Farm News: Who Can You Trust?


A reader was going through some of my old posts and ran across something I’d written back in May when I’d run into an article over on AgWeb that claimed that there was a 70% chance that corn prices would be up in the $4.40 – $4.50 range by December. To be honest I’d completely forgotten about that item until Dustin reminded me when he left a comment reminding me of my skepticism about the claims back then. (See? I do read the comments!)

I was more than a bit irritated by the item at AgWeb at the time. The article presented absolutely no data to back this claim up. Just this “expert” from a brokerage firm trying to tell farmers corn was going to hit 4.40 – 4.50. And at the time that claim made no sense to me at all because I was seeing nothing in the markets or crop reports that indicated any kind of significant price increase. There was no decrease in the number of acres planted, there were no significant weather events going on, there was no increase in demand for product, and there was a huge amount of corn still in storage. What I was seeing was that corn prices were going to remain fairly flat, and quite possibly go through a serious drop as the 2017 harvest was completed

So, here it is, mid-November. What happened to corn prices? Well, corn, of course, never got above $4 of course. It briefly flirted with 3.80 – 3.90, but it didn’t stay there for long and quickly fell back to the 3.50 range, and as of this morning, it’s down to 3.43 after it hit a low of 3.40 when the WASDE report came out telling us that US corn stock was at it’s highest level since 1987. And heaven help any farmer who made any kind of financial plan based on the advice from that so-called expert.

Now if seeing advice this wildly wrong was a one time thing, it wouldn’t be so bad. Everyone makes mistakes. But I see this kind of thing over and over again in the ag press. Some “expert”, some pundit, some talking head, crawls out of the woodwork to make some wild and completely unsupported claim, and then disappears back into anonymity to never be heard from again. And the publication goes ahead and prints the item despite the fact there is no rational reason to believe anything the person says.

Over the last year or so I’ve seen articles in which “experts” made unsupported claims that milk would hit $19 (it’s around $16) by this time of the year, soybeans would hit $11 (about 9.80), and wheat would hit 7.50 (sitting at 4.31). And all those claims were presented by the publications without any facts or reasoning to back them up. Often some of these publications are printing material that completely contradicts what articles in the same publication are claiming.

The end result is that in many cases you don’t know who or what you can trust any more.  You need to be very, very careful these days. Here’s a bit of advice.

First: Remember that these media companies are in business for one reason, and one reason only, to make money. Oh, they might have noble sounding statements appearing that claim they are out there to help you, etc., but, well, no. I’m sorry, but no, they aren’t there to help. The individual reporters, bloggers, etc. might feel that, but when it comes right down to it they are there to make a buck. Period. And that means they have to generate page hits to drive up advertising revenue. So almost all of these publications tend to lean towards click-bait headlines and stories to drive up page views as high as they can. Oh, they’ll deny that, but it’s true. A headline like “Corn Going Up 70%” is going to generate more hits than a headline that expresses what is actually in that story, like “Someone You Never Heard Of Makes Unsubstantiated Claims”, now doesn’t it?

Second: Remember that a lot of the “reporters” in these publication aren’t actually reporters. They are independent bloggers/writers who have no relationship to the publication itself except that they get paid some money if a piece of theirs is published. They aren’t employees of the publication. They’re freelancers who get paid by the piece. Even worse, often what they’re writing about is not something they’ve come up with on their own through their own work, it’s material they found somewhere else and re-wrote to avoid being charged with plagiarism. That sounds harsh, I know, but it’s also true.

The advent of the internet has resulted in a phenomena that a friend of mine rather crudely refers to as “circle-jerking”. Let me explain. One of these so-called reporters runs across an item that might make good clickbait. He does a quick and dirty rewrite to avoid plagiarism charges, and as his source, refers to the the original item he found. But if you go to that piece you find that it wasn’t the original. That writer too was a “circle jerker”, referring to yet another piece which, in turn, also wasn’t the original but another “jerker”. That site cites as it’s source yet another website which turns out to be another jerker, and…

Well, you get the idea.

Third: Once upon a time most magazines and newspapers had fact checkers. Almost every story, editorial, etc. was run through the fact checking department to make sure that what was in the item was actually true. Those days are long, long gone in most media companies. Some of the more reputable organizations still do it. Sort of. But the majority of them seem to have discarded fact checking as an unnecessary expense, it seems.

