That's right: You know who has two thumbs and an army of scientists doing his bidding? THIS GUY.
(You kind of have to picture me pointing my thumbs at me. Shall we try it again? No? Okay, your loss.)
Well, it's just one scientist, really, and he probably doesn't know he's working for me but let me have my moment, okay?
I'll explain: remember how I pointed out that the people behind SETI not only weren't really using "science" at all but they were locked into a stupid way of thinking because they were focusing on an equation that wasn't in any way based on any sort of actual ideas? Sure, you do. I said it in the olden days of April 4, 2012:
for 51 years we've been searching for technological civilizations...
...and not, apparently, trying to figure out if there are other ways of determining whether life exists: could we detect signs of civilization? Could we detect living things? Could we measure atmospheres that we suspect should be mostly Composition A and determine that they are instead Composition B and that indicates the existence of civilization?
(I just came up with that off the top of my head, but consider this: scientists (and I) believe that we are going through a period of global warming because our civilization pumps so much extra carbon into the atmosphere. So if we would expect THIS amount of carbon but we have THAT amount, then excess carbon in the atmosphere is one indication of an advanced civilization.)
And you all probably just read it and thought "Oh, that Pagel. There he is, going on again about how velociraptors never existed and the origins of that guy, Quisp" but the person who didn't shrug that off was the new head of SETI, Geoff Marcy, who gave an interview that was reprinted on Slate four days after my post, and he had this exchange:
Slate: What kind of telescopes do we need to find habitable Earth-like planets?
Marcy: What we really want is an enormous space-borne telescope the size of a football field that can image Earth-like planets around nearby stars, taking a light spectrum of these planets directly. Does the spectrum show water, methane, carbon dioxide, maybe even ozone? If you find oxygen in another planet's atmosphere, that's a sign that there is some photosynthesis going on.
So while we didn't agree on what to look for in the atmosphere to detect life, Geoff Marcy, who is apparently some sort of actual science-doing-guy, agrees with me that checking the atmosphere's of planets is a totally realistic way of looking for civilizations.
You know why Geoff Marcy thought of that? Because Geoff Marcy is working in today's science -- he's a discoverer of exoplanets, working in one of the newest areas of astronomical research, and presumably was not relying on the Drake "Equation" to guide his thinking. (Also, Geoff Marcy reads my blog.)
True, there are still some areas where Geoff Marcy needs to get up to speed -- he's saying that SETI needs to search for lasers, but SETI started doing that a while ago, after Arthur C. Clarke suggested in 2000 that they do it. In fact, in 2009, Dr. Ragbir Bhathal found what he believed to be a possible regular, laser-pulse communication that might be from another civilization. Although he's never been able to find a second one, we did respond by sending 20,000 Twitter messages towards the civilization.
No wonder aliens are always trying to destroy us. The first contact they have with us is Courtney Love's Twitter feed.
Anyhow, that's your alien alphabet for today: L is for Lasers, and it actually feels kind of good to comply with those A To Z rules. Plus, of course, if you're thinking about lasers you're probably hard at work on your Triweekly Blogfest Entry -- a blog post that in some way incorporates the theme Han Shot First, But Time-Traveling Elvis Shot Second. Entries due by April 29; winner, as chosen by me, get $10 to Amazon! (And Sandra, you're getting yours today. Sam and Cindy just got their prizes.)
All right! On to other stuff. TODAY IS THE WHAMMY! WAGER DAY. If you don't know what the WHAMMY! is, ask Geoff Marcy; that's why I employ him. Or click here. Basically, here's what you do: in a comment today, say how many points you want to wager. You can wager at least 100, no matter how many points you have, and can wager up to your total points. You're wagering on the question I'll ask tomorrow; this is like Jeopardy!, where you bet before you know the question. Then come back tomorrow and I'll ask the question and you'll answer via email.
Okay. So now that you know that, here is Question 50 -- the halfway point -- of the Great 100-day-or-so, 100 question Star Wars Blogathon. This one, you answer in today's comments and it's worth 37 points.
What species was Greedo?
Want to hear Greedo say hi to Han? Click here.
Wondering how many points you have? The standings are here. The Evil Emperor Rusty Blutonatine is in first.