Language of Science — Using the Right Terms in Communication

Language of Science: Stars

Language of Science: Our sun

In the language of science, our sun already has a name. It’s called Sol. Here we see the sun up close with a limb flare hurtling from the surface (2007:0112). Hinode JAXA/NASA (PD).

In college, my astronomy professor insisted that people were messing up the language of science by using the word “sun” for other stars. There was only one Sun, he said, and it was in our daytime skies.

I understand this need to keep the language of science precise. If we don’t, things get messy and meaning is lost. But we also need words to communicate ideas that are brand new to our language. Inventing new words can be fun, but frequently people with the original need are too busy (or lazy) to create the new words that people will incorporate easily into the common vocabulary.

I had to disagree with my professor on this one word—sun—for it seemed perfect for the new usage. To me, a sun is a star which has planets. A sun is a parent to its flock of worlds. Our own sun already has a proper name: Sol, as in Solar system.

Perhaps ironically, I have my own bone to pick with other scientists on their “sloppy” use of “solar” to refer to any system with planets. Sol is the name of our sun. Our Solar system is the system of Sol—not Alpha Centauri, not Rigel, and not Upsilon Andromedae. What’s the alternative? Call all other planetary systems, “planetary systems.” The obvious solution was right in front of their noses all the time. If they want to be specific, then call the planetary system of Rigel, the Rigellian system. Alpha Centauri? The Alpha Centaurian system. If the names get to long and unwieldy, then drop back to “planetary system.”

When you refer to a person’s home, it’s usually the person’s last name and the word “home.” For me, it would be the “Martin home.” But I don’t go around calling the structure where the Smiths live a “Martin home.” It would be the “Smith home.” See? Clarity in communication.

I’ve started creating a series of monthly videos on constellations of the zodiac. No, this isn’t astrology—it’s 3D astronomyCancer Birthday Zodiac — 3D Astronomy Interesting Star Facts. With this series, I hope to improve on the language of science while also entertaining and educating.

Language of Science: Planets

Language of Science: Earth

In the language of science, our world has a name, but it’s not very nice. Spinning Earth by NASA (2016:0529, PD).

I don’t like our planet’s name. Dirt? I may not be a terribly sophisticated guy, but this seems worse than merely “common.” Oh, sorry. Not “dirt,” but “Earth.” There’s “earth,” which means soil or dirt, and there’s “Earth” (capitalized) which is regrettably the current name of our planet (at least in English).

Latin anyone? We could use “Terra.” That’s used in numerous science fiction stories and sounds somewhat more impressive until you realize that it has practically the same meaning as “dirt.” Ouch!

In our planetary system—The Solar system—the other planets were given names from myth and legend. Mars was the Roman god of war. The planet, because of its reddish color, reminded folks of blood, too often seen in battle. Venus was the Roman goddess of beauty and love. The planet, because of its bright white purity, reminded people of that purity.

So, in Roman mythology, the goddess of the Earth was Terra. Groan! Her name was the same as the common word “terra” which meant “earth, or ground.” The earlier name used during the Republic and possibly earlier, was Tellus, which came from the common word for “land, territory or earth.” I don’t like “Tellus” because it sounds too much like a request for feedback.

“What planet are you from?”

“Tellus.”

“Well, if I knew, I wouldn’t ask you!”

The Greek primordial goddess, Gaia, is no different. Her name also means “land” or “earth.”

So, perhaps we’re stuck with Dirt or Earth, after all.

Language of Science: Climate

Language of Science: Storm

Someone has been playing around with the language of science, especially in climate. Storm clouds near ocean coast at sunset. Photo: 145897 by ics3djc via Morguefile.com.

In the last few years, I’ve studied climate science in great depth. My studies actually began in the mid-70s when a PhD forest ecologist friend of mine retired and gave me his two books on climate. But my interest really took off after Al Gore’s infamous film, An Inconvenient Lie. (Oops! I think I got the title wrong.) What piqued my interest was not so much the film itself. Actually, my interest skyrocketed when I found out that my love of his film was sorely misplaced—that I had been wrong!

In the language of science, words are critical for precise understanding. When the popular media messes with the proper use of words, it makes it more difficult for people to understand what scientists are talking about. But in the realm of climate science, it seems that the problem runs far deeper.

Now, scientists are starting to use the messed up definitions. Even NASA has gone stupid on the language of science. Their website even has a page on “scientific consensus.” Why is this bad? Because “scientific consensus” is an oxymoron—a self-contradictory phrase. Why? Because science is never done by consensus. Otherwise, scientists would vote rather than run experiments.

The fact that NASA has gone so incredibly stupid on the language of science is both hilarious and infuriating. But this isn’t some accident. This isn’t merely a colloquial or common use of terms falling into the wrong hands. This is a strategic crippling of language for a hidden, sinister purpose.

Corrupting the Language of Science with Conspiracy

Language of Science: Conspiracy book cover

In the language of science, “conspiracy” is a dirty word. Ironically, it shouldn’t be. This is the cover of “Dirt Ordinary: Shining a Light on Conspiracies.”

If you feel “conspiracy” talk coming on, then you’re right. But let’s clear the air about this highly-charged word. Conspiracy, to many Americans is equivalent to “fantasy.” They shun any such talk as if it were a prostitute walking in on gentile society.

Curious behavior. Why do Americans have that reaction? When I taught college here in the Philippines, my students did not have that reaction. To them, conspiracies were quite common. They knew their government had been corrupt numerous times, and that it may well have been corrupt then.

When one of my own students asked me if one incident in history involved a conspiracy, I noticed that I flinched. My own reaction had been unnatural and uncomfortable at the mention of the word. I felt in my bones a longing to distance myself from the conversation. The feeling had not come from me—not my conscious thought. Somehow, the feeling had been implanted in my subconscious. It felt foreign.

Looking back, I remembered dozens of times when the word “conspiracy” had been mentioned on talk shoes, news programs, commentary and even in movies. Every one of them ridiculed the barest mention of conspiracy. They ridiculed even simple questions which could imply conspiracy. Had this been born naturally in our own American culture, or had someone transplanted it there? And why?

This got me curious. So curious that I ended up researching and writing a book on the topic—Dirt Ordinary: Shining a Light on Conspiracies. Intellectually, I knew that conspiracies are not fantasy, but I still had the gut reaction to withdraw from the topic. Inside of me, it seemed there were two of me—a programmed reaction—a robotic self—and a critical thinking self who could not believe the reaction.

It was like going to a serious business meeting and suddenly jumping up and down like a chimpanzee without knowing why. Who was pulling my strings? And could I cut them?

In my research, I was shocked to find that there are at least 489 new conspiracies starting every second, on average, day-in and day-out, all year long, and every year. And that’s based only on documented conspiracies. We have to wonder how many undocumented ones there are. Every war started with at least one conspiracy. Many corporations have been guilty of several conspiracies—perhaps even hundreds. The fines ordered by the courts attest to that. When two or more criminals get together to cooperate on a heist, a drug sale or some other criminal activity, they have conspired to do something unethical or illegal.

Do the math. This means that at least 29,340 brand spanking new conspiracies begin each minute. That’s at least 1,760,400 new conspiracies every hour. You get the picture—dirt ordinary.

So, why do so many Americans react the way they do to the topic?

In forums and blog article comments, I’ve frequently read someone saying, “Not everything is a conspiracy.” Wow! Did I learn something new? Not!

Of course, not everything is a conspiracy, but to treat conspiracies as fantasy, or merely rare, is to dabble in self-delusion. To dismiss all talk of conspiracies without digging deeper is a product of willful ignorance. Not very bright. But that used to be me at one time. Surprise! Changing my mind was not easy, but it was possible. Thank goodness.

Conspiracies Corrupting Climate Science?

Imagine you run into a muscular drug addict on a dark street at night. He hasn’t had a fix in days and he’s hurting. He needs money and he’s desperate. One look at you and he’s like, “Oh, boy! Salvation. I can take this guy, easily.”

Two minutes later, you wake up from the sidewalk minus your wallet.

Selfishness and self-concern are a bitch. When pushed into a corner with our lives or sanity threatened, we might do some unsavory things—theft, extortion, assault and even murder. Not every one of us, but most of us. This is the heart of evil—that impulse to put self first. That fear that, if we don’t do something, we’ll suffer horribly. That viewpoint of us versus them. But it’s not the only possible viewpoint.

