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Searching for aliens

Here's what I don't understand about the alien civilizations that send spacecraft to Earth and abduct people in their sleep to subject them to mysterious experiments back on board the Mothership: Why don't they just read about it on the Internet? We're posting genomic data about human beings and other organisms right there on the Web. Isn't the abduction thing a lot of fuss and bother? I know what you're going to say: The aliens aren't just interested in our DNA, they also want to map our aura, our chakra and the source of our chi energy. That's right: They're technological, but they're also really into yoga.

From a purely scientific standpoint, the great mystery of aliens is why we haven't found any yet. You know: the Fermi Paradox. "Where are they?" Fermi suddenly blurted out in a conversation in 1950.

The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is 50 years old this month. It was April 8, 1960, that Frank Drake used a telescope at Green Bank, W. Va., for the first search for radio signals from other worlds. It's the subject of a new book, "The Eerie Silence," by Paul Davies, who is one of my favorites -- imaginative, smart, lucid. He's sort of a throwback natural philosopher who takes on cutting-edge ideas about time, space, life, God, the whole ball of wax.

Davies thinks we should throw out any and all assumptions about what alien intelligence might be like. Classic SETI supposes that ET will intentionally send radio signals; Davies thinks we should be more focused on detecting anything anomalistic in our astronomical observations. He also suspects that ET will quickly evolve out of a flesh-and-blood state and become a form of artificial intelligence.

A similar argument has been advanced by Seth Shostak, who last year sent me the abstract of a talk in which he outlines the reasons for expanding traditional SETI strategy to encompass the possibility that civilizations of artificial intelligence may be inhabiting what we'd call empty places in the galaxy -- that is, places other than rocky, Earth-like planets.

Shostak's reasoning is that, once artificial intelligence reaches a certain threshold, it becomes a bit of a runaway train (pardon the weak metaphor; it's actually a runaway brain of sorts). Machine intelligence is immortal. Interstellar travel is possible, and the time it takes to get somewhere is unimportant when you live forever. Shostak goes on:

"... the restriction to watery worlds is not one that such intelligence is required to heed. Indeed, it's unclear that they need be situated on planets at all. The interstellar flux in our part of the Galaxy is roughly a watt per square kilometer of collector. Consequently, it's not inconceivable that efficient machines could be situated anywhere, not just in the immediate neighborhoods of stars.

"While low-power machinery might eke out an existence between the stars, the intellectual giants of the universe - machines able to expand their computational activities far beyond what we can conceive - might be prodigious consumers of energy. That suggests that these alpha male sentients might repair to regions of high energy density, for instance the center of the Galaxy. For the machines, for whom the trip to the center is only an inconsequential inconvenience, and for whom the bad environment would be tolerable, this might be a desirable place to set up shop."

Shostak thinks we should search for intelligence in and around Bok globules. I'm a little fuzzy on what a Bok globule is, but I'll take Shostak's word for it that such things might be loaded to the gills with aliens.

Shostak's idea is similar to something Freeman Dyson has been saying for a long time: That life will adapt to space and find habitats in places we would find inhospitable, such as the Oort Cloud.

I do wonder if this migration to artificiality, from flesh-and-blood to machine, is an inevitability for any intelligent species. Sure, it's happen to me personally, but this isn't about me. Maybe the artificial aliens will realize that they want to evolve still further -- back to being meat creatures.

This subject is one to be approached, of course, with intellectual modesty. Let us recall something Stephen Jay Gould said to me back when I was researching my book "Captured By Aliens":

"No data."

We know of exactly one example of life in the universe. Until we have more data, everything's possible -- and we truly don't know what we're talking about.


For space policy buffs: Here's a statement from Norm Augustine about Obama's space strategy. I think it needed an editor:

"The White House plan as described today confirms the earlier decision with regard to the future of the Space Shuttle; extends the life of the international Space Station by five years; provides a date for initiating a new heavy lift launch vehicle; establishes a technology development program, and funds science and engineering aboard the Space Station; continues the Orion capsule in a modified version; and changes the focus of the human exploration program from the Moon to Mars following a flexible path which includes a series of significant exploration destinations. It terminates the Ares I B rocket, which, although logical at the time the Constellation program was initiated, has slipped in schedule such that it does not well serve either the international space station or the exploration program. The plan also places in U.S. industry when under the strong guidance of NASA the same confidence as has been placed in Russian industry to safely launch U.S. astronauts in the lower earth orbit. [????] [OK, I think I got it: The object of the sentence is "U.S. industry when under the strong guidance of NASA." It's like one giant noun. Grammarian in the house??]

The key to the success of such an endeavor will be to sustain funding at least at the level of the current budget plan and for NASA and industry to combine their remarkable space capabilities to provide America a human space exploration program worthy of a great nation."

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 14, 2010; 7:49 AM ET
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Next: Astronaut wars


I didn't mudge myself!!!

'Morning, Boodle.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 14, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

my mudged comment from the last boodle-

Wilbrod-that makes two of us.
I like to think Holden enjoyed this:

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 14, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I did!

Good morning, y'all.

Lots of warm muffins, hot coffee and cold OJ on the table.

dmd, I agree. All of Canada is probably better off with Ms. Guergis out of Parliament.

I will go on record as being a great fan of bendy straws. If I were to be so fortunate as to get a speaking gig, a bendy straw in the water glass would be a must-have.

SciTim, when I was in my 20s and early 30s I never wore a navy blue suit on a commercial airliner lest I be mistaken for a flight attendant. These days, folks frequently assume I'm deaf and/or cognitively challenged because of the chair.

Posted by: MsJS | April 14, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: MsJS | April 14, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

The aliens are machines?

That's going to put a crimp in Captain Kirk's style.

Posted by: byoolin1 | April 14, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Hey MsJS!?!?! Where are the steak and eggs?

Oh, they are here, if I want them.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 14, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

At least Kirk gets a machine! We are all stuck with nothing more than holograms.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 14, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

I dunno, maybe we need to go talk to Hari Seldon.

Posted by: ebtnut | April 14, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Hey if they're all machines that crave Bok globules, then maybe we won't have to worry about any of this backfiring on us in a big way, a la 'Independence Day' :P

Posted by: Comunista | April 14, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Wow, Joel, this kit is fraught with intellectual puzzles, challenges and thought problems. For instance, I'm still trying to figure out if "anomalistic" is that biblical thing you're not supposed to do on the ground.

Regarding those medical experiements that aliens conduct, I've always wondered if they are covered by Medicare Part A or Medicare Part B, but being experimental by definition, I'm sure the FDA won't approve them. I think one clue that they aren't covered is the fact that as soon as the medical testing is over, the aliens kick you out right away. No lingering around for a day or two recovering from invasive (and often very, very personal) surgery.

Shostak raises the very real possibility that one day there will be a Sigourney Weaver movie about a handful of blue-collar space travelers on some industrial spaceship. They'll be sitting atround the mess hall in their grubby T-shirts when one of them will suddenly grab his chest, start gasping, and then a vicious baby iPad will suddenly rupture from his sternum. Then the vicious, salivating iPad will chase Sigourney all around the spaceship until suddenly its Packerd-Bell harddrive seizes up and it dies, tiny little blue screens of death filling its eye sockets.

But I think the notion of clusters of AI "aliens" living in remote parts of space is just absurd. There'd be way too many bugs, glitches, security breeches, spam attacks, etc., and Microsoft would be issuing even more patches than it does now. Granted, an AI life form for whom time has no meaning would still get irritated pretty quickly waiting for his/her/its system to reboot and watching that stupid bar get hung up about halfway through the process. I mean, there's be this humongous XBox gizmoid out in some Bok Choy Cloud cursing and muttering and calling Bill Gates all sorts of names.

Although I may be projecting here somewhat, I dunno.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 14, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

The internet? The telcos refuse to extend FIOS service to Baltimore, much less Proxima Centauri.

Posted by: anaximander471 | April 14, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Oh, front page alert, BTW. But I think we'll be all right this time...unless somebody changes Joel's link to "Space Aliens Honor Civil War Dead."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 14, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

More like
"Space Aliens Revive General Robert Lee, Auction Him on E-Bay to the NAACP."

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 14, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Morning, Boodle.

Have been time traveling for two hours, lost in the links from the new kit.
Impossible to follow them further and get anything else accomplished today. Have to search the universe behind and under the couch for suspected electrical outlets.

Good day to you all . . . .

Posted by: talitha1 | April 14, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Don't be too sure about that boodle weather forecast. The home page headline doesn't say "space aliens," it just says aliens. As Bill Paxton says in "Aliens" - "They said aliens and she thought they said illegal aliens."

Posted by: kguy1 | April 14, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

If *I* were to have my consciousness transferred to a machine (or rather, if a machine were started up with a consciousness that would have the impression of having been transferred from my more or less meaty brain, a meaty brain whose imminent expiration might be accelerated just a tad in order to avoid any tiresome existential conundrums (conundra? conundrot? conundrim?)) well, then, um, ... where was I going with that idea?

