Just realized I posted a couple of other places but not here - sorry! I was on NPR this morning, talking about how accurately science fiction predicts the future (and how that's not really what SF tries to do) in a piece entitled, "What did science fiction writers predict for 2012?" In 1987, L. Ron Hubbard challenged his fellow science fiction writers to forecast what the world would be like in 25 years. Then they put together a "time capsule" of letters to us, now, that was just opened.

Here are those predictions, and here's the Salon article about them, written by AlterNet's futurist editor, Sara Robinson.

The show was live this morning from 11:20am - noon on Minnesota Public Radio's Daily Circuit, and is now available for streaming on their website.

Didn't get a chance to call in during this morning's show? Share your thoughts on what the world will look like in 25 years on the Daily Circuit blog.

At the end of the conversation, the show's host, Kerri Miller, asked us to send our predictions for 2040. Here I go. My prediction for 2040:

The Singularity.


A few years after the time-capsule predictions we discussed today, in 1993, mathematician and SF author Vernor Vinge wrote the seminal essay, "The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era." He stated that, "Within thirty years [by 2023], we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended."

This is arguably the single most-important concept that SF authors have had to address ever since the concept became widely known. All near-future SF written today must take the Singularity into account, whether the author believes it will happen or if she explains how the combination of rapidly accelerating advances in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence will change civilization on Earth, the Earth itself, and what it means to be human. In other words, will we reach the Singularity? If not, what devastating events brought our ever-accelerating technological advances to a halt? If we do, how will the human species remain relevant? What will it mean to be human in a world of superhuman intelligences, ubiquitous information and information-processing (both within and around us, via biotech and nanotech) that work like magic? Will humans resist this change - which might feel like marginalization - so hard that we destroy our civilization and, perhaps, become extinct without ever having invented Terminator-like AI killing machines?

This is what much of today's SF explores, because we will face these things by the year 2040, no matter how much some people want to stop progress or change. How SF most affects the future is not in its prediction or even that it encourages positive outcomes, but rather in the negative outcomes it helps prevent:
  • The environmental movement was fertilized by SF stories set on a ruined Earth.

  • Nevil Shute’s SF novel and film On the Beach and the TV movie The Day After probably helped us avoid nuclear war.

  • Orwell's 1984 might have helped us avoid tyranny of that sort, and we can only hope that Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale helps us avoid that one.

So we ask, What are people's greatest concerns today? We might answer, "Climate change, disease, energy and water depletion, economic collapse" and so on. All these are important challenges we must overcome, so these are what today's SF authors explore in their work, just as the authors from the time capsule reflected what was on the minds of people in 1987. But the most-fundamental issue at hand in the next 25 years is this:

What will it mean to be human in a post-Singularity world? How will we survive - free, happy, and fulfilled?

Best,
Chris
If you're reading my blog, you're probably someone familiar with the Fermi Paradox: If our galaxy is billions of years old, and stars like ours are common, and especially now that we believe all stars have planets and Earth-like planets are common, why the heck haven't we been visited by other aliens yet? Stars much older than ours abound, and we evolved intelligence and developed a technological society really quickly in galactic terms, so why isn't the galaxy teeming with megastructures like ringworlds and Dyson Spheres? Why don't we get regular alien visitors? Why isn't SETI picking up a constant interstellar dialog?

In light of these new discoveries, the Drake Equation suggests the galaxy ought to be TEEMING with aliens. So why haven't we met them?

Well, here's one dark-tinted answer: Does a galaxy filled with habitable planets mean humanity is doomed?

Other popular answers include:

Advanced civilizations don't use messy radio. Even our sphere of radio "pollution" is fading as we move away from that mode toward tight-beamed information and fiber.

Technological civilizations don't last long before they self-destruct. We might be proud of our nation, but the oldest continuous civilizations on this planet have durations in the thousands of years - that's just an eyeblink in the timescale of the galaxy... and we have only recently (in living human memory) invented ways to self-annihilate. Millions of equally advanced civilizations could have appeared and vanished before the Earth was even capable of supporting life.

