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February 25, 2017

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Admittedly, I'm of an age where I can remember going out into the yard to watch the first ever artificial satellite pass over.

Me too. And all the neighbors! I think people were expecting something more dazzling than the reality turned out to be, but I can also still remember the amazement.

I remember the opposite of amazement, or dismayed amazement, many years later when I was on a camping trip and an aero/astro friend told me how many thousands of the little buggers were now orbiting over our heads.

Meanwhile, closer (if not quite human-scale "close") to home, NASA has a couple of asteroid missions in the works.
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/02/25/nasa-palo-alto-company-eye-asteroid-exploration/

Odd, TRAPPIST means "good beer" to me.

It's really amazing how 20 years ago the evidence for extrasolar planets was scant and disputed, and gay marriage was a crazy dream.

And here we are.

It does give you a little sympathy for those who are freaked out by the amount of change. There has been so much of it in our lifetimes . . . and the human psyche evolved in a situation where life barely changed from one generation to the next.

But although it sometimes doesn't seem that way, Americans have an edge. After all, pretty much all of us are descended from people who were willing to pick up and move somewhere far away in search of a better life. In short, our ancestors mostly embraced change -- think how much harder it would be (is) for people descended from those who couldn't bring themselves to do that.

"pretty much all of us are descended from people who were willing to pick up and move somewhere far away in search of a better life"

I don't think genetic inheritance works that way.

Now, hearing *stories* from your elders, sure. But you don't have to be "descended from" for that.

Oh goody! A nature vs nurture discussion/argument.

I'd say the "nature" side has the edge. Suppose there is (to massively oversimplify) a gene which can be either "I'm OK with things changing" or "I don't want things to change". If the former is dominant, pretty much everybody arriving would have had one. But after a couple generations, you would see people who had two of the latter.

Hence a population where 25% were unhappy with change. They might be hardened to the fact that one of the things that wouldn't change is that things keep changing. But they wouldn't like it.

On the other hand, if as you say "nurture" is the way it works, then everybody gets the "things change, and for the better" narrative growing up. Which makes it hard for resistance to change to get much of a foothold. And yet, it has.

Most likely, reality on this is a combination of both nature and nurture. But I'm going to take some convincing to see nurture as the whole story. Starting with a tale about how the ultra-conservative/reactionary population came to be.

wj, good points!

There certainly *seems* to be some inherent "fear of change"/"welcome to change" factor. It's not clear to me that it is heritable.

I base my opinion, not on humans, but CATS. Two brother cats, very similar, but one is fearless about dealing with anything new, the other a big scaredy-cat pussy.

That's my anecdata and I'm sticking to it. MEOW also, too.

Sexual orientation and "handedness" seem to be inherent, but not heritable, as further examples.

Taking something inherent like handedness (because we have more generations of "out" left handed people than of gay people), I think the explanation is that it takes some mix of genes to get there. You can get some of the mix from one parent and some from the other -- meaning neither of them may be left handed, but being left handed was still something you got from your genetics. (That's part of why I said I was massively over-simplifying in saying "a gene". The other part being epi-genetics -- which I know the name of, but very little of the details.)

Of course, handedness is actually more of a range of inclination, rather than an either/or phenomena. Some people are so strongly left handed that they simply cannot switch, even though our world is designed for right handed people. Others (me, for example) are only mildly left handed, and can use their right hands without a problem for things (writing, using scissors) which don't work well left handed. The inclination continues all the way thru truly ambidextrous to strongly right handed.

I can see flexibility when it comes to change being something similar. Some love it, some are fine with it, some dislike it but can cope, some (at least once they are adults**) can't cope.

** It occurs to me that the ability to accept change as an adult is like remaining a child in that respect. Childhood, after all, is one long process of learning new things about the world and how it works. Even extremely inflexible adults went thru that phase, even if they had the misfortune to outgrow it.

I just love those greek prefixes, the old greeks really knew how to encapsulate a range of possibilities.

ambidextrous
orthodextrous?
amphidextrous
more, I'm sure, plus in my case
adextrous

Anyway, I'm pretty sure you can find identical twins where one is RH and the other LH. So maybe epigenetics (which IIRC is at least somewhat heritable), but more likely "development": how the neurons randomly hooked up. Which is hard-wired but not heritable.