Fourth: Editors don’t actually edit anything any more. The job of an editor used to be making sure that the material that appeared in the publication adhered to basic standards of accuracy, that it was suitable for the intended audience, that it was not misleading, etc. And, alas, those days are long gone as well.

This kind of thing isn’t new, of course. It’s been going on for as long as we’ve had the printing press. It wasn’t invented by the internet. The term “yellow journalism”, which was coined to describe the kind of behavior I talk about here, goes back to the 1890s. Newspapers, especially those owned by Hearst and Pulitzer, are considered to have played a significant role in starting the Spanish-American war due to their irresponsible reporting. While their role in starting the war is exaggerated, there is no doubt that they helped to push public sentiment towards war.


Hey, Grouchy, Whatcha Watchin’?

Seriously? You want to know? You don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for, do you? Well, you’ll find out. You’ve been warned. Here’s what I’ve been watching of late and brief, sometimes not so brief, reviews/impressions.

Oh, and yes, there will be spoilers. Well, not that there’s much to spoil for most of these since the writers, directors and actors have already pretty much spoiled ’em.

OA – Oh, dear lord… Okay, OA created a lot of buzz when it popped up. People started reading all kinds of things into it’s surreal atmosphere and searching for some kind of hidden meaning.

And failed because there isn’t anything there to find.

Here’s the basic plot: Obviously mentally ill young woman has been missing for 7 years, reappears jumping off a bridge. Over the course of the series she gathers together a group of equally disturbed teens and one very odd adult in a house that’s under construction late at night and spins an even more odd tale about being the daughter of a Russian oligarch, going blind for no apparent reason after her school bus fell into a lake, ending up in the US adopted by a very strange and possibly abusive couple, being kidnapped, repeatedly tortured to death by drowning, and learning how to hallucinate through the magic of interpretive dance. And I wish I was making up that last part, but I’m not. The story says it’s some kind of interdimensional thing, but, well, no. I’m sorry, just no. Lots of people die in the end and by that time I really didn’t care any more. Actually I stopped caring about twenty minutes into the first show and just wished they’d get some therapy for that poor girl.

And for the writers.

Iron Fist – Son of a rich company owner disappears where he learns all kind of weird ninja and martial arts stuff, comes back to find his company taken over by evil people and his city being swept by corruption…

Hey, wait a minute, you say, isn’t that the plot from The Arrow? Yeah, it is. Only without The Arrow’s production values and, judging from the horrible sets and costumes, without its budget, either. Certainly without its acting talent.

It’s called Iron Fist because the hero, if you can call him that, has fists that glow in the dark when he’s really, really mad. You can tell when he’s really really mad because he looks like he has mild indigestion. And his fists glow in the dark.

Glow in the dark fists? Really? Let me guess, Marvel has finally run out of super powers. “Let’s see, we have a guy who turns green, we have a guy who thinks he’s a spider, we have a guy who bursts into flame, a guy who wears a robot suit, a guy who thinks he’s a god with a big hammer. I know, we haven’t done a guy who’s fists glow in the dark yet! Let’s try that!”

Luke Cage – One of the very, very few good shows I’ve seen, and pretty much the only one where the cast is almost entirely black and hispanic, with a lot of genuinely good actors. Yeah, how Cage gets his superpowers is pretty silly, but so is how Wolverine got his stabby things that shoot out of his knuckles and nobody seems to mind that. And yeah, the writing and acting is over the top at times. But still, it can be riveting and touching and genuinely hopeful. I’m looking forward to this one continuing in the future. Luke Cage believes that there is hope, that things can be better no matter how bad they may seem sometimes. And that kind of hope is contagious.

The Flash – I grew up in the 1960s and went through comic books like crazy. I occasionally picked up The Flash, but to be honest I wasn’t that much of a fan. A guy in red long underwear who runs really fast? Yeah, right…

When DC brought Flash to television, I wasn’t even going to bother. The previews I saw were not that good. But I gave it a shot and for some reason I got hooked on the damned thing, despite the fact I hate the character who plays Barry Allen/Flash. I hate him to the point where I won’t even allow myself to find out what his name is. I hate him even more than I hate Tom Hanks. Who cast this guy? He looks like he’s, what, about fourteen years old? I know sixth graders who look more mature (and act more mature) than he does.

