Fermi Paradox – Why can’t we see aliens?

I’ll try to find my Dragon Con presentation from 2014, but here is the question and short answer, for those interested.

Fermi Paradox: With all the stars in the galaxy, there is a high probability of aliens. Why can’t we see them and why don’t they visit?

The first part is simple. We can’t see much of the galaxy. Most of our view is out of the galaxy. If you want to think of our galaxy as rotating around a Z axis,+/- Z is our long view. It is only a few tens of light years. (Still a lot of stars) If you look toward the other directions, we are limited to around a thousand light years.


How big is 100 light years? Imagine that the galaxy is a queen sized bed. Scale runs around 600 light years per inch.

Try an experiment: Take a bunch of quarters and toss them randomly all over the bed. Each quarter is an active, visible, alien civilization. Nice, big pile near the center, maybe a stack by the headboard. A lot of those quarters are touching, right? Those civilizations can see each other.


Good, now put a quarter one foot toward the center from the lower left corner. Did you throw another quarter there? Well, apparently God didn’t either. The Fermi Paradox. There may be intelligent aliens out there, we just can’t see them.

As to why they don’t visit? Because space travel is hard. Star Wars is awesome, Star Trek is sufficient, but both break basic rules. Frankly, if those rules could be broken, they would have been. I expect that we’re always to be limited by light speed. Which basically means our top velocity is 0.1 C. We might plant a colony at 14 light years, but it is a several hundred year trip. The only aliens we’ll ever see with share our DNA.



Weather and Global Warming – Heavy Clouds but, No Rain

global_warming-758157We all want to be proven right. We want to argue with someone and put the evidence in their face. To paraphrase an argument I had on Facebook the other day, over Global Warming.

AGW: “It is December and Warm! Clearly Global warming!”

Science: “It has been this warm in December many times.”

AGW: “But more heat in a system means more bad weather!”

Science: “Cool Magic system you’ve created there. Non-science.”

Of course, this is ironic. Heavy rain does not mean they get their proof of global warming. Unseasonal heavy rain is just that, unseasonal heavy rain. Unseasonal things happen all the time, seasons are, to mis-quote a famous movie pirate: Weather is more of a guideline, really, than a rule.

Ok, so what if the basic premise is correct. We agree that the temperature is 0.3 to 0.4 degrees C higher than in the 70’s or early 80’s. Is the weather worse?

Well, lets look at hurricane statistics. We’ll look at the late 70’s and Early 80’s:

1974 Sep LA, 3 3 952 —– Carmen
1975 Sep FL, NW3; I-AL1 3 955 —– Eloise
1976 Aug NY, 1 1 980 —– Belle
1977 Sep LA, 1 1 995 —– Babe
1978 None
1979 Jul LA, 1 1 986 —– Bob
1979 Sep FL, SE2, NE2; GA, 2; SC, 2 2 970 —– David
1979 Sep AL, 3; MS, 3 3 946 —– Frederic
1980 Aug TX, S3 3 945 100 Allen
1981 None
1982 None
1983 Aug TX, N3 3 962 100 Alicia
1984 Sep * NC, 2 2 949 95 Diana

10 Hurricane in 10 years. Compare to current values:

2004 Aug * NC, 1 1 972 70 Alex
2004 Aug FL, SW4, SE1, NE1; SC, 1; NC, 1 4 941 130 Charley
2004 Aug SC, 1 1 985 65 Gaston
2004 Sep FL, SE2, SW1 2 960 90 Frances
2004 Sep AL, 3; FL, NW3 3 946 105 Ivan
2004 Sep FL, SE3, SW1, NW1 3 950 105 Jeanne
2005 Jul LA, 1 1 991 65 Cindy
2005 Jul FL, NW3; I-AL 1 3 946 105 Dennis
2005 Aug FL, SE1, SW1; LA, 3; MS, 3; AL, 1 3 920 110 Katrina
2005 Sep * NC, 1 1 982 65 Ophelia
2005 Sep FL, SW1; LA, 3; TX, N2 3 937 100 Rita
2005 Oct FL, SW3; FL, SE2 3 950 105 Wilma
2006 None
2007 Sep TX, N1; LA, 1 1 985 80 Humberto
2008 Jul TX, S1 1 967 75 Dolly
2008 Sep LA, 2 2 954 90 Gustav
2008 Sep TX, N2; LA, 1 2 950 95 Ike
2009 None
2010 None
2011 Aug NC, 1 1 952 75 Irene
2012 Aug LA, 1 1 966 70 Isaac
2012 Oct * NY, 1 1 942 65 Sandy
2013 None
2014 Jul NC, 2 2 973 85 Arthur

Wow, 2005 and 2004 were huge. 11 hurricane in 2 years – 20 in 10 years. Hugely more. Of course, had I conveniently started at 2006, there would have been 8 hurricane in 9 years. Slightly less. We had a couple bad years, then things returned to normal.

