Intelligent Or Not?
Despite my daily bellyaching about the dopes who are running for prez and the lunatics who populate this holy land, I really believe we’re living in the very coolest days.
For instance, astronomers from MIT and Belgium’s University of Liège, working together, have determined that three planets orbiting a nearby ultracool dwarf star have similar temperatures and sizes to the Earth and Venus and maybe — just maybe — can support life.
Artist’s Conception of Nearby Dwarf Star & Its Planets
Now, these space geeks are using the term ultracool to describe the actual thermometer readings on the little star and its planets. Me? I’ll use the term to describe…, well, how freaking ultracool the whole damned thing is.
The astronomers will study these exoplanets closely because they’re only 40 light years away, which translates to just a few blocks more than 235 trillion miles. Hell, in cosmological terms, that’s nothing, like the distance between Starbucks in [pick your town].
Now what if scientists determine there’s life on one of these hunks o’rock? Well, first, we have to establish precisely what life is. Honestly, that’s the huge philosophical quandary researchers are grappling with these days. There’s a dizzying array of criteria that various smart gals and guys insist are the real deal. For instance, the walking brains at New Mexico Tech are convinced these are the seven criteria:
- Living things are composed of cells. I have loads of them.
- Individual living things are constructed of a ascending set of organizations, from cells, to tissues, to organs, and –finally, to each organism. That latter category would include you and me.
- Living things use energy. Even I do, on occasion.
- Living things respond to their environment. Me too, except when I’m taking a nap.
- Living things grow. You should see my waist size.
- Living things reproduce. Nope, not me.
- Living things adapt to their environment. Except when I refuse to; remember, I’m a contrarian.
I dunno. NMT’s list of criteria seems too vague. Hell, rocks respond to their environment. Have you ever picked up a smooth pebble on a beach?
NASA’s Phoenix Mars Mission page posits its own seven properties of life:
- Order: Molecules in living things are arranged in specific structures.
- Reproduction: Living things have the ability to reproduce their own kind.
- Growth and Development: Living organisms grow and develop in patterns determined by heredity, the traits passed to offspring by parents.
- Energy Utilization: Living things need to capture and use energy, a process known as metabolism.
- Response to stimuli.
- Evolutionary adaptation.
See? Already we’ve got a debate going on. Here, lemme try to settle it; in my readings, I’ve determined these five criteria define life or, more accurately, the properties of a living thing:
- Ability to build DNA, ATP, Ribosomes, & proteins
- Active metabolism
- Evolution (mutation & selection)
Then again, we can’t even agree on what is life here on Earth. To wit: Is a virus alive? Is the entire planet and all living things on it really a single living entity, as put forward in the Gaia hypothesis?
In any case, what might we discover on these three planets 40 light years away? A civilization that has developed agriculture, technology, and the game of baseball? Or some slime on a rock face?
You know very well you, I, and everybody else around wants us to find a thriving civilization, just so we can show off to them our cat pix on social media. I’m afraid, though, the first ironclad proof of life on another planet will look something like this:
Sure, I’d be excited about these guys. A little bit. Well, nah, not really. This’d pretty much be a bummer.
Anticlimax or no, we’re going to find life on another planet sooner rather than later. That, babies, is ultracool.
Well, sure, there’s life here on planet Earth but is it intelligent life?
Take my beloved hometown of Chicago. Acc’d’g to a recent piece in The Nation, the City of Chi. has pissed away more than $600 million on police complaint settlements in the last dozen years.
The city could have used that half a bill.-plus, funding municipal employee pensions, rebuilding infrastructure, or giving teachers a fat raise.
Instead, Chi.’s cops fire away at unarmed dark-skinned young men, beat like red-headed stepchildren others, and arrest grannies and harmless protesters with impunity. Many, many, many of these recipients of Chicago police excesses sue the city and then collect massive payouts to settle.
Wouldn’t it be a tad more cost effective to train the goddamned police the right way and weed out the bad apples on the force?
For pity’s sake, when beings from another planet looks at the Earth — specifically, Chi. — in their own search for intelligent life, they’ll equate us all with the aforementioned slime on a rock face.