Roughly 15% are lefthanded. 27% 'crazification factor'. No cure for either.


Studies suggest that there is a genetic component to risk-taking.

https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/19/the-genetics-of-being-a-daredevil/

It never ceases to amaze me how much more we know today about the universe around us than we did when I was growing up. (Admittedly, I'm of an age where I can remember going out into the yard to watch the first ever artificial satellite pass over.) And more information pours in every day. How anyone can fail to have a sense of wonder at it all eludes me -- science is just so damn interesting.

I feel exactly the same. Not long ago, I went to a sort of little ceremony at the Space Sciences department of the Open University (the people who were responsible for the Philae Lander) where they were installing in the exhibition in their lobby a bunch of instruments, telescopes etc tooled and built from scratch by a late great love-of-my-life. (At a party for the first moonlanding, he had set up this very telescope on a London balcony so that when people got tired of looking at the grainy pics of the moon, they could look at the glory of Saturn.) As a thank you, after the ceremony and lunch, Open University people took us on a tour of the labs etc, then sat us in a seminar room and gave us a private seminar about meteors, comets etc, handing round samples. I have held a piece of Mars in my hand! I found (and find) this profoundly thrilling. (In case any of you are wondering, as I did, how they know it was Mars, it is by the chemical composition). Long live Science, and down with its enemies!

When you consider how far away any star is, it's absolutely amazing that they can detect planets at that distance. They're talking about detecting atmospheric composition, which is even more amazing.

Something people miss about finding extrasolar planets that could potentially harbor life is - it's bad for us. By direct observation, we can see there's no civilization making major changes in space. So, by Robin Hansen's phraseology, we know there is a "great filter" which makes it vanishingly unlikely that any star will generate a successful interstellar civilization. The more likely it is for a star to generate a civilization like ours (say by the demonstration that the universe is rife with earthlike planets) the less likely it is we're going to end up a successful interstellar civilization. Finding 8 vaguely earthlike planets within a few lightyears (these 7 + Proxima Centuri's one) means they are everywhere.

I don't know about the beer (a matter of which coast one is on?), but I have a different association for Trappist. Like: hey, are they allowed to look through a telescope? It's a pretty strict order, after all.

Oh, right -- they can look, but they can't talk about it.

(And this is grossly unfair. It was a couple of philosophers, not bishops and certainly not Trappists, who refused to look through that new, ill-understood (hence, I presume, philosophically unsound) telescope gadget.)

Julie Andrews has her work cut out, with 7 planets looking for a governess.

The great filter, if there is one, could be life's origin or the step from procaryotes to eukaryotes or from single cell to multicell or at some later step. Or we could be a wildlife reserve under the protection of a non Trump run Galactic park service. Advanced civilizations might be undetectable. Speculation about ET's who have been technologically advanced for millennia has some resemblance to theology.

What's the over/under on how long it takes for the xtian fundies to get Congress to stop funding for NASA's exoplanet search? It does, after all, contradict their narrative about humans being god's special snowflakes and the earth being created uniquely as our playground, so doesn't baby Jesus cry a little when NASA announces another new planet?

Not all evangelicals would be upset by ET's. Some would, some wouldn't.

On the filter, I don't think it would be civilizations self destructing. We must have at least a one percent chance of not don't that and a filter to prevent the galaxy being overrun by nannites or KFC franchises needs to be stronger.

Not doing that. iPad spelling filter strikes again.

IMO, the unicellular extraterrestrial life is going to be moderately common, as in "almost everywhere it is possible".

But multicellular life will be extremely rare.

The reason is simply based on the history of life on Earth: unicellular life shows up in the fossil record within the first 100Myr or so after Earth was formed, which is close to the time when it became possible for any life to survive and make a fossil record.

But it had to stew around for another ~3800Myr to get to multicellular life, which says that the jump from "unicellular" to "multicellular" is low-probability.

Well, based on one event, that's the best probability estimate we have right now.

