Saturday, January 01, 2022

Life in the cosmos: reflecting on SETI

I have studied and listened and written extensively - in fiction and nonfiction, for most of my life - about SETI, METI and life in the cosmos. For decades I have refused to glom onto premature conclusions or "Aha! This must be it!" declarations. Though new information or insights by others can change how I rank-order the possibilities.


In discussing the possibility of alien life, the UK Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees, pretty much describes one of the plot lines in my novel Existence in this article: Why Intelligent Extraterrestrials are more likely to be artificial than biological. He notes, "I’d argue it would even be worth looking for traces of aliens in our own solar system. While we can probably rule out visits by human-like species, there are other possibilities. An extraterrestrial civilisation that had mastered nanotechnology may have transferred its intelligence to tiny machines, for example. It could then invade other worlds, or even asteroid belts, with swarms of microscopic probes."


And yes, I agree with Martin, which is one more reason we should emphasize missions to asteroids over the sterile-poison and almost useless (in the near term) Luna. (That sandbox should mostly be left to the kiddies - with some important exceptions.)


Here's one explanation for alien behavior, curtesy of Candorville by Darrin Bell. I've discussed the "cat laser hypothesis" in my posting: What's really up with UAPs/UFOs?  Another take can be found in my story Those Eyes.



== They keep getting fuzzier. Why would ‘aliens’ do that? ==


Eray Ozkural shares “UAP” footage he took last June, showing glowing dots dancing over waters near the Princess Islands, darting about and occasionally causing explosion-like airbursts. The latter phenomenon I’ve not seen before and it’s worth a viewing. Still, instead of refuting my “cat laser” scenario, these airbursts only re-double the likelihood of that explanation! 


Alas, zealots keep repeating the fundamental assumption that these are 'objects' experiencing 'propulsion', and hence, since the movements seem to violate Newton, inertia, and even Einstein, they must be super-advanced alien ships. 


Alas for that scenario (and I have spent my life exploring concepts of the ‘alien’, including many decades involved in SETI), what I see there has NONE of the properties of an actual, physical 'object' and all properties of an excited patch of atmosphere! A compact patch (of probably excited plasma) that glows and occasionally causes air detonations. 


What always lingers in the air, after one of these sightings, is one of the several key questions that I ask in my most recent UAP/UFO posting, which is why do these sightings keep getting fuzzier and fuzzier, now that there are approximately a MILLION times as many active cameras as there were in the 1950s? 

I'm not the only one discussing this vexing (actually damning) paradox. See this appraisal.

Then there is the locale, once again over an ocean where the real 'objects' doing all this – presumably ships on the water - aren't being watched by any of the people aiming cameras at this blatant example of a 3D cat laser.  


Of course the crews of those ships aren’t posting videos. I bet they are too busy messing with us.


Good kitties. Oh, you funny kitties, chase the spot! Chase it!



== Oh, it gets much worse! We're being messed with. ==


Oh. While we’re at it… and not a lot dumber than UFO fetishism… Flat Earthers are doing what all of that ilk do, when refuted... doubling down on the mystical inanity. In a blatant hearkening to Teutonic (Yggdrasil) mythology (a romanticism that then fed right into naziism), this latest hate-science chant-incantation spends 90 minutes persuading more of the gullible than you'd believe possible. “Flat-Earthers Have a Wild New Theory About Forests: What it means to believe that “real” trees no longer exist.”  


Oh and what's with "birds are fake?"  


Only one thing makes these - and political - cultists flee. 

Demands for cash wagers. 

Watch them vanish, poof, like magic!



== Planetary protection provisions ==


A highly controversial proposal may be overdue… to allow careful relaxation of some ‘planetary protection’ rules for spacecraft sent to certain parts of Mars where instruments show no substantial presence of water ice or brines near the surface. 


“Such regions could include a significant portion of the surface of Mars, because the UV environment is so biocidal that terrestrial organisms are, in most cases, not likely to survive more than one to two sols, or Martian days. For missions that access the subsurface (down to 1 meter), regions on Mars expected to have patchy or no water ice below the surface might also be visited by spacecraft more relaxed bioburden requirements, because such patchy ice is likely not conducive to the proliferation of terrestrial microorganisms.”


Erring on the side of caution is good and wise! We stand on a mountain of our ancestors (oft well-intended) mistakes! Still, it is worthwhile seeking a path that still enables forward movement.


== An age of wonders! ==


Earlier in 2021 we watched robots scoop asteroids and Perseverance land on Mars and a tiny helicopter fit over the Red Planet... and so much more!


Oh, and see fabulous video of how the Webb Space Telescope will unfold...


... and a list of amazing space endeavors we hope humanity will accomplish in the coming year.


And yes, we are amazing, accomplishing wonders through goodwill, cooperation, FAIR competition and science and - above all - citizenship. Which is why enemies try so hard to get us at each others' throats. 


Let's defy them and make a better tomorrow. Start by opening a window and shouting "I am NOT 'mad as hell' and I refuse to let you lure me into that self-destructive trip!"


May 2022 be your best yet! And the worst of all that follow.




78 comments:

Tony Fisk said...

Webb status: sunshield deployed. Tensioning in progress.
Next up: secondary mirror deployment. Critical to the mission, although (I think?) a good deal less finicky than the shade.

I realize the schedule has been thought out in great detail, but I do wonder why they didn't wait until manoeuvring into final position before unpacking everything.

Cue the conjecture about Webb actually crashing two minutes after take-off, and the subsequent reports being made up.

Paul451 said...

"Eray Ozkural shares “UAP” footage he took last June"

Did you include that as a joke? Out of focus points of light on a shaky cellphone?

Re: Planetary protection.

IMO, it's not time to relax the existing protections, but to send missions explicitly to search for living-life that shares Earth-life chemistry. Missions that are properly funded to allow them to meet the highest PP requirements, and therefore visit the places most likely for extant life. Once you can exclude Earth-like-life on Mars, then you can lower the protections. If you lower the protections before you perform such missions, any future discovery will always be suspect.

