Archive for category SO Alone In The Universe.

Not finding life all over the place

Posted by on Sunday, 28 December, 2014
Not finding life everywhere




If you’re going “Enough with life on Mars”, I’m sorry.


I know there’s too much not finding life  going on.

You lost interest in life-finding years ago, right? But who cares? We keep not finding it, right?

Recently, we didn’t find it on Mars. Also, we recently didn’t find it on Titan or on Europa or on Io.

Not to mention the exoplanets, planets circling other stars, where, it so happens, we also haven’t had much luck. Plus, very excitingly, we now know there’s a dwarf planet called Ceres. Ceres is fairly warm, probably has oceans full of water and isn’t that far away.

We didn’t find life there too.

Not finding life is pretty much everywhere these days and, you know what? We’re just starting.

No life out there? Don’t get used to it

I hate to squash the hopes of the “Not Lifers” but things don’t look that good for them, in the long run. The Mars rover, Curiosity, has finally made it to Gale Crater where it has analyzed the rocks and found organic molecules and “puffs” of methane. Organic molecules are (often) a sign of life. Puffs of methane? Same thing (although that isn’t for sure either). Philip Gillet (Earth And Planetary Sciences Laboratory) says a meteorite from Morocco (but once from Mars) has organic chemistry that is “probably” biologic.

While these latest discoveries may turn out to be another Didn’t Find It Moment, that can’t go on forever. Sooner or later – sooner, in my opinion, we will find a microbe somewhere – somewhere besides our own silly planet.

Unless something unmistakably alive walks by one of our cameras, we probably won’t have a “That’s it!” moment for life on Mars. Maddening as it is, that’s the system. As the evidence grows, life becomes “more likely”. One day, maybe the evidence for life elsewhere will be “accepted”. If you’re a Not Lifer, you’re in for a surprise, not a shock.The idea of life “out there” will, I think, just gradually work its way into our heads as the evidence grows.

– – – – – –

The drawing is mine.

NASA to send unconscious astronauts to Mars

Posted by on Tuesday, 14 October, 2014
Sleeping to Mars




NASA needs a refresher course in being human. Its latest idea is just too “cold”.

One of NASA’s contractors, Spaceworks Engineering, has proposed turning Astronauts into popsicles. The plan would keep Astronauts on a Mars mission “on ice” – hypothermia – to conserve supplies and to shrink the size of the spaceship. The unconscious astronauts would be fed intravenously and maintained by medical equipment.  Like in sci fi movies, they would be in “hibernation”. Doctors have been doing similar stuff for heart attacks and head injuries. Believe it or not, it works well.

If it works for heart attacks, why not for astronauts?


First some background.

Up till now, “manned” space trips have consisted of stiff legging it around the moon or orbiting in space hardware like the space station. The planets were considered out of reach to humans.

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad never had a problem with the way things were. We’ve sent all kinds of “probes” to the planets. And we’ve explored the heck out of Mars while humans stayed mostly in earth orbit. There have been some deaths and injuries in our space program but we’ve done a lot of science without many casualties. Now there’s a big push to get humans out to Mars to “fulfill our destiny”.

This isn’t because people are a better deal then robots .

They’re not.

It’s much more expensive and much riskier to send people. Radiation is intense out there -really intense. A space ship big enough to carry people and supplies and provide some radiation shielding for such a long trip would be hard to create. Sending humans on a long journey makes everything more complicated.

For a while, I wasn’t worried. Let them lobby Congress about getting humans to Mars, I thought. Let’s face it, Congress will never bite. What’s bad about the “frozen astronaut” idea is that, with the lower costs, Congress might actually fall for the idea.



Look, it is is true that doctors have been succesfully cooling people who might die otherwise. It’s risky but it’s worth it. It takes a while to recover from a heart attack, or a busted head. Slowing things down by cooling the patient gives the body a chance to catch up with the healing process.

Astronauts aren’t dying though. The only thing wrong with their heads is that they take crazy risks. They’re in great shape. Keeping them chilled, asleep, and on intravenous lines for that long is dangerous. All kinds of bad things can happen to their hearts, their lungs, their circulatory systems, etc.  Induced hypothermia is okay in a medical crisis.  But it is not okay in the name of smaller, cheaper space ships.