But I keep watching the damned thing because some of the supporting characters are genuinely good.

And because of the writing. Not because the writing is any good. It isn’t. I just keep wondering how the hell the writers are going to get out of the corners they write themselves into on a regular basis. The answer to that is that they pretty much don’t. When they get themselves into a mess they can’t get out of, they send Flash back into the past to fiddle with something and do a sort of mini reboot. Only the reboot always seems to make things worse instead of better.

At this point I keep watching not so much because I enjoy the show but because I can’t wait to see how badly the writers mess things up.

Supergirl – Oh dear lord, what have they done to Supergirl??? Let’s, said the writers, take an intelligent, moral, strong, confidant young woman, stick her in a short skirt, crank her IQ down a few points and turn her into a giddy, relationship obsessed adolescent who can’t do anything right without a lot of help from men because, well, she’s a girl and girls can’t do anything right without help from men…

Oh, let’s make her sister a lesbian while we’re at it. And a spy or super cop or something.

And let’s put Jimmy Olson in a robot suit that isn’t at all a rip off of Iron Man.

Oh, let’s throw in some Martians, too.

Hey, let’s make her and Lex Luthor’s sister BFFs while we’re at it.

Oh, brother…

Covert Affairs – A series about a young, female CIA agent that is, well, it’s actually not horrible. It’s totally ridiculous, true, with technology straight out of the pages of a science fiction magazine, they haven’t a clue as to how computers actually work, 90% of what they do is totally illegal, and thanks largely to Piper Perabo and Christopher Gorham, who play Annie Walker, the star, and her “handler” at the CIA, Auggie, I didn’t care. I just enjoyed it. Perabo is good, making Annie Walker a character I really cared about. And Gorham as Auggie, a former soldier who was blinded by an IED in Iraq, was just as good, if not better.

When “Journalism” isn’t Journalism: The Rise of the Regurgitator.


We have reached a point in society where most of our news sources aren’t really news sources. The vast majority of websites you see out there that claim they are ‘news organizations’ are really no such thing. They have no actual reporters. They have no real journalists. They have no research staff. The have no fact checkers. They are – well, I suppose you could call them regurgitators.screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-8-47-35-am

If you browse through some of these ‘news’ sites, you’ll quickly find they have absolutely nothing that is actually new or original. What you’ll see is an endless string of references to material that does not originate with the site, but outside sources from traditional newspapers, magazines, and television/cable media, or even sources that have absolutely zero credibility like some wanna-be pundit on Twitter or Facebook.

What they do isn’t journalism, it’s – oh, harvesting, I suppose you could call it. They scrounge the internet for news items, studies, blogs, photos, twitter feeds, facebook posts, etc. for stories that they think will feed into the mindset of their readers, gulp them down, and then like mommy birds regurgitating food for their young, scurry back to their own website and puke it back out again, along with a liberal dose of outraged commentary, to feed their readers.

I’m sorry if that’s a bit disgusting, but that’s pretty much exactly what they do; they scarf down real news stories, digest them a bit, add some digestive juices to blur things, and then regurgitate it for us. Not in it’s original form, but twisted, half dissolved, semi-digested, warped, changed, all to suit the point of view of the website’s backers and to lure the ranks of the outraged and irritated so the website can push its political agenda or moral stance and, even more importantly, generate that yummy, yummy advertising revenue.

Now I make no attempt to hide the fact that I lean towards the left side of the political spectrum, but even I have to admit that while the regurgitators fall pretty evenly on both sides of the spectrum, a lot of the left leaning sites are doing this. If you go to sites like Right Wing Watch or Raw Story, what you’ll find there is an endless string of “stories” that are nothing but regurgitated information from other sources, all selected to support and feed the anger and outrage of us lefties, along with large doses of comments by bloggers that support our feelings. If you switch over to the far right, you’ll find exactly the same thing going on.

I did a totally unscientific (and quick because I get bored easily) study and almost all of the “news” websites I have encountered are either entirely or mostly little more than regurgitators of other people’s work.


A lot of very popular sites do this. Joe My God, Right Wing Watch, TruthOut.  Raw Story, for example. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of actual original journalism over there. Their “reporters” scrounge the net for little tidbits, give us a couple of sentences describing it, and then utter their ‘oh my god isn’t this horrible we’re all going to hell’ commentary. It’s the same over on the right, even worse, I suppose. Mother Jones and Grist occasionally will publish something I’d call ‘original reporting’, but for the most part their websites are little more than regurgitators.

