Wednesday, January 6, 2016

How many angels can dance on the head of an astrophysicist?

A dozen sounds about right:
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) -- Clusters of stars on the fringes of our Milky Way galaxy may be home to intelligent life. That's that word from an astrophysicist who's new to probing extraterrestrial territory...
DiStefano said the approximately 150 globular clusters in our galaxy are old and stable, a plus for any civilization. In addition, so many stars are clumped together it would be easy to hop from one planet to another, keeping an advanced society going.
Whether she's an astrophysicist or not, I'm pretty sure there's no actual science occurring here.  We do not, in fact, know if there's other life in the universe*. So we really have nothing to base any actual scientific calculations on.  I'll admit, that "old and stable" globular clusters might be a plus. It sounds logical, even reasonable. But how much of a plus? 10%?  How much of a plus is meaningful to our unmeasured civilizations? Only 7.5% plus or minus the inverse of the stability? Or does it require 15% minus the age of the youngest in degrees kelvin?  Without measuring any actual civilizations, we can have exactly zero idea. All we can gain is a vague sense of reasonableness about something we know nothing about.**

Where many stars are clumped together, I'll confess that it might be easy to hop from one planet to another, assuming there were any planets or anyone to do any hopping, neither of which we know.  Or it might be very hard - plenty of people are sure we haven't even hopped to our moon, and we are the most advanced people we ever heard of.  But how close is close enough and how easy is easy enough? Again, we have no idea, because we have absolutely nothing real to base our calculations on. Everything must be filled in with guesses, not measurements.

Now sure, this is a just a press report of a speech that has "Study:" in the title - so there may or not be an actual study, and there might be some actual science that the reporter chopped because she couldn't hack the math. And who can argue against the assertion that "Star Clusters Might Host Intelligent Civilizations"?  They might. They might also host magic volcanoes that play Pinnacle and belch Justin Bieber blow-up dolls into deep space.

Somebody somewhere might have scienced. But in all likelihood, a young astrophysicist is making a name for herself by creating wish-filled fomulas*** for the sort of people who think Neil deGrasse Tyson is a pretty clever guy, or that lobster tastes better when paid for by the university.

Nice work if you can get it. But not really science, so much.

* Well, we crazy religious people know. By 'we' here I mean humans who are certain that all life in the Universe arises from non-life through natural, materialistic processes. 
** That used to be called 'natural philosophy' before lab coats were invented.
*** Even 'educated' guesses, if ultimately based on no data, are mere wishes.


  1. All we can gain is a vague sense of reasonableness about something we know nothing about

    Welcome to just about every branch of contemporary science. The funding gets better as the vagueness increases.

  2. I have always believed that ten dancing angels would be the limit, and that would entail slow dancing.

  3. I have firmly decided that intelligent alien life forms are the replacement for God to many scientists. Though unintelligent will work too, they are less likely to fulfill the wet dream of many scientists and wipe man out. There are other options, and I have seen those as well, such as mundane, or even very complicated, superstitions. Academia has outlawed God, for as little as that serves them. Because, no matter what, especially among some of the, technically, smarter folk, who see God in everything they do no matter how much they wish to deny it, there is no getting away from God. It would be like trying to deny one lives on the earth, for political or social or other reasons. You can deny it, you just can't do it reasonably. Thus aliens.

    Are there aliens? Simply, we don't, and can't, know. All data indicates there are none. Same as with God, in blindly scientific proof sort of way (if proof doesn't mean, in science or math as you know, anything like how it is bandied in common talk).

    Oh, as to how many angels dancing? If they wish it, all of them. Once you step outside of time, or come into time while not a part of it, physics just isn't the same. That is how God, for instance, can "know the future". He is there, and in the past, and now... all of 'the time'. Time is like an old jukebox, events the records on the jukebox... only every event in time is on there. Even if ordered chronologically, He is outside of chronology and so can select an event to play in our past, or future, or now, with it, to Him, being all the same in some sense, only our experience of it separating things. The physics that attests to that, likewise, makes the impossible, in other ways, simple. Walking on water or reviving the dead are child's play with time, and the physics about it, mastered. Although some of my uncles really just don't like to dance, so... If you must, 10 is as good as any other number. :p

  4. frankly, this just looks like attention whoring on *HER* part. there's nothing new in this, except possibly the theorizing specifically about globular clusters ( and i'm pretty sure even that isn't new ).

    after all, Drake formulated his equation ( specifically as a talking point, not pretending to be real science ) back in 1961.

    what's going to be scary is when these female physicists figure out how to work false rape accusations into their hypothesizing. then there'll be no end to this.

  5. Replies
    1. i've seen it, or it's like, before.

      frankly, it's obvious that the 'Drake Equation' was never anything but supposition factored by supposition to the power of supposition. pointing that out should be within the intellectual capacity of any normally developed grade schooler.

      to the extent that large swathes of the population are incapable of doing so is simply a testimony to the effectiveness of public schooling and the NEA.

      Government schooling is about "the perfect organization of the hive."
      H.H. Goddard, Human Efficiency (1920)

      one problem i have with Crighton's essay, he asserts that it was the SETI fad of the 1960s which corrupted science.

      this is historically absurd.

      Marx was asserting 'scientific communism' ( really, where are your double blind studies? ) before 1850 and Freudianism was in gear, and 'scientific' ( just look at all muh case studies ... which i completely fabricated! ) well before 1900.

      our permitting sloppy applications of what the term 'science' is affixed to is at least the better part of 200 years going now.

  6. Too lazy to read, but I suspect the proximity of so many stars might result in excessive radiation that might be bad for life, intelligent or otherwise.

    1. a-yup.

      and it's not just a blue giant radiation issue. a sun in a dense star pack is also going to be constantly having 'near misses' from other stellar bodies and debris.

      this means that structures like the Oort cloud or an asteroid belt would be constantly bombarding the inner system due to perturbation of the orbits.

      you get a Chicxulub every million years and even the most fervent evolutionist is going to have a hard time making a case for the development of intelligence, much less civilization.