Thursday, April 29, 2010

independence day

Stephen Hawking was wrong about aliens on TV, so here's my rebuttal. His first dumbass bullshit error was thinking aliens would be interested in Earth, as if they would need things like oxygen, water, food, and comfy temperatures. They would not. A species advanced enough to leave its planet behind would also leave its biology behind. That's to say they'd turn themselves into robots. More specifically, they'd turn themselves into creatures that can make use of the 99.999999999% of planets that don't support delicate little meatbags like us. If they're interested in our planet, it would only be because they want to grind down all the mass in our solar system to make space concrete, and Earth is just one more pebble for the pebble machine. (Aside: A more plausible motive is that they want to assassinate us in case we're a threat to them in the future.)


Hawking, the vast majority of 20th century science fiction, and almost every person, have made the same error. When we speculate on aliens, we have a biological blind spot: ET might be advanced enough to turn the laws of physics upside down, but reengineering their own bodies would be too much for them. Or they'll have some spiritual reason to avoid it. However plausible those excuses might be, there's one gigantic fact that puts them in perspective: If just one species could enable itself to inhabit the 99.999999999% of planets that the others couldn't, it would rule the galaxy. All the other species who find bioengineering too difficult or ungodly would find themselves either wiped out or irrelevant.

Hawking seems convinced aliens will be amoral. His reasoning is that their intentions will be determined by the universal law of evolution. For morality is given to them by natural selection, and if it ever becomes a liability, natural selection will taketh away. That's no longer true once you remove your bio-blind spot. If Earth is just one more pebble, they have much less to lose by sparing us.

His third significant dumbass bullshit error is thinking for a second that any of this matters. If aliens want to find us, they will, with or without our help. The only difference we can make is how they'll judge us by the messages we intentionally send them. Exhibit A, from the Pioneer 10 probe:

Those symbols might seem confusing at first, but they utilize the universal language of mathematics to explain that we're gay. We may as well have sent this out:

That's why, despite my disagreement on some details, I have to side with Hawking. He's at least trying to use logic. The other side is just gay. I didn't want to call them out like this, but they started it, with their emotional appeals and 69ing with the same sex. The possibilities surrounding aliens are vast. So vast that almost everyone's wild speculation is valid and awesome, and criticizing another's speculation is (a) a waste of time that could be better used to wildly speculate, and (b) asinine. Whoops.

Less importantly, I hate when those speculations invoke Columbus and other intercultural incidents. Way to suck all the fun out of the discussion, guys. We're supposed to be talking sci fi, not history. I get that history has important lessons in it, but this is one case where it does not. Humans all breathe the same air, have the same mental quirks, and swim up the same fallopian tubes. It would be impossible to tell whether any lesson gleaned from a human-on-human encounter is applicable to an alien-on-human encounter, or irrelevant human noise. If you want reliable information, you should invoke only the most basic principles of evolution and game theory.

(Aside 2: I know I heard Hawking say this exact same stuff on TV like 10 years ago. I guess he wants to say it again now that he has a blogosphere to set ablaze.)

(Aside 3: Anyone else notice how they used the lettering from the Alien movies, complete with the vagin-I, for this episode subtitle?


My opinions of the people I've characterized in this post are the opposite of what you've just read.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Two more songs I've wanted to use in cadence for years, and finally got my chance today. Immigrant Song and Formula 409:

I looked up the video after the fact. I liked that song before, but now it's ten times better. I had to lower both songs a few octaves due to tired. That made the Led Zepplin sound pretty weird. When I sang, "And now you better stop," everybody thought that meant stop singing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

my labored analogy is art

There's an argument raging across net about whether video games are art, started by Roger Ebert. I've only seen the argument on one small corner of the net, but I imagine it's pandemonium all over.

Here's where Ebert's argument fell apart:

    "One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite a immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them." [bold mine]

He defined himself right. That's so disappointing. But the article goes on as if he doesn't even realize his argument fell apart. And it was a much better read after that point. Because I didn't care about the argument anymore. All that was left was the question of whether video games are art. It's such a Big Unanswerable Question, that arguing over it seems almost banal. I have to say "almost" because I can't think of a better way to have all these various perspectives on this interesting question delivered to me.

Maybe it's an unfortunate economic reality of the whole internet argument medium. If someone wants to create an interesting discussion about video games and art, the only way he can market it is by trying to score points and win something.

In case you're missing the point, I am not siding with the other guys. Here's where their argument fell apart:

    "Bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch." [bitch mine]

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

master of puppets

I'm often leading cadence on runs, and I've been trying to get my class to sing Master of Puppets for two months. And I finally did it this morning. Priorities!

Meanwhile, this made me laugh more than usual. Maybe because I've actually been in a fighting hole with an atheist and Christian, listening to them argue for hours. It's a good thing it was only training, because that would be the worst way to die.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I was thinking about epitomes today because I've encountered quite a few recently, and most of them were in 2012. It wasn't the epitome of suck, but it came close. It contained two epitomes of terrible plot clich├ęs, which is a remarkable accomplishment for one movie.

The first is that recent trend in disaster movies that focus on regular jackoffs instead of scientists, politicians, and military people. This is supposed to make the movie more realistic and closer to home. But I don't want see regular jackoffs. Putting them in extraordinary situations doesn't make them interesting, it makes them worse. It raises the stakes, so their dumbass regular jackoff decisions cost lives, so they become infinitely more irritating. And the jackoffs in 2012 were the boringest I've ever seen.

The second epitome was a contrived moral dilemma. Charismatic Guy argues with Fat Guy about whether they should let some thousands of people onto the rescue ship. What made it an epitome was that the arugment was 100% free of facts. There was no information to help the viewer decide who was right, or even what their motivations were. Actually, it did show a little of Charismatic Guy's motivation. He was surprised at the last minute that there was plenty of physical space available on the ship for more people. That was weird because he was in the know on the whole rescue project, so he should have known the basic logicsitcal situation. But he was apparently unaware of any real metrics of people capacity, like how much food they had. The only fact he had to base his whole argument on was that the thousands of people in question would have legroom.

And, and, all the other national leaders contributed nothing to the discussion. They were sitting around waiting to see whether the good American or the evil American would sway them. So they took on their extra passengers, and then, before they had to resort to cannibalism, they were all saved by blind luck. Short-sighted emotional arguments win again. In your face, logic and fat people.

And here's the epitome of hyperbole. Just when I thought the whole rotten hyperbole industry was too rotten, here it comes and totally redeems itself. It's not that much of an epitome, but I feel like I have to manifest the image that popped into my head.

I'm pure evil for thinking that's funny. But who isn't these days?