Now, imagine a Multi-Billionaire anxious for that next billion. Naw! Got enough money.

Instead, he hungers for more power—the only thrill left. Imagine that this Billionaire and his buddies want to run the entire planet, but ordinary folk like you or I would never allow such a thing. We’re in the way. And the biggest barrier in the way is the freedom-loving United States of America. How do these billionaires get rid of America without getting caught or killed? How do they get rid of the masses of “useless eaters” who are using up their resources?

Several political theorists have drawn up plans for such a transition. Those plans include things like eroding morals, changing the definitions of words, increasing the number of people in poverty, making people dependent upon the government, increasing the ease with which people accept murder, making sex more readily available, and many, many more.

In 1907, the bankers conspired to create a banking scare. People panicked and there was a run on the banks. Several banks went out of business. People lost money that the banks never had, so they could not honor their commitments to their customers. In 1910, the same bankers conspired to create a third central bank of the United States.

Historically, they knew such a thing was unpopular and for good reason. Bankers could only be trusted to be selfish. So, they created a name that sounded good. They called it “Federal,” so people would not easily discover that it was a private bank. They called it a “Reserve,” so people would consider it safe. And they called it a “System,” instead of a bank, so alarms of warning would not be set off. In 1913, the bankers, and a few corrupt friends in government, pushed through the creation of the private Federal Reserve System to create money and to control the interest rates of American finance.

Language of Science: Controversial cover for Griffin's "The Creature from Jekyll Island."

The language of science should never shy away from controversy. Book cover for Griffin’s “The Creature from Jekyll Island.”

A century later, the value of the dollar had lost 97%. Where had that value gone? To the bankers, of course. G. Edward Griffin details this conspiracy in his book, The Creature from Jekyll Island. When the Great Depression crippled America, the Fed tightened the money supply, making the depression far more onerous and dark. The number of citizens forced into poverty skyrocketed.

In today’s society, moral relativism is used all too often as an excuse to let people do what they want, no matter what harm it has on others. We have politically correct speech to protect sensitive ears, but also to destroy the lives of those who happen to say the wrong word or phrase. We have American wars now described as “peacekeeping actions.” The victims of American aggression don’t think it’s very peaceful.

Movies and television shows have made loose morals seem popular and normal. Stealing is now heroic. Cheating on your spouse is normal. Killing your baby is a lifestyle choice. Killing a loved one who is suffering a painful disease is one of life’s necessities.

The value of life, honor and morality has been eroded.

I remember in the 90s, a young Thai boy who immigrated to the United States, who had done poorly in Thailand schools, but was advanced ahead one year by the high school in Hollywood, California. To my surprise, he made top grades, apparently because the schools in Thailand had been academically superior to those in America. I was shocked. And I was dismayed when the same student’s grades plummeted shortly afterward. The reason? Being “smart” was unpopular.

Imagine a Billionaire who knows enough about human nature to know what motivates people and how they react to various inputs. What if that Billionaire—bored out of his mind—decided to see if he could program American society?

In February 1981, newly elected President Reagan asked his CIA director, William Casey, what his vision was for the agency. The director’s reply still sends chills up my spine. “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” Conspiring to program American citizens? This program was called, at least in part, Operation Mockingbird.

But what does the Billionaire have to do with the inner workings of government? When David Rockefeller wrote his memoirs, he let slip one ironic confession to treason. “For more than a century, ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents such as my encounter with Castro to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure—one world, if you will. If that is the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.”

So, he’s proud of his treason.

Language of Science: Corrupt politician in Washington

One place where the language of science has been corrupted is Washington, DC.

In two articles I wrote for Uisio.com, I detailed the facts which place corporations and their owners at the helm of government, behind the scenes. The first was titled, “Lobbying in the United States — Foxes in the Hen House.” Though this focuses on lobbying, it includes other methods that corporations have used to overtake the reins of government.

The second article was titled, “The Silent Coup — How Wall Street Took Over Washington without Firing a Shot.”

So, what does all this have to do with climate science?

The Rockefellers have, for over a century, been big fans of eugenics—weeding out the undesirable humans. How many of our current 7½ billion are considered undesirable? Would you believe 7 billion?

When the world seemed to be headed toward sanity after World War II, the Rockefellers donated precious land in Manhattan to the new United Nations. That’s where the UN built their headquarters. Years later, Rockefeller protégé, the late Maurice Strong, headed up the environmental section of the United Nations, eventually giving birth to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That political agency’s mission: to find out what the effects of dangerous, human-induced global warming would be, and how to combat that problem. Curious that they defined the problem so specifically. They assumed—up front—that humans were the cause of global warming and that warming was a problem. Both of these are dead wrong. And I found out why?

Ironically, they ignored the huge fact that we currently live in an Ice Age interglacial called the Holocene. What kind of psychopath promotes a fear of warmth in an ongoing Ice Age? The kind who wants to kill 7 billion people, that’s who.

You see, ice is the killer. Warmth is life-affirming. And CO2 is actually the slandered hero of all this. Carbon dioxide didn’t cause our recent warming, but its modern increases have been greening the Earth. Greenpeace should stop protesting CO2 and should start applauding its helpful effects.

Even NASA has gone stupid on this, more than what I’ve already mentioned. They’re calling our recent warming, “Earth’s fever.” How can a minor thaw in an Ice Age interglacial be a “fever?” That is not only unscientific language on their part, but incredibly wrong. NASA is being political because they are part of the government. Their bosses are appointed by politicians. They have to suck up or lose their jobs or lose funding. They have to use the language of science incorrectly, or risk being called “deniers.”

Well, it seems the entire world is in denial of those 2 little white things at the poles. When you see a pack of wolves headed your way, you climb a tree or pull out your gun. People see the polar ice caps and think cuddly polar bears, instead of deadly, carnivorous predators. They don’t realize that the ice caps can grow much, much larger and eventually destroy civilization.

Glacial conditions are not like anything in human history. The Little Ice Age was a chilled soda compared to the mountain of Frozen hurt headed our way when the Holocene ends. No one knows when it will end. The next glacial period could start later this afternoon, or 10,000 years in the future, based on past interglacials of the current Ice Age. But when it does, all of Canada will be gone. One third of the United States and a third of Europe will be buried in permanent ice for something like 90,000 years. Most current farmland will become frozen or deserts, because cooler oceans won’t evaporate enough water for rain.

Language of Science made whole: cover of Thermophobia book

Cover of my new book using pen name Rod Martin, Jr. Correcting the language of science.

Clearing up the Language of Science on Global Warming

My new book, Thermophobia: Shining a Light on Global Warming, is already available for pre-order at Apple iBooks. In a day or two, it should also be available at Barnes & Noble and Kobo Books. The scheduled release date is August 26, 2016. I’m putting the finishing touches on the book over the next few days.

If you have any questions on the topic or any favorite anecdotes, please let me know.

Cancer Birthday Zodiac Stars

Cancer stars tagged in 3D space software

Screen shot of software, Stars in the Hood, with Cancer constellation stars tagged.

Cancer Constellation

Cancer is one of the 12 Zodiac constellations. This simply means that this is one of the 12 traditional constellations through which the sun passes during the course of a year. In our modern era, the path of the sun (ecliptic) actually passes through 13 constellations, but Ophiuchus is not “traditional.” It’s not one of the original 12.

If your birthday falls between June 21 and July 22, then happy birthday! (And to America, happy birthday, too.)

And I have something to celebrate, too. This is the first month of birthday celebrations for Stars in the NeighborHood software—the 3D astronomy visualization tool I wrote more than 16 years ago.

Each month, I will be creating a set of tag files for the software to mark the stars in each constellation of the Zodiac. Those who own the software can download any or all of the tag files to help them learn even more about our neighborhood of stars.

Cancer Tag Files

What are tag files? In the software, these are files which hold custom information on the stars which are part of the program. Tags are simply diamond-shaped symbols which mark each star of a meaningful group.

For instance, all of the stars mentioned in the Star Trek® universe (the original TV series, the movies, games, animations, and each spin-off series) are included in the Star Trek set of tag files. For the period June 21 through July 22, the tag file tells which stars belong to the Cancer constellation.

