We’ll Be the Pirate Twins Again

Blue moon Tuesday seems like as good a time as any to bloviate a little about life at addresses outside of our own solar system.

So the CIA has at last acknowledged Area 51 but continues to deny the obvious truth that they are harboring big ugly green alien corpses.

Meanwhile, two of my favorite cosmologists have been doing some public speculating on the possibilities and likelihoods regarding extraterrestrial life. I find both of their periods of speculation to be a bit weird.

Stephen Hawking warns that our first contact with space aliens is gonna be all like Cortes to the Aztecs.


We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships … having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.

Neil deGrasse Tyson has countered by theorizing that if sophisticated alien life did manage to find us, we’d be of as little interest to us as a worm is to you when you’re shuffling down the sidewalk.

Tyson even fancifully supposes in a few scenarios that alien beings have already visited but unfortunately the first place they found was Central Park, so they blended in really well. :: rimshot :: This and all this other talk about our first contact I think belies the real issue, that the odds of us meeting up with humanoid creatures not created on Earth are infinitesimal.

Not that I don’t think we will never discover life outside of our own little planet. I do, and in fact I have a hard-core belief that we will discover life elsewhere by the end of this century. I have obsessed for quite some time over the speculation that Europa, a moon of Jupiter, is likely teeming with life forms.

Europa, see, has water. And water contains 1/3 of all of the elements required to create life: Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sulfur. Europa also has an unusual warming trend because its gravitational relationship with Jupiter causes a tidal effect that allows for an ocean to possibly exist underneath its icy exterior. I’m probably not doing this thing justice, so here’s a Wiki article.

Now I’m reading that scientists are theorizing about another spot where life might spawn, another moon. Titan, of Saturn. According to this article, if we did find life there, it wouldn’t necessarily be made of creatures you need a microscope to see. Titan’s lakes, the thinking goes, would be less dense than our waters and would perhaps allow the methane-eating cellular creatures that are theorized to be embiggened. I’m thinking perhaps something in the phylum of the horta.

Sadly, this information will not be forthcoming anytime soon. There is a mission set to go to Europa, but it’s not until 2022.

Good Doggy

Epic Fetch

Captain Io

That you know Justin Bieber but you don’t know Linda Morabito is a crying shame. Morabito is the first person to ever have noticed geological activity on a body outside of the Earth. Her discovery led to the realization that the Earth is not indeed the most geologically active body in our own solar system.

That’s what I said: The most geologically active object in the solar system isn’t Earth. It’s not even a planet.

It’s Io, one of Jupiter’s Galilean moons.

Io is the closest of Jupiter’s satellites and therefore is affected by tidal forces caused by Jupiter’s massive gravitational power and “orbital resonance” with its larger moon friends Europa and Ganymede.

We’ve known that Io existed since January 7, 1610, when it was discovered by Galileo. But we’ve only known it has volcanoes since 1979, when Morabito looked at pictures of the moon and saw this enormous plume. Nobody else was really looking at the moons because they were busy with Jupiter, but as it turns out, Jupiter’s moons are, how you say, KICK-ASS.

That was the first discovery ever of volcanic activity anywhere in the universe besides Earth.

I love science.

In other news:


I find odd symbolism in today’s announcement that Pope John Ratzenberger will resign at the end of the month, the first Pope in 600 years to do so.

I find it symbolic of something I’ve been thinking for a while as I watch guys like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking and Carl “Thor” Sagan*. Hawking, in fact, tells a story in which he and other scientists once met with the Pope, I don’t remember if it was this fella or John Paul Jones. The Pope told the scientists that the church certainly didn’t have any problem with science exploring the universe and where it began, but would rather they not speculate about the exact moment of creation because that was the work of God.

“I didn’t fancy the thought of being handed over to the Inquisition like Galileo,” he said of the encounter.

Tyson points out that for many explorers, even the great Isaac Newton, there comes a place where the scientist gets cut off from successful scientific explanation. At this point, he notes, the scientist always shrugs and says, oh well, must be God.

My favorite thing though about science is that it will defeat political might every time, whether that political might comes from a hapless President outright banning an arm of research, or a Pope chaining a people to the notion that everything in the universe revolves around the Earth. Science always prevails.

I like that.

*I have decided that “Carl” is too common a name for Mr. Sagan and am petitioning to have him renamed as “Thor.” Yes, I know, naming him after an ancient pagan god might be a litle weird. But the man wielded a considerable hammer.

In Other News

8 GIFs Of Bill Cosby Dancing. You’re welcome.

Dear The Huffington Post: You are the worst headline writers in the known universe. “The Holy See Ya Later?” Who’s on your editorial staff, Mel Brooks?

Drat. No “Smash” this week. And it really is Obama’s fault.

Bad News for Bears (And the Rest of Us, Too)

“Evidence for climate change abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans. This evidence has been compiled by scientists and engineers from around the world, using satellites, weather balloons, thermometers, buoys, and other observing systems. The sum total of this evidence tells an unambiguous story: the planet is warming.” (The National Climate Assessment, January 11, 2013 | Executive Summary)

Movin’ Fast, Movin’ Slow

On a liberal listserv I’m on, someone recently asked, as a general polling question, if we “believe in UFOs.”

My reply was something like this:

Strictly speaking, the question itself is inaccurate.

If you see something traveling in the sky but you don’t know what it is, it is, by definition, an Unidentified Flying Object. There is, actually, no question that UFOs exist. They do. Technically speaking, the Frisbee® you don’t see coming is a UFO until it bonks you in the temple.

A question can be raised only if you suspect that the UFO in question might actually be piloted by little green men.

The question, “Do you believe in UFOs,” and the adoption of the term “UFO” to directly refer to space visitors is a prime example of linguistic evolution through lazy thinking. What folks actually want to ask is “Do you believe that aliens from faraway worlds visit us periodically?”