The misunderstood Fermi Paradox, ET may indeed be out there…

Wednesday, 3 February, 2016

I make mention of the Fermi Paradox from time to time, and possibly it may be a misunderstood concept. Enrico Fermi, Italian physicist, who died in 1954, is reputed to have said that if intelligent extraterrestrial life did indeed exist, it would have long ago manifested itself in some way.

Instead, and despite living in a galaxy potentially teeming with life-friendly planets, there is no sign, whatsoever, of anyone else. Now it turns out that Fermi may have been wondering about the feasibility of interstellar travel, rather than discounting the presence of extraterrestrial life, according to the accounts of three people who know him well:

Both York and Teller seemed to think Fermi was questioning the feasibility of interstellar travel – nobody thought he was questioning the possible existence of extraterrestrial civilizations. So the so-called Fermi paradox – which does question the existence of E.T. – misrepresents Fermi’s views. Fermi’s skepticism about interstellar travel is not surprising, because in 1950 rockets had not yet reached orbit, much less another planet or star.

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What has caused star KIC 8462852 to dim? Not comets, that’s for sure

Wednesday, 20 January, 2016

KIC 8462852, a star located about fifteen hundred light years from Earth, made headlines last year after inexplicable variations in its brightness were noticed. It was speculated that something big, much, much bigger than even a Jupiter size planet was responsible, and people began thinking alien megastructures might account for the phenomenon.

Astronomers shied away from making such a conclusion, and insisted there was a natural explanation, such as comets, although that, as it turns out, was a big ask:

Schaefer saw the same century-long dimming in his manual readings, and calculated that it would require 648,000 comets, each 200 kilometres wide, to have passed by the star – completely implausible, he says. “The comet-family idea was reasonably put forth as the best of the proposals, even while acknowledging that they all were a poor lot,” he says. “But now we have a refutation of the idea, and indeed, of all published ideas.”

So, KIC 8462852’s brightness has decreased by twenty percent over a one hundred year period, and to date there is way to account for it.

Is it too early to say that this is starting to become interesting?

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Making the work of science fiction writers more scientific

Tuesday, 19 January, 2016

The Science and Entertainment Exchange might be just the resource that writers of science fiction novels and screenplays need, and is made up of two thousand seven hundred scientists, who stand ready to help make manuscripts and scripts more “plausible-ish”.

The Exchange’s Mr. Loverd acknowledges getting the minutiae correct services “that small percentage of the population that can understand this stuff.” But writers face fans who have turned the Web into an accountability tool. And shows like “MythBusters” have popularized movie-science debunking. There are also academic critiques. The 2013 space drama “Gravity” was a hit, but astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson publicly raised questions: Why did satellite debris orbit east to west, and why didn’t Sandra Bullock’s hair float in zero-G? The movie makers, Dr. Tyson says in an email, “needed that twist of reality to intensify the story.”

Science fiction seems to have science become non-fiction, and if the science thereof doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, sci-fi writers may find themselves in hot water. It’s a topic that’s near and dear, given I’m writing a manuscript that has a decent sci-fi element.

I’m trying to ensure accuracy where possible, but I’m afraid when it comes to faster than light travel, I’ll be dropping the ball.

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Riddle me this, how is a volcano like an iceberg?

Friday, 15 January, 2016

After reading more about midocean ridges, it seems to me that volcanoes are a little like icebergs… most of their features lie out of sight, below sea level.

Picture a volcano. Now imagine that its main vent extends in a line. Now imagine that this line is so long that it runs for more than 40,000 miles through the dark recesses of all the world’s oceans, girding the globe like the seams of a baseball. Welcome to one of the planet’s most obscure but important features, known rather prosaically as the midocean ridges. Though long enough to circle the moon more than six times, they receive little notice because they lie hidden in pitch darkness.

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Shining a little light on black holes

Friday, 18 December, 2015

I spend more time than I should trying to make sense of black holes, exactly because I struggle to make sense of them. I try, without success, to visualise what they might look like, if you could see them. Well, maybe you can’t see them, that’s why they’re called black holes. As it happens, I’m not the only one who is mystified by these objects.

In fact, there’s a lot that even those who study them full time, still don’t know. That’s reassuring. As I have discovered though, they do last for a long time, and may be some of the few remaining objects left when the universe itself finally reaches the end of its existence.

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The asteroid hunters, keeping Earth safe

Friday, 11 December, 2015

There’s more than a few asteroids floating about in the space that our planet moves through, but hopefully the efforts of asteroid hunters will detect anything that poses a significant threat, well before it strays too close to us.

We understand now that impacts are a regular facet of life in the solar system, and if you take the extremely long view, close encounters with objects far larger than Tunguska – asteroids that could obliterate regions or even wipe out humanity – are flying around out there and will eventually hit us, 500 or 10,000 or a million years hence. That is, unless we locate these threats, study them, and make plans to mitigate them if and when necessary.

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The tyranny of distance will not prevent electrons from entangling

Friday, 23 October, 2015

Fascinating. Apparently particles such as electrons can influence, or affect, each other’s behaviour, communicate it could be, even if there is some distance between them. No matter how great their separation, it seems they are somehow entangled.

