on alienshistory

December 15, 2017
The Atlantic on how China is leading the way in listening out ofr extraterrestrial intelligence. With the powers that be in the USA demonstrating spectacular disinterest in the scientific way of understanding the world, we're ceding so much to the rest of the world.

Donald Trump's call for a moonshot not withstanding- to my biased eye it sounds like an unfunded mandate, and I also understand that the conservatives are much more interested in retrograde "Put America In Space" ambition than NASA's attempts to understand what we're doing on the planet all but 536 of us have been stuck on, lest they suggest it might be premature to screw this place over.

I guess the American model is putting all our eggs in the Tony Stark / Ayn Rand-hero type genius who manages to have big long-shot ambition despite the capitalist desire for quarterly profit, the most notable example being Elon Musk.

The Atlantic piece came out before word of `Oumuamua, an intringuingly shaped interstellar asteroid swinging our way. So far efforts to detect any sign of intelligent construction or signal have come to nothing, but it's one of the more provocative things we've seen, shades of Arthur C Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama...

Anyway, the piece ends with a musing on what evidence of alien intelligence would mean for humanity in a spiritual sense:
Even if no geopolitical strife ensued, humans would certainly experience a radical cultural transformation, as every belief system on Earth grappled with the bare fact of first contact. Buddhists would get off easy: Their faith already assumes an infinite universe of untold antiquity, its every corner alive with the vibrating energies of living beings. The Hindu cosmos is similarly grand and teeming. The Koran references Allah's "creation of the heavens and the earth, and the living creatures that He has scattered through them." Jews believe that God's power has no limits, certainly none that would restrain his creative powers to this planet's cosmically small surface.

Christianity might have it tougher. There is a debate in contemporary Christian theology as to whether Christ's salvation extends to every soul that exists in the wider universe, or whether the sin-tainted inhabitants of distant planets require their own divine interventions. The Vatican is especially keen to massage extraterrestrial life into its doctrine, perhaps sensing that another scientific revolution may be imminent. The shameful persecution of Galileo is still fresh in its long institutional memory.

Secular humanists won't be spared a sobering intellectual reckoning with first contact. Copernicus removed Earth from the center of the universe, and Darwin yanked humans down into the muck with the rest of the animal kingdom. But even within this framework, human beings have continued to regard ourselves as nature's pinnacle. We have continued treating "lower" creatures with great cruelty. We have marveled that existence itself was authored in such a way as to generate, from the simplest materials and axioms, beings like us. We have flattered ourselves that we are, in the words of Carl Sagan, "the universe's way of knowing itself." These are secular ways of saying we are made in the image of God.
The author is painting all these belief systems with an awfully wide brush! But I disagree especially with the take on humanism. I think the modern humanist views humans not as a pinnacle and certainly not as a goal - we take pride in seeming to be the only thing *in this neighborhood* capable of constructing complex culture and a model of the universe, but it has been a long dream of the science fiction that has inspired so many of us - our secular inspiring fables - that the universe has rolled the dice better elsewhere. And maybe those more advanced ones can help us out! (The secular view isn't that we're created in the image of God, unless maybe you say that we're all a hodge podge of steadily selecting beneficial traits from a chaotic, unpredictable blend.... hmm, that might be sort of true, after all...)



In the wake of "Team Magic Unicorn" (the nextgen UI team) us stragglers formed "Team Cardboard Manatee" and today I decided to demarcate our territory with handcrafted wall art...

An artisanal authentic cardboard manatee. we don't know if there's real magic in the magic unicorn but the cardboard in the manatee is 100%

December 13, 2017

I gave some money for Doug Jones in Alabama, but jeez, their data science team must have really dialed into "pleading whining desperation" for the their subject lines - "Kirk - please?" / "Are you online, Kirk?" / "Do not ignore [from Doug Jones]" / "We're PLEADING Kirk" and then my favorite, after I gave, from "FINAL CONFIRMATION": "Please confirm: Kirk Israel wants Roy Moore to lose?" (Oh, actually I remembered the text as "Please confirm: Kirk Israel wants Doug Jones to lose?" which would have been even more insufferable.)
Sibilant Snakelikes - exploring different game options with the basic "Snake" mechanic. Shadow of the Coloussus and Sensible Soccer were especially sssssmart!
Cool, animators brought to life the original Ralph McQuarrie art for The Star Wars - I think someone made a comic adaption of the original outlines too, but seeing things come to life is a trip.

December 12, 2017history

Interesting thoughts about when family's just had one "the computer" All my life, all the way back to the early 8 bits (Atari 800XL and Commodore 64) I cut my teeth on, my computing resources were just mine, an only child with non-techie parents. But there was a time, before the rise of the smartphone and cheap powerful laptops, when my main connection to the world of computing (online and off) had its own permanent deskspace - I came to It, it didn't wander around the house with me. Sometimes I see those lovely Apple iMacs and think about that time, when my computer was its own little shrine of sorts - crossing the boundary in space demarcated boundaries in time as well.
A Predictive Keyboard is trained on Harry Potter books and writes a new book in the series: Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash!
Back to vertical monitor land!

(though not my first trip to this rodeo 2011/10/20)
Just testin' out the camera on Melissa's best lil buddy...

December 11, 2017

Consumer Vigilante
"and if you see me first
 you say hello

and if i see you first
 i'll say hello"
--bingo gazingo
How our housing choices make adult friendships more difficult Yarr. Sometimes I think my favorite post-college housing was "the big yellow house", 6 or 7 people, some in couples, sprinkled across 3 floors.

December 10, 2017

"Most phrases of affirmation sound hot during sex, saying "yep" during sex would be awkward, however."
--/r/showerthoughts

December 9, 2017

Intriguing multi-sgment digit displays from the Soviet Union...







via and via

December 8, 2017

So I volunteered as a helper at my local elementary school "Hour of Code" day. Kids K-2 ran little programming games (generally "give step by step instructions to this little robot-y thing to make it to the goal") on iPads, and the 3-5 kids did similar on netbooks.

Some random thoughts: