A literal waste of life.

This month, legislators in North Carolina and Mississippi have passed anti-LGBTQ+ (emphasis on the T) laws that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

In case you are wondering what mental gymnastics are involved in rationalizing actual discrimination, they call it “privacy”.

So clearly, these people take pleasure in damaging other peoples’ lives. But do they not realize they are literally wasting their own lives too?

In 1862, dozens of politicians voted to maintain slavery. 250 years later, they look like fools to us, but at the time they thought they were doing a reasonable thing. They didn’t know any better.

In 2016 we DO know better. We have seen society completely transform and become unrecognizable over and over again thanks to technology. Compare 2016 to 2006. To 1996. To 1986. Completely changed. We cannot picture what our lives will look like in 10 years. In 50 years, technology and society will have advanced beyond our wildest dreams, the same way a person from the 1960s could not in their wildest dreams have imagined Snapchat 2.0 (which is INCREDIBLE btw)

The future of humanity is so, so vast… in time, in knowledge, in population. Each one of us only has one lifetime to be alive. Just one. And then for ALL OF THE LIFETIMES AFTER THAT, we take our true place, in history. You think you are important because you are alive right now, but no! You will be dead infinitely longer than you will be alive. Life is tiny.

These legislators are wasting their tiny stupid little lives trying to deny LGBTQ+ people their rights while anyone who can recognize patterns or execute logic can see that transgender rights will be granted in less than one lifetime. We’ve seen this occur several times in the past 100 years.

For THE REST OF TIME, these legislators will become like the 1862 democrats. Primitive, foolish, shrouded in shame as the passage of time swallows them up like it does everyone else. We are so small! Anything we try to do to stop change is ridiculously futile. Passing these laws is like an ant trying to hold back a glacier. The future is always coming and it is so, so big. And yet they still spend their precious time on this.

What a literal waste of life. Some people’s stupidity knows no bounds.

Four concepts you have about space that are actually wrong

This is my lengthy and not required introduction. If you’d like to skip to the four concepts, click here.

Let’s be real, most people don’t think about space that much. They know the names and orders of the planets in our solar system, they know the name of our galaxy, and that’s about it. The average citizen doesn’t know, say, the distance from Earth to the sun (8.2 light minutes), the diameter of the Milky Way (100,000 light years), how gravity works (distortion of space-time), nor even a general idea of how far the moon is from the Earth (nor any other celestial bodies for that matter)!

Now, I am NO astrophysicist, but this is pretty basic stuff. Honestly, if we consider ourselves to be an intelligent species that may some day be able to travel freely off of our planet, we should at least have a general concept of how big space is. Unfortunately, such things are not taught in our public education system and therefore most people go through life never even pondering it.

Reader, I encourage you to learn about space. Watch some videos on YouTube. There are thousands of them, too many to list, about every topic, and they are incredibly informative. (If you are already a space video watcher and are ready for extreme hard mode, watch “The Inexplicable Universe” lecture series by Neil Degrasse Tyson, available on Netflix as of this writing. It covers literally everything.) When you start venturing into this topic, you start to realize that space is EVERYTHING. Earth is so damn small, knowing only about Earth is really not an accurate understanding of our universe.

The unfortunate consequence of the public lacking this general knowledge is that false information and unrealistic ideas about the universe get spread and accepted by people because they’ve got no knowledge against which to judge it. All of this information is available to us thanks to the glory of the Internet but people just don’t think to seek it.

Example: the film Gravity (2013). Y’all, this movie is so damn inaccurate I actually cannot believe it got made. Literally every scene is impossible yet I’m pretty sure it is supposed to portray real astronauts in the real future operating under real laws of physics. I have included a list sampling of three scenes from Gravity and how wrong they are. Feel free to skip if you are not interested in this film.