NASA has long had a policy to send humans to Mars. Musk/SpaceX is accelerating the likelihood of that actually happening in our lifetimes. The clock is ticking. Once humans reach Mars, the chance of a "pure" discovery is lost forever. But NASA will still not support such life-search missions. It's like two sides of the agency (HSF and science) assume the other side doesn't exist.

David Brin said...

The secondary mirror is one of several steps that, unleess 100% successful, the project is a total zero. A partial sunshade or a recalcitrant side mirror assembly might still allow something partial to be salvaged. But the high gain antenna, the secondary, the aiming system and some others... have to be perfect.

Paul451 said...

Speaking of jokes. The "Birds are fake" thing was a joke created by Peter McIndoe as a parody of conspiracy theories, and then propagated around the internet as a meme or meta-joke.

I mean, they are fake. But we weren't supposed to go public with that information yet.

scidata said...

I think there's something to 'thinking about thinking' in the context of the Great Filter. The mind's I, cybernetics, Clarke's blurb in that Antikythera short, many facets. Jack Antonoff gives a good recollection of the pandemic driving him to write "Stop Making This Hurt".
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEt5XtOMt88

Life either learns through hardship, or it goes extinct. One could get quite philosophical about it, especially at the end of any year, but especially the last two. Courage, humour, irony, and above all, diversity. They may not be as bountiful in the universe as they are in New Jersey.

William said...

Yeah, "birds are fake" is meant to be a parody of conspiracy theories, but it's hard, because the things that actual conspiracy theorists purport to believe are already so absurd. Flat Earth, Q-Anon... come on.

Personally, I gave up on the whole idea of satire soon after I got online (on BBSes, in the 1980s). No matter how blatant you try to be about it, there's always someone who takes it seriously. So now, outside of select audiences that I know will appreciate it, I try to say exactly what I mean at all times (at least, when I remember). Even casual sarcasm risks being misunderstood.

Alan Brooks said...

To this day, some people think that Elvis is alive, and if you jest with them by suggesting that Presley is in a parallel universe, they might exclaim:
“Yes, he could be!”
They wish to believe in an afterlife—any sort of afterlife. Or they’ll start in on Roswell. Or the JFK assassination; there’s an entire industry built around the JFK assassination.
And now there exists a new theory that John Kennedy Jr. never died, that his plane accident never happened. Supposedly JFK Jr. is going to work for Trump’s presidential campaign in ‘24.

GMT -5 said...

Happy new year everyone!

Written records of events almost always get certain details wrong. Not because the writer is lying, but because of the limits of human ability to observe and the limits of language. Also, writers are frequently outsiders who are trying to learn what happened (newspapers or police or inspectors general). You may have documents, you may have photos, you may have oral testimony. When you sift through all the material, you almost always find contradictions.

After the fact, people look at these records, see the contradictions, and assume there was some intent and malice behind those contradictions.

Regarding the JFK assassination, the FBI, CIA, and Secret Service screwed up and let a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, get to take three shots at the President. After the fact, a lot of the people in the agencies tried to cover their asses. So, we have an event where a certain amount of inconsistencies will appear if everyone is absolutely honest, add in the fact that many people WON'T be honest because they are lying to protect themselves from the consequences of their mistakes. Result, loads and loads of inconsistencies and obvious lies that is fuel for conspiracy theorists. I've studied this incident for a long time and I think that Oswald was the lone gunman acting alone; their was no conspiracy. After the assassination, a lot of people lied (and may have even conspired with one another) to cover up their mistakes.

Oh, my wife and I are in contract to buy a house. Wednesday night, while driving to go to the grocery, we saw a "for sale" sign in the lawn of a house where two close friends live. We messaged back and forth with them and bemoaned the fact that I could not get bank approval for a mortgage. Thursday morning, I applied for a mortgage just the same. After 4 years of being told by banks we could not get pre-approved for a mortgage, we got pre-approved! We had a viewing of the house at 3pm on Thursday, made our offer at 5pm at the realtor's office, the seller made a counter-offer (they needed a closing date before January 31), and we got the contract sealed Friday afternoon! Then we celebrated the new year with the sellers and their friends (mostly Russians and Ukrainians who immigrated here in the last 20 years).

Larry Hart said...

William:

Personally, I gave up on the whole idea of satire soon after I got online (on BBSes, in the 1980s)


As far back as the 80s, even before I knew about the internet, I was saying that Mad Magazine type satire was difficult if not impossible to pull off because reality had become a self-parody. My brother still remembers that I said that, and thinks it means I have psychic powers.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

Supposedly JFK Jr. is going to work for Trump’s presidential campaign in ‘24.


Even satire has to have some grounding in plausibility. I understand thinking (wishing, hoping) that JFK Jr isn't dead. I don't understand the belief that he's a Republican, let alone a Trump-loving Republican.

Larry Hart said...

Maureen Dowd's Republican brother is a big poopy-head.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/01/opinion/trigger-warning-its-my-brothers-turn-again.html

Like him [Trump] or not, some of his policies were working: accords between Arab countries and Israel, Iran on its heels, China chastened, the border fence going up, low unemployment, a strong economy and best of all, low energy prices and higher wages.


Low energy prices? Republicans willfully forget that Trump went out of his way to broker a deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia to "save the oil industry" from falling prices. So yes, they had been low during the pandemic lockdown when travel was way down, but the action that Trump himself took was to bring oil prices back up.

How do they keep getting away with this revisionist history in which Trump gets credit for good things that he impeded and Biden gets blame for bad things that aren't really happening or which happened before he took office?

Larry Hart said...

Heard on Stephanie Miller's radio show:


In the 1980s, Sting had a song with the line, "We hope the Russians love their children too."

We need and update for 2022, "We hope the Republicans love their children too."


David Brin said...

GMT-5 good summary of the likelihood that a royal cockup of security let a lone gunman kill JFK …. and subsequent “patsy” or “2nd shooter” vapors are just vapors.

BUT I do believe there was a conspiracy to silence Oswald. Ruby’s mob links. The mob and Cuba. BOTH sides in the Cuba mess hating JFK…. I deem it plausible, even likely, that Oswald was egged into it and they did not want him blabbing about that.

