Posts by Jon connell
Message boards :
Science (non-SETI) :
Posted 27 Nov 2015 by Jon connell
We have to keep looking... doing the science, that's built into our DNA I think - to explore. There will be larger and larger versions of the LHC - as Sagan predicted. If ever we stop looking, like the Childhood's End we will have thrown the towel in on everything else. Like Sharks, we must keep moving, never declaring "we are done". The existential truth about life, the universe and everything... to paraphrase a few other writers... is out there.
If we could produce enough anti-matter to destroy Europe we would be well on our way to the stars by now. Drops in a very large ocean right now. I hear that mini-black holes are created in some of the higher energy collisions. I suppose in some SciFi eventuality one of these could latch on to enough matter before it collapses and eat the world - but I also read that - again - its energy. We are astronomical units away from being able to anything like that today. \
The apparent Great Silence in our local universe does suggest to some minds that something terrible and fatal does happen to all nascent planetary civilizations. I suppose that a super-long shot could just be errant particle physics accelerators doing something unexpected, outside of our scientific understanding causing an accidental end to everything. The designers of CERN definitely aren't taking any risks that we know of. If thought for a moment that we could create black holes, anti-matter or tear the fabric of space time we would be doing it on the other side of the solar system / another star... having used that same tech to get us there to boot. We are a long way from that right now.
I once heard that two near-critical cores of Uranium were suspended on ropes a few meters below Chicago City streets separated by an inhibitor. (Fermi was that - anyone? I think it was...) Had the two ever come together, Wrigley field would have been a large smoking crater. The only safety mechanism at the time was an axe hanging on the wall intended to cut the ropes - which would have required a Spock to sacrifice his life in order to drop the cores.
I also read a possibly apocryphal story that a major NE university once beat a chunk of Uranium with sledge-hammers in the quad , noting that the mass heated and sparked when compressed. Unlikely that would ever had gone bang, but entirely possible for it to fizz enough to do some damage to the school and surrounding areas. Many people died during Americas and the UK's pursuit of nuclear weapons - and the record books are full of scientists that accidentally blew up themselves - or more often their sorry assistants.
We can accidentally hurt ourselves then, but the gap between the apocalypse sooth Sayers and the scientists is a large one.
With progress there is risk, but in so much as we understand what we are doing today - and the consensus of the best minds is that we do and that the standard model of particle physics is right - then CERN is an entirely safe endeavor.
There are multiple outlying theories that tell us that the universe - even time itself - exists on a knife edge that could just suddenly stop some day. Maybe, and that is about as unlikely as CERN sucking us into another dimension.
With such a long a la carte menu of eventualities to worry about on this earth, there are more pressing fears for we humans to consider. I worry about road traffic accidents every time I get into a cab - engineer here. That is a valid fear, but probably another one best left at home. We unfortunately have limited life spans for now - best bet in my experience is to go out and live to the full and not worry about the long-shot bad stuff that is out of our control... or we would never get into the airplane in the first place - and that's no fun.
CERN is sexy and big enough to be scary, but that's all - just another physics experiment in the end. I submit our time is better served being excited at the potential for new science, ...the hoverboards, the warp drives and the missions to stars we may get out of CERN or whatever CERNs grandchild is named and not dwell on our own mortality.. at least not beyond the scientific discoveries of eating well, quitting smoking and trying to live a relaxed, healthy life full of love, hope and possibility.
Life's for the living, universe is for the exploring, science is for the doing. That will do for me.
Message boards :
SETI@home Staff Blog :
Sending Messages to ET: Just say no, for now.
Posted 31 Mar 2015 by Jon connell
Well, a straw poll tells me we have a perfect explanation for Fermi's "Great Silence" here don't we?
...And there I was looking at the growth of man-machine interfaces and thinking the universe tended instead towards an Asimov's "Childhood's End" - end.
I tend to err towards caution myself too and could easily embrace many of the isolationist attitudes, but then I am not the type to want to be an astronaut or Mars colonist either. Mankind generally is that type of course - and that's the problem.
As a result of that spirit of free-thinking and independent action that we humans possess I strongly suggest that we come together and find ways to put it to the UN that it starts to seriously think about addressing these unplanned communications - preemptively.
Regardless of what Big Science or government proscribes by law ...and with or without organization we can expect people to be sending their own messages - and looking out over a brief multi-century technology scale those messages are likely to get very powerful and effectively targeted very rapidly. Didn't I just read that those independent transmissions are already starting to occur? I think I did. (Matter of fact when I saw the SETI candidate list taken down for service a while back it actually crossed my mind "good, now at least the hobbyists don't have a target list to work from").
In real terms we each stand in a glass-walled planet Earth with no curtains and the lights full-on. To think we can actually hide for eternity - or even are hidden today - is likely extremely naïve.