  1. Early in the film, the astronauts’ space walk goes wrong. Everyone dies except for the characters portrayed by George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Luckily for George Clooney, he is on a tether and that tether is being held by Sandra Bullock, who is safely anchored to the spacecraft. George’s momentum is stopped by the tether. The energy of his motion is converted into rope tension.
    1. What should happen next: The tension is absorbed by Sandra’s muscles and reverses George’s direction and he is moving back towards Sandra, who can safely pull him back in. This isn’t even a space thing, that’s just how energy and force works. We have this on Earth.
    2. What happens in the film: The tension STAYS in the rope even though there is no force acting on George in that direction (????? magic?) and he says “Sorry Sandra you have to let me go die in space” and she regretfully lets go and he FLIES OFF INTO SPACE! Kinetic energy is spontaneously manifested. Jesus be a fence.
  2. Sandra manages to jet-pack her way through space (lol) from the Hubble Telescope to the ISS which is a convenient 100 km away (LOL). She manages to get inside (LMFAO). Unfortunately the parachute for the Soyuz capsule has been damaged so she can’t take it back down to earth, and also there is a fire on board and she must evacuate.
    1. What should happen next: Well dis bitch would already be so dead. You can’t just navigate around space freely like you can on Earth so she wouldn’t have been able to jet-pack to any point in the first place. Also you can’t just get inside the ISS with your space suit on without assistance from the inside. OK so forgiving ALL of that, she gets to the ISS, can’t escape in the Soyuz, there’s a fire, she would die. End of story.
    2. What happens in the film: She sees in the distance a fictional Chinese station called the Tiangong. In real space everything is REALLY far away from each other so IRL it would be too far away for her to actually see. It’s also likely that the Tiangong could be around the horizon and thus not visible from the ISS. But anyway she spots it and then DRIVES THE SOYUZ OVER THERE. HOLY CRAP. I already mentioned how you can’t ‘drive around’ in space, right? Like on Earth, I can see a building in the distance, get in my car and drive (effectively in two spatial dimensions because I am not flying) to that building. But ok in space we are in 3 dimensions also you and your destination are both orbiting AKA falling at like 5 miles per SECOND. No honey you can’t just scoot on over there in the Soyuz capsule you snatched that is not even designed for space flight but is actually built for returning to Earth.
  3. Ok so Sandra drives to the Tiangong. FINE. Then she gets in an escape capsule and finally, praise God, falls towards Earth. This is unplanned, there is no trajectory. There is no mission control. She just hopin’ for the best.
    1. What should happen next: Earth is 70% ocean so she should land somewhere random in a random ocean and then drown. Alternatively, she crashes on land. Bye bye Sandra.
    2. What happens in the film: She does not land in the ocean. She does not land on land. Dis bitch lands in like FIVE FOOT DEEP WATER ON THE BLOODY COASTLINE. I wonder what % of Earth’s surface is shallow coastal water in an area that happens to also be in a nice (read: not arctic or dangerously hot) climate like where she lands. I don’t know the exact number but I’m pretty confident it is near to zero.

Geez, I hate that movie. The point is, this film is accepted as a realistic portrayal of space and propagated huge amounts of false information to the public. The public is not able to spot blatantly false information about space. And that is sad. It doesn’t have to be that way.


Here are some spacey things you may believe but have not given much detailed thought to.

1. Humans will be able to travel outside our solar system.

Let me lay this out for you. The distance from the sun to Pluto is about .0005 light years. I think we can all agree that Pluto is pretty far away. Still, it’s within our reach. The New Horizons spacecraft got there in less than 10 years! So freaking fast! That thing is going at over 36,000 mph. Nice. Within 100 years, travelling to Pluto will be a piece of cake. We will be capable of sending manned missions to Pluto and other other outer/exo planets. Though I’m thinking we probably will not because there’s nothing out there that is worth an in-person human visit that a robot couldn’t check out just fine.

Ok so the good part of our solar system (fuck the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud) which lies within a .0005 light year radius of us is accessible. That’s truly great. The next nearest object of interest to us is the star Proxima Centauri, so named because it is the nearest star to our solar system. That shit is 4.3 light years away. Quick review: Pluto = .0005 light years. The next fucking star = 4.3 light years. Pluto = accessible. Proxima Centauri = not accessible.

Maybe I’m underestimating future human technology. Maybe in 500 or 1000 years we will have crafts that can travel near light-speed and we will be able to get to Proxima Centauri within a reasonable amount of time. But remember, the next star after that is ANOTHER 4 light years away. Or 10, or 20, or 100. Proxima, while on a human scale is very very far away, on a universal scale is… insignificant. We are insignificant, and all the celestial bodies within our reach past, present, and future are insignificant too. We are small. We can’t help it.

In conclusion: while we will likely be able to send unmanned crafts to “nearby” points of interest outside the solar system, we will never be able to shuttle humans around, nor will there be any reason to because none of those places can support life.

