We’re Going To Mars!

I actually can’t believe this story is from four days ago and I haven’t heard anyone talking about it yet: NASA recently unveiled its timeline for the (actual) human exploration of Mars. A permenant human presence on the Red Planet! How is that not awesome?

Here’s the basic timeline: It begins with phasing out the Earth Reliant aspect of space travel, which is where we are now. The International Space Station mission will be winding down in the next few years, which is somewhat sad, but the installation is certainly getting old (it was originally launched in 1998!) and ending the ISS mission will free up NASA’s resources to focus on Mars.

After the Earth Reliant phase ends, NASA will transition to the Deep Space, and, quote, “NASA will send a robotic mission to capture and redirect an asteroid to orbit the moon. Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft will explore the asteroid in the 2020s, returning to Earth with samples.” Redirecting an asteroid is perhaps the most metal thing I’ve read all month.

And finally, in the 2030s, NASA should be ready to send humans to Mars. We’re really going. The Orion program will take us back to the stars. (Well, figuratively speaking; the actual stars are still a long ways away).

I’m excited. This news is exciting to me and not just because, holy shit, The Martian will only be science-fiction for a few more decades (and then it will just be regular fiction). I’m excited that I’ll (hopefully) be around to see the next great achievements in human exploration. I’m excited because this feels like a real investment in spreading human life beyond our planet, a mission which will hopefully provide us with the means to spread to the rest of our solar system. In short, it’s the future that science fiction has been tantalizing us with. We’re finally going there.

A lot could happen, of course. A complete conservative takeover of the government could see NASA’s budget gutted, which would scrub the mission. But my hope is that the desire to explore the stars transcends ideological barriers. Space exploration has produced some of the country’s greatest heroes. What conservative doesn’t respect the sheer bad-ass-itude of the astronauts of the Apollo program? What progressive doesn’t savor the idea of pushing our scientific understanding to a new limit? There’s so much for us to learn out there!

I hope people start talking about this more. I hope folks get excited. Because the technology is within our reach and will only get closer, so long as we maintain the desire and the collective willpower. In 1969, we went to the moon. Let’s do something cool like that again, and let’s do it together.

Personal aside: I am 100% certain that it’s not an accident this announcement was timed to come after the success of The Martian and the announcement of water being discovered on Mars. Space is cool again!

To The (Potential) Spacefish Of Titan; Alas, We Hardly Knew Ye

Titan is my favorite moon. Well, okay, aside from our moon. There’s a lot to appreciate about our moon. It’s very pretty to look at and we do sort of owe it our existence as terrestial-based lifeforms, what with its role in creating the tides and all. So I do owe the moon quite a bit, as much as one can “owe” a celestial body.

But there are other moons in our solar system and of those non-Earth moons, Titan is my favorite.

It’s a moon with its own atmosphere! It has lakes of liquid methane on its surface! Its particular combination of dense atmosphere and low gravity means that a human on the surface of Titan could strap on a pair of wings to one’s arm and fly. You know, assuming the intense cold and/or toxic atmosphere wasn’t instantly fatal.

It’s also the most distant object we’ve ever landed a man-made object on! We have a picture of its surface!

The surface of Titan, courtesy of the Cassini-Huygens lander.

Admittedly, this is not the most impressive picture ever taken. It’s downright lame when you consider the beautiful shots that the Curiosity Rover is posting to its Twitter account!  This picture kinda sucks . . . unless you consider what it really represents.

This isn’t Mars. This is a moon in the outer solar system. It might be smudgy, it might be low res, it might be a picture of a field of rocks but this is the most distant land we’ve ever laid eyes on.

When talking about moons, the hot topic these days is the potential for life. We know that moons like Europa (around Jupiter) and Enceladus (around Saturn) have sub-surface oceans that might be just suitable to support life.

I’ve always held out hope that Titan, which also is believed to have a giant sub-surface ocean, might end up being the one, the first place in the solar system outside of Earth where we encounter life.

If I’m very, very, very honest and I admit that I’m allowing myself to dream, we’ll land a rover and find little spacefish. I realize that it’s much more likely the first definitive proof of alien life will be little microbes.

It seems a new report may have knocked Titan out of the running as a candidate for life, much to my dismay:

New research casts doubt on the possibility of finding life as we know it on Saturn’s moon, Titan. The giant ocean believed to exist below the moon’s surface has long been thought a place where life could exist . . . In a paper published earlier this month, NASA researchers say they have found evidence that the ocean could be “as salty as Earth’s Dead Sea.”