Each set of tag files includes three files: the tags for individual stars (Cancer.tg), the names of tag categories (Cancer.st), and user custom notes which tell about the individual stars (Cancer.nt).

Cancer Birthday Zodiac Video

The following video gives a brief tour of the Cancer wedge of sky, giving us a look at the nearest stars, the brightest ones, perhaps the most interesting one, and more.

Galactic Geography — Science Fiction Using Real Stars

Galactic Geography: Milky Way arch

Milky Way arch gives a quick view of galactic geography. Magellanic Cloud satellite galaxies appear on the left. Photo: Bruno Gilli, ESO (CC BY 4.0) trimmed. Click on the picture for larger view.

Galactic Geography: How Important Is It to a Story?

Galactic geography is likely not the most vital part of any story. Most of us can enjoy any story that’s well-written, with good dialogue, good character development and an interesting plot. But there are some aspects of place and details that can break a story, too.

If an author places Paris (the capital of France) in Botswana, he or she may not be taken seriously. Flubbing details like this show rank ignorance on the part of a writer. Some facts are not as important. This involves the realm called “artistic license.” Great artists ignore facts and get away with it, because the bulk of their work is so well done, minor details are dismissed as unimportant.

In the short science fiction film, Quest, by Saul Bass, the orbits of moons around a planet defied realistic orbital timing. Outer moons moved just as quickly as inner ones, contrary to the laws of physics. But the visual effect was stunning. Quite a number of things in this film, based on a Ray Bradbury story, did not make literal sense. But they worked visually. And the producer, Saul Bass, was known as a consummate graphic designer, with two Academy Awards for his work on films.

Getting geography right is one of those things that readers may or may not care about, depending on their level of education, intelligence and the quality of the story. New Zealand attacking neighboring Denmark would likely be seen as a gross error by most readers. The two nations are on opposite sides of the planet—as far apart as you could make them. They’re not neighbors. Of course, if the story is taking place in an alternate universe, then a great many things are up for change.

Getting galactic geography correct is likely not as important to many readers, because they merely don’t know any better. But a growing number of hard core science fiction buffs are becoming increasingly smart about galactic geography.

How Science Fiction Can Get Galactic Geography All Wrong

There are several ways a science fiction author or screenplay writer can get galactic geography all out of whack. They can do this by,

  • Choosing a star system which cannot possibly support the planet being described,
  • Disregarding the relative positions of stars with each other, and
  • Ignoring the motions of stars over time.

Galactic Geography Error: Stellar Motion

This last item (motions of stars) I happened to notice in a short story by David Brin. He had used a known and named red dwarf in a story which took place over a long span of time—something like millions of years. The big problem was that, at the beginning of the story, that star would not have been anywhere near the main scene (Earth’s neighborhood) so long ago. The relative motion of stars as they orbit the galaxy would have made the position of that star many tens of thousands of light years away. Oops! And this by a graduate of astronomical science.

Helpful guy that I am, I wrote Brin and let him know that I love his writing and enjoyed the story, but thought he might want to know about this minor error. His reply was less than cordial; he implied strongly that I had killed one of his children. Oh, well!

Yes, his error in galactic geography had been a minor point—one that few others would have noticed. But I would have wanted to know about such a thing if I had made a similar error in one of my own stories. I like getting details like that correct, even if such points of galactic geography are minor.

Galactic Geography Error: Choosing the Wrong Star System

Galactic Geography: Canopus in software

Galactic geography is the specialty of Stars in the NeighborHood software. Here, the focus is on the super-giant star, Canopus. Click on the picture for full view.

A slightly more important point involves choosing the right kind of star. Part of galactic geography includes the qualities of a particular location. Like locations in earthly geography, stars have their own ages and chemistry. These are easy to look up.

For instance, having indigenous life on a planet orbiting a super-giant star, like Canopus, is a fairly serious error in galactic geography. Why? Because any star which has entered its giant phase has already left its adulthood and entered its life as a senior citizen of the galaxy. Giants are far brighter than their “main sequence” adult counterparts. This means that any planet upon which life might tend to evolve would have long since been fried.

During its main sequence (adult) phase, Canopus would’ve been about 2,200 times brighter than our own sun. Why so much brighter? Because Canopus has about 9 times the mass of our own sun. Greater mass means hotter core and brighter output. In the Dune story series, Canopus is the home of the planet Arrakis, also known as “Dune.” It’s a desert planet, but hold onto your seat, because the amount of warming might shock you. If Arrakis had been similar to Earth in its youth, when life started to evolve, the light from giant (senior citizen) Canopus would be 15,100 times the light of our own sun. In other words, Arrakis would be receiving nearly 7 times the light it received during the main sequence of its sun, Canopus. Yikes!

To make matters worse, a massive star also burns up its fuel far faster than a lighter weight star, like our sun. Our own sun will stay in its main sequence something like 10–11 billion years. Canopus stayed in its main sequence for something like 41 million years. At 41 million years old, our own planet Earth was still being bombarded by debris from the stellar disk of formation. In other words, Earth was not yet fully formed. Life took something like 3 billion years—more than 70 times longer than Canopus’ stay in the main sequence.

Naturally, the story, Dune, was wildly popular. The story itself overshadowed such problems as galactic geography. Still, for all the research Herbert did on every other aspect of his story, he could have spent a little more time on his stars to get his locations right. After all, a writer shouldn’t place a jungle scene in Alaska or a polar scene in Florida, all other things being equal.

Another factor for life involves the chemistry of the star and its possible planets. If a star system is largely hydrogen and helium, planets will likely be gas giants, because there will not have been enough iron, silicon, oxygen and other elements to form Earth-like worlds. This involves something called the metallicity of a star, frequently measured as a ratio of a star’s iron content compared to the iron content of our own sun. That’s an incomplete description. For a more detailed discussion of this, see the article on Star Metallicity.

Galactic Geography: graph of Mira light curve.

Graph of light variability for the star, Mira. This star is one of the beacons of galactic geography. Courtesy American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). Click on the graph to view source. (Retrieved 2016:0627)

Galactic Geography Error: Stellar Variability

This is an extension of the “choosing the wrong star system” type error.

Both the original Star Trek television series and the Next Generation series used Mira (Omicron Ceti) as a prime location for a story. In the original series episode, “This Side of Paradise” (1967), planet Omicron Ceti III was the home of a Federation colony. In the Next Generation episode, “Conspiracy,” planet Omicron Ceti V (Dytallix B) was an abandoned mining world.

So, what was so wrong with using Omicron Ceti?

Mira is an extremely variable star—a giant M7 III, with swings in visual magnitude from 10.1 to 2 (a difference of 8.1 magnitudes of brightness) in an average 332 days. That’s a difference of 1,738 times in brightness. Any world orbiting such a star would alternately be scorched and frozen.

Galactic Geography: Mira in software

Mira is so much a part of the galactic geography, it is included in the Locator Cube (right panel) of Stars in the NeighborHood software. Here, the focus is on Mira. Click on the screen shot to view full size.

Even if a world enjoyed brief warmth comparable to that of Earth, most of its year would be spent frozen. It would be like enjoying the full brightness of our sun for a few short days, but after a period of a few months, finding ourselves looking at our sun as if we were standing on Pluto. Know this: temperatures on Pluto never get above –219 °C. Our luckless planet would likely never get this cold, but it might come close, especially during the first few months after apastron (farthest distance from its primary star).

As with the Canopus problem, Mira might have had a planet where life could have started to evolve. But the grass and trees shown in the original Star Trek episode are an impossibility, at least for natural growth.

Wyatt and Cahn (1983) estimate a mass of 1.18 times that of Sol (our sun). They also estimate an age of about 6 billion years. Any Earth-like planet would now likely be lost to the body of Mira, swallowed as the star left its main sequence and ballooned out to become the giant it is today.

Outer planets, safe from being swallowed by Mira as it had swelled into its giant phase, would never have evolved life as we know it. They would have been too cold during Mira’s main sequence adulthood. So, Star Trek’s Federation colony was an impossibility.

Galactic Geography: Klingon staging snafu

This view in the software shows a major military snafu. When the Vulcan High Command chose Regulus as a staging area for an attack on Procyon, they would have to go through Klingon territory to get there. This shows poor knowledge of galactic geography. Click on the screen shot to see full size.