Oh, yeah! If I were such a machine intelligence, I believe that I should while away the endless span of time by subtly manipulating the evolution of intelligent life on a planet of my choosing, in a grand example of SimEarth. I would be Gawd to my Sims, and I would have endless fun with the crafting of vaguely-worded commandments and the occasional hitting of the Reset switch by dropping an asteroid on them. How cool would it be, to die and discover that your entire life has been downloaded into the consciousness of your Silicon Lord? Hell, of course, would be when you discover that all the existential questions that have troubled you throughout your life are still there, only now you don't have the anticipation of death and sweet, sweet oblivion to free you from your endless torment of unanswerable questions.

Good times, good times.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 14, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

First of all, let me stress that anyone even remotely interested in this topic, which should include everyone, must purchase a copy of Joel's book. While it is not strictly necessary to get the limited-edition deluxe illuminated version with the pressed-leather cover, it wouldn't hurt.

Okay then.

Now, I am of the opinion that much of the future belongs to machine intelligence - a term I like better than artificial intelligence because it bypasses so many philosophical quagmires. I am not asserting that people are going to become extinct. I firmly believe that our earthly infestation is extremely robust. But I am convinced that certain aspects of our future will belong the The Machines. And no where is this more obvious that in the exploration of space.

Not only do I think that machine-based exploration is not inconceivable, I think it is inevitable. Whether or not this is the way the future should go isn't the point. I know that the notion of humanity spreading love and happiness throughout the cosmos is a core value for many. But this vision and exploration by machinery aren't at all mutually exclusive. We will do what we can, and then count on machines to do what we can't.

Which means that it is entirely possible that First Contact may be between our machines and their machines. So let's just hope they hit it off.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Yeah Mudge, I had to read "anomolistic" twice too.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Oops. "Anomalistic." Them pesky big words.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

RD and SciTim-you guys are great.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 14, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

>>You know: the Fermi Paradox. "Where are they?" Fermi suddenly blurted<< made me laugh out loud.

I find the idea of machine intelligence giving us information we can't obtain ourselves rather liberating; we'll boldly go, as it were.

Two relevant comments in one! My new personal best.

Do you suppose Palin needs a bendy straw to increase the chance she'll actually get it into her mouth while she's smirking?

Posted by: Yoki | April 14, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

You understand -- these are the issues that cause me to drink heavily.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 14, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I know I'm very late to the party, but welcome Talitha! *Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 14, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

I'm not so sure 'machine' or 'artificial' intelligence will get us very far as a species.

My role models are the creative geniuses of the world. I believe that whatever source they have tapped into is on some level available to us all. That's the intelligence I'd prefer see developed, with machines following to support that intelligence.

For me, that the search for intelligent 'life' elsewhere is connected to that creative source. I rather expect that if we rely on physical data as evidence of life elsewhere we probably won't find it. It's beyond 3-D.

Posted by: MsJS | April 14, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

BTW, there's nothing inappropriate about using a bendy straw to prevent drips and spills, especially in a public place.

Posted by: MsJS | April 14, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

...grumble, year an accountant...

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 14, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Funny Yoki.

Posted by: teddymzuri | April 14, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

They might not be searching for us and if they are and they find us they might wish they never did. They would all do well to remember where they were and why they had come. Don't get encircled in gloom, it's just the Holy Ghost Joy. What were the odds?

Posted by: tossnokia | April 14, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Maybe they found us years ago, took a look, said, "Feh," and moved on. Maybe they're just not all that into us.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 14, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

A word to the would-be entrepreneur: Since I'm unaware of any life form that doesn't have a portion of the population making use of intoxicants if they're available, stay ahead of the curve in finding out how to get these life forms high.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 14, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Certainly, MsJS, pushing machine intelligence as a replacement for your home-grown variety is probably not a wise choice. But machine intelligence as an augmentation makes a lot of sense to me. I mean, in a way, we are doing this already. When I enter, say, "bendy straw" into a search engine an algorithm is searching exabytes of data to find the relevant information, something that my organic brain could never do.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm... wasn't I "Bob-S" last night, or was that just a dream?

Posted by: bobsewell | April 14, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

The problem with *reading* 'Captured By Aliens' is *finding* Joel's book. Between the title, the cover illustration, and the author's photo, it might be filed under Astronomy, Science Fiction, New Age, Metaphysical, Grooming, or Cookbooks-Specialty Cuisine.

And since it is such a rare work, a cursory Amazonsearch reveals that they run at least $0.34 (plus $4 s&h) for new and jumping to a princely $25 (I'm throwing out the $77.50 one as a price-gouging outlier) for 'collectible' (not even signed!) quality.

True, you can find used copies for as low as a penny, but do you really want one when you don't know where it's been? Two words: alien probes.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 14, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning friends and aliens. Just wanted to drop by, and express that I am among the living.

Yoki, pretty funny comment. I laughed out loud, and it felt good.

Welcome, Talitha.

Scotty, hope you and family are well.

Pretty gloomy looking day here. And it is slightly chilly, but we've had lovely weather in the past few days. People are out working in their little space planting flowers, raking up leaves. I'm watching them do this, and every now and then, looking over at my little space, which needs everything.

Slyness, hope all is well in the big city. I went to Wadesboro yesterday. Our beloved pastor of 51 years passed away. The funeral will be today. I will not attend, have a terrible cough.

Enjoy your day, and love to all.

Posted by: cmyth4u | April 14, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

The aliens haven't come yet because they are judging us from our television signals.

Yes, they are waiting to see if Arthur Putey is going to get that lion tamer's job he so desperately wants. Until then, until we can fulfill every pathetic loser's most fervent wish, the aliens aren't going to come.

Posted by: barferio | April 14, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

The picture of Mrs. Obama on the rotating front page deck reminds me of this,,2743/

Posted by: Yoki | April 14, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I own the hardcover with the coveted "goofy" cover.

I couldn't find a large image, so this is a little one from Amazon.

Of course, my image search also returned any number of images relating to Achenbach and Aliens. Including, interestingly, this one:

God bless fuzzy search engines.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Excellent obscure Monty Python pull, barferio! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 14, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Google will custom skew search results based on your previous query patterns. Just putting that out there.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 14, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Hee Hee. Interesting point yello. I'm thinking it's because Joel talked about Kucinich and aliens in that kit.

But I could be wrong.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Microsoft: One of the points Shostak makes in his abstract is that, once a certain machine intelligence takes off and starts to colonize other parts of the galaxy, it will always stay ahead of any rivals (for various reasons he explains better than I can), and thus will essentially become monopolistic. It does raise the question of whether the BSOD will become galactic and eventually cosmic in scale.

Posted by: joelache | April 14, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of pictures, Yoki, you are quite right. That pic of Mcihelle Obama really highlights her pipes. Good for her.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Oh goodness, Joel. Perhaps this is how the cosmos ends. Not with a bang. Not with a whimper. But with a galactic critical system error.

Maybe I need to rethink my position regarding Apple.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Don't give up on finding a copy of Joel's book -- you might even get one like my copy of "Why Things Are II" with Joel's signature in it!

Of course, it is signed to someone who is NOT me, but you can't have everything.

Posted by: nellie4 | April 14, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Bob-S (if that is who you are),

Have you changed machines? Have you restarted your browser? The WaPo cookies are oddly persistent and may have reverted you to your former identity.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 14, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

*trying to figure out what BSOD means (unless I read it literally)*

Well, I sent in the taxes and first quarter estimated today, and I'm glad I picked a post office a bit farther away and much smaller than the one around the corner. I needed the drive anyway, just to get the cobwebs out of my brain. There was only one or two people ahead of me -- tremendous!

Funny comment, Yokester!

Cy'all later.

Posted by: -ftb- | April 14, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Joel and Seth Shostak, they could also be alpha female sentients!

Frosti--we used a "good" accountant this year and will be getting back a much bigger refund than we would have found ourselves. Too complicated and time-consuming IMHO.

Posted by: Windy3 | April 14, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Didn't Douglas Adams solve the mystery of alien abductions when he suggested that they were all the result of joyriding teenagers buzzing Earth for kicks?

I'm thinking that the president's next plan fro NASA will be to find a new source of crotchless panties. Getting back to basics, in other words.

Posted by: hlabadie | April 14, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

BSOD = Blue Screen of Death.

When Windows crashes. Fortunately, this doesn't happen as much as it used to. But the memories haunt me still.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Those who would escape the Blue Screen of Death

Must answer me these questions three

'Ere a reboot ye see...

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 14, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Big Sack of Dung
Binary Star Oort Dust
Big Smack on Derriere
Buy Some o' Dese
Basic Space Organism Department
Byrum Saam Opprobrium Day
Big Scallops on Demand

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 14, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Joel -

Interesting conjecture! You might find it worthwhile to peruse "The Biological Universe", by Steven J. Dick, until recently the Chief Historian of NASA. He has been involved in SETI for many years, and has also postulated that advanced beings may utilize machine intelligence to attain immortality.

Cheers! Alice (from Miami)

Posted by: alice13 | April 14, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

There is also such a thing as RSOD

Posted by: omni3 | April 14, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Alas, I feel that I must correct a small error -
It's Mr. Anchovy who wishes to become a lion tamer.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 14, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

The hapless Arthur Pewty (Putey?) has other problems:

Posted by: bobsewell | April 14, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Yoki | April 14, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

There is also the Spinning Beachball O' Death (SBOD) for you Mac users that claim immunity to the BSOD.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 14, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist. Aaaarrgh...

