Showing posts with label Opinion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Opinion. Show all posts

Friday, November 13, 2020

You get a bad Irish accent! And you! What's that? You are Irish? You get a bad Irish accent too!

Irish are a hard group to actually offend.  Someone said "hold my beer" and this abomination was birth straight from the bowels of ifreann.  First, the reaction:

I love Emily Blunt and Christopher Walken, or at least I used to.  See what I mean here:

No, this isn't an SNL spoof.  My insides hurt.  My ears hurt.  My head hurts.  My eyes hurt.  Every one of my distal phalanxes hurt.  

Dublin Airport tweeted "Is there such a thing as accent police? If so, somebody better call ‘em. On the upside, Ireland looks nice."  Leave it to an Irish airport to find something positive in light of such painful accents.  Yes, it's so bad that even the Dublin Airport has something to say about it.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Pontiac G8 Wiper Blades, super low-key custom equipment

The Pontiac G8 is a fun and enjoyable car, though a little rough around the edges for some details.  The G8 model never had time to be polished because it and the whole Pontiac brand where cancelled as a result of the GM bankruptcy from the Financial crisis of 2007–2008. So, there are just somethings where the owner needs to consider their options when replacing worn-out parts.  One consideration: the two windshield wiper blades.

The original sizes for the wiper blades didn't do a good job of clearing the window in front of the driver.  The stock wiper blades don't swipe enough of the upper middle area of the windshield to help the driver clearly see through portions of the window.  Another problem with the original blades is/was that some owners (including myself) reported chatter or incomplete clearing of the window during each swipe.  

Funny enough, it's not easy to find the sizes of the original wiper blades.  You can still buy them, supposedly, but the sizes aren't published in their descriptions. I think they were something like 24" length for the driver's side and 14" for the passenger side.  Whatever the sizes, the original blades left rather large of areas of the window unswiped during rain, not just at the top, but also the bottom of the window between swiped areas.

I didn't wait long to replace the original blades. Either late 2009 or 2010, I found some good quality replacement blades of the sizes 26" and 15".  (At the time, it wasn't easy to figure out replacements of alternate sizes.)  Believe it or not, my replacement blades performed well for 10 years.  Sometimes you get lucky.  Unfortunately, when it came time to replace them this year, I lost track of what I purchased before.

That didn't end up mattering, though.  In 2020, the secret has long since been out.  It's actually more common to find 26"/15" sizes than what might've been stock sizes.  On multiple sites, I found that the main size recommendations are 26"/15".  So, it is really down to quality (since price stopped being a factor since I'm no longer looking at stock blades).

After seeing recommendations on multiple websites (including forums) and reading many reviews, I settled on Trico brand blades:  Trico 25-260 Force Beam Wiper Blade 26" and Trico 25-150 Force Beam Wiper Blade 15".

Many modern blades try to support as many car models as possible, so they come with adapters.  I remember my first replacement blades being very simple to install.  This doesn't seem to be the case anymore.  The Trico's aren't hard to install, but it is a ~10 step process which includes removing their default adapter, adding the included secondary adapter, then removing a piece of that adapter to specifically fit the G8.  Again, not hard, but not intuitive either.  

I like the Tricos because they cover even more area of my windshield than my first replacements.  It amazes me just how much of the window they clear with each swipe. So far, the Tricos work well.  We'll see how they perform as the season changes.  

Friday, August 28, 2020

Charities suck and you suck for supporting them?

Presentations that provide misinformation or misrepresentations regarding charities are common.  Awhile back I ran into this seemingly well-meaning Youtube video  (below)  that attempts to expose the dirty underbelly of charities.  Normally, I don't promote content I see as wildly or widely off-base.  However, in this case, I feel it's important to see the earnest and confidence of the presentation and still be able to peer through the facade to come face-to-face with the video's deep flaws.

I've worked with funding of charities in the past.  After viewing this video, something just feels off about its presentation.  It's as though Thought2 (pronounce "42") is trying to promote an agenda of lowkey fearmongering rather than provide accurate information.  

Yes, administrative costs exist and are typically a large amount of where the donations are used in a well-run organization.  However, this video makes it sound like there are dozens if not hundreds of people on charity payrolls.  The truth is that most locally managed charities are scraping by with just a few people, who are often volunteers, in makeshift or hand-me-down office spaces.  