The Delft researchers were able to entangle two electrons separated by a distance of 1.3 kilometers, slightly less than a mile, and then share information between them. Physicists use the term “entanglement” to refer to pairs of particles that are generated in such a way that they cannot be described independently. The scientists placed two diamonds on opposite sides of the Delft University campus, 1.3 kilometers apart.

I’ve always wondered if this type of… entanglement applies to other objects, entities perhaps, elsewhere. Though I’m being more philosophical than scientific there. Possibly this electron entanglement may have something to do with the way the rotation axes of black holes in quasars, far, far, distant from each other, align with each other.

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Is this most unreal life really a real like simulation?

Tuesday, 20 October, 2015

Do you have days when it feels as if everything you touch seems to break, or not work? Days when little goes right? Do you ever come to feel that some force is play, setting up these let downs, one after the other? As if you were part of a Sims game that some other person, or entity, is playing somewhere?

Could it all be an hallucination? Is the world we reside in, or think we reside in, really just a simulation? Probably not, but then again, maybe:

The other aspect is, “How do we know we’re not being completely fooled?” In other words, forgetting about whether there is a deeper level of reality, how do we know whether the world we see represents reality at all? How do we know, for example, that our memories of the past are accurate? Maybe we are just brains living in vats, or maybe the whole universe was created last Thursday.

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Don’t let the dust mites bite, so don’t make the bed

Wednesday, 14 October, 2015

I’ve never been one to encourage the making of beds in the morning, I just don’t go for this character building stuff in that regard, go running or something else instead, that’s character building. Back to making, or rather not making beds though, it appears that there are health benefits in leaving them unmade:

According to reports, making your bed every morning may be bad for your health. The reason is dust mites; they don’t just look nasty, they are nasty. In the average bed there’s as many as 1.5 million microscopic mites crawling around and feasting off the skin cells you shed while you sleep. In the morning, if you make your bed immediately, all of the skin cells, sweat, mites and their droppings – which can cause asthma and allergies – will be trapped underneath. However, if the bed is left unmade, the mites, dead skin, the sweat, all of it, will be exposed to fresh air and light.

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A goal tracker that fines you for failure to achieve, and other links

Friday, 25 September, 2015

Working at a motel in a small town can be tedious sometimes, especially if you’re a teenager. How to liven things up then? Spy on the guests, of course. That’s what happens in Blood Pulls A Gun, the latest short film from Sydney based film director Ben Briand. Via Hypnophant.

How many ways are there to tie shoelaces? Two? Four? Seven? At least eighteen, according to Ian Fieggen, who also includes instructions as to how to tie each and every one. Check out the special purpose knots for occasions such as Halloween.

It’s best things like this do not go unquestioned… the holes at the centre of donuts, or doughnuts, have been shrinking, or at least are far smaller than they once used to be. Now why would that be? Vox is on the case though:

Smithsonian’s history of the donut provides a comprehensive look at the food, and from it we can draw a few guesses about why donut holes shrank. Donut holes are shrouded in legend, but they probably exist to help fry the donut more evenly – without a hole, the center of the donut would end up more raw than the outside.

The problem with conventional “strong” passwords, that should include letters, numbers, uppercase and special characters, is the difficulty in remembering them. The people at xkcd have a better idea for devising secure passwords, that are also a lot easier to remember, in that they adopt what I call a story format. The thing is, how many systems will actually allow their use?

Photo by Agne Gintalaite

Lithuanian artist and photographer Agne Gintalaite doesn’t just see a garage door, she sees but part of a colour palette, and went about photographing, from what I can gather, two hundred doors, for a series called Beauty Remains. See more images here.

The speed of light is the ultimate speed limit of the universe, at least as far as we understand the cosmos at present. In a vacuum, light moves at 299,792.458 kilometres per second. That’s pretty swift. But why does light move at that particular speed? Why not faster, why not slower? That, as it happens, is a very good question…

A further breakthrough came in 1905, when Albert Einstein showed that c, the speed of light through a vacuum, is the universal speed limit. According to his special theory of relativity, nothing can move faster. So, thanks to Maxwell and Einstein, we know that the speed of light is connected with a number of other (on the face of it, quite distinct) phenomena in surprising ways. But neither theory fully explains what determines that speed. What might? According to new research, the secret of c can be found in the nature of empty space.

Anthophobia is a morbid dislike, or fear of flowers. Buy why would anyone be afraid of flowers? Well, if they were ever to rise up, and attempt to subdue us, then there might be something to worry about, an idea that is explored by Valentin Petit, in a short film titled Anthophobia.

Follow these seven simple steps and you too may have a creative breakthrough. Actually the process may not be quite that straightforward, but hopefully it will help set you along the path towards whatever goal you are seeking.

And on the subject of creative breakthroughs and achieving goals, being focused, and having sort of accountability mechanism is vital. For assistance in that regard, look no further than Go Fucking Do It, which allows you to submit a task or goal, a deadline, and then a monetary fine, if you fail to achieve what you set out to do. How does that sound?

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