On a related note: If a civilization is capable of creating the Matrix, they will. Animals seek comfort, and intelligent organic life is still a comfort-seeking animal. How many of you feel you could resist the siren song of everlasting immersion in a simulated (but absolutely realistic) world that satisfies your every need and desire? Heck, we could be living in the Matrix right now and not even be aware of it. If advanced civilizations go this deeply inward, they won't travel or communicate outward.

Advanced technological societies will always create AI, which will supersede them. This is the notion of the Technological Singularity. Relates to the prior notion if AI is benevolent, or to The Terminator or Berserker series if not. Good luck fighting something a million times smarter and faster than you, should it decide to eliminate you. Or save you to extinction, a la The Humanoids.

Planet-sweepers abound. Asteroids polish advanced life off the surface of the Earth every so often, supervolcanoes erupt even more frequently (and volcanic activity is important to creating life), even timid stars like ours go through periods of massive activity, supernovae eradicate life in their stellar neighborhoods, viruses and bacteria evolve much faster than complex life....

A Galactic Prime Directive that makes advanced civilizations invisible to the rest of us. This requires a massive bureaucracy and police force, and a population easily controlled, but it's possible. (Hint: This is the reasoning I use in The Adventures of Jack and Stella.)

They're talking, but we just can't decipher it. SETI mostly looks in the radio bandwidths, but why would super-advanced civilizations use such backwards tech?

No one has figured out faster-than-light travel. If they can't move around and colonize, we wouldn't have met them yet, and they'd be less likely to survive a planetary catastrophe if they're confined to one or a few worlds.

Or maybe everyone is just afraid of everyone else, so they're out there, everywhere, but quiet, afraid to announce themselves. If they are like us, first-contact situations don't end well, and there's no rational reason to believe everyone you'll encounter is less-advanced than you.

Do you have a favorite reason that explains why 1) the galaxy isn't teeming with life, and 2) if it is, why we haven't yet detected it?

Chris
mckitterick: aboard the New Orleans trolley (just Chris)
( Apr. 14th, 2012 07:15 pm)
Whether you're an inventor, writer, teacher, or any other kind of human being, you will find great enlightenment and hope in this talk by Jeremy Rifkin at the Ross Institute:


I first wrote about the core of Rifkin's talk months ago after having watched an abbreviated, illustrated version. But after watching his entire talk today, it's changed my life in a few ways:
  • I'm going to redesign all my courses to enable students to share in the teaching to help them learn better. This is part of Rifkin's urging, that teachers join the "distributed and collaborative communication and energy/mind revolution" that's happening right now. I already do a lot of this in my literature and advanced courses, but I'm also going to use this framework in my 300-level technical-writing course.

  • I'm going to re-roof the house with solar collectors to tranform my habitation from energy-consumer to energy-producer. Heck, I expect to sell power back to the utility most days!

  • I want to create a course centered around the concepts in Rifkin's talks and book, The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, or at the very minimum include the book in my spring "Science, Technology, and Society" course.

  • On a larger scale, I want to create a school - could be for young people, could simply be part of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction's mission - that is centered around this approach, is cross-curricular, and empowers students to be active participants in their education and the education of their fellow students. This is an idea I've been kicking around for years, outlining details, but Rifkin's talk finally crystallized the structures in my mind. SO EXCITED and movitvated!

Anyhow, go listen to the talk. It's about 1-1/2 hours long, so it might take a while. I'd love to hear what you think.

Chris
I'm in the midst of planning for my spring "Science, Technology, & Society: Examining the Future Through a Science Fiction Lens" course, and was researching a bit for interesting material. Here's some of what I found.

Are you the very model of a singularitarian?



Speaking of transcendental or catastrophic change, this book on Armageddon Science looks interesting. Here's an interesting interview with the author, discussing various end-of-humankind scenarios.

[Poll #1659680]
Later: How do we avoid such scenarios?