So: vast numbers of planets covered with slime, a few dozen with critters, perhaps one or two with intelligent life. Earth? too early to say for sure.

That We are alone in the universe is almost unbelievable. But it's possible. What seems impossible to me is that the tribal god of some Bronze Age shepherds in a small patch of the Middle East was the Creator of a universe comprising billions and billions of suns with or without planets around them. I suppose it's not out of the question that He merely took advantage of their ignorance to claim credit for what some greater god built about 4 billion years earlier, but that's as far as my particular credulity can stretch.

Back to the other subject, though:

"Fear of change" is an aspect of assessing risk, and people generally suck at that. In particular, they are susceptible to the "framing effect". (See here for the simplest definition.) Maybe, maybe there's a genetic basis for an individual's propensity to "frame" risk assessments one way rather than the other. But it's almost certain that "framing" can be manipulated directly, by cultural influences like MAGA rallies, unlike DNA.

--TP

And the endowment effect

I think an issue with intelligent life and why we can't find it may be that they eventually lose the battle against bacteria and/or viruses and so go extinct or shrink back to an existence where doing things like broadcasting signals into outer space (unintentionally or intentionally) isn't something society is capable of anymore.

I don't know about the beer (a matter of which coast one is on?)

It's a designation indicating one of several monk-brewed beers (almost entirely European) who share (very broad) brewing conventions and sell under the legal moniker protected by the International Trappist Association.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trappist_beer

I don't know about the beer (a matter of which coast one is on?)

It's a designation indicating one of several monk-brewed beers (almost entirely European) who share (very broad) brewing conventions and sell under the legal moniker protected by the International Trappist Association.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trappist_beer

Earth has seen several mass extinction events already, and none was survived by any creature our size (iirc the last had about cat size as the limit). We know that we would not manage to ward off any of those in part because we lack the means, in part because human discord would prevent applying those means in time ("Using OUR nukes to deflect an asteroid, no chance. This would be an invitation for THEM to attack us when we are defenseless. THEM using theirs instead? We can't allow that because they would use that as a cover for a surprise attack on us."). Just look at climate change that we will not even be attempt to ward off due to short-term interests and paranoia ("it's all a hoax by THEM to do us harm while profitting themselves.Besides, it's against our reading of Holy Scripture").
Even if alien intelligent species are not that idiotic, there is a very fair chance they get snuffed by such events too early to do anything against it. There are indications that we had a close shave about 9500 years before today.
I am not sure whether the current opinion is that Jupiter is the big baddie that sends big boulders our way now and then or our protector that catches most of them.

It's possible that the only reason we're in a position to speculate on whether or not we're the only intelligent life in the universe is that we're the only intelligent life in the universe.

Nature versus nurture - I'm fairly sure my affnity for Trappist-brewed beer is attributable to my being 1/16th Belgian. I mean, can that really just be coincidence? Can others who love dubbels and tripels and quadrupels prove that they aren't, to any degree, of Belgian descent? I don't see how that's possible.

On the civilizations collapsing explanation, repeating myself, I don't think that is adequate as a filter. It can be part of it,, but there has to be more to it, because while I could believe 99 percent of technological civilizations collapse from environmental catastrophe or war, you need something much closer to 100 percent unless there are other filters that prevent most planets from having intelligent life forms in the first place. Maybe most life bearing planets don't make it past bacteria. Then a 99 percent record of civilization collapse might do the rest, but I think our chances of surviving our own stupidity are better than one percent.

As for asteroid impacts or supervolcanoes, we could do enough to stop the asteroids now if we had enough warning time. In another century if we survive our own stupidity asteroid impacts should only be a man made hazard ( as it is in some SF novels.)

"It's possible that the only reason we're in a position to speculate on whether or not we're the only intelligent life in the universe is that we're the only intelligent life in the universe."

And even that last assumption is in mortal doubt, especially of late.

In fact, other intelligent life in the universe, should it exist, is probably giving us a wide berth for the time being, given the toxic stupidity bursts Earth is emitting into the ether.