Weird, so if you change your starting dates to useful numbers, you can completely change your answer? Again, the excitement isn’t that the world has warmed. The argument is that the warming is unusual. We Deniers, believe that the warming is natural, not man-made. Will the warming affect climate? That is an interesting subject, but not a politically useful one.



Global Warming – Rebuttal of Arnold

Arnold Schwarzenegger has come out for “fighting global warming.” It is pretty apparent that he doesn’t believe the Anthropomorphic side either, which is why he makes his case with “20,000 people die of pollution each year, we should be using electric engines.”

There are 276 MILLION chronically undernourished people in the world. Millions die every year. 3.2 million children. Millions. Not thousands. Millions die of bad water, which could be purified if they only had electric power. But, since they live on less than two dollars a day, they can’t afford electric power. Same with food. Bad water, high cost water, poor soil, low density crops. All things solved with cheap power.


Tens of thousands died, because we turned corn into ethanol. Arnold, which way did you vote on that? Oh, your state is the worst offender on gas requirements. You are part of the problem. Did this help Global Warming? Understand, PEOPLE DIED for this 10% Ethanol Requirement.

Instead of sending money, engineers without borders have been building, mostly solar or natural filter, water purification systems. It isn’t fighting Global Warming, so they don’t get much money. When you send money to dictators, you get a prize and a cool party. Most UN money is wasted this way. Solar can help, wind can help, coal is the biggest help. Coal has lifted millions in China and India out of poverty.


But, lets be honest. You don’t care. You’d rather the excess population died off to leave more of the planet’s resources for your wealthy children. You’d burn trillions of dollars in stupid solar cell companies and wind companies, but deny nuclear power provides reliable base load. You’d let a million children die for your tech project, and call it “Good” if we got a slightly more affordable solar cell. You pretend to care about the environment, because that has been called “Good.”

You don’t care. You think you have “moral authority” and you like to prove it with “Moral signaling” on Facebook. I just want you to know, that on every one of those pictures, I see a hidden, dying, child. You pay for your morality with dead children. Congratulations.

Star Wars

starwarsTFA3-970-80What is there to say about Star Wars?

Episode IV was a wonderful movie, V was a good movie, VI wasn’t too bad, had some really good parts. I had some good parts, II didn’t, III was so bad that … it was bad on every level of storytelling.


What keeps Star Wars alive, when all around it is failure and bad fan fic? Simple, we all want it.

Explore an infinity of new places, bam. Just get in your hyperdrive capable vehicle and take off.

friends watch back

It isn’t utopia, though there are some utopian areas. It is a real place with a lot of bad, and some really nice good. It is a wild west kind of place, where you carry a blaster and have good friends watch your back.

I actually thought the Disney “Rebels” and “Clone Wars” were very good cartoons. I’ve enjoyed them. I hope that the new movies follow those leads more than the crap of I – III.

What happened to them? Really, it was a film maker who was afraid of his source material. He wanted to look “bigger and smarter” and got shown up as dumb. Writers take note:

Star Wars IV – VI is Arthur, specifically it is Morte de Arthur. Arthur has become the Dark King. Modred in this is our Luke Skywalker, so a likeable boy. He is joined by Morgan le Fae (Leia Organa) and the Druid Knight (come on, he makes a point that he doesn’t believe all that Jedi religion stuff.) His Falcon and Wolf… a Wolfee….

Ok, so the rest is pretty much putting these trappings on a good old fashioned space opera.


So the rise of Arthur should have written itself. ANYONE could have written it. But, the usual failings. 1) All the big things have to happened to Anakin at one time. 2) Space Operas aren’t comedic love stories. 3) Character development was in the toilet. 4) Subtle much? Look, a perfectly normal Anakin could have ended episode III. Or he could have been burned and not completely evil, just foreshadowing. Instead, all in. Bad Writing. Bad Story telling.