We’ve been getting good science done on Mars with our rovers. And Robots will only get better – if we don’t use up too much robot money tossing men and women at the problem.

An analysis of the space shuttle indicated that 99 out a hundred flights would succeed. The one in a hundred that would fail? Believe me. You don’t want to know!

The shuttle was  just a space taxi. It was a complicated mess but making a shuttle is nothing compared to making a Mars mission. It’s too early to say what the “risk analysis” would be for a Mars mission but there’s nothing about traveling a zillion miles through intense radiation, relying on fragile systems to protect you for months and maybe years, that sounds safe. Nobody has explained how we would safely reduce levels of radiation to anything near acceptable. And do you know a bookie who would like the odds for surviving the trip and landing safely?

If they do get there, they will have absorbed way too many “rads”. They would still look like astronauts but inside that space gear would be people who were actually nasty medical experiments plunging into the abyss.

Irresponsible? You said it!

I’m not picking on NASA.  Well –  maybe I am – but, mainly,  I’m just pointing out that we should resist the irrational urge to “head for the stars”. It would be cool to see people in space suits up there (if they weren’t wretching and dying, of course) but robots are safer, cheaper, and better.

– – – – –

The drawing is mine.

The “Welcome to Earth” generation calls it quits

Posted by on Thursday, 28 August, 2014
A generation without aliens

The “No Aliens” Problem


Aliens were somewhere. Not  on the moon but probably Mars.

Maybe Jupiter and Saturn too.

Astounding Science Fiction wasn’t the greatest place to get your science but in high school, we relied on it. Astounding told us about the caves that aliens lived in,  the mean things they did,  and the methods of transport they would use to land on Earth.

Myself,  I was very pro alien. I had high confidence that they weren’t going to eat us. And –  more important – that they wouldn’t get all the girls.

By college,  Earth was still alien free. I had Dr. Medicus for physics. Aliens were the least of my worries.

Ten years later,  there was still nothing .This was a surprise. Not a single visit from a single planet. The first American had landed on the moon but no extraterrestrials had returned the favor. We were headed for space but space wasn’t headed for us.

By now, we were launching probes to the planets. The more we saw of the planets, the more obvious it was that there weren’t any cities up there. Venus was hot and shrouded in vaporous clouds of sulphuric acid. Mars was colder than Antarctica and its surface was full of craters. And Saturn was gaseous with rings of rocks and ice.

Scientists were fascinated, of course.

Me?  I couldn’t BELIEVE it! Where were the damn cities? Alien life wasn’t as common as my generation had thought it would be or as Astounding Science Fiction had (more-or-less) promised.

For quite some time – since 1960 – radio astronomers on earth have been looking for signals. By 1977, we thought we might have heard from our first alien. That signal is now called the “WOW” signal because of the exclamation scribbled across the stripchart.

We never heard it again nor have we received any other credible signals since. If we do hope to find some form of intelligence, we are going to have to look harder. And further.


In the late 80s, we learned about “exoplanets.” An exoplanet was a planet that was going around some star other than our own sun; maybe we would find evidence of life by analyzing the atmosphere of an exoplanet. The first of these things was discovered in 1988 circling Gamma Cephei. We have found hundreds of them by now. They’re very common. There are hundreds of billions in our galaxy. Many, many trillions across the universe.

If you’re a fan of aliens, this makes you happy.


I am in my seventies. I have spent almost an entire lifetime waiting. Nothing has turned up and I don’t think anything will.  The horrible fact? We are completely alone in the solar system and aren’t hearing from anybody in the “neighborhood”.

Will we ever find life?

Some day we will find microbes . The hunt for “bugs” is more intense than ever but, as far as locating our “co-equals” out there is concerned?  We really haven’t heard from any other technical civilizations. Not when I was a kid. Not when I was an adolescent. And not during my ridiculously long life.

Not one.

