbclid=IwAR1ro1T39VYAAkh3KXYypoaopv6QlOiEMukmt9Nq-b-k7Ww15RSsquMmWcc

Take a virus reproduction rate of about 1.1 and an infection fatality risk of 0.8 percent and imagine 10,000 active infections—a plausible scenario for many European cities, as Kucharski notes. As things stand, with those numbers, we’d expect 129 deaths in a month. If the fatality rate increased by 50 percent, that would lead to 193 deaths. In contrast, a 50 percent increase in transmissibility would lead to a whopping 978 deaths in just one month—assuming, in both scenarios, a six-day infection-generation time.

Daniel Duffy said...

The Americans who have been infected with the new, more infectious strain of COVID-19 have no history of travel. Is it possible for a virus to have identical mutations occur simultaneously on the other side of the globe?

And how many COVID-19 mutations are there now awaiting discovery?

Daniel Duffy said...

Pachydermis2: "Fun to speculate on how we could get a probe there with current and plausible near term technology."

No need to. Orbital telescopes using gravitational lensing will be able to distinguish lakes, rivers and mountains on worlds 100s of light years away:

Pachydermis2 said...

"No need to. Orbital telescopes using gravitational lensing will be able to distinguish lakes, rivers and mountains on worlds 100s of light years away"

Likely true and lots cheaper. But so much less fun.

"Is it possible for a virus to have identical mutations occur simultaneously on the other side of the globe?"

If actually identical and appearing at the same time, no. That suggests routes of transmission not impaired by current restrictions. I've been skeptical of "fomite" transmission, that is live virus persisting and being passed along by inanimate objects, but that would do it. There is still some air travel between the UK and the US and you could imagine a bottle from the Duty Free shop or some such being the modern day pump handle (see cholera). More likely though is careless flight personnel.

OTOH, these critters have relatively few buttons and whistles, only a handful of parts and receptors. I could see similar mutations happening, just not identical.

In contrast to earlier pandemics we have caught a bit of bad luck with this one. Mostly they mutate to less virulent forms. The history of this epidemic is going to be fascinating, if an honest account appears in our lifetimes....

Pachydermis

Robert said...

The Americans who have been infected with the new, more infectious strain of COVID-19 have no history of travel. Is it possible for a virus to have identical mutations occur simultaneously on the other side of the globe?

It is more likely that they were infected by someone who has travelled (or been in contact with someone who has travelled) but who hasn't been tested.

Borders are leaky. People lie in order to travel. Half the American population apparently doesn't think this is a problem. It's no surprise it's cropped up there. It's cropped up the same way in Canada, and we have tighter restrictions than you (although still woefully inadequate).

Oh, and to cheer you up, the recent mask-free protest in Vancouver was led by people wearing "Trump 2020" clothing. In Canada. It looks like your country is now exporting name-brand idiocy. Doesn't bode well for sanity at home.

Robert said...

There is much we don’t know about the new COVID-19 variant—but everything we know so far suggests a huge danger.

The vaccines may be another great danger, paradoxically. If they are functional rather than sterilizing, then we are looking at lots more mutations and asymptomatic spread, carried by a population of people who are immune to the effects but still carriers. Imagine a nation of Typhoid Mary's. We already have people who test positive but feel fine going out and mingling — now imagine that they believe they are personally safe from any bad effects. Do you think there's enough of a sense of civic community for people to keep wearing masks, social distancing etc when they believe they are safe?

Dennis M Davidson said...

Pachydermis2:

Spaceships to Nearby Stars:
Work is being done to answer that very question. Very exciting.
Our host, the Benfords, Freeman Dyson and many others spoke at the Starship Century Symposium in 2013 at UC San Diego. I was there, as were other astronomical artists.

starshipcentury com has more information.

Also, Paul Glister's centauri-dreams website has much info too. Includes articles about putting exoplanet telescopes in the far, far reaches of our solar system (500 AU) that might be able to resolve continent-size features on exoplanets 5 LY distant.

Larry Hart said...

