Stephen Hawking has said it before and he’ll say it again: If extraterrestrials call, do not answer ― at least, not without careful consideration.
The renowned theoretical physicists hosts “Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places,” a new short film available on the streaming service Curiosity Stream. The film follows Hawking around the universe as he “travels” in a computer-generated imagery spacecraft, giving the audience a peek into simulations of a black hole and Gliese 832c, an earth-like planet outside our solar system that scientists believe may be able to support life.
And Gliese 832c isn’t even the closet possible second-Earth. In August, scientists announced that Proxima b, a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri — the nearest known star to our sun — has a temperature that could allow liquid water and is possibly habitable.
But if we ever get a signal from any of these places, Hawking warns that we shouldn’t be too eager to say hello.
“We should be wary of answering back,” he says in the film, according to USAToday. “Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus — that didn’t turn out so well.”
On the night of June 12, 1886, a group of psychiatrists drove up the dark road to Neuschwanstein, the fairytale castle in Bavaria on a mission to take the lord of the manor, King Ludwig II (1845-1886), into custody. When they got there, they encountered a bloated man weighing 120 kilograms (260 lbs.), ravaged by the constant use of the soporific chloral hydrate, his teeth ruined by sweets.
A short time earlier, Ludwig, sensing his impending doom, had asked for potassium cyanide. “Hurtling downward from the highest levels of life into nothingness — that is a lost life, and I cannot bear it,” he wrote.
The king was not “incurably” mad, as the medical experts claimed at the time. At most, he was nothing more than a quirky eccentric. The real reason for his arrest was that he had lost control over his finances, and had amassed 14.5 million marks in debt. More than 100 creditors, including foreign banks, were threatening foreclosure. He was arrested to spare the Wittelsbach dynasty the humiliation of having its assets seized.
Throughout most of the modern period, beginning with the era known as the Enlightenment, education was widely regarded as the most important asset for the building of a decent society. However, this value seems to have fallen out of favor in the contemporary period, perhaps as a reflection of the dominance of the neoliberal ideology, creating in the process a context where education has been increasingly reduced to the attainment of professional, specialized skills that cater to the needs of the business world.
What is the actual role of education and its link to democracy, to decent human relations and to a decent society? What defines a cultured and decent society? World-renowned linguist, social critic and activist Noam Chomsky shares his views on education and culture in this exclusive interview for Truthout.
C. J. Polychroniou: At least since the Enlightenment, education has been seen as one of the few opportunities for humanity to lift the veil of ignorance and create a better world. What are the actual connections between democracy and education, or are those links based mainly on a myth, as Neil Postman argued in The End of Education?
Noam Chomsky: I don’t think there is a simple answer. The actual state of education has both positive and negative elements, in this regard. An educated public is surely a prerequisite for a functioning democracy — where “educated” means not just informed but enabled to inquire freely and productively, the primary end of education. That goal is sometimes advanced, sometimes impeded, in actual practice, and to shift the balance in the right direction is a major task — a task of unusual importance in the United States, in part because of its unique power, in part because of ways in which it differs from other developed societies.
Noam Chomsky @ TRUTHOUT
A HOLE IN THE SUN’S ATMOSPHERE–UPDATED: A large coronal hole is turning to face Earth, and it is spewing a complicated stream of solar wind toward our planet. This image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the outlines of the structure on Oct. 22nd:
Coronal holes are places in the sun’s atmosphere where the magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape. Big holes like this one typically appear once or twice a month.
According to NOAA computer models, the emerging stream of solar wind could reach Earth as early as Oct. 24th, although Oct. 25th is more likely. Because the stream is broad, it could influence our planet for 2 to 3 days, sparking polar geomagnetic storms and Arctic auroras for several nights in a row. Stay tuned for updates as the solar wind approaches.
Quick – picture Canada.
What comes to mind? A progressive wonderland of polite manners and majestic moose? What America might be if it evolved a little? That place you’ll move to if Trump wins?
If that’s what you think, that’s fine by us. In fact, it’s our brand: not America. The nice guys. Dull, kind and harmless. That’s how we like to be thought of.
But it’s mooseshit.
We are not the country you think we are. We never have been.
The first prime minister and founding father of Canada, John A Macdonald, was a raging alcoholic. He spent entire campaigns fabulously drunk and once vomited on stage during a stump speech. When his rival pointed it out, Macdonald shot back that he hadn’t puked because of booze, but because he had been “forced to listen to the ranting of my honourable opponent”. It was a deflection worthy of Trump. Macdonald handily won the election.
Canada is Justin Trudeau, but it is also Rob Ford
The reason the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (our “Mounties”) ride horses is because during the labour movement of the 30s, horseback was the best way to trample protesting immigrants and miners. By the 60s, the horses were mostly just for show and the Mounties’ regular activities included subjecting suspected homosexuals to the “Fruit Machine”, a device designed to measure erotic responses to gay porn.
That’s the CIA’s brilliant plan for stopping Russian cyber-attacks on the US and their alleged interference with the US election? Apparently, some in the agency want to escalate tensions between the two superpowers even more and possibly do the same thing right back to them.
NBC News reported late last week that the CIA is working up blueprints for an “unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia”, and it sounds a lot like they’re planning on leaking documents on Vladimir Putin, just as the Russians are accused of doing to the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.
NBC reported that former intelligence officials said “the agency had gathered reams of documents that could expose unsavory tactics by Russian President Vladimir Putin” and another former official said the US “should … expose the financial dealings of Putin and his associates”.
Hacking foreign governments – including political parties – is a US pastime, as even the former ex-NSA chief Michael Hayden openly admitted this week. “A foreign intelligence service getting the internal emails of a major political party in a major foreign adversary? Game on. That’s what we do,” Hayden said. He added: “By the way, I would not want to be in an American court of law and be forced to deny that I never did anything like that as director of the NSA.” (Hayden probably doesn’t want to find himself in an American court for a lot of reasons, but that’s another story.)
It’s the leaking of documents that is relatively new. The US, of course, has a long history of interfering in foreign elections as well, as Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor detailed last week. That’s not to excuse Russia’s alleged actions, but everyone feigning shock and horror over this needs to take a deep breath because we are rapidly spiraling towards not just a digital cold war, but perhaps something far worse.