Posted by: yellojkt | April 14, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, somewhere out there a lonely angst ridden machine intelligence is painstakingly searching for us on the bok globules in the universe, one by one. Radical sub-algorithms that repeatedly recommended wasting time on those rare rocky worlds with water have been placed in preventive deadlock.

Posted by: qgaliana | April 14, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps we should be searching here:

Beams going four times the speed of light would get my attention.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 14, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

"From a purely scientific standpoint, the great mystery of aliens is why we haven't found any yet."
Go check out Langley Park.

Posted by: pmendez | April 14, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Love it. A lot of modern science fiction dances around the Fermi Paradox by assuming that higher beings either don't care about us or exist on some higher level of consciousness we are unable to grok. Giant WinXP200000007 machines would fall into the latter category.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 14, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Instead of the constant "where are the aliens"? We should ask "when are the aliens"?

The possibility that two intelligent civilizations exist within the course of their existence is remote. IE, we've had radio for about 100 years. That is a minuscule amount of time compared to the age of the universe. And to expect that another civilization's 100-1000 years will overlap ours is unlikely.

Also, if most or all intelligent lifeforms evolve into computer-based life, then isn't it natural to expect that their thinking would accelerate billions of times faster than an organic brain would? If that is so then they would think (and live) billions of times faster than we would. Now wouldn't that make communication rather boring for them?

Posted by: dl4550 | April 14, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

The SBOD hasn't been much of a problem. A wireless non-Apple mouse that sometimes fails to connect is a much bigger deal--once in a while, it's necessary to pull the plug.

In the yard, a palm stressed by winter cold entered into decline after the weather had improved. Yesterday, it was suddenly dying. Went to yard-waste Sheol today.

The Asian cycads ("sagos") of the genus Cycas that were once easy to grow in the deep South succumbed in recent years to an imported scale insect from Thailand that more or less eats only Cycas (it's also destroying the native Cycas on Guam). A trip to Thailand by University of Florida biological control insects turned up a lady beetle that grazes its way through scale insects on cycad leaves. It seems to like various kinds of hard-shelled scale insects, which is good. No one likes hard-shell scale insects. They're all bad. So Florida may soon be home to lots of well-fed Thai lady beetles.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | April 14, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Obviously the aliens have landed and are among us. How else to explain the rabid tea bags and right-wing nutters who seemingly do nothing but travel and demonstrate?

Posted by: EdSantaFe | April 14, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I wonder why there persists the underlying assumption about alien life forms that they are smarter/more advanced/more *something* than we? Maybe they're really dumb one-celled organisms with no discernable higher intelligence at all (you know, sort of the ET version of Ryan Seacrest).

In other unrelated news, I read the Ombudsman column referring to a possible new rule for rating posters based on criteria which include keeping on topic. Does this mean that all of us here will immediately drop to the lowest tier, based on tendency, indeed the very prime directive, of the Kit to meander defiantly OFF-topic?

-Snarky Squirrel

Posted by: 7900rmc | April 14, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm assuming that our little backwater is like Weingarten's chats. If anybody with any real authority had any knowledge of it, it would have been shut down years ago.

As a 'starred' commenter at Gawker, these sorts of tiered commenters do tend to keep out the riff-raff. The quality and tone of comments on GawkerMedia sites, even among drive-bys is slightly higher than on spin-off site Wonkette where things are more 2007-ish as far as commenting technology goes.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 14, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

"explain the rabid tea bags and right-wing nutters who seemingly do nothing but travel and demonstrate?"

Occasionally they do other stuff, mostly cash their Social Security checks, catch the Early Bird at Denny's and complain about their Medicare co-pays.

Posted by: kguy1 | April 14, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

If alien life forms really are AI and machine-based, maybe they haven't communicated with us yet because so far, all they have is Erol's dial-up.
Or, god help them, Comcast.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 14, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I'd humbly posit that if there were machine intelligence, they would be disinclined to pay us a visit after having viewed all three Terminator movies and possible concerns that bad acting was a transmutable feature of our immature machine (sub-)intelligence. Either that or their Rosetta Stone to decipher our slang phrases, such as "I'll be back", tapped out after they saw the first season of Mr. Ed on the way in. Possibilities abound.

Posted by: JenAZ | April 14, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon, all.

I'm tragically behind on my Boodling.
For those who directed encouraging words my way yesterday -- thank you.

On the topic of advanced alien civilizations capable of travelling great distances, are immortal, able to harness and wield great powers, live in great splendor in places that are inaccessble to us, and may be far above us on the evolutionary scale but recongnizeable to us in certain forms on a great scale but could possibly walk among us unrecognized in some avatar or form ...

... don't these Aliens sound something like Greek gods?

Is all this some sort of updated god myth? Instead of giant/super forms of human and/or animal (domesticated or otherwise) that ancient civilizations were familiar with, now we're talking about giant/superior versions of domestic machines *we're* familiar with, imbued with recognizeable human-equivalent intelligence (or better).

We humans look into the cold, magnificent universe and perhaps seek a manifestation of ourselves - the best parts of ourselves that we can rationalize (in this case, we're quite clever toolmakers) doing and learning what we fragile flesh-and-blood-emotion-ridden mortals believe we cannot.

Deus ex machina, eh?

Seriously, I'm not dumping on the idea --we've had good results from the tools we've launched to the stars (I'm reminded of the transition shot in Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" where the man-ape tosses a weapon/tool (a thigh bone, IIRC) into the sky, and the scene cuts to an orbiting satellite in more or less the same position and shape of the tool. Apologies for the lame film-school grade digression.), and why *shouldn't* we identify with success and be proud of what we've done?

Had to chuckle at the idea of a natural migration - dare I say "evolution?" - to artificiality, not because it's wrong, but because it makes me think of superficiality. There's that Frankenstein side of it all to consider, too - science and technology run amok, nature perverted, distorted, etc.

[And speaking of old SF movies -- no, I'm not even going to mention the Orgazmatron.]

And feel free to call me a hippy dude who happens to still hold out hope for 100% organic space travel.

We all need some place to put our hopes, our dreams, and it's great to think that we - or some part of us - may have a place among the stars.

As I've said before, perhaps what we're looking for in the great ocean of night is some sign that we're not alone, that there's some greater purpose. Even if all it is is that when we focus that Deep Deep Field lens, we see an I looking right back at us.

Couldn't it be possible that some gratiational lensing had an aspect of being a mirror trick?


Posted by: -bc- | April 14, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

The aliens might be gigantic machines, encompassing multiple galaxies, or they might have somehow become a meta-universe or they might be viruses or subcellular beings living in our cell nuclei. But I think we should be honest with ourselves and admit that if the aliens don't look something like little green men we don't really want to meet them. Life forms that we can't relate to on our own terms are irrelevant to us--consider how much difficulty we have just communicating with people of the opposite sex, or humans from a different Earth culture. Or dolphins. We haven't even begun to understand dolphins. That's why we just send out radio signals and listen for an answer, even though it's obviously a kindergarten level pursuit.

The truth? We can't handle the truth.

Posted by: kbertocci | April 14, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Ah, yes. . . the Blue Screen of Death. I remember that happening *all* the time on Windows 2000. And now (speaking of intelligent beings), of course, I have a Mac.

But I really did think of that abbreviation as an overdose of, um, Bachelor of Science (trying to trick the Wirty Dird filter). That would still work, wouldn't it?

Posted by: -ftb- | April 14, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

If I were a highly complex and evolved AI machine/life form whose functioning depended upon electron flow, I'm not sure I would want to hang around with life forms who were essentially large bags of water and who were prone to leak and ooze in all manner of disgusting ways and places.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 14, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

EdSanteFe mentioned the dreaded rapid teabags and right-wing nutters.
Those of you in DC may or may not know
that a bunch of them are descending upon you (presumably from the Boston "reenactment" today) to protest . . . Thursday being tax day and all.

Hope the porch isn't infested!

(Who is Grover and why was he waving at talitha this morning?)

Posted by: talitha1 | April 14, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

SCC - make that "rabid" teabags . . . their velocity has nothing on their veracity . . . or lack thereof, I should say.

Posted by: talitha1 | April 14, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

talitha - the Grover wave is a reference to the classic Muppet, Grover, from Sesame Street and his enthusiastic gesticulations when greeting someone. It's a good thing.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

To blow my own horn, a quick Boodle-pop will show that EYE am the original Grover-waver, but it suits Scotty much better than it does me, so I conceded it to him.

Posted by: Yoki | April 14, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: omni3 | April 14, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Come to think of it, now that I look at omni's link, I look a lot more like Grover than Scotty does. Scotty is much better-looking than that.

Posted by: Yoki | April 14, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I would have expected to see Beeker waving here today, not Grover.

Posted by: JenAZ | April 14, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I graciously accepted Yoki's most generous concession.

Yuenglings had nothing to do with it.


*terribly-sowwy-ah-ain't-a-gonna-be-in-the-vicinity-tomorrow Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 14, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

And let me add for the record that I don't know Everything at all.


Posted by: -bc- | April 14, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

"Grover" refers to the Grover of Sesame Street, who has a characteristic, demonstrative* kind of wave, adopted by Assistant Shop Steward Scotty, who frequently greets us in the morning with some sort of Grover-related type of wave.