In related news, have you seen the Google Ngram Viewer? Interesting tool for seeing word usage in the books that Google has scanned. Note how "natural philosophy" reaches peak usage in the early 1800s, while "fuck" saw its peak usage from the late 1600s to the early 1700s, appearing almost not at all from the early 1800s through the 1960 or so. "Extinction" doesn't see much regular use until the late 1700s, becoming more popular ever since. What can we learn from these trends? Just sayin'.

Singularitarianly yours,
Chris
With the CSSF Workshops consuming most of my time, I had no idea just how bad things have gotten in the BP Gulf oil spill.

First off, apparently the seabed - not just the ruined well - is leaking 65,000 barrels of crude oil daily: That's 2,700,000 gallons of oil every day.

Microbes that love to eat oil need oxygen to do so; the Gulf waters are becoming oxygen-deprived dead zones.

The stuff spilling from this well is only 60% oil; the 40% remainder is methane, compared with 5% found in typical oil deposits. So along with each barrel of oil, 2,900 cubic feet of natural gas (mostly methane) is being released into the Gulf waters. That's more than 188,000,000 (188 million) cubic feet of methane every day. So far, about 13 billion cubic feet have been released, making it one of the hugest methane eruptions in history. Methane is probably the worst greenhouse gas around.

Along with methane, vast amounts of toxic benzene are being released into the region; benzene levels in New Orleans have risen to 3,000 parts per billion (0-5 ppb are considered acceptible).

The ocean floor is fracturing, and a vast ocean of methane seems to have been disturbed and is rising. If it fully erupts, we're talking utter devastation. Geologists estimate that this methane pocket is 20 miles across and tens of feet deep, probably frozen. If it turns to gas... wow. First you get a bubble that sinks every boat working the spill (can't float on gas). Then huge tsunamis blast the shorelines. If there's an ignition source, you get a ball of fire like we've never seen, consuming all the oxygen. Speaking of which, you also get utter dead zones across the Gulf, because there's no oxygen left in the water. Worst-case scenarios describe global extinction-level events....

Here's the article that got me researching this so late tonight. It's pretty alarmist, but seems to be based on more-sensible sources.

Here's a more level-headed report.

And here's one with more sources.

Might this be the coming of the end for modern civilization? For most of life on Earth? Or maybe just a major killing-off of life in the Gulf?

What a thing to say, what options. Even if massive tsunamis don't end up ravaging the Gulf Coast; even if all life isn't extinguished in that body of water; even if the seabed collapse doesn't trigger global mass-extinction, we're facing the worst catastrophe in human history.

And here I thought my little problems were a big deal. Woof.

Chris
Yesterday's big news was all about Stephen Hawking's warning against seeking out aliens. Why? Because they're likely to turn out to be Space-Vikings intent on stealing our land and pillaging our women! Or something like that.


Click the image to see the story.


The opposite view is that any species advanced enough to travel interstellar distances will have needed to learn cooperation on a massive scale, would have survived internal conflicts long enough to do so, and would have likely passed through the technological Singularity. What do you think?

[Poll #1556972]

Chris
For those of you just getting out of college or high school, this is for you:


It's true if you make it true.

Best,
Chris

Click the image to see the story.

Astrobiophysics Seminar at KU tomorrow:

Mass Extinctions - Good or Bad? Dealing with Potentially Hazardous Objects

Presented by Steve Hawley, KU Physics (former astronaut!)

Thursday, February 25, 2:30PM, room 1089 Melott Hall


Looks interesting!

Best,
Chris
Holy sky-on-fire, Batman! Here's a little video taken by the University of Utah's observatory on Frisco Peak, presumably an automated camera. Watch how this fireball changes night into day:



Apparently, it was visible all over the western USA, with people reporting sightings across Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho. I'm so envious! Skies in Kansas were cloudy last night... but it's clear today. Although this happened during the Leonids, this fireball was not a Leonid meteor. Scientists suspect a small asteroid that exploded when it hit Earth's atmosphere, releasing the equivalent of a kiloton of TNT. That's some serious interplanetary warfare, folks. Imagine if it had exploded a little lower in the atmosphere, especially over a city?

