Horrible, Offensive Geekery

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Andrew
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Andrew » 22 May 2019, 10:02

dbcooper wrote:
22 May 2019, 02:32
Internet pedantry, a classic case:

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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Mo » 23 May 2019, 08:50

My beef with the Dark Forest theory is that it presumes that advanced aliens have stuck to radio technology. We've likely only been able to detect and distinguish alien radio waves for less than 4 decades. Which means we could only detect aliens 40 light years away and that also assumes they haven't advanced technology past radio. The former limits the population and the latter seems highly unlikely for an advanced society. Our species has been around for hundreds of thousands of years and had radio for 125 of those years. Slow your fucking roll people.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Warren » 23 May 2019, 09:33

Mo wrote:
23 May 2019, 08:50
My beef with the Dark Forest theory is that it presumes that advanced aliens have stuck to radio technology. We've likely only been able to detect and distinguish alien radio waves for less than 4 decades. Which means we could only detect aliens 40 light years away and that also assumes they haven't advanced technology past radio. The former limits the population and the latter seems highly unlikely for an advanced society. Our species has been around for hundreds of thousands of years and had radio for 125 of those years. Slow your fucking roll people.
The universe has only one electromagnetic spectrum. That they use radio seems unavoidable. That we could distinguish their transmissions from background noise is what breaks my suspension.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Mo » 23 May 2019, 09:46

Warren wrote:
23 May 2019, 09:33
Mo wrote:
23 May 2019, 08:50
My beef with the Dark Forest theory is that it presumes that advanced aliens have stuck to radio technology. We've likely only been able to detect and distinguish alien radio waves for less than 4 decades. Which means we could only detect aliens 40 light years away and that also assumes they haven't advanced technology past radio. The former limits the population and the latter seems highly unlikely for an advanced society. Our species has been around for hundreds of thousands of years and had radio for 125 of those years. Slow your fucking roll people.
The universe has only one electromagnetic spectrum. That they use radio seems unavoidable. That we could distinguish their transmissions from background noise is what breaks my suspension.
That assumes communications will always and forever happen on the electromagnetic spectrum. 300 years ago no one imagined electromagnetic communications.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Aresen » 23 May 2019, 10:37

Mo wrote:
23 May 2019, 09:46
Warren wrote:
23 May 2019, 09:33
Mo wrote:
23 May 2019, 08:50
My beef with the Dark Forest theory is that it presumes that advanced aliens have stuck to radio technology. We've likely only been able to detect and distinguish alien radio waves for less than 4 decades. Which means we could only detect aliens 40 light years away and that also assumes they haven't advanced technology past radio. The former limits the population and the latter seems highly unlikely for an advanced society. Our species has been around for hundreds of thousands of years and had radio for 125 of those years. Slow your fucking roll people.
The universe has only one electromagnetic spectrum. That they use radio seems unavoidable. That we could distinguish their transmissions from background noise is what breaks my suspension.
That assumes communications will always and forever happen on the electromagnetic spectrum. 300 years ago no one imagined electromagnetic communications.
Of the four fundamental forces, electromagnetism is the only one amenable to long-distance communication. The strong and weak nuclear forces are very short range - atomic scales - and gravity requires manipulation of masses on a stellar scale to generate a detectable wave. Unless you are proposing a new fundamental force - and the only candidate we have is 'dark energy' - there is nothing on the table.

On the EM spectrum, radio is the best choice simply because it travels so well and much of the universe is transparent to it.

In principle, neutrinos could be used to transmit information, but the background noise is huge.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by JD » 23 May 2019, 13:07

Aresen wrote:
23 May 2019, 10:37
Mo wrote:
23 May 2019, 09:46
Warren wrote:
23 May 2019, 09:33
Mo wrote:
23 May 2019, 08:50
My beef with the Dark Forest theory is that it presumes that advanced aliens have stuck to radio technology. We've likely only been able to detect and distinguish alien radio waves for less than 4 decades. Which means we could only detect aliens 40 light years away and that also assumes they haven't advanced technology past radio. The former limits the population and the latter seems highly unlikely for an advanced society. Our species has been around for hundreds of thousands of years and had radio for 125 of those years. Slow your fucking roll people.
The universe has only one electromagnetic spectrum. That they use radio seems unavoidable. That we could distinguish their transmissions from background noise is what breaks my suspension.
That assumes communications will always and forever happen on the electromagnetic spectrum. 300 years ago no one imagined electromagnetic communications.
Of the four fundamental forces, electromagnetism is the only one amenable to long-distance communication.
True, and I'm really not trying to be all "but aliens!", but 300 years ago nobody had any idea about the fundamental forces, either; we don't really know what the next 300 or 3000 or 30,000 will bring. (I'm also just slightly irked because earlier today I saw an article that asked "What could we learn from aliens one billion years more advanced than us?" One billion years ago, the only life on earth was single-celled organisms, so it strikes me as quite possible that when you reach those time scales, us learning something from the aliens would be about as likely as bacteria learning something from Harvard...)
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by thoreau » 23 May 2019, 13:13

