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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘extraterrestrial life

[FORUM] What is your answer to the Fermi paradox?

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Over at the New APPS Blog, Eric Winsberg reacts to the discovery of Kepler-186f–a roughly Earth-sized planet that is in the right location around its red dwarf star to potentially be habitable–by revisiting the Fermi paradox. If there are suitable Earth-like environments where technology-using intelligences like ourselves could develop, where is everyone?

I’ve discussed this topic in the past. I remain intrigued by Keith Wiley’s 2011 paper arguing that, at this stage, we really lack the data necessary to disprove the existence of advanced civilizations. All we can say is that we don’t think that there are any megascale constructions–Dyson spheres, for instance–in our local neighbourhood and that there are no civilizations making loud broadcasts that we’ve picked up. Winberg has come up with six possibilities.

One is that there is any substantial chance at all of life arising at all on a planet with conditions more or less like ours. I admit that it is possible for this premise to be false, but I don’t begin to see how that could be. Given the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone, let alone our local cluster, the needed probability here would be so tiny.

The second is that there is no substantial chance of life in general evolving into a life form that has the intelligence and other capacities required to create technology. This also strikes me as implausible.

The third is that given enough time, such a life form would eventually be capable of colonizing a nearby planet. This one seems very likely to be true, given that such a capacity does not even seem wildly out of reach for us.

The forth is that such life forms aren’t extremely unlikely to _want_ to colonize nearby planets. Given that life forms tend to grow exponentially in number, and the fact that planets have finite resources and a finite capacity to absorb waste, this also seems like a tough one to deny.

The fifth is that some such life forms would colonize planets exponentially. That is, for example, each colonized planet would go on to colonize two more planets. Or even 1.1 more planets, on average. To make the paradox go away, one would have to deny that a single intelligent life form that had a large head start on us ever did this.

Sadly, it seems to me that the easiest premise to deny is this sixth one: intelligent life forms are never able to develop the technology, cooperative effort, etc. required to colonize a planet BEFORE they either use up all the resources, or capacity to absorb waste, of their home planet.

You?

