Thursday, November 16, 2006
So lets put that arrogance aside and assume that alien cultures are using lasers to contact us. These alien cultures don't know that there is life on earth, or they would be trying to contact us much more directly. So, these laser messages are not going to be sent out to the earth constantly. Again assuming the aliens have the same types of technology as us, these beams will be sent out in the direction of different star systems that these aliens think might have life on them, each star system getting a message at a different time. Now, let's assume that they're sending the messages towards earth at all, which is not a trivial assumption, otherwise the whole issue goes away. So, every once in awhile the laser message is pointed towards our star system. What are the odds that at that time we have a clear line of sight to the alien star system? That some other planet or piece of space junk or the moon isn't in the way? Or the sun, even? Then, assuming that the laser actually reaches the earth, what are the odds that it hits a point on the earth were we have a receiver listening? We're talking about light year distances here, so a change of a few fractions of a degree at the sender translates to huge differences in hit location on the earth. Unless we put receivers all over the earth its almost impossible to believe that we will intercept such a message, if you can even believe that a message will hit the earth at all.
But, lets be arrogant again and assume that we do receive a message. Then it will take us years, if not decades, to even recognize that it is a message. But lets assume that some day we receive a message, realize that it is a message, and even pinpoint where in the universe it came from. What now? What was all this about? I guess it proves that there is other intelligent life in the universe -- probably. But to really prove that, or do anything meaningful with it, we have to contact this life and communicate with it.
So, we need to start beaming messages back to them. This is much easier than their task of beaming them to the entire universe because we know exactly where they are. So we can built a laser-message space craft and put it somewhere in space always transmitting right to their planet. Now, this planet will be at least ten light years away. That means that when we received the message it was already ten years old. When we send our message to them it will take 10 years for them to receive it, assuming that they receive it right away. Then, assume that they recognize our message and send one back. That takes another 10 years. So now its been 20 years since we first detected the message, and we get something back.
Now what? What good is this? We have spent billions of dollars and who knows how many hours and we have proved that extra-terrestrial life exists. What does that matter? What can we do with that? We can communicate with this culture, you might say. Not likely any time soon. Assuming they even have the same concept of language as us, its very unlikely their language will be anything we can understand or decipher without a great deal of correspondence. And considering that it takes 20 years for a single round-trip message, its going to be a long while until we can actually have any sort of "meaningful" conversation with such a culture.
Of course, all this assumes that any other intelligent life is benevolent. You can easily imagine some uber-fascist alien race trying to detect intelligent life in the universe in order to subjugate it. So we spend billions of dollars to build a laser-messaging satellite that is really just a homing beacon for some oppressive overlords to find our little planet. Nice move guys. But, a lot of assumptions have been made to this point, so why not continue and assume these guys are nice?
All of this to say that SETI is one of the biggest wastes of time and money I can imagine. Thankfully, the government stopped funding SETI in 1993. It is a project that makes many, many arrogant assumptions to even make itself viable. Then, assuming all of the assumptions are correct all we get out of it, best case, is the knowledge that there is some other intelligent life out there. Worst case, we become enslaved by some much more powerful race. Nice. I say we wait until we have the technology to visit or communicate more quickly with and hopefully stand toe-to-toe militarily with any alien race before we spend the time and money to try to contact them.
Friday, November 10, 2006
The Massachusetts legislators that voted for this recess most likely fall in to two camps: homosexual marriage proponents relying on the tactics I mention above, and politicians without the courage to follow the democratic process if it might hurt their political aspirations. Both positions are reprehensible. It is in the state constitution that the people deserve a vote on this issue since they have met the petition requirements. To deny them that vote for any reason is oppressive and wholly inappropriate for any legislative body.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Lieberman was almost an example of this -- one that would have been unprovable had he respected his party's nomination of Lamont. He is viewed by the general public as moderate -- whether he should be or not is irrelevant, that's how he's viewed. The hard left saw him as too far right, and quite a bit too far at that. And they overwhelmingly rejected him in the primary. Had he accepted this we might never have known whether this was representative of most of Democrats in the state. However, Lieberman spurned his party and set off on his own believing, apparently correctly, that the people of Connecticut would favor him over Lamont, even if his party's primary did not. He was right and won easily. The majority of the Democrats in Connecticut did not vote for Lamont, they voted for Lieberman. I believe this is because the majority of Democrats in Connecticut believe themselves to be moderate, and so chose the candidate branded as moderate rather than the one branded as liberal, correctly or not.