Yes, some charities are short-sighted in their march to achieve artificially important goals.  However, the video's example of water pumps drastically misses the point: most communities that were helped do have working water pumps, even if many do not.  

The video's example regarding clothes and electronic donations is also far off the mark.  As stated by another Youtube commenter (Tripe): 

"Blaming the entire collapse of the Kenyan textile market on imports isn't reality. He does state "domestic market" at one point, but that isn't the data he presents.  He blames charity for the loss of 500000 jobs, but those people were serving the entire industry, not only the domestic market. The same issues that lead to the collapse of exports were still affecting the domestic market as well.  They've had loads of problems including tariffs, labor prices, port prices, high energy costs, stiff competition from Asian countries, corruption, outdated machinery, credit problems, trade reforms and more. I think it would be more accurate to say imports are one of the factors that lead to the downfall of the domestic textile market and are currently retarding the resurgence of the domestic textile market in Kenya, (if they have the leadership for such a resurgence),  not the main cause of the collapse and the loss of 500000 jobs."

Also, I found the video's focus on Africa-support charities produces a dramatically skewed story.  IRL, many charities are for local benefit, so don't have same economic effects about which this video speaks.   Thoughty2 seems to be heavily focused on big-picture and grand-gesture charities.  The charity rating services that are mentioned in the video are heavily focused on these types of charities too.  This video makes no mention of rape crisis centers, suicide hotlines, or local food banks.

Oh, United Way also locally audits the charities that they support using similar criteria as the organization that this video promotes.  United Way audits charities within each community separately.  This means that even national organizations are audited at a local level to justify their funding in that area.  The problem with organizations that publish charities ratings is that the numbers are often misleading, with too much emphasis placed on making "administrative costs" out to be a bad thing.  Due to the nature of some charities and the location of the people they help, costs are naturally higher for some charities over others. United Way funds charities without making the mistake of assuming administrative costs are somehow bad just because.

I'm not sure if this video is well-intended, or if it intentionally misleads.  Either way, in my opinion, this video is completely unreliable for the topic of charities and should not be used as a reference in discussions regarding charities.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Gender inequality isn't the overarching issue often assumed within the Engineering field

As much as I appreciate the sentiment of this somewhat older  Letter to the Editor that still makes its rounds on the Internet, there's a lot of creative license here. As I read it, I said repeatedly to myself, "yes, I have experienced that." Yes, boys experience these things as well, right along with girls. The experience may not be about the same specific things, but feelings of inadequacy and fear of rejection affect almost everyone in school while growing up.

Regardless of gender, each of us has to learn for ourselves how to be true to ourselves and explore our interests regardless of what others may feel. For me, I indeed pursued a career that my childhood friends specifically told me not to.

For me as a child, I got into trouble when I got dirty.

For me as a child, I never saw "bossy" used differently between girls and boys. I was called bossy. You are called bossy because you imposing your leadership upon others without mandate. Basically, you are called bossy because you aren't good at leadership, not because you are demonstrating leadership skill.  Kids shouldn't be expected to be good at leadership, so teach them. They need guidance on how to lead effectively.

For me as a child, I lived in constant fear of rejection for my interests, because kids and adults alike are just that judgemental.

For me as a child, I was indeed bombarded with images and slogans based on how I should appear and present myself. For every Barbie, there was a He-man. For every June Cleaver there is a James Bond.

For me, I grew up in a time when a boy would be singled out for acting too feminine.

For me as a child, I saw plenty of boys overlooked by teachers for a whole bunch of different reasons. I saw the impact of that neglect on those boys in my classes.  

For me, I was never a part of any popular clique, so the "boys club mentality" puzzled me.  This not a gender thing.  Clique-forming is tool which is natural to being human.  Cliques frequently form around common interests and personality compatibility.  Sometimes cliques are all-male or all-female, and sometimes they are not.  Sometimes multiple cliques overlap with each other.  Again, I'm not a fan of the behavior, but it's part of who we are as a species.

While it's true I'll never personally deal with being "diversity hire" (though I can legally declare myself as an ethnicity that would be surprizing to most observers), I've have never seen a woman hired or not hired for a job in Engineering because she's a woman.

The words in the letter are so far removed from my experience that it feels like it was written in a different world than the one we actually live in.

