Drabble: “On the Beach” (Journals Theme)

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Thomas Daulton
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Drabble: “On the Beach” (Journals Theme)

Post by Thomas Daulton » Sun Oct 06, 2013 12:46 pm

Captain’s log -- summary. The erratic signal from L-Cygnus -- never getting far down the Periodic Table nor the Fibonacci sequence -- had seemed the best candidate for Earth's first hyperlight voyage. They must have been altogether too humanlike, these Cygnans. The cities we found were bombed-out and lifeless. Electricity from failing nuclear plants would re-start their SETI broadcast and then quit halfway through. Five centuries ago, humanity hadn’t been alone after all. Lieutenant Swain elected to remain behind in that radioactive wasteland and transmit anything he found, so humanity could honor our brothers, dead before we even knew them.
"All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost." --J.R.R. TOLKIEN

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Re: Drabble: “On the Beach” (Journals Theme)

Post by Thomas Daulton » Sun Oct 06, 2013 12:47 pm

God damn that "L" term in the Drake equation.
"All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost." --J.R.R. TOLKIEN

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Re: Drabble: “On the Beach” (Journals Theme)

Post by strawman » Sun Oct 06, 2013 5:21 pm

Exactly. My brother is convinced that L is the reason no one is taking our calls, and that we are closing in on it.
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Re: Drabble: “On the Beach” (Journals Theme)

Post by Varda » Sun Oct 06, 2013 5:54 pm

Hmm. What's the "L" term in the Drake equation? What's the Drake equation, for that matter? In the pool of science, I spend most of my time on the biology side of things, I'm afraid.
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Re: Drabble: “On the Beach” (Journals Theme)

Post by gunsofchekhovia » Sun Oct 06, 2013 6:33 pm

Same here. And my experience with biology ended when I got my bachelor's and began decaying the day after.

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Re: Drabble: “On the Beach” (Journals Theme)

Post by Thomas Daulton » Sun Oct 06, 2013 6:48 pm

Hi Varda! I'll explain the Drake Equation, assuming somebody else isn't beating me to it as I type. But perhaps more integral to understanding my story, I wonder how many people get the reference to the old 1959 book and movie (I heard it was re-made into a terrible TV movie in 2000, but I haven't seen the remake.)

The "Drake Equation" is a kind of vague guesstimate done-up as scientifically as we can do it (with only one experimental sample) where scientists try to estimate how many intelligent, communicative &/or spacefaring species might exist in our galaxy. You multiply the number of stars in our galaxy, by the fraction (or probability) that a typical star forms planets -- which is something we can only guess at still -- to get the number of planets in our galaxy. You multiply that by the percentage of planets that are habitable (which we can still only guess at) -- you multiply by the fraction where life actually does evolve -- you multiply by the fraction or percentage of living planets where _intelligent_ life actually evolves -- the fraction where it develops into a civilization capable of either beaming radio signals or else travelling to the stars -- and the end result is the number of interstellar "neighbors" we can expect that we have.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation

I left out the "L" term in my explanation above... the "L" term is a percentage or fraction proportional to how long an "average" intelligent species lasts before dying out, killing themselves off, falling back to a pre-technical level, etc.; and the probability that the other civilization happens to be active _during the same time period_ as we are (throughout the Universe's 19-odd Billion year existence so far)... So the "L" term, philosophically, reflects how long an alien civilization endures vs. how fast they die off.

There are so many billions of stars and life has had so many billions of years of existence in order to begin elsewhere, that most scientists (using the Drake Equation) estimate there are a _LOT_ of intelligent species out there, or at least they must have existed, and perhaps left traces we could detect, such as radio signals still bouncing around, or artificial structures such as Dyson spheres or whatever. But in real life, most people agree we don't have one single undisputed incontrovertible piece of evidence that intelligent life exists, besides our own (which some people also dispute :wink: ). So a closely related topic is "Fermi's Paradox", which put simply says, if the Universe is such a fertile ground for intelligent life, and if it is technologically possible to communicate or travel across stars, then where are all the aliens?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox

