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Going Beyond The Drake Equation

Taking the Drake Equation forward or modifying it, researchers have attempted to find out — estimate — the total number of intelligent civilizations that have ever existed in the visible universe since the Big Bang.

In their words;

Abstract: In this paper we address the cosmic frequency of technological species. Recent advances in exoplanet studies provide strong constraints on all astrophysical terms in the Drake Equation. Using these and modifying the form and intent of the Drake equation we show that we can set a firm lower bound on the probability that one or more additional technological species have evolved anywhere and at any time in the history of the observable Universe. We find that as long as the probability that a habitable zone planet develops a technological species is larger than ~10-24, then humanity is not the only time technological intelligence has evolved. This constraint has important scientific and philosophical consequences.
The paper.

Curiosity's Three Years on Mars!

All that needs to be said: The best that humans can be!


And the mandatory: it's been three years already since that day in August!?

The Search For ET Gets A Boost From Yuri Milner

Restless Baby

From the Rolling Stone article about birth tourism.

Wonder how many such cases of birth tourism are happening from India. I remember reading about people (from India) going to the U.S. to give birth in the India Today during the pre-internet days. Must be more than 20 years ago.

Best Magazine and Newspaper Writing of 2013

Clearly, there is just too much of the stuff.

This is a meta-collection of articles that are themselves collections of good articles.

Starting with this collection of the Best Business Journalism of 2013 compiled by The New Yorker.

The most popular Quartz stories of 2013.

Top Long Reads of 2013.

The 41 best stories of 2013 compiled by BusinessWeek.

Some of the best Sportswriting of the year for those interested.


Epilepsy And Its Treatments Including Medical Marijuana

Fascinating tales about childhood epilepsy and what people do (and doctors recommend) when drugs and therapies don't work.

One solution is keto diet which consists of food that is full of fat and no carbs. One would think this would damage the kids but strangely enough, the food stops the epileptic attacks.

And the latest is using medical marijuana processed in a particular manner to treat treatment-resistant epilepsy.

And it's working.

Chris Hadfield Space Photography

Commander Hadfield has tweeted many photographs during his time in space.

Here are a few of his tweets.


Looking north from our orbit to the forbidding rock and ice of Greenland. pic.twitter.com/v4zoygpQgI — Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) May 7, 2013


Glacial water burping into the Atlantic in deep Southern Argentina. pic.twitter.com/cRBehZEx — Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) February 10, 2013


Tonight's Finale: Nature inspires awe - cloud, ice and rock in southern South America. pic.twitter.com/sqCYVSbZTw — Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) February 24, 2013


Tonight's Finale: Patagonia to the Pacific, the glaciers showing the height of the southern Andes. pic.twitter.com/2eWQCzKKV6 — Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) April 13, 2013


Strange how the slow flow of glacial ice becomes more visible from here, so far away. pic.twitter.com/SCRkzgBABT — Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) May 8, 2013


From over the southern tip of S. America, I looked south and saw Antarctica, there in the sea …

Apollo Lunar Landing Photos

Commemorating the lunar landing from 46 years ago, here are some wonderful photographs published on The Atlantic website. Some goods ones are there that I hadn't come across before. Really. Go check them.

Let me paste just one here.


Those tiny workers are perched some 110 meters or 360 feet above the ground.


And more photos of Apollo 11 are here.

Fabulous Milky Way

Paul Kalanithi And Mortality

When do we learn to accept our mortality? At 60? At 20? Perhaps never. When should we?

Perhaps mot people never accept their mortality — certainly not before the time comes when you start seeing your contemporaries fall off.

Realizing that you are mortal at 60 or 70 may be a good thing. It perhaps makes people more mellow and more congenial, less abrasive, less aggressive.

If one could reach that realization earlier, it might make us better human beings.

Perhaps religion plays a role in how and when people come to terms with their mortality. For me, my idea of mortality and what lessons to learn have to all come from exceptional individuals who lived and died exemplary lives.

Learning you have an incurable disease when you are in your 30s has got to be one of the toughest things one can face in life. Perhaps after years and decades of effort, you are close to achieving some important life goal, some important professional milestone in your mid-30s but then suddenly you are told that …

Pluto Files

As New Horizons closes in on its Pluto encounter, some facts about it to blow one's mind.

New Horizons approximate distance from Earth: 3 billion miles; 4.8 billion kilometers (32.28 astronomical units) New Horizons approximate distance from Pluto: 93 million miles; 149 million kilometers (1 AU) Time for signal to reach Earth: 4 hours, 28 minutes, 31 seconds Primary communications: NASA Deep Space Network Canberra Station, Australia (70-meter antenna)

Simple calculations show that at the enormous distance of 4.8 billion kms where Pluto is, one arcsecond equals some 24,000 kms.

Hence, when they point that "big seven-foot, high-gain dish antenna" of the New Horizons spacecraft towards Earth, they've to be pretty precisely so that the signal is received in Canberra. If you are about 15 arcseconds off, instead of the Earth, you might be pointing to the Moon.