Bonus: “Intergalactic” travel is even more of a fantasy and will literally be impossible forever. Try if you dare to imagine the distance from Sol to Proxima Centauri magnified from a single star-scale to a galactic scale. Nevermind, don’t try. Our primitive brains cannot comprehend a fucking galaxy. Also, the universe is expanding and galaxies are moving away from each other so the distance between them is always increasing. So even if we did depart from earth and head towards Andromeda, it would recede from us faster than we could approach it.

2. We will find life elsewhere in the universe

There is undoubtedly life elsewhere in space-time. The universe is so so vast that any scenario you can conceive of has at least some probability of occurring. It’s like Hitchhiker’s goddamn Guide to the Galaxy out there.

Just because there is life in the universe does not mean we can detect it. Our ability to observe the universe is limited to what our technology can read, what our minds can comprehend, the small time frame we inhabit, and what our four dimensions can express. Life could be all around us, just beyond the reach of these impassible barriers. Life could just be too far away for us to detect (a likely scenario, see above paragraph about how far away our neighbor star is) or maybe it existed in the past or in the future. Time is theoretically as vast as space and we take up such a tiny speck of time the way we take up a tiny speck of space. Once again, we are just too small to contend with the universe.

If we can’t discover aliens, maybe they can discover us. But if aliens exist that are capable of finding our little Earth, a needle in a trillion trillion haystacks, then they 1) are so much more advanced than us that they would not deign to contact us and 2) will have located many, many more interesting planets to visit than ours. Thems the facts.

So yes, aliens exist, but not in a way that is accessible to us.

3. If and when we establish contact with intelligent aliens, we will be able to communicate with them.

Many science fiction stories portray aliens as humanoid, able to understand English (obviously fiction) or at least having some form of language that we can decode and use to exchange information with them. Is this realistic?

Not 👏 a 👏 chance.

We have so many other beings right here on our own planet! Some of them (ex. dolphins, many primates, elephants) have their own methods of communication that we can observe, but we cannot meaningfully communicate with them.

Answer me this: if we cannot communicate with our own fellow Earthlings that have 98% or more common DNA with ourselves, how the fuck are we gonna communicate with super-advanced, possibly not carbon-based, possibly multi-dimensional beings that have for some inconceivable reason decided to pay Earth a visit and not blow it up instantly and farm the debris for resources?

Rhetorical question, obviously. We can’t.

4. We are intelligent.

I think it is clear that we are not (yet) really intelligent, if you define “intelligent” as having a decent understanding of our universe. You might think we understand the universe because our understanding is the only concept we have, but y’all, we only JUST got a picture of Pluto. We don’t even know how life started on our OWN planet. Have you heard about dark energy/dark matter, the mysterious stuff that we know exactly zero things about? This mystery thing (a force? a substance? something in another dimension that manifests itself in our dimension as gravity?) makes up 96% of our universe. We can only observe four 👏 percent 👏 of the universe right now.

So no, unfortunately we are not yet intelligent. But you know what’s amazing? We can imagine it. We little brand new humans with 3 pound brains can contemplate the beginning and the end of existence, multiverses, ridiculous things like String Theory and wormholes. That’s extraordinary. We may never be able to physically exceed the limits of our tiny plot of space-time, but our imaginations are limitless. In that way, we are intelligent.

We (Consumers) Need to be Ready for Driverless Cars

I know nothing about the inner workings of autonomous car technology. I also know nothing about how regular ICE (internal combustion engine) cars work. I do drive multiple times a day, every day. In summation, I am the perfect target consumer of a driverless car.

I have seen the videos of how driverless cars work, the feel-good story of a blind man “driving” for the first time since he lost his sight, and even incredible footage of how driverless cars deal with bizarre road scenarios (skip to 7:50, it’s mind-blowing).

I believe driverless cars are the future of personal transportation and I hope they become available soon. Every day I drive in notoriously frightening Miami-Dade county, fearing for my life as vehicles zip around, stop short, and merge unsafely. Almost every day I say (usually to myself, but sometimes to a passenger), “I can’t wait for driverless cars, I hope they come soon.”

Indeed, I would LOVE to pass off the life-threatening task of navigating I-95 to a machine designed specifically to do so. However, I have found that not everyone is as excited as me. The three most common responses from people who have not accepted the concept of autonomous vehicles are:

  1. What if it gets hacked and someone remotely crashes your car?
  2. I like driving and/or I like working on ICEs. I don’t want cars to become “just another ‘smart’ device”.
  3. What if you are in a life-or-death situation where the only two options are to hit the little kid who just ran into the street in front of you OR to swerve out of the way and hit either another car (killing the passengers) or an obstacle that would kill you?