He was waving at you just because he's a pretty friendly guy.

*note that the root word of "demonstrative" comes from "demonstrate," not "demon."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 14, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

As far as this higher interstellar intelligence stuff goes, you're welcome to read Stapleton's "Last and First Men" and "Starmaker" (being among the first to tackle such ideas in the modern sense, IIRC) but they always makes me sleepy.

Some may find Stephen Baxter and David Brin kinda dry in that classic Clarke style, but the BFIs (Big, er, Ideas) are interesting. I like 'em.


Posted by: -bc- | April 14, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

There are millions of aliens roaming across America at this very moment.

They are strange, little creatures and they all speak Spanish.

From what I can understand they come from the planet Meheekoh.

Posted by: battleground51 | April 14, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Yoki | April 14, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Aahhh, battleground. Always ready with the clever quip.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 14, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

What Yoki sneered.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 14, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

I remember reading an article once that extrapolated from the amount of time that first-generation stars would have taken to cook up the rest of the elements necessary for life, the age of our own sun and planet, and the amount of time necessary for a biosphere to evolve, to propose that we may be one of the first intelligent species. The universe may someday be hopping with intelligent life, but we got to the party way too early.

Or, maybe radio is a primitive technology that advanced species grow out of relatively quickly. We're like a kid wondering why nobody is on the other end of our tin-can-and-string contraption when the grown-ups are using fiber optics.

Of course, some of the possibilities are pretty grim. Technological civilizations may inevitably destroy themselves. Or, no species in their right minds would use radio for communication because the galaxy is full of hostile and paranoid species who will use our radio output to locate and destroy us -- as in Greg Bear's "The Forge of God."

The planet-killer is already on the way -- so finish that book you're reading.

Posted by: rashomon | April 14, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Is there a grammarian who can explain to me what's going on in the highlighted sentence in the Norm Augustine statement I have appended to the kit? Thank you...

Posted by: joelache | April 14, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Oh! rashomon said "Bear"! EEK!

Posted by: -ftb- | April 14, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

When the Boodle is made into a film, the part of battleground51 will be played by Bill Paxton.

Posted by: kguy1 | April 14, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Enthusiastic back at you, Grover/Scott (Yoki) and to the all the translaters of the Boodle ..... I'll catch on.

Posted by: talitha1 | April 14, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

rashomon, is it me, or is it getting warm here?

The planet-killers may already be here -- and we don't seem to be able to get off the pot.

And here we are, no Cosmic "Please Send Help to the Bathroom" button to hit, either.

[Please note that I made no reference to "The Septic Tank of History." Thank you.]


Posted by: -bc- | April 14, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

If the aliens are ethereal AI beings they are probably appalled at the electromagnetic pollution around our planet. One of the few advantages of returning to the Moon was to use its dark side to shield listening instruments from all the carp we generate.

When you think humanity cannot abase itself further you are surprised by yet another downward ratchet click. A poutine eating contest.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 14, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Any diagram of that sentence would have to be a "Venn" diagram!

Posted by: talitha1 | April 14, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

The plan also places the same confidence in Russian industry to safely launch U.S. astronauts in the lower earth orbit as had been placed in U.S. industry when it was under the strong guidance of NASA.

Sort of.


The plan places the same confidence in Russia's ability to put astronaut's into low earth orbit as had been placed in NASA and its American contractors and vendors.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 14, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Maybe "The plan also places in U.S. industry -- when under the strong guidance of NASA -- the same confidence as has been placed in Russian industry to safely launch U.S. astronauts into lower earth orbit."

Posted by: rashomon | April 14, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

" propose that we may be one of the first intelligent species. The universe may someday be hopping with intelligent life, but we got to the party way too early."

Oh, jeez. You mean we're the beta testers? Well, that actually explains a helluva lot.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 14, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

It occurs to me that if we are early to the party, it probably behooves us not to finish all the cosmic guacamole and olive balls before the rest of the guests get here.

Posted by: rashomon | April 14, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

What if we are the guacamole and olive balls?

Posted by: JenAZ | April 14, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

It's a cookbook!

Posted by: rashomon | April 14, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I suppose you might want the entire passage in English:

"The White House plan announced today:

-- reafffirms the Space Shuttle extension;

-- extends the life of the International Space Station by five years;

-- provides a start date for a new heavy lift launch vehicle;

-- establishes a technology development program for the ISS, and funds science and engineering aboard it;

--modifies the Orion capsule;

-- changes the focus of the human exploration program from the Moon to Mars;

--leaves open a "flexible path" to Mars that includes possible alternate destinations;

-- terminates the Ares I B rocket; and

-- places confidence in Russian's ability to safely launch U.S. astronauts into lower earth orbit.

The key will be to sustain funding at the level of the current budget so NASA and industry can preserve their manned space exploration capabilities, which this nation deserves."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 14, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse


I think the highlighted sentence is basically saying that we are already placing our confidence and the lives of our astronauts (and space tourists) in the hands of Russian industry. As long as the destination is still low-Earth orbit, and creation of the vehicles is done under the guidance of NASA, Augustine says we should put the same confidence in American industry as we are putting in Russian industry.

Unless it's saying something else...

Posted by: Gomer144 | April 14, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Wait . . . MIB wasn't a documentary?

// But with a galactic critical system error. //
As long as I don't have to fix it, m'okay with me. I'm on Boodle today if not on Kit. I'll take mudge's windows security patches and raise him 25 servers worth. I only broke 3, so the ops and network guys are happy with me today. Maybe next week's will go as well.

A quick look at Hax article comments earlier in the week makes me believe she's developing her own boodlers. How cool is that?

Posted by: -dbG- | April 14, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Joel, I ain't gonna touch that sentence.

As the Jackson Pollock of the English Language, it pleases me greatly.

Though the idea he's trying to convey concerns me -- is he saying that he's just as confident in NASA's ability to manage US industry (who brought to us Constellation and, for example, the domstic auto insustry (trying to ignore the current Economic turmoil)) as the Russians and OAO Korolev/Energia who have been flying and developing hardware continiously for almost half a century? Really?

My goodness, I believe more than ever that not only does NASA's manned program need PR leadership with vision and additonal resources (and not just for copyediting), but a bit of a reality check. When's the first domestic private vehicle scheduled to dock with the ISS? And is James Cameron going to be flying on it with a camera?


Posted by: -bc- | April 14, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, valiant effort, but what Augustine is trying to say, and what didn't get translated very well by the Babblefish I guess (it made perfect sense in the original Gilgameshian), is, "Obama trusts U.S. private industry to launch American astronauts just as much as Bush trusted the Russians to launch American astronauts."

Posted by: joelache | April 14, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

dbG - don't out the Hax crowd just yet!
The Boodle is lightyears ahead . . . though it is amusing to rattle that cage every now and again.

Posted by: talitha1 | April 14, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

More ready-to-use Paxton on any alien kit:

"Is this going to be another bug hunt?"

"Maybe you ain't been keeping up with current events, but we just got our [butts] kicked"

"Maybe we ought to put [the kid] in charge"

Also, this kit is crying out for some BSG references. I just can't decide whether I want 6 or 8 to be the first to make contact.

Posted by: engelmann | April 14, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Dancing around the background of the Augustine statement and the string of comments here is institutional credibility.

US and private space and space support industry (let's tease out what companies comprise this sector)
Russia and their space programs.

This tease out is a bit false because all three collaborate here on BIG SPACE (as in not telecom satellites).

However, I spoke to an astronaut in-law in the 90s who said very much off record that flying then under Ruskie Bolted-Bucket ships made him very, very nervous. And, he (was, retired now) is one of the RiGHT.STUFF.PEEPS who sneer in the face of danger, who underestimate risk, who overestimate their God-given abilities to beat the odds...

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | April 14, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

That's the way I read it, too Joel.

Unless someone's going to human-rate a UAL Delta launch vehicle and put an Orion on top, I'm not sure that anyone here in the US is going to even be close to the Russians in terms of reliabilty or payload this decade.

I could be wrong. For example, the Chinese might start flying stuff out of the Cape, since we're not going to be using it much for awhile.

Or the Ariane folks...


Posted by: -bc- | April 14, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, your PowerPoint rendering made sense to me. Is that a good thing?

Posted by: slyness | April 14, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

So the Borg will attack us? Guess the pounding my 401k took doesn't matter any more.

Posted by: Booyah5000 | April 14, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

That sentence is fascinating. One set of Boodlers confidently translated it as placing confidence in Russian industry, in the same way confidence had already been placed in US industry. Another set read it as meaning the exact opposite - that we are confident US industry will be as worthy of our confidence as Russian industry has already been. Either way I suspect it boils down to "we're confident that the people to whom we outsource rocket launches won't blow up our astronauts". I suppose that would have been too blunt.

I offer another type of alien for our Boodle consideration: small children. They share many characteristics of humans. Although they may not yet be recognizable as people they are certainly sentient and purposive life forms. Of course, with effort and toil they may, over the course of several years, be socialized and assimilated fully into local hunan culture, whatever it may be. If we're lucky.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 14, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

"This subject is one to be approached, of course, with intellectual modesty." Hear, hear.