For the issue of gender inequality to be addressed seriously, we have engage in serious discussions about it, while avoiding ideas based on rhetoric. Why are girls discouraged away from Math or Science?  How frequently is that happening these days (and where)? Why are boys discouraged from being Nurses? Why are children in poor families overlooked and disregarded completely, regardless to subject matter or their gender? Why do people think the Engineering field rejects or otherwise poorly treats women in the field, when the opposite is true more often than not? 

The world isn't perfect.  There is sexism.  Society (from a North American perspective) has many tools to address sexism when it does appear.  It's out there, but it's not a dominant factor; being experienced far less in the modern world than in the world of our grandparents.

On the topic of Engineering, we should be mindful when encouraging anyone (boy or girl) to enter the field.  A high number of Engineering graduates end up never getting a job in Engineering or leaving the field early in their career.  Many end up in Sales (perhaps their degree helps, but wasn't actually necessary), business management (where an MBA may be more important), Quality (again where their degree helps but wasn't a requirement), Technical Writing, Marketing, and even full time blogging/vlogging. 

When you encourage someone to pursue Engineering, don't try to push it on them because you think it's right for them.  Let them find their own path.

Monday, November 04, 2019

So, you moved from a cushy climate to a region with significant snow and this is your first real winter?

Moving from a climate where it never snows to a climate with a lot of snow can be daunting, particularly for your first year of home ownership in such a region.  Snow isn't bad.  It just requires a certain level of awareness and skill to deal with it.  This article isn't meant for someone who's lived in snowy areas for a while.  It is meant for snow first-timers (and even second-timers too).  This article is just a starting point.  The following suggestions are just opinion.  Each person is response to make sure they are always acting in a safe manner regardless to any opinions expressed in this or any article.

Owning a home, where you have manage snow on your own, presents a list of problems that need solutions.  For example, if you have a driveway and sidewalks, you are responsible for keeping those clear of snow, no matter how often it falls or how much accumulates.  These problems require various tools for their solutions.  Not all of us can have our own personal "Mr. Plow".

As someone who moved from the West Coast to New England, I quickly learned what was needed.  New England is particularly rough in Winter.  I researched the potential problems and solutions.  I will share my experiences by suggesting tools that I found to be helpful for dealing with snow seasons.  I will focus on what I found to be successful, and not dwell too much on failed or ineffective methods.  (Please see my FTC 16 CRF Part 255 notice in the right pane in reference to any affiliate links found this article. All affiliate links are incidental and were not used to determine the main content of this article.)

Snow Removal - Ground Level

There are various tiers of equipment that can move snow around, from a snow blower to a simple shovel.  However, a snow blower is typically overkill for most snowy days, and useless for the worse of days.  Also, it wouldn't be a good idea to use snow blowers on certain surfaces, such as a wood deck.  Snow blowers are most efficient for a particular amount of snow accumulation, or if you have a particularly large property.  For homes that I've owned, I never found snow blowers to be necessary.  To clear driveways and sidewalks, a shovel with a little elbow grease is typically the most versatile solution.  There are a lot of options for shovels.

First, don't use a shovel that isn't specifically designed for snow shovelling.  Using the wrong type of shovel will make your job a lot harder than it needs to be.  Second, I don't recommend using a metal snow shovel.  You may be tempted to think that metal is more reliable, but it's actually the less effective option in my experience.

Instead, get a non-metal snow shovel with a metal wear strip.  In fact, get two.  Two?  Yes.  One shovel with a wide "combo" or "shovel/pusher" blade and one shovel with a narrower blade.  The wide-bladed shovel will allow you to push and scoop a significant amount of snow very quickly and with much less effort; kind of like a bulldozer. This wide-blade shovel is your primary tool.  The shovel with a narrower blade will be useful when you need to move piles of snow but still need to do a little bulldozing too.

Snow Removal - Roof

Some regions with a lot of snow, such as Denver, don't keep the snow around very long.  So, although you may need to shovel throughout the season, that's about it.  However, New England is different.  Snow hangs around all Winter.  That's a problem for roofs.  As snow sits on your roof, the heat from your home will partially melt it from the bottom, and that melted snow freezes back into hard ice.  This forms something called ice dams.