If there are alien civilizations, radio isn’t a handy way to prove it. The nearest “civs” are probably too far away for radio round trips. It takes too long to get an answer back and the signals would probably be hopelessly drowned out by noise.

Want more?

It seems the “broadcasting era” is a short one for a technical civilization. We’ve been switching to buried optical fiber cables. The “other guys” would have done the same things too after a very short time so there are b-i-g problems capturing a signal that’s probably not even “out there”.

No signal, no contact.

Even more?

Even if, by some miracle of cosmology, we did get ourselves a signal, many experts say we would “never in a million years” be able to extract the meaning. This is because of the problems of how the signal would have been modulated, because of digitization schemes, and, of course, figuring out a (very) foreign language from a (very) foreign culture.

Here’s what it comes down to. For my generation, big eyed aliens are off the menu. If they’re out there, they’re way out there.

They might as well not exist all.

There won’t be any warm embraces with un-Earthians. No White House tours. No revelation of the wisdom of the ages.

Maybe bugs though.

Is this fair?

Doesn’t my generation deserve better?

I think so.

On behalf of my generation, this is MISTER ScienceAintSoBad bidding goodbye to the aliens who never showed up.

– – – – – –

The drawing is mine.



Posted by on Sunday, 26 January, 2014
Cartoon about a world where geeks are cool




You come back time and time again to read about the latest stuff in science and technology.

And it’s  much appreciated.

You really never know what I am going to be talking about.  How could you? I don’t myself.

Some of my articles deal with medical” advances” and some deal with physics or  chemistry or astronomy. Sometimes it’s economics. Sometimes it’s the IPhone. Or Google’s Android products. When I write about abstract stuff – string theory, fusion power, or firewalls in black holes, you’re like “I would love to catch up with you and read that latest blog post but, thing is, I have to visit my aunt” .

I really don’t think you have an aunt. Am I right?

I love all that stuff about the beginning of the universe. What could be more fascinating then that tender moment when out of nothing – or almost nothing  –  an early universe appeared? In that first incredibly small fraction of a second, out of about a gram of matter, a process (inflation) began and ended much faster than the flicker of an eye and kicked off what we call the ‘Big Bang” expansion of the universe. There are mysteries within mysteries there. Where did that gram of matter come from? What was happening in the sliver of time just before that moment? What is the role of so called dark energy and dark matter? Is there more? Something out beyond the universe we can see? More universe? Other universes?

I imagine writing the  ultimate article about “The Beginning”. There’s a  nice cartoon with it. I’m thinking “They’re gonna love this!”

“Honestly?”, you say.  “If I don’t change the air filter in the car today, when will I get another chance? How about I skip that little universie deal and check in with your blog later in the week? Maybe you’ll have something to say about self driving cars.”

Recently, I wrote an article about Prince Charles and how he’d gotten himself into the middle of the homeopathy controversy. When the article went live, to my surprise, I was swamped with readers! Was it the mention of the ever popular Prince Charles? Or was it your fascination with the wackier kinds of “alternative” medicine?

It’s hard to guess what you will find interesting because, after all, “you” is a mysterious amalgam of individuals who come and go. Some of “you” write textbooks on astronomy and some of you read science fiction while you’re waiting in your beat  up taxi for a fare. There’s only one me but – when I’m lucky, anyway – there are many of you. Sometimes I get it right. Sometimes I drop a bomb and nobody – well almost – comes.

Bill and Marion and Danny come but I sorta take them for granted.

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad writes because – actually? I’m not sure why I write. I just do. The size of my audience doesn’t change anything. I’m not poorer if you don’t come and I’m not richer if you do.

That  “counter” I mentioned? The one that tells me how many readers I get? And how many articles they read? It keeps me aligned with my readers and their interests.  Maybe it’s vanity but I feel bad when you would rather check your air filter than read my latest article.

My point (if any)?

You read medical articles. If there’s a way to beat rheumatoid arthritis or hodgkin’s lymphoma or migraine headaches, you’re interested. Something for a bad back and you’ll read me for sure. Same for hearing loss.

Balding? Heck. A guy will ignore the love of his life for a few minutes and read every word of a new and promising drug that made a mouse look like Liberace.