Presented without further comment...

https://twitter.com/LLinWood/status/1345067881319587840

@LLinWood
[yes, it's THAT Lin Wood]
If Pence is arrested, @SecPompeo will save the election. Pence will be in jail awaiting trial for treason. He will face execution by firing squad. He is a coward & will sing like a bird & confess ALL.

David Brin said...

LH re that mad rant by Trumnp's Atty... including confusing Barr with Pompeo...

...There are levels to this, that become somewhat visible when you posit that the entire GOP is a mountain of BLACKMAIL. The favorite method of the KGB stretching back to the Czarist Okrahna. Pence would never have become VP without posing for a photo so the Putin cabal could keep him in line, as they hold DT with far, far more than Pee Tapes. How is this so hard to see as obvious, given the bizarre behavior of Graham, Collins, Rubio, Cruz and so many others? In that light, it's clear that this 'lawyer' is out of the loop and just spitballing a frantic threat. Putin knows he faces harsh times now and is cutting his losses... unless he's planning to unleash McVeigh-QAnon hell on us the next 2 weeks.

Either way, the Pence-gavel scenario for January 6 is so ludicrous that the real powers -- Putin, Murdoch, McConnell -- are turning their backs on it. At most using it to distract or attention. DON'T be distracted! The Pence gavel thing is nothing, zip.

Look elsewhere.

And again. Have Kamala take her oath at the Lincoln Memorial! Dang, it it so hard for Ron Klain and other Biden folks to see the insurance that provides? The win-win?

====

" Includes articles about putting exoplanet telescopes in the far, far reaches of our solar system (500 AU) that might be able to resolve continent-size features on exoplanets 5 LY distant."

Like maybe EXISTENCE?

===

DMD hi! I was at that conference, too.

==
LH thanks for the link re foundation. Nice to have my efforts noticed, now and then... ;-)

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LH re that mad rant by Trumnp's Atty... including confusing Barr with Pompeo...


I think he means that Pompeo would be appointed as the new VP after Mike Pence is arrested for treason. Either that, or that Pompeo's position as secretary of whatever he is puts him in line for "president of the Senate" if Pence is unavailable and Grassley demurs.


DON'T be distracted! The Pence gavel thing is nothing, zip.


I didn't post that tweet because I thought Pence would really be arrested for treason. I posted it because even with my incredibly-lowered expectations of how Republicans act now, I was a bit shocked to see a lawyer for the (so-called) president of the United States calling for his own Vice President--or even any Vice President--to be arrested and hanged for treason when the so-called treason amounts to "doing his job as described in the Constitution."

I know there are fanatical stormTrumpers who believe and accept all this crap, but is it possible that there are real conservatives out there who will remember this stuff and not just go back to "...but at least it's not Crooked Hillary"? Four years ago, candidate Trump asked rhetorically, "What do you have to lose?" He's spent the past four years showing us the answer.


... unless he's planning to unleash McVeigh-QAnon hell on us the next 2 weeks.


My brother, who lives in the "Alabama in the middle" part of Pennsylvania is afraid of just that scenario. Me, living in the safety of a Democratic metropolis in a blue state--I see the upside if that were to occur, because that would give us cover to treat them as terrorists. Because of that and because of my natural pessimism, I don't expect the Brownshirts to actually give us trouble/excuse to shoot them. I expect them to talk about it and then to act as they do when you try to get them to wager.

Larry Hart said...

Geez, what're they protesting Pelosi for?

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/pelosi-s-mcconnell-s-homes-vandalized-after-congress-fails-approve-n1252669

The homes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were vandalized days after Congress failed to approve a measure to increase coronavirus stimulus checks to $2,000.

Photos captured on Saturday showed the words "WERES MY MONEY" scrawled in white spray paint on the front door of McConnell's Louisville, Kentucky, home. “MITCH KILLS THE POOR" was written in red on a window.

Jon S. said...

They're protesting Pelosi in large part because news stories are framed as "Congress Squabbles Over Stimulus", not "McConnell Systematically Blocks Every Attempt To Vote On House's $2000 Stimulus Proposal".

Daniel Duffy said...