Exterior signs of ice dams are icicles.  Interior signs of ice dams are leaks from the roof onto your ceiling and into your home.  To avoid the formation of ice dams, snow should be removed from the lowest 3 to 6 feet of your roof, above the gutter.  This is where ice dams will typically form, so removal of snow from this area is important.  The tool I used to remove rooftop snow was the roof rake.  The roof rake I used was the 21-foot Garelick.  However, newer products may be better.  Be sure to check customer reviews for current products that may be better.

There are powered or chemical options too.  Every circumstance is different, so these passive options may be necessary for various reasons.

Ice on the ground

To remove ice on the ground or not?  That's a question you'll have to answer for yourself.  Arguments can be made as the necessity of ice removal, or not.  For me, safety is a concern.  Removal of ice from paths and driveways creates the safest scenario.  Slipping on ice is dangerous and very unpleasant.  If you quickly remove snow, you can avoid most ice accumulation on walkable/drivable areas.  However, sometimes ice will just form on your paved areas regardless to the preventative actions you take.

There are a lot of options to chemically remove ice on the ground. The most basic is rock salt.  Other chemicals claim to work better.  Others claim to be environmentally-friendly.  There are even supposed pet-safe products.  Any product you choose should work well enough when the ice is thin.  However, don't rely on chemicals if you have an inch of ice.  In that event, you'll need to hack at the ice.  I don't really have advice as to the best ice-hacking tool because no tool seemed particularly efficient to me.  You just have to hack at the ice until you can pry it off.

Oh, don't be tempted to take shortcuts, like hot water.  Hot water doesn't stay hot for long when poured onto frozen ground.  You'll likely just end up making more ice.

Can you preemptively apply salt or other chemicals before snowfall?  Sure.  In light to moderate conditions, this will work well.  However, if 3 feet of snow falls overnight, don't expect a clear walkway when you wake up.  Expect 3 feet deep snow with a crusty layer at the bottom.

Your Car

Even if you park your car in a garage or carport, you'll still likely need to drive it at some point during a snowy day.

You'll need methods to remove snow and ice from your car's windows, hood and roof.  Window scrapers are necessary, even if you have a fancy windshield cover.  Keep at least one window scraper in your car at all times during late fall to early spring.

Driving in bad conditions

Now, when it comes to actually driving in bad conditions, different cars have different requirements.

If you have a front wheel drive (FWD) car, your car is not well-balanced between front and back, but your car's heaviest point (the engine) is solidly over your drive wheels.  This means you'll be less likely to lose traction in bad conditions *IF* you know how to handle your car in those conditions.  The problem is that many FWD drivers operate their car in the same fashion as if it was a rear wheel drive car.  This means the car can get squirrely, even when driving fairly straight.  I'm not going to go into driving basics, but do your research and learn as much as you can about the correct way to drive with a FWD car in bad conditions.

If you have a rear wheel drive (RWD) car, your car is also not well-balanced between the front and back.  However, the heaviest point (the engine) is not over your drive wheels.  This means you may have trouble getting traction on your drive wheels.  You may not be "squirrely", but you may spin your tires when trying to get up a gentle snow-covered hill.  To mitigate this limitation, use bags of sand or other well distributed weight over your rear tires within your trunk.  Bags of sand are good because they won't shift around a lot.  Even something as little as 50 pounds over each tire can help.  200 pounds over each tire would be ideal, particularly if you have a big engine.  With weight over my rear wheels, I found my car to be very stable and reliable.

I remember several occasions in bad conditions where other cars (both rear and front wheel drive) spun-out around me while I was able to drive without any significant trouble.

All wheel drive (AWD) is better.  AWD cars don't have the limitations of RWD and FWD cars.  However, that doesn't mean you don't have to be careful.  If you hit ice (particularly when going downhill or at the wrong speed), your car's wheel configuration won't matter that much.  Always use caution when driving in bad conditions.  Better yet, don't drive in bad conditions, if possible.

Snow Tires

Regardless to your car's drive type, consider getting a full set of snow tires if you live in New England or similar climates.  I found Blizzak snow tires to be very reliable for my needs. For ease of use, I purchased a whole separate set of rims just for my snow tires.  Since I had my snow tires mounted on their own rims, tire shops or the dealer usually switched out my tires from all-season to snow tires (and back again) for free as part of routine checks or tire rotations.

In Denver, snow tires don't seem necessary since snow doesn't hang around for very long.  Research to see if snow tires are recommended for your area before making the investment.