Besides, I'm with Stephen Hawking. If life besides us exists in the universe, we don't want to meet it.

On the other hand, maybe they'll arrive in the nick of time to rescue us from the Alien that already walks among us.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wd5dDc2xE3U

Why would any intelligent life want to visit us?

Here's how intelligence is greeted:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wd5dDc2xE3U

I hope the rest of the world closes its borders to American filth and shit. Maybe shoot it on sight as it disembarks.

It's time to set up checkpoints as well inside the United States and around the toxic red parts of America to intimidate, harass, and take into custody conservatives as they try and move about to spread their ideological bacilli and kill our children.

It's a shame I didn't do all of my international travel before all of this came down.

Now I'll be under suspicion wherever I travel of being just like the filth in the Republican
Party.

Maybe aliens have a better way to link. This is the correct link to my 1:49 PM.

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/now-we-know-what-empowered-border-agency-looks

I think an issue with intelligent life and why we can't find it may be that they eventually lose the battle against bacteria and/or viruses and so go extinct or . . .

It seems at least as likely that the reason that we aren't seeing them is that we are looking the wrong way. Looking for electromagnetic signals makes sense if that remains the way a civilization communicates essentially forever (after it is invented, of course). After all, we put out a huge EM signal constantly. And, as noted, we aren't seeing anything like that.

But it seems reasonable that a different technology could come along. One which our current detection methods would entirely miss. In which case, we could only detect a distant civilization during the couple of centuries that it was in the EM phase.

Not only are we attempting to extrapolate from a single example (us), we are trying to extrapolate our (and so anyone else's) future from a quite limited portion of our potential existence. Once you consider that, it would be amazing if we had managed to find evidence of another civilized life form by this point in our search.

It's true that our border agents are our neighbors.

They can be good Germans at the same time. It takes three things. Arm them, let them strut about in a silly uniform, and install an authoritarian piece of shit to give them their marching orders.

There is a fourth variable as well. This odd feature of certain sh*ts among us, who when told an action is their "job", will Barney Fife it to the best of their meager abilities.

Compare and contrast with our previous leader who was such a milquetoast that he couldn't bring himself to give the order to kill ... shoot them dead .. the armed Bundy and his armed supporters, who directly threatened our "neighbors" lives with deadly terrorist force.

He's not a fake psychopath:

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2017/02/anonymous-fake-news.html

They asked Muhammad Ali Jr. how he got that name:

http://juanitajean.com/and-its-not-like-texas-am-has-any-international-scholars-to-spare/

I think a few jackasses asked his Dad the same question,

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immgration-canada-border-idUSKBN1602NG

It's certainly possible something after the formation of life is the Great Filter, but it still reduces our odds that one candidate filter (suitable planets) looks pretty gauzy right now.

There's pretty serious speculation that the formation of life isn't much of a filter step, because (some) unicellular life can survive very extended periods frozen in rocks in space. Multilightyear interstellar transport might still be a stretch, but most stars form in "nurseries" with much smaller interstellar distances. Even exchanging planets may be common. Once life is in a system it's hard to eradicate because the kinds of big impacts that can sterilize a planet will also spew out a cloud of spore-bearing asteroids that can recolonize if possible.

Looking for electromagnetic signals makes sense if that remains the way a civilization communicates essentially forever (after it is invented, of course). After all, we put out a huge EM signal constantly. And, as noted, we aren't seeing anything like that.

Well, life and civilizations use energy and that's hard to miss, because it will tend to distort blackbody radiation. That pretty much rules out Dyson spheres and the like, although it's certainly possible to have interstellar civilizations well below that level. Of course, if almost any kind of interstellar transport is possible, the question is also "why aren't they *here*" if it involves a civilization in our galaxy. OTOH, if interstellar travel is not possible, that's problematic for our long-term survival, because interplanetary war can be pretty grim.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/headstones-broken-overturned-jewish-cemetery-pennsylvania

and

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/sean-spicer-leaks-meeting-then-leaked-phone-checks

Seems like those two stories have naught to do with other, but both will be recorded as historical evidence in William Shirer's "The Rise and Fall of the Fourth Reich".

