Are the aliens merely sleeping? – Marginal REVOLUTION

Some time ago, I realized that the cosmic microwave background at 2.7K meant the universe was too warm to allow superfluid helium to form “in the wild”. Superfluid helium shows up at temperatures below 2.17K, so the universe needs to expand and cool of a bit more before the science fiction stories involving superfluid helium life forms become even theoretically possible. Maybe alien civilizations have decided to wait until superfluidity and superconductivity are common outside of cryogenics labs?

“While it is possible for a civilization to cool down parts of itself to any low temperature,” the authors write, that, too, requires work. So it wouldn’t make sense for a civilization looking to maximize its computational capacity to waste energy on the process. As Sandberg and Cirkovic elaborate in a blog post, it’s more likely that such artificial life would be in a protected sleep mode today, ready to wake up in colder futures.

If such aliens exist, they’re in luck. The universe appears to be cooling down on its own. Over the next trillions of years, as it continues to expand and the formation of new stars slows, the background radiation will reduce to practically zero. Under those conditions, Sandberg and Cirkovic explain, this kind of artificial life would get “tremendously more done.” Tremendous isn’t an understatement, either. The researchers calculate that by employing such a strategy, they could achieve up to 1030 times more than if done today.

Source: Are the aliens merely sleeping? – Marginal REVOLUTION

 

WhedonCon 2017

WhedonCon is a new convention; 2017 was its second year. This is a convention celebrating the works of Joss Whedon: Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and others. As a result, I spent the past weekend doing what I call “Convention Weight Training”. This is a fitness program that involves moving lots of heavy objects to and from a hotel, and moving them around in the hotel as I need to get at supplies and equipment.

For the second year in a row, I handled supplies for the Green Room. I bought the snacks and munchies, the beverages, and provided a lunch set-up around mid day. Everyone was quite happy with the provisions in the Green Room, and I used just over 80% of my budget. (Thanks in part to Kneady Bakery, which donated three shopping bags filled with baked goods to the convention.) Hospitality uses a lot of ice, and after the hotel staff showed me where the heavy-duty ice machine lived, I filled up my 150-quart ice chest with ice both Friday and Saturday nights. I had a cart I could use to move the chest through the hotel, but lifting it off the cart when it was full was something that had to be done by hand.

So, the day after I finished loading stuff out, I’m still quite tired.

One thing I didn’t do very much of was attend the convention. I made it to one panel, and caught the tail end of one where the subject was the monsters we are all capable of becoming. Comparing Trump with Hitler was apparently considered not the least bit controversial.  (I chose not to call anyone on their non-inclusiveness at that point.)

A lot of the programming was kind of “how to do it” lectures and demonstrations — writing, make-up, special effects, and so on. There was a panel speculating about what the second season of Firefly would have been like, and a couple of panels dedicated to everyday heroes. There were also meet-and-greet sessions, autograph sessions, and photo opportunity sessions. If I were passionate about any of those, I’d probably not be working the Green Room.

All in all, I did have fun. I guess I fall into the class of “convention-running fans” — the sort who’s more interested in running a convention than in the subject matter of any given con.  I guess I like the challenge of putting together a spread for as little as possible.

Anyway, back to ranting about politics.

Wanted: Humans

Humans quickly get a reputation among the interplanetary alliance and the reputation is this: when going somewhere dangerous, take a human.

Humans are tough. Humans can last days without food. Humans heal so fast they pierce holes in themselves or inject ink for fun. Humans will walk for days on broken bones in order to make it to safety. Humans will literally cut off bits of themselves if trapped by a disaster.

You would be amazed what humans will do to survive. Or to ensure the survival of others they feel responsible for.

That’s the other thing. Humans pack-bond, and they spill their pack-bonding instincts everywhere. Sure it’s weird when they talk sympathetically to broken spaceships or try to pet every lifeform that scans as non-toxic. It’s even a little weird that just existing in the same place as them for long enough seems to make them care about you. But if you’re hurt, if you’re trapped, if you need someone to fetch help?

You really want a human.