Galactic Geography Error: Relative Stellar Positions

The positions of stars are a far more important point. Why? It’s so easy to get it right. So, why would anyone get it wrong? One big reason is laziness, especially with the internet and so many resources online.

Gene Roddenberry and his Star Trek writing crew got galactic geography wrong on a number of occasions.

In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode, “Kir’Shara” (2004), for instance, Regulus (Alpha Leonis) was used as a staging area. What made this choice particularly bad is that the Vulcans were preparing for a massive pre-emptive strike against Andoria in the Procyon system (one conflicting source places Andoria in the Epsilon Indi system, relatively close).

The screen shot from Stars in the NeighborHood software shows two big problems with such a plan. Star Trek tag files (available at SpaceSoftware.Net) were used to mark those star systems mentioned in the Star Trek universe. As you can see, Regulus (the staging area) is on one side of the Klingon homeworld, while Procyon (the target) is on the other. That’s like the Americans during World War II using Switzerland as a staging area for an attack on Japan.

Galactic Geography: Procyon neighbors

This shows a list of Procyon neighbors which would have been far better choices for staging areas. Click on the screen shot to view full size.

Putting all your resources in one area surrounded by one set of enemies (Italy and Germany, in our example) is not the smartest thing to do, especially when your target is so very far away (Japan). The destination of that pre-emptive strike is a whopping 71.4 light years from the staging area. Groan! A staging area is supposed to be somewhat close to the target of attack. And during the era of Star Trek: Enterprise, the Klingons are the enemy.

You don’t need a star system as a staging area. There are a near infinite number of points in 3D space at which to converge your forces in preparation for an attack. A star system, of course, gives a visual anchor for such a gathering, but that’s unimportant with savvy navigation skills. Regulus is only 16.21 light years from Omega Leonis (system for the Klingon homeworld, Qo’noS). So, they would have to go through Klingon, enemy territory to get to their destination. Not very bright.

There are several star systems within 10 light years of Procyon—far closer than Regulus:

  • Gliese 234 AB—4.6 light years
  • Sirius AB—5.25 light years
  • Gliese 273—1.11 light years
  • Gliese 1111—5 light years
  • Gliese 1116 AB—8.12 light years

If a writer breaks any of these rules, it’s not a bad idea to have an explanation for why the rules are broken. And, if you’re like me, galactic geography is fun.

Special Thanks

A special thanks to Gary York for suggesting that Stars in the NeighborHood software could be useful for getting galactic geography right in writing science fiction. Though this idea had occurred to me and several others years ago, his timing was perfect. I was now ready to explore this idea in greater depth. So, thanks Gary for impeccable timing.

A Place for Explorers — The Story of Beginnings

A Place for Explorers - the back side of Mars as seen from space

Mars from space, with the sun setting behind it, from a scene in the new Space Software video, “A Place for Explorers.” Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (PD).

When I first created the Ancient Suns website in May of 2001, I had completed the first version of Stars in the NeighborHood 3D space software. The website was meant to promote the software, but it was also created as a place for like-minded people to come together to enjoy discussions of space exploration and talk of other worlds like Earth. It was supposed to be a place for explorers.

Extrasolar planets have been on my mind since the mid-1950s. This was before artificial satellites existed and half a decade before men would first go into space. In my own mind, I have been one of those explorers who dreams of planetary approach and fast take-offs.

I wanted the website to be a place to explore the wonders of the universe around us. I wanted it to be more fun than Disneyland. In some ways, it was to me, but so much more can be done. It all takes time. I guess I’ve secretly felt that explorers weren’t supposed to be bogged down with so many details. But there’s a measure of fun in exploring or creating the technology to make things possible.

In recent months, I’ve learned even more about programming and web technologies. In fact, I’m nearing completion of a course on “Creating a Website Made Easy,” to be made available through Udemy—an online educational marketplace. This came on the heels of teaching two semesters at a local college, courses like college algebra, website development, database management, assembly language, professional ethics and mass communication. After creating this course, I have already in the pipeline plans for a course on “3D Astronomy.”

Recently, I created a video for my new Space Software YouTube channel. The new video explores the things that inspired me to create my space software to begin with. Here’s the video. I hope you enjoy. Please let me know what you think. All comments are welcome. As always, input from others helps me to improve.

Anti-Science — Death of Civilization?

Desert. Will anti-science destroy civilization?

Will anti-science attitudes and behavior be the end of civilization? Desert. Photo: Jerome Bon (CC BY 2.0)

Increasingly, science has become corrupted by corporations and big money. Money talks. Scientists need funding. Those with the most money get science done their way.

Even the term “anti-science” has been misused and abused by those who either don’t understand all the issues, or have a vested interest in the corruption.

Part of the problem is that scientists who raise warnings that are not popular are lumped in with those who are considered by the mainstream to be uneducated and thus “anti-science.” But more confusing is the fact that the ones who have used the term the most may themselves be anti-science. Let’s take a closer look at this controversy.

Cheap Labels, Cheap Shots

People who disagree with the popular, mainstream media viewpoint are repeatedly labeled with cute and not-so-cute labels—denier, twoofer, “anti-science,” “conspiracy theorist” and others.

First of all, the labels are meaningless without facts to back them up. And some labels are entirely ad hominem distraction. The trouble with these labels is that many people read only the labels and move on. This is a plus for those who want to stop all dissent.

When a ridiculer leads with such a label, they are not debating the facts or their merits. They are attacking the person. Some so-called “skeptical” websites say that some people deserve to be ridiculed. I disagree. Ridicule never solved anything except to pump up the perpetrator’s ego. Science by ridicule seems to be growing in frequency and ferocity. And this is eroding the progress we’ve made in civilization.

We already have “witch hunts” in the climate field. Some politicians have attacked researchers who hold unpopular views and those politicians have worked to block the scientists’ funding.

There are numerous examples in history of breakthroughs in science taking far longer because of an atmosphere of hostility. It took over a thousand years for the geocentric view of the universe to fall to more reasoned minds. It seems that we are returning to a Dark Age mentality where logic and transparency are subverted by corporate greed and by groupies with big egos that need feeding.

Anti-Science with GMOs

Unlike every other industry, genetically modified organism manufacturers don’t want you to know you’re buying their product. Imagine for a moment buying a new model of car only to find out that underneath the slick exterior is the worst make of car in history. Would you feel cheated?

If you don’t suspect something fishy about this behavior, I’ll apologize now and recommend you stop reading (this article is not for you). The only time a manufacturer doesn’t want you to know you’re buying their product is when they have something to hide.

In order to get GMOs through the American FDA, they were declared essentially equivalent to natural organisms of the same species. But what the public and the mainstream media clearly ignore is the “M” in GMO—”modified.”

The scary part of all of this is that there has been too little study on the safety of GMOs and Monsanto rushed them to market over a decade ago. Why is this scary? For one thing, we’ve already found problems with GMOs adversely affecting health. But GMOs also contaminate non-GMO crops and organisms. Soon, we may not have any organisms that are not affected by GMOs. Some of the damage is permanent and irreversible.

Genetic Fallacy: How Monsanto Silences Scientific Dissent

Published: 2013:1203 – Corbett Report

At the most basic level of logic, we have to realize that DNA is complex programming. We are still learning how this programming works and we have a long way to go before we know everything there is to know. Any seasoned software engineer will tell you that shotgunning code from one program into another will very likely result in countless bugs in the software. This is virtually guaranteed. Expecting there not to be problems is naive at best; criminally sinister at worst.

Another fallacy promoted by GMO supporters is the notion that GMO techniques are similar to those used for the last several thousand years. This is horribly wrong. With the tried and true methods used in plant grafting and animal husbandry, we give nature a chance to tell us whether the two organisms are compatible. If they’re not, the offspring or produce will wither and die. With modern GMO techniques, nature is forced to accept two species that are not even close to one another. Nature doesn’t have a choice.

There have been many studies showing that there are health problems with GMOs. Perhaps the most famous is that of Seralini, et al. Critics say that Seralini did not use the right kind of mice, the right quantity and the right methods. Supporters say that he and his team used similar methods and mice to the tests performed by Monsanto. The manufacturer’s test was for only 3 months and started to show problems, but those were deemed inconsequential without further comment; Seralini’s went on for 2 years. The journal which approved and published Seralini’s study soon hired a former Monsanto exec as editor. Shortly after Richard Goodman was hired, two articles critical of Monsanto were withdrawn. The Seralini study was one of them.

