The Fermi Paradox

December 20, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Posted in Science, Space, Strange | Leave a comment

The question of intelligent life in the universe has fascinated us for a long time. In an article on the subject, WaitbutWhy starts with exploring something of the scale of the universe. Then they go into the odds of life “out there”. “there are 100 Earth-like planets for every grain of sand in the world” so there should be about “10 million billion intelligent civilizations in the observable universe.” They also describe a proposed scale of civilizations (level of development). Carl Sagan suggested we were at about 0.7 of the first stage. A more advanced level would have potentially spread far from it’s home planet.

The question then becomes “where is everybody?” – the Fermi Paradox. The article goes into exploring a number of scenarios proposed or discussed by various people to address the issue.

Personally, the use of technology like radio waves is pretty useless for any distance – even to the moon there is major lags. We’re pretty likely to adopt something better fairly quickly, leaving it as a technological blip that we’ve been radiating. Looking for others radio waves may be a useful exercise but rather like finding a needle in a haystack.

Secondly, the article assumes a materialist paradigm and that human development will be primarily technological. However, there is quite a bit more subtle development possible that is non-physical.

I’d suggest several of the possibilities in Group 2 are valid. What would be the point of physically colonizing a bunch of other places unless they’re very similar to what we’re evolved for? Other civilizations are likely to be unrecognizable to us, just as some forms of life have been on our own planet. And we’ve already gone through several major changes in our understanding of reality – a large work that’s still in progress. The ant hill example in possibility 9 is a decent analogy.

I’d also suggest there is still a great deal for us to yet learn about the world and our place in it. Still, the article is an interesting read.

Promotion via Fakery

March 6, 2014 at 5:36 pm | Posted in Events, Hardware, Humor, Internet, Media, Science, Strange, Technology, Transportation | Leave a comment

A weird episode in Internet “marketing” this week. A real company, HUVr Tech, seeking funding  sought buzz. First, they faked up a Promo video for Hoverboards, complete with the famous and Back to the Future references. Note the 0 noise and that the video is named “belief” (on their web site). They apparently used the Back to the Future wire harness.

Second, an “apology” by Christopher Lloyd. He was tricked??   Then, one from Tony Hawk, the famed skateboarder. Wired comments.

Fake promotions and fake apologies? Lame. Pranks are funny only if you include the punchline. Has their home page been updated to reflect this? Nope. This is what they think of their possible customers?

Testing if we Live in a Computer Simulation

December 14, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Posted in Nature, Science, Strange | Leave a comment

British philosopher Nick Bostrom published a paper in 2003 that suggests the universe we live in might in fact be a computer simulation run by our descendants. (future offspring) Using logic, he determined that if we survive into becoming post-humans, that outcome is likely.

We’re a long way from such an ability today. Physicists at the University of Washington are proposing experiments that might test for it. If the universe is a simulation, there will be constraints created by the underlying structure that have “signatures”, such as a limitation in the energy of cosmic rays.

If you’ve studied eastern philosophy at all, you’ll be familiar with this general idea. One perspective suggests the world is Maya, commonly understood to mean illusion. Another perspective uses the term Lila, meaning the divine play. In this case, the simulation is not created by our descendants but by divine entities.

The UW article

US Designs Supersonic Flying Saucer – in the ’50s

October 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Posted in History, Science, Strange, Technology, Transportation | Leave a comment

Report Cover

Recent declassified documents from the US Air Force indicates they designed and began prototyping a flying saucer in the 1950’s. They hired Avro Air, a Canadian Co., to test the specs. Called USAF Project 1794, it was designed for vertical takeoff and landing, a top speed of about Mach 4, a ceiling of over 100,000 feet, and a range of over 1,000 nautical miles.

Testing concluded it was quite feasible, with a top speed higher than initially expected. It doesn’t appear a full prototype was actually built. They estimated a cost a little over $3 million ($26.6 mill in todays $) over 2 years to do so. It would have an average top speed of about 2,600 miles per hour.

Structure Cutaway

As the archives point out, they had a curiously strong resemblance to flying saucers depicted in popular science fiction films of the mid-50’s.

The US Archives

Wired comments

Given the troubles with the later “Avrocar“, a related project between the USAF and Avro, the early testing seems to have been overly optimistic.


Breaking Physics

November 28, 2011 at 11:34 am | Posted in Media, Science, Space, Strange | Leave a comment

The boundaries of Physics are being broken again, but recently in profound ways.
I mentioned the recent discovery that stars produce not just heavier elements but organic matter.

We also now know that over 85% of stars are binary. And they’ve begun to see planets around distant stars.

Other key recent discoveries:
1 – In Europe they discovered that Neutrinos move faster than the speed of light. This is key because the speed of light has long been considered a fixed constant and a fundamental law.

[UPDATE: Well – #1 turned out to be the effect of a loose optical cable. Not faster than light.]