It’s possible that Titan might have had life in the past and there will be cool remains to discover. Even if there isn’t any life to be found, it’s still an endlessly fascinating place.

But if it’s as salty as the Dead Sea? There’s a reason why we call it that, after all.

And yes, I realize that even the Dead Sea does have trace amounts of microbial life. It’s still not the same. I want Titan’s oceans to be filled with crazy spacefish and weird star-plants!

The New Dwarf Planet And The Arizona Daily Star

It’s possible to be right about something and still manage to get it completely wrong. For evidence of this fascinating phenomenon, let’s look at yesterdays’s front page stories on the Arizona Daily Star. “Say hello to huge, new planet — or not:”


Forget Pluto.

A dwarf planet recently discovered at the far edge of our solar system adds evidence for the existence of a much larger body, possibly 10 times the size of Earth, orbiting far from the sun but still in our solar system.

If astronomers can track it down, we could become a nine-planet solar system once again.

The planet is theoretical for now, inferred from the influence it seems to have on this new dwarf planet and others in its vicinity.

To understand how the Daily Star got it wrong, even though the article is technically correct, we need to look at how this story is constructed.

First, what’s the actual noteworthy piece of information? A new dwarf planet was discovered in the solar system. Neat! Despite how many people denigrate dwarf planets ever since Pluto’s demotion (even the terminology looks down on dwarf planets), I think that dwarf planets are pretty cool.

For one thing, they add a lot more ladies to our celestial neighborhood. Sedna, Eris, and Haumea bring three more goddesses to the ranks of the celestial bodies, not to mention dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt. Sure, it’d be nice if we could name a few more full fledged planets after goddesses to even out the decidedly masculine solar system, but that ship may have already sailed. Maybe the first named exoplanet can be a goddess?

So the news article is about the discovery of a new dwarf planet. Very cool. The problem is that the article and the headline both make it sound like this dwarf planet is somehow confirming the existence of a huge planet out there in the black, which is something that’s been speculated on for years. From the same Daily Star article:

What’s most interesting to the astronomers is that previously found objects and some they have since discovered are equally eccentric.

They point to the influence of a giant planet that perturbed the orbits of the objects being found and then either flew off into space — or is still hiding out there somewhere.

“The evidence for it is circumstantial,” Sheppard said in a phone interview from Chile, where he is observing again on the Blanco DECam at the Cerro Tololo International Observatory.

Bold emphasis is mine. Despite the general tone of the article, despite the headline, despite the fact that the discovery of a dwarf planet is still cool science news, the article insists on making it seem like we’re actually on the verge of discovering Planet X even though the only real information on that point is a single quote that describes the evidence as circumstantial.

Here’s what Phil Plait, he of the legendary Bad Astronomy blog has to say about the possibility of a large planet lurking out there:

It’s possible that a bigger object—a proper planet-sized thing—could be out there in the Oort cloud, hundreds of AU away from the Sun, that could be affecting the orbits of these objects. If it were a giant planet like Jupiter or Saturn we would have detected it by now, so it would have to be something smaller and colder. An object the size of the Earth (or even somewhat bigger) would fit the bill. It’s an idea that’s been around for a while now.

Mind you, the evidence here is pretty thin, and as much as I’d love for there to be another planet lurking out there for us to find and study, we just don’t have enough data here to say anything either way. It’s small number statistics; we’ve found two objects with odd orbits, but it could be coincidence. We need to find a lot more OCOs like Sedna and VP113 so that the gaps in our understanding of their orbits can be filled in.

I love science news and astronomy in particular is one of my favorite subjects. It’s always been an unfortunate aspect of the real world that so much of astronomy is based in mathematics and that I’m very bad at math. My love for the stars will forever be the love experienced by the laity. Regardless, I think it’s a disservice to cover up an actual bit of interesting scientific news with this wild speculation.

I’d also like to point out that, purely for the sake of accuracy, there is one particular fact that the Daily Star article gets wrong. The article claims the new dwarf planet is:

“It is the farthest orbiting object ever detected, beating out Sedna, found in 2003 by a team led by Mike Brown of Caltech, which included Trujillo.