At the risk of being too arrogant about our current understanding of the universe, I don't think there are any technologically usable forces beyond the big 4. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of discovering new interactions as we learn what dark matter and dark energy are, but there's strong evidence that dark matter and dark energy are distributed on very large length scales, rather than clumped like ordinary matter. That, in turn, strongly suggests that however they interact it won't be useful for technologies that can be manipulated by human-scale lumps of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen.

Partly it's a question of how we would grip it: If we can't interact with it very strongly* via the forces that ordinary matter interacts with, how will we manipulate it.

It's also a question of mass ratios: This stuff is so thinly-distributed. How would we get a substantial amount of it in one place to do anything with?

So, never say never, but I'd be comfortable placing a bet at reasonable odds.

*In the colloquial sense, not the "strong nuclear force" sense.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Eric the .5b » 23 May 2019, 19:10

Mo wrote:
23 May 2019, 08:50
My beef with the Dark Forest theory is that it presumes that advanced aliens have stuck to radio technology. We've likely only been able to detect and distinguish alien radio waves for less than 4 decades. Which means we could only detect aliens 40 light years away
No, we could detect transmissions of any age, assuming they were strong enough and we were looking in the right direction; the photons are already inbound, if they exist. That's how we can use eyes that have only been around a few decades to see stars hundreds of light-years away.

That doesn't speak to the Dark Forest theory (which, yes, as people have complained, has been around for decades before that book), of course. i don't buy it because it implies every intelligence in the universe adopts a single strategy to address a problem—predation/attack—that nature and human societies have devised hundreds of functional strategies to deal with, few of which require perfect stealth. (And, well, there should also be messy evidence of failed strategies if it's a common problem...)

Also, why would paranoid genocidal species wait until someone starts transmitting to attack them? We're probably only a few decades away from being able to identify small planets with breathable atmospheres around other stars. A species capable of (and up for) exterminating species from another star system would have vastly more advanced astronomy than us (and a much bigger interest in it!), so why wouldn't they just go down the list of habitable planets they can detect and give them all at least a mass extinction event to push any threats off into the distant future?

Or put another way, if intelligent civilizations really converge on "kill everyone else", it doesn't look like we've been within any civilization's detection/extermination range within the last sixty-five million years. In some scenario where the galaxy is full of ninja sniper aliens, our fossil record should be machined-gunned with hundreds or even thousands of mass extinctions, and we shouldn't be around to look at it.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Jennifer » 23 May 2019, 20:02

Even now, with radio still less than two human lifetimes old, a LOT of our communication has moved away from that, to things undetectable from space--transmissions over cable, fiber optics, etc. Presumably, we'd have moved even more of our communication off-air if our planet were slightly different -- say, if our land/water surface ratios were backwards, so instead of "a planetary ocean surrounding some separated land masses," we had "one planetwide landmass you can cover entirely on foot," surrounding some bodies of water all separated from each other -- obviously, that makes certain types of planetwide communication far less radio-dependent.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Eric the .5b » 23 May 2019, 20:15

Of course, if you iterate on the Dark Forest premise, it gets even messier.

Assuming you're not just, for whatever reason, sending killer robots to drop rocks on every habitable planet you can see and instead waiting until primitive civilizations become detectable...Well, what would you really do when you detected another civilization? Would you quickly kill them?

Or would you lie in wait, waiting to see what gullible fucker immediately kill-on-sights these noobs so you can follow them home (ie, trace where their killer robots, etc. came from) and kill them? But then, wait—what if someone else is watching and sees you wipe the gullible fuckers out? But then, of course, they might reveal themselves to yet another lurking civilization if they go after you...

Truly paranoid civilizations wouldn't go ninja sniper, they'd just hide, because trying to wipe out other civilizations they detect would reveal them and make them targets to an unknown number of enemies. And in a vaguely realistic setup, you're just not going to assassinate intelligent species without leaving tracks.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Eric the .5b » 23 May 2019, 20:22

Jennifer wrote:
23 May 2019, 20:02
Even now, with radio still less than two human lifetimes old, a LOT of our communication has moved away from that, to things undetectable from space--transmissions over cable, fiber optics, etc. Presumably, we'd have moved even more of our communication off-air if our planet were slightly different -- say, if our land/water surface ratios were backwards, so instead of "a planetary ocean surrounding some separated land masses," we had "one planetwide landmass you can cover entirely on foot," surrounding some bodies of water all separated from each other -- obviously, that makes certain types of planetwide communication far less radio-dependent.
True, but a lot of that is the stuff that's probably hardest to actually detect beyond the solar system. Our most powerful signals (military early warning radar and the like) are still getting transmitted.