A really advanced civilization might not have the grow and use as much energy as possible outlook that would produce Dyson spheres. Or it could merely expand by hollowing out asteroids-- are we at the point where we could detect a few hundred extra terawatts coming from a few thousand asteroids in a given system? I don't know. Plus maybe Clark's law about sufficiently advanced technologies and magic is true. Which is why I think speculation about this is fun, but akin to theology.

Tony (on the previous open thread): I wonder about "the feds", myself. Last I checked they are not a foreign army or an alien species, but workaday Americans earning their living as public servants.

On the other hand, consider this (drilling down from on of the Count's links):
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/25/australian-childrens-author-mem-fox-detained-by-us-border-control-i-sobbed-like-a-baby
You can tell from a glance at the photograph that she is either an illegal (Hispanic) immigrant or a would-be terrorist. Right? Right?

I'd really prefer not to believe that the ICE agents' behavior in this case is NOT that of ordinary "workaday Americans".

Conservatives confirms my (well, others have too, but not quite with my gusto) assertion that Trump and the Republican Party are one and the same:

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/trump-is-the-gop-rudolf-hess/

I just want to say that these guys are my favorite.

And no, you don't have to be Belgian, or a monk, to appreciate it.

Daniel Denvir @DanielDenvir

Trump: words are magical and their very utterance kills terrorists.

Spicer: Words are harmless, especially the racist and xenophobic ones.
3:48 PM - 25 Feb 2017

The biggest problem with finding another advanced species seems to me to be temporal -- what's that average duration of an advanced tech society? Two advanced societies need to be both close enough physically, as well as overlapping temporally, for them to contact each other. If the size of the window is 100K years, that's one probability. If it's 10K years, the probability gets a lot smaller. If it's 1K years, fugetaboutit.

Personally, I'm worried about how we're going to keep the lights on for the next 50 years without baking the planet.

On EM radiation as a marker of intelligent life: if you add up all the RF energy humans have ever broadcast into the universe, does it amount to a photon per year at 100 parsecs?

--TP

Agree with Tony: what seems like "a lot of RF energy" at the transmitter, turns into "barely detectable" at 10ly.

Radio astronomers pick up tiny tiny signals, but at their source they are a "significant fraction of the total energy output of a star".

We really need up up our game if we're going to give those aliens the "I Love Lucy" experience.

There's a Desi Arnaz joke in there somewhere with the aliens and the current president but I'm too tired.

[...]
Radio frequency signals of extraterrestrial origin are extremely weak. As an example, if all the signal energy ever received from all the radio telescopes ever built (viewing objects other than the sun) were combined, there would not be enough total energy to melt a single snowflake.
[...]

A brief history of Radio Astronomy

Also, I'd guess that in another 100 years, Earth is going to be much more radio-quiet than the previous 100 years.

Because much more of the signals are going over fiber or on coax, and much less broadcast.

The exception is radar, in particular NORAD radar where it uses all that RF power to detect small objects that are designed to evade detection.

I suspect there is only so many decades you can "need" something like NORAD radar and manage to survive.

So, an alien civilization may last a long time, but is probably only radio-bright for a century or so.

I, for one, look forward to the next season of "I Love Lrrr"

@ Michael Cain

There was an interesting reworking of the Drake equation last year from some astronomers at Rochester. Instead of trying to crank out the chances of another civilization existing currently, they looked at the probability of us being the only civilization to have emerged so far, under different assumptions about the likelihood of civilization emerging on any habitable planet.

"Frank and Sullivan find that human civilization is likely to be unique in the cosmos only if the odds of a civilization developing on a habitable planet are less than about one in 10 billion trillion, or one part in 10 to the 22nd power."

However, in order to co-exist and potentially communicate, civilizations have to last a long time:

"If there have been a thousand civilizations in our own galaxy, if they live only as long as we have been around—roughly ten thousand years—then all of them are likely already extinct. And others won’t evolve until we are long gone."