Where medicine is concerned, I try as hard as I can to be a good partner. I know that being sick sucks; I do what I can to call your attention to important new developments and to steer clear of the blood suckers out there. For the “business of life”, I write about electronics and computers and refrigerators, and vacuum cleaners. I should do it more often but I’m no flipping Consumer’s Union. When I do, I try to sprinkle a little scientific sauce around. Nothing wrong with that, right? It’s my job.

Here’s the thing.

I won’t stop writing about  how life began or even how the  universe  got going/will end. Or whether quarks are  the smallest form of matter or are made of even smaller things. Or whether there’s evidence for life somewhere. I know I have to work harder to pull an audience with those blog posts.  And I’m not mad at you for choosing a spaghetti dinner over me. If I lose out to good food on a science article, it’s not your fault. I didn’t use enough seasoning. I’ll do better next time, okay? You’re not obligated.

We’ll work on that bad back of yours. But stay open. I’ll hook you on cosmology yet.





Posted by on Saturday, 5 October, 2013

Round trip to Mars


The United States is under pressure from Congress to to reduce costs wherever it can. Can we really afford a project to send humans to Mars? Is the payback worth the expense and the risk?

Lawrence Klauss is a  physicist from the University of Arizona. He’s great at the lecturn. I like to watch him debate.  He’s smart and funny. For some time now, he’s been pushing the idea of humans on mars. To get around the main objections (cost and risk) he says make the trip to Mars one-way. In an interview on NPR’s “Science Friday”, Klauss  discussed robots to assist human settlers. He said that robots will keep getting better and, by the time we are ready for a manned trip, they may be almost as good as the human astronauts.

So that’s what we should do, right? Send robots?

Well no. Instead of reaching the “obvious” conclusion, Klaus  feels Mars needs a human space colony.  Making it a one way trip would lower the overall cost of the project and the space ship could use less shielding against potentially deadly radiation since the total exposure to the passengers would be cut in half. Lawrence Klauss’ idea now has an organization behind it. The Mars One Project which has the goal of putting humans on Mars by 2023.

 ScienceAin’tSoBad respectfully doesn’t get it.

I don’t want to sound like a broken blog, but the idea of sending humans to Mars keeps coming up and I keep saying forget it. The idea is ridiculous! What about the unbelievable ethical implications of exposing a crew to HALF of a fatal dose of radiation? After the first joy-filled months will some of them get sick and die? How would you feel if that happened? Would the colonists that survive have kids? With two severely radiated parents, can you imagine what the first native Martians would look like?

The Mars colony idea is probably too expensive for congress. But what if it were to fund it? Would that justify putting people at such risk? Shouldn’t our focus be on building great robots that may someday  enjoy  watching the sun set over the earth?

Let’s go to Mars. But let’s go vicariously.

– – – – – –

The image is by me.



Posted by on Friday, 1 June, 2012
What Planet Are YOU ON?

What planet are YOU from?


What planet are you from? This is something people ask me all the time. Would they ask it if I didn’t have a propeller on my beanie?

The thing is, the list of planets  is growing.


According to Roger D. Blandford (Director of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University), there could be as many as 4,000,000,000,000,000 (4 quadrillion) stars in the Milky Way. or about 10,000 planets for each sun.

Isn’t that 9,992 more than anybody’s noticed for our own sun/star? If they’re out there, where, really, could they be that they’ve gone undiscovered all this time?

Dr. Blanford’s referring to a fairly new category of planets called “rogue planets” which, unlike Mars and Venus and Earth and other civilized rocks, don’t orbit a star but, instead, roguishly follow their own independent paths. According to this theory, when galaxies collide, they disrupt the orbits of planets, sending them off hither. And thither. And yon.

No longer orbiting a star, they would have tended to escape the notice of astronomers and planet hunting satellites such as Kepler. But if life had already become established on such planets before they got bumped out of orbit, life would have a good chance of surviving its new sunless condition  (and THAT is according to  Dimitar D. Sasselov of Harvard).

Well. Let’s be careful.

