Friday, May 23, 2014

Watch the Skies

There are a couple of items of astronomical interest in the news. The easier story to wrap one's head around is that this weekend will be characterized by a meteor shower which is expected to be spectacular. I'll be working in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow, so I'll find a likely spot and settle in to watch the show with a couple of friends.

The other, more perplexing astronomical story involves U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearings on SETI funding. The House of Representatives basically being a jobs-creation program for troglodytes, things didn't go so well during the hearing. The booby prize for this hearing goes to Representative Chris Collins who, to my shame, represents upstate New York. Collins decided that this hearing was a good time to go full Von Däniken (never go full Von Däniken):

"Have you watched Ancient Aliens and what is your comment on the series?"

Yeah, that's a guy who's got his hands on the purse strings.

There has been valid criticism that the Republican-led committee has held more hearings on extraterrestrial life than on climate change, but the GOP has made AGW denialism a facet of the party dogma. The fact that they are at least willing to conduct hearings with a couple of astronomers would suggest that there could be a glimmer of hope... if the congresscritters weren't so damn misinformed.

A few months ago, I yukked it up at a pronouncement by SETI senior astronomer Seth Shostak about evidence for extraterrestrial life being discovered within the next twenty-five years (the joke was inspired by the old saw that workable fusion power is always "twenty years in the future"). I firmly believe that SETI is performing valuable work. I have no doubt that the inhabitants of Earth are not alone in the universe (though I do not believe that extraterrestrials have visited us). Sadly, our current government is unable to walk and chew bubblegum at the same time, and the representatives are blinded by a toxic combination of fossil fuel funds and scientific illiteracy. I hope we can vote in a more competent congress this November, and I would exhort anyone, before you cast your vote, watch these guys.


Smut Clyde said...

Step 1: Prove existence of intelligent life on Earth.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

The House of Representatives basically being a jobs-creation program for troglodytes

This is true.

And unfortunately, the head of the DCCC is Steve Israel. He's following in Rahm Emanuel's footsteps...ignore districts where liberal candidates have a chance, and put every dollar into recruiting and supporting right-wing Dems (including newly converted Republicans).

Howie's DownWithTyranny blog reports regularly on the gruesome details (and also highlights the campaigns of people would make Congress a better place for all of us).

mikey said...

I have no doubt that the inhabitants of Earth are not alone in the universe (though I do not believe that extraterrestrials have visited us).

Yay! This is exactly my position also. And it amazes me that it's so rare. People see Star Trek and Star Wars and they just want it so bad to be true. Relativity isn't THAT hard to get, conceptually, but you have to try or you end up saying things like "well, we haven't discovered everything yet". Which is true, but we DO know that it takes infinite energy to move infinite mass. And we DO know that building a huge, complex spacecraft that can function without failure for ten thousand years isn't terribly likely. And we DO understand that a society would be unwilling to commit it's planetary resources to such a mission that they would never know the outcome of.

As to getting a better congress, sadly we're going to need to get a better political and electoral system before that can happen...

Sirius Lunacy said...

Everything that I know about space science I learned from Monty Python. Which means I probably know more than most of our congress critters. SO, VOTE FOR ME!!!

Syrbal/Labrys said...

Seeing the idiots we elect to power and the results of their action? Frankly, it makes me almost HOPE we are alone in the universe. Because if we are not and those presumed others get a good look at us? They might respond by sending the Trans-Cosmos Orkin crew.