We are tiny creatures who dwell on the surface of a small planet that's hurtling through the cosmos along with billions of other objects. Once in a while, we collide. Often we get to watch a pretty meteor shower, sometimes we have the thrill of a fireball, and once in a while - frequently in terms of the life of the Earth - we experience ecosystem-destroying asteroid impacts. This one sits right between those last two.

Here's the aftermath, still visible in the morning sky:

Click the image to see the story.

EDIT: Lots more videos on this Utah news site.

Astro-porn indeed!

Chris
Our Lt. Governor (Governor by the end of the week!) will be speaking on the Univesity of Kansas campus today about climate change. You can find more info here.

Date: March 31, 2009
Time: 3:00PM - 4:00PM
Location: Spooner Hall, The Commons
Department: Institute for Policy & Social Research
Contact
Ticket Cost: Free
Download Additional Information: Mark Parkinson.pdf

Best,
Chris
The New York Times provides a fantastic analysis of Obama's speech, which I felt was exactly the right speech given at the right time to a nation - and world - that needed to hear exactly this. It wasn't given to "flights of poetry," as some Democratic speech-writer-hack dude said he thought it should have been, and it didn't have lines that popped out to make easy sound-bytes, and it didn't tell us that everything would be better tomorrow and everything's okay.

Instead, Obama went point-by-point through the errors we as a nation made that led us to where we are today, and just about every point was a criticism of the smirking jerk sitting behind him who led our nation along the path to near-destruction, the man who said, "Stop throwing the Constitution in my face. It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"

But even more important, Obama did now dwell on each critique, instead pointing a light to show the path out of this hell we're in today. He said it won't be easy, and we'll all have to work together to fix things and create change, but if we do, we can live in a bright future.

(Full text here.)

I have to admit that I wasn't sure of this man during the early primary race. I didn't know anything about him. But what I've learned since gives me such hope, and his oratory skills provide such opportunity for people to hear and understand, that I now believe the worst he can do is better than the best Bush ever managed.

We can all be proud that we've put Obama into this position, and we can stop feeling apologetic about our nation's leadership and actions.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I'm proud of our President.

Chris
I hope you got to hear the inauguration; I watched it online for a time, until the video feed was overloaded, and listened via ever-reliable NPR. What a moment! Millions on the Capitol grounds, history on the cold breeze. What a moment this is!

I'm sure one day Obama will disappoint us, because he is human. But in the mean time and through that, we'll at least be free of the embarrassment who worked so hard to destroy our nation over the past 8 years, and at best hold hope for the future and for progress and for advancement and freedom from the fear that we've been fed for nearly a decade.

Hope and freedom: This is a new day.

I'm so excited! And fearful of feeling so excited, but damn it all, I'm looking forward to it all.

EDIT: Here's the transcript for the speech:

transcript )

Hugs,
Chris
God, this is beautiful. (And ugly. And heart-rending.)

I don't often have such a strong reaction to an essay. We read essays like this because they're emotionally true; we read this kind of writing and poetry and fiction, we listen to music that does this for us and watch movies that touch on truths we know inside because what the words express is so true for us. It's as if finally - at last! - someone understands well enough to speak for us honestly and with perfect clarity. It's as if our minds touch just for a moment. Being understood and hearing our inner truths expressed so well is cathartic. We are never the same again after veils of misunderstanding are pulled aside; when we look inside without filters or walls, we become someone different; after facing the truth about ourselves, ironically we are never the same.

This essay describes concisely and lucidly how it felt to grow up Gen X American. And this phrase nails exactly about how it felt to hear Obama accept the Presidency:

when we watched Barack Obama's victory speech on Tuesday night, we looked into the eyes of a real leader, and decades of cynicism about politics and grass-roots movements and community melted away in a single moment.

For my entire life, I've had to knuckle under to conservatives (yes, I count Bill Clinton as such); for the students I teach, it must have been so much worse to have mostly only known the fucking tragedy that was the Bush dynasty. Though I have vague memories of Jimmy Carter, I've never felt someone represented me in the White House. Seeing Obama accepting the Presidency... I just wept for joy. And now I'm wet-cheeked all over again. Here, read it:

Essay text archived behind the cut. )

Fucking brilliant.