Regarding the Fermi paradox, I find John Smart's "Transcension Hypothesis" quite convincing. The idea is that the big efficiencies of time, space, energy and computation are to be found at the nano-scale and below. So most civilizations will eventually vanish "inwards": upload themselves to tiny scales, where they can generate and explore inconceivable numbers of virtual worlds, of arbitrary richness, rather than taking on the slow, expensive and dangerous challenge of interstellar travel.

Ultimately (and somewhat contradictorily, given the above) they will likely migrate to the vicinity of supermassive black holes, where the vast energetic and computational efficiencies will enable them to live essentially forever, even while relativity makes the universe around them appear to rapidly age and fizzle out.

http://accelerating.org/articles/transcensionhypothesis.html

Forgot to link to the Rochester paper:

https://www.rochester.edu/news/are-we-alone-in-the-universe/

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1089/ast.2015.1418

Thanks for those links, Adam. I'll read them with interest.

So, there might be two ways out.

When do we leave?

Not sure...how soon do you think you can upload yourself to the nano-scale?

The other "way out" - just going extinct - seems much the more practical option.

Who mentioned something about experiencing some kind of negative emotion when reading about astronomy? I don't remember if it had to do with a feeling of insignificance or being overwhelmed by the scale of the universe.

At any rate, I feel mildly anxious when reading the U of Rochester paper. It frames not just my existence, but existence generally, in a way that makes me psychically uncomfortable, like I smoked too much pot or something.

Yes I know what you mean. I work with scientists who study this stuff, and it just fills them with joy. I fee that too, but it's mixed with the vertiginous feeling you're talking about.

One thing I don't get, though, is the many, many people who just don't care. As the OP says, "How can anyone fail to have a sense of wonder" about it? But I'd guess about half the population do fail to. Lots of my friends and family, despite being highly intellectually curious people, just glaze over if there's no immediate human story (in the sense of relationships between people, not abstract questions of our provenance and destiny).

I think getting people to give a shit might be of existential importance, in the end. But it's not clear how to do it.

Doctor in Brooklyn: Why are you depressed, Alvy?

Alvy's Mom: Tell Dr. Flicker.

[Young Alvy sits, his head down - his mother answers for him]

Alvy's Mom: It's something he read.

Doctor in Brooklyn: Something he read, huh?

Alvy at 9: [his head still down] The universe is expanding.

Doctor in Brooklyn: The universe is expanding?

Alvy at 9: Well, the universe is everything, and if it's expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything!

Alvy's Mom: What is that your business?

[she turns back to the doctor]

Alvy's Mom: He stopped doing his homework!

Alvy at 9: What's the point?

Alvy's Mom: What has the universe got to do with it? You're here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!

Doctor in Brooklyn: It won't be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we've gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we're here!

Truly intelligent life would have better things to do with its resources than spend them sending messages to other life forms which might or might not exist, but which, if they did exist, would be to far away to visit without rewriting the laws of physics.

@chris y
Try Fred Hoyle's The Black Cloud. Given a life form that is inherently non-planetary and can expect to live for millions of years, sending a message and waiting a decade or two for a response isn't a big deal. Nor spending ten thousand years getting from one star to the next.

I think it's mandatory to quote this in this context ;-)

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Written by a classic conservative who would rotate in his grave knowing that the conservative movement would choose both options at once at the first glimpse of revelation.

@Count

"What has the universe got to do with it? You're here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!"

My favourite line in the film - and she's right, Brooklyn is not in fact expanding!

So Unqualified Offerings (at highclearing.com) is gone; I didn't see any post from Thoreau indicating he was shutting it down or moving to a new url, but I could have missed it. The domain has shown as expired for a couple of weeks.

Anybody know what the deal is?

I had forgotten, but my mom has told me that one time, when I was in elementary school, I was acting very sad. She asked me what was wrong and I said the Sun would go out in a few billion years. She has said she had absolutely no idea what to say in response. She knew that herself, of course, but like the mother in the story didn't consider it something to get depressed about. I was still doing my homework, though.

Yeah my four-year-old is talking about that a lot at the moment and is quite upset by it. I haven't found any response that cheers her up - "Don't worry humans will all be dead by then" doesn't seem particularly consoling. The best I've come up with is "By that time we'll have moved to other planets", which she seems to find intriguing but not very reassuring.