But that’s not accurate. As Phil Plait explains:

Let me point out that Sedna actually gets much farther from the Sun than VP113 ever does, but at their closest points VP113 is farther away. Sedna has a perihelion distance of 76 AU, VP113 is about 80.

But that’s a much more forgivable mistake, in my opinion, than the misleading headline and subsequent article. Call this one a nitpick.

Do I hope that there is a giant, Earth-sized planet lurking out there in the edge of the solar system? Absolutely! That would make for some very exciting news, to be sure. But I also believe it’s important to temper one’s speculation and focus on what’s there. Speculation is fun and fine, but it shouldn’t be the headline of the article.

This Week In Terrifying Theoretical Science

If you ever need something to cause you to reflect on the futility of life, look up “fate of the Universe” on Google and do a bit of reading. The Big Freeze, the Big Rip, the Big Crunch . . . there aren’t too many scenarios in which the Universe makes it out alive at the end of time. Even the most optimistic scenario, the Big Bounce, still ends with this universe dying so a new one can take its place.

But that’s deep time. The Big Freeze will be about 10^100 years from now, which is an unimaginably vast length of time. Even the soonest possible fate, the Big Rip, will still take 22 billion years. Nothing for us to worry about, right?

Except that maybe we won’t have to wait that long. Turns out the Universe could collapse at any moment:

Danish scientists say an expanding bubble of existential doom could crush the Universe into a tiny ball. And crazily, the odds of this collapse is higher than previously thought.

This theory isn’t actually new. But the scientists who conducted the new study say previous calculations were incomplete. Their new, more precise calculations, now show that (1) the universe will probably collapse, and (2) a collapse is even more likely than the old calculations predicted.

You can check out the article for the how and what for what a Universal collapse would actually mean, but practically speaking, it’s The End. Of everything.

That’s not the scary part. We already knew the Universe is going to die someday; current physics do not allow for a scenario in which the Universe survives forever, as mentioned before.

The scary part is that it could be happening right now:

“The phase transition will start somewhere in the universe and spread from there,” says Jens Frederik Colding Krog, PhD student at the Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics Phenomenology (CP3) and co-author of an article on the subject that appears in the Journal of High Energy Physics. “Maybe the collapse has already started somewhere in the universe and right now it is eating its way into the rest of the universe. Maybe a collapse is starting right now, right here. Or maybe it will start far away from here in a billion years. We do not know.”

The good news, if you want to call it that, is that if a Universal collapse is happening right now on the other side of the Universe, it would travel at the speed of light, meaning that it would take a while to reach us. On the other hand, we’d probably know about it juuuust long enough to panic and contemplate our coming demise.

So, you know, there’s that.

Actually, there is other good news; all it would take is the existence of other, currently unknown elementary particles to call the whole model of collapse into question.

Hopefully you’re out there somewhere, little particles. I rather like existing and would hate to see all of reality buckle in on itself. It would seem a rather ignominious end.

The Flynn Effect, Or Why Idiocracy Got It Wrong

Did you ever see Idiocracy? It’s considered a cult classic these days and, although I don’t consider it to be Mike Judge’s best work, it was a good enough satire to earn both a few laughs and also a concerned eyebrow at the perceived rise of anti-intellectualism in pop culture and the potential consequences of the fact that the more education one receives, the less likely that person is to have children.

Dumber society + more dumb people having dumb kids = disaster.

Seems like a pretty solid combination that will guarantee the future is filled with idiots, right? I mean, have you seen kids today? All they think about is their social networking and their (insert appropriate music genre here). They lack an appreciation for fine culture or complex thought, preferring a sound-bite society that’s easier for increasingly short attention spans. The preceding sentence will probably be too much for anybody under the age of 20 to grasp! In other words, people are getting dumber.

Except for the fact that they’re not. People are smarter than ever. On average, each generation is smarter than the previous ones.

WHAT YOU SAY?! How can this be? How can people not be getting dumber? Look at our decrepit culture! It doesn’t make any sense.

We can thank the Flynn Effect:

The Flynn Effect is the observation that each successive generation has a higher IQ than the last. The man who observed this and after whom the term is named, James Flynn, recently gave a fascinating talk at TED on why this might be.

“If you score the people a century ago against modern norms, they would have an average IQ of 70. If you score us against their norms, we would have an average IQ of 130,” James Flynn said in his talk.

