Summer SciFi Musings



It’s summer, it’s hot, I’m in Turkey doing some writing—surrounded by some very pushy cats and startlingly clever Jaybirds.
I got to thinking about non-human intelligence again (a big theme in my books).

Forget about aliens, we already see non-human culture and technology.

Animals are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. We know they are capable of using tools. Some even pass new knowledge onto their offspring and colleagues—technicallythis is culture.

In my writing, the ‘BugNet’ allows animals to interact economically with humans. It’s Science Fiction, but it might not be as far off as we think…

I recently read about a group of scientists watching as a population of crows learned to use paper money to purchase treats from a vending machine!

The idea of their study was to see if birds could be incentivized to adapt to a completely new situation. The guinea pigs (flying guinea pigs) in this case were a murder of crows on a small south pacific island. They had already demonstrated they were able to make and use tools to snag bugs out of holes. In this experiment, they were presented with a vending machine and given some spending money. These very special birds quickly learnt that by inserting pieces of paper into the machine they could buy themselves lunch. Going further, when they were given notes which were too big, the crows were able to tear the larger denominations to match the advertised price.

In Siguarity’s Children I have a sequence where a trapped super-AI uses incentives and rewards to enlist wild animals to help it escape. Some of my early readers expressed scepticism that this might be a stretch, but here we have animals using tools, adapting to novel scenarios, and innovating on the fly (no pun intended). This is the same set of skills we might hope to find in a bright human being!

Imagine, if Instead of birds behaving this way, we’d found slug-beasts on another planet, or a population of zeno-chaete swarming beneath the ice of some Galilean moon! We’d be flipping out!

 

“Our difficulties in understanding or effectuating communication with other animals may arise from our reluctance to grasp unfamiliar ways of dealing with the world.”
― Carl Sagan




Let me know your own examples (or YouTube videos) of animals being unusually smart. I might include them in my upcoming book which (starts under the crust of an ice-moon).

If you want to read more about smart critters working within the human economy to build a better world… check out my Science Fiction!

Cheers, have a good summer!

Toby

Betelgeuse about to go Supernova?



Betelgeuse is still dimming, possibly a sign that it’s collapsing in on itself and is getting ready to go Boom!


Comparison shows Betelgeuse in Jan and Dec 2019. It has already dimmed by nearly 40%.

The star is a red supergiant in the constellation of Orion aprox 600 light years away and about 20 times as massive as the sun.

The last supernova in our galaxy was in 1604, so this is a pretty big deal.

If it does go bang, it will be as bright as the moon, but with all the light squeezed into a single point. Something like this:

and eventually we will see the shrapnel and gas:

Betelgeuse was also identified with Osiris by the ancient Egyptians:

“…until that day Osiris lives in the Duat, where he rules the Dead wisely and nobly as he ruled the living when on earth.
For though Horus fights with Set and the battles rage furiously, yet the decisive victory is not yet accomplished, and Osiris has never returned to earth again…”

Not a bad way for a race of visitors to mark a date in our calendar:

“By the way, we’ll be back when the red star winks then burns…”

😉

Aliens?



Aliens!
…maybe not…

I wrote a post several years ago now while researching Magneto Hydro Dynamic levitation technology for my books (e.g. the Sky Whale from Book Three):

Declassified 1950s Flying Saucer vs WEAV the 2010s update

I was recently reminded of the concept again reading this New York Times article from a few days ago:

“The strange objects, one of them like a spinning top moving against the wind, appeared almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015, high in the skies over the East Coast. Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds.”

It certainly sounds like the pilots could be describing something based on WEAV

(also: Solid State Aircraft)