Even in on a Pangea-world, it'd probably still have plenty of places where it'd be cheaper to lay oceanic cables than route things the long way around on land. And if some military powers on different parts of the supercontinent are pointing nukes at each other, they'd probably have early warning radars watching the skies.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by thoreau » 23 May 2019, 20:26

Honestly, if certain tenets of physics remain more-or-less valid in the face of future research, it's likely that no technological species will have much capacity to harm denizens of other solar systems. Colonization ships would take massive amounts of energy even for multi-generational voyages. Conquest would yield no meaningful benefit to the civilization that made the sacrifices to send some future generation to another star system because how will they get anything back?

Better to just terraform the fuck out of your solar system until your civilization is basically a Dyson Sphere and use contraception to avoid Malthusian issues. When your star finally dies you'll have probably uploaded your consciousness to something that can go into sleep mode until it reaches a convenient uninhabited star system and builds a new Dyson sphere. No need for that star system to have life--why go to the hassle of fighting a war against whatever is there?
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Aresen » 23 May 2019, 20:30

Jennifer wrote:
23 May 2019, 20:02
Even now, with radio still less than two human lifetimes old, a LOT of our communication has moved away from that, to things undetectable from space--transmissions over cable, fiber optics, etc. Presumably, we'd have moved even more of our communication off-air if our planet were slightly different -- say, if our land/water surface ratios were backwards, so instead of "a planetary ocean surrounding some separated land masses," we had "one planetwide landmass you can cover entirely on foot," surrounding some bodies of water all separated from each other -- obviously, that makes certain types of planetwide communication far less radio-dependent.
While it is true that a large portion of our communications has moved to cable, fibre optics, etc., the absolute amount of radio emissions has continued to increase.

Also, our transmission losses on power lines partly expresses as a signal and, while our power transmission is becoming more efficient, the total losses are increasing. We should be a very bright source at 50 and 60 hz.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by thoreau » 23 May 2019, 20:33

Honestly, my best guess about life in the universe is that inhabited worlds are common but mostly populated by bacteria.

Some fraction of the bacteria worlds figured out the eukaryotic fusion event and have complex land animals. Dinosaur planets wait to be discovered by a future Stevo!

A handful of planets, after billions of years of false starts, achieve a level of technology that enables them to know what atoms are.

Most of them, after a few centuries, give nuclear launch codes to a politician who assumes the other guy will blink first.

We're still waiting to see if we're one of them.

(I'm really not a nuclear DOOOOOOOOM guy in the short-term view, but forever is a long time. I simply don't believe that generation after generation of leaders will always get this shit right. Eventually someone will screw up. Might take centuries, but that's a cosmological blink of an eye.)
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by thoreau » 23 May 2019, 20:36

Aresen wrote:
23 May 2019, 20:30
Also, our transmission losses on power lines partly expresses as a signal and, while our power transmission is becoming more efficient, the total losses are increasing. We should be a very bright source at 50 and 60 hz.
I haven't done the calculation but I seriously doubt that we outshine the sun in that frequency range. Yes, we pick up our power lines as brighter than the sun but that's because we're a trillion times closer to them. Aliens are equidistant from the sun and our power lines. I almost guarantee that they are picking up the sun, not us.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Eric the .5b » 23 May 2019, 20:38

thoreau wrote:
23 May 2019, 20:26
Honestly, if certain tenets of physics remain more-or-less valid in the face of future research, it's likely that no technological species will have much capacity to harm denizens of other solar systems. Colonization ships would take massive amounts of energy even for multi-generational voyages. Conquest would yield no meaningful benefit to the civilization that made the sacrifices to send some future generation to another star system because how will they get anything back
You wouldn't need to send people to do it. If you could accelerate a sizeable missile to near-lightspeed (perhaps powered by a big laser in your home star system, as in a number of interstellar mission proposals), you could just shoot another planet. Or send robot probes that look around the target system, find a suitable asteroid, and divert it into the target planet.

And really, if you're inflicting extinction events on other planets, you're not planning to expand to them.

