Tag: Milky Way

Day 1000: How It Ends

Header

Inside this cubicle the air is thick as honey, with asphyxiating flecks of the mundane bracing against the irrefutable promise of a golden weekend. Outside these pin-cushion partitions – and indeed inside as well – every tiny molecule in the universe is saying its goodbyes to its neighbors and preparing to splash into the unknown permutations of a distant someday. My fingers hammer at these tiny plastic letters, fully ignorant of what’s to come.

Or are they? The hallowed fingers of esteemed science – no doubt similar in size and shape to my own, only tasked with a far more specific purpose – have combed back the hair of the observable now and picked at the scalp-nits of projection. The fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics, and a cabinet full of –ologies have given us a map of what’s to come. A timeline of time’s last hurrah.

And the best part? If any of these predictions are wrong, every record of them will likely be destroyed before anyone finds out. That’s my kind of science.

Genetics-1

Within 10,000 years, human genetic variation will no longer be regionalized. This won’t mean we’ll all look the same – the blonde gene will still speckle crowds and set up offensive jokes, but it will be distributed equally worldwide. This forecasted panmixia is far more optimistic than astrophysicist Brandon Carter’s Doomsday Argument, which places our present at roughly the halfway point of humankind’s civilized journey, and projects a 95% likelihood that we’ll be wholly extinct in 10,000 years.

If global warming hasn’t already soaked us into a Kevin Costner-esque hellscape by then, we may also be facing the melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which will raise the sea levels by 3 or 4 meters above wherever it will be once we lose the rest of the polar ice caps, which should happen long before then.

Long term forecast: buy a big-ass boat. Read more…

Day 576: Fermi-ing La Porte On The Little Green Men

Header

“Where is everybody?”

So declared physicist Enrico Fermi over lunch with some colleagues in the midst of a discussion about the possibility of extra-terrestrial life on other planets. The ensuing talk led Fermi to conclude that by now (or, by then, in 1951) our planet should be splattered with the tentacle-prints of far-off civilizations, or at least a minor tourist stop on the side of some interstellar highway. Here’s Fermi’s logic:

The sun is pretty young; there are billions of stars that are billions of years older than our little yellow sky-ball. Some of those stars will have planets, and assuming Earth is typical and not a one-in-infinity happenstance, some of those planets may develop intelligent life. Since we’re looking into interstellar travel as the next (some would say ‘final’) frontier, we can assume folks on other worlds would feel the same. And once the hurdle of interstellar travel is conquered, the galaxy should be totally colonized in a few tens of millions of years.

So where the hell is everybody?

This is what Earl Holliman wanted to know in the first episode of The Twilight Zone

This is what Earl Holliman wanted to know in the first episode of The Twilight Zone

With all our years of star-scoping and Hubbling, we have yet to find any evidence of life elsewhere in the universe, and apart from the tales of some anally-probed farmers in the American Midwest, we have no trace of their presence here on earth. This is the heart of the Fermi Paradox – given the size and age of the universe, there should be a heap of intelligent beings scooting around, yet there is no evidence to support it. Read more…

Day 382: Meet The New Zodiac

Header

Every so often, which is to say almost every day, I find myself writing about a topic I know nothing about, flailing desperately to sound slightly educated on the matter, when in fact I’m mostly relying on information from my dark she-mistress, Wikipedia, and the crap I make up as I go along. This will be one of those days.

Last week, I penned an in-depth horoscope for those who still possess the child-like naivety that fate is guided by the relationship between the stars and planets and (because we’re that important) us. Later that day, whilst chatting with Cynndie, the naturopath who works at the place where I receive my thrice-daily skin-buffings, the topic arose of the mysterious ‘13th Sign’.

SeventhSign

Not, apparently, a Demi Moore film.

In case you missed it, there was a controversy a couple years ago in the astrology world. Old-school Babylonians – whose wisdom should no doubt directly influence whether or not you’ll meet an old acquaintance today – invented the Zodiac signs by reading which constellation the sun was creeping through on a given day. That clearly worked out well for them, given that you can’t find a single Babylonian wandering the streets today. Really, these are the people who are telling me what career choices I should make? Read more…

Day 139: Psychophysics, Qu’est-ce que c’est?

The trajectory of this writing experiment is going to fly through some pretty personal space, I’ve accepted that. One of my goals in this exercise is to learn more about myself, why I am the way I am. To that end, I’ll be employing today’s topic – psychophysics –  to help me learn why I am so completely indifferent on the subject of nougat.

Apart from sounding like the most awesome high school science course ever, psychophysics is the scientific study of the relationship between stimulus and sensation. All I really know about this science is what little I’ve skimmed on Wikipedia today, so I’m going to completely misuse it as much as humanly possible. Because this is a solo project, I will be acting as both subject and observer in this experiment. I’m not sure if that is scientifically ethical, especially since it didn’t work out so well for Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, but even that disaster earned a sequel, so I should be okay.

For the required nougat, I will be utilizing the candy bar variety. I know, nougat is sold on its own, mixed with nuts and fruit or whatever, but I grew up near a convenience store, not a confectionary. My encounters with nougat – and my subsequent indifference to it – were forged by the good people at Hershey’s, Cadbury, etc. For this experiment I have purchased a Costco box of Mars (Milky Way for Canadians) and Three Muskateers bars. Using a scalpel and most of my weekend, I removed all traces of chocolate and caramel, leaving me with a stack of unappealing beige slabs. It looks like the most boring animal in the world broke into my house and pooped its beige feces all over my kitchen counter.

I first experimented with the Odor Detection Threshold. I moved to an empty spare bedroom, which may not be lab-pure, but shouldn’t contain any intrusive smells from other foodstuffs, scented candles, potpourri, or seared flesh (I do most of my at-home branding in the den). I deposited three turds of nougat on the dresser, then exited the room. I reentered slowly, keeping track of when I first noticed the odor. Conclusion: I have to be within 2 inches in order to smell the nougat, partly because it doesn’t give off any significant aroma, and partly because my entire house smells like my eldest bulldog, Rufus.

That is to say, not especially good.

Read more…