It’s more than a little suspicious that the peer review process needed an industry insider to set them straight. Does anyone think this reeks of conflict of interest?

Monsanto promotes their GMO products as necessary to feed a hungry world. But right now we produce enough food to feed 11.3 billion people. That means we could store enough food to feed 4.3 billion people against some future drought or other disaster for each year of production.

Soil degradation with GMO crops is making farming more expensive. Crops are becoming more susceptible to diseases, they contain fewer nutrients and farmers are having to use stronger and stronger pesticides and herbicides to manage their fields. Americans may end up dying of malnutrition, despite eating all their veggies.

Anti-Science with Climate Change and Global Warming

Sri Lanka jungle. Anti-science says global warming is bad.

Sri Lanka jungle. Anti-science alarmists say global warming will destroy the world. Warming will make the world into a lush garden. Photo: McKay Savage (CC BY 2.0).

When Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” video came out, I was an instant fan and fanatic. I debated with others pushing the notion that we are either responsible for what’s happening to the planet or irresponsible.

But then I found out that I was wrong.

One of the logical fallacies used in this debate involves the term “denier.” Deny what? All of the calm scientists agree that the climate changes. It can’t help but change. In fact, it has changed for the last 4.5 billion years—as long as Earth has had an atmosphere.

They don’t deny that Earth has warmed many times in the past and also cooled. They don’t deny that man has some impact on the climate. The point of disagreement is on the degree of impact.

The 600,000 year chart used by Gore in his film shows a correlation between CO2 and temperature. What he forgets to mention is that temperature increases lead CO2 increases by 800 years. Rising temperatures cause CO2 to increase. Why would this be? The oceans contain vast reservoirs of carbon dioxide. The increases in warmth take hundreds of years to change the energy level of the ocean. Warmer ocean emits carbon dioxide.

On the shorter scale of time (years and decades), carbon dioxide doesn’t come close to matching global average temperatures. From 1940 to 1975, CO2 levels skyrocketed with the war buildup and the post-war boom. Yet temperatures fell steadily. In fact, magazine covers in the mid-70s proclaimed the coming Ice Age.

This is ironic, because we’ve been in an Ice Age for 2.6 million years. The current Holocene warm period is overdue to end. Anyone who thinks global warming is bad needs to understand that they’re seriously wrong. Try growing crops in the snow when the Holocene suddenly ends.

Blue sky. Anti-science wants us to reduce our carbon footprint.

Blue sky. Anti-science fanatics tell us to reduce our carbon footprint. Photo: Bryan Calabro (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Reducing our carbon footprint is like saying “reduce your oxygen footprint.” Stop breathing!

Carbon dioxide is a natural gas in the life cycle of Earth. Modern increases in CO2 have resulted in a greening of the Earth. Plants love the stuff. In fact, many scientists have found that crop yields jump when carbon dioxide is increased.

But warmer is good, too. Not only are we in an Ice Age, but extreme temperature differences between the poles and the equator are what drive violent weather. Melt all the ice and violent storms lose their main energy source.

And warmer produces more rain, too. During the warmer Holocene Optimum (~6,000 BC), rain increases gave us a green Sahara. In fact, today’s wimpy Lake Chad was back then a robust inland sea both far larger and far deeper.

Climate Gate showed us that scientists can become corrupted. Numerous emails were stolen from the UN IPCC’s climate research unit at East Anglia. (IPCC means Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; i.e. political, not scientific.) In those emails were notes between scientists conspiring to fudge the numbers. That’s scientific fraud. In fact, one of the scientists had notified other scientists that he was not going to release his numbers and techniques for fear of having them ridiculed. What happened to peer review?

The hysterics over climate are politically motivated and have little to do with science. One of the IPCC’s lead scientists for the 2001 report later stated that fellow scientists were discussing how to bend the numbers to make them more dramatic. More fraud. A number of IPCC scientists quit in protest over the fraud. In fact, one scientist had to sue the UN to get his name removed from their so-called “consensus.”

Another irony involves the claim by fans of Al Gore that the “deniers” are paid by Big Oil. A little research showed that Biggest Oil—the Rockefellers—are behind the climate change hysterics, not against it. One merely needs to go to the Rockefeller Foundation website to see for themselves.

Anti-Science with Vaccines

Emotions run high with all of these controversies, but perhaps none higher than with vaccines. The term “anti-science” is particularly prevalent on this topic. Sadly, many of those in the camp labeled as “anti-science” are scientists. Oops!

When PBS television’s Frontline program interviewed scientists who were critical of vaccines, they did not include any of those interviews in the vaccine program they ultimately aired. Instead, they showed only hysterical mothers. Biased reporting? When you follow the money, you find the Rockefellers firmly established behind public television.

What is particularly troubling is the fact that vaccines contain many toxins—mercury (thimerosal), formaldehyde (embalming fluid), aluminum, MSG and others. No tests have been done on the safety of these toxins. That alone is troubling. And it’s anti-science to blindly recommend vaccines while these toxins remain in them.

But now, they hysteria is reaching a fever pitch. People are being irrationally divided with buzz words and labels. Those who recommend caution are called “baby killers.” Legislators are increasingly calling for mandatory vaccinations. Parents are threatened with jail time if they do not have their children vaccinated before sending them to school.

There have been numerous studies which show a relationship between vaccines, autism and other neurological problems. Yet, the mainstream media persists in ignoring these studies in favor of those which find vaccines perfectly safe.

Those who support the use of vaccines seem almost violent in their condemnation of those who hesitate. In recent news, California legislators threaten to make vaccines mandatory for everyone, to the cheers of vaccine supporters. “It’s about time!”

But what supporters of vaccines seem to forget is their own argument that vaccines are effective. If they are indeed so effective, then those who opt out will have no effect on those who are vaccinated. Those who choose to avoid the toxins will have what they want, and the vaccinated with have their peace of mind. So, why is it necessary to force other people to get vaccinated? For their own safety? What if vaccines are a health risk to them?

Every body is genetically different. But no human body can thrive on mercury poisoning. Or formaldehyde.

Yet, the anti-science mentality that thinks they have science all figured out, makes it seem that you’re a criminal if you don’t take your regular shot of toxins. Lunacy!

Anti-Science with 9/11

America went to war over 9/11. It invaded Afghanistan to get Osama Bin Laden. And it invaded Iraq because it had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda. I went along with this scenario for a decade before questioning it. When I found information that proved the official conspiracy theory was wrong, I was angry.

Defenders of the official conspiracy theory call the skeptics “truthers” or “twoofers.” They accuse the skeptics of being conspiracy theorists, which only sometimes is true. Facts and questions do not make one a conspiracy theorist.

One of the key facts that turned me around was the perfect free fall collapse of World Trade Center 7. For the first 8 floors, this building collapsed at perfect free fall. This means that the steel, I-beam structure of the building offered zero resistance. Solid steel never offers zero resistance. Yet, the scientists at NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) tried to sell the world on the notion that solid steel did just that because of office fires.

Not only that, NIST scientists initially tried to hide the perfect free fall by starting their timer artificially early and counting the average acceleration of the entire period. That’s scientific fraud. That’s anti-science.

The government scientists, bureaucrats and political appointees have been shown increasingly to be corrupted—9/11, vaccines, global warming and GMOs.

Logical Fallacies at the Heart of Anti-Science

Quite often, the corporate fan compares those who disagree with a viewpoint that is more radical. Climate realists are called deniers—similar to Holocaust deniers. But this is a logical fallacy, because the Holocaust has nothing to do with climate. Belief in one has nothing to do with belief in the other. Buzz phrases like “climate change deniers” are extremely misleading, because no one denies climate change. Climate can’t help but change.

Such tactics seem to work in the realm of public opinion where critical thinking seems to be waning in strength. Multitudes of people who pride themselves on their skepticism seem to fall all over their ego on the way to more logical fallacies.

Space Exploration in an Anti-Science Climate

Apollo 17 Lunar Rover. Will anti-science keep us from going back?

Apollo 17 Lunar Rover. Will anti-science keep us from going back? Photo: NASA.

