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Comment Re:Zzzzzzz (Score 1) 179

to expect an alien civilization (assuming a lightspeed limit) to magically show up on command when you want or expect them to

This statement betrays a misunderstanding of the Fermi Paradox. I don't expect them to show up now, today, or tomorrow or in 100 years.

Moving at a tiny fraction of the speed of light, and allowing perhaps a thousand years after a colony is established before they send out a colony ship of their own, it would only take a couple million years to colonize the entire galaxy. How many "couple million years" opportunities have there been in the billions of years that our galaxy has been around? All it takes is one space-faring civilization to evolve in all that time, and a few million years later, you'll have colonies on every single star.

The Fermi Paradox does not ask why aliens do not magically show up today. It asks why they haven't been here for a billion years or more.

Why aren't there monuments all over the solar system? Why aren't they living in asteroids or artificial habitats in solar orbit? Why don't we seen the ships that make their economy work buzzing around our solar system? Why don't we detect the heat signature from their industry? Why don't our SETI searches pick up radar pulses from their asteroid and comet detection systems (the most powerful beacon we send into space is PAVE PAWS, which a SETI program like our own could detect from 400 light years away). We've been to the moon just ten times, and five times we've left part of the spaceship in solar orbit (the Saturn IVb upper stage) yet amateur astronomers sometimes discover these spacecraft (see J002E3 as an example). If it's that easy for us to spot derelict spaceships, why haven't we spotted the thousands of them that must have been left behind during the billions of years that all those alien civilizations have been visiting us?

Comment Re:Zzzzzzz (Score 1) 179

> I've never understood the thinking of those who assume that planets and life etc must be rare or non-existant elsewhere.

If you disagree, then you really need to have an explanation for the fermi paradox. And note, "we just started looking" doesn't cut it. The fermi paradox asks why aliens aren't here on our planet right now. Note also that "maybe we don't recognize them" also doesn't cut it. Aside from the fact that it's magical thinking, if life is truly common, we should expect at least one of those civilizations to be the type that just lands and says hi.

Comment Re:Still readying the artical but... (Score 1) 472

hahahha! *cough* You could at least link to some nutters blog for a funny citation.

Oh, you showed a little too much of your hand there. You've just admitted that you plan to use the logical fallacy: Poisoning the Well on any evidence I provide. You've admitted that you're much too biased to even consider it. I'm afraid you lose this one.

If you ever grow up, here are a couple of sources:

Since you probably won't read either of those, here's a summary of a report, presented in a youtube video:

Comment Re:Still readying the artical but... (Score 1) 472

What's amazing to me is that people find merely the suggestion that men might possibly be better at something as patently offensive. Not just wrong. Not like, "that's an interesting hypothesis, but here are studies proving you wrong" but actually offensive, as in, "if you dare to think that men might be better at something, that proves you're a filthy bigoted misogynist!"

Meanwhile, the idea that women might be better at something is celebrated, studied, accepted.

Anyway, a big part of the problem with using standardized tests to decide if there are differences in innate ability is that too many people do really well on the tests. Consider this, if I asked a million people "what is 2+2" the vast majority of them would get the question right. Then I might look at my data and conclude, "ah ha! there's no difference between men and women!" But the only reason there's no difference is that this test was too easy. It wasn't sufficient to separate out varying degrees of ability.

An ideal test for this purpose is one that's so hard that only one person scores 100%.

Comment Re:Boom (Score 1) 133

Fortunately, the JWST is going on an Arianne 5 provided by ESA, which has a 95% success rate (2 failures in 36 launches).

That's interesting, because there were 2 failures in 135 launches of the space shuttle and people say it was completely unsafe.

Comment Re:Obama didn't cancel the Shuttle, Bush did (Score 1) 365

Yes but people who *think* Obama canceled the shuttle say it was a great decision because they love Obama. Then you tell them that Bush canceled it so that they can go, "omfg bush is teh idiot!!"

> he did so because it was overbudget and behind schedule

How is this any different from any other rocket development program?

Tell me BA, how do you respond to the following hypothetical scenario: It's 1965 and President Johnson cancels the Apollo program. He does this because the Saturn V is over budget and behind schedule and has severe technological issues, include combustion instability, pogo, and the general unreliability of the J-2 engine. As a result, history remembers the Saturn V as a complete failure.