Though, yes, I agree, civilizations under physics-as-we-know-it can't really expand to other star systems. They can only fission off to spread child civilizations to other star systems, and that would require some concern beyond economic benefit to the parent system. (Even if that's, "We're so ridiculously advanced that our equivalent of libertarian seasteaders crowd-funded a colony mission to the next star over.")
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Jennifer » 23 May 2019, 20:51

Eric the .5b wrote:
23 May 2019, 20:22
Even in on a Pangea-world, it'd probably still have plenty of places where it'd be cheaper to lay oceanic cables than route things the long way around on land. And if some military powers on different parts of the supercontinent are pointing nukes at each other, they'd probably have early warning radars watching the skies.
Sure, but -- given that we're talking of course about aliens, not alt-history humans -- it is not necessarily a given that another intelligent species must have evolved the same military tendencies as ours has. Or -- playing again with the idea of a planet with only the one landmass, no civilizations isolated from each other for millennia by unpassable water -- perhaps they've advanced or evolved beyond that: the idea that people in THIS part of the world are always on guard against the ones in THAT part of the world is an ancient as our idea of city-states always being at war with their literal next-door neighbors.

Heck, for all we know it's fairly common for intelligent beings throughout the galaxy to communicate primarily via telepathy, and we're the outliers because [sciencey-sounding stuff about, like, a yellow-sun solar-radiation spectrum or our own weird atmosphere, causing unobtanium neutronical reverse-field polarity that absorbs the particles most galactic species emit for intrapersonal telepathic communication, hence earth species never evolved telepathy].
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Eric the .5b » 23 May 2019, 20:52

thoreau wrote:
23 May 2019, 20:33
A handful of planets, after billions of years of false starts, achieve a level of technology that enables them to know what atoms are.

Most of them, after a few centuries, give nuclear launch codes to a politician who assumes the other guy will blink first.
Mind, that scenario requires a situation—two opposing powers with lots of nukes pointed at each other—that might not exist in the course of all intelligent species' history. It might be common, it might not, and it might not always be a civilization- or species-ending event when it goes down.

It might be at least as common for one empire to take over the world once they develop nukes, which wouldn't lead to world-threatening nuclear stockpiles.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Eric the .5b » 23 May 2019, 20:57

Jennifer wrote:
23 May 2019, 20:51
Eric the .5b wrote:
23 May 2019, 20:22
Even in on a Pangea-world, it'd probably still have plenty of places where it'd be cheaper to lay oceanic cables than route things the long way around on land. And if some military powers on different parts of the supercontinent are pointing nukes at each other, they'd probably have early warning radars watching the skies.
Sure, but -- given that we're talking of course about aliens, not alt-history humans -- it is not necessarily a given that another intelligent species must have evolved the same military tendencies as ours has.
Sure—as I just said in my other post—but it's also not impossible, and it's not clear that a supercontinent would do anything to prevent nuclear standoff or the existence of military conflict. I mean, Europe, Asia, and Africa have been connected by land (ignoring the Suez Canal) for all of human history, and look how much violence has happened on that vast landmass.

All we do know is that violence is common among animals, and intraspecies violence is common among animals we consider intelligent. I mean, human beings can be very nice, but we do tend to decide that we want things, real or abstract, enough to kill each other over it. I'm skeptical that intelligent aliens wouldn't do much the same thing on occasion.

ETA: I actually have a story idea in my notes where aliens make first contact and keep very cautious and aloof from us until we shame-facedly admit that yes, we have a long history of war with each other. Then they relax and let us know that yeah, the universe is divided up into species who could come into violent conflict with other members of their own species, but who learn to work toward peace...and species that are incapable of intra-species violence, but so never learned how to peacefully coexist with people they might come into conflict with. That latter group lacks the "ape doesn't kill ape" reflex when dealing with other species, so all such species get crazy-hostile toward outsiders at the drop of a hat.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Jennifer » 23 May 2019, 20:58

FWIW, I never figured Fermi's paradox was very paradoxical, because the question "Where is everyone?" only makes sense if you assume all intelligent species throughout the universe (however few or many there are) share some things in common with us: they need land to live on (that water planet around Gliese might well have super-intelligent dolphin life smarter than any human who ever lived, but they'll never make high technology); that land needs to be on a planet with lots of easily accessible metal in its crust; the atmosphere needs to allow for combustion so those intelligent beings can smelt the metal and do useful things with it... and of course, all of that is useless if these intelligent beings lack manipulative limbs (hands with opposable thumbs, or super-dexterous tentacles, rather than dolphin-flippers or dogs' paws or the like).
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Eric the .5b » 23 May 2019, 21:08