America sent its last batch of astronauts to the Moon in the early 1970s. For one thing, the Vietnam War was too expensive. In fact, NASA had planned on sending men to Mars by 1983, but that mission was scrubbed because of the horrible expense of war. Now, we know that the Vietnam war was escalated based on a lie. The Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened. The government lied to get more money for their buddies in the corporate war machine. War was made to seem more palatable by calling it a “peacekeeping action.”

The educational system of America has become increasingly corrupted with anti-science ideas. While the news media talks about Texas school board books being slanted by religious fundamentalists, a more subtle and insidious corruption of education is taking place elsewhere. Students are shown Al Gore’s video without critical thinking. Activists in Great Britain were able to have a list of errors included with each showing of the Gore flick, but I know of no such caveat included in American showings.

Students in America are ranked pretty low in the world for reading, mathematics and science (Weisenthal, 2013). The United States comes in at #35 on mathematics. They fare slightly better on reading, coming it at #24. On science, America pulls in at lousy #27.

Nations far ahead of America include Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, Australia, Estonia, Austria, Slovenia, Viet Nam, France, Czech Republic, UK, Luxembourg, Iceland, Slovak Republic, Ireland, Portugal, Denmark, Italy, Norway, Israel and Hungary. Yes, several Asian countries are ahead of America, too, but that seems to be a given. It seems that the stereotype is true—Asians are typically more knowledgeable in math and science. At the top of the list are China, Singapore, Taipei, Korea and Japan.

The Corporate media frequently seems to blame the increasingly anti-science attitude of Americans on the religious right. Such generalities rarely hold under even casual scrutiny. Many of the so-called right are top scientists. But labels alone are a lousy way to analyze a situation. I have some views that are liberal, some conservative, some libertarian and some that are in flux. If a label could be applicable to me, it might be “searcher of Truth.” Change is natural when you know that you have not yet arrived at a perfect answer.

Could America ever send men back to the Moon or to Mars? I don’t doubt there are still plenty of scientists to accomplish such a feat, but their numbers are dwindling and the quality may also be dwindling. In today’s political climate, scientists are increasingly asked to accept bribes or to fudge numbers.

America seems to be resting on its laurels, coasting into the future, blithely oblivious to its own sloth and gluttony. As an American, I’m both proud of what we’ve done and ashamed. But change is natural. Can we change in the right direction?

Last edited 2015:0317.

Reference

Weisenthal, J. (2013), “Here’s The New Ranking Of Top Countries In Reading, Science, And Math.” Retrieved on March 15, 2015 from http://businessinsider.com/pisa-rankings-2013-12

Interstellar Geographic — An Entertaining Parody of Space Exploration

Interstellar Geographic: Trifid Worlds

Interstellar Geographic logo with worlds near the Trifid nebula in the background.

For the longest time, I’ve thought about a parody of the exploration magazine National Geographic. I see on the internet that other people have been thinking along similar lines.

A new website takes up this idea and gives is my own unique spin. Of course, Interstellar Geographic has no relation to that seasoned and revered magazine of earthly exploration.

Why a new, online magazine about space? For one thing, no one has done quite what I had in mind. I wanted Interstellar Geographic to cover real star systems, but in a fictional format as if we already have star travel. I wanted the star travel to be relatively mature and almost commonplace.

We already have places like Star Wars and Star Trek to soak up similarly fictional formats, but they are usually about fictional star systems. Star Trek, for instance, was originated by Gene Roddenberry, who was not an astronomer by trade and frequently did not make his star systems entirely real. Of course, they didn’t need to be. His brand of entertainment relied on people more than science.

What Interstellar Geographic is All About

I recently finished and published a novel entitled, Touch the Stars: Diaspora, sequel to Touch the Stars: Emergence, written by John Dalmas and myself, and recently republished. The new website extends the “Touch the Stars” universe, giving real locations in our galaxy the blush of fictional reality. What if we could travel to Alpha Centauri, Rigel (Beta Orionis) or the Trifid Nebula?

Fourteen years ago, I created “Stars in the NeighborHood” software in order to better visualize our region of the Milky Way galaxy. I was in the middle of writing my novel and wanted to see the “lay of the land” for myself—the “interstellar geographic” landscape. Life sometimes gives us interesting detours, though, and after finishing the software, it took me awhile to finish the novel. But that’s now done.

If you have a few moments to take a look, please let me know what you think. Let me know if there’s anything you don’t like and also if there is anything you would like to see that isn’t yet there.

Scientific Armadillo — A Satirical Parody of Science

Scientific Armadillo, mascot of the new online magazine

The original Scientific Armadillo, science “Army” at Kennedy Space Center, USA. Photo: NASA (PD), via Wikipedia.org.

Scientific Armadillo is a new website I created to poke fun at science and scientists. As with all satire, it’s meant to illuminate. But unlike some satire, there is no intention of degrading persons or the field as a whole.

Scientific Armadillo—A Love of Science

I love science. I’ve known a number of scientists and they strike me as level-headed, caring individuals who are, at times, like little kids thrilled at the possibility of discovery. In a way, they are the geek’s geeks. They are concerned with deep subjects that require lots of knowledge and a disciplined mind.

Also, I am one of those scientists. I’ve been an amateur astronomer for most of my life. I’ve also been an intrepid nerd for an equally long period of time, digging into questions about life and the universe, from geo. I’m not that smart. I only have a 139 IQ, but I get by with it. It’s sufficient for my own needs. I’ve also been a computer scientist and engineer for over 20 years, exploring logic and algorithms for building software programs that help and illuminate.

Imperfect Scientists

It came as quite a shock the first time that I learned that scientists were mortal with human frailties. Some are not above fudging numbers, editing data or outright lying. Most scientists have an almost religious adherence to skepticism and that seems funny, especially when skepticism is steeped in bias—the potent bias of doubt. Why would this be a problem? Because scientific method warns against bias of any kind.

Restraint and humility could easily take the place of skepticism without the bias. They could easily keep a scientist from jumping to unfounded conclusions, and thankfully don’t support the darker side of skepticism that scientists too frequently seem to dive into—unsupported dismissiveness and self-indulgent ridicule.

Why “Scientific Armadillo?”

Armadillos are cute, in a prehistoric way. Also, the name “Scientific Armadillo” sounds a lot like “Scientific American,” which takes the brunt of this parody. But note, Scientific Armadillo has nothing to do with Scientific American, other than the intended parody.

Why target that prestigious magazine? For one, they are a symbol for all things science. And America has, for over half a century, been seen as being at the forefront of scientific advancement and more than a century as a leader in innovation.

A darker side of the parody comes from the use by that magazine of a skeptic who seems to have forgotten the meaning of the word. Michael Shermer can be skeptical of others, but seems to have little or no restraint against his own unfounded jumps to conclusions (what skepticism was meant to prevent).

If you have a few moments, jump on over to Scientific Armadillo, and see for yourself what may well lie underneath those freaky clean, white lab coats.

Let me know what you think and what you may want to see in its pages.

Happy Birthday, Gordon Roanhorse—Publishing Touch the Stars: Diaspora

Cover of Touch the Stars: Diaspora

Cover of Touch the Stars: Diaspora, by Carl Martin

This past Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May) was a birthday of mine. The party was nice. Having family nearby and happy was rewarding all by itself. I even indulged in a little birthday cake. Chief on my mind, though, was the nearing completion of a long-standing project—publishing Touch the Stars: Diaspora, sequel to Touch the Stars: Emergence.

The day-long festivities were enjoyable, but I kept sneaking away from them to push the final edit toward completion. Then I noticed that my main character, Gordon Roanhorse, was celebrating his own birthday away from family, doing what he loved—flying his starship to other star systems and planets. I also noticed that I had made Gordon’s birthday to match my own. Why? Because a part of me has long wanted a starship of my own and to be flying to other star systems and planets.

Since this all takes place in the future, I then wondered about this Gordon Roanhorse character. When was he born? A simple calculation pegged his birth at 2015:0505. That’s a year from now. So, it’s an early happy “birth” to Gordon Roanhorse. But also, it’s a different kind of birth. A novel which had taken me thirty years to produce was finally nearing its completion. Why so long? I’ve wondered that for some time. John Dalmas and I wrote the first of this series together, published August, 1983 by Tor Books, New York. I had gladly accepted his help on completing my first novel. I knew I had much to learn. My first solo attempt came with the heavy burden of knowing that I was venturing out of the nest. This first “baby” of my own received an inordinate amount of fussing. Even before finishing this book, I had published several others—two of fiction and a few of non-fiction under the pen name Rod Martin, Jr. For Diaspora, I was in no hurry.

