Truthiness, aliens and science

I’m quoted on Stephen Colbert’s Restoring Truthiness site: “Sci fi author David Brin: humorists are precisely the kinds of guys who can cut through the orgy of petty indignation that we aging baby boomers are imposing on this country.”

And now I see that liberal so-’n-so Jon Stewart stole the title for his new guide book to the planet Earth (for aliens)? I am so ticked off over his hilarious tome-of-the-stolen-name that I won’t even link to it here!  You’ll have to google or amazon “Stewart” and “Earth” in order to rush & buy it for yourselves!  (Take that Stewart!)

In fact, I plan – on October 30 – to attend the local “Keep Fear Alive!” Colbert rally, in my hometown.  Find your own town’s satellite rally at www.rallymao.com.  And march in support of Stephen’s campaign to resist sanity!  If Stewart’s ilk have their way, Republicans and Democrats will go back to negotiating with each other, reason will prevail, science will thrive and we’ll resume modernist quests for progress. Heck, we’ll even start settling outer space… and my far-out tales of futuristic adventure will all become obsolete!  For the sake of my children, march with Stephen!

(Side note: for us realist-paranoids rallymao.com means “rally-my-ass-off” for the Colbert Nation.  Clearly that means it will be a great way to trim those extra pounds!  But for Stewart’s crowd of pinko namby-pambies, rallymao has another meaning! Did you notice the last three letters? It’s a code! Clearly, they’re congregating to support the murderous commie founder of Red China.  Ooh, that burns, even worse than discovering that Che-Ney was Russian for the “new Che Guevarra.” And he seemed such a nice fellow!)

(More about this at the end.)

=== SCIENCE FICTION MARCHES ON! ===

Announcement to e-book readers! Reports of poor quality control have plagued the electronic versions of my books. Now it appears Bantam/Randomhouse is about to pull and recall all my books from Kindle and other e-readers, in order to re-do the editions.  Generally good news.  So please be patient.

Oh, have you heard? Tim Powers’s great book On Stranger Tides was bought by the producers of Part IV in the Pirates of the Caribbeanseries, starring Johnny Depp.   That bodes well for a hilarious film with some content for the mind and heart, as well!  And it couldn’t happen to a better book, or author.

Meanwhile, I just returned from the Royal Society’s gorgeous new conference facility, in the beautiful countryside outside London, where I participated in a debate over the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and the silly notion that Earthlings should shout Yoohoo! into a dauntingly mysterious cosmos. On the blithe assumption that all advanced aliens will automatically be as beneficent as Californian and Canadian radio astronomers. Which proved ironic.  Illustrating the benign maturity they expect to find out there, three speakers in a row proceeded to use strawman arguments and ridicule against the three of us who were there to ask for serious discussion.  Although not one of us mentioned even a single “danger” in our proposal to expand the advisory panels to include historians, biologists, anthropologists, philosophers — our opponents evaded this simple suggestion, instead choosing to concentrate on mocking the notion of “danger!” Presenting lists of lurid alien invasion scenarios straight out of bad Hollywood thrillers (“Are they coming to take our water? Our women?”)

Above all, it seems that the core SETI community has acquired a deeply-felt and pervasive rationalized hatred of science fiction, bolstered by willful ignorance of the literary genre where most thought experiments about contact with alien life have taken place.

The irony is almost too rich.  A field that was engendered by science fiction, that had its roots in SF and that owes it everything, has turned inward, avoiding contact with most other human scientific specialties… so how will they deal with truly alien beings?  Above all, they offer only hackles toward the one literary realm that should be viewed as the R&D department of the entire field. Especially during the era when SETI has no palpable subject matter other than ideas.

From the Transparency Front — Eeek!  Creeped out, even though I both predicted this and expect it will be part of a generally good trend. With LOTS of irksome aspects to get used-to. Snoopers paid to catch shoplifters.

Past observations at visible and near infrared wavelengths had implied the presence of primitive carbon-rich materials on the moons  of Mars, which are usually associated with asteroids that populate the central part of the Asteroid Belt. But recent thermal infrared observations from Mars Express’ Planetary Fourier Spectrometer did not find any such evidence, instead finding signatures that match types of minerals identified on Mars’ surface.  Also low density and highly porous. This may be bad news.  But the Russians are persisting, fortunatley, in their space mission to Phobos.  Perhaps they’ll find resources – including water – making it one of the most valuable spots in the solar system.  Let’s hope.

Father and son film outer space, do-it-yourself style.

Hilarious: Glenn Beck’s words selling fear, set to a Donald Duck cartoon.

China has launched its second lunar orbiter.

Cyberweapons will continue to haunt us. The Stuxnet software worm – designed to destroy industrial control systems — may have been designed to target Iran’s nuclear program. It infected 45,000 computers worldwide, most in Iran. The next generation of malware could be a danger to power plants and electrical grids worldwide.

The building blocks of life may be constant throughout the cosmos: humans and aliens may share the same DNA roots: ten amino acids form at low temperatures and pressures – you don’t need a miracle to arrive at the chemical cocktail for life. (Actually, Leslie Orgel predicted this decades ago.) Ah… but life ITSELF?  Stay tuned, stay ambitious.  And actually READ the passages in Genesis about the Tower of Babel.  This time, we have auto-translation software on iPods!!!

Nobel Prize awarded to two University of Manchester physicists for work with graphene – a two-dimensional, one-atom thick carbon sheet extracted from graphite. Graphene is the thinnest, strongest material ever developed, nearly transparent, an excellent conductor of electricity & heat. Can be mixed with plastic to generate flexible solar cells, smaller, faster transistors, high-capacity batteries & ultracapacitors.

NTT DoCoMo has developed a tiny display that clips onto a pair of eyeglasses and provides navigation services or information about local shops.

Filming human embryos used for in vitro fertilization (IVF) at an early stage in their development has allowed scientists to select those with the best chance of going on to develop into healthy babies, with an accuracy of more than 93%.

A new microphone system allows broadcasters to zoom in on sounds as well as sights, to pick out a single conversation.

A fascinating persepective suggests that our human ability to empathize broadly with other species… and perhaps even some of our intelligence… arose because of our 100,000 year co-evolution (perhaps a love affair?) with dogs.

=== FOOD FOR THOUGHT ==

It turns out that almost all the job growth  over the last year has come from those who have reached “retirement age” (whatever that is) continuing to work or going back to work. The total number of people over 65 who are employed has risen by 318,000 over the last year, accounting for nearly all the job growth

And… oh… Ack!  Share this with your Ostrich.

===  FINALLY, BE AROUND PEOPLE on 10/30/10! ===

Seriously folks. (Or not.) Find a place outdoors with lots of people, on October 30. Stephen Colbert says we should all be VERY afraid of being indoors or alone, or too quiet, that day!

He’s being vague, but some of his hints may imply some kind of alien pod-people replacement attack in which the invaders feel a need to avoid crowds of people who are chanting, marching, waving placard/signs and having fun.  Especially the placards. (Ask any alien invader; those signs can really sting, when they smack you on the antennae or the sucker-pads!)

Or  maybe it’s not aliens but something similarly fear-inducing. Anyway, Colbert has good instincts about these things.  So get OUT of the house and join one of Stephen’s fear-preserving rallies.  Go to the main one in Washington DC (the safest place from alien probes, that day), or in your own town, via www.rallymao.com!

(Or else join Jon Stewart and his militantly-moderate-reasonable-rational-politeness-troopers… if you really must.)

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