Monthly Archives: July 2014

Landing

The spacecraft settled onto the surface and cheers erupted in the control room.  They did it.  If all the calculations were correct, humanity had successfully completed the first landing on an exoplanet.

Kapteyn B was an odd choice but eventually the scientific community gave it their blessing.  After all it was the closest exoplanet to Earth that could conceivably support life.

Reporters shouted questions at the flustered scientists. “When will we see pictures from the spacecraft?” “Do you think there is life there?” The team leader rose to his feet and asked the crowd for silence.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment and I would like to thank all the members of our team. The knowledge gained from this journey will be of benefit to all humanity. Some day we will send humans to planets such as this,” he said. “We want to see the pictures,” an insistent reporter said. The team leader cleared his throat. “As you may be aware, Kapteyn B is the closet exoplanet to Earth that could possibly sustain life. It happens to be located 13 light years away from us.” “So what,” the reporter said. “That means that it will take thirteen years for the first video feed to begin.”

“What? What’s the point then?” the reporter said. “This isn’t news, it’s history before it happens.” “Exactly,” the team leader said.

“There is a possibility that someday, someone will find a way around the laws of physics as we now know them but don’t hold your breath,” the team leader said.

They approached the shiny thing carefully. Light from their red dwarf sun glinted on the strange object and they could see parts of it moving. They picked up rocks and looked at each other. The first stone hit the spacecraft. Soon a shower of rocks shattered the glass camera lenses and bent the antennae. The solar collector lay in pieces on the ground. They turned as a group and returned to their waiting positions.

Tug of war

As an experiment I am going to write a blog post while the television is blaring the usual mindless drivel. Can I control my attention and focus it on writing while the onslaught of inanity bombards my ears?

Sadly, it is not to be. The television will be off in future.

An odd task

In the seated position I am pushing various plastic buttons under the assumption that the small images on the screen are symbols that contain meaning. I also assume that that meaning will be preserved for humanity’s lifetime somewhere in a cloud of bits, bytes, and soon, most probably,  qubits.

Muggington on Mosquitoes

The annual battle with mosquitoes is fully underway at our house. The only thing that keeps them at bay is burning mosquito coils. We have tried the recommended methods, citronella candles, citronella this and that, spraying mosquito repellent through a garden hose, an electronic contraption that is supposed to attract and suck in mosquitoes. We also remove all stagnant water to prevent breeding.

Nothing seems to work except burning a piece of plant material formed into a brittle coil, which by the way is not a very sophisticated technology. It is interesting to note that this is how we controlled mosquitoes in the 1970’s in Africa, along with an aerosol spray chillingly called “Doom”.

Our current crop of mosquitoes on Long Island is particularly devious. For some reason they are smaller and harder to see and they’ve toned down their whine so we can’t hear them coming.

There are thousands of brilliant scientists and engineers scattered over the globe and we are rapidly approaching the Singularity (hah!). Our vaunted big brains are capable of comprehending the multiverse and string theory.  Couldn’t they spare a little of their time to deal with these annoying , disease carrying flying needles?

 

What happens?

Have you ever watched a family walk in the park?  The young children skip, dart forward and run with exuberance and abandon.  Meanwhile the adults trail behind. Their shoulders are slumped and they plod along shouting cautions to their kids.

The family continues around the path until they reach an overhang over the pond in the park that is made up of wooden planks. When the children reach this area they immediately drop to the ground on their bellies  and they peer through the gaps in the planks and shout excitedly each time they get a glimpse of a fish. The parents sit on a bench and watch. There is no way they are going to get down on the dirty wood surface on their stomachs.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could find a way to rediscover the enthusiasm and zest for life that we had as children?

The Better Human Project

We live on a magnificent planet that provides endless opportunities. Humanity has some fatal flaws that prevent it from learning, growing and progressing as a society. The primitive violence and visceral hatred we witness today is no different than it has been for thousands of years.

Why don’t we as a culture and society make progress in the ways we treat each other? We seem to have no difficulty solving problems that require tools but those related to human emotions and thoughts remain unsolvable and inevitable despite many years of effort.

I suggest that our efforts have been sidetracked from the most important problem, learning how to live in peace with our fellow humans.

Isn’t this more important than cheaper junk food, or higher test scores?

I am going to try and use the #BetterHumanProject onTwitter to fish for suggestions and ideas that might help humans rise above our flawed history.

By the way, one of the reasons I wrote Pomroy’s World was to imagine ways in which a world could be different from ours. I refuse to believe that humanity’s long violent path is the only way.

A walk around the pond

Watch out for the goose poop. Otherwise the paved stone path is firm and pleasant to walk on. Make sure to check the red eared sliders on the fallen tree. They jostle for the limited space on the log above water. They love to stretch out their heads and limbs to gather in more of the delicious heat.

If you’re lucky you’ll see the big fat koi lurking near the mats of algae. One off-white and the other deep golden orange. The offspring of the two bright white swans has grown tremendously. It is almost as big as its parents although it still sports grey, ruffled feathers.

You have almost made it round the pond once. You should now see the sad stump of a healthy tree removed for no apparent reason.

That’s it. One completed and many more to go.

the Brain Initiative

I started a post about an interesting topic, entropy and life, but I haven’t had enough coffee yet to deal with it.  Instead, I will take a stroll through my mind and see what else I encounter.

Lots and lots of stimuli are bombarding me.  Photons are bouncing off a zillion different objects and reaching the rods and cones of my retinas.  The wind is pushing air molecules against thousands of receptors in my skin.  Dust particles are hitting my corneas.  Dust mites are probably crawling over my eyebrows.  My tympanic membranes are vibrating in response to a huge variety of waves.  My taste buds are rioting in response to the strong coffee I am drinking.

Somehow my brain is taking this gigantic amount of input and considering its value, while at the same time maintaining my bodily functions, my memories, my consciousness and more, while I am seated typing these trivial words.

Good luck with the Brain Initiative.

Life elsewhere in the universe

There has been discussion by scientists that soon they will discover signs of life on other planets.  Technology has improved and they can now easily detect Earth-like planets and they claim that within twenty years there is a good chance we will find evidence of other life.

That is intriguing and I hope that they succeed.  I have some questions.

Will other forms of intelligent life necessarily want to encounter us?  Would we welcome them or attack them?

Are we ready to encounter other life forms?

I think it would be wise for us to focus on improving human society.  This should be our urgent mission.

Humanity needs an attitude adjustment.

It’s about time

The first few words emerge grudgingly.  It’s like my mind is rusty with disuse.  Writing truly is exercise.  It keeps those mental joints and tissues limber and supple.

I got distracted the last couple days by technology of course.  Computers and their ilk are seductive.  They have an amazing ability to suck up time.  Before you know it you have wasted a day, two days or even weeks.

It’s ironic that I do my writing with a computer and at the same time it is my nemesis.