I believe that the same scenario would play out across the United States in both parties if moderate candidates had the luxury of a wealth of money and media attention needed to run as independents. Instead most moderates never see general election after a primary defeat. And the result is that the majority of Americans are not accurately or adequately represented by the government. As far as I can tell there is only one way to change this: more people have to vote in the primaries. I don't know how to generate more interest, but we all should do whatever we can to encourage everyone we can to vote in the primaries to promote better representation by our government. That is my wide sweeping and vague charge to everyone in the country. That's all for now, I'll let you know if there's anything else I need you to do later.
Speaking of the Democrats taking both houses last night, is it just me or were the Republicans of the last six years the worst majority ever? It seems like they still never got anything done, even with a solid majority. Plus the alienated a large chunk of their base, like me, by deciding that they didn't have to appeal to people anymore and sold out to the Evangelical right. Which backfired, since a lot of evangelical groups were talking about not voting to try to teach the Republicans some lesson. I don't know, I feel like they deserved to lose. I didn't vote for any Democrats, but I'm not that upset at their winning. To them I say congratulations, I hope you don't live up to your critics expectations. And please don't make Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House. Please.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Friday, November 03, 2006
This brings up an important ethical question. What is the right thing to do in such a situation? We have women serving in our armed forces, although never as active combatants at this point. But they are members of the military and legal combatants under international law, none the less. At what point do these Palestinian women cease to be civilians and start to be part of the opposing force? When do they become combatants? If "civilian" men were actively seeking to aid opposing troops in this way would they be valid targets? Is it right or good to treat women differently? What is the right way to respond to stop things like this from happening in the future? This is clearly a violation of the Geneva convention, but that doesn't really mean much to unnamed Palestinian guerrilla fighters. I don't think there is an easy answer to this question. It seems to me a moral dilemma, so I'm looking for input. If women, of their own free will, participate in activities to put themselves between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen -- not "suspected terrorists" or something like that, but men who are shooting at Israeli troops -- should they be valid targets for the troops? Is there some middle ground, where in this situation shooting the women should be avoided but if some get hit while aiming for the gunmen its okay? Or should they be treated as true civilians and be allowed to create no fire zones for militants to escape through? If so, why? Why should they be allowed to actively participate in paramilitary action without being seen as combatants? Where do we draw the line and what guidelines do we follow in such a situation? What should be the standards for our ethics in this situation?
However, this version of the story offers some details that I find laughable. In it they report that the pastor "admitted today that he had purchased the illegal drug methamphetamine from a gay escort in Denver, but denied that he ever had sex with the man." They go on, "said he met with Mr. Jones and bought the drug. “I was tempted, I bought it, but I did not use it,” he said today. He said he threw the drug out shortly after buying it. “I never kept it very long because it was wrong,” he said." But in the end of the article is this, "Mr. Haggard said in a lengthy interview with KUSA that he had never used drugs of any kind and that he did not smoke or drink alcohol."
So... who do you know who has never used drugs, doesn't drink, and doesn't even smoke who would be "tempted" by an illegal drug offer enough to buy from some guy he doesn't know? That seems absolutely ridiculous. So, he may or may not have had sex with this man. I wouldn't be surprised either way. But he is clearly lying here. Well, maybe not. Sometimes people commit absolutely uncharacteristic felonies for no reason, I suppose. But it sure seems like there's a lot more to this story. Not that its any of our business or that it really matters to the vast majority of us. I just thought it was completely hilarious that he would admit to buying illegal drugs from a stranger but then try to play it off like it was just some freak accident and he threw them away and never looked back. Seriously, it made me laugh.UPDATE:
Now Haggard, the pastor in question, apparently now is admitting that he paid for a message from a homosexual prostitute from whom he bought meth. Follow the logic from above with drugs, but instead apply it to messages from a prostitute -- who pays a prostitute for a message, anyway? I don't know why I find this whole situation so entertaining... I guess I'm becoming a typical American.