Let’s nip one thing in the bud; using IQ as a measure of intelligence. We know there are many kinds of intelligence, some of which are much harder to quantify than others. IQ can’t measure creativity or emotional intelligence. That doesn’t mean an IQ score is devoid of value, however. Even if it tracks intelligence only in the very broadest sense, we can still derive useful information from it.

The information is telling us that IQ is rising with every generation. In fact, if you look at the way the IQ score is arranged, the goal post has to be moved constantly specifically because of this inflation. 100 is always the average. If too many people score above 100 and it moves the average up, the parameters of the test are altered to compensate.

Flynn has an explanation for why this upward trend is occurring:

“In 1900, three percent of Americans practiced professions that were cognitively demanding. Only three percent were lawyers or doctors or teachers. Today, 35 percent of Americans practice cognitively demanding professions, not only the professions proper like lawyer or doctor or scientist or lecturer, but many, many sub-professions having to do with being a technician, a computer programmer. A whole range of professions now make cognitive demands. And we can only meet the terms of employment in the modern world by being cognitively far more flexible.

So, there. Suck it, predictions of an idiotic future. We’re all much smarter than we give ourselves credit for. Like XKCD says, “People aren’t going to change, for better or for worse. Technology’s going to be so cool. All in all, the future will be okay! Except climate; we fucked that one up.”

Impending Galactic Collision? It’s More Likely Than You Think

Do you spend a lot of time thinking about the impending collision between our galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy? Well, why not? Are you aware, sir or madame, that our two galaxies are rushing towards one another at speeds of no less than 110 kilometers per second? We’re caught on a speeding train that’s on the same track as another speeding train, except that we’re on the littler of the two trains and we’re certainly going to die. EVERYBODY PANIC.

Well, except for the fact that Andromeda is 2.5 million light-years away. But 110 kilometers a second is still pretty fast, right? It seems fast.

And it is pretty fast; at the current rate of speed, we only have 4.5 billion years to figure out how to avoid this galactic collision. That’s barely enough time for a star to form, a solar system to organize, a planet to evolve life, that life to evolve more complex life, and that complex life to develop intelligence, and that intelligence to develop the Internet. How could we possibly have enough time to figure out how to avoid this impending apocalypse?

Assuming it’s even apocalyptic, of course, since galaxies are mostly empty space and even though we use the phrase “galactic collision” and collision implies the hitting of things on other things, the reality is that the odds of any two stars physically colliding are tiny. Really, really tiny.

So, really, we don’t have anything to worry about. In 4.5 billion years, we’re going to have a kick-ass new galaxy that’s way bigger than all those other, lamer galaxies.

Assuming we aren’t all killed by a gamma-ray burst first. Space is awesome like that.

T.Rex: Return of the King

It’s no secret that I love dinosaurs. Like most kids, I could wrangle my mouth around a word like pachycephalosarus before I could spell my own name. I’m not sure whether my continuing love for the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods is because I’m still secretly eight years old in my soul or because dinosaurs are just really that awesome. I find that I don’t care what the reason is.

My favorite dinosaur is the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex. Admittedly, it’s a vanilla choice; it’s easily the most popular and well known dinosaur in the world. For a while in my teenage years, I flirted with lesser known tyrannosaurids like Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, and Dilophosaurus. After passing through this phase of dinosaur hipster-ism, I returned to my first love and have remained an enthusiast of the Tyrannosaurus rex ever since. I’ll still rant about the Spinosaurus vs. Tyrannosaurus duel in Jurassic Park 3 if someone is unwise to mention it around me.

One of the longest running debates in paleontology is whether the T. rex was actually worthy of the name “tyrant king of lizards” or if it was really more akin to an overgrown, reptilian hyena. There’s a good summary of the feeding strategy arguments for T. rex over on Wikipedia and there is strong evidence for each side of the “scavenger vs. predator” debate. Ultimately, this has led most to concur that the T. rex took its food wherever it could find it, whether that meant killing other dinosaurs, stealing kills, or scavenging carrion. For most, the case has been closed, let’s talk about something else.

Despite the general consensus, there have been a few prominent hold-outs for the “T.rex was a scavenger” argument. Dr. Jack Horner is the most prominent one and if you’re familiar with the work of one modern paleontologist, it’s probably him. He was the consultant on the Jurassic Park movies and has been a prominent speaker in the arena of public opinion. To be fair, I don’t blame him for any of the historical inaccuracies of the movies; a consultant does not have the power of a director, after all, and Spielberg has never been shy about the fact that he makes films to entertain, not to teach.