Snow Boots

Yup, just like your car, you'll need something to make you more stable in the snow.  Get one or more pairs of snow boots.  Just having waterproof shoes or hightops will not be enough. You'll need full-fledged snow boots.

Snow boots will allow you to do all the stuff previously mentioned in this article, like shovelling snow.  Seriously, don't try to shovel snow with your street shoes.

Anything else?

Yup, I can go on about such things like clothes to consider, or what to do when the power goes out.  However, there's already enough here to make you think twice about moving to a snowy climate.  So, perhaps I'll cover those things another time.  Overall, where you can prevent issues, do so. Always use caution when outside in bad weather, even if you are just walking your dog.  Good luck!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Machine Learning is artificial, but it's not necessarily intelligent

Machine Learning is "artificial", but it's not really intelligent from a certain point of view. There appears to be a trend going on in the industry right now that uses the terms "Machine Learning" and "Artificial Intelligence" interchangeably (or at least sees Machine Learning is a type of AI).

Intelligence is the often measured as the ability to see connections between different things.  Machine Learning doesn't see connections.  It just uses CPU time for brute-force analysis to find connections based on many iterative cycles of failures and successes in stages.  Early failures are often permanently disregarded, and early successes given too much value, even if they follow deadend paths . Machine Learning typically is not able to see that future success could actually come from pathways where it experienced early failure, unless there is human intervention of some sort.

This video should scare all of us, and not because of the wolves

Amazon learned a similar lesson on its own regarding Machine Learning, as detailed in the following article. The article describes how Amazon had to scrap their Machine Learning program for hiring people. The program's purpose was to remove gender bias in hiring of new employees. However, their program developed gender bias on its own, despite the development team's best efforts to remove bias. Article: Amazon scrapped a secret AI recruitment tool that showed bias against women [].

This article on Volt DB (6 Reasons Why Your Machine Learning Project Will Fail to Get Into Production []) goes into common problems with Machine Learning projects. It boils down to data quality. The problem is, data from the real world will always be of poor quality.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

South Dakota v. Wayfair Supreme Court ruling on interstate sales tax seems to be based on wishful thinking

In the recent case of South Dakota v. Wayfair, et al, the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution has been redefined by the Supreme to remove prohibitions on states to collect sales tax on interstate transactions where the buyer is within their state. I am thoroughly suprized by this ruling, as it overturns long held understanding of Commerce Clause. As best as I can tell from reading the ruling, it's based on the same touchy-feelingly arguments that have been pervasive among the states about "losing money" and "the Internet changes everything". The decision takes for granted that money must be owed just because their is a transaction and the state has a sales tax. The ruling dismisses the very real challenge for small business who now have to deal with the burden of over 5000 tax jurisdictions. The ruling simply lemented an edge-case consequence of the previous ruling rather than allowing Congress to address the edge-case through legislation.

In an effort to level the playing field, Supreme Court created a whole new unlevel field on a much larger scale. The ruling also goes into a state's sovereign power, but it ignores the fact that this ruling is at the expense of every states' sovereign power being eroded, as now one state can tax another state's business directly. Since a sale tax is a tax, does this now mean one state can tax the income of a business in other state for the money earned on the transactions within their borders?  This would seem to further level the playing flat so that businesses in other states experience the same double taxation that businesses within the state experience already. [sarc]

This ruling also fully legitimizes Use Taxes, where the individual person must pay the sales tax directly to the state (rather than the business doing the collection), even though the transaction occurs in other state, like when you drive across state lines to buy something, then bring it back home.

Based on this ruling, states should not only have a right to tax transactions that occur outside of their state, but they should be able to tax transactions that occur in foreign countries now too. Additionally, since the Indian Tribes are specifically mentioned in the Commerce Clause, do they now have the right to tax businesses in the same new manner as now granted to the states, taxing businesses anywhere in the country (or the world)? This is going to be an annoying twenty or so years while the lower courts sort out this mess unless we can get Congress to enact something that addresses everyone's concerns. Since this is specifically an interstate commerce issue, Congress does have the right to set up a system that solves these problems and addresses states', comsumers' and business' needs.

For me the SCOTUS arguments are not convincing, based on wishing to make things fair by legislating from the bench without working through the consequences. I find myself agreeing with Justice Roberts' dissenting view. There were issues with the previous rules, but we've thrown out the baby with the bathwater (my words).