I see a rather silly pattern in SETI and elsewhere, that suggests that what we know at the moment has gotta be the way things are. First it was radio: "they'll be sending us radio messages!" Now we have an energy crunch and it's "maybe they are using more efficient lasers!" I wonder what it will be in 100 years? I bet $10 it won't be either radio or lasers.

There's a kind of conceit here similar to the know-it-all who seems to think everything is mostly known now. (and usually includes the unspoken further assumption that the guy thinking it thinks he knows it.) Like the fabled patent clerk who quit.

Right now we have a computer revolution going on, so extraterrestrial machine-consciousness is the thing to think about.

It's just temporary. A new thing will come along, and the cutting-edge thinkers will fold it into their speculations sure as day follows night. And the old speculations will seem embarrassing and naive.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 14, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Joel, I understand that's how you and bc read it; I simply believe it goes the other way: that he trusts the Russians to do as good a job as NASA.

I think my way makes more sense, in part because I can't see him saying in effect that Russia does a better job of it than we do. So I think he has to say, yes, we don't have to worry about our failure to build a launch vehicle, because the Russians can do it just as well. Which I think is what is being said.

But yes, the sentence was pretty hard to penetrate. I just hold to the reverse interpretation of it.

It'd be an interesting question to pose to hi, though.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 14, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Just love this headline and deck:

"Steele fails to woo minorities

"RNC chairman has not been able to chip away at non-white voters with unfavorable views of GOP."

Yeah, just because a third of his governors and senators are redneck yahoos, the fringe of his party wants to bring back slavery, the southwesterners want to build machine gun towers every 500 yards along the Mexican border and send 12 million of 'em back where they come from, yeah, I can see how a lot of it is Micahel Steele's fault.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 14, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Joel said: "I do wonder if this migration to artificiality, from flesh-and-blood to machine, is an inevitability for any intelligent species."

One of the best explorations of this idea is the classic anime "Ghost in the Shell".

On aliens visiting us, the best explanation I've heard was that they were keeping half an eye on us (as an emerging "intelligent" species) when we set off a few atomic blasts. That got their attention, as in: "Holy Sh!t! The kids have found the matches!" They had to come running back here to make sure we didn't kill ourselves. Yeah, I can see that.

Posted by: wiccan | April 14, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Joel-- looks like these theses lost their parents in that sentence.

Once you bring the parentheses back in, it reads somewhat better.

"The plan also places in U.S. industry (when under the strong guidance of NASA) the same confidence as has been placed in Russian industry to safely launch U.S. astronauts in the lower earth orbit."

I'd still kick out the "when"-- if the plan indeed mandates such guidance.

To my eye it should be "/into/ the lower earth orbit" but I'll let the rocket guys correct it.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 14, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Poor little Theses; will somebody adopt them, due to the loss of their parents? Sentences can be such dangerous places.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | April 14, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

My preferences in trying to decipher the highlighted sentence would be:
1) Ask Mr. Augustine to clarify his statement; or
2) Skip it altogether and go back to the President's original statements and/or NASA Admin. Bolden's interpretation of them.

Unless the goal is to poke fun, in which case I hope the guy has a sense of humor.

Posted by: MsJS | April 14, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Will no one think of the theses? All alone in the cold, bound to become hypotheses and then snatched up by some scientist.

Posted by: engelmann | April 14, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

A few li'l things:

(1) I prefer to think of the beachball as "whirling" rather than "spinning." Hence, the WBOD. Even so, it's a sign that things are not completely dead, only mostly dead, and (as you know) there's a big difference between mostly dead and completely dead. Mostly dead things, for example, continue to suck up system resources while they continue to fail at their intended task. However, one can Force-Quit the mostly dead application to make it completely dead and thus free us from its undead tyranny.

(2) SETI scientists are not so stupid as to imagine that we would be detecting other civilizations during a brief window of opportunity, while we are both civilizations that use radio for our personal activities. Why do so many people think that serious-minded thoughtful people would spend their lives so unwisely, and with so little thought? Our own leaked radio transmissions, even at our most profligate, would have been undetectable by our most sensitive technologies. SETI is not attempting to detect the "I Love Lucy" of a far-away planet. SETI assumes a very specific frequency that is characteristic of a basic natural phenomenon and which is detectable from inside a planetary ionosphere, the hyper-fine splitting in the ground state of atomic hydrogen. Setting aside the incoherent natural background radiation, SETI assumes that the only transmissions we could detect would be those whose power and directionality marks them out for having been INTENDED for us to detect it. Hence, the deduction that aliens are at least at our level of technological civilization, but probably more advanced. The span of time over which a lesser technology could transmit radio is relatively short, but the span over which a more advanced technology could transmit radio (if they want to) is assumed to be huge. Transmissions cost resources, and powerful transmissions to putative aliens cost more resources. Put it all together, and SETI is looking for advanced aliens with time on their hands who want to write "KILROYRTYDRTU WAS HERE" on a vast scale. The probability of such an event is small, but not infinitesimal when compared to the number of stars in the galaxy.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 14, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse


(3) Lasers have become more interesting because we have begun to figure out how to build great big ones -- in fact, I have a book here in the office that seriously addresses the engineering required to turn Mars into a giant laser. Of course our concepts for SETI will change as we become more technically sophisticated. This isn't mere fashion.

(4) The suggestion "we got here first" is an acceptable solution to the Fermi Paradox. However, our planet developed life when it was only about 0.9 billion years old, then polished the invention for about 1.5 billion years before switching to an O2 atmosphere. Another 1.7 billion years of thumb-twiddling and the poorly-fossilized development of weird sea-bugs, then terrestrial life and evolution in general began to zoom ahead rapidly (relatively speaking). Meanwhile, it turns out that it takes only about 10 million years to cross the galaxy at 1% of the speed of light. Compared to billion year time-scales, a few 10's of millions is round-off error. If just one civilization became evolved technology before us, odds are that they should already have visited every part of the galaxy in some way, if it is possible to do so. Hence, the Paradox. Where are they?

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 14, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

We, by the way, are the "putative aliens" in my item number (2). A fine name for a rock band, I should think.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 14, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Is putative alien available as a nom de boodle?

Posted by: MsJS | April 14, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

You know your business trip is off to a flying start when, whilst in the security check line, you realize you left your MP3 player in the knapsack currently in the car.

Parked at home.


Posted by: Scottynuke | April 14, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

I think I saw Putative Aliens opening for Cosmic Guacamole at the Fillmore, back in the day.

Posted by: rashomon | April 14, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrodog just did a fine remark on "purrative aliens" but I persuaded him not to post it out of respect for the FrostCats.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 14, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Very smart on Wilbrodog's part... The cats ARE our alien overlords, after all.

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 14, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

I am laughing at that questionable sentence because I suspect I know how this happened. I am guessing that the original sentence was:

"The plan also places in U.S. industry the same confidence as has been placed in Russian industry to safely launch U.S. astronauts in the lower earth orbit"

Then somebody who was reviewing the statement inserted the phrase "when under the strong guidance of NASA" and didn't bother to step back and look at it with fresh eyes.

Maybe I am totally wrong. I don't know how this statement was produced. But I do know that this sort of thing happens all the time when you have a bunch of people reviewing text and making changes.

Things accumulate and the original intent has to be extracted from under an accretion of additions.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Oh, dear, pooooooor Snukie! If I hum really loud, will that help?

SciTim -- you stated: "Mostly dead things, for example, continue to suck up system resources while they continue to fail at their intended task." So many people come to mind, not the least of which is Sarah Palin and the Tea Baggers and *of course* GWB, using all those gummint resources and failing at their intended tasks.

Nope, couldn't help it. That comment was there with its arms wide open.

I must say that since I filed my taxes (and accompanying checks) this morning, I've been in a snit all day. Really cranky, yanno. I hope the BPH and seeing Yoki will help bring me out of the financial doldrums.


Posted by: -ftb- | April 14, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

A topic fascinating enough to bring me in from the cold (I have been lurking for about a week, since the last firestorm). Thanks! And thanks to all you boodlers who make this place so nice to hang out in. I'm off on a vacation, not sure about internet there, but just want to say hello before I leave.

In the chapter available on Amazon, Paul Davies discusses why he thinks we can (scientifically) look for sentient life, but cannot study telepathy, etc. If I understand the argument correctly, it is that we lack a dependable methodology for investigating psychic phenomena.

I believe there is a start, f.i in the book "It must have been ESP" by a Finnish folklorist. She compiled reports of psychic phenomena in Finland, analyzed them and found them to be too consistent to be random fantasies.

Sad to say, I lost the boodle dictionary, but I think this may be about that ocean thingy that is defined there. Don't understand quantum mechanics, so I've just always called it the ether.

here is the link to the book.

I don't know what has been done since then to further the method. Do any of you? If no one is interested, just go on boodling and I will enjoy.

Posted by: caroling | April 14, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

I was going to let it pass since others have commented, but that's what I thought as well. The really confusing bit starts when you try to imagine the intention of the addition:

1. qualifying support for U.S. industry (we only have confidence when guided by NASA);

2. a nod to the necessity of NASA to maintain its guidance role; or

3. something intended to mean that the U.S. is still same or better than the Russians.

I think the intention was #2 - the thought was probably "needs more references to NASA"

Also, I'm confused on the use of the word "industry". In the U.S. context isn't it supposed to mean non-governmental? But the Russian program is state-operated, isn't it? Or does the reference to Russian industry mean Russian expertise or something similar?