There were times as a malingering kid when I hadn't done my homework and I thought if the sun went out before third period Algebra I'd be home free.

But then I would miss that evening's episode of "The Fugitive" with David Janssen being chased from town to town inexorably by Police Lieutenant Philip Girard (Barry Morse), but Janssen's Richard Kimble would find temporary solace in unrequited flirtation (unrequited, whatever THAT meant to me at the time, because he had to get a move on with very short notice and because of what was left of the Hayes Code) in each town with a cute woman, but there seemed nevertheless to be compensations for life's existential dilemmas.

Then when sublime love came along for real, more than once, so how sublime can it really be, but still, the sun blinking out a couple billion years from now receded in my thinking, until of course one turns to art and literature for solace when the sublimeness of temporal love all goes kaputnik and you look and see what Shakespeare has to say and you come upon "put out the light, and put out the light", or Hamlet's kvetching for example, or Lear on the heath railing at the stars, and you figure, well, one way or another the light goes away either by your own doing or the inescapable action of cold physics.

Then the Bible, or pick a sacred text, which tells you you will be judged on all of it, and you think, what, I've been judged every step of the way and now there's more of the same, only eternally, and the universe going out in a sudden flushing, flashing blip, like a fine piece of pottery dropped and smashed to pieces, but hey, at least I don't have to dust it any more, seems refreshing and serene in its simplicity.

I remember when my now 27-year-old son was a little boy, just yesterday it was, and he was in that tender, wondering, questioning stage regarding the why of the mysteries with his searching eyes and flawless, translucent skin and my feeling of helpless ineloquence with whatever lame answers I, we, his Mom and I might come up with, but those moments would end with a hug and on to the next thing, because in the mean time, well, let's have sloppy joes for dinner.

Now, he's a doctoral candidate in Chemistry at Columbia and any discussion about the end of the world of it comes up is rather bracing and endlessly fascinating, but not so fascinating that we go all Raskolnikov on life.

Gotta say though, that I miss him crawling into bed with us in the middle of the night as nightmare phantoms chased him.

And I would remember too my own parents at those terrible moments when there would be a phone call with the news that the light of a relative or a friend would go out and the hush that came over the household as we kids would be given the news, but whatever questions might be entering our heads regarding the what and why of it all got somehow comforted but never closed by the seamless quotidian of life's daily business, which my parents did their best to maintain despite their private grief, because folks back then handled it that way.

Then the next thing you knew, you were eating baked ham and three bean salad, and cheesecake at the reception after the funeral and everyone seemed ravenous, so how bad can this death thing be given that it seems to prime hunger and besides, no one stood up and said, "Well, kids, at least cousin Dave won't be here to see the sun go out and the universe go dark, huh, so there is that upside to his passing!"

Now, as an adult, such as I am, I find my way to the open bar at funerals if folks are civilized enough to have one, so I can buck up and be delightfully humorous about the dear departed, who isn't me, so at least there is that.

This morning, I have my first baseball practice of the season and I'm looking forward to that so-right plock and the solid feel of the ball coming off the fat of the bat and running down some fly balls in the outfield as Springtime lurks in the grass beneath my cleats, cause I'm good at it.

Any thoughts of the light going out, mine personally not so far off in dog years or the universe's at large, will be put where they belong, in my back pocket.

Then I'll come home and read some Walker Percy, or some Dante, or one of the poets, or listen to Strawberry Fields Forever, or some Chopin, and probably doze off cause I'll be tired and besides, a nap is just practice for the big sleep that will round my little life, as it rounded the beginning of it before I awakened the first time, except now my mouth will be dry.

Actually, the thought terrifies me in a matter-fact sort of way. Not the awaking, the other.



Death - everyone does it, but there's no one to ask what it's like. The dead are terrible conversationalists.

I know (without caring in the slightest) that the LGM bloggers have cast Glenn into the outer darkness, but this piece says pretty much what I think--

https://theintercept.com/2017/02/28/the-new-yorkers-big-cover-story-reveals-five-uncomfortable-truths-about-u-s-and-russia/

Point 1 is especially on target. The enemy of my enemy is often my enemy when it comes to Trump vs the foreign policy establishment.