With hope,
Chris

PS: I've deleted five LJ icons re: Bush and cynicism. It's time.
This could be huge, folks:

A fungus that lives inside trees in the Patagonian rain forest naturally makes a mix of hydrocarbons that bears a striking resemblance to diesel, biologists announced today. And the fungus can grow on cellulose, a major component of tree trunks, blades of grass and stalks that is the most abundant carbon-based plant material on Earth.

Also, this :

Because the fungus can manufacture what we would normally think of as components of crude oil, it casts some doubt on the idea that crude oil is a fossil fuel.

"It may be the case that organisms like this produced some — maybe not all — but some of the world's crude," Strobel said.

So we can actually eat our corn rather than make it into fuel, then toss the sticks and leaves into our vats of fuel-making fungus.

In the immortal words of Keanu Reeves, "Whoah."


Chris
I'm not talking about those nasty Mercurians, bent on domination of the entire Solar System. No, this is a more insidious threat: Jupiter, King of the Planets, is yanking Mercury this way and that, altering its orbit such that it will one day either fall into the Sun, be ejected from the Solar System entirely, crash into Venus, or - and here's where we should really care - plummet into our little blue world.


Click the image to learn more about this story's Red Shirt character.

That's right. Jupiter's gravitational influence will one day tear apart the inner Solar System. Nice. And to think it used to be my favorite planet. Thanks a lot, Jupiter. Dude.


Click the image to learn more about this story's antagonist.

Chris
mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (EngineDiagram)
( Jan. 14th, 2008 11:20 pm)
Here's how to make ethanol in an environmentally sensible and renewable way that doesn't compete with food (which drives up prices while harming poor countries): Use biological waste materials! The cool thing is that this company is a partner with GM, which plans to put a huge number of "Flex-Fuel" vehicles on the road.

Our energy future is looking less dire.

Best,
Chris
In the post I made last month about why we should quit the Iraq war right away, one reason I cited was the cost: $3 trillion. This got me thinking: What else could the US do for $3 trillion? Here are a few ideas:

Put Humans in Space - Permanently

NASA's current budget is about $5.4 billion (or $16 billion; sources vary). That's about 1/500th to 1/1000th of the cost of the Iraq war. Hm! If NASA had 500 times more money, what could they do beyond their current goals - and how much more quickly or fully could they achieve those goals?

And how about all the private space start-ups out there - can you imagine what they could do? Let's say that we give $30 billion to each of 100 private space companies. That's six times NASA's annual budget. We know their operations are much more agile and cost-efficient than NASA... the mind boggles.

Or we could pour the money into building a space station in Earth orbit, a la 2001: A Space Odyssey. This feasability study suggests a space hotel could be built for $28 billion, including the high launching costs of using Shuttle-based launches. Expect the next-gen NASA heavy lifters to dramatically reduce launch cost, then factor in cost savings from even-more-efficient launchers, volume of launches, and so on, and it could be done far more cheaply. So we could likely build a hundred such stations or a single, massive habitat the size of a city in space for the cost of this pointless, destructive war.

Oooh, how about a Moonbase or a Mars colony? Estimates for the currently planned, manned Moon-and-Mars projects range from $230 billion to $500 billion. Assuming the high-end estimate is more realistic, we could either scale up the projects to six times their current size or speed the projects along (I suggest scaling up, as they're pretty short-sighted right now).

Perhaps we could funnel those trillions into developing and building a space elevator? Using technology available today, one estimate for the materials cost of building a space elevator is $450 million. That leaves a lot of room for cost-overruns and labor, as that figure is less than 1/6,000 of the cost of the Iraq war. Stated another way, we could build dozens of space elevators in every nation for the cost of the war. Mind-boggling that we chose to go to war instead, isn't it?

So yeah, you get the idea. There's no reason we couldn't establish a permanent human presence in space with the money we're spending on the Iraq war. The dividends that would pay are unknown but certainly higher than anything positive that could possibly result from invading and occupying a Middle-Eastern nation.