There’s some evidence in this stuff. Which makes for good science. And there’s some speculation in this stuff. Which makes for fun science. Mister ScienceAintSoBad would be remiss if he didn’t dispense a pinch of salt with this study for now.

More to come.


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

(The hat is from China Wholesale Town, by the way.)



Posted by on Wednesday, 9 November, 2011




Remember how Doctor Spock and Captain Kirk, in the Enterprise, were always running into alien life forms? I don’t believe they ever explained, exactly, how the plug uglies they encountered happened to be up there (or maybe I missed that episode). Did they evolve from monkeys just as we did? Very homely ones? Were their planets colonized by refugees from Earth who, under the constant bombardment of gamma rays on Alpha Four, began to look like they had a case of bad stage makup?

Maybe there’s another explanation for how alien civilizations get their start. Two researchers at the University of Hong Kong say the “building blocks of life” are everywhere, waiting for the deft touch of nature (or, if you prefer,the finger of God) to turn them into living cells.

They (the researchers) say stars make a petroleum like substance which is full of complex organic molecules. Aromatic rings, even. This  “Star Goo”, eventually, spreads throughout space.

The last time we watched life get started – um that would be the first time too – it happened in the wink of an eye. A cosmic eye, anyway. Since we know there are lots of planets and lots of water out there and, now,  thanks to Kwok and Yong Zhang , we know that every star in every galaxy contains  an E Z STARTER KIT FOR LIFE , it’s a good bet that there are plenty of living creatures to be found.


Doesn’t that just suck?  Living creatures inhabiting biological niches throughout this busy universe, and, yet, we continue our lonely existence with no practical way to know who or what is out there? Life everywhere but “not a single drop to drink”?

As it were.

For a while, the SETI Project seemed like it might come up with something but it’s beginning to dawn on some that we’re probably barking up the wrong antenna. Our own civilization sends out very few stray radio waves anymore.  More underground cables. Less antennas. If it’s like that, upstairs, this is bad news for SETI.

Sad, I suppose, although, maybe it’s good for us to figure things out on our own. And, maybe, we’re better off without yet another higher power. Heaven KNOWS we’re having enough problems with the lower ones.

Get this though. There may BE a way to sniff out another civilization. Wouldn’t aliens, independently, come up with the idea of artificial light? Just like we did? It makes sense.   Abraham Loeb and Edwin Turner think so. Loeb (Harvard) and Turner (Princeton) feel that a well lit alien city could be detected with a sensitive telescope. It would have to be  more sensitive than anything we have now but, with the right filters, a new generation of telescopes might do the trick.

At least, that’s the theory.


Image by Mister SASB


Posted by on Thursday, 22 September, 2011


Maybe you hate Google.

Some do.

But you gotta admit, the big G is creative. Ideas fly out of Google  faster than films out of Bollywood – Picasa, YouTube, Maps, Panoramio, Android, Earth, Bookmarks.. Always something new.

How long can creativity like that last?

Well, recently, Google announced that it is trying to be  more focused. The  workers were having too much fun. Too much fun is never good. It annoys the investors. Hence, going forward, there’ll be no more throwing piglets at walls to see what sticks. According to Larry Page, there will be “more wood, less arrows”. (Larry’s the CEO and gets paid to maintain order). To get the wood properly aligned with the arrows, Google flipped through its multitudinous projects  to see what could go. Some projects were closed down, some remained. And some got combined. Just  in case the “we’re serious dudes now” message wasn’t clear, Google Labs, itself, got the ax.

Is creativity finally wrung out of Google’s guts? The time  spent on “go crazy” projects  (which used to be 20% of the work week) has been reduced to .. Well.. 20%. No change at all. So I guess creativity isn’t eggzactly a thing of the past. Just reducing the arrows is all. This, supposedly, keeps “The Street” happy.

One  project that was killed  is aardvark. Which you probably never heard of. It works like this.

Say you finally dumped the Subaru.

“Google,” you say, ” I finally sold my 1995 Subaru. What do I do now?”

Good question. I’m  on this.

I’m thinking “Subaru. This person probably shops at Whole Foods, wears natural fabrics, and wishes the Tea Party would drop dead!  He.she  should probably be looking at a Prius. Or a Mini.”