Is this the result of the new more infectious strain of Covid-19?

Results of infection rates per age in Basildon, Essex. (Darker is higher rates, age in left, date on bottom)

https://i.imgur.com/ipmeB0q.jpg

Der Oger said...

@Scidata: "For similar reasons, I don't like the Second Foundation, Gaia, the Mule, immortal robots, Hogwarts, dragons, etc. They're all romanticist notions. The First Foundation is something we can actually build, starting from first principles, needing no pixie dust."

The First foundation was all about the MINT fields of study. The "soft" sciences were disregarded by them, and this was the field the Second Foundation dominated. While I don't believe that the progress in these areas will lead to the development of paranormal powers, I could imagine that, if "sufficiently advanced", the techniques and methods used by these scholars would be considered to be "magic" in our times.

I was once trained in Motivational Interviewing (MI) and similar counseling techniques, and when I started to work with my clients using them, it produced different results. It almost felt like magic, from my perspective, when those clients started to make changes in their life or told me what led to their choices and current life situation even if they originally not intended to do so.

MI is no "magic", but a highly manipulative counseling technique. Miller and Rollnick included warnings and set moral principles against misuse (I have no doubts that HUMINT operatives are trained in some form of MI and disregard these limitations entirely), and they have created a pretty solid scientific base for their method.

Another example: The much bemoaned "Gender Studies" field contributes to the few political successes we have achieved in Afghanistan, somewhat loosening the grip of authoritarian patriarchy in this region.

Now, give these fields of study some additional decades and centuries to develop, and the results might be as astonishing to us as an interstellar space ship might be. Also, I can imagine, that these "soft" sciences might be the key to create an environment in which the "hard" sciences can flourish and fend of the darkness summoned by fact-haters and neo-feudal oligarchs.

Larry Hart said...

Jeez, as if we didn't already have enough to worry about...

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/02/us/politics/gop-senators-josh-hawley-election.html

...
The conundrum is especially acute for Mr. Pence, who as president of the Senate has the task of presiding over Wednesday’s proceedings and declaring Mr. Biden the winner, but has his own future political aspirations to consider as well. On Friday, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by House Republicans to pressure Mr. Pence to do otherwise, and instead unilaterally overturn the results.

But on Saturday evening, Marc Short, his chief of staff, issued a statement saying that Mr. Pence “shares the concerns of millions of Americans about voter fraud and irregularities in the last election.”

The vice president, the statement continued, “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on Jan. 6th.”
...

Larry Hart said...

If the congressional Republicans and Mike Pence somehow do pull off this ridiculous attempt to subvert the certified electoral vote, then I will claim retroactive justification that we non-Trumpists should never have accepted the result of the tainted 2016 election four years ago. Cooler heads at that time pointed out how refusing to recognize Trump's win as procedurally legitimate would lead to...well, something like what not doing so leads to in the present moment.

If, despite the grandstanding, Pence just does his job and Biden's victory is secure, then I will acknowledge that it was probably best we didn't initiate that rabbit hole last time. How's that for fair-minded?

David Brin said...

DD I just used that, thanks.

Der Oger, having seeing how easily soft studies depts are seized by cabals of dogmatists whose top priority is to prevent the existence of colleagues who might question dogma, I am skeptical... but happy to see the exceptions you cite and eager to hope that the improvements in pragmatic outcomes will turn those depts into centers of useful skill, rather than dogma.

Between Jn 6 and Jan 20, PENCE MUST MOVE OUT OT THE VP RESIDENCE at the US Naval Observatory, so it can be cleaned and so that Joe Biden can move in on January 20 after symbolically taking the White House. Not Kamala Harris. She has a house in DC and can stay there or at Blair House for a week. A week during which the White House is thoroughly fumigated, scrubbed, cleared of booby traps and doobies left in corners and crevices and air-ducts by the departing toddler.

scidata said...