The frilled, spitting dilophosarus was cool looking, even if it doomed us all to explaining to our friends and family that no, they didn’t really do that, for the rest of our lives.

Horner has been credited with keeping the T. rex scavenger theory going, although he’s never published a formal paper arguing the point. This theory has inevitably led to buzz-killing and downer articles with titles like T-rex’s Hunting Habits Disappoint Fans of Carnage and Was Tyrannosaurus Rex a Fearsome Predator or Just Another Scavenger? Nobody wants to see their champ get reduced to “just another scavenger.” Even if it’s true, it totally ruins the awesome story of a fearsome, bad-ass dinosaur tearing its way across the prehistoric food chain.

However, we now have compelling evidence that T. Rex was indeed a predator! From an article on IO9 (which is where I seem to get almost all of my cool shit these days):

But owing to a discovery made at a site in South Dakota by paleontologist David Burnham and his graduate student Robert DePalma, we now know that T-rex did indeed hunt its prey.

The scientists found a Tyrannosaurus rex tooth lodged in the tail vertebrae of a plant-eating hadrosaur (sometimes referred to as the “duck-billed dinosaur”). Moreover, their analysis of the fossil showed that there was fresh bone growth surrounding the tooth, an indication that the hadrosaur survived the attack.

Eh, so maybe our champ doesn’t have a perfect fighting record, but hey, the important thing is that the T. rex is back! The killing machine of our childhood dreams (and sometimes nightmares) actually matches reality. I always enjoy when reality obliges me by matching up with the cool story version that was in my head.

Not everybody is enthusiastic about this news, however. Dr. John Hutchinson has a few words on this subject:

The T. rex “predator vs. scavenger” so-called controversy has sadly distracted the public from vastly more important, real controversies in paleontology since it was most strongly voiced by Dr Jack Horner in the 1990s. I find this very unfortunate. It is not like scientists sit around scratching their heads in befuddlement over the question, or debate it endlessly in scientific meetings. Virtually any paleontologist who knows about the biology of extant meat-eaters and the fossil evidence of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs accepts that T. rex was both a predator and scavenger; it was a carnivore like virtually any other kind that has ever been known to exist.

Ouch. And, you know, on many points, I agree with him completely! For the paleontology community as a whole, the door was closed on this issue a long time ago; the fossil evidence suggested T. rex could do both hunting and scavenging and there was no reason to assume it only engaged in one type of feeding behavior. This particular issue is, if you’ll allow me to be hyperbolic, the dinosaur community’s “faked moon landing” controversy, in that the controversy doesn’t really exist except in the minds of those talking about the non-existent controversy.

But, man, there’s something in me that gets excited about this news anyway. I think it’s because, as a lay-person, I don’t have to deal with recurring misconceptions over and over again. I don’t have to continually point out there there is no controversy on the issue. If I did, I imagine I would get tired of it very quickly.

On the other hand, I’m not so quick to write this news off as irrelevant, because in my opinion, any news that gets people excited about dinosaurs is worth talking about. The worst thing that could happen to paleontology is if nobody cared, in my opinion, because if nobody cares, nobody is going to shelling out the funding for research on dinosaurs.

If you need an example of what waning public interest can do a field, compare the rate of space exploration during the Cold War vs. the last two decades. We were supposed to colonizing Pluto by now, not bitterly revoking its status as a planet.

Keep in mind that my perspective is informed by my employment in a public library system. This is the reason I place such a premium on the public interest, because for us, staying relevant in the public consciousness is the different between having a job and not having a job.

Even if it’s just one more bit of evidence in an already convincing body of work, there’s nothing bad about an announcement that gets people talking about dinosaurs. That’s a success, if only because a tiresome false controversy isn’t the worse thing; the worse thing is finding out that the public just doesn’t care.

Apathy might not be considered a destructive force of nature. Maybe it should be.

Thoughts On Enhanced Intelligence

I saw this article on IO9 asking if artificially enhanced human intelligence might not be as beneficial as we might imagine. The fact that I saw this on IO9 kept me from dismissing it as typical Luddite fear-mongering; their tagline, after all, is “we come from the future.” If anybody on the Internet is pro-future, it’s these guys.