Well, dear reader,  aren’t I smart! In fact, I’m smarter then Google’s famous search engine which would choke on that question. And WHY am I so smart? Because I got DNA in me. I’m a human. Maybe Google Search will be that smart some day.

Don’t be a breath holder.

Well, a while ago,  Google Labs (rest in peace) realizing the problems of  “natural language” ,  decided to  waste an arrow. Maybe Google could come up with a way to get humans in the loop for certain questions.



The idea with aardvark was to “social up”. Users get to check off particular areas of knowledge. They become volunteer experts. They become the blood and bones of the animal.

As it were.

Mister ScienceAintSoBad (in his human guise) was such a user. He claimed to know about science.

Questions began to show up. Most were dopey.

As someone who works almost every day, is to stay in shape with little time? 

Sounds like a fortune cookie, doesn’t it? He was probably looking for an efficient way to exercise. No WONDER it came to me. Probably because I checked off physics.

Another on-target question:  What is the best way to tell my girlfriend I love her in every-way possible, and I don’t think she is annoying or anything she says bad about herself. 

Whatever! I don’t consider myself an expert on this subject. If I were qualified to give advice on romance, would I wear these thick glasses and dress funny? Anyway, his syntax is off. If English is his second language, I’m impressed. If it’s his first one, he needs a new dictionary.

I’m looking for a excel spreadsheet app for ipad 2 that can use imported email documents that are excel spreadsheets already from a computer.

Okay, bubs. That’s legit, I guess. But kinda lazy. Ever hear of the App Store?

And here’s a guy who really doesn’t “get” natural selection: While some species ascend high in the atmosphere it seems as if birds do not fly too high for their safety. Do they, and if not how to they know what are safe altitudes for them? Why does say a magpie not have a go at flying up to geese migration heights?

That same day I received: How can you use only two fours to equal 4? Well, I passed on that one. Too deep for me. Maybe, the submitter isn’t originally from this solar system.

I also asked aardvark some questions of my own. I wanted to know if the minuscule vibrating strings that string theory’s based on can run out of gas. In other words, are they subject to the second law of thermodynamics?

In string theory, all “particles” are comprised of vibrating strings. The associated energy and mode of vibration of the string determines which specific particle the string will be. My question: does the energy of the vibrating strings decay over time? Do the laws of thermodynamics (entropy, in particular) apply at this level?

I got this response:

Well, I’m no expert, so feel free to restate the question when the answer is unsatisfactory. I believe a string will change its energy and mode only when it comes into contact with another string. This would be the same for conventional objects, except that the objects around us come into contact with other object all of the time, hence the decay in vibration energy.

He’s “no expert” but he BELIEVES that a string.. Always good to have someone share his opinions, I guess. I did wonder why he didn’t let the question pass  to someone who KNEW the answer. But I was polite.

I thanked him.

I believe you are right though that’s what I hope to confirm. You refer to “conventional” objects. I assume you meant things that are, by convention, particles in the Standard Model (quarks et al).

Goes out on a limb:

No, they don’t apply at that level.

As I suspected but I was hoping for a bit more explanation. I thank him politely and ask why.

Sorry, I can’t help with more explanation

Can’t tell me with why. I don’t like this. If you know what yer talkin’ about, you can defend yer answer, right?

Just to clarify. You’re saying you know that the rules of thermodynamics don’t apply at that level but you don’t know why? If you don’t know why, may I (respectfully) ask why you’re so sure of the answer?

He, bravely, goes another round.

Thermodynamics is about macroscopic variables. String theory is about particle physics. I’m sorry if this doesn’t help and hope someone else can give you a satisfactory answer.

This is nonsensical (but it didn’t fool you, did it?)  Anyway, I knew there wasn’t any more juice to be extracted. In the interest of civility, I was probably hypocritical:

In fact, that confirms my own understanding. Sorry to be pushy but I couldn’t tell from your very brief statement if you were just “playing” at aardvark as, unfortunately some do. I’m not sure what motivates people to do things like that (pretend to know when they do not) but it forces you to make a judgement about whether a responder is reasonably knowledgeable. Actually, you seem at about my own scientific level and I appreciate your thoughts on this.