Posted by: engelmann | April 14, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

State owns industry. Industry owns state.

What was the question?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 14, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

hey - maryland crabs are at their highest level in 10 years... maybe we need another dozen at the ibph!!! (i know i can eat me the heck outta maryland blue crabs!)


Posted by: mortii | April 14, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

oh the horror - i kilt it with maryland crabs! hey, sometimes having crabs is a GOOD thing! *ducking under the table*


Posted by: mortii | April 14, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

E-mann, perhaps this might help (from Wiki):

"Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center... is a Moscow-based producer of space-launch systems. It is named after Mikhail Khrunichev, a Soviet minister.

The Khrunichev plant was established during World War II. as Factory No. 23, to produce heavy bomber aircraft, and continued in this role during the 50s. In 1951, it was augmented by the addition of OKB-23, the factory's own design bureau.

Khrunichev was transferred to the Salyut Design Bureau in the late seventies, then between 1981 and 1988 was part of NPO Energia. It became an independent entity in 1988.

"Khrunichev is also part of the International Launch Services (ILS) joint venture with Space Transport Inc., a privately held corporation based in the British Virgin Islands. ILS provides commercial sales and mission management of satellite launches on the Proton.

"Khrunichev is the manufacturer of manned space stations including Mir, the Salyut series and the Almaz modules."

Who, you might ask, is ILS?

"International Launch Services (ILS) is a U.S.-Russian joint venture with exclusive rights to the worldwide sale of commercial Proton rocket launch services from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

"ILS was formed in 1995 as a private spaceflight partnership between Lockheed Martin (LM), Khrunichev and Energia. ILS initially co-marketed non-military launches on both the U.S. Atlas V and the Russian Proton expendable launch vehicles.

With the Atlas V launch of the SES Astra 1KR satellite on April 20, 2006, ILS had made 100 launches, 97 of which were successful.[1]

"In September 2006 Lockheed-Martin announced its intention to sell its ownership interests in Lockheed Khrunichev Energia International, Inc. (LKEI) and ILS International Launch Services, Inc. (ILS) to Space Transport Inc. Space Transport Inc. was formed specifically for this transaction by Mario Lemme, who has been a consultant to ILS since its inception and a Board member for more than three years.

"The transaction between Lockheed Martin and Space Transport Inc. completed in October 2006. Lockheed Martin has retained all rights related to marketing the commercial Atlas vehicle and is continuing to offer Atlas launch services to the worldwide commercial market through its subsidiary, Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, Inc. (LMCLS). ILS, no longer affiliated with Lockheed Martin, continued to market the Proton launch vehicles to commercial clients. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | April 14, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm about four hours behind right now and just want shout out to JenAZ: If you like here it so far (and it seems you do), please come back and often

Posted by: omni3 | April 14, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse


"In October 2006 Krunichev spokesman said that the firm was ready to buy the stake being sold by Lockheed Martin. Russian space agency spokesman said that despite that Lockheed is selling its stake to Space Transport, Khrunichev may eventually end up owning it. He expressed the desire of the Russian side to increase its presence in the joint venture. Space Transport Inc, registered in the British Virgin Islands and headquartered in Moscow, denied that it would be selling the stake.

"In May 2008 Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, a Russian company, acquired all of Space Transport's interest and is now the majority shareholder in ILS. ILS will remain a U.S. company and headquarters are currently in Reston, Virginia, near Washington, D.C. where approximately 60 employees are based.

"In May 2008 ILS had a backlog of 22 orders, totalling approximately $2 billion, and had flown 45 commercial Proton missions since 1996. By June 2009 the backlog had grown to 24 firm missions. The 50th ILS Proton launch took place in early 2009."

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | April 14, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

also from Wiki, Russian aerospace firms:

Arsenal Design Bureau
Chemical Automatics Design Bureau
S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia
NPO Energomash
Gazprom Space Systems
JSC Information Satellite Systems
Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center
Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau
NPP Zvezda
Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association
OKB Fakel
Production Corporation Polyot
Progress State Research and Production Rocket Space Center
Vega Radio Engineering Corporation

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | April 14, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Here's the sentence that intrigued me:

"ILS had made 100 launches, 97 of which were successful."

That puts them just one behind the space shuttle program. Not really an apples to apples program, but I wonder what the success rate is by launching system.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 14, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

...although there was still something to be said for the good old days when one could bounce out of bed in the morning with a song in one's heart ("Ochi chyornye" being a favorite) and put in a productive day's work down at the Death to the Running Dogs of Western Fascist Bourgeoisie Space Vehicle Assembly Plant No. 7.

At lunchtime every day you could go outside the gate and grab a sandwich and a cup of borscht from the People's Glorious Revolutionary Roach Coach.

Posted by: Curmudgeon5 | April 14, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Advanced civilizations will communicate with tachyons

Posted by: omni3 | April 14, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I like to think "advanced civilizations will communicate-period" we have trouble with that.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 14, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Hi all.
DNAGuy just flew off to Switzerland to do sciencey stuff for a few years :-(
On the upside, sabbaticals in the Alps could be fun.
I'll have to ask S'nuke to fax a pair of skis and give virtual skiing lessons (S'nuke I wish continued strength and good memories for 'nukespouse).

who woulda thunk it;
lurking in the shade would bring
such comfort this spring
lurking brings comfort

Posted by: DNA_Girl | April 14, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Awww DNA Girl, that's hard. Good stuff for you both, but hard anyway. I'm glad you're here to while away the hours.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 14, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Oops. The 'dog will laugh
at such shameless display of
rusty haiku skills

Posted by: DNA_Girl | April 14, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

IMom! Your comment about the children reminded me of Henry Kuttner's "Mimsy were the borogoves". I'll try to find a link.

Posted by: DNA_Girl | April 14, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

My laughter's forecast--
Why? Black Angus jumped the moon?
Or Dish stole the spoon?


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 14, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Youtube has William Shatner reading the story.
The things you find on the intertubes *shaking head*
(part 1 of 6)

Posted by: DNA_Girl | April 14, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Hey diddle diddle
alien cats have the fiddle
set to probe the moon?

Posted by: DNA_Girl | April 14, 2010 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, DNA Girl. I had completely forgotten that story but Shatner's voice brought it back to me (though I certainly didn't "read" it with his voice the first time around).

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 14, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

DNA_girl, so sorry about the circumstances.

But! Happy to give this news. After #1 and physics-boy bouncing between being together and apart for two years (schooling that was separately but equally good for each, donchano) our Very Own Physics-Boy got confirmation of his acceptance to NUA at Canberra, in the Quantum lab, to do his PhD, and all kinds of money, so they're both off in two months to the Antipodes!

Posted by: Yoki | April 14, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Impressive, Yoki! Congrats to physics-boy.

Posted by: Manon1 | April 14, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Opposites attract
like two points at a lines end;
linked antipodes

Posted by: DNA_Girl | April 14, 2010 9:13 PM | Report abuse

There was a decent movie adaptation of "Mimsy Were the Borogroves," called "The Last Mimzy," which came out a few years ago, and pretty much vanished without a trace. Worth looking for on DVD.

Posted by: rashomon | April 14, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Huzzahs, quantumly to Physics-Boy.

DNAgirl, next winter, cozy up to DNAGuy in some charming chalet to eat raclette:

On kit: was in a room at the Cosmos club years ago with Norman Augustine. He thanked me for bringing him a good pen and a pad. I was a sort of last-days-of-the-steno-gal at a meeting about space policy. This would be circa 1986. Wrote up the minutes. Drove them to his executive secretary the next day. Ah, the days before email. He offered his telex number....but, alas, no telex in the porch-based home office.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | April 14, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

I do not have anything to add on kit, but DNA girl hope time flies for you, and you enjoy you Swiss sabaticals.

Congrats Physics boy, an adventure begins.

Very tired a couple of long days, but daffodils blooming in the garden, cherry tree in bloom and my first brunnera flowers - a good day.

Posted by: dmd3 | April 14, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Good evening, all.

I guess I'd have to suggest that for all we know, we're being bombarded with requests to Chat on the Cosmic Internet via Gamma Ray Bursts or dark matter avatars or neutrino or photino email or graviton Tweets (GraviTweets? Or omni, those might be Tachyon Tweets or TachyTweets?). Heck, if some sentience figured out communciation via quantum entanglement, we'd probably never even see evidence of the instant communication between the end points... We just may not perceive communications of advanced civilizations or recognize them as such if we did, just as my Grandmother did not recognize the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" as music (as I did) but simply thought it pure meaningless noise like a truck brake squeal or a building's air handlers kicking on.

Oh, and caroling, welcome to the party. You may be thinking of the Higgs Ocean, which I think of as an throretical aether that Higgs (named after a particle physicist) bosons interact with to give things mass. Standard model of particle physics, etc (welcome to my ice cream headache). Higgs bosons are still theoretical particles more or less, though the LHC might be able to create some for a few moments if they get the rubber bands cranked up tighter. Takes a lot of energy to break matter up that much. Anyway, I use it as a shorthand for something as fundamental as spacetime that interconnects everything, but mysterious and not subject to General or Special Relativities.