Well, these guys and countless other trans-humanist blogs, tech sites, and other groups. Technologically interested people on the Internet? You don’t say! Anyway.

My position going into the article was firmly in the “pro-enhancement” camp. Intelligence is the defining characteristic of our species. Technological progress has made life better for most people. It stands to reason that more intelligence will lead to more technology which will lead to better lives.

However, I’m no longer quite as certain about this position as I was before. The article points out a few things that I, like many others, often take for granted:

We value smartness, no doubt about it. No one likes to be called stupid, especially in the sci-tech-saturated world we live in. High intelligence, goes the argument, is what’s needed for success in this society, a trait that trumps physical strength, the conviction to succeed, and even a solid education.

But as Walker told me, this is an intelligence bias, one that’s twofold. There’s the emphasis towards intelligence itself, and then there’s the bias towards certain kinds of intelligence — namely “IQ-type” intelligence, or what Changizi calls chess-and-brain-teaser-like intelligence.

It’s a good point. You don’t often hear discussion of intelligence-enhancement of things like social intelligence or emotional intelligence; it’s always the brain-puzzle stuff, the stereotypical “nerd” stuff.

I really like Changizi’s version of what he views as the optimal vision for an enhanced intelligence in humans:

“Well, there’s my own Human 3.0 view, in which I make the case that any enhancements that truly take off will be ones that closely harness our brains’ natural instincts — that’s the only way to coax the brain to do new things brilliantly — and in this sense I deem even writing, speech and music as “enhancements”.

This is a perspective I’ve never considered before and it’s something that, in retrospect, reveals that I’m fully guilty of falling into the “fetishization” of intelligence, valuing only outcomes like higher IQs and the ability to crunch numbers in one’s head.

This is strange, because in truth, I’m incredibly weak in math and similar disciplines; one of the reasons I focused so heavily on writing throughout my education. You’d think I would be the first to point out that intelligence is more than just IQ. Maybe I focused on those goals hoping there would one day be technology that would help me understand trig.

I’m glad that this is a discussion. I feel that my own perspective has been broadened and I very much agree with the vision of intelligence-enhancement will mirror our own natural biological processes and improve upon them.

Although it’s not mentioned in the article, I believe enhancement with the goal of preventing neurological decay (such as what happens to the brain through natural aging) would be a worthy goal.

Interesting stuff. I’m still very interested in trans-humanism and its goals and I’m glad to see there is nuanced discussion happening about them. That bodes well for the future, in my opinion.

Thinking About Fermi

I’ve been thinking about the Fermi Paradox lately. Here’s the short version, if you didn’t click the link to do the background reading:

According to this line of thinking, the Earth should have already been colonized, or at least visited. But no convincing evidence of this exists. Furthermore, no confirmed signs of intelligence elsewhere have been spotted, either in our galaxy or the more than 80 billion other galaxies of the observable universe. Hence Fermi’s question, “Where is everybody?

There are a lot of possible answers to this question, some of which are more compelling to me than others. One possibility is that there’s nobody else out there, but that seems unlikely. Current evidence suggests that planets like our own are not rare; odds are good there are enough candidates out there for life.

Although it’s not the most logically compelling argument, I admit to liking the idea that we will be the first ones to the stars and that we’ll be the first to visit other worlds and other species. We haven’t heard from aliens because we’ll be the first to discover them.

A lot of speculation has been made about ancient astronauts visiting our world and guiding our technological development, but I’ve always found this idea somewhat disappointing; it strikes me as something of an insult to suggest that we couldn’t have figured out any of this shit without help from a higher power.

My admittedly flimsy justification for believing that humans might be the first intelligent species to arise in our galaxy comes from the apparent frequency of extinction events; we’ve had more than our fair share and if they’re common enough, they could explain why the clock has been reset on intelligence enough times such that nobody has beat us to the punch. Of course, that line of thinking falls into the same trap as all speculation of this sort does; we cannot assume that the conditions we experienced in our planetary history are common. We need a larger sample size before we can draw any kind of inference.

Anyway, it’s an interest thing to kick around for a while if you don’t have anything more pressing on your mind and you’re able to assess the question of “where are the aliens” in a reasonable, non-conspiratorial manner. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts; I’d love to have a discussion about this.