I find this ethically troubling, to be honest. A lot of these sites are entirely based on the work of other people, other organizations. They blatantly scoop it up and regurgitate it for their own readers. They generally give credit to the original, true, but still, they’re taking advantage of someone else’s work and contribute absolutely nothing except a bit of anger and outrage.

I suppose I’ve been guilty of this too. I’ve certainly used news stories I’ve read as a starting point for things I’ve written here, but I like to think that at least I’ve used that material only as a way of introducing something original.


What Happened to the News Media?

The question I heard being asked most often during the recent election was; what the hell happened to the media? The almost universal opinion of most people seems to be that just when we needed the media the most to keep us informed, discover the truth, to keep things rational, it failed us totally.

The media blithely rolled along, repeating all of the lies, the innuendo, the misinformation, deliberately pumped up phony scandals. It gleefully turned casual comments and jokes into derogatory and misleading memes. It pounced on every conspiracy it could find. It magnified the silly and the ridiculous into clickbait headlines. It leapt upon phony stories from satirical websites or fraudulent sources gleefully and unapologetically.

Instead of helping to solve problems, the media became the problem.

But did it didn’t. Not really.

We have this impression that the news media is supposed to be some kind of watchdog, that it’s supposed to only publish the truth, that it’s supposed to call our attention to corruption, lies, misleading information, to cast light into the dark places inhabited by politicians and corporations. It is this concept that some call the fourth estate, the idea that the news media is some kind of watchdog, a guardian..

But the news media has never been that. The news media has a long and sordid history of manipulating information, spreading misinformation, taking things out of context, and doing it deliberately. The media has helped to foster conflicts and even wars, destroy reputations of innocent people, manipulating public opinion… And if you don’t believe that, just start doing some research. A few minutes running searches on Google is all it takes to discover that what is going on today is nothing new.

I know a lot of people who are laying the blame for Trump’s rise to power on the media and its failure to accurately report the facts. And there are certainly valid reasons to criticize modern media. But it isn’t anything new. The media has always done this. Either for profit, to push some political agenda by the owners of the media outlet, to pander to politicians…

But the fake news stories, quotes taken out of context, attempts by biased owners to manipulate public opinion? That’s been going on for as long as there has been a media.

And as for who is to blame, well, it’s us, really. The media is in business for one reason, for the most part: to make money. And they’ve learned that the easiest, least expensive and most profitable thing to do is publish the garbage they publish. Because we buy it. We click on the clickbait headlines, we gulp down millions of words written about ridiculous celebrities who don’t matter in the slightest. We’d rather read about who got who pregnant or who got a breast enlargement or who is divorcing who, then about things that really matter.

So if you’re looking for someone to blame, it’s not the media. It’s us.

Junk Science Reporting Drives Me Crazy

It’s been a while since I had a good rant, so I’m going to indulge. Please feel free to skip this one if you like. I occasionally go off on a rant when I run into an especially irritating bit of so-called “journalism”, and this is one of those instances.

When I was going through my various news sources this morning while having my coffee, I ran across a news item at Motherboard, part of, about Proxima Centauri and it’s newly discovered planet, b. You can click here to jump over and read it yourself. The headline reads: “Our Closest Earthlike Planet Appears to be Covered in Water”

As I read it I frowned a lot. I might go so far as to say I was seriously irked. Unless someone, somewhere, had come up with something entirely new and unexpected, what they were implying in this little piece was irresponsible and so lacking in any kind of facts that it was pure fiction.  And yes, they use weasel words like ‘could’, ‘possibly’, ‘may’. Technically the article doesn’t come right out and lie, but it is seriously misleading, perhaps deliberately so in order to generate clickbait headlines.

Let me give you some background for you non-astronomers out there. Proxima Centauri is the star closest to us. It is a very tiny and very dim red dwarf star about 4.2 light years away from Earth. While that is close in astronomical terms, in human terms it is very, very far away indeed. Light moves at 186,000 miles per second. Light takes 4.2 years to go from Earth to Proxima. I will leave it to you to figure out exactly how far that is. My calculator doesn’t have enough zeroes.