DNA_Girl, I hadn't thought about "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" in a few years. Always liked that story, and makes me think of Bradbury's "The Veldt," too. Didn't watch Shatner's reading of "Mimsy" yet or even see Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," either, now that I think about it. After getting my taxes done, I'm more in a mood for "Hot Tub Time Machine" than something as serious as Shatner or Tim Burton, anyway.

By the way - I am becoming a fan of Augustine's Ambiguity (I've read some of the Report, too). I wonder what's next here -- Norm Crosby as a NASA press secretary for manned spaceflight?


Posted by: -bc- | April 14, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Thanks CqP

my bread 'n' butter
research project could well be
potatoes 'n' cheese

Posted by: DNA_Girl | April 14, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Raclette! YUUUMMMM! Love the stuff, I actually own a raclette warmer, haven't used it in forever.

DNAGirl, it's tough to be on different continents! I hope email and Skype work well for you. And go to Switzerland when you can, it's a fabulous place. Mr. T and I have been twice, weren't there nearly long enough either time.

Congrats to Physics Boy! I hope, however, that attainment of the piled higher and deeper degree will enable him and #1 to move closer to home. At least it's not a six-month voyage either way, as it used to be.

Posted by: slyness | April 14, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Never heard of raclette before you mentioned it, Slyness.

Quesadillas are my favorite form of melted cheese + starch, but the meal described at Wikipedia almost sounds like an English high tea, Swiss style.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 14, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Oh thank goodness Wilbrod, I'd never heard of raclette either. And I had to look up where the Antipodes where. It figures, as I didn't understand the Kit or most of the responses. Anything sciency makes my brain fog up. This was definitely one of the Kit and Boodle days when I realize how much I know absolutely nothing about.

Posted by: badsneakers | April 14, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

BC -- not sure this will come out right, but here goes. The energies of love and the energies that must be noted in any discussion of particle physics might be the same.

This is why I love C.S. Lewis for the radical idea (perhaps poorly executed by SF lit-genre standards) that the salvation story was not for people (H. sapiens) only; is for Venutians, and Martians, and Zenons, and Ex-scorbiites, and for all time and all time and verily all time. Not just our flea-whisker slice of time's arrow.

Of course, my heroes are Aristotle (Plato a bit but he did not really love or trust people) Jesus, Mary, Mary Madgalene St. Paul, Augustine, Julian of Norwich, Hildegaard of Bingen, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Buber, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Edith Stein, Jung, Simone Weil, Dorothy Day, James Campbell, and Teilhard.

Teilhard is the cosmic and quantum theologian. Like the Indian thinker Sri Aurobindo, Teilhard says that the evolution of the cosmos is also a spiritual evolution.

In other words, love and truth and compassion and enthusiasm (filled with spirit) are qualities in the fabric of the cosmos as much as silica, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen....

"The day will come when we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, the human being will have discovered fire." P T d C.

Thus ends your mystic post for the night; ain't neat but mindblowing and earnest and written with boodle-love.

Posted by: CollegeQuaParkian1 | April 14, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Regarding aliens and the inevitabel ensuing invasion, I'll have to defer (once again) to a Simpsons theme. Wouldn't it be cool if they studied us, our planet and its atmosphere for weaknesses throughout the 1950s and 1960s, then gathered their huge space armada using that information... only to have it burn up during the attack due to the new thicker layers of pollutants and global warming gases?

Posted by: steveboyington | April 14, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Raclette is a working person's meal, WB - melted cheese, boiled potatoes, pearl onions, dill pickles. With white wine, it is delicious. Filling, too. The cheese itself is hard but has a mild, nutty flavor. I expect Yoki can elaborate at length, having lived there.

When we visited in 2005, we actually got to see cows being moved to higher pastures; we happened to be going up the road to our hotel when the herd was brought by, with the cowbells sounding.

Posted by: slyness | April 14, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Where the Antipodes *are*. I'm going to just lurk for a while...

Posted by: badsneakers | April 14, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

But what is Original Sin for a Zevon? Slorting a quumbom from the Snerk of Knowledge?

DNAGirl, so bittersweet to hear of DNAGuy going to Europe. I'll be in Switzerland in July, but probably not in the same part. Come by the IBPH and drown your sorrows in crustaceans. And this time show your face.

CqP, While everybody is congratulating PhysicsBoy, my happiness goes out to #1.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 14, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

you can read it online here:

Posted by: omni3 | April 14, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Fun news! The ScienceDog was attacked tonight by a red fox! And ScienceKid#1 picked up a scratch and had overly close contact with blood from either the fox or the dog! We're not sure which! Inoculations will happen tomorrow! Woo-hoo! Such excitement!

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 14, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

CQP, you know I've always thought that Love was the Bomb.

As humans, our perceptions of the Cosmos are rendered by our minds, to which such things as love and compassion are as real as nuclear fusion and gravity.

But love, like time, is real, but relative.

Personally, my relative reference frame seems to have not been one primrily of time or inertia, but of Uncertainty.


Posted by: -bc- | April 14, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

OMG, Tim. Hope all goes well.

Switzerland is one of those fairy tale places for me. Cows, mountains, meadows, cheese. I suppose it's because of Heidi, which I don't even remember reading. So, very frenvious of all who have/are going to visit. Say hi to Roger.

slyness, I browsed back from your cow pictures, and look what I found! This always makes me laugh.

Posted by: seasea1 | April 14, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Hope ScienceKid #1 and the dog are OK, scary.

Posted by: dmd3 | April 14, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Baby ducks. Awwwww...

Posted by: yellojkt | April 14, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Healing wishes for ScienceKid and SciDog. . . mercy, what a thing to happen!

Time apart, DNAgirl . . . understand that here in talithaland. Am envious of your future Alpine travels, though. Lived in the Rockies for years because of Heidi-envy and, oddly, just got a DVD of the S.Temple version for old time's sake!

Goodnight, Boodle . . . cosmic dreams to all.

Posted by: talitha1 | April 14, 2010 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Switzerland is just a little bit bigger than Maryland. The more densely populated northern part of Switzerland has almost three quarters of the population. So it's a good chance you will be very close

Posted by: omni3 | April 14, 2010 10:49 PM | Report abuse

First, a clarification about my thought regarding love being relative: some loves may come and go; friends, lovers, etc. Some don't; parents, children, family (see what I mean by love being relative?).

Congrats to PB and #1, Yoki. And to you.

DNA_Girl, thoughts are with you and the _Guy.


Posted by: -bc- | April 14, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

omni, they don't have many blue crabs in Switzerland so they don't have to really worry about their size.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 14, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, friend BC.

Nothing relative to me.

Posted by: Yoki | April 14, 2010 11:26 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 15, 2010 12:24 AM | Report abuse

Having done a little of the math, I'm not convinced that Switzerland is just a little bit bigger than Maryland.

All of that dramatic relief topography adds up to a heck of lot more acreage upon which one could (and the Swiss apparently do) herd a few more tourists & precision milk chocolate dairy timepiece cows.

Maybe Maryland should consider scrunching things up a bit more.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 15, 2010 2:40 AM | Report abuse

Omni, going back to yesterday, I was wrong with my answer. DC and Vietnam are on the same day 11pm to 11am DC time.

There are 2 time zones in South East Asia. Myanmar, Thailand, Indo China, and most parts of Indonesia are in one time zone (11 hrs ahead of DC.) Peninsular and East Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines and Indonesia’s Sulawesi and East Timor are on the other time zone (12 hrs ahead of DC.) If you look at the map, it makes more sense for Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore to be in the time zone as Thailand but it’s not. It was for a long time until Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dr Mahathir, in his infinite wisdom, changed it in 1982. Singapore, because of commerce, follow suit.

Posted by: rainforest1 | April 15, 2010 2:46 AM | Report abuse

So 11AM DC time is when it becomes tomorrow in Vietnam. So if I ask a few minutes before midnight the answer is no, but a few minutes before noon the answer is yes

Posted by: omni3 | April 15, 2010 3:55 AM | Report abuse

Omni, sorry I'm wrong again. It should be "11pm to 10am DC time."

Posted by: rainforest1 | April 15, 2010 5:16 AM | Report abuse

I should shut up on this time zone thing. I'm making too many mistakes.

Let's talk about rabbits instead....for RD and Ivansmom…a rabbit whisperer….

Posted by: rainforest1 | April 15, 2010 5:21 AM | Report abuse

I was born 7 am Central Time and my wife was born in Vietnam at 10 pm. Years ago we figured out that that made me three hours older. My dad always disputed this invoking some obscure property of the International Date Line. One year at 7 am we called my mother-in-law at 8 am EST and got her to give us the day and time it was in Vietnam. We were right.

So as a general rule, in the mornings it's the same day in Asia, but in the afternoons and evenings, its the next day. And Vietnam as a tropical country does not practice daylight savings, so there is that complication.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 15, 2010 5:28 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle! Coffee, tea, assorted juices, homemade granola, berries and yogurt on the table.


Posted by: Yoki | April 15, 2010 6:27 AM | Report abuse

You are up early, Yoki! (I know why!) Have a pleasant and uneventful trip.

Good morning, all, hi Cassandra! Mr. T is home from Noo Yawk. I didn't hear him come in, so I don't know what time he got here. I was tiptoeing around to let him sleep in, but he's up. He will be past his normal arrival time at work, but that's okay.

