Thursday, April 26, 2007


I hate when people are stupid. I find it highly irritating. Part of the reason for this is that I am highly invested in thinking that I’m a smart person. So it’s an ego defense for me to recognize stupidity in others. That is a double edged sword since I do stupid things too and my ego takes a beating when I am forced to recognize that I’m just as stupid as other people. (HELPFUL HINT: I know I’m not as smart as many of my friends but I’ve learned a clever trick of being quiet and just LOOKING smart. It turns out that this is almost as good as being smart.)

Hmmmm… gonna have to follow some bread crumbs back to where I was going with this….

Lately I’ve been super irritated by the recent announcement that scientists have discovered a new planet around a red dwarf type star about 20 LY away. The worst example of this came in a morning news broadcast. The scientists or their group have released a video animation of what the world COULD look like so that their story could get some air time on TV news. The anchor person said “So is this actual video of the new planet?” to her co-anchor as the video was playing. I sat there stupefied. Then I felt a surge of energy – I would have leaped through the screen and yelled “YOU MORON” at them were I able to.

I may not be the normal one – maybe regular people think that it might be actual pictures of a new planet. I’m familiar enough with physics and the general capabilities of our current technologies to know that there is no way we have pictures of a planet 20 light years away from us. It is common knowledge to me that this is impossible. So I’m amazed when someone else doesn’t understand this.

The planet was detected by measuring minute shifts in the stars spin and then inferring that the resulting red and blue shifts are because of gravitational influences of planets in orbit around the star. I’m sure the math is beyond me and I’m over simplifying this. From what I can understand the only things that we can really tell about the planet are: Something is orbiting that star and it has a certain minimum mass (approximately 2x the mass of earth).

With those two details we can theorize a few more things – one the approximate distance of the mass from the star, that given it’s proximity to its star it’s probably a rocky type planet (as opposed to a gas type planet), and that it possibly may have a local temperature able to support liquid water.

From what I can tell that is about it. Obviously these theories are completely un-provable given our current technology. That hasn’t stopped people from announcing long and loud that a human habitable planet has been discovered or that an extra-solar planet capable of supporting life has been discovered. I will grant that these are both potential theories but they are pretty extreme and I see no way to prove them true or false.

It’s stupid and funny. I guess just announcing that there is possibly a planet doesn’t have the same ring to people than announcing they’ve found Vulcan and expect to make first contact any day now. *sigh*

I guess I feel awful smart right now but also really sad. Have we come so far that it’s no longer acceptable to have actual science intrude into our consciousnesses? Are we so unwilling as a society to spend any time thinking but instead need to be drip fed fun sound bites regardless of their veracity? Believing in Voodoo will not help us at all in the long run.

P.S. The link to the voodoo science essay by Jerry Pournelle is well worth your time if you've never see it before.

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