Thanks for a beautiful comment Count!

What is it about baseball that lends itself to the elegiac mood?

Brooklyn has been all downhill since the Dodgers went to LA. Ask anyone from Brooklyn who is over the age of 70.

I don't know what happens when the sun goes out, but if there are sloppy joes for dinner, I think it will all turn out OK in the end.

What is it about baseball that lends itself to the elegiac mood?

I think it's that baseball is an elegant game. Certainly compared to football (American or the rest of the world versions) or basketball. So it attracts those who embrace elegance.

P.S. Sloppy Joes? No. Now grilled cheese on the other hand....

Agree wholeheartedly on the beauty of the Count's comment.

So that Donald Johnson's comment doesn't become lost in the shuffle on this open thread, I read it and though there is much missing in Greenwald's account (for example, the enormous good so-called neo-liberal trade liberalization has accomplished in encouraging and spreading wealth, though certainly with great inequalities, in the developing world), I get his criticisms of Clinton and our elites' propensity to walk with monsters, though certainly in some cases they were the least of the monstrous monsters available.

Obama's Yemen policy sucks.

The statement below is probably true. But first I want right-wing uber-nationalism everywhere put on ice, and I include Putin's right-wing uber-nationalism in that assessment, but I'm not interested in a new Cold War with Russia with renewed nuclear buildups.

I expect I want too much in this perilous world.

"As Even The New Yorker Admits™, the primary reason for Trump, for Brexit, and for growing right-wing über-nationalism throughout Europe is that prevailing neoliberal policies have destroyed the economic security and future of hundreds of millions of people, rendering them highly susceptible to scapegoating and desperate, in a nothing-to-lose sort of way, for any type of radical change, no matter how risky or harmful that change might be. But all of that gets to be ignored, all of the self-reckoning is avoided, as long we get ourselves to believe that some omnipotent foreign power is behind it all."

Look, I can hate the harsh measures imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles post World War I AND at the same time want Hitler assassinated early on, despite the millions of desperate people who were inspired by him.

I'm all for self-reckoning, but trump et al are the least self-aware bunch going. Or rather, they reckon for themselves only.

I believe the November election was stolen by Trump and the republicans with help from Putin, but I think trump and the republican Party were behind it all and if I were Putin filth I wouldn't be trusting the trump filth anymore than anyone who throws in with trump and these republican reptiles ends up "trusting" trump.

trump will do as much for a Ukrainian thrown to the wolves precisely as much as he will do for a Scots-Irishman thrown to the wolves in my birthplace, Middletown, Ohio, which is to say nothing.

First we kill the right-wing demagogues among us and then we can sort out the economic security and the futures of hundreds of millions of people who had the carpet pulled out from under them by unquestioned allegiance to the race to the bottom for wages and benefits, because the markets may not be questioned, which as I recall, was not a liberal account of how the world is supposed to work ... for everyone.

And austerity imposed by Germany and the EU can go f*ck itself as well.

Next, trump will be telling us world trade policy and its very intended (yes, lowering manufacturing wages and killing the unions were intended) consequences are much more complicated than anyone knew, by which he means just about everyone knew but him until a year ago.

But the Clintons can stay on the sidelines and triangulate within their foundation.

I voted for her but I don't need her help with the drastic things that must be done.

trump will do as much for a Ukrainian thrown to the wolves precisely as much as he will do for a Scots-Irishman thrown to the wolves in my birthplace, Middletown, Ohio, which is to say nothing.

The problem for Putin, whether he has realized it yet or not, is that Trump will equally cheerfully throw him and Russia's interests to the wolves if he decides that it is better theater at some instant to do so. Trump is the very essence of a politician who won't stay bought.

wj that sounds right. Especially the 'at some instant'. Trump hasn't been a man who would hold back from scoring a point now just cos it will backfire or cost terribly tomorrow.

Trump will equally cheerfully throw him and Russia's interests to the wolves

likewise, i'm sure.

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