Great story about the house! I hope it goes well. And there aren’t TOO many residual quibbles and after-effects from buying from friends.

LH: “I understand thinking (wishing, hoping) that JFK Jr isn't dead. I don't understand the belief that he's a Republican, let alone a Trump-loving Republican.”

Simple. Same as the Right appropriating MLK. They want to claim today’s libs have ‘drifted’ so far that JFK & MLK would disown them.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Same as the Right appropriating MLK. They want to claim today’s libs have ‘drifted’ so far that JFK & MLK would disown them.


You might be right, but it still doesn't pass my smell test. When the right appropriates MLK, they're not saying he would disown liberals. They're saying that liberals should support them (Republicans) because they believe in things that MLK did such as judging people by character instead of race.

Back in my college days, a quad preacher tried to explain the difference between plausible and implausible "National Inquirer" type hyperbole. He said that if the headline was "Jesus Returns", he (the quad preacher) might be skeptical, but he'd keep reading to see if the claim looked accurate. OTOH, if the headline was "Jesus Returns -- As a Gay Pedophile", that would be too ridiculous for even a National Inquirer reader to credit.

Well, to me, "JFK Junior Returns -- As a Trump-Supporting Republican" is implausible in that same manner.

David Brin said...

Simultaneously scary and pathetic. These imbeciles actually think the US intel/FBI/military officer corps will side with them. Certainly the BP and some local cops will. But there are reasons why so many of them live in Mom's basement and can't get a date.

https://clintwatts.substack.com/p/where-did-all-the-insurrectionists

Robert said...

When you sift through all the material, you almost always find contradictions.

If you don't, that means that there's a good chance you're getting a doctored picture — at least according to a couple of investigators I've chatted with.

Robert said...

We need and update for 2022, "We hope the Republicans love their children too."

Evidence suggests that, while some of them (conditionally) love their own children, they don't give a dingo's kidney about anyone else's.

Unknown said...

The fact that conspiracies do exist helps the wingiest among us to imagine a world that more closely resembles a layout of the "Illuminati" card game than what's actually going on - which is, in my opinion, that even the people in actual power are blinkered by their ideologies and the self-serving reports of their minions. There are sane people who think that in 1941 FDR deliberately exposed the US Pacific fleet to Japanese attack, and suppressed any warning of the Pearl Harbor attack, in order to get his war on. I've met another, less stable person who thinks the Federal Reserve was a globalist plot that used the Great Depression as a tool of their agenda. Or should I say (((their)))?

The best ones I've found are those orbiting the Templars. There's one about Templars, the international moneylenders of their day, escaping to Switzerland and founding the Swiss banking system, a mere 410 years after Jacques de Molay was executed!

Pappenheimer

GMT -5 said...

I don't know enough about a conspiracy to kill Oswald. But your thoughts make sense. Everybody probably wanted Oswald dead because a trial would have exposed a lot of embarrassing details.

David Brin said...

Ruby (who my dad knew in the 30s when they beat up Bund Nazis) had deep mob ties and a lot of debt.

Unknown... The conspiracy nuts must be approached with judo agility...

- If there is a direct, checkable falsehood demand a wager and - say - a trip to the beach, to check rising Ph levels. They will always run.

- if you say: "The generation that made the Federal reserve also built 500 universities that offered nearly free knowledge and probing skills to 150 million Americans, resulting in the most questioning and skilled generations in human history and 2/3 of our wealth." they will blink a couple of times and then rail against universities as tools of conditioning!

So then offer to go to the nearest university together and choose five RANDOM ROOMS to knock on the door and talk to whoever is there, and see if he still thinks they are brainwashed. Again, he'll refuse. But see how now he's cornered?

- Re Pearl Harbor. It is conceivable, barely, that FDR would have kept Kimmel in the dark about an attack UNTIL 12 hours before, so that nothing would prevent the Japanese from coming. (In fact, the attack benefited us tremendously by preventing Plan Orange, which would have sunk the entire fleet in deep water.)

But it is insane to say FDR would not have wanted to spring a TRAP and win a VICTORY! If, 12 hours before, he ordered all the subs and carriers and land planes to prepare an ambush -- and the battleships to depart Pearl before dawn - then the attack could have been such a Japanese disaster that FDR could concentrate even more on Europe.

In other words, these cultists are deeply, deeply stupid. Almost as stupid as the folks who argue with them without using such judo.

A.F. Rey said...

Yeah, "birds are fake" is meant to be a parody of conspiracy theories, but it's hard, because the things that actual conspiracy theorists purport to believe are already so absurd. Flat Earth, Q-Anon... come on.

I believe it is called Poe's Law: you can't parody a conspiracy theory without someone believing it is true, AKA you can't outlandish a conspiratorialist. :D

Paul451 said...

IIRC, there was an interview with McNamara in the '90s about the JFK assassination where he said that many in the Cabinet believed Oswald was working for Castro as revenge for CIA actions against Cuba, such as the Bay of Pigs invasion, but especially the failed personal assassination attempts.

However, McNamara & co thought that Castro intended for Oswald to fail; it was meant to be a warning that Cuba can play the same game, not a casus belli. Hence both Castro and the USSR went very quiet immediately after JFK was killed, at least until LBJ was settled into his new role, to avoid provoking the rage of an injured giant. (I may be stretching my memory too far, but I think Russia even sent gentle "wasn't me, bro" messages to LBJ through intelligence back-channels.)

So there was a mutual, unstated agreement by everyone to pretend that Oswald acted alone. That's the only "conspiracy". Wilful self-blinding.

Similarly, documents released from within Russia during the fall of communism suggested that the USSR leadership also believed Cuba was behind Oswald, but were afraid they would be blamed because of Oswald's prior temporary defection to Russia. Presumably they also sent Castro some sternly worded "cut it the fuck out or else" messages.

I think their actions (or lack of actions) also rule out the alternative scenarios, both the Mafia-pretending-to-be-Castro scenario and the CIA-pretending-to-be-the-Mafia-pretending-to-be-Castro scenario. If Castro hadn't been involved, he would have blamed those who were. If the Soviets knew Castro wasn't involved, that would have been their message to LBJ.

