Web links related to the Back of the Book program of February 21, 2000

It's currently Sunday, 2/27/2000 03:11:59. I think this page is done now. Something I didn't mention on the air was that as I rode a bus through the streets of Brooklyn in the wee hours I saw a 10 year old girl getting off after midnight and walking through a neighborhood that is usually called “high crime.” What idiots let children wander the streets alone after midnight?

We had sort of a theme to the program. It was pretty much all space, all the time. I didn't get to everything I'd wanted to get to, but I'll continue on this space theme for the next program.

My ISP, which is the dastardly RCN, has made things difficult by not delivering connections as they should. I've been looking for another ISP, and I've even considered the somewhat expensive DSL option. But then I've gone and looked at DSLREPORTS.COM and seen what they say about the Bell Atlantic DSL service I'd be likely to get. Only thing is, this site carries advertising from DSL providers. I'm always suspicious of those sorts of sales relationships.

There's a job action ongoing by the freelance reporters and stringers for Pacifica Network News. Look at the Pacifica Theft Menu to find out more.

The Web cast of tonight's program is probably working. The first one below is the most likely one to be working.

Paul Williams of UFO Desk is arranging for this feed. And we thank Porus dot com for this feed.

“Emmanuel Goldstein” of Off The Hook is maintaining this feed.

I guess that some aficionados of UFO Desk won't like the new contention that finding other intelligent life in the universe is extremely unlikely. The popular speculations about possible widespread intelligent life are based on some calculations made by Dr. Frank D. Drake back in the '60s. He headed an attempt to find such intelligent extraterrestrial life called Project Ozma, which looked in the “water hole” of the 21 centimeter band to detect radio signals from those intelligent beings. It turns out that the “water hole,” which is located between the noise made by hydrogen (H) and the noise made by hydroxyl (OH) ions is relatively clear of interstellar radio noise. And although the late Carl Sagan thought that this was a great idea, Drake never found anything.

His efforts have evolved into the current SETI@Home movement that's letting ordinary people use their computers to process the huge amounts of data being gathered from some big deal receivers. SETI stands for the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.

But some folks are now questioning the Drake Calculation as being very much overly optimistic. The authors of a new book think that intelligent life is very rare and we may be the only such life in the entire, expanding universe. Their basic argument is that most places in the universe are either too hot or too cold, or have too much ambient radiation or get bombarded by large rocks at high speeds too often for intelligent life to survive long enough to evolve a civilization that can send out radio signals.

Even if there are a million other planets in the universe that have intelligent life on them it's unlikely that we'll ever connect with them. For one thing, there are the distances involved. If there's intelligent life in the Andromeda Galaxy, for example, any signal from them would take something like 2½ million years for their signal to get here. So they would have to have been at our current level of technological development 2½ million years ago. And if we sent them a message in return it would arrive about 5 million years after they'd sent the original. Even if they were able to still be there to receive our reply and send another message to us is there a real chance that we'd be here to receive it 5 million years from now? The human genome isn't that stable. Given that we haven't been able to record our own history for more than a few thousand years, what are the odds that anyone, or anything, that would be around in 5 million years would remember that there'd ever been a first message? And what if their message came through these parts 200 years ago? No one could have received it then. The bottom line is that even if there are a million other intelligent life forms in the universe, we're never likely to “meet” them in any way.

A Native American group named the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde of Oregon is trying to get a 15 ton piece of iron named the Willamette Meteorite, currently owned by the Heyden Planetarium, sent back to the ground where it landed because their superstition says they worshiped it in the past. But the Native American group doesn't own that land anymore.

I think this is like people trying to get the Copernican theory banned from schools because some old Popes didn't like it years ago. Unless there are plans to return Manhattan Island to its original owners I think the Willamette Meteorite should stay right where it is. Superstition should not determine what gets done with things.

As I mentioned on the air, the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft has finally gotten into an orbit around the asteroid Eros. This was supposed to have happened last year, but in another NASA foul up they overshot the target and were lucky that they could maneuver into an orbit this year.

The photographs of this asteroid really do remind one of a giant space potato. The scientists who are studying it say that Eros appears to be a solid rock, unlike the asteroid Mathilde, which is just a pile of rubble soaring through space. You can follow the progress of the NEAR spacecraft and the scientists who are working with its data by going to the NEAR page.

Eros was the 433rd asteroid ever discovered. That was in 1898, by a German astronomer named Witt. There was quite a stir when it was determined that Eros' orbit sometimes took it within 14 million miles of the Earth. People had just gotten used to thinking of asteroids as rocks that occupied the Asteroid Belt, and finding one wandering that far from it, and coming so near to the Earth, was a shock. A whole lot of asteroids have been found since then that come even closer. In 1937, South African astronomers determined that Eros was 14 miles long and 4 miles wide. It is now known that Eros is 21 miles long, 8 miles wide and 8 miles thick. The first asteroid discovered was Ceres, on January 1, 1801, by the Italian astronomer Piazzi.

These is no word on whether or not the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde of Oregon are laying claim to either Eros or Ceres.

There are a lot of issues that we can't talk about on the air at WBAI. But there is an Internet list called “Free Pacifica!” which you can subscribe to, and these issues are discussed there. If you subscribe to it you will receive, via E-mail, all of the messages which are sent to that list. You will also be able to send messages to the list.

If you want to subscribe to the “Free Pacifica!” list just click on this link and follow the instructions, and you'll be subscribed. Could open your eyes a little bit.

The above list has occasionally produced a high volume of E-mail because of the attention that these issues have drawn. If you would prefer to subscribe to a low volume list that only provides announcements of events related to these issues then subscribe to the FreePac mailing list.

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