Written by Randy McDonald

April 21, 2014 at 2:17 am

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • blogTO describes Toronto’s Great Fire of 1904.
  • Centauri Dreams and D-Brief react to the discovery of Kepler-186f, The Dragon’s Gaze linking to a paper that models potential climates on the world.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes, as does io9, that an Earth-like planet doesn’t need a stabilizing moon to be habitable. If anything, a shifting axis may help a planet avoid ice ages.
  • Eastern Approaches notes that the Czech Republic isn’t getting a Russian corporation to renovate its nuclear power plants.
  • Geocurrents notes the ongoing maritime border dispute between Romania and Ukraine.
  • Language Log notes an example of Chinese characters being used as annotations for Vietnamese script.
  • The Map Room’s Jonathan Crowe links to a copy of the only fantasy literature setting map needed. (The cliches are cringe-worthy.)
  • Marginal Revolution takes note of the ongoing real estate boom in Vancouver.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that Ukraine needs to keep Odessa, not only because of the city’s importance as a coastal port but because of its oil refinery.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog links to a paper analyzing the different kinds of processes of depopulation in European Russia.
  • Towleroad notes that a photo exhibit showing same-sex couples kissing in Catholic churches, closed down in Rome, is now up in New York City.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that it’s quite rare to actually see police officers suffer serious penalties for lying.
  • Window on Eurasia points readers to the writings of Andrey Piontkovsky, who argues that Putin’s push for territorial annexations is more destabilizing (because more uncertain) than the Cold War.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell observes an uncanny congruence between maps of England showing ancient patterns of Viking settlement and contemporary patterns of areas with benefit cuts.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • The Buffer blog advises online writers as to how often they should post on different media.
  • Centauri Dreams reacts to the discovery of the ocean under Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a recent paper claiming to set limits on a potential distant planet X and observes archeological data suggesting a 9th century settlement date for a Tongan island.
  • Eastern Approaches comments on the Hungarian election.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Doug Merrill warns that if Russia does move into eastern Ukraine, terrible choices will be afoot.
  • Geocurrents’ Claire Negiar takes a look at the Caribbean island of St. Martin, divided between French and Dutch halves.
  • Joe. My. God. links to an article examining the use of the drug Truvada to prevent HIV infection and notes that Blondie’s Debbie Harry has come out as bisexual.
  • Language Log’s Victor Mair explains what Chinese might mean when they talk about prayer.
  • Towleroad’s Ari Ezra Waldman comments on Brandon Eich’s resignation.
  • Window on Eurasia notes one Russian commentator’s argument that the Baltic States have been lost to the Russian sphere, another noting a fall in anti-Caucasian sentiment in the media as Ukraine heats up.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • D-Brief shares the news that scientists think that Saturn’s moon Enceladus has a subsurface ocean in its southern polar region.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a remarkable paper claiming that red dwarf stars are exceptionally likely to have a planet in their circumstellar habitable zones.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to an other paper on Mars suggesting that world was never very hot, even in its youth.
  • Eastern Approaches suggests that Poland is approaching the point of relative energy-independence from Russia.
  • The Financial Times The World blog reports on the failure of a US-subsidized Cuban social networking system.
  • The Frailest Thing’s Michael Sacasas links to an account of an 1895 conversation between Paul Valéry and a Chinese friend suggesting that Chinese may have had different perspectives on technology than Westerners.
  • Geocurrents’ Martin Lewis notes Ukrainian regionalism, observing that the Europe-leaning west/centre region has inside it a strongly nationalist Galicia and a regionalist Ruthene-leaning Transcarpathia.
  • Joe. My. God. points to the story of a Floridian sex offender who tried to burn down the home of a lesbian couple and their eight children just because.
  • Personal Reflection’s Jim Belshaw explores the origin of the word “bogey” in Australian English to mean swimming hole.
  • The Planetary Society Blog’s Bruce Betts reports on the progress made in the search for planets at Alpha Centauri. (So far, no evidence for Alpha Centauri Bb, but then the technology isn’t sensitive enough to confirm that world’s existence.)
  • Towleroad reports on the controversy surrounding the recent resignation of former Mozilla Brandon Eich, Andrew Sullivan aligning with left-wingers and Michael Signorile making the point that Eich’s donations to people like Pat Buchanan tipped things over.
  • Window on Eurasia comments on the successful program of the Kazakhstani government to settle ethnic Kazakhs in the once-Russian-majority north of the country so as to prevent a secession.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • At The Dragon’s Tales, Will Baird reports that Sweden and Finland, spooked by Crimea, are now contemplating NATO membership.
  • On a very different note, The Dragon’s Tales also notes that Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus, with a Europa-like ocean underneath, is perfectly suited for a space mission.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that workers are dying on World Cup construction sites in Brazil as well as in Qatar.
  • At the Planetary Society Blog, Emily Lakdawalla notes the very recent discovery of Kuiper belt object 2013 FY27, big enough to be a dwarf planet.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy links to a profile of the blog and its blogger in Tablet magazine.
  • Window on Eurasia has a series of links. One argues that Russia’s weakness not its strength motivated the move into Crimea, another argues that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be a catastrophe and that the Russian government knows it, another observes Belarus’ alienation from federation with Russia.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • At the blog Buffer, Kevan Lee shows what lengths–in characters and in words–tweets and blog headlines and blog posts should be, according to science.
  • Patrick Cain notes that Canadians have no way of knowing how many banned guns there were under the former registry since its junking.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining what, exactly, is needed for a planet to become Earth-like.
  • The Dragon’s Tales, meanwhile, links to a paper claiming that the Cambrian explosion of biodiversity was a product of a nearby gamma-ray burst.
  • Geocurrents explores the question of whether and how it matters to call the eastern European country “Ukraine” or “the Ukraine”.
  • Joe. My. God. links to a site gathering the first and last lines from noted gay novels.
  • At Lawyers, Guns and Money, bloggers question whether the American soldiers who perpetrated genocide in the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890 should have their Medals of Honor stripped from them, and have no truck with the idea that American airpower can save Ukraine.
  • John Moyer responded to OKCupid’s boycotting of Mozilla for its anti-gay president by quitting Mozilla, and explains why.
  • At the Planetary Society Weblog, Emily Lakdawalla examines the latest thinking on Titan’s methane lakes and oceans. Where do they come from?
  • pollotenchegg maps the distribution of Hungarians in former Hungarian territories in central Europe.
  • Strange Maps examines how maps are used to lie in George Orwell’s 1984.
  • Torontoist shares a picture of a vintage streetcar on the streets of east Toronto’s Scarborough.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy comments on the International Court of Justice’s ruling against Japan on the subject of its supposed scientific whaling program, and argues that a federal system for Ukraine might not be bad notwithstanding Russian bullying.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that Russia’s military depends heavily on the technological and industrial output of southeastern Ukraine, relying on now-suspended cooperation.