2 – It’s been discovered that Mesons decay differently than anti-mesons. This would explain why we have more matter than anti-matter. But it also breaks the standard model of particle physics.

3 – Everything points to there being multiple universes. A lot of them. Not only is the universe turning out to be bigger and fuller than we ever thought, there’s more of them.


Update: a related video on the speed of light, the size of the galaxy and galactic motion.

Motorized Unicycle

October 3, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Posted in Strange, Technology, Transportation | 3 Comments

Hmm – a little hard to describe this one. Honda is demonstrating a new experimental product. A powered unicycle. Kind of like a unicycle Segway, but without the handle.

It uses the balance technology developed with the ASIMO bipedal robot and a unique omnidirectional wheel that allows one to move forward – or sideways or diagonally. The wheel is composed of numerous small diameter motorized wheels that can roll sideways or connect inline to form one large diameter forward wheel.

It’s under 10kg, runs on a Li ion battery for one hours use. Like a unicycle, it sits between your legs.

You move  just by shifting your weight.
Better than talk, take a look at the demo video. Watch her lean.

More details:

Super Abled

March 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Posted in Design, Hardware, Health, Psychology, Science, Strange, Technology | Leave a comment

What does it mean to be disabled? And when does disabled become super-abled. The remarkable athlete Aimee Mullins describes her evolution from prosthetics as enabling, through art and into forms beyond what an abled person can consider. “speed, beauty, an extra 6 inches of height … Quite simply, she redefines what the body can be.”

Traffic Curiosities

January 20, 2009 at 10:47 am | Posted in Blogs, Internet, Strange | Leave a comment

Blogging is a curious enterprise. One posts an article, typically with some intention that it be read by others. Sharing an observation or point of interest. To see what caught readers attention, you monitor your “hits” or the traffic that is drawn to your site.

If people like your style, you may pick up some regular readers who subscribe. These hits come from emails and RSS reads.

If they really like an article, they may link to it in their blog or suggest it on a social networking site like Digg or StumbleUpon. (an apt name for how some treasures are found) Such recommendations can bring a lot of traffic to your site, which is why many sites hightlight links for such under their posts. Even announcements of how many times they’ve been “dugg”. ‘Join the crowd’ they invite.

However, I’ve found such traffic is dominated by “skimmers”, people trying to capture as much information as they can, zipping about the net. Telltale is that they rarely click through suggested links or otherwise stick around.

Recently, I’ve seen some new kinds of traffic. One is from a site that compiles lists of articles written on a certain day that contain a specific keyword like ‘entrepreneur’ or ‘mashup’. Essentially a random word on a random day gets you on a list. Resulting traffic is modest but focused.

More curious though is traffic that doesn’t result in article hits – lots of people who land on your blog ‘s home page but go no further. I saw a surge in this recently and discovered a site that was displaying a series of blogs for a few seconds in a sort of slide show. It was  picking up blogs with new articles and adding them to the queue. Thus, people were seeing your banner and perhaps your latest post title, then they were off to the next peak.

When I went to the site, there was a ton of feedback about how cool it was – they were getting traffic. But what value was such traffic? Are hits the bloggers high, however poor the reality? Are we that desperate to be seen?

For myself, I find signs people actually read the article much more useful. If you’ve made it to here, you’re my kind of reader.  😉

It gets Worse

November 18, 2008 at 11:50 pm | Posted in Computers, Hardware, Strange | 2 Comments

In September, I commented on the bizarre Ads that Microsoft was running to counter Mac’s. It’s gotten worse.

Now they’re selling “I’m a PC” clothing. Baseball caps even. And It’s Ugly.

These really don’t say ‘I love Microsoft’. They say “I’m a geek with no design sense”. Microsoft has also forgotten what PC stands for. The Mac ads imply PC means Windows as a jab. But Microsoft is buying into it, making fools of themselves. PC means Personal Computer. A Mac is a PC. So is a Linux box. And a Palm. The advertising is about the increasingly irrelevant operating system, not the hardware.

And really, this highlights why some adore their Mac’s. They’re well designed. Something Microsoft is still copying. Only they got this one wrong. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.


PS – in comments, which do you think is worst?

Magnetic Portals

November 4, 2008 at 4:19 pm | Posted in Science, Space, Strange | Leave a comment

Interesting discovery on the science front. We used to think the solar wind brought us various particles from the sun. Turns out its not a generally constant flow but rather inconstantly in brief bursts.

“During the time it takes you to read this article, something will happen high overhead that until recently many scientists didn’t believe in. A magnetic portal will open, linking Earth to the sun 93 million miles away. Tons of high-energy particles may flow through the opening before it closes again, around the time you reach the end of the page.”

“It’s called a flux transfer event or ‘FTE'”

No less than 9 space probes have studied this behaviour so its quite confirmed.

Some of the questions that remain – why every 8 minutes? Why do they coil?
Fascinating stuff.

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