My responses to these things are thus:

  1. What if an airplane’s autopilot gets hacked and someone remotely crashes the plane? Idk. Perhaps the car could have emergency manual controls and hand over control to the human if it detects any unauthorized access to its system. I don’t know enough about “hacking” to answer this question at all. Then again, neither do the people asking this question know enough to be asking it.
  2. I admit I cannot relate to this view because I don’t particularly enjoy the act of driving (don’t hate it either, but it is not a hobby) and I do not work on ICEs. However… is not the safety of the human population more important than the enjoyment people get out of driving cars? Over one million people die in road accidents each year… Every driverless car we put on the road replacing a driver like me who doesn’t care one way or another makes the world safer. I like to imagine a future where the vast majority of cars are driverless and accidents are incredibly rare. In such a future, traditional car enthusiasts could still drive and work on ICE cars but the overall system would be safer.
  3. First of all, I don’t think there are any real-world scenarios in which there are only two possible outcomes. Second of all, this scenario assumes that the driver can be surprised by a child jumping into the road. A human driver can be surprised, yes. But a driverless car sees in 360 degrees simultaneously and would have seen that kid coming from 30 feet away and stopped before the danger occurred. In a world where all cars are driverless, EVERY car on the road would stop long in advance to avoid hitting the child. In a world of all driverless cars, there are no accidents.

This is my thesis statement: a driverless car is better at driving than a human is. (To clarify, I’m talking about average road driving and commuting etc. Not racing, not off-road, not treacherous mountain pass with a drop-off cliff on one side etc.) Let us break it down.

Factor Human driver Autonomous
Field of vision 114 degrees (binocular) with 60 to 70 peripheral 360 degrees

This is pretty self explanatory. A human can only see about 114 degrees forward. With the aid of mirrors, we can also see behind us, but at the cost of taking our eyes off what is in front of us. Driverless cars can see EVERYTHING at the same time. Everything! They don’t need mirrors! How many times have you been driving and been surprised or startled by something that came from the left or right of you, like another driver deciding to make a sudden turn when maybe they shouldn’t have? Well a driverless car would never be surprised by that because they have no right or left. No sides. Just complete, 360 degree vision. Tell me how a human can compete with that. Answer: we can’t. NEXT.

Factor Human driver Autonomous
Reaction time human speed aka SLOW (half as econd?) computer speed aka FAST (microseconds?)

My usual first-page-of-Google search isn’t yielding as quick and obvious answers as I typically like, but I don’t think I need hard data to remind us all that humans are slow and dumb and computers are comparatively very fast. If you see an obstacle and need to stop, it takes at least half a second to start braking. Okay? And what if the reason for your braking is NOT in your 114 field of vision? Then you have to spend another second or two turning your head to look at it before reacting? Geez just pronounce me dead already. An autonomous car would start braking before you could even see or interpret the obstacle.

Factor Human driver Autonomous
Decision making Makes occasional decisions at human speed aka SLOW Makes multiple decisions per second (I think I heard 15/second somewhere?)

Human drivers basically don’t make decisions about changing lanes or defensive maneuvers until they need to. Driverless cars are constantly analyzing their environment and always know the best maneuver to make at any moment, including defensive maneuvers. Beat that, human who is singing along to a song on the radio right now.

Factor Human driver Autonomous
Distractions/focus so freaking many/unfocused literally zero/no such thing as focus because it is a computer

Every human driver is driving distracted. Even if you are not listening to the radio or talking on the phone/to a passenger, you are thinking about multiple things. No human can focus 100% on the task of driving. You are thinking about your destination. You are thinking about how annoying it is that you missed the light. You are thinking about making plans with your friends etc. A driverless car doesn’t have friends. It doesn’t have thoughts and thus cannot be distracted.

Factor Human driver Autonomous
Aggressive driving LOL no

In the same way driverless cars can’t get distracted because they don’t have thoughts, they also do not have emotions that negatively affect their focus and driving. Moving on.

Factor Human driver Autonomous
Mistakes many few, practically zero?

I’ll admit it. I’ve accidentally put my car in the wrong gear a time or two. Stopped at a green light. Turned into the wrong lane. Gone at a 4-way stop when maybe it wasn’t my turn. Humans make mistakes. You know who doesn’t? Autonomous cars.