Well, Fermi's paradox, the Drake Equation, etc. all really speak to "tool using-aliens" in the end. We don't have any idea of the frequency of intelligence or tool-using intelligence; we don't seem to have any other creatures as smart as us who aren't tool-users, so we've got a sample size of one.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Eric the .5b » 23 May 2019, 21:17

Jennifer wrote:
23 May 2019, 20:51
Heck, for all we know it's fairly common for intelligent beings throughout the galaxy to communicate primarily via telepathy, and we're the outliers because [sciencey-sounding stuff ...].
Yeah, but that only changes the issue if telepathy doesn't have a maximum range or number of people you can talk to with it—which doesn't seem very likely for anything like physics-as-we-know-it and anything like a living creature as we know it.* Otherwise, you're going to need to use something else for long-distance or mass communications.







* Of course, there's the school of thought that other intelligent life may be so alien from us that we and they may never recognize each other as intelligent or even as living things...but that's both pretty out there and kinda dull to contemplate.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by thoreau » 23 May 2019, 21:51

Unless physics-as-we-know-it is so terribly, terribly wrong that comic book movies are plausible, I think that interstellar communication will be limited by 2 things:

1) The speed of light. Yes, even if they communicate via something that isn't light and produces stronger interactions than gravitational waves (let's say "fifth force waves" to keep it vague), I doubt that those waves will travel faster than light. The paradoxes that tachyons can cause just fuck everything up. And the math behind Lorentz symmetry (which is the ultimate reason for the universal speed limit and tachyon paradoxes) is compelling. Not because it is intricate and beautiful, but because the assumptions behind it are incredibly modest.

2) Energy conservation. Ultimately, any form of communication has to transmit energy. Whether that energy makes a speaker buzz with sound, a light blink on and off, a circuit carry current in an electronic recording device, or a chemical reaction happen, or whatever, energy has to be transferred. Somehow. The amount of energy can be minute, it can then be amplified by something with its own power source, but something had to receive energy in the first place so that an electron could move, a light pulse could go off, a cantilever could vibrate, whatever.

What does energy conservation have to do with this? Well, any beam of energy, or beam of particles, or beam of whatever, will have to spread out as it travels. It will have wavelike properties (because when you do the math you find out that just about everything does) and unless it is produced by something with an infinite aperture (don't ask too many questions; it isn't possible) it will spread. And as it spreads over a larger and larger area the signal will get weaker.

And yes, even laser pulses spread out. The range of angles that they cover can be restricted, but the area will increase. So while laser beams are more efficient than radio waves for interstellar communication (easier to restrict them to a narrow range of angles), that range of angles covers a larger and larger area as the pulses travel out, and as the energy spreads the signal gets weaker.

So, no instantaneous communication and no infinite-range communication. Unless physics-as-we-know-it is so fundamentally wrong that magic is possible.
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Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Eric the .5b » 23 May 2019, 22:52

thoreau wrote:
23 May 2019, 21:51
1) The speed of light. Yes, even if they communicate via something that isn't light and produces stronger interactions than gravitational waves (let's say "fifth force waves" to keep it vague), I doubt that those waves will travel faster than light. The paradoxes that tachyons can cause just fuck everything up. And the math behind Lorentz symmetry (which is the ultimate reason for the universal speed limit and tachyon paradoxes) is compelling. Not because it is intricate and beautiful, but because the assumptions behind it are incredibly modest.
I have pondered an FTL travel setting where causality-as-we-understand-it turns out to be a special case and starfaring civilization just deals with the complications...but I lack the physics knowledge to even frame the situation there, much less understand the math.
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Jennifer
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Joined: 28 Apr 2010, 14:03

Re: Horrible, Offensive Geekery

Post by Jennifer » 23 May 2019, 23:19

Eric the .5b wrote:
23 May 2019, 21:17
Jennifer wrote:
23 May 2019, 20:51
Heck, for all we know it's fairly common for intelligent beings throughout the galaxy to communicate primarily via telepathy, and we're the outliers because [sciencey-sounding stuff ...].
Yeah, but that only changes the issue if telepathy doesn't have a maximum range or number of people you can talk to with it—which doesn't seem very likely for anything like physics-as-we-know-it and anything like a living creature as we know it.* Otherwise, you're going to need to use something else for long-distance or mass communications.
If the trippier aspects of quantum theory I've read about are true -- do something to a particle here, thus affecting a particle there -- that could easily explain it. And, again, playing with the idea of earth being an outlier in that regard: our understanding of physics-as-we-know-it would naturally be hampered as a result, kinda like how a species completely lacking in vision is likely to overlook (sorry) a couple of things about the spectrum.
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b

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