Ruling text, with pro and con arguments by SCOTUS:

Monday, July 10, 2017

We didn't evolve from apes?

I'm not going to touch on arguments pro and con regarding evolution or creationism in this article. This is simply a criticism of a particular ploy used when some engage in those arguments.  It's common to hear a proponent for evolution to say the following when in a discussion with a creationist:
Humans didn't evolve from apes.  We evolved from a common ancestor with apes.
But this statement is disingenuous. The truth is that we did evolve from an early ape species which diversified over time into five great apes species and sixteen ape species, namely Bonobos, Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Orangutans, Humans and various Gibbons.  Sure, it's true we didn't evolve from Chimpanzees, but we did evolve from an ape species from which all other modern ape species also evolved.

Ape skeletons

I guess the claim of not evolving from apes came out of the desire to side step or disrupt creationists' arguments driven by their misconceptions about evolution.  If a creationist says "evolution says we evolved from apes", then it's an easy comeback to say "no it doesn't, actually."  But, in truth, yes, evolution does indeed say we evolved from an ape species, and this is backed up by modern discoveries.  There's no need dance around this by splitting hairs on what is meant by the word "ape".
  • Is a wolf a canine?  Yes.  Is a fox a canine? Yes.  Did wolves and foxes evolve from a common canine species? Yes.  Then wolves and foxes evolved from canines.
This example is just to drive the point home.  Canines and apes (all mammals, reptiles and amphibians, actually) all evolved from common tetrapod ancestor species that first lived on land about 400 million years ago. Yes, we are all tetrapods that evolved from a common tetrapod ancestor species.  In the larger scope, we evolved from tetrapods!  Just as more immediately, we evolved from apes.

Friday, January 06, 2017

First round of life in the Universe might have been possible extremely early

Cosmic background radiation
I've posted other articles about the possibility of life in our Galaxy based on what is known right now.  For this article, after going into some concepts from a somewhat recent study, I'm going to speculate a bit based on the suggestion by that study that life was possible for a very specific period of 10 million years to 17 million years after the formation of the Universe.  The study is The Habitable Epoch of the Early Universe.

What is significant about this very specific period after our Universe's formation?  According to the study, the cosmic microwave background provided a uniform heating source that was between 0 to 100°C (the melting point and boiling point of water at 1atm) during 10-17 million years after the formation of our Universe.  This means that there was no Habitable Zone around stars since the entire Universe was one gigantic habitable zone (except maybe being too close to a star).[001]
Hypothetical earliest stars in our Universe
Hypothetical earliest stars in our Universe

Challenges for Earliest Stars and Planets

There's a catch.  Stars that formed immediately after the Big Bang were very different than the stars we now see.  The only two elements available in the Universe were Hydrogen and Helium.  These early stars are referred to as being metal-poor, lacking access to elements heavier than than Helium.  There is speculation that the very first stars where actually extremely metal-poor.  Material from which terrestrial planets could have formed simply wasn't available yet.  When these first stars died, they produced the elements necessary for the formation of planets and metal-rich stars.  The death of these stars had to happen very quickly in order to meet the criteria necessary to consider life being possible so early in our Universe's existence.
In order for rocky planets to exist at these early times, massive stars with tens to hundreds of solar masses, whose lifetime is much shorter than the age of the Universe, had to form and enrich the primordial gas with heavy elements through winds and supernova explosions.[001]
Cosmic simulations suggest the formation of massive early stars that explode relatively quickly.[001]  Gravitational lensing also suggests the formation of such stars in the earliest galaxies.[002]  Given the possibility for such stars and such explosions of such stars, planet formation early in the Universe was also possible.[001] Given the cosmic microwave background heat of the Universe, the likelihood of planets with water on their surface was again also possible.