Bah, a humbug it is.

Utopian Dreams and Climate Change

I would like to be the first to agree to Utopia. There the climate is perfect and predictable. The weather is nice too. The human influence on it is always to moderate the outcomes, so that every creature lives in harmony. This is some kind of Star Trek universe, where food comes out of a matter converter. Or Camalot

Utopia doesn’t exist in this world. The climate is not influenced significantly by mankind. I strongly suspect, that if we could travel to an alternate universe, one not populated by man, we’d find no difference in the weather, much less the climate.

However, the environment is. Poor people shoot animals for food, and in competition for their food. Rich people also shoot animals, often for sport, but in much lower percentages. Poor people cut down trees and burn them. In Africa, most of the continent is “Off the grid.” The cities have relatively expensive power, but the farmlands deal with portable generators for lights and fire to cook on. (Heck, I was watching Anthony Bourdain the other night, in Ethiopia, they were cooking on a fire pit, with wood.


The North American Continent was deforested in the past, by native Indians. They wanted farmland, in the absence of metal axes, they used fire. The current state of the US is More Natural than at times during the past millennia. Rich countries can afford to protect the environment. (California, for example, is constantly spending its wealth to protect fish. On dry years, it complains that it spent its money poorly, but those are political choices.)

So, Paris Accords. I don’t believe in the honesty of anyone attending that monstrosity. In My HUMBLE Opinion, its purpose is to set up a perpetual graft and support fund for every ones favorite NGOs. This will come as part of large political payments between Democracies and dictators. The UN may have had some valuable moments, but it is a den of corruption. (Congress isn’t far behind.) The only thing worse is the Presidents “CZARS” who trade favors and power behind closed doors. You know they are setting up jobs for themselves for after the Dems lose the presidency. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were amazing small fortunes from “side” work. It is a sad feature of dictatorships, which this presidency seems to allow.

Frankly, the UN is founded on that graft. Top to bottom. Kofi Annan made at the minimum tens of millions and likely brought home more than a billion dollars. This Climate Money Pot has been estimated to be 2.5 trillion dollars. I expect that most of the “disagreements” have nothing to do with environment and everything to do with Graft.

You want to help the poor? Good. I donate thousands every year, you should too. You want to help a poor country? Make power so cheap that fire is relatively expensive. When you pay only pennies per kilowatt-hour poor people stop cutting wood. Don’t give their Dictator a new billion dollar hotel, buy his people’s products. This has lifted China out of poverty, India as well. (mostly) It will do the same in Africa.

NASA views

I guess the good news is that NASA is still funding JPL missions to the outer planets. I’m a bit disappointed in their engine selection, some of their mission choices, but overall, it looks like decent return on investment.

This is a view of Pluto. Nothing too exciting, really. There is a certain uniformity in the ice flows that looks artificial, or at least weirdly large-scale crystal formations. Maybe it is just a feature of liquid flow in a very consistent environment. Maybe if we were closer, could get better resolution, we’d see the same pattern going down, showing natural fractal-ization.

So, any point to all this? yes. Choices matter. We do have information on Pluto because NASA has a budget and some will to use it. Most of the money is trapped in bureaucracy, much of the rest goes to Goddard for Earth exploration, but a little goes to JPL for its regular “big mission.”


Getting a nuclear reactor off the ground is still impossible, due to the Greens. A political choice to demonize nuclear power as a way of reducing the spread of nuclear weapons. Weapons are made in laboratories, not reactors. I keep hoping we’ll get sense in the US, but I don’t see much sign of that happening. Without 1) better launch technology or 2) refueling options. There isn’t much hope of a chemical rocket getting good results in the outer system. Too much Delta V to overcome. I’m still betting on a good nuclear reactor and ion drive for future deep-space missions. I guess I shouldn’t hold my breath.

Musical Science – String Theory

Published on Sep 16, 2013

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Dr. Woosley sent this to me the other day. (A brilliant Physicist who also is a friend of mine.) It is a couple years old, but I missed it the first time around. Lovely. Yes, it makes almost no sense unless you’ve done some String Theory reading, (I recommend String theory for Dummies and The Problem with String Theory as primers.) then the words pop out at you fairly well. Ok, does string theory make sense? Yes, but not in any testable way.