They recently discovered Proxima has a planet. They immediately gave it the amazingly creative name Proxima b. What we know about this new planet is, well, not much, really. We know it’s about 1.3 times the mass of the Earth. We know it’s between 0.9 and 1.44 times the diameter of the Earth. We know it orbits Proxima at a distance that is one tenth the distance of Mercury to our sun. We know how fast it goes around it’s star. We know it is tidally locked to it’s star. That means the same face of the planet is always facing the star. One side of the planet is in perpetual light, the other side is in perpetual dark.

Or I thought that’s all we knew until I saw this article. This article implies that B is covered with planet spanning oceans teaming with life. There’s liquid water everywhere, and because there’s water, there must be life! Oh my!

Now just a minute here. Really? I follow astronomy news fairly closely. If these discoveries had been made, why weren’t they all over the actual astronomical press? Something smells a wee bit odd here.

And here’s another thing that set off alarm bells. The quotes are all generic, never attributed to a specific person, but they instead use terms like “researchers said”, and “the research team said”, and “scientists concluded”. That kind of thing starts to set off alarm bells with me. It’s been my experience that legitimate news stories almost always give actual names, and if not the name of the person being quoted, at least the name of the press agent or the name of the spokesperson.

Then I started running into other rather odd things.

The Motherboard article posts a link to what supposedly was the original press release from the Marseille Astrophysics Laboratory which appeared in Agence Presse France, the French press agency. But when I click in the link, the APF’s website tells me there is no such story. So I started running searches on the APF’s news website, plugging in terms like Proxima, Proxima Centauri, Proxima B, the research group’s name, the university’s name, and found nothing. Not a single story anywhere on the APF’s website concerning Proxima’s planet, these researchers… Nothing. Unless I missed something, or wasn’t using the search engine properly, the story Motherboard quotes over at APF doesn’t exist according to APF. In fact, there is nothing anywhere on APF about Proxima at all that I could find after running extensive searches of its entire news site.

I freely admit that I might have been using their site wrong, was using their search engine wrong. So I did some more hunting for other related stories from other sources and found a lot of sciencey related popular websites with this same story. But all shared the same troubling traits. No actual names, vague references to universities and research organizations, quotes, again not from real people, but from “scientists” and “researchers.” Even more troubling, many of the stories in these websites were virtually identical, and I mean word for word identical in some cases, indicating that a lot of these places were engaging in good old fashioned cut and paste plagiarism.

I was getting increasingly obsessed with finding out what the hell was going on. Finally, I went to CNRS, the French science research organization, which supposedly was the source of all of this, and once I’d tracked down the actual original sources, I discovered what I had started to suspect already.

What the CNRS actually said about Proxima b bore little or no resemblance to what the media sources were claiming. What the CNRS actually said, if my horrible French and Google Translate haven’t failed me, is that we really know nothing about Proxima B except the few facts I already told told you about.  But that if you make a whole lot of assumptions that are probably wrong, and if those assumptions are correct, which they probably aren’t, and if the planet has an atmosphere, which we don’t know, and if the planet has a magnetic field, which we also don’t know, Proxima B might be capable of having liquid water, maybe even large amounts of it, and if it has water, which we don’t know, it might have a chance to develop some sort of life. Maybe. But we don’t really know.

This is considerably different from the Motherboard headline that says “Our Closest Earthlike Planet Appears to be Covered in Water”. In fact, I have yet to find any legitimate scientist of science organization that has said any such thing.

There is, in fact, no evidence that it has any water at all. There is no evidence it has an atmosphere. The only things we know about the planet at all are it’s approximate mass, it’s approximate size, it’s distance from its star, and it’s orbital period.

If you look at the actual facts, what we do know about Proxima Centauri and its planet, the preliminary data indicates exactly the opposite. Everything we know about it so far tends to contradict everything the Motherboard article claims is possible.

B is very, very close to it’s star. And while Proxima Centauri is a very small, very dim star, it is still a star. Even worse it is a flare star. That means it regularly blasts surrounding space with high intensity radiation and stellar mass ejections. This means that solar radiation and stellar mass ejections would have eroded away any atmosphere and water that the planet might have had billions of years ago.

Some people are trying to get around this fact by claiming B has a magnetic field strong enough to protect it from it’s star, a field similar to the one that protects Earth.