@ Der Oger
Re: Soft Science

Point taken. AC Clarke nailed the relationship between technology and magic. Today's pixie dust may be tomorrow's lab equipment. What I was getting at is that First Foundation scaffolding (MINT auf Deutsch) is available to us now. Yes, even psychohistory (but algorithms, not formulae). I have nothing against the softer sciences, but alas they are more fertile fields for romanticists too. They seldom read Clarke, Asimov, Brin, et al.

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

They're protesting Pelosi in large part because news stories are framed as "Congress Squabbles Over Stimulus", not "McConnell Systematically Blocks Every Attempt To Vote On House's $2000 Stimulus Proposal".


It was a rhetorical question. :)

But looking further, the graffiti on Pelosi's garage seems to be a caricature of leftist demands: "I WANT EVERYTHING! 2K and RENT FORGIVENESS!" If I had to bet, I'd say it was left by right-wingers pretending to be leftists.


Dr Brin:

PENCE MUST MOVE OUT OT THE VP RESIDENCE at the US Naval Observatory, so it can be cleaned and so that Joe Biden can move in on January 20 after symbolically taking the White House. Not Kamala Harris. She has a house in DC and can stay there or at Blair House for a week.


Trump spent a lot of time at Trump Tower NY, Bedminster, and Mar-a-Lago. President W could often be found at his Texas ranch. Couldn't Biden simply stay in Delaware for the required White House fumigation? He's probably safer there than in Washington anyway.

scidata said...

The WH is beyond fumigation. To redeem its legacy, it should be a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, vaccination center, free literacy school, and food box distribution site for at least a year. With the media encouraged to be present and honest. Maybe even public fireside chats with time for questions. Biden is right - the soul of America must be restored, at least displayed.

Larry Hart said...

You know I'm no fan of any Republicans, but if Trump tries to pull this shit, Biden should pardon any such "criminal offenses" before the sun sets on Jan 20.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/03/us/politics/trump-raffensperger-call-georgia.html

...
“You should want to have an accurate election. And you’re a Republican,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Raffensperger, who replied that “we believe that we do have an accurate election.”

Mr. Trump responded: “No, no, no, you don’t, you don’t have, you don’t have, not even close. You guys, you’re off by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

Then the president suggested that Mr. Raffensperger could be prosecuted criminally.

“You know what they did and you’re not reporting it,” the president said. “You know, that’s a criminal — that’s a criminal offense. And you know, you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. That’s a big risk.”
...

Keith Halperin said...

Please excuse if there are duplications here:

@ Alfred & Everybody re: "Peanut Butter" (Proxima b)
The habitability of Proxima Centauri b
Part I https://www.aanda.org/articles/aa/pdf/2016/12/aa29576-16.pdf
Part II https://www.aanda.org/articles/aa/pdf/2016/12/aa29577-16.pdf

@Everybody & Dr. Brin re: Foundation:
re: Solarians: I agree that Fallom (a hermaphroditic, telekinetic person) is NOT like us.
re: Retcon: IMSM, in Foundation and Earth in 499 FE (26,066 CE), Earth is totally dead of life. However in Foundation's Triumph (written after) in 2 FE (24,569 CE), we have (perhaps) Frank Gallagher's (from Shameless) hard-up descendants living in what used to be Chicago, ~21k years after our friends planted the nuclear intensifiers that started making the Earth uninhabitable (3697 CE) and ~11k years after Joseph Schwartz and Pebble in the Sky (827 GE, 13,377 CE), where things seemed pretty similar (maybe worse) to Earth ~11k years later. Don't think radioactivity works that way- stays the same for 21k years, then gets much more intense within 500 years.

Meanwhile, I'm still hoping for additional works in the series:
For adults:
Foundation's Farrago- A complicated, lengthy mishmash of developments taking place 500-700 FE.
Fund the Foundation- Toward the end of the 1000 years, Galaxia is running out of money and has to run a galaxy-wide Kickstarter campaign after unsuccessfully attempting pledge drives via hyper-wave.
Foundation's Fiasco- what can I say?