But...

Jack Ruby.

So, conspiracy:
Oswald genuinely acted alone; at most, he wanted to defect to Cuba, and his plan was to "show off" to Castro by killing his enemy. Either way, there was no mafia, CIA, or Cuban ex-pat involvement.

However, J. Edgar Hoover (like McNamara) believed Castro was involved and feared it would trigger a war with Cuba that would, by USSR/Cuba mutual defence treaty, evolve into WWIII. So he had his men recruited long-time-but-useless FBI informant Jack Ruby (under threat of leaking his status as an informant) to kill Oswald. This was to both prevent Oswald from naming Cuba, and to create a vague suspicion of the mafia and/or the CIA as being involved; reducing any calls within JFK's administration for a "strong response" against Cuba, by creating fear that they were being manipulated into it by the mafia and/or the CIA.

This would have the added intent of keeping RFK focused on his opposition to the mafia as he turned his ambitions to running for President, rather than falling to his brother's failed ambitions to invade Cuba.

Double conspiracy:
Later, the CIA found out about Sirhan Sirhan's plot against RFK (via illegal domestic surveillance) and kept it secret from the FBI as revenge against Hoover.

Or maybe Ruby really liked JFK and went a bit nuts.

David Brin said...

EITHER side re Cuba hated JFK. But the choicest conspiracy theory I've heard was revenge by fans of Marilyn Monroe.

Alan Brooks said...

Many educated people subscribe to conspiracy theories; some don’t have the time, or don’t take the time, to investigate.
A doctoral student who collects AI data believes in just about all conspiracy theories. He said the other day that he hates FDR (“socialist”, yet again), and that Pearl Harbor was a set-up. I asked,
“what about the attacks on the Philippines and Guam and the other places?”
But he’d never heard of them. Years ago there was a similar conversation with sn IT grad who had worked for IBM until the recession in ‘08 (“Obama’s fault” in “making it worse.”) He thought that since FDR wanted to get in the war, then he must have known about the coming attacks.

Tony Fisk said...

Meanwhile, after a pause to rest and assess how things are settling in, the Webb crew have successfully set up the first three of the five sunshade layers. (dare one call them 'tension sheets'?) It will still be a couple of days before the secondary mirror deployment, and the first hint of a workable telescope.

Jon S. said...

"Like him [Trump] or not, some of his policies were working: accords between Arab countries and Israel, Iran on its heels, China chastened, the border fence going up, low unemployment, a strong economy and best of all, low energy prices and higher wages."

But NONE of those statements are true. The accords in the Middle East, brokered under previous presidents, were fraying during the Trump administration (due in part to Trump's cheerleading for the new Israeli settlements in contravention of existing agreements), Iran was hardly "on its heels" (rather, previous changes toward a more liberal lifestyle in Iran were cracked down on with America becoming the Great Satan again), China has never in my experience been "chastened", the "border fence" that went up promptly fell down again (and there was what, about a quarter mile of even that much?), unemployment was up (first-time claims only went down because there were fewer jobs available to lose), the economy was about as strong as wet spaghetti, and of course the energy question has been discussed already.

Remember the good old days, when the NYT was sometimes called "the newspaper of record" and seldom published blatantly obvious lies?

Don Gisselbeck said...

That is called crank magnetism:
https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Crank_magnetism

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

Remember the good old days, when the NYT was sometimes called "the newspaper of record" and seldom published blatantly obvious lies?


For what it's worth, Maureen Dowd turns her annual year-end column over to her Republican brother, not to advocate for his position, but to inform us what's out there. Because it's not just him.

Larry Hart said...

From Don Gissleback's "Crank Magnetism" link above:

“”A sovereign citizen, a creationist, an anti-vaxxer, and a conspiracy theorist walk into a bar. He orders a drink.


See, this is where there has to be a singular pronoun different from the plural pronoun. If the punch line had to be, "They order a drink," the joke would be impossible.

David Brin said...

Some of you are adding comments to earlier postings under the "onward." That's fine... but let me know when you see spam! But I almost never go back there.

Sunshield complete! But next we have the one process that has to be perfect. 99% won't do. The secondary mirror must lock into place or the whole thing is a bust, with no correction possible. NOW I am nervous.

https://webb.nasa.gov/content/webbLaunch/whereIsWebb.html

scidata said...

Dr. Brin: 99% won't do. The secondary mirror must lock into place or the whole thing is a bust

So there's no way to back off and try again or even ensure the alignment is 100% before locking it? That seems janky. Obviously not written in FORTH.

Tony Fisk said...

I *think* the secondary mirror deployment is simpler than the tensegrity legerdemain with the sunscreen but, yes, nail biting.

Tangentially related to the topic(!), the collision that caused the creation of the Moon is also thought to have given rise to the (relatively) rapid motion and recycling of Earth's plate tectonics.

Tony Fisk said...

@larry the grammar nazis are here to help:

"... walk* into a bar, and orders a drink."

* or even just "... walks into a bar."

David Brin said...

Sure they have all sorts of contingency stuff for the secondary mirror. I did not saw deployment PROCESS must be perfect. I mean it's final position must be.

Tony heh. But 'walks' gives away the punch line.

Paul451 said...

scidata,
"So there's no way to back off and try again or even ensure the alignment is 100% before locking it? That seems janky

Often, deployment mechanisms need to be designed in non-obvious ways, where the mechanism is one-way. For eg, where a spring creates the primary driving force. This can be due to mass or volume limits, or just innate in the design. (For example, while the winches for tensioning the sunshield layers use motors, if you backed them off, you de-tension the control lines and jam the winch.) Adding a fail-recovery method can often add complexity that makes the actual deployment less reliable.

This is why I look forward to low-cost, heavy-lift vehicles like Starship. With greatly increased mass-budgets, you can brute force a lot of problems instead of needing painfully fragile rube-goldbergisms. It will mean a significant change in the culture of spacecraft design, however; and there's a lot of resistance.