[BLOG] Some Monday science links

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  • Centauri Dreams’ Paul Gilster notes that there is a class for bright F-class stars to host Earth-like worlds, and observes that the ESA’s Rosetta probe is set to rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churymov-Gerasimenko.
  • D-Brief suggests that mitochondrial damage might be responsible for so-called “Gulf War syndrome”.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that the Kepler satellite can detect large exomoons, links to a paper suggesting that Jupiters aren’t needed to deliver water to the surfaces of rocky habitable-zone planets, and observes that the geological cycles of the Earth are necessary for life.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 31, 2014 at 7:07 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Beyond the Beyond’s Bruce Sterling shares a United Nations reaction to a United States human rights report.
  • The Dragon’s Tales observes one model for the climate of the ancient Earth and notes that, on the basis of ancient DNA, ancient Europeans were not uniformly white.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes studies of the galactic habitable zones of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies.
  • Eastern Approaches reacts to the recent Crimean vote.
  • Geocurrents’ Asya Perelstvaig shares a post about Irish cuisine over time.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the recent visit paid by American evangelist Michael Brown to Peru to try to spread anti-gay ideology.
  • At Lawyers, Guns and Money, the argument is made that the Democratic Party really has shifted left.
  • James Nicoll, at More Words, Deeper Hole, notes the racism of environmentalist Garret Hardin.
  • The New APPS Blog tackles the question of the extent to which the anti-Semitism and Naziism of Heidegger informed his philosophy.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy is unimpressed by the Crimean referendum.
  • Window on Eurasia shares the warning of Andrei Ilarionov that Russia plans on annexing and dominating far more of Ukraine than Crimea.

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

  • The Big Picture shares pictures of the ongoing confusion and human tragedy surrounding the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes preliminary results for the hunt of exoplanets around very cool stars.
  • The Dragon’s Tales, meanwhile, observes that the red-coloured formation on Europa’s icy surface seem to be produced by internal events.
  • Far Outliers notes that Japan provided naval protection to Australia during the First World War, causing the Australians no small amount of alarm at their vulnerability.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Alex Harrowell notes the personal and ideological connection between now-separate Crimea and Transnistria.
  • At The Frailest Thing, Michael Sacasas talks about how the phenomenon of people disconnecting from the online world can evoke the Bakhtinian carnival, and how it also might not be enough.
  • Geocurrents notes that, in various referenda, Switzerland’s Francophone cantons are consistently more open (to immigrants, to the European Union) than others.)
  • Joe. My. God. observes that for the first time since the epidemic hit, HIV/AIDS has stopped being one of the top ten causes of death in New York City.
  • Ukrainian demographics blogger pollotenchegg shares the results of recent detailed polling of Crimea’s population, on everything from political views or language usage.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that markets are reacting to Russia’s actions, though whether it’s Crimea alone or broader fears about a Ukrainian war is open to question.
  • Torontoist explains to its readership what co-op apartments actually are, in the course of an explanation that Jack Layton and Olivia Chow were not living in subsidized apartments.
  • Towleroad celebrates the classic TV series Golden Girls.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that Russian relations with Lithuania are also deteriorating.

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • io9 notes evidence of massive collisions in the inner system of Beta Pictoris.
  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait notes that the data from the WISE infrared telescope is in, and there is no evidence of a giant distant companion planet in our solar system.
  • blogTO has a nice photoessay regarding the Annex in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly celebrates Canada’s Public Lending Right Program, giving authors royalties based on library lending.
  • Patrick Cain warns of “Torontohenge”, the day in winter (23rd of February) when the “setting sun aligns with Toronto’s east-west street grid and forces drivers to squint through salt-crusted windshields.”
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to an essay on the changing role of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, something noteworthy after the Crimea events.
  • The Dragon’s Tales also notes a study suggesting that conditions for habitability on Mars were only ephemeral and occasional.
  • Marginal Revolution notes Daniel Drezner’s opinion that sanctions against Russia aren’t going to deter it from annexing Crimea.
  • At the Planetary Society Blog, Emily Lakdawalla notes that, with a flyby for Pluto and a probe arriving at Ceres, 2015 will be the year of the dwarf planet.
  • Registan notes that Russia is trying to woo the Crimean Tatars, not least by getting help from Russia’s component republic of Tatarstan.
  • Savage Minds recommends as polymathic and interesting Greg Grandin’s new book The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World.
  • Towleroad notes that Douglas Allan, a Canadian economist called to testify against same-sex marriage in Michigan, went on the record as saying that he thinks gay people are going to hell.
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