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“Despite the impression one gets from textbooks, our current knowledge of the universe represents a small island in a vast ocean of ignorance. The scientific enterprise is all about expanding the landmass of this island. And it is fun to engage in the activity of gaining knowledge; knowing everything in advance would have been much more boring. Still, it would be shocking to learn all at once of the discoveries of an alien civilization that been doing scientific and technological exploration for billions of years, in contrast to our mere few centuries. The eminent science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke codified this idea in the third of his three laws : “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Put another way, members of such a civilization would appear to us as a pretty good approximation to God.
Meeting a piece of advanced technological equipment developed by an extraterrestrial intelligence might resemble an imaginary encounter of ancient cave people with a modern cell phone. At first, they would interpret it as a shiny rock, not recognizing it as a communication device. The same thing might have happened in reaction to the first detection of an interstellar visitor to the solar system, ‘Oumuamua, which showed six peculiar properties but was nevertheless interpreted as a rock by mainstream astronomers.
Because it would likely be relatively small, most advanced equipment could only be recognized in the darkness of space when it comes close enough to our nearest lamppost, the sun. We can search for technological “keys” under this lamppost, but most of them will stay unnoticed if they pass far away. More fundamentally, one may wonder whether we are able to recognize technologies that were not already developed by us. After all, these technologies might feature subtle purposes—like the cell phone communication signals that a cave person would miss.”
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?"