David,
This is another recommendation for the small NASA research programs you consult on: We need more studies of "how to trade mass for time/money, once big rockets are cheap". Looking at where potential savings exist, what work needs to be done to prepare for it. What tools need to be put on the shelf in order for others to take them off.

Paul451 said...

Tony,
"the collision that caused the creation of the Moon is also thought to have given rise to the (relatively) rapid motion and recycling of Earth's plate tectonics."

If so, it makes the likelihood of habitable planets much lower. Venuses might be common as dirt, but Earths rare as hens-teeth.

And if, in addition to that, "roofed worlds" like Europa turn out to be lifeless, Fermi may be answered. We are unique in our light-cone, and our expansion into space is the only chance the universe has for life to spread.

duncan cairncross said...

"roofed worlds" like Europa

I suspect that simple life can develop on those

But the step to complex life - cells with a nucleus - took 2 billion years with a sizable percentage of the earths surface covered with lots and lots of "evolving life"

And a roofed world only has the thermal vents as sites for life - so maybe a millionth of the quantity of "evolving life"

Earths with shallow seas - and lots of area where nutrients and sunlight meet - may be very rare

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

@larry the grammar nazis are here to help:

"... walk* into a bar, and orders a drink."


I thought of that, but even the fiercest proponents of a singular "they" don't seem to match it with a plural verb.


* or even just "... walks into a bar."


I get the point, but I think that it would still fall flat. The singular pronoun is required to drive the punch line home.

Not that it's all that important. Just sayin'

Tim H. said...

This amused me:

https://arstechnica.com/science/2022/01/goldfish-can-learn-to-drive-and-navigate-terrestrial-environments/

Wasn't it interesting enough when science fiction intrudes on reality, now Sponge Bob does.
We keep finding out what we thought were simple life forms are not as simple as we thought. Perhaps our consumption of once living things is something that would revolt (Hypothetical) higher civilizations.

Unknown said...

The idea that active plate tectonics has helped accelerate the evolution of species isn't far fetched - I first ran into it in an Alan Dean Foster novel - but I'd think it wouldn't be necessary for the formation of life, unless the idea here is that the lunagenetic cataclysm also stripped enough of Earth's atmosphere away to avoid a greenhouse gas trap like Venus's. Isn't Earth's advantage the amount of water available? That should be relatively common.

And that raises another question - did Venus ever have more water? There's a good chance that Mars had a lot more h2o and lost it - apparently its planet-wide dust storms are good at lifting water vapor high enough to permanently lose it. There's an old Cosmos article I found - "Venus...was likely habitable up to 900 million years after its formation..." But I'm not sure this is current theory. It's possible that both planets had the precursors and lost them before life began, or that life did appear but didn't get to the "boldly go" part before going extinct.

Hint, hint.

Pappenheimer

Larry Hart said...

Stonekettle on the 1/6 anniversary...

https://www.stonekettle.com/2022/01/recap-january-4-2022.html

...
These people are liars. They are violent miserable goons who will cheerfully murder the rest of us and overthrow democracy and call it the "best day ever" just exactly the same way it happened in Germany a hundred years ago. Those Nazi sons of bitches thought they were right and righteous too.

I watched an interview today with Trump supporters who weren't at the Insurrection.

To a person, they know what they are seeing is exactly that, insurrection. Violent sedition. Treason. A bunch of goddamned goons trying to burn down democracy. They know it.

Oh yes they do.

They do.

Because every single one of them suddenly disowns it.

They are convinced, one and all, that rioters weren't really Trump supporters, weren't really Republicans, no they must have been part of some false flag by some nefarious shadowy unknown mysterious possibly foreign FBI Clinton BLMs something something gazpacho Antifas but they were certainly not Trump supporters.

Despite the fact that every single one of the insurrectionists declared they were Trump supporters and they were, in fact, there in support of Donald Trump.

Despite the fact that every single one of the insurrectionists has a long and verifiable record of Trump support.

Despite the fact that Trump HIMSELF identified them as his own supporters.

Despite the fact that Republicans themselves identified these people as Trump supporters.

Despite incontrovertible and undeniable proof that the insurrectionists were there in support of Donald Trump and that they fully intended to overthrow the government as they described in their own words, despite the fact that there is literally a Power Point presentation created by Trump's own people, despite the absolute angry certainty of Mitch McConnell himself on that very day, despite it all, a year later Trump and his supporters are trying to convince us that it wasn't them.
...

scidata said...

The only star system we can closely study, a somewhat mundane yellow dwarf, supports life. There is a practically infinite number of stars out there. I say that because the current estimate always seems to grow. Fermi arguments involving flares, goldilock zones, moons, evolution, technology, radio(!), sociology, and various filters are clever but premature. Akin to sifting a thimble full of sand on a beach in Norway, not finding any gold, and asking, "Why no gold? Where is it?"

Searching for little green men is a career killer. That's why most interviews with JWST peeps are filled with 'infrared', 'dawn of time', and 'our place in the universe' talk. But we know why they really built it.

Paul451: With greatly increased mass-budgets, you can brute force a lot of problems instead of needing painfully fragile rube-goldbergisms
Ah, we do love our goldbergisms. Whither goes FANTASTIC VOYAGE if blood thinners and anticoagulants were used instead? This is why I've stubbornly advocated FORTH across these many decades. Just put a little brute force computer power into the hands of actual human experts. I'll bet the vaccine labs aren't staffed by script kiddies, especially the innermost sanctums where they keep the top researchers, fastest PCR machines, and best coffee. Cruft kills. If there's a halting glitch with JWST, SpaceX may quickly announce the 2023 launch of the 'RENDEZVOUS AT L2' (c) mission with onboard repair shop, parts locker, and diner.

Paradoctor said...

For the joke, try "'entered' a bar." He entered, they entered; both are grammatical.

It doesn't have to be just three terms; a whole crowd could enter the bar, then collapse to one. Once upon a time, a liar, a fool, a crook, a traitor, a seditionist, and a lunatic entered a bar. He ordered a drink.

Treebeard said...

