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    • Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 25, 2019
      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 25, 2019 by Tony Wikrent Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus Strategic Political Economy Give No Heed to the Walking Dead [The Scholar’s Stage, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19] The People’s Republic of China is wealthier than any rival America has faced. Its leaders are convinced […]
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Re: Vaccine and Silicon Valley

Digby has a post up about lack of herd immunity in Silicon Valley schools. Note from the graph that the biotechs (Gilead, Genentech) are pretty much up-to-date with their vaccines. They’re over 90% vaccinated. It’s the Googles, Ciscos and Pixars that are slacking.

Ahem, I would just like to say that those IT people are probably the same people who think that drug discovery would be so much more efficient if we all just worked for little start up companies and removed all the complexity from the process.

{{rolling eyes}}

They really haven’t got a clue. Of course, my ability to code is minimal, though I can hold my own in the hardware area.

In the IT world, Moore’s Law is pretty easy to understand. The physics of electricity, magnetism, doping, transistors and the like is fairly well understood. It’s all perfectly straightforward, mostly. There’s very little ambiguity. That’s what science is like for the Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Knowing that the physics is understood and no longer very complex makes it sooooo much easier to “innovate”. So, what’s the problem with pharmaceuticals?

It’s little surprise to me that they don’t get their kids vaccinated. For all their bravado about how to innovate in the realm of science, to them the cell is still a “sufficiently advanced technology that is indistinguishable from magic”. You put vaccines in your body. You don’t inject chips. (It’s coming) They want to give the illusion that they’re geeky types but just like every other animal on earth, they fear what they don’t completely understand and many of them didn’t study quite enough biology.

I never liked the IT department at work. I had to interact with those guys but it was my group that found it necessary to learn their trade, mostly in order to figure out how to circumvent it. They seemed to be completely clueless when it came to the core science that actually paid their bills. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of power in IT. We all use it and we’re all at their mercy. Resistance is, to some extent, useless. We will be subject to their obtuseness during epidemics as well.

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The Search for ET Intelligence

Life (Frank H. Jump)

Life (Frank H. Jump)

Actually, what I’m about to discuss is the search for ET life, but you have to start somewhere and it’s getting more clear by the day that alien intelligence is the best hope for us blog denizens to find someone to talk to.

I’ll back up a bit and explain why I’m so interested in this, since I’m a new blogger here and you’re probably saying, “What? What’s all this?” I’m a biologist by trade, taught college for decades, and my main research specialty is evolution in terrestrial orchids. (Seriously. But that’s not as opposed to extraterrestrial orchids, it’s as opposed to the ones that grow in trees.) On the other hand, I found out a while ago that writing is the most fun you can have (except for the usual exceptions) so I’ve also been writing science fiction, and even selling some. Well, with that background, how could I not be fascinated by aliens?

(Don’t let me fool you, however. I’ll be blogging about anything and everything, whether I know diddly about it or not.)

Giordano Bruno

Giordano Bruno


The idea that we’re not alone has a long and fascinating history, going back to Giordano Bruno who got burned at the stake for it. By the time SETI came along, things had advanced from that point. But not too far. You pretty much got burned at the academic stake for being involved in it, if they could get at you, so the field was heavily populated with tenured professors. By now, the astronomers have found so many planets orbiting other stars (including one, maybe more, exoplanets with evidence of water!) that scientists have gone from thinking SETI was for kooks to looking for the life-bearing planets they know are out there.

Just recently, March 9th to be precise, an article came out with such an elegant method of checking for life that we may be hearing about the first find in a matter of years instead of centuries. Life is peculiar in that it prefers molecules that polarize light a certain way (technically termed chirality). Whether or not light is polarized can be seen right across the universe, and whether that polarization has a given chirality or not, likewise.

Hubble photo of polarized light from a star's protoplanetary debris disk

The only problem is that we’re talking about very, very, very faint light here. The light has to bounce off, or pass through the atmosphere of a life-bearing planet before it acquires that signature polarization. Passing through gives the brightest signal, but for that the planet has to transit in front of its parent star, from our perspective, when for two brief moments (coming and going) the star shines through the planet’s atmosphere. That’s a somewhat rare event, and we don’t have too many candidates to check yet, but we do already have the capability to see the signal if we get it.

They could be looking at, for instance, Gliese 581e in the next few months. We might actually know any day now that there’s life besides ours among the stars. Being a total nerd, I’m wildly excited and waiting with bated breath. What do you think? Fun, huh?

(What, you may ask, has this got to do with politics? Absolutely nothing. That’s why I wanted to talk about it.)