Communion Of Dreams


Huh.

This is not a drill:

An international team of scientists from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is investigating mysterious signal spikes emitting from a 6.3-billion-year-old star in the constellation Hercules—95 light years away from Earth. The implications are extraordinary and point to the possibility of a civilization far more advanced than our own.

The unusual signal was originally detected on May 15, 2015, by the Russian Academy of Science-operated RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia, but was kept secret from the international community. Interstellar space reporter Paul Gilster broke the story after the researchers quietly circulated a paper announcing the detection of “a strong signal in the direction of HD164595.”

Huh.

Even if it is a signal directly beamed at us, it would require a Kardashev Type I civilization (about 200 years beyond where Earth is currently). If it is just beaming off in all directions, it’s another whole magnitude of power — about a Kardashev Type II.

Huh.

Yeah, I’d say it warrants paying attention to.

 

Jim Downey

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Linky-link.

Some quick links, none of which really warrant a full blog post.

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Wanna be a black-hole hunter? Sure you do! The Galaxy Zoo folks have just launched a new project you should check out:

Search for Black Holes

Black holes are found at the center of most, if not all, galaxies. The bigger the galaxy, the bigger the black hole and the more sensational the effect it can have on the host galaxy. These supermassive black holes drag in nearby material, growing to billions of times the mass of our sun and occasionally producing spectacular jets of material traveling nearly as fast as the speed of light. These jets often can’t be detected in visible light, but are seen using radio telescopes. Astronomers need your help to find these jets and match them to the galaxy that hosts them.

 

We live in the glorious future, where beer concentrate is a real, practical thing!

For fans of craft beer, enjoying a decent brew while hiking or camping away from the car usually involves lugging around heavy cans of beer, which can turn a lovely trek into a grueling slog through the woods.

But now the folks at Pat’s Backcountry Beverages have created a solution – their new Brew Concentrates come in featherweight 50ml packets and can be reconstituted with carbonated water (courtesy of their trail-ready 16-ounce carbonator bottle).

 

Well, actually, the past wasn’t so bad in some ways, either …

When you think of illicit substances that are shipped in brick form, wine probably doesn’t come to mind first. And no, boxed wine doesn’t count. During Prohibition, however, drinkers got around laws that banned alcohol by dissolving bricks of grape concentrate in water and fermenting them into wine.

Of course, conscientious makers of grape bricks didn’t want to contribute to bad behavior, and responsibly warned buyers that, “After dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn into wine.” The makers of the Vino Sano Grape Brick even dutifully indicated what flavors one’s careless handling of grape bricks would result in: burgundy, sherry, port, claret, riesling, etc.

 

And a friend had to share this:

CHRIST_IN_CHRISTMAS_THH_0372_11603013.JPG

 

Via BoingBoing, this vid of a crow using a jar lid as a snowboard.

 

And also via BoingBoing, a bit of explosive seasonal fun:

 

I’ll leave it at that for now. I need to get back to work on St. Cybi’s Well. (Oh, and if you’re interested, I often post snippets from daily writing on the Facebook page, just for fun.)

 

Jim Downey



Hey, monkey…

Humans are still much better than computers with many types of pattern recognition. And a new effort called Galaxy Zoo is tapping into that ability, and the desire of many people to participate in scientific endeavours, to help sorting out images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. From the press release on the site:

Astronomers are inviting members of the public to help them make major new discoveries by taking part in a census of one million galaxies.

Visitors to www.galaxyzoo.org will get to see stunning images of galaxies, most of which have never been viewed by human eyes before. By sorting these images into “spiral galaxies” (like our own Milky Way) or “elliptical galaxies”, visitors will help astronomers to understand the structure of the universe. The new digital images were taken using the robotic Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope in New Mexico.

‘It’s not just for fun’ said Kevin Schawinski of Astrophysics at Oxford University where the data will be analysed. ‘The human brain is actually better than a computer at pattern recognition tasks like this. Whether you spend five minutes, fifteen minutes or five hours using the site your contribution will be invaluable.’ Visitors will be able to print out posters of the galaxies they have explored and even compete to see who’s the best virtual astronomer.

So, put your monkey brain to work in a good cause. You’re better at this than any current expert system or artificial intelligence program. Even Seth in my novel has limitations in this regard…well, at the beginning of Communion, anyway. Go sign up – Pretty pictures await.

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to UTI.)