Maybe complex life forms on other star systems, as they develop technology, start building spaceships, shouting out windows how amazing they are and thinking they’re gods, get so panicked by tiny viruses they can’t control that they crawl up into balls of fear, shut down their societies, start attacking each other, and their whole civilization self-destructs. Viruses might turn out to be the real masters of the universe, not complex, big-brained crazy apes. Add that to your list of Fermi Paradox solutions. It’s so hilarious and absurd it might be true.

Tony Fisk said...

Secondary mirror deployed (yay!).

If also deployed, 'walks' would be the punchline. Might not be as immediate a punch, but I have a fondness for delayed action fuses.

matthew said...

More on the coup discussion:
Public Wise and Mark Elias (voting rights paladin lawyer) have set up a website with a list of all public officials or people running for office that they have identified as having helped the coup attempt or the Big Lie. Also listed are anyone arrested, charged, or sentenced as a participant.

https://insurrectionindex.org/

Find your friends and neighbors (I did find someone I think I went to junior high school with, not 100% sure). Vet candidates for public office, etc. Searchable by status and with links to what they are accused of doing.



Tim H. said...

Paradoctor, you forgot pedophile and sex offender.

Treebeard said...

I don't pay much attention to mass media, but one thing that never changes is its addiction to fear propaganda. It's not only good for business, but for centralized power—one of the few things "Deep Staters" are good at is not letting a crisis go to waste. When they see an opportunity to expand their power through fear propaganda, they tend to take it. The post-9/11 "War on Terror" was a case in point—mostly fabricated hysteria that funneled massive amounts of power and money into their hands, which they never relinquished. They tried similar things vis-a-vis Trump and Russia for four years, promoting outright fabrications 24/7 in the media, but it wasn't very effective. Of course covid has been their main fear-power project for two years running, but it's running out of steam. And now they're trying to make this Jan 6 thing a domestic 9/11 — i.e., media-fabricated hysteria as a pretext to grab more power. I’ve noticed a lot of people on the right have wised up to this game, but I'm not sure about our "liberal" friends, who seem to lap up the fear-propaganda worse than the Fox News folks these days. Look at our friend matthew here for example, promoting Stasi-style enemies of the state lists. America without mass hysteria, fear and war; is such a thing even possible? Doesn’t seem like it. It's bad for business and bad for empire, I guess.

David Brin said...

scidata: “But we know why they really built it.” To search for aliens? Bah.

Treebeard, wow! You outdid yourself! The very week we launch a spectacular telescope and get asteroid samples and while Elon prepares a giant rocket and discoveries pour forth from labs all over and the vaccines we developed an ORDER OF MAGNITUDE faster than ever have saved the lives of hundreds of millions in a huge Darwinian winnowing of the stupid and gullible… YOU see fellow citizens “get so panicked by tiny viruses they can’t control that they crawl up into balls of fear, shut down their societies…”

Har! YOU are the panic-stricken one, here, sir. Long verified and repeated studies show that liberals are FAR less driven by fear than conservatives, and feudalists are the most fearful of all. Look in a damn mirror and repeat the accusation. We are busy moving ahead, despite YOUR cult’s endless fear mongering.

Tony I thought that. “walks” works all by itself. Drop the last sentence.

Treebeard said...

Yeah, thank God for the heroic scientists who developed these vaccines, or we might have suffered untold millions of deaths like those poor, backward, unvaccinated people in the developing world. I mean, take a look at Nigeria, population 200 million+, with... 3000 deaths. Um, not a great example. But at least we aren't like poor Haiti, where only .6% of the population is vaccinated, and bodies are piling up to the tune of... 773 people. OK, another bad example. Anyway, God bless Science for saving us from the ravages of covid! I think I'm gonna go shout it out the window now.

scidata said...

Not directly search for aliens, but to start a proper survey of exoplanet atmospheres. We see mostly NIRISS types on TV up here :)

David Brin said...

BET ME NOW, ent, whther we'll find far more deaths in Nigeria in the post pandemic studies. And over those studies of fear levels.

Feh. When you guys finally pick one state to move to and secede, buying out the black folks in Mississippi and getting your confed paradise, please do step up for the experiment to let polio and smallpox loose. We'll close the borders and watch. It's what you want, anyway, and we'll do fine.

Larry Hart said...

Paradoctor:

It doesn't have to be just three terms; a whole crowd could enter the bar, then collapse to one. Once upon a time, a liar, a fool, a crook, a traitor, a seditionist, and a lunatic entered a bar. He ordered a drink.


No, see the point I was making (which has now been belabored way too much in terms of importance) is that the punchline doesn't work if a singular "they" is used instead of the sexist "he". It had nothing to do with verb tense. If your punch line above is "They ordered a drink", even if the "they" is meant as a non-sexist version of "he", the joke falls flat. It has to. The entire punch comes from the fact that the singular pronoun is unexpected. If the singular pronoun and the plural pronoun is the same word, it can't work.


Dr Brin to Tony Fisk:

Tony I thought that. “walks” works all by itself. Drop the last sentence.


How does that work as a straight line, though?

"A sovereign citizen, a creationist, an anti-vaxxer, and a conspiracy theorist walks into a bar."?

Ok, I suppose that can be made to work, say if you pause for a long time after the delivery and wait for some of the audience to start giggling and for others to go, "Oh, NOW I get it" later on (and still others to look around going, "What?").

But really, doesn't it lack the comedic punch which the singular pronoun delivers?

And for the record, I'm not seriously arguing that we should maintain using sexist language just because a joke works better with it. My only point, on the level of "Wow, Ain't It Strange That...", is that some communication is indeed lost when there's no way to distinguish singular from plural.

I actually first thought of this when Dr Brin related "Ruby (who my dad knew in the 30s when they beat up Bund Nazis)...". I am sure he meant that both Jack Ruby and his dad together beat up Bund Nazis. But if "they" is also a singular, then the antecedent is unclear. It might be only Ruby who beat up Nazis. Or only Brin pere. Or both.

I'm not claiming it is very far down the 1984 path of narrowing the range of available thought by contracting the language, but it is a little bit down that path.

David Brin said...

I am NOT a fan of this 'they' business.1. because the real problem it addresses has been scoped in SO many sci fi novels that there are great additive alternatives.