As far as I can tell, there have been no major accidents involving driverless cars in the six or so years they have been being road-tested in California. Google and friends report a smattering of minor incidents which almost always involve a human behind the driverless car rear-ending it because the driverless car stopped when the human didn’t expect them to. Engineers are working on improving this. I love the accident report mentioned in this article about the human who tried to go when a different lane got a green light and their own lane was still red and they rear-ended the driverless car in front of them. I also like the one about a driverless car not continuing through an intersection when the light was green because the traffic was heavy and there was not space to make it across the intersection without blocking (praise GAWD I hate when intersections are blocked) and the human behind it kept on going. LOL humans.

Try as the nay-sayers might to denounce the concept of autonomous cars, they are clearly superior to human drivers. I hope they come to the consumer market soon and that when they do, we consumers will welcome them with open arms and start reaping the benefits of safer roads.

It sure is nice to live in The Future.

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Before I delve into yet another post about how much I love technology, I’d like to begin by attempting to retell a fable of sorts that was told to me as a child by a math teacher. I am lost on the finer details of the story but I remember the gist.

Once upon there was a young boy and his father. When the father felt his son was old enough to do chores, he approached the boy and said he could have an allowance.

“I want to discuss the terms of your allowance,” the father said, seeing this as a great opportunity to each the boy a lesson in business negotiations. “Your allowance will increase along with your experience. What do you think is a fair starting wage?”

The boy thought about it. “I’d like you to start me at 1¢ per day.”

“One cent!?” The father was very surprised.

“And,” his son went on, “I’d like my pay to double each day.”

The father was disappointed. His son was asking for chump change. 1¢, 2¢, 4¢, 8¢… it was negligible! Confused, but wanting his young son to understand the concept of money, the father agreed to pay the boy 1¢ on the first day of chores, 2¢ on the second day, and continue doubling from there.

On the fifth day, the boy made 16¢.

On the sixth day, he made 32¢.

On the seventh day, he made 64¢.

On the tenth day, he made $5.12.

By the 20th day, the boy was making $5,242.88

Ok, story over, the characters don’t matter anymore because you see the point. The story illustrates the incredible multiplicative power of exponents. By the 30th day (2^29), the boy would be owed over five million dollars ($5,368,709.12).

So how does this relate to “The Future”? Consider Moore’s law, which is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. This is a somewhat outdated description that basically means computers get twice as good every two years. You know what else got twice as good for every one unit of time passed? That kid’s allowance.

In a very over simplified form, Moore’s law looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 22.02.43

Exponential numbers. grow. FAST. This equation literally goes of the charts so fast that it is painfully obvious to behold in our everyday lives. Just think… mentally compare the first generation iPhone (2007) to the current iPhone. That 1st Gen had a 2 Megapixel camera, what we in 2015 would call “potato quality”. The iPhone 6S has 12 Megapixels.

That’s just one tiny example. It boggles my mind to compare the music-listening technology of my childhood (single disc portable CD player) with today’s devices. A CD player vs an iPhone is like a tricycle vs. a McLaren. This is why I like to say “it’s good to be in the future,” “this is the future,” and the like. Because, wow, isn’t it amazing how much technology has become obsolete in my short lifetime?

No matter how amazing that all is, it pales in comparison to what awaits us in the next 15 years. On the simplified Moore graph, I figure we’re about here:

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 22.02.43
Disclaimer: umm that might be kind of generous idk I’m not a scientist.

You guys, we ain’t seen nothing yet. Human technology is going to go off the charts, and the millennials are going to live to see it.

So, while I’ve been calling the present “The Future” for years, with every year that passes that joke simultaneously becomes more true and more false. More true because our technology is truly more futuristic than ever before. More false because as the slope of our graph increases, it becomes easier and easier to see how in just a few short years, we will have new technology twice as unbelievable as what we’ve achieved in the past few years. And seriously, guys, the iPhone is pretty dang unbelievable.

Can’t wait to live in The Future five years from now when I’m sitting in my self-driving car looking back at this post on my Google Glass.