I suspect that what’s going on at the string level is that a string is, in essence, a quantum of energy. Without an additional energy transaction, it is eternal. Maybe I will hear from a physicist who knows.

Later that month I tried to clear up my understanding of the way that separate particles get tangled up with each other over vast distances.

Does quantum entanglement transmit information faster than the speed of light (virtually instantaneous)? Some things I’ve read say that useful information can’t be sent this way. Others seem to suggest that this is an open question.

My answer came back:

Depends on your interpretation of “transmits information”. Unmeasurable things, such as a quantum state and phase, change instantly. But measurable things, things that are within the reach of experiments, cannot be used to transport information faster than light. Quantum physics has this loophole that some physical quantities are unmeasurable, out of reach for any kind of detection. That’s why Quantum theory can play this trick on us: a physical measure changes faster than light, but not a measurable one.

Thanks, Dan, for a knowledgeable and understandable answer. ( Not your fault that quantum mechanics is so damn nuts!)

I knew we were looking for radio signals from “ETs”. I wondered how far are we looking?

SEARCH FOR EXTRATERESTRIAL LIFE: I realize that the SETI program, itself, is currently mothballed, but I’m curious about something. What are the realistic distance limitations on this kind of radio search before noise is likely to overcome even a strong signal? Are their expectations of being able to identify (not translate, just identify) an intelligent signal beyond, say, 1000 light years? Further?

The answer arrived:

ask Carl Sagan

According to Brian Greene (and others), strings are under great tension but are not necessarily anchored at the ends. What force, then, balances this tension?

I don’t know, but sometimes he himself answers this kind of questions on his facebook page:

on: his personal fb page announcements can be found when he is answering questions (he is very kind)

I admit I got a little testy. For heaven’s SAKE!

If you don’t know, don’t answer. OK?

If you don’t know the answer, don’t respond, OK?

He got testy back and raised me one:

Did you know that you can ask him questions by yourself? What is YOUR problem to talk with me like this? NOT OK! WTF?! You could ignore my ! ANSWER. AND, DO NOT SCREAM AT ME, OK? Keep in mind when you do not know an answer, it’s important to know, who knows it. Thank you.

I gave you a direct link to one of the people who definitely will be able to answer you. Even much more trustworthy then me.

Who could answer your questions better then one of the scientists, who invented all that theories? You make me angry!


no, not you make me angry, not even know you, sorry David.

Rage management, anyone?

My last exchange was with someone who asked:

What are some must-have android apps?

I said:

This one is easy to figure out with Google search. No need for aardvark, really. Lots of articles about “favorite” or “best” or “must have” apps. However, these lists probably tell you more about the writer than anything else. “Must haves” really depend on you and your lifestyle/work style. They also depend on your phone since not all apps work on all version of Android. 

As far as I am concerned, I like to set the home screen on the computers I use to “iGoogle” and then add “gadgets” for Google “tasks” “calendar”, “finance” (stock portfolio), and Google documents. Then, on the phone I set up corresponding apps. This way, all my “stuff” gets synced to all my computers/phones. Other apps I rely on are the kindle ereader app (small, of course, but always with me), note everything, and spreadsheet. Of course, “Navigator”, Google’s GPS system is terrific. Comes with my phone. Yours too, probably.

He already knew:

Ha ha I know. I asked this because I wanted to know how aardvark worked.

Thanks for the ride, aardvark. It’s been real.

Credit for the above image to Abraham Williams and Flickr Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.


Posted by on Wednesday, 24 March, 2010




Hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy. Hundreds of billions of galaxies.  Lots of stars and lots of planets.

Lots .

How many restless alien souls are looking this way, wondering what’s over here?


Meanwhile, we’re looking for planets; we’re listening to signals; and we’re trying to figure out how to tell  if a planet has life on it from a long, long distance away.

If we keep at it long enough, won’t we come up with something?