I haven't done the math, but I suspect that equally unlikely are the odds of any listening intelligences being close (within centuries or millennia) of our own technological level as stated in a few responses here - feels to me that probability would instead drive the technology gap to be cavernously large. We are likely not hidden at all today then. By my logic and thanks to our own people we certainly won't be in the future. Isolationism has been proven time and time again not to work - and in the US's experience, trying to stay out of the pool at all only gets you in deeper water for longer.
Organized or not then, signals are going to be sent - and maybe someday a few received and replied to. Given that I suggest that we had better be driving at least the social spirit of the content and the social and political response to any communication - and we can do that best generationally through education of course.
On a related educational note, perhaps it would not do mankind any harm at all to commit to a project that lasts for a century or even millennia... doing so might even start us all thinking with a more useful perspective and event horizon to our own actions.
Perspective: The direct impact of our own actions today on our grandchildren's, grandchildren's grandchildren's lives is something that we are all of us demonstrably incapable of thinking about in any realistic generational terms today - be it when we pour used oil down a ground-water drain or live in today's resource-consuming, waste spewing lifestyles or vote for geo-political strategies which in retrospect have untenable results like war, famine and genocide.
Teaching a ten year old that our actions today will profoundly influence the planet in 40 generations time might not be such a bad thing for them to learn. ...I'd be happy to get us planning in terms of the roundtrip time to the nearest stars and back even - most of us can't plan our retirement effectively - never mind the retirement of our great-grandchildren's kids.
There are plenty of corporations and governments today that do in fact effectively plan and keep track of events over timescales exceeding that of today's human lifespans... and at least one religious organization to my knowledge that has kept plans and policies in effect for a millennia and a half at least already - and that without the benefit of electronic archives until the last 50 years or even printed paper for the first 1000 years. This kind of planning can be undertaken then - and of course it should.
To be clear, I am absolutely not saying that any resulting contact would be a good thing - and we all know that societies of differing technology levels meeting-up has had a really lousy batting average previously. I absolutely do believe that it is human nature to send signals and to reach out experimentally come what may... and that given that fact alone,(plus if there is anyone out there at all of course), then sooner or later a two-way message is going to be initiated... Some day a generation of people possessing some of our genes will have to deal with the results of that communication, so we might as well try to get our technology, our social planning, our education and societies attitudes ready to respond to it when it does. "Be Prepared" - Boy Scout generational first contact strategy.
Jon Connell, Brooklyn NY
Questions and Answers :
Posted 11 Mar 2014 by Jon connell
Installation problems 7.2.42
An fyi and a temporary fix...
Problems installing BOINC version 7.2.42 Windows 32-bit - Windows 7 ~March 2014.
I had terrible problems installing the latest cut of BOIC - either with or without Virtual Box.
May be machine-specific, but fyi the error is "Error 2203.Database: C\Windows\Installer\161103.ipi. Cannot open database file. System error - 2147287035".
I haven't had problems in the past (decade). My fix was eventually to activate the hidden Win 7 admin account, install from there as available to all user accounts, then close it down again. (The usual "install as administrator" Win 7 click does not work). Seems to be working now. A PIA though.
Also of note, I could not uninstall either BOIN or Virtual Box without some assistance from a MS Windows cleanup program.
Came out of the blue - no system changes at this end. seems to be something to do with BOINC_user network names and permissions to the Win install folder.
Jon Connell, NYC
Message boards :
SETI@home Staff Blog :
What's new about SETI@home v7
Posted 11 Jun 2013 by Jon connell
Many thanks for the update. I like the sound of the new detection function lots.
Over the years I have been concerned that we were perhaps searching in too narrow an envelope. ...The best we could do at the time of course. Volumes have been written about advanced compression algorithms and their impact on broadcast waveform. With this extension I suspect that you are looking in the right place.
Optimistically speaking, to date we may have been doing a good job searching only for what we expected - and doing so based on the past (and presumed future) 100 years or so of broadcast technology. Fingers crossed.
I hope the upgrade goes peacefully for you.
Thanks and keep up the good work.
Jon Connell, Brooklyn, NY
Questions and Answers :
Web site :
very long processing time
Posted 3 Sep 2007 by Jon connell
I am looking at a work unit that seems to be going on forever. Most units take afew hours on my main machine - 5-ish. This unit - 04mr07aa.874.17250.11.4.62.6 is running very very very slowly...
The Boinc manager is telling me I have atime of 58 hours with 60 left to completion and a progress of 0.024%. Its is in the middle of a triplet search that seems to go on forever.
LogX - which I installed to try to see what was going on with this unit - has a CPU tim on it of 46:55:33 to date and LogX is reporting that I have 230830:20:01 left.
Do I have a problem? Is this a bad unit or a problem somewhere.
This is the first two weeks of using BOINC, but I never saw this with the old SETI.
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