But not only is there no evidence at all to indicate it has a magnetic field, simple physics tells us it pretty much can’t have a magnetic field. A planet’s magnetic field is generated by the rotation of its molten iron core. But Proxima B doesn’t rotate. It’s tidally locked to it’s star. If it doesn’t rotate, it can’t have a magnetic field. Period.

Junk science reporting drives me crazy.


Reboots and Remakes

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Oh dear lord I’m so tired of the remakes and reboots…

But I suppose we should start with some definitions, shouldn’t we?

A remake is where they look at what was originally a perfectly fine, probably good, maybe even outstanding movie, and they just make the whole damned thing all over again for no good reason.

This is, of course, theft, but they call it homage so they get away with it.

But, well, why? I mean, really, why? The original was a fine movie, perhaps even excellent. Maybe even a true work of art. So why the hell remake it? Just watch the original, for heaven’s sake.

A reboot is something else again. A reboot takes a film idea and fundamentally alters it, transforms it totally. Basically it is the reboot maker saying the original was crap, the director was crap, the writers were crap, so I’m going to do it better. It is arrogant beyond belief. It’s the director and film makers claiming they can do it better. But everyone knows they can’t because if they had any creative talent at all, they’d be doing something original and not be digging through the archives looking for something to steal.

I call it theft because that’s what it is. Remakes and reboots are both essentially theft. Oh, sure, they legally own the rights, but it is still the taking of ideas that were not theirs to begin with.

It’s sort of like house robbery.

The remaker breaks into your house, steals your TV, but does the dishes for you, waters your plants and feeds the dog on the way you.

The rebooter breaks into your house, steals your TV, smashes your dishes, urinates in the potted plants and shoots your dog on the way out.

The Fermi Paradox: Where the Hell Is Everyone?

I’m beginning to become a bit — irritated with astronomers, and especially with astronomy publications like, well, Astronomy Magazine, Sky & Telescope, the BBC’s Sky at Night. Even with NASA, the space program in general, and a lot of astronomers and astrophysicists in general, who start babbling like little children about stuff when they should really know better. The ‘mainstream’ media is even worse, of course.

It’s this whole life thing. As in life out there, on other planets, other star systems, other galaxies.

Every once in a while some news outlet that really should know better pops up a headline like “Life on Europa!” or “Life in Oceans Under Pluto!” or “Life Floating in Clouds in Venus” or, “Life Discovered at the Republican Convention”. It’s just — just silly. (Especially that last one.).

I’m sorry, but it is. And they really should know better. Even worse, most of them do know better.

The popular press and even otherwise allegedly rational real live scientists with actual degrees from actual universities who have actual jobs doing sciency stuff, have just gotten silly over this whole life thing.

So let’s talk about the Fermi Paradox for a bit. (Wondered when I was going to get around to getting to the point of the title up there at the top, didn’t you? Relax. It takes me a while sometimes but eventually I get to the point. Sometimes. Maybe.)

The Fermi Paradox has been floating around for a long time now. Jump over to Wikipedia and go look it up. I’ll wait. I don’t have anything going on at the moment. I’ll just babble along here until you get back. While you’re at it, look up the Drake Equation over there too…

I’m an amateur astronomer with actual telescopes and everything. I love astronomy. Fun stuff, astronomy. Nothing better than sitting around outside, shivering, your feet gradually turning to ice, wondering if your health insurance covers having your toes amputated because they turned black, chipping the frost off your scope while you try to get a picture of Jupiter that doesn’t have a bloody airplane track across the middle of it. Great fun. Highly educational and all that stuff. Highly recommended. I’m also a science fiction fan. I discovered SF when I was about 9 years old and never looked back. I grew up in a fantasy world filled with starships, exotic aliens, odd characters, bizarre societies, horrific space battles throwing planets at people, time travel, time paradoxes, alternate universes, time travel to alternate universes, time travel for the purposes of, well, weird sex. Have you read Heinlein’s later stuff? Oh my…

So I’ve more or less been living in a universe full of life. I’d love to live in a universe full of that stuff. Well, except when the Fnezeer come to, well, eat us. That I probably wouldn’ like.

The thing is, I know that is fantasy. It isn’t real, all that stuff. The zooming starships, the aliens with tentacles, the time travel incest (what the hell was Heinlein thinking?) the alien races around every corner… They’re made up. They don’t exist. Unfortunately a lot of the news media and, it seems, NASA and real actual astronomers and stuff, haven’t figured that out, or that’s what it looks like if you some of the stuff they’re pushing.