Do you not see that this has been the case with every large launcher ever developed? Everything seems like a failure if you give up on it. The fact is, there was nothing wrong with Constellation that would have prevented it from working just fine. The real underlying issue is entirely political. We all hate Bush, so we had to get rid of constellation. And I promise you, whatever Obama ends up supporting is going to be canceled by President Palin. Space X will have its funding pulled and will eventually die. You wont like that, because Obama is your guy. But then Palin will support some other private company and you'll invent an excuse to say it's no good. But don't worry, President Chelsea Clinton will cancel it - and you'll write a long-ish article about it the New York Post telling us all why that's the right decision.

Comment Re:Wow ... (Score 1) 451

Given the current costs

As an exercise, I invite you to estimate the economic benefit of offshore oil wells in a world where the largest boats are canoes.

I think you'll find that in that world, you conclude that there is no possible way for offshore oil wells to make economic sense.

However, if you make the investment to develop large ships, suddenly it's feasible to get the oil. And look around at the comforts and luxuries that we have because we've used oil. It's not just your car - you wouldn't have the clothes you're wearing or the computer you're using (at least, not at the price you could afford) if we didn't have oil. You would not want to live in that world. Yet if you could go to the canoe-only world, I bet you'd have trouble explaining to those people that the need to invest in the development of large ships.

Well, that's the world we're in now, except with regard to space. And another important difference is that getting the "oil" in this case wont have the negative impacts that actual oil has. You don't have to worry about CO2 in the asteroid belt. Imagine a world where there are no factories and no power stations on Earth. That's what's on the table. We just have to decide to go get it.

Comment Re:Wow ... (Score 1) 451

I look at that video and I think, "that's a shit-load of resources that we could be making use of"

To squabble and fight over the resources of this planet is as dumb as our ancestors fighting over the last few trees in North Africa instead of migrating to Europe where there were practically endless supplies of trees.

Comment Re:So they named it Project Icarus... (Score 1) 265

or, just data on a hard drive and a machine that can sort of print DNA.

I'd like to see a really detailed study of seed ships - kind of like this icarus study. There are a lot of problems. For starters, your DNA (and to a lesser extent an embryo) isn't enough to create a healthy human being. You'll also need to bring along all the bacteria that live in our gut - and that's just for starters. Then you've got to have machines sophisticated enough to raise human children. In A.C. Clarke's book, Songs of Distant Earth there's a neat passage about the robots on seed ships that raised the first generation of settlers. It includes the line that sometimes, the robots had to dispassionately cull the population - in other words, you have to program robots that will identify a child as a sociopath and a danger to the very existence of the colony, take that child out of the nursery, and kill it.

Kind of cool, huh?

Comment Re:Escape the Solar System, and Galaxy (Score 2) 265

The real problem isn't being wiped out as a species. The problem is the collapse of our civilization. See, we've already used up the easy-to-obtain energy sources. Doing that has raised our civilization to the point that it just might be possible for us to start exploiting the huge pool of resources available in the solar system - but if we blow it, if we miss this opportunity and our civilization collapses, then we may never get another chance to go into space.

I'll phrase all of that as a parable from an RTS game.

You start the game as an agrarian society at tech level 0 with perhaps 1 or 2 units of energy available to you by cutting down trees and such. You use that energy to slowly research up to tech level 2 which let's you drill wells to get oil. There is perhaps 10 units of energy available to you through oil wells near your spawn point.

You use those 10 units of energy to fund research and build stuff and eventually you get to tech level 5 where you have the technology to drill deeper, or drill out at sea. Now you have perhaps 100 units of energy available to you.

Now you can build great cities and do lots of research, and eventually you make it to tech level 50 or whatever. You can now go out into space and if you do that, there are thousands and thousands of energy units available (back to the real world, this would be in the form of space-based solar power, and in terms of resources, one moderately sized asteroid contains more iron, nickel, just about any metal you could want, than has ever been mined in all the history of planet Earth).

So if you make that leap, then you pretty much win the game right there. However, if you don't make that leap, the real danger isn't having all your people die out. As you mentioned in your post, even a KT asteroid wouldn't kill all humans. No, the real danger is that if your civilization collapses, if you go back to tech level 0, then you can never ever rise again. You can wait for the trees to grow back and then cut them down again, and maybe you can get back to tech level 2, but all that cheap, easy to get oil is gone. Without it, you don't have the energy to get to tech level 5 and even if you did, most of the hard-to-get oil is gone anyway. So you're never going to get back to tech level 50.

That's the danger. Not death, but failure.

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