Why I believe we’ll find aliens – leading expert on search for intelligent extra-terrestrial life

By plaits via Flickr

By plaits via Flickr

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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By Seth Shostak, SETI Institute

The Conversation organised a public question-and-answer session on Reddit in which Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, explained why searching for intelligent life is so important and why we may soon find it.


Why are we continuing the search? For instance, isn’t it true that radio waves become almost indistinguishable from background noise just a few light years from their origin?

We can detect radio waves from billions of light-years away, and without a whole lot of trouble, either. The idea that they become indistinguishable from noise at some small distance is incorrect. With a big enough antenna, you can always find the signal.

But the broader point is that we now know two things that we didn’t know 20 years ago. First that planets, including ones that might be like Earth, are incredibly plentiful in the visible universe.… Read the rest

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Threats to a Free Press, from Ferguson to the White House

Upton sinclar 1.jpg

A strong appeal for the importance of the beleaguered Fourth Estate from a key member, Katrina vanden Heuvel, in the Washington Post:

This is a terrible time for journalists.

Just last week, the world watched in horror as James Foley, a freelance photojournalist for GlobalPost and Agence France-Presse, was beheaded by a jihadist from the Islamic State. The disturbing video suggests that the perpetrators intend to target more journalists if their demands are not met.

There is something particularly chilling about murdering those seeking only to inform, about reporters around the world having to fear for their lives. But right here at home, we’re seeing a less lethal, yet still deeply troubling threat to journalism.

In recent days, all eyes have been on Ferguson, Mo., where the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9 touched off citywide protests and a national debate over racism, equal justice and police brutality.

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Richard Feynam’s Physics Lectures Are Now Available For Free

Photo of Richard Feynman, taken in 1984 in the woods of the Robert Treat Paine Estate in Waltham, MA, while he and the photographer worked at Thinking Machines Corporation on the design of the Connection Machine CM-1/CM-2 supercomputer. Copyright Tamiko Thiel 1984 via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Richard Feynman, taken in 1984 in the woods of the Robert Treat Paine Estate in Waltham, MA, while he and the photographer worked at Thinking Machines Corporation on the design of the Connection Machine CM-1/CM-2 supercomputer. Copyright Tamiko Thiel 1984 via Wikimedia Commons

Saw this on io9 and thought it would be a great thing to pass on.

via io9:

The complete online edition of The Feynman Lectures on Physics has been made available in HTML 5 through a collaboration between Caltech (where Feyman first delivered these talks, in the early 1960s) and The Feynman Lectures Website. The online edition is “high quality up-to-date copy of Feynman’s legendary lectures,” and, thanks to the implementation of scalable vector graphics, “has been designed for ease of reading on devices of any size or shape; text, figures and equations can all be zoomed without degradation.”

Volume I deals mainly with mechanics, radiation and heat; Volume II with electromagnetism and matter; and Volume III with quantum mechanics.

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Neuroscientists Watch Imagination Happening in the Brain

Elements - Imagination by Hartwig HKD via Flickr.

“Elements – Imagination” by Hartwig HKD via Flickr.

Via ScienceDaily:

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one,” sang John Lennon in his 1971 song Imagine. And thanks to the dreams of a BYU student, we now know more about where and how imagination happens in our brains.

Stefania Ashby and her faculty mentor devised experiments using MRI technology that would help them distinguish pure imagination from related processes like remembering.

“I was thinking a lot about planning for my own future and imagining myself in the future, and I started wondering how memory and imagination work together,” Ashby said. “I wondered if they were separate or if imagination is just taking past memories and combining them in different ways to form something I’ve never experienced before.”

There’s a bit of scientific debate over whether memory and imagination truly are distinct processes. So Ashby and her faculty mentor devised MRI experiments to put it to the test.

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7 Important Details Nobody Mentions About Ferguson

Ferguson protests, 15 August 2014 by Loavesofbread via Wikimedia Commons.

Ferguson protests, 15 August 2014 by Loavesofbread via Wikimedia Commons.