Touch the Stars: Diaspora—Book 2

This new book is now available on Kindle at Amazon. I hope soon to have it available also in trade paperback and hardcover. This is Book 2 of a series which originally started out as a trilogy. The last title of the 3 is Touch the Stars: Resolution. I had started writing it several years ago and it seems destined to be a long book like Touch the Stars: Diaspora. In fact, Diaspora is nearly three times the length of Emergence. So, if you like a nice, long book, hopefully this will scratch that itch. If the book is a good one, the nice thing about greater length is getting to know the characters better, and getting to live with them for a longer period of time and to share more adventures with them.

The ‘Got it Solved’ Attitude of Touch the Stars: Diaspora

One of my personal favorite aspects of the new novel is the growth of its central character—Gordon Roanhorse. Jason, his father, is still a prominent figure, but Gordon takes center stage. He moves from childhood to maturity far faster than most, partly due to his positive surroundings, but also to the challenges given to him on a gradient which helps him to maintain an ever-expanding foundation of confidence and responsibility. One of the tools Gordon uses to maintain his edge is his “Got it Solved” attitude. If faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem, he will simply snap his fingers with a rush of apparently unwarranted enthusiasm and say with unshakable conviction, “Got it solved.” Delusion? Quite the contrary. Results are what matter. And the solutions found by young Gordon Roanhorse are what make Touch the Stars: Diaspora worth more than one read.

Yes, I’m prejudiced about the book. After all, it’s my baby. I wrote it. But I get a thrill every time I read it. When I need that same “got it solved” attitude, I merely read Diaspora to see the master at work. Though Gordon Roanhorse does not yet exist in that other universe, I wish him an early “happy birthday.” And I hope his story is as inspiring to others as it has been to me.

Even though the story is my “baby,” I always welcome constructive criticism, even if critical—especially the critical stuff, because I learn from all input. If you get a chance to read the novel, let me know what you think.

You can find more information at the Touch the Stars: Diaspora page of Tharsis Highlands publishing.

Intelligence is More than IQ: The Future of Space Travel

Intelligence to see other worlds, like this illustration of Kepler 186f

Our scientific intelligence has allowed us to detect Kepler 186f, represented by this artist’s illustration, courtesy NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech.

Did you ever hear the story of the goose that laid the golden egg? That one goose could make anyone moderately rich forever. [Spoiler Alert!] But some idiot cut open the goose. Why? To get the source of the gold, but they found none. The flow of gold dried up with the death of the goose.

Selfishness is blindness. Just ask the ghost of the goose. What does this have to do with space travel? The answer is complicated. A complicated tale needs room in which to breathe. So, please bear with the storyteller.

Patterns in Nature, Ripe for the Plucking by Intelligence

Intelligence to create intelligent machines like this microchip.

Microchip from the intelligence to take silicon from sand and to arrange it into intelligently doped layers. Photo: Epop (CC BY-SA 3.0)

There are patterns in nature. Scientists have done a remarkably good job of discerning those patterns, most of the time.

Scientists and engineers have become so clever that they have turned dirty sand into thinking machines. The silicon chips that run your computers (smart phones, laptops, notepads, car modules and more) have been doped with other elements like germanium. Basically they’ve taken the key ingredient of sand and adding a contaminant to change its properties. Very clever, indeed.

But cleverness is not always intelligence. Some scientists got together in New Mexico 70 years ago to find bigger and better ways to destroy. The lead scientist later realized that he had made a big mistake. Oops! Too late. Pandora’s box had been opened and spilled its madness upon the world.

Selfishness, otherwise known as “ego,” makes even scientists blind. It’s a selective blindness. If someone knows the patterns of selfishness, they can manipulate scientists (and citizens-at-large) to do things they might not otherwise do. Things like those of the scientists of the Manhattan Project and their development of the atomic bomb.

The Need for Humility in the Definition of Intelligence

Intelligence should also be measured by humility. If someone arrogantly thinks they have it all figured out, then they will not be open to evidence to the contrary.

Wasn’t skepticism supposed to handle this shortcoming? Perhaps it’s one indication of a scientist’s vulnerability that they have never seen the glaring bias in their most prized paradigm. Skepticism contains the potent bias of doubt. For many situations doubt actually seems to help, but that’s misleading. Doubt is still a counterbalancing bias against the bias of overconfidence.

But then skepticism becomes perverted with ego and scientists get rowdy. They frequently betray skepticism by jumping to unfounded conclusions, dismissing ideas without rigorous investigation. I call that “unsupported dismissiveness.”

But it gets worse. Some scientists get hot under the collar and descend into “self-indulgent ridicule.” We saw this with the “Clovis First” dogma. It also happened with the cold fusion discovery. It even happened with NASA scientists discovering arsenic-friendly microbes. Scientists can get downright nasty. This is the norm. Scientists learn that they need thick skins. But is this healthy? Is this logical? Not at all. And it’s not very intelligent, either.

A far better paradigm for science is one of restraint and humility. But where’s the fun in humility? Ego loves to trash the views of others. Ego loves to ruin careers of lesser minds. Too bad if they were not quick enough to prove their thesis. Too bad if they had something valuable. “My belief, or the highway, buster! I’m top dog in this science. To heck with evidence.”

Do scientists actually think such things? Yes, they do. One geoarchaeologist with a Texas university said of the Valsequillo, Mexico archaeological finds that he would never accept an ancient date for those artifacts no matter what the evidence. Ego rules over intelligence.

Intelligence to investigate 9/11 more deeply.

UA Flight 175 hits WTC south tower. Intelligence tells us there’s something fishy about the events of that day. TheMachineStops (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When government scientists tried to sell the American public on the notion that solid steel could ever offer zero resistance, they proved their corrupt nature. It was like they hung a sign around their necks that said, “I’m a prostitute for government propaganda. Science doesn’t matter to me.”

When did this happen? The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) report on the 9/11 World Trade Center 7 collapse finally admitted to free fall. But they tried to make it seem a natural consequence of office fires. Incredible. And dumb!

Scientists selling lies is only intelligent in the sense of selfishly holding onto a corrupt job. But if they love science, then they would quit their job in a flash. Could it be that they were scientists who weren’t making it in the real world? Could it be they had to sell their souls in order to get a job? Not exactly the height of intelligence, if this is the case.

Should Evil Intelligence Be Allowed into Space?

First Gulf War jet fighters. Intelligence gone haywire.

USAF F-16A, F-15C, F-15E, during Desert Storm. Intelligence begs us not to swallow the propaganda.

If there are other civilizations amongst the stars, I would not wish humans on them. Even if those civilizations are superior in technology and wisdom. Why? Because of the corrupting influence of ego.

The American government has all but thrown its Constitution out the window. Its presidents seem to be working by a far different script. They seem to be following a hidden agenda dictated from somewhere other than the founding fathers or the average citizen. In fact, the bulk of government seems to have been bought out by the criminals of Wall Street.

The evils of 9/11, perpetrated and covered-up by government and corporate America is only one front in the war between good and evil. The 9/11 event was used as an excuse to go to war. This is a very lucrative war for the military-industrial complex. That same group also owns and operates the news and entertainment industries.

The events of 9/11 were also used as an excuse to shred the Constitution. This is an ongoing process which threatens to eliminate the founding document altogether.

Beyond 9/11 and its fallout, the government is conducting tests in the atmosphere that are detrimental to the health of its citizens. Chemtrails are a controversial subject. The typical contrails that jets leave high in the atmosphere have never lasted that long, until the 1990s. Chemical dumps of powdered aluminum, barium and other substances last far longer. One environmental specialist formerly with the Air Force, Kristen Meghan, has blown the whistle on the military stockpiling of these substances and loading them onto planes for unspecified (secret) missions.