2. Because is berates English for ALREADY being among the least intrinsically sexist languages on Earth.

But okay (me) Boomer. I am Brother Dusk and not in authority over such matters and I will obey my children.

Tony Fisk said...

Yep. "... walks into the bar." is all the blue touch paper it needs before retiring.

I suppose Larry's point about immediacy is relevant to a stand up comic (which I am not). One thing that has struck me over time is how often all it takes for everyone to get a subtle joke is for one person to get it. Almost as if a chuckle acts as a signal giving permission for thinking to be freed up. Can happen with group problem solving, too.

My thoughts about the Webb secondary mirror have been on the lines of what could possibly go wrong?
Given the critical nature of the component, I would not be surprised to learn that a lot of thought went into shaving that question down to the barest of rhetorical bones.

I am still haunted by the thought that 'first light' reveals a fuzzy image with the following text, mirrored:
"REMOVE BEFORE LAUNCH"

Hmm. Looks like Putin's 'peace keeping' forces may be getting called away from the Ukrainian border to Kazakhstan.

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

One thing that has struck me over time is how often all it takes for everyone to get a subtle joke is for one person to get it. Almost as if a chuckle acts as a signal giving permission for thinking to be freed up. Can happen with group problem solving, too.


It's a signal that you missed something funny, and to wonder what that thing is.

After the audience hears, "A sovereign citizen, a creationist, an anti-vaxxer, and a conspiracy theorist walks into a bar,..." they're probably expecting to hear a punch line like "...and one of them was assaulted," or something like that. If instead, the speaker pauses silently, they're a little confused. Something is going on that they're missing, but they don't exactly know what. If someone in the audience starts laughing, that's a signal that a funny part already occurred, which makes them go over what was said again looking for the joke. The more people catch on and laugh, the more confirmation one has that there really is something to laugh at.

Larry Hart said...

Lots of January 6 editorials today. This one stood out for me. Emphasis is mine.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-column-trump-republicans-2024-election-chapman-20220105-f4obw26635cvbjsjvvlakn3one-story.html

He [Trump] and his confederates have primed GOP voters to treat any defeat as proof the vote was rigged. But the measures they have taken practically guarantee that Democrats will see a Republican victory as thoroughly illegitimate — which it may very well be.


Me again. This is not "both sides do it". One side is using fanciful arguments to convince each other not to accept the election results, and as a reaction to that, the other side is taking actual steps to insure that future election results will be illegitimate. It is not hypocrisy to recognize that one side is cheating when it refuses to accept a result, and the other side refuses to accept the result of cheating.

Larry Hart said...

Me, edited from above:

Me again. This is not "both sides do it". One side is using fanciful arguments to convince each other not to accept the election results, and as a reaction to that, that same side is taking actual steps to insure that future election results will be illegitimate. It is not hypocrisy to recognize that one side is cheating when it refuses to accept a result, and the other side refuses to accept the result of that very cheating.

Larry Hart said...

Seen on Stonekettle's Twitter feed:

Republicans right now in a furious race to to say absolutely the most rage-induced conspiracy-laden batshit seditionist insanity in response to Biden's speech in order to prove they are not raging batshit crazy conspiracy driven seditionists.

* * *

Don Jr's dealer right now be like: Hallelujah! I'm puttin' in a pool!

Paradoctor said...

The difference is that next time, sixty judges will rule that there was fraud, all for the Republican candidate.

David Brin said...

Dick Cheney comes to Capitol on Jan. 6, says he's 'deeply disappointed' in GOP leadership

When Dick Cheney, who sold us out amid lies and theft of tens of $billions, has had a bellyful of Republican turpitude and insanity, you get a scale, a metric, by which to measure the depth of depravity in today's top GOP/confederate caste.
'When asked for his reaction to Republican leadership’s handling of this day, Cheney -- not one to mince words -- said, "Well, it’s not a leadership that resembles any of the folks that I knew when I was here for 10 years -- dramatically."'

It's not just that the Trump-McConnell-Graham + Fox/Putin gang are worse thieves and liars, outdoing even the infamous Cheney Iraq Logistics Scam. What I believe bothers the Cheneys and Romney etc. above all is the stupidity of threatening the very survival of an American Republic on whose arteries these parasites sucked for so long.

Killing the goose that laid their golden eggs might lead to revolution of sorts and a radicalized transparency that shines light into corners they thought safely hidden. Today's central Foxite mantra, repeated at all levels every day... "Don't look!"... won't work for much longer, if the Trumpites keep riling things.

Like Yamamoto in 1941, Cheney's clade of satiably careful parasites fears awakening a sleeping giant - the sane American majority - and uniting all of the fact professions in purposeful wrath, determined to cleanse everything with light.

But heedless of that danger - and likely propelled by blackmail - the Trumpist cult stomps on the accelerator, toward a cliff of civil war they are deluded enough to think that they can win.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

Not only Dick Cheney, but his daughter Liz, and freakin' Karl Rove lashed out at the Republican Party today.

As I've mentioned before, I fully expect the universe to thwart my wishes, so I do best in a situation where a loss is necessarily set off by a win of sorts. At best, these people have enough influence to change the direction of the country from autocracy back to democracy. Failing that, at least it's a consolation prize that Dick, Liz, and Karl feel bad.

David Brin said...

"Prominent Republican strategist and super PAC founder Karl Rove usually aims his criticisms at Democrats, he said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Wednesday night, but "on the anniversary of Jan. 6, I'm addressing squarely those Republicans who for a year have excused the actions of the rioters who stormed the Capitol, disrupted Congress as it received the Electoral College's results, and violently attempted to overturn the election."

Carumba, the Illuminati are scared. Like the Prussian "Junkers caste" lords who in the 1920s were SO sure they could 'control' the brown shirts they had subsidized. And around 1936 started murmuring: "what have we done?"

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Like the Prussian "Junkers caste" lords who in the 1920s were SO sure they could 'control' the brown shirts they had subsidized. And around 1936 started murmuring: "what have we done?"


The 1920s lords didn't have the advantage of having seen Cabaret. They could be forgiven regarding their ignorance. The modern day clade don't have that excuse. They've seen this movie before and know how it ends.

