Science, it turns out, is really, really cool.
Above is a takeaway after this NYTimes story ambitiously titled "Yes, There Have Been Aliens". Which, maybe. At the least, it assumes that the development of interplanetary civilizations happens at timescales that don't matter on a galactic scale, but the Universe is only ~14B years old, and life around our sun took at least 4B years to develop which is a nontrivial timescale to be working with. Also, there's this delightful quote:
In previous discussions of the Drake equation, a probability for civilizations to form of one in 10 billion per planet was considered highly pessimistic. According to our finding, even if you grant that level of pessimism, a trillion civilizations still would have appeared over the course of cosmic history.
We might just be really bad at estimating. And of course
By asking this question, we could bypass the factor about the average lifetime of a civilization.
So, really, even if there have been aliens, this says nothing about whether they're still around or whether they'd be recognizable in any way. It's both an interesting story, and an interesting story to ask questions of. (Still in the realms of science fact, though)
Also, doing science right takes time. Over a decade after beginning trials, severe MS reversed with Stem Cell therapy.
Science isn't always encouraging. First mammal species wiped out by human induced climate change, and looking at how driverless trucks are going to decimate the workforce.
via Jo Lindsay Walton's new blog on economics and SF, an island where money is gigantic stone disks that never get physically transferred and where at least one is lost in the ocean but still in circulation. (Reminder: we're back to science fact, here).
By strange quirk, a lot of things came together around volcanoes and N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season recently. Amal El-Mohtar tweeted her reading (and whetted my appetite for The Obelisk Gate), so you could follow @tithenai if you don't want to miss future reading. Also we've figured out volcanic lightning which I didn't even know was a thing, but apparently it is. Jo L Walton has a bunch of smart notes about The Fifth Season
A sustained downgrading of the concept of "the end of the world." The world ends all the time, it's nbd. A sustained play on the shared planet we all live on and the (capitalist individualist?) personal world, as in "my whole world shattered that day" or "my son was my whole world" (really? Did he have an atmosphere? Arable lands?) Cf. in its many variants, "nowadays it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism." Question: how does this book make me feel, in the end, about ecological catastrophe? More anxious or more comforted? And what else? And does what it makes me think align to what it makes me feel?
(Reminder that I talked to Troy & Khaalidah about The Fifth Season a while back)
And finally, one of my favorite podcasts, Flash Forward, did an episode on volcanoes which basically captures everything I love most about the podcast, so I want to take a minute to talk about why. The premise of Flash Forward is that each episode, a possible future (some more likely than others) is considered. There's an opening clip of imagined audio from that possible future, then a conversation with some experts about the future. Here's an episode about getting rid of mosquitoes, and here's one about sex robots.
The opening clip for the most recent episode (which imagines that all active volcanoes erupt simultaneously) includes some actual reports from recent iceland eruptions and imagined reports from elsewhere in the world, including an extended broadcast in spanish. (I'm assuming some of the shows famous easter eggs are hidden there). It's engaging, both pulling me into the scenario and lighting up flashes of recognition and delight.
Then, host Rose Eveleth talked to a volcano expert. What happens when you're nearby? What is "nearby"? What is an active volcano? What, in other words, is this crazy world we live in, and what's going on with this strange future that's easy to summarize but hard to pin down?
Finally, Rose interviewed "two people most likely to survive this scenario", an outdoor adventurer and a prepper. For me, the best episodes of Flash Forward are the ones where Rose finds an obvious-but-unexpected consequence of the future and brings in a guest I'd never have anticipated to explore it. (Although hearing Lois McMaster Bujold talk about artificial wombs in episode 1 was cool too). I wouldn't have thought of survivalists or preppers, and in general I'm not particularly interested in the prepper community, but it was an excellent way to close and remind me that the world is a lot bigger than the bubble I've found for myself.
So basically go forth and subscribe to Flash Forward pod. It's all the best of science fiction - the crazy "what if" scenarios, and the reminders that what's already around us is pretty strange and wondrous. And read The Fifth Season.