MISTER ScienceAintSoBad knows it’s been a while since we started “the search” (in the 1980’s).  One of our first readers, BlaseBoy14 says: “If it were out there, we’d a heard by now.  If it was gonna happen, it woulda happened.

Well, yeah, MISTER ScienceAintSoBad‘ll fall of his chair about the same time you do if we do hear from the pickle brains in the Andromeda Cluster. But stay with me here.  You knew the Red Sox would never win the World Series, didn’t you? You knew an African American would never become President of the United States, right? And you knew those electronic book things would never catch on and replace real books. So let’s SAY you’re wrong this time. Let’s just SAY we get “pinged”. What do we do?

“We’re HERE! We’re HERE! We’re HERE! Whoopee! Oh BOY!


No reason not. They’re gonna be too far away to hurt us. Plus they’ll be wise and kindly.  Maybe they’ll tell us how to end wars.

Nuh uh.  We have an agreement. I’m sure you never heard about this, but there’s to be NO talkin’. At least not till we’ve checked around with all concerned parties (which would be, more-or-less, the occupants of this particular rock).

paper by Michael Michaud, written back in 1991, talks about what’s to be done before answering a signal received from ANY non-Earthians but, basically, it consists of some careful checking around to make sure us Earthians are on the same page about accepting the tiny risk that off-Earthers we’re chatting with, turn out to be the North Koreans of Andromeda.



Then there this:

We’re wasting money looking for intelligent life “out there” when we should be spending it on our own people right here on earth. At 10 billion dollars a month, this stupid diversion of funds is more expensive than a major war. And what good is it? How’s it going to help us to hear the a-m-a-z-i-n-g opinions of some slithery space creatures? I say close down the programs and concentrate on poverty in this country.  – Proud2BeLiberal14

Aw Proud. You should be ashamed.  Here’s the cost of war . And, anyway, your numbers are all wrong. Searching for intelligent signals is cheap, cheap, cheap and the funding is private.


science ain’t so bad’s t-shirts and mug’s and such

The Scientific Work Of Amy Bishop

Posted by on Sunday, 21 February, 2010

An Assertive Professor

Shoot! No Tenure.

“It didn’t happen. There’s no way … they are still alive.” – Amy Bishop, being taken to jail.


Amy Bishop (Assistant Professor Of Biology at the University of Alabama) figured out that  her colleagues weren’t gonna give her tenure.

So she shot them.

TOO assertive, we think. They say she also  shot and killed her brother in 1986, was a suspect in a bombing, may have assaulted someone in a restaurant and, supposedly, had a long history of hinkey behavior.


You, the readers of Science Ain’t So Bad, aren’t the SORT to be titillated by violence.

Or sex, for that matter.

If you’re here, you’re here to read about science and technology and, I’m sure your questions about Dr. Bishop are more about her scientific work.

Proud OF you!

Well, as a published author, Bishop isn’t prolific. R Douglas Fields (Psychology Today) took a look and says the list is short.

Her newest stuff is about nitric oxide, a compound that has multiple and important uses in human (and nonhuman) biology. Her research leads her to a radical view of the causes of MS –  a view which is still considered pretty “iffy”. Shooting her colleagues, obviously, might not add weight to her arguments, although, strictly speaking, scientific ideas should be evaluated on their own merits.


An article in the Boston Herald says Bishop included her minor kids on at least one of her papers.

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad thinks that’s nice. If she hadn’t done such awful things and if her contributions were solid, the “kids on the research paper” thing wouldn’t get counted as a foul here.

The article by Fields also describes a system for maintaining neurons in cell culture – an “automated Petri Dish” – for which Bishop had obtained a patent. If the device was getting lost in the noise of all the other patents, that should change now. (No such thing as bad news? Do I believe this?). But Fields sounds dubious about the prospects for the invention.


As far as Bishop’s teaching is concerned, her student reviews didn’t seem bad. Look for yourself.

Nobody’s  heartless enough to give a ScienceAintsoBadRating on this one.  Instead, we offer our sincere condolences to those who have suffered, including Bishop’s own family and we mourn the almost certain loss of her  potential contributions to the scientific world and to the community at large.