Basically, imagine a buddy of yours went to D.C. had a private meeting with the President and some senators, came home with a completely new understanding of how the government worked. One that didn’t fit into laws and such, but seemed to match observable reality well enough. He says that he doesn’t have the ability to prove anything in a court of law, it just is how it works.

You can say that he’s a wacky conspiracy theorist or that he’s a visionary. But, does it matter? Well, yeah, that’s the big question. We can’t seem to figure out Dark Matter, Dark Energy, how forces work at distance, etc. This is my profession, and a lot of it doesn’t make sense.

The fact is, Physics doesn’t know all that much. I mean, we’ve learned a lot in the last 2,000 years. And a good bit more in the last 200 years. But, the last interesting developments were nearly 80 years ago. Sure, the models are getting better, but having the answers makes models work better…not smarter or more correct. (If I know who wins the Superbowl, my model to predict which football team is superior works every time. If I use it at the beginning of the season, the answer isn’t better than 10% accurate.)  The fact is, we’ve been explaining these results for most of 100 years. I have a paper on my desk, from the 30’s, which explains nuclear reactions with “Magic Numbers.” Her predictions were correct to 3 decimal places. Using Schrödinger’s Equations we can get closer, but what does a decimal place or two mean? We have the results to tweak the fomulas with.


picture source – xkcd.com/171/

So,  String Theory isn’t too useful, yet, but might be explanatory. Current theory is not providing much of a look into the future, but has the advantage of being testable. I don’t have a solution, yet, but I have hope that someone will come up with one soon.


Finished with Nanowrimo (at least for this year.)


Well, I didn’t win. That is to say, finishing 50,000 words in 30 days is a win, I didn’t do it. I didn’t get stuck, but during my vacation I only did a couple thousand words, so I was 10 K behind on Friday. I caught nearly up, 46,500 by Monday night, but… well… instead of charging on with a 5 hour write-fest, I took an old buddy out to dinner at Bilbo Baggins.

I’m not done with “The Bone God.” It still lives and is pretty well on the way. The chapters are short and choppy, some don’t really exist, and there are flaws. But, no fatal flaws. I’m going back to my usual method of cooking, one chapter at a time. I’ve got the prologue on my reader’s desk now. More horrible than “The Broken Man.” Well…there are differences. Needs a swordfight in the middle, needs a bit more fire, terror, Piju running.

I still kill off Josiah, Sam, Levi, and a couple other trouble makers. They should be pleased with the horrific nature of their destruction. (these are friends of my son, he’s quite happy with their deaths, as he knows he’s safe. He is another character all together.)

So, I’m in the 40 k range, novels run about 100 k, so I’ve a lot of writing to do. I’m hoping to run at least 1000 words a day, so it should be in rough draft form before the end of January. We’ll see. (Call me on it guys, I’m happy to get reminded to work.)

Also, the sooner I get done, the sooner I get back on Pure Poison. That one is a blast to write.


Fighting Robots

I got an email from Dr. DNA today. Yeah, I’d seen this. I can’t wait… of course, it will all end in tears, but dang, what fun till it does.
First they clean our floors as cute little roombas,
Then the battle to the death for our amusement on the gladatorial arena,
How long before they link up and overthrow the rule of us decadent meat bags?
I have seen that movie…
…it does NOT end well…
sincerely, yours in giant fighting robot science,

Space Mining

asteroidsCongress Passes the Space Act



Space Mining is now legal.

So, technically, you can go mine your asteroid and bring home the materials for profit. A few small problems:

  1. No spaceship can get to the asteroids right now
  2. No mining ships have even been seriously designed
  3. No fuel depots in space
  4. No customer base for space materials

This is one of those self-squaring circles. Once you have space miners, you’ll need fuel depots, which will need/buy space materials, which it can buy from miners, who it is fueling up to go back ….

Unfortunately, absent A -> B there is not B-> A.

There were some presentations at Dragon Con about this state of affairs and I think they’ll go far. It might take a few years, decades, but I think it will happen. Robotics will lead, robotic miners, water depots. Smelters, metal printers.

The real problem lies in creating a self-sufficient world in orbit. That world can have humans in it, then there will be humans there. We’ll begin to live in space sometime, I hope soon.



Let me check my notes