For younger readers:
Find the Foundation- “Where's Waldo?” IN SPACE! (Actually, wasn't that pretty much the plot of Second Foundation?)
Foundation and Fun- Activity book for budding nerds

Cookbooks:
Feed the Foundation
Foundation's Flambe
10k Tasty Yeast Recipes from the Mycogen Sector

@ Scidata: re Machine Learning: “hope for a theory of mind fades and it seems less that we're training the machines and more that the machines are training us....”
This reminds me about something I heard years ago, social networks:
“Having computer scientists design a theory-of-mind-based AI is like asking for devout Mormons to be great baristas.”.

@ Daniel Duffy re: Future Space Telescopes to view habitable exo-planets:
https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/habex/pdf/HabEx-Final-Report-Public-Release-LINKED-0924.pdf

Der Oger said...

Re: Fumigation:
Perhaps I'd leave any illegal recording devices in place up until January 21. At that day, I assume the operation of such bugs is a federal crime.

Or perhaps, at the very least, I'd circulate the rumor that I'd choose that option, so that the previous owners frantically rid the White House from any illegal recording devices.



David Brin said...

Dangerous end games! Here are seven to consider, across the next two weeks:
(1) Note that the US Navy high command moved the USS Nimitz and other tempting targets out of the death trap Straits of Hormuz, steaming east fast enough that traitors cannot order them back in, before Inauguration Day. We must all let it be known that we know what a Tonkin Gulf Incident would look like. Whatever happens - even if claimed by 'Proud Boys,' will be attributed to Vlad. Count on it.

(2) The 117th Congress takes office on Tuesday, same day as the Georgia election. Democrats must hold their coalition together. Once Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the 117th, then she must multiply her security precautions tenfold! Then, no matter what shenanigans the raging confederates and their foreign puppet masters pull next day, by a Pence "gavel coup," or street violence, or something devastating that prevents Biden and Harris from taking office on 1/20... PELOSI would thereupon be recognized by nearly all civil servants and military and sane Americans as the legitimate President, until the dust settled.

It must not be Kevin McCarthy. We'd have civil war and Putin will explode with delight. So all democratic representatives must be cautious, both for their lives and of blackmail traps.

(3) Speaking of Georgia, you can still help. Go to https://fairfight.com/fair-fight-2020/

If that day goes well, Stacey Abrams will be handed all the keys to the DNC... and our flouncing far-left allies will have no recourse but to abandon their magical (never-true) "DNC Corporatist sellouts!" incantations, swallow their pride and cooperate with coalition building. Just watching them get all-flustered over that will be another side benefit from winning a major battle against the right-wing-traitor Putinists. Oh, never mind all that. Just go Stacey! Go Georgia.

CONTINUED

David Brin said...

(4) ANOTHER PRECAUTION! We can assume that Trump will refuse to cooperate with the moving vans etc. on the 20th. Elsewhere I describe a possible scenario should Biden personally have to frog march Old Two Scoops out the door. (It has to be Biden; no one else is allowed to touch an ex-president. Picture Secret Service guys crouching like wrestling referees, to see that no one throws a punch. Trump's option then would be to go limp... as they cut out that stretch of carpet and drag it out.)

But that's just a what-if fantasy. What IS likely is that the White House will be unsafe to occupy for a week after inauguration.

This offers Mike Pence one last chance to cleanse a foul taste out of the nation's mouth with a final act of decency, if Pence were to move out of the US Naval Observatory on the tenth, so it can be cleaned BEFORE Inauguration day, so that Joe Biden can move in to the VP residence on January 20, after symbolically taking the White House. Not Kamala Harris! She already has a house in DC and can stay there or at Blair House for a week, while the White House is purged, cleansed and exorcised. When Biden moves into the Executive Mansion on say the 27th, she can then have the VP residence.

I know it sounds convoluted. But it works. Above all, Joe should eschew the symbolism of continuing on Amtrak. It's too easy a target. Anyway, someone should approach Pence about making this one gesture toward national reconciliation, and starting to dig out his pitiful legacy.

(5) Speaking of which, AGAIN, If Biden were to right now declare his intent to form a Truth and Reconciliation commission, it might tempt forward some henchmen to squeal on any bad things currently planned! And Biden announcing an Election Cheat Investigative Commission could offer Ted Cruz and other GOP senators a face-saving way to back off.

