Archive for the ‘things you need to know’ Tag

Entering the Total Perspective Vortex

(note: this is essentially a re-post of something I wrote on Flickr this morning, but hey, my blog, I get to do that once in a while)

Exoplanets.  Lots of them.

Every one of the green spots in this most-of-the-sky view is an exoplanet, as downloaded by a plugin for Stellarium this morning; I don’t know how complete it is, but two things are crystal clear: everywhere we look, we find planets, and everywhere we look closely we find lots of planets — the two clusters are the Kepler and OGLE projects.

I take away two lessons from this.

One: we, humanity, are not the point of creation. We are incidental to it. We are not the center of the universe. The universe doesn’t care about us. So we need to grow the hell up as a species and start taking care of ourselves, because ain’t nothing out there going to do it for us. We are insignificant; the universe will not notice if we wipe ourselves out by war, disease, or environmental stupidity, and it will not step in to make sure we don’t. It has plenty of other planetary experiments going on, and it won’t notice if our little test tube flames out. That’s the bad news.

Now the good news.

Lesson Two: if we’ve found this much in less than two decades of looking, think how rich the diversity of planets must really be out there. As sure as I can be without any data to back it up, I am convinced that there’s other intelligent life out there. I don’t know where. I don’t know when or whether we’ll ever contact them. But just on the basis of statistics (and modesty), one almost has to assume there are other inhabited planets with intelligent beings on them.

I mean, there are estimated to be anywhere from eleven to forty billion potential habitable planets–planets in their star’s habitable zone–just in our own galaxy… and there are an estimated half a trillion galaxies in the universe.

Using the Milky Way and the lower estimate of eleven billion Earth-like planets, just taking the odds of hitting the MegaMillions jackpot (1:2.59×108) as the chance of intelligent life would mean somewhere around 40-44 inhabited planets. Powerball odds are even better–1:1.75×108 or around 60-65 inhabited planets. If the odds are like winning my local state lottery, about 1:1.4×107, it’s the jackpot all right — over 780 inhabited worlds. And everyone’s favorite guess for long odds (“Oh, that’s gotta be one in a million!”) gives eleven thousand inhabited worlds.

Eleven thousand.

Just in our own galaxy.

Now multiply any of those by five hundred billion.

If that doesn’t make you go ‘wow’, do the math again until it does.


Where’s my resignation from the human species form?

So some bigoted fuckwad decided to “commemorate” yesterday by breaking into a local Arab market and spray-painting “9-11” on what windows he didn’t bother to smash, just when I thought we’d dodged a bullet from that lunatic in Gainesville and his Koran-burning plans — or not, since there were dozens of equally lunatic cretins nationwide doing their copycat acts of mental masturbation.

Is this what 9/11 is going to be from now on, an excuse for an annual anti-Arab Kristallnacht?

If it is, then congratulations, America. The terrorists won, they reduced you to their level.

By the way, and relative to both this and another “news” item getting play this last month, it’s not a “mosque on Ground Zero”. It’s two blocks away and not even visible from the Ground Zero site. It’s also not a mosque. It’s a community center, with a prayer room, just like many Christian community centers have. Here’s the Wikipedia entry on Park51 (the real name of the place).

Even if it were a mosque and actually at the site, what is wrong with that? All Muslims are terrorists? Are all Catholics child molesters? Are all Evangelicals clinic bombers and doctor killers? Hey, then let’s make sure no one ever opens a Christian church near a school or a medical center. You know how they all really are…

Oh, wait, suddenly that doesn’t sound reasonable?

Good. It shouldn’t. It’s not reasonable.

All Catholics are not child molesters, only a vanishingly small number. All Evangelicals are not bombers and snipers, only a vanishingly small number. And all Muslims are not terrorists, only a vanishingly small number.

If you found yourself nodding at the first two and shaking your head at the last, congratulations. You are both a hypocrite and a bigot.


Tom Lehrer. On DVD for the first time ever. With previously unreleased material.

Ten Things…

tagged me with this a few days ago. I’ll get him for that. :)

Rules: Each player of this game starts off with 10 weird things/habits/little known facts about yourself. People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 10 weird habits/things/little known facts as well as state this rule clearly. At the end you need to choose 10 people to be tagged and list their names. No tagbacks.

First, my victims:

And now, the list.

Best news I’ve heard in a while!

Heard on ‘s journal: NASA reverses itself, HUBBLE IS SAVED!!

In celebration, you can also help provide some real advances in science.

EDIT: Further confirmation from the Beeb and of course NASA themselves.

“Are you pondering what I’m pondering?”

I think so, Brain, but…

Just one of many lists of things someone should always have access to.

EDIT: Oh, and let’s not forget this very special catalog.