On Polygamy

And how and why it makes no sense to keep polygamy illegal.

This article dismantles all the usual arguments against polygamy.

Some people make the "slippery slope" argument saying allowing polygamy will lead to people marrying animals or children but the difference is the 'bedrock principle' of consent.

"This bedrock principle of mutually-informed consent explains exactly why we must permit polygamy and must oppose bestiality and child marriage. Animals are incapable of voicing consent; children are incapable of understanding what it means to consent. In contrast, consenting adults who all knowingly and willfully decide to enter into a joint marriage contract, free of coercion, should be permitted to do so, according to basic principles of personal liberty. The preeminence of the principle of consent is a just and pragmatic way to approach adult relationships in a world of multivariate and complex human desires."
" ... the case against polygamy is incr…

Windows Disk Encryption

Detailed guide about how to enable disk encryption on your Windows machine. Also, Apple and Linux computers.

The benefits of full disk encryption are that they ensure the data on your hard drive is secure even if it gets physically stolen. Nobody but you will be able to access the data.

Worth enabling if your OS supports it. All you need to do is follow the steps given.

Shuttle Challenger Through The Clouds

With fake photos everywhere these days, it's difficult to tell what is true and what is not.

It's therefore good to have NASA's official comments on the Challenger image.



And a bonus picture of Challenger going to the launch pad on the crawler transporter prior to its first flight.



Chacha Nehru And Jackie Kennedy Photos

Scandalous! Is how the right wingers would describe these pics from 1962. Usually, these pics would be trotted out on November 14, Jawaharlal Nehru's birthday.


How We Change — And Not

Einstein was so unlucky. He never saw Koffee With Karan. Or the wonderful strokemaking by the Sehwags, Tendulkars and Yuvrajs.

But we are all lucky. We have spent countless hours and hundreds of hours watching celebrities and cricket on television. I suspect our interest in these activities wanes as our age (and waistline) increases.

May be we realize that these are futile, time-wasting activities — or, may be we encumber ourselves with various responsibilities such as kids and we get busy making a living and buying groceries, masalas and vegetables and do not find time in our long commutes to watch celebrity talk shows.

Some people — say, Feynman, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs — perhaps get lucky and never spend time watching TV shows or cricket. But everybody cannot be geniuses like them.

Every new generation in India reliably grows to become cricket aficionados and becomes celebrity-crazed. Is there a cure for this? Is there a way to wean adolescents from adolescent-like activities and pu…

Some Straight Talking on The Decline of The 'Hindus' in India

The Hindus have more than trebled in numbers in the past 50 years.

Going by the comments below, these Hindus are nincompoops. Without exception.

They contribute nothing in terms of innovation or in inventions.

Merely keep braying about some mythical ancient glory.

And lack common sense.

If I were to share personal anecdote (while acknowledging that anecdote is not evidence):

My grandparents generation had 13 (living) siblings. Each of them produced 6 or 7 kids on average. My parents' generation had 3 kids each on average.

Thankfully, the 'young generation' seems to have got the message and usually tends to have one kid — usually a son.

[I guess we will have a lot of homosexuality in the manner of the English boarding schools that Hitchens mentioned.]

There is unfortunately too much ignorance or illiteracy around. Which is why absolute fossils of the BJP/VHP/RSS are able to suggest in all seriousness that Hindus should have 4 or 5 or 10 kids each.

Those jokers should…

Why Do We Have A Name?

Humans across religious, cultural and national differences all have names. At least all modern humans have this. I wonder if the lost tribes in the Amazon jungle or the tribes who live in the Nicobar Islands cut off from civilization since the last many thousands of years have a similar naming convention as the rest of us humans do.
And we humans often choose to have system of naming that consists of a first name and a last name. the last name often indicates a person’s or a family’s occupation and remains the same from generation to generation. All the offspring of one family get the same last name as the parents — usually the last name of the father.
In some cultures, the first names can be the same as that of the father too. In some cultures, the name of the village, and other names too get added to the child’s name and it grows rather long.
But consider for a moment how it all would have started and taken hold among humans in deep antiquity. Humans would have acquired language first …

Will The Singularity Make Cryonics Useless

The idea of cryopreservation is fascinating and the cryonicists of today are far from crazy. They certainly cannot be compared to the medieval people whose faith consists of a smorgasbord of silly religions, myths, gods and so on. It would be correct to shake our head at the extreme and undue optimism of the cryonics pioneers of today but then all pioneers appear crazy in their lifetime. Giordano Bruno paid with his life for his soaring imagination.
Carl Sagan cautioned about the danger of nuclear Armageddon and Richard Feynman in his youth was extremely pessimistic in the immediate aftermath of the success of the Manhattan Project and the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Can we be so sure today that we have once and for all avoided the fate of nuclear Armageddon for our species? I am not so sure. Nobody would survive if the fears of Sagan and Feynman come true at some point in the future.
The techno-utopians — which is a perfectly normal way to describe the cryonics beli…