Larry Hart said...

I was wondering why the names Dick and Liz (Cheney) sounded familiar.

A 1974 issue of "Captain America" had a character reading a Hollywood gossip newspaper. Mimicking the famous "Styx Nix Hix Pix" headline, the story's writer had stuck this three-line headline onto the fictional newspaper:

LIZ AND DICK
DICK AND PAT
PAT AND NARD


I think the bottom one refers to Patricia Hearst and her kidnapper, though I have never been 100% sure of that.

Dick and Pat were Richard and Patricia Nixon, the first family at the time (though not for much longer).

And Liz and Dick would have been Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

So history really does rhyme. :)

Tony Fisk said...

Well, at this stage, I can only hope the words of gratitude bandied about at next thanksgiving aren't "I'm grateful we tried."

Tony Fisk said...

PS Webb radiators deployed. Now for the wing mirrors.

David Brin said...

There are a few things to do with the main mirror assembly. But the wings are the next big visible step.

https://webb.nasa.gov/content/webbLaunch/whereIsWebb.html?


"The 1920s lords didn't have the advantage of having seen Cabaret."

They did have Gibbon's history of Rome.

Re Don't Look Up. minor quibbles I would not actually change...

- preppers in the mountains or undersea, Doesn't work

- No one yammering that a. this is heavenly judgement or b. an alien attack?

- if they have hibernation, um why another planet? In just 1000 years Earth would be teeming again.

Wouldn't change it though.

Der Oger said...

Like the Prussian "Junkers caste" lords who in the 1920s were SO sure they could 'control' the brown shirts they had subsidized. And around 1936 started murmuring: "what have we done?"

From The Sorcerer's Apprentice, from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

Oh, here comes my master! Help me Lord, I plead!
Spirits I have conjured, no longer pay me heed.

scidata said...

Now any dogma, based primarily on faith and emotionalism, is a dangerous weapon to use on others, since it is almost impossible to guarantee that the weapon will never be turned on the user.
- Isaac Asimov, "Foundation"


Webb is astonishing me. Maybe it actually was programmed in FORTH.

scidata said...

PS I'm kidding about FORTH, that would be a quicker career killer than little green men. NASA uses C with maybe a sprinkling of C++ at JPL. The big problem with C is that it has a learning curve that would render it useless for WJCC purposes.

Alfred Differ said...

I'm still inclined to string Rove up by his privates and hand him to his creation to be devoured.

Unfortunately, I have to recognize that the nation was saved... by Pence. He was unwilling to force the contingent election in the House. He saved a lot of lives with that decision.

Tony Fisk said...

My main quibble with DLU is the start when we see the science team so cock-a-hoop over the discovery of a new comet. Erm, this is the sort of thing amateur astronomers are doing all the time in their back yards. It's not what a PhD student would be getting observatory time for. It was later clarified that Dibiasky was actually scanning for supernovae or something a bit more in-depth. This could have easily been incorporated into the start eg new comet livens up a routine survey scan, so I am annoyed I got thrown so early by such a trivial thing.

Also got to wondering whether satires like this actually normalise the behaviour they're lampooning.

Anyway, that said, the cast was suitably 'star studded', and at least the creepy tech dude with all the moolah and mined data failed to accurately predict Dr. Mindy/DiCaprio's death.

Larry Hart said...

A reader prediction on electoral-vote.com...

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2022/Senate/Maps/Jan07.html#item-4

B.J.L. in Ann Arbor, MI: Lin-Manuel Miranda will reframe Hamilton as Trump (another New Yorker), with Rudy Giuliani in the Aaron Burr role. Some songs are easy to reframe, as "Helpless" becomes "Shameless" and there is a new take on "Right-Hand Man."


Heh.

Back when the earth was cooling in 2016, while watching the presidential debates between Hillary and Trump, my daughter and I kept coming up with Hamilton lines that Hillary would have killed with had she been quick enough to use them.


Stand with our brothers as they fight against tyranny.
I know that [Donald Trump] is here, and he
Would rather not have this debate.
I’ll remind you that he [was] not Secretary of State.

He knows nothing of loyalty,
Smells like new money, dresses like fake royalty,
Desperate to rise above his station.
Everything he does betrays the ideals of our nation.

Larry Hart said...

Money shot...

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/07/opinion/trump-democracy-voting-jan-6.html

If Republicans have embraced authoritarianism or have refused to confront it, and Democrats in Congress cannot or will not save us, we must save ourselves.

Larry Hart said...

This is what we're up against...

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/07/opinion/republicans-focus-group.html

In the days that followed Jan. 6, a number of prominent Republicans came out and said they were upset with what had happened and that they were upset with the way Trump had handled the situation. You had Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy say, “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.” You had some members of the White House staff and some members of President Trump’s cabinet who resigned in protest. Why do you think they came out and said that?
...
Judi: I don’t think they were honest, and I think they should have backed him regardless. I mean, you’re Republican or Democrat. You should back your president, and they didn’t. They didn’t back him. And that’s why I’m kind of — I’m going independent now.


Everyone "should back the president regardless" of his actions? Republican or Democrat, all should defer to Donald Trump because he holds the office. Without mind reading, I'll bet this b**** didn't profess or feel the same way when President Obama was in office. Can you imagine her saying "Democrat or Republican, you should back your president," during the Obama years? Hah! I sure can't?

When Republicans say s*** like this, what they mean is that everyone should respect the office when Republicans win because Republicans are supposed to win. Trump was elected president (in 2016), so everyone, no matter one's own leanings, should stand with him. It's his due. However, resistance to the usurpers Obama or Biden is a patriot's duty. And ultimately, the difference isn't about Obama being born in Kenya, or even about him being black (since neither applies to Biden). The difference is that an election decided by liberals is on its face illegitimate.

Unknown said...

Styx Nix Hix Pix...

I am suddenly visualizing the newly dead, being transported by Charon in what is surely by now a large passenger ferry, complaining about the on-voyage movie.

and "no, you're not getting any complementary peanuts. You are deceased".

Pappenheimer

David Brin said...

onward

onward