Eliminate our Dependence on Oil

Just about everyone concedes that the Iraq war is about oil. If we didn't need it, would our government really care about what happens in the Middle East? I doubt it. Oh, and I think everyone agrees that burning oil is perhaps not the best thing for the long-term health of our environment. So let's look at how $3 trillion could help end our oil addiction... and possibly save the world for future generations.

According to FPL Energy, ...wind-generated electricity has become more economical to produce in the past 10 years, dropping from as much as 30 cents per kilowatt-hour to 4 to 7 cents... the cost to develop and build a wind energy facility is approximately $1.3 million to $1.7 million per megawatt.

Okay, let's look at wind, alone (there are lots of other options, too, but I live in windy Kansas). Here's a diagram of current United States energy consumption:

Click the image to see the story.

Overall, the US uses about 40 quadrillion (40,000,000,000,000,000) BTUs of petroleum energy per year (to get electrical units, divide BTUs by hours in a year - 8760 - and then by 3413 to get kW/hr). In more conventional terms, that's about 1,337,887,502 kilowatt/hours or 1,338 megawatts. Assuming that volume production and other efficiencies reduce the cost of building wind turbines to $1 million per megawatt, constructing wind generators to replace all of the US petroleum consumption - that includes industrial, transportation, home, and everything - would have a total price tag of $1.3 billion... is that correct? If so, why aren't we doing it?

Help me with my math here; I got $11.7 trillion using another calculation. Let's assume the higher number is correct, because if the cheaper number is true, I feel like firing our entire government right now.

So, okay, $11.7 trillion is four times our war-alternative budget, so let's look at this more realistically.

The US is the third-largest producer of oil in the world at 8,367 barrels per day. Unfortunately, we use 20,588 barrels per day, a deficit of 12,221 barrels per day. So all we really need to do to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil is use about 2/3 less oil. Oh, and once those generators are built, we start raking in profits from selling the electricity; you know, instead of paying other people for consuming their oil.

So cut our budget for going all-wind-power by two-thirds, add in profits from that electricity, and you obviate the need for such a war. Heck, it just makes fiscal sense to invest in a profit-generating venture than burn money, pollute the air, and accelerate global warming.

Didn't anyone in the NeoCon Planning Office take this into account? Surely they could have hired Halliburton to do all the construction, giving their cronies the same money - assumedly why they're doing this in the first place - without all the death and destruction.

I was going to offer other suggestions, but this is just making me depressed to consider how else we could have spent the wasted trillions. In fact, I started this post a month ago but stepped away when I realized just how stupid is our government for engaging in such a wasteful, destructive adventure when we could instead be making the world a better place and ensuring the survival and growth of the human species.

So: Instead of building the science-fiction future we all dream of occupying, the NeoCons set us on the path toward the dystopic futures also depicted in SF. Thanks.

Chris out.
This little tidbit in the news - which probably won't get very widely reported - could well result in World War III and the end of the world as we know it.

Am I over-reacting? Hopefully. But we know that China has threatened to invade Taiwan if it makes a move toward independence. And we know that the United States has declared that it will defend Taiwan against any such aggression.

Considering that most of our conventional military forces are wrapped up in the damned-fool NeoCon adventures in the Middle East1, we would have to respond to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan using unconventional weapons, or else we'd be seen as impotent - something the NeoCons cannot abide. Using unconventional weapons against the Chinese invasion would prompt them to do the same. In addition, every little anti-American national and terrorist leader out there would see this as the green light to unleash their own unconventional weapons against us and everyone else they hate.

If we were not over-extended in Iraq, I doubt that China would invade Taiwan. But with things as they are now, my doubt drops way down. About the only thing that can stop it now is if one of the scary intelligence agencies of the world executes (or threatens to execute) Chen before the movement comes up for a vote. How much do you want to bet that this happens? Or he has a middle-of-the-night "heart-felt conversion" to the other point of view, followed shortly thereafter by a resignation and a move to another country.