The future of radio, and why it will never die.

memory cards
Smaller size, greater capacity

With the shocking speed at which technology is advancing these days, many products have come and gone in the blink of an eye. Remember flash drives? Of course you do, you may even still own one. 10 years ago, early flash drives came in what would now be considered appallingly small sizes for absurdly high prices. I remember gritting my teeth upon shelling out the $40 it cost to buy just a few hundred megabytes of storage. Today, I sneeze at a flash drive that has any capacity smaller than 4 GB, and I wouldn’t pay more than $10 for it. In fact, I probably wouldn’t pay anything for it at all, because in the last few years flash drives have been made all but obsolete by the rise of cloud storage. I have 15 GB FREE storage on Google Drive and I don’t need to worry about carrying it around in my pocket and potentially misplacing it. Flash drives were just a flash in the pan.

original ipod
The original iPod

This is just one example of a technology that has been introduced just to quickly be replaced by something new. In the music industry, even the successor of CD’s, the mp3 player, is on its last legs. The first iPod came out in 2001, and I couldn’t get enough. Now, I haven’t owned an iPod in 3 years thanks to how incredibly easy it is to stream music from services like YouTube, Pandora, and Spotify. If there are some mp3s I can’t live without and I need to have the actual files with me, I download them onto my smart phone.

But in the media industry, here is one form that stands the test of time: radio. Think about it, when you’re in the car, you still listen to the radio whether it be AM, FM, or “XM”. And I’m here to make the case that radio will never die.

vintage radio

First, let us define “radio”. If you define radio as content that is broadcast wirelessly via towers and radio waves, then stop reading right now, because you are right. The technology of broadcasting via radio waves is 100 years old and is being replaced by more modern methods, such as broadcast via satellite or the internet. I do not define radio based on its using radio waves, but radio as an industry. Here is my list of criteria for what I categorize under the word “radio”:

  1. The streaming of the content is controlled by someone other than the listener. A listener may tune in to hear what is currently playing, but cannot skip around to different songs/programs.
  2. The content is created or chosen by a person or persons, not a computer.
  3. The content is played on a “station” that takes programs from different sources
  4. A station has programming that all follows some sort of theme (ex “classic rock” “Christian” “talk” “news” “top 40”)
Spotify Radio
NOT “radio”

That’s about it. What fits this description? Well not “internet radio”, such as Spotify Radio or the new iTunes Radio, where the user chooses from a list of characteristics and a computer algorithm then pulls music from some giant distant cloud library. Marketers of these streaming services chose the word “radio” because it is a word that is familiar to the consumer, and because the service fits my criteria #4, all the music played follows a theme. This theme is chosen by the listener when they click on which genres they’d like the computer algorithm to play for them.

What does fit my description of radio is anything you tune to in your car, whether it be coming to you via radio waves or not. Radio is where you discover new things: new songs you may not have heard, news stories that are just breaking, interesting conversations and wonderful stories told by journalists. All of this unique entertainment is available to you without the use of your eyes, a special quality which makes radio quite different from any other form of media you might encounter.

Yes, there are also audiobooks and podcasts that can be enjoyed with ears only. But there are also loads of internet videos to enjoy, so why do we still have TV? TV and radio still exist (and will continue to exist) for the same reason: there is something enjoyable about giving up control about what you are about to hear or see, an excitement about not knowing what will come up next on your television or radio, and the knowledge that it will probably be something brand new that you’ve never heard before. You constantly have the opportunity to experience something new. When a person plays their own pre-loaded audiobooks or music, that chance is greatly reduced.

Radio as an industry will continue to thrive. As both a producer and listener of radio, I know that the human desire to both be entertained (sometimes without having to commit your eyes as well as your ears!) and informed will keep radio alive. That is, maybe, until they perfect those self-driving cars….

Has Pop Music Gotten Worse in the Last 50 Years?

The answer, undoubtedly, is yes.

I have had this argument with my boyfriend a few times, and he just can’t come to accept it. It’s not fair, he said, to compare the music industry as we know it today to the music of the past, because we see all the bad music around us today whereas bad music of past decades has faded out of history and we don’t even know about it today.

This is a good point. However, if you take a cross section of the most popular songs of each decade, you can see from the top five hits of each year how the trend is really going. Take this list for example. It begins in 1946. We have jazz standards, some silly pop songs. Then we move to The Beatles, who, let’s be honest, were some of the finest pop music of the century. In the 1970s we see the charts get peppered with frivolous dance and pop music (come on, can “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” really be compared to Nat King Cole or “Hey Jude”?)

It only gets worse from there. The number 1 song of 1982 is Olivia Newton John’s “Physical”. While I am not saying this isn’t a terribly catchy song, the overall quality or intelligence of the piece surely cannot be compared to the jazz standards or classic rock of previous decades.

Of course there are still some great songs on the list, but as the years progress