(5) FINALLY... again... Ron Klain and everyone on the Inauguration Committee... Have Kamala Harris take her oath on the Lincoln Memorial!

The win-win-advantages are overwhelming. It would spread out the inevitable crowd. It would have spectacular symbolism. It would separate our enemies' tempting, predictably located targets. And Nancy P., you go hold an event at the Washington Monument!

Spread em out.

PS. Think I am being paranoid? "Top Trump aide Navarro just claimed that Trump can & may postpone Biden’s inauguration. Un-American filth, the lot of them." pic.twitter.com/befrsxRECB

David Brin said...

"Foundation's Farrago- A complicated, lengthy mishmash of developments taking place 500-700 FE."

I made hints about that...

Pachydermis2 said...

Larry

You are being fair minded.

David

You are being paranoid.

We'll have a bit of oration in Congress, but call it what it is, a protest not a coup. Hawley I believe has gone so far as to even use some of the same phrases as Barbara Boxer a few cycles back. And protest is good, yes?

Then we'll have an inauguration.

All the rest is nonsense. I called it such in times past when many here were so agitated about Diebold voting machines. (But Dominion ones, why they're great!). And touting such dubious schemes as faithless electors and the 25th Amendment based on "diagnoses" by psychiatrists who never examined the purported patient.

I suppose I can't persuade you have greater faith in our underlying institutions, but can only assure you that it gives Conservatives a greater degree of inner peace regardless of any given election outcome.

It's going to be OK.

Pachydermis

Larry Hart said...

Donald Trump to Brad Raffensperger:

The people of Georgia are angry."


Yes, many whose preferred side lost the election are angry. Many more would be angry if the losing side succeeds in overturning their vote. But that's never a consideration. How many people were angry enough over Trump's election to march the very next day after his inauguration and to keep protesting for four years? But that's never a consideration for anything other than calling those people sore losers. Do we ever placate Black Lives Matter or "antifa" to keep them from rioting, or don't we instead proclaim them to be criminals and terrorists? And yet, we can't risk making the Proud Boys angry, because we wouldn't like them when they're angry?

Larry Hart said...

Bear with me. There's a point. :)

Almost 30 years ago now (gulp!), before meeting my wife, I dated an older woman who had already been married and had a teenage daughter. As such, she was up on many cultural references that I never would have noticed on my own. She even made a point of saying that having a kid keeps one current on stuff like that.

Today, I know what she means. I have my own teenager who is currently home between semesters in college. If I were single, I would think the most important story on social media would be Benedict Donald suborning election fraud. Because I can hear my daughter talking with her friends, I know that that story pales in comparison to...

"Bean Dad".

Look it up. I.....just can't.

PS, I don't mean this in the sense of "Kids don't know what's important". I mean it more like, "Thank goodness someone is here to provide some perspective!" A good thing, not a bad thing. They'll outlive all of this madness.

David Brin said...

Pachy may you be proved right! My JOB is to point at possibilities and there are some potentially dire ones.

But Pelosi is now 3rd in line for the presidency THIS next 2 years... and Trump and Pence see their terms end noon on January 20. Hence. protecting HER is damn important for the next 17 days!

---

My reference to "continuing on AMTRAK" has a historical resonance to the inauguration of Lincoln...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_Plot

---

Yipe. Bean Dad is a great story and I side with the dad! Crum SIX HOURS> Oh no!!!! I will wager anyone alive over whether she still hates him for it.

Larry Hart said...

Why does Trump say "Eleven thousand...seven seventy nine" the same way he said "Person, man...woman, camera, tv"?

* * *

It's "not possible" that Trump could have lost Georgia. Based on...rally size! He had thousands of people at his rallies, and "the competition" couldn't even get a hundred.

Can't beat that logic with a stick.

* * *

Dr Brin:

Bean Dad is a great story and I side with the dad!


Well, no one is reading anything until you resolve the cliffhanger ending from Foundation And Earth.

Heh.

David Brin said...

onward

onward