My major project for the day is to purchase a birthday present for him, since his is coming up in a couple of weeks. I have several ideas, will have to see what I can find.

Posted by: slyness | April 15, 2010 6:48 AM | Report abuse

Maybe Maryland should consider scrunching things up a bit more.

Posted by: bobsewell |
What?! And become West Virginia? No thanks.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 15, 2010 7:21 AM | Report abuse

MST3K live -- The Cinematic Titanic show discussed on Olbermann (subtitle: Meet Crow) --

Posted by: russianthistle | April 15, 2010 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Have a great trip Yoki.

Seventy degrees here today - joy.

Posted by: dmd3 | April 15, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

OK who is getting the plague of locusts soon?

Posted by: dmd3 | April 15, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

dmd3--seems like you needed the theme song for Car 54 for your post.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 15, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse

I was only advocating devilishly about the switch to searching for laser signals. I think it's a good idea. Be awful remiss if they were there and no one looked.

Meanwhile, Googling the news so far I still find no indication of the height of the Iceland ash cloud. I was under the impression that if such lofted high enough, the sun-shading would last some time as it drifted around the earth, maybe causing some significant weather effects over the following year. But then again I'm under many impressions that I later find wrong.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 15, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Goodmorning, y'all.

Earthquakes, volcanos and floods, oh my!
dmd3, after your post/link . . . dare I ask if rivers are running red somewhere?

Sunshine and pomegranate tea with muffins on my sidetable . . . diggin' in the garden later. Good fun to you all . . . .

Posted by: talitha1 | April 15, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I'm confused. Are we looking for signs of nuclear fusion? Earth wouldn't pass that test. Are we looking for the effect of non-natural electromagnetism on the ionosphere? What if they never use radio waves or their planet doesn't have an ionosphere?

Wouldn't it be ironic if the universe were just teeming with life but none of us can communicate with each other because of different paradigms. The solar swimmers can't communicate with the gas giant blobs who can't communicate with us poor rock-mites who can't communicate with the transsolar silicon rock entities.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 15, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Jumper, you have a point about possible global effects from airborne volcanic ash and dust. I seem to remember evidence of cooling-type climate changes due to Krakatoa and maybe Mt. St. Helens.

Which was similar to the nuclear winter discussions of the 70s and 80s (I seem to remember Carl Sagan talking about that at one point.).

Is this Icelandic eruption big enough to do such a thing? I don't know, though I imagine someone's looking into it.

The idea that this could be Gaia in action is an interesting one.


Posted by: -bc- | April 15, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Good morning ye Boodlers!

Aliens hiding?

Nah. I found them in Valparaiso as I traveeled through time. Fast back, fast forward. Need another cup of coffee to get my thoughts in order. A special report coming out later today (I hopes). :)


Posted by: Braguine | April 15, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

As I was walking down the street one day
A man came up to me and asked me what
The time was that was on my watch, yeah...And I said

(I don't) Does anybody really know what time it is
(Care) Does anybody really care (about time)
If so I can't imagine why (Oh no, no)
We've all got time enough to cry

And I was walking down the street one day
A pretty lady looked at me
And said her diamond watch had stopped cold dead...And I said

(I don't) Does anybody really know what time it is
(Care) Does anybody really care (about time)
If so I can't imagine why (Oh no, no)
We've all got time enough to cry

And I was walking down the street one day
Being pushed and shoved by people trying to
Beat the clock, oh, no I just don't know
I don't know, and I said, yes I said

People runnin' everywhere
Don't know where to go
Don't know where I am
Can't see past the next step
Don't have time to think past the last mile
Have no time to look around
Just run around, run around and think why

(I don't) Does anybody really know what time it is
(Care) Does anybody really care (about time)
If so I can't imagine why (Oh no, no)
We've all got time enough to die
Everybody's working (I don't) I don't care (About time)
About time (Oh no, no) I don't care

Lyrics by Chicago's great Robert Lamm

'Morning, Boodle. There, try and get that one out of your head.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 15, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Hell, yello, my daughters don't even actually talk on the phone anymore.

This, of course, impacts my Mom, who has trouble reading text on her phone.

And from a cosmic perspective, one could consider them essentially identical.

We humans have enough trouble communciating with each other, which does not bode well for communicating with the bloated gas giants that bloviate on planet Foxnews5.
Just to pluck an example out of the atmosphere...


Posted by: -bc- | April 15, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Mudge: I think that lyric may even date back to the time when the band was still called the Chicago Transit Authority. They became Chicago when CTA loudly objected.

Posted by: ebtnut | April 15, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Also, yello, I seem to remember an Asimov story where alien gods were watching Earth for signs of nuclear energy release in order to let us into some kind of federation of planets, but when the king god was notified about an important fact - "They're using nuclear weapons - *on their own world!?" - he shakes his head and crosses Earth's name out of the Big Book of Planets.


Posted by: -bc- | April 15, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

I used to think "someone was looking into it."

Also I don't know if Gaia can self-correct. There's an easier way she could do it and I doubt we'd like it...

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 15, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

That's quite true, ebt. Lamm wrote it for their debut album, Chicago Transit Authority, which came out in 1969. (Very unusual for a band's debut album to be a double album.)

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 15, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

A little more ash info from expert. He indicates 35,000 ft. max and "thin." I think I read somewhere that 50,000 feet often indicates a significant long-lasting albedo change may occur. I don't even trust my memory anymore however.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 15, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

IIRC, the eruption of Krakatoa caused cool summers for a couple of years afterwards, so yeah, it could be.

Since Mr. T and I are suppposed to cross the pond in six weeks or so, I want this problem corrected NOW.

Thank you, Gaia, for acting upon my request.

Posted by: slyness | April 15, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps the failure analysis reveals that the probability on any sentient civilization lasting long enough to achieve interstellar communication/travel is too close to zero to be meaningful. After all, there are so many ways to destroy the planet (or at least us) that it is a matter of how and when, not if.

As for the emergence of human-style intelligence (tool building leading to technology), the dinosaurs had 65 million years to achieve and they never seemed to need it. It hardly seems a given.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 15, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

A podcast interview with Robert Lamm of Chicago.

He says some borderline passive-aggressive things about Peter Cetera.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 15, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Notions like this sometimes make me worry that we really are alone. I mean, the Drake equation has a lot of terms that could be zero. Or at least alone in any meaningful way. Perhaps we are just a freak aberration. Oxidation with attitude.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 15, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, y'all.

Warm muffins, coffee and OJ on the table.

I always thought the band Chicago should have called itself TWC, but I'm fond of initials.

Are we -still- looking for aliens?

yello, my solar swimmer pals assure me they thoroughly enjoy the company of what you call gas giant blobs. They refer to themselves as the etheric greats, by the way.

Gonna be in the 80s here, with much cooler temps for Friday and the weekend. Must spend much time outdoors today.

Posted by: MsJS | April 15, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Of course, such thinking reminds me of Monty Python's "The Galaxy Song." Which makes everything all better.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 15, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I had forgotten it was tax day. A herd, a swarm, a plague, a pestilence of crazy people is about to descend on the state capitol to protest. They may be joined by people protesting them. I think it is an excellent day to hide in my office until they all go away. Thunderstorms are predicted for later; I'd humbly ask Gaia to send a big one hereabouts right around 11:00 a.m. local time. Most of these folks can't come in to shelter from the storm, since they're armed.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 15, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Boko999 | April 15, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

RD, maybe we *are* oxidation with an attitiude, I tend to think of us as something growing on a meatball left out at room temp too long...

And here's that guest Kit I wrote some time back where I bloviate on the topic.


Posted by: -bc- | April 15, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

yello, does your 10:25 assume that sentience requires a planet?

Given the apparent size of the 'verse, I'd say anything can happen. And they might be highly pi$$ed about it.

Yeah, I guess I have "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" on my mind.


Posted by: -bc- | April 15, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Guardian has graphics showing volcanic ash distribution and heights. It's low over Great Britain, higher (up to 55,000 feet) over Norway.

The new eruption and flooding looks very serious--Icelanders are evidently being urged to wear "dusk masks" according to Iceland Review, which doesn't seem available at the moment. But it doesn't look like a St Helens or Pinatubo-style explosion. More like something that could go on for months, years???

Anyway, it looks like Iceland's flood of volcano tourists may be over. I shoulda caught a flight from Orlando.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | April 15, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

My 10:25 does assume a planet for a human-styled bricks and mortar technology based civilization. I'm not sure how else you do it without 'stuff' and a convenient free power source.

My 9:06 implies that there a multitude of other possibilities. They just might not be 'life' as we are looking for it. The problem is defining and finding a phenomenon that cannot be explained as a natural event. I still say Dyson spheres or higher would be the smoking gun. Perhaps dark matter is an alien relic. Just how uniformly distributed is it?

Posted by: yellojkt | April 15, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

It has been hot and stuffy in my windowless office for over a week now. I was careful to dress for the heat today. Of course, today is the day they turned on the AC. I need a sweater.

Welcome, caroling!

Posted by: -bia- | April 15, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

If there's a choice, can I be fermentation instead of oxidation?

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | April 15, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

new kit!

Posted by: -bia- | April 15, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

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