If you pay attention only to the Military-Industrial-Complex-run Corporate Party Mainstream Media, then you’re not going to learn anything other than what they want you to know. Fair enough. So, it doesn’t take much intelligence to figure out that you need to get your information from elsewhere. Oh, but those clever Corporate Party thugs have poisoned the well. They’ve done this by insinuating that any other source is full of “conspiracy theories.” Oooo-o-o! Scary! As if there have never been any legitimate conspiracies in the history of humanity. Good luck with that delusion. But it seems to be working. Most Americans seem to be sheep, sound asleep. (So, wake up, if you haven’t already.)

Globalists (Rockefellers, Rothschilds and their ilk) would love nothing better than to have every government in the world pay Trillions of dollars in carbon taxes because of global warming. But oops! Global warming stopped 17 years ago. It has been cooling since then. So, they change the terminology to “climate change.” They try to ignore their misstep. They hope people don’t wake up to their international shell game.

NASA scientists are even in on this con job. Many former NASA scientists, astronauts and engineers decried the agency’s unscientific support of man-made climate change. But those who still work for the agency, work for a now increasingly corrupt government. Selfishness keeps them dishonest. If they want to keep their high-paying jobs, they have to lie to the government propaganda tune.

The Primary Factor in Discovery is Not Intelligence

Intelligence to launch rockets.

Intelligence to launch a rocket into space isn’t all there is to the subject. Ares I-X launch 15. Photo: NASA

Humility is the key to discovery. You have to be ready to receive answers. The selfishness of wanting to keep a corrupt job blinds scientists, engineers and administrators to the damage they’re helping to create. Intentional blindness, including normalcy bias, help to cover up crimes and lies.

Intelligence is a good tool. But like any tool, it can be misused, abused and even dulled into unusability. Space travel implemented on a corrupt foundation of lies and selfishness can only harm the universe around us. No thanks!

As much as I love space travel, humanity doesn’t deserve it—yet. As long as there is ego (the heart of selfishness), humanity will never have enough intelligence to overcome the inevitable corruption.

A very wise man once said that the “first” (egotistical) shall be last (left out in the cold). He also said that the “last” (humble) shall be first (given every reward possible).

What are your thoughts on how we can instill more humility in humanity? Where is a good place to start?

The Star Nearest Earth — Alpha Centauri has a Planet

The Star Nearest Earth: night sky view of Alpha, Beta and Proxima Centauri

A photograph of the night sky showing Alpha Centauri A&B (top left), Beta Centauri (mid-right), and Proxima Centauri (within red circle). Photo: Skatebiker (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikipedia.org.

The star nearest Earth? Alpha Centauri? I can hear it now. Someone is getting “literal” on me and declaring that the star “nearest” Earth is our own sun. Okay, they’re right, but only in one sense. Our sun is literally a star, certainly. But in the vernacular, “star” usually refers to those tiny points of light in the night sky—not the daytime. So, even though the star nearest to the Earth is our sun, literally, it is not so in the everyday sense of common language.

Other purists will likely complain that Proxima Centauri is closer than “Alpha Centauri.” They would also be right, but only in a sense. Proxima is not a star that we can see in the night sky. Okay, I’m quibbling. But Proxima is also a part of the Alpha Centauri system. So, you see, in one sense Alpha Centauri really is the star nearest Earth. And it’s actually 3 stars.

The Star Nearest Earth: artist rendition of new Alpha Centauri planet

Artist’s rendition of the Alpha Centauri system with the newly discovered planet. In the background is our own sun as a bright star in their night sky. Image: ESO, L. Calçada, N. Risinger (CC BY 3.0), via planetary.org

The star nearest Earth now has a known planet

The Star Nearest Earth: photo of Alpha Centauri

Photograph of Alpha Centauri with more distant stars of the Milky Way in the background. The one glaring dot holds both Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B. Photo: ESO (CC BY 3.0), via Wikipedia.org.

October 17, 2012, NASA announced the discovery of a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B, the second brightest star in the trinary (ternary or 3-component) system. In that announcement, they congratulated the European Southern Observatory (ESO) team (Xavier Dumusque, et al) for their discovery.

That world is far too near to its sun to allow life as we know it, but the mass of that world is close to that of our own home planet. We don’t know the exact mass, because we don’t know the tilt of the planet’s orbit. But the minimum mass is approximately 1.13 ± 0.09 times the mass of Earth. If the orbit is perfectly edge-on, then this minimum mass would be the actual mass. The greater the orbital tilt, the greater the actual mass.

The Star Nearest Earth: Earth from above Pacific Ocean

The dream of finding an Earth-like world orbiting the star nearest Earth is a strong one. Will it look like this? Earth above the Pacific Ocean. Photo: NASA.

But the orbital period of this world is a brisk 3.24 days. That means that its year is less than half of our week. This also means that the planet is so close to its sun that it likely remains scorched on one side and frozen on the other. It is doubtful that it even has an atmosphere. The intense heat of being so close to its sun surely has stripped the world of any but the thinnest veil of gas.

And yet, if the mass is considerably more than that of Earth (high orbital tilt), then the planet might retain an atmosphere by the shear brute force of gravity. But the heat would still be unbearable. That heat would likely be transferred by winds all around the world, in a way much like that on Venus.

The prospect of finding other worlds in this nearest star to Earth

The Star Nearest Earth: will it have a world with jungles and mountains?

Jungles and mountains. Will our first Earth-like world have these? Photo: Micky07, licensed through Morguefile.com (62860).

Each of the 3 stars of Alpha Centauri might have planets. What interests us most are the brighter two. Proxima is little more than a hot planet itself, with violent flares from time-to-time.

Could an Earth-like world exist in the habitable zone. Could such a world remain unperturbed by the elliptical orbits of Alpha Centauri A and B about one another? The prospect is exciting. To find a world just like Earth in the star system next door is a dream come true for those of us who have had many dreams of such things. What would that world be like? Would it have jungles like our own world? Would it be completely desert? Or would it contain only oceans and perhaps a few islands?

Traveling to the star nearest Earth has long been a passion of mine. To see the worlds of that ancient star system would be like waking up at Christmas with lots of presents. And Alpha Centauri is indeed ancient—at least a billion years older than our star system. If it developed life and civilization on a timetable similar to that in our own system, its civilization would’ve been a billion years old when ours just started.

The star nearest Earth in 3D

The image, below, is from the “Stars in the NeighborHood” software.

The Star Nearest Earth: showing in software the location of Alpha Centauri

Screen shot of “Stars in the NeighborHood” software, showing the location of Alpha Centauri, on the left. The blue “Viewing Cube” (left) is represented as the blue wireframe within the “Locator Cube” (right). (Not full size)

The Viewing Cube on the left shows Alpha Centauri selected with the green “focus” marker. Just above the Alpha Centauri system, the similar yellow dot represents our own sun. The distance between them is a mere 1.33 parsecs (4.33 light years).

The Star Nearest Earth: Alpha Centauri in "Stars in the Hood" sky view

This “Stars in the Hood” sky view shows alternately the natural view and distance view. Here, Beta Centauri has the green “focus” marker.
(Not full size)

On the right in the screen shot above, the Locator Cube shows the blue Viewing Cube’s location within our galactic vicinity. The yellow dot within marks the position of our sun.

To the right, this second screen shot (from “Stars in the Hood” software) shows alternately the night sky looking toward Alpha and Beta Centauri and the “Distance View” of the same portion of sky.

Here, the more distant, Beta Centauri is selected with the green “focus” marker. Alpha Centauri is just to the left. In the “Distance View,” the size of the stars is an indication of how far away they are.

As you can see, the star nearest Earth, Alpha Centauri, is very large (close) while Beta Centauri is very small (distant). This is despite the fact that they appear to have very similar brightness in our night sky.

Below, the software image shows the location of Beta Centauri. This is nowhere near our own Solar neighborhood. This brings into sharp contrast the closeness of Alpha Centauri—the star nearest Earth.

In all of our gargantuan galaxy, the relatively tiny distance to Alpha Centauri seems small indeed. It’s somewhat comforting to know that there are planets next door.

For more details, check out the Alpha Centauri Stellar Closeup.

What if we someday find a planet like our own in our next-door neighbor system? What are your thoughts on finding an Earth-like planet so close?

The Star Nearest Earth: software focus on Beta Centauri

This software view of Beta Centauri shows that, even though Alpha and Beta are near each other in the sky, and nearly the same brightness, they are separated by a great distance. The blue wireframe cube on the right is centered on the location of Beta Centauri, far from our sun.
(Not full size)