Yes, though this little news item doesn't say it aloud, it suggests that the Bush Administration might well end modern Human civilization (or at least the US as we know it) and possibly the Human species itself. I guess they would get their totalitarian government if this all comes to pass, one way or another. How's that for a legacy?

Best wishes,
Chris

1 ...As part of their efforts to establish a totalitarian government in the US. Or so it would seem - why else would we be in Iraq? Weapons of mass destruction? No, only to feed fear in US citizens and keep up the new-enrollment rolls for al-Queda et al.
This image of the Earth being hit by a large-ish asteroid links to an interview with astronaut Rusty Schweickart, who's leading the effort to identify and track all the near-Earth asteroids and devise a plan to save the species when threatened by them.

Click the image to see the story.

In sum:

"We literally are the top of the pyramid of life in the universe, as far as we know. At least in this corner of the universe, we're it. And it seems to me that we have collectively a certain responsibility to see this incredible experiment in life continue. It seems to me there is a kind of obligation, since we're self-reflective beings, to take some responsibility for the future. It's not something to lose sleep over, but safeguarding the future of life, that's something worth working on."

Hear, hear! By the way, his organization dedicated to identifying and preparing for near-Earth asteroids is the B612 Foundation. Check it out.

Best,
Chris
Earth Day was yesterday, folks, so in honor of that, here's Bill Maher's commentary:

The Birds, the Bees, and Earth Day

by Bill Maher

New Rule: From now on Earth Day really must be a year round thing. And in honor of this Earth Day, starting Monday supermarket clerks must stop putting the big bottle of detergent with a handle on it in a plastic bag. I don't mean to tell you how to do your job, but you see that handle you just lifted the detergent with?

I can use that same handle to carry the detergent to my car. And stop putting my liquor in a smaller paper sack before you put it in the big paper sack with my other stuff. What, are you afraid my groceries will think less of me if they see I've been drinking? Trust me, the broccoli doesn't care, and the condoms already know.

Here's a quote from Albert Einstein: "if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man." Well, guess what? The bees are disappearing. In massive numbers. All around the world. And if you think I'm being alarmist and that, "Oh, they'll figure out some way to pollinate the plants..." No, they've tried. For a lot of what we eat, only bees work. And they're not working. They're gone. It's called Colony Collapse Disorder, when the hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, and all that's left are a few queens and some immature workers -- like when a party winds down at Elton John's house. Also, if your stinger stays up more than 48 hours, call your doctor.

But I think we're the ones suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder. Because although nobody really knows for sure what's killing the bees, it's not al-Qaeda, and it's not God doing some of his Old Testament shtick, and it's not Winnie the Pooh. It's us. It could be from pesticides, or genetically modified food, or global warming, or the high-fructose corn syrup we started to feed them. Recently it was discovered that bees won't fly near cell phones -- the electromagnetic signals they emit might screw up the bees navigation system, knocking them out of the sky. So thanks guy in line at Starbucks, you just killed us. It's nature's way of saying, "Can you hear me now?"

Last week I asked: If it solved global warming, would you give up the TV remote and go back to carting your fat ass over to the television set every time you wanted to change the channel. If that was the case in America, I think Americans would watch one channel forever. If it comes down to the cell phone vs. the bee, will we choose to literally blather ourselves to death? Will we continue to tell ourselves that we don't have to solve environmental problems -- we can just adapt: build sea walls instead of stopping the ice caps from melting. Don't save the creatures of the earth and oceans, just learn to eat the slime and jellyfish that nothing can kill, like Chinese restaurants are already doing.

Maybe you don't need to talk on your cell phone all the time. Maybe you don't need a bag when you buy a keychain. Americans throw out 100 billion plastic bags a year, and they all take a thousand years to decompose. Your children's children's children's children will never know you but they'll know you once bought batteries at the 99 cent store because the bag will still be caught in the tree. Except there won't be trees. Sunday is Earth Day. Please educate someone about the birds and the bees, because without bees, humans become the canary in the coal mine, and we make bad canaries because we're already such sheep.
=====

Best,
Chris
.

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