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“It is part of the human experience to slowly realize we are each an isolated mind in a sea of other isolated minds, and then to spend our lives trying to cross the mighty gulfs between ourselves and others, striving to make a connection. Everybody wants to be found. So it’s natural, as our science has progressed, that the human race should project its collective hopes onto the cosmos and see if anyone else is reaching out to us. The last century is permeated with science fiction of alien visitors, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (or SETI) is the manifestation of our hopes that someone out there is trying to find us. So great is our desire for contact, we instinctually see aliens in emissions of radiation, in planetary landscapes, and in comets on hyperbolic trajectories. In a sense, we anthropomorphize the universe.
Ascribing human characteristics or motives to natural objects is nothing new. What science has done is to set a grander stage for our anthropomorphizations. We have seen faces in vegetables and toast and mountainsides for millennia, and a quick search for “pareidolia” will reward the reader with examples. But it took the Viking mission for us to see a face on Mars. For ages, people have heard voices calling to them in the wind, even from the northern lights. Is it surprising that when astronomers Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish heard periodic radio emissions from a pulsar for the first time in 1967, they named the phenomenon LGM-1, for Little Green Men?
We interpret shadows on a curtain, or a tapping branch at the window, as the arrival of a visitor. So it was in 2016, when our minds leapt to the thoughts of “alien megastructures” when it was discovered that the face of Boyajian’s star was intermittently veiled. We now know, however, that what shadowed the star was simply clouds of dust. Eventually, thanks to the scientific method, the actual causes for these surprising discoveries get sorted out, but science’s initial impact is to grant our imaginations new vistas to run wild.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"Have world leaders really got the will to bring peace to Yemen? We hear much about Yemen’s crisis, but far less about the hypocrisy of states fuelling the very conflict they condemn."
"No poll so far in our database has tested Trump against the relatively unknown Weld... Indeed, Weld seems like one of the weakest candidates that anti-Trump Republicans could put up in a national campaign. "
"An initiative by the mayor of Tiberias for the municipality to help provide public transportation on the Sabbath has caused the issue of the social status quo to the forefront of public discussion."
"Like “30 Rock,” “Kimmy Schmidt” obviously slanted leftward, but most always exhibited a similar eagerness to skewer politics more generally than just the GOP."
"Yes, we’re all overwhelmed with email. One recent survey suggested that the average American’s inbox has 199 unread messages. But volume isn’t an excuse for not replying."
"... platforms now have a stranglehold over publishers who, individually and even as a group, have little-to-no bargaining power when it comes to algorithmic changes, ad rates, and much else."
"[There's] a subgenre known as National Socialist black metal, which espouses neo-Nazi views and has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as aiming to recruit youth to white-supremacist causes."
"“The Ideas That Made America” by Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen is an anomaly in the genre. Its brevity is a point of pride, yet it aspires to do a little of everything."
"My wish is to die in my own bed, cared for by people I love—clean, comfortable and relatively free from pain. I hope to have time to say my goodbyes and give my final blessings."
"A diet for fast weight loss is a pipe dream. Many of us want to lose weight without making permanent changes, because we view thinness instead of health as a success."
"Opportunity casts a long shadow over all subsequent Mars rovers, setting a gold standard of JPL engineering. Customized versions of its mobility software are used on the rovers Curiosity and upcoming Mars 2020."
"Biblical scholarship has deepened our understanding of the Torah and at the same time challenges us to consider the implications of our declaring the Torah to be emet. What is emet and what does it mean to say that the Torah is emet?"