How pathetic is it when Cracked is more informative in an article replete with fart videos than CNN, Fox, and MSNBC put together?  Cody Johnston writes:

On August 9, 2014, an unarmed black youth named Michael Brown was killed by a white police officer named Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, after some kind of physical altercation between the two. Several eyewitnesses claim that Brown put his hands above his head in surrender and pleaded with Wilson to not shoot him, which Wilson did. This event led to protests in the streets, and things got worse from there. It became a convoluted mess of misinformation, no information, and some actual information, so here is every important truth and lie that you need to know to understand the situation. Due to the sensitive, controversial, and racial nature of this series of events, and how it’s being retold by a white man-child on a comedy website, I will be using several farts from butts to explain everything to you.

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What Caused The Red Glow Over the Pacific?

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What do you think caused it?

via Mysterious Universe:

The pilot and co-pilot of a Boeing 747-8 flying from Hong Kong to Anchorage, Alaska, were passing near the Russian peninsula of Kamchatka when they observed a fiery reddish glow over the Pacific. With no other planes in the area at the time to confirm the sighting, they took pictures of and reported to Air Traffic Control, then completed the flight to Anchorage. So … what was it?

On August 24, 2014, Dutch pilot and photographer JPC van Heijst was five hours into the ten hour flight when he spotted a single intense bolt of light shoot vertically into the air. There were no other flashes or storms in the area or on their radar. Twenty minutes later, he saw the red glow. Having heard reports of earthquakes in California, Chile and Iceland, he checked for quakes or volcanic activity on the route but saw no alerts.

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How the Ancients Should Have Built the Pyramids

1024px-Kheops-Pyramid

Nina at the Norwegian bokmål language Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons

Joseph West and his team suggest that the easiest way to build the pyramids would have been to roll the blocks.

via Medium:

The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt is the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world to survive largely intact. Almost 4000 years old, it is a vast structure constructed from 2.4 million limestone blocks, most about 2.5 tonnes but some weighing in at up to 80 tonnes. These were largely sourced from local limestone quarries.

That raises a famous question. How did the Egyptians move these huge blocks into place? One theory is that the blocks were dragged along the sand which offers reduced friction when lubricated with water. But although the Great Pyramid is close to the Nile, many pyramids are not and this would have made the transport of water as big an engineering task as the movement of the blocks.

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A Letter From Franz Kafka About the Memories of Words

Franz_Kafka_1917

To Selma Kohn*

[Entry in an album]

How many words in this  book.

They are meant for remembrance. As though words could carry memories.

For words are clumsy mountaineers and clumsy miners. Not for them to bring down treasures from the mountains’ peaks, or up from the mountains’ bowels.

But there is a living mindfulness that has passed gently, like a stroking hand, over everything memorable. And when the flame shoots up out of these ashes, hot and glowing, strong and mighty, and you stare into it as though spellbound by its magic, then–

But no one can write himself into this kind of pure mindfulness with unskillful hand and crude pen; one can write only in such white, undemanding pages as these. I did so on September 2, 1900

Franz Kafka

*”Selma Kohn Robitschek, daughter of the chief postmaster of Roztok (Roztoky), on the left bank of Moldau, 7 1/2 miles north of Prague.Read the rest

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Henry Kissinger on the Assembly of a New World Order

NWO“Henry Kissinger on the Assembly of a New World Order” is the actual headline of this op-ed by Kissinger himself in the Wall Street Journal. You can’t say he isn’t out front and center!

Libya is in civil war, fundamentalist armies are building a self-declared caliphate across Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan’s young democracy is on the verge of paralysis. To these troubles are added a resurgence of tensions with Russia and a relationship with China divided between pledges of cooperation and public recrimination. The concept of order that has underpinned the modern era is in crisis.

The search for world order has long been defined almost exclusively by the concepts of Western societies. In the decades following World War II, the U.S.—strengthened in its economy and national confidence—began to take up the torch of international leadership and added a new dimension. A nation founded explicitly on an idea of free and representative governance, the U.S.

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