Anyone else around here read a blogger who calls himself The Archdruid (John Michael Greer)? He's addressed this topic a few times in very interesting, if depressing, ways.
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/ ... radox.html
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/ ... space.html
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/ ... years.html

He's also most of the way through blogging (IMHO) a really well-written novel set 400 years from now about what the Universe is like if hyper-light travel is simply impossible and alien civilizations can _only_ communicate by radio waves.
http://starsreach.blogspot.com/

I must admit, after reading the Archdruid, I have really never again been able to look at a typical space opera -- where hyper-light travel is so cheap and easy that people cross half the galaxy just to trade Romulan Ale for Tarkelian Tea spice -- with quite the same innocent enjoyment.
"All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost." --J.R.R. TOLKIEN

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Re: Drabble: “On the Beach” (Journals Theme)

Post by Thomas Daulton » Sun Oct 06, 2013 6:49 pm

Hmmmmm, damn it, never make assumptions wherever _Strawman_ is involved, apparently. Carry on.
"All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost." --J.R.R. TOLKIEN

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Re: Drabble: “On the Beach” (Journals Theme)

Post by Thomas Daulton » Sun Oct 06, 2013 6:53 pm

Yeah, strawman, I am very sorry to say that I think your brother raises two excellent points.
"All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost." --J.R.R. TOLKIEN

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Re: Drabble: “On the Beach” (Journals Theme)

Post by strawman » Sun Oct 06, 2013 6:54 pm

No, always defer to the author's explanation!

What I find compelling is that Fermi's paradox is a pretty convincing prophesy of doom.
The reason no one in Washington cares about the national debt, or social security bankruptcy is that the leading psychohistorians have determined it really doesn't matter:

If they can get us enough ahead of the curve, everyone will look forward to the world going to L.
Never judge anyone until you have biopsied their brain.

"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."
Known Some Call Is Air Am
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Non sum qualis eram = "I am not who I will be"

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Re: Drabble: “On the Beach” (Journals Theme)

Post by Thomas Daulton » Sun Oct 06, 2013 6:59 pm

... still, never make assumptions whenever strawman is involved! :D
"All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost." --J.R.R. TOLKIEN

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Re: Drabble: “On the Beach” (Journals Theme)

Post by Thomas Daulton » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:14 pm

On the positive side, I remember reading an article recently -- which I can't find by Google right now, despite spending more time than I have available this morning -- where The People Who Think About These Things modeled situations where two civilizations on different planets were able to communicate with each other by radio waves, and they used Acceptable Sociological Techniques & Historical Examples to conclude that communication between two different civilizations (without the possibility of invasion) significantly raised the duration that at least once civilization endured. Essentially, by trading hints and/or noting when something threatens the other civilization, at least one civilization can try to avoid the bad outcome.

I just cannot find the news article citation about the scientific paper, but for a fictional exploration of that theme, it's hard to beat David Brin's very short story, "Just A Hint":
http://bookre.org/reader?file=201785
"All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost." --J.R.R. TOLKIEN

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Re: Drabble: “On the Beach” (Journals Theme)

Post by Thomas Daulton » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:23 pm

strawman: indeed, then you may enjoy reading the Archdruid and other bloggers in that vein... it was pretty interesting and amusing in that "Ten Billion Years" article I cited above, when David Brin logged onto the Archdruid's comment board and denounced the whole point of view. Pass the popcorn.
"All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost." --J.R.R. TOLKIEN

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Re: Drabble: “On the Beach” (Journals Theme)

Post by Varda » Sun Oct 06, 2013 9:09 pm

Thanks for the explanation, Thomas! All is clear now. Actually, I've read "On the Beach" and saw the movie, and was very fond of it (the book especially). It was one of the first pieces of really serious SF I read, all the way back in 6th grade, which looking back was rather heavy reading for a kid that age. Loved the drabble. Haunting, sad, and with a connection to an excellent and memorable book. And I learned something new today! :D Will check out those sites as well. My brain's wrinkling. :)
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