Friday, July 20, 2007
The Science Times section of the NY Times this week had a story quoting
Princeton astrophysicist J. Richard Gott III on the need to colonize Mars
before something bad happens to Earth. Gott based his imperative on the
Copernican principle: Things are in the middle 95 percent of their
existence - with a 95 percent certainty. WN learned of this deep
statistical tautology 14 years ago when Gott used it to forecast how long
humanity would survive. What's great is you don't need to know anything.
Being perfectly qualified, I calculated the survival of Gott's theory,
taking publication of his 1993 Nature article as its birth
(WN 4 Jun 93) . If the theory was
right, its demise would have been before 20 April 94
(WN 6 May 94) . That was 17 years
ago. The numbers don't lie - if the theory was right it would be dead.
If it's still around, it must be wrong. It's a good thing. After looking
at images from the Mars rovers, I'll take my chances with an asteroid
rather than move to Mars.
The softball-sized trigger is for the W88 warhead carried by submarine
launched missiles. Pits have not been made since the Rocky Flats facility
northwest of Denver, heavily contaminated by 40 years of weapons
production, was shut down in 1989. The new pit was described as a test to
see if it could be done, but with 10,000 intact pits in storage, it like
muscle flexing. We may have to wait for nuclear disarmament by
radioactive decay. The minimum lifespan for pits is put at 85 to 100
Today's issue of Science examines plans to use the sterile insect
technique (SIT) in one of the world's poorest countries to eliminate the
tsetse fly. But Ethiopia has dozens of species of tsetse flies, and some
critics believe SIT will fail there. Developed in the U.S. to eliminate
the screw worm fly in the Southwest, SIT releases huge numbers of
radiation-sterilized males to mate with females, which only mate once.
That rules out using the technique in human population control.
12 pounds, 800 glossy pages, this lavishly illustrated book by Islamic
creationist Harun Yahya has been showing up in mailboxes of American
scientists. My copy must have been lost in the mail. No matter: it's now
apparently available free on line. Where does the money come from?