Oh, you’re back. Good!

Let’s get back to the Fermi thing, then now that you got done over at Wikipedia.

The Fermi Paradox basically asks the question, if life is as common as a lot of people think it is, where the hell is it? Why haven’t we found any? And why the hell hasn’t it found us?

Considering the age of the universe, the ginormous (that apparently is a real word, I had no idea) number of galaxies, the even more ginormous number of stars in those galaxies, and the even furtherly more intensely ginormous (now that I found out it’s a real word I’m going to use it a lot, damn it) number of planets, somebody, from somewhere, should have come ringing our doorbell to try to sell us something or try to convert us to worshiping a giant space turtle or talk us into a time share out in the Wompel Galaxy or something.

Only they haven’t. There isn’t even a single sign that there’s anyone out there. Granted, the universe is a really, really big place. But if you run the math, a single, high tech civilization, could colonize an entire galaxy in a surprisingly short amount of time, maybe four, five million years. Sounds like a long time, but species even here on Earth have been around and essentially unchanged for far longer than that.

Of course maybe they’re busy, or just don’t care.  Like these alleged life forms might look up and go “meh, the hell with all that noise”, and get on with important things. Like, oh, I don’t know, frelking, let’s say. I have no idea what frelking is, but it’s like really, really important to them and it’s way more important than stars and stuff like that. So they give up on the whole space thing and get with some serious frelking. Probably has something to do with sex, I imagine.

So that’s one theory about why no one has come to try to sell us time shares or convert us or eat us or something. They don’t give a flying fig.

This space travel stuff all assumes that the race in question thinks it’s important. And maybe it is. To us. Well, some of us, anyway. But that’s us. They, if they’re out there, don’t care, maybe. That’s the point. They are going to look different, think different, have different priorities. Like frelking. They don’t care.

The point is that they come up with all these excuses to rationalize why we haven’t seen anything out there. And they do have a valid point. I mean, frelking is really, really fun. Maybe.

But the other thing that no one seems to want to bring up, is that maybe there isn’t anyone out there. Just flat out isn’t.

Yes, I know, statically speaking it is a virtual certainty that there is something alive out there, somewhere. But we have  scientists going off the deep end claiming there’s life everywhere almost.

So where is it? We don’t exactly have a good track record finding it, do we. Let’s see, well, there’s Earth, that has life (whether it’s intelligent or not is up for debate) And then there’s… well, that’s about it. One planet out of eight (nine if you’re a Pluto fan).

It’s entirely possible that Earth is just a fluke. For all we know life is an aberration that the universe gets rid of as soon as it can conveniently bash it with a rock.

And let’s talk about the intelligence thing. We want intelligent life, too. Well, come on, let’s face it. Intelligence really isn’t much of a survival trait, now is it? When it comes down to survival as a species, one could argue that intelligence is even a drawback, because the most successful species, the ones that have been around the longest, for tens of millions of years, function almost entirely on instinct, pre-programmed behaviors, not on intelligence.

I understand that it is statistically likely there is life out there. It is statistically likely that some kind of intelligent life is out there. But it seems increasingly likely that you’re not going to find it by just turning over a rock as some scientists are claiming.

But they keep at it. “Inhabitable planet found!” “Conditions on Europa favorable to life” and… It’s just silly. I’m sorry, it is. We know better. They know better.

So why do they do it?

Money, I suspect. Trying to drum up interest to get funding, get grants, convince congress to increase NASA’s budget. They figure we’re too stupid to understand things like pulsars and event horizons and how important the measurements of high energy particles is or why it’s important we understand what the hell happened to Venus to turn it into an acidic furnace from Dante’s Inferno. But, well, hey, they say, that alien movie made a hell of a lot of money. So did that Star Trek Clone Laser thingie that was in the theaters. So people like aliens, right? So, well, okay we can’t make it all up, but we can maybe pretend kind of that there’s something out there so they give us money.

Look, just stop it, all right? Stop with the phony press releases about life on space rocks. Stop with the phony press releases about planets made of diamond and places where it rains iron and all that. It’s hype and you know it. We know it. They know it.

Just tell us what you’re doing. Tell us why you think it’s important. Tell us why we should think it’s important. Stop trying to sell us space unicorns that we all know are b.s. Maybe you’ll be surprised.