On the plus side for these planets, once the cosmic microwave background cooled down after the 17 million year mark, the planets themselves may have been able to keep warm enough on their own for quite awhile, even without a nearby star.
[Thermal gradients needed for life] can be supplied by geological variations on the surface of rocky planets. Examples for sources of free energy are geothermal energy powered by the planet’s gravitational binding energy at formation and radioactive energy from unstable elements produced by the earliest supernova. These internal heat sources (in addition to possible heating by a nearby star), may have kept planets warm even without the cosmic microwave background, extending the habitable epoch...[001]


Although the study The Habitable Epoch of the Early Universe suggests that life may have been possible in the early Universe, much of that life may not have survived past 17 millions years after the Big Bang unless it was lucky enough to be in the Habitable Zone within a solar system that included a very stable star.  However, even if the life didn't survive, the organic matter from which the life formed may have survived.  The survival of this life or its material could have seeded the later Universe, drastically increasing the chances of life reemerging.   Some speculate life on Earth originates from extra-solar system sources.  Perhaps the material necessary for the emergence of life was already in the mix from which our Sun formed.  The mechanism for such transference of life and materials is called Panspermia, or specifically, Pseudo-panspermia and Lithopanspermia.

What if aliens have been around much longer than us? Would we be able to find them?It seems there would have been a substantial gap between the first wave of early life and the next wave of life; this next wave presumably being the epoch within which we find ourselves now.  How might species from the early epoch be viewed by species of the current epoch?

From a Science Fiction perspective, such early life may have evolved to sentience very early in our Universe's existence.  Being so close to our Universe's beginning and having so long to evolve may have allowed these early species to development god-like powers by now.  Such species may be Q of Star Trek: TNG, Time Lords of Doctor WhoNibblonians of Futurama, and perhaps less god-like Precursors of Star Control II and Progenitors, also of Star Trek: TNG.

Would signs of god-like species be discernible to us young species?  We wouldn't likely see evidence in the form of direct radio signals, as such species would have long since evolved beyond such primitive methods of communication.  Perhaps we could catch a glimpse of these early species in the earliest days of their development via EM signals they emitted billions of years ago, from distance galaxies.

We'd have to know where to point our detectors.  Signals from ancient civilizations within our own galaxy would have passed us by billions of years ago.  However, signals from ancient civilizations in galaxies billions of light years away would be reaching us at the same time as the rest of the light from those galaxies.  Such signals would be faint and scattered, but they may be just distinct enough to discern from the background noise.  For example, at certain times of the year, Earth glows at certain EM frequencies much brighter than any other object in our galaxy.  A similar civilization billions of years ago in a galaxy billions of lights away might be obvious to us once we start looking for such phenomenon.

The idea that life may have developed so early in our Universe's existence opens up a Universe of possibilities.  Our understanding of our origins may be even effected by this concept.  On the other hand, maybe life in our Universe wasn't possible at all until very recently.  Maybe we are one of the first species to develop sentience in all of the Universe.  I'll cover more about this in a later article.

Primary reference:
A. Loeb, International Journal of Astrobiology, 13, no. 4, (Sept., 2014), arXiv:1312.0613 [astro-ph.CO], The Habitable Epoch of the Early Universe

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Begs the question is the idiom that you aren't using wrong, but some think you do

Are you begging the question?  What is begging a question?  Well, it depends.  There are two different terms that are very similar, but have very different uses.  The first is beg the question fallacy.  This is the traditional use of the term. This is a type of fallacy where a premise includes the claim or assumption that its conclusion is true.  (This is covered in some brief detail at Fallacy: Begging the Question (backup link).)

For example, "All cats are evil, otherwise you would not see cats do evil things."

The premise of this statement is that cats are evil, and the justification is that you see cats do evil things.  The statement forms a circular argument.

But, there's another common use of the term that often appears as , "begs the question", as in, "your statement begs the question of who will do this work".  It means that there is an obvious or ignored question that arises from a statement.

There are grammarians and logicians that will argue that this is somehow the wrong use of the term, such as the website (backup link) (which dedicates itself to this topic).  Ironically, these individuals often employ logical fallacies to disregard the modern usage of the term.  There are people that seem gleefully unaware of how English works.  Common usage is correct usage. Dictionaries now list the modern usage on equal weight as the logical fallacy definition.  See idioms area on (backup link).

There is often a claim that using the phrase in the modern sense is somehow confusing (see some of these claims on (backup link) by Grammar Girl). However, common usage is so prevalent, there is no confusion as to when the term is being used one way or another.  If someone wishes to distinguish between the logical fallacy and the assertion of an obvious/ignored question, then they do so with context, just as they would for the use of any other common terms with multiple meanings.  This begs the question, why is denial of the validity of the modern definition so important to some people?