Wednesday, September 4, 2013
thought for the day/Isaac Asimov's "Extraterrestrial Civilizations."
Image Credit & Copyright: Gerald Rhemann
I thought about rereading all of Isaac Asimov's "Extraterrestrial Civilizations", but maybe for my purposes only the first chapter is all I really need to address. I will mention quickly though that Isaac Asimov's "Extraterrestrial Civilizations" was the original "Rare Earth Hypothesis" book. The Rare Earth hypothesis book doesn't even reference Isaac's book! Isaac Asimov's book predates the Rare Earth book by over ten years.
I've also already pointed out parts of the first chapter in Isaac's book about fire. I quote Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" chapter 7 about fire. It's been awhile; i'll just note that fire acted in much the same way as clearing the lands does for coming up with concepts of irrigation, fertilization, and pest control. Fire keeps bugs and wild animals like bears away. This allows the human mind to wander a good bit more than it otherwise would. I've always liked to note while hiking that birds and lizards always have their heads on a swivel. They never loose concentration on the very present moment. Fire would have allowed people get away from some worries of life to think about other things. Getting on to some other issues brought up by Isaac Asimov in his "Extraterrestrial Civilizations."
Isaac starts his search for alien intelligences by looking for intelligence right here on Earth. He notes that generally there's a split between life and non-life. What he really means is rocks and life. He doesn't quite note that some non-life displays some aspects of life - dynamical systems like various vortices; tornadoes, hurricanes, and even fire! He goes on to point out that life displays some intelligence, and then Primates seem to be most human like. The only difference between Primates in general and Homo Sapiens is the speech ability. Primates don't seem to have "Broca's brain." He mentions an interesting quote from a William Congrave around 1695, "I could never look upon a monkey, without very mortifying reflections." It's curious that humans can ascribe all kinds of human characteristics to non-Human life like the talking snakes being cunning in Genesis book two of the Bible, but, these very same people don't like being evolved from that life.
Likewise, these people want to be spirit, but they don't like the theory of evolution. I always joke that their spirituality is a static spirituality.
The idea of spirits is pointed out by Isaac Asimov as an early effort by mankind to find 'other intelligences' besides themselves. Of course, people back then considered anything they didn't know to be divine(I note a Greek quote early on in this blog about this). Eventualy, they'd generalize this idea to a one god(generalization is one property of the mathematical mind; see my third post of this blog about the origins of mathematical knowledge).
The idea of gods as other intelligences is interesting from some primarily twentieth century phenomenon about the search for 'Extraterrestrial Intelligences.' One could say that the early effort to believe in God(s) was like the UFO craze of the twentieth century(and still ongoing).
Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Carl Sagan often felt the need to get out to space and finding alien life and then E.T's would go a long way towards getting humanity past its barbaric beliefs. I for one doubt that people will stop believing in their personal gods for anything. They don't believe based on facts, but for the hope that their god will save them from their enemies(see the Old Testament and the New Testament for that matter; Jesus Christ is a messianic figure).
UCSD electron microscope nano-writer
3d printing has been exciting and continues to be exciting. Could electron microscopes become advanced 3d printers that can achieve nanomanufacturing before 3d printers? Well maybe, but the laser guys look to not be outdone yet.
This other technique uses lasers in a different way from 3d printers; it uses them as to carve two dimensional structures, grapheme, and then as laser tweezers to pick up and place them in arbitrary patterns. The above electron nano writer is a lot more like what 3d printer does only using electrons. I can only wonder if they can find a way to combine the two processes!
laser carving and tweezers of graphene(already nano-precise material)