New World monkey George Zimmerman is back in the news. Apparently, the guy who killed Trayvon Martin more than four years ago, got his pistol back from prosecutors because, y’know, under this holy land’s Wild, Wild, West laws, pumping a guy full of lead is no big deal. So the gun, which had been evidence, now is safely back in the hands of the racist, paranoiac, pointer of guns at girlfriends, estranged wives, and the fathers, road-rager, and otherwise teeterer on the brink of violence and mayhem.
Georgie-boy seems always to need money, mainly because this benighted nation does not recognize a hero in its midst and refuses to properly recompense him simply for being itchy with his trigger finger. He’s sold a bunch of jingoistic, puerile paintings and now — oh yeah — will auction off the gun.
The bidding, on a site called gunbroker.com, starts at $5000. Don’t worry, you haven’t been left in the dust — or gunpowder — as the bidding will begin this AM at 11.
My guess is a successful bid will come in at a level a hell of a lot higher than a paltry 5K. There are enough people in this nation who view Zimmerman as a great man that, if you really think about it, would cause you to toss and turn all night long.
Zimmerman’s description of the firearm includes the following lines:
Prospective bidders, I am honored and humbled to announce the sale of an American Firearm Icon. The firearm for sale is the firearm that was used to defend my life and end the brutal attack from Trayvon Martin on 2/26/2012….
Many have expressed interest in owning and displaying the firearm including The Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. This is a piece of American History….
The firearm is fully functional as the attempts by the Department of Justice on behalf of B. Hussein Obama to render the firearm inoperable were thwarted by my phenomenal Defense Attorney….
On this day, 5/11/2016 exactly one year after the shooting attempt to end my life by BLM sympathizer Matthew Apperson I am proud to announce that a portion of the proceeds will be used to: fight BLM violence against Law Enforcement officers, ensure the demise of Angela Correy’s persecution career and Hillary Clinton’s anti-firearm rhetoric….
Now is your opportunity to own a piece of American History. Good Luck. Your friend, George M. Zimmerman….
Someone soon will proudly possess this symbol of Murrica’s sheer lunacy and Georgie-boy himself will have a pocketful of blood money.
May 12th Birthdays
Cosimo II de’ Medici — Scion of the 15th Century Florentine ruling family, Cosimo as a youngster was sent to study under the then-relatively unknown Galileo Galilei. He recognized the scientist’s genius and became Galileo’s financial patron.
Florence Nightingale — She professionalized nursing and was instrumental in the founding of the world’s first secular nursing school at London’s St. Thomas Hospital. A tireless reformer, she pushed for programs to feed the hungry, strove to eliminate laws against sex workers, and advocated women joining the workforce.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti — 19th Century British poet and painter and the brother of poet Christina Rossetti. His illustrations of his own and others’ poetry stood as inspiration for the development of Aestheticism, an arts movement away from social issues and toward sheer visual beauty.
Katharine Hepburn — Named the Top Female Legend from American film history by the American Film Institute.
Dorothy Hodgkin — 1964 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry for her development of protein crystallography. Later, she identified the structure of insulin. Her interest in wealth inequality led her to hang around the fringes of communism. She also fought for world peace, becoming president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.
Mary Kay Ash — Frustrated by women’s second-class status in the workplace, she founded Mary Kay Cosmetics partly as a way to help women succeed financially and in business. Her business plans always stressed women helping women.
Burt Bacharach — He knew the way to San Jose.
Bacharach With Dionne Warwick In Background
Tom Snyder — Late night talk show host described in National Lampoon magazine as the “living room gibbon.”
George Carlin — One of the funniest — and most serious — people ever to grace a stage.
Bebel Gilberto — Isabel Gilberto de Oliveira, Brazilian singer and composer, daughter of Joao Gilberto and Miúcha. Joao, collaborating with Antonio Carlos Jobim, was at the forefront of the development of bossa nova and Miúcha was herself a beloved Brazilian singer. Bebel has become a star in her own right and has worked with the likes of David Byrne and Stan Getz. Her style ranges from electronic bossa nova to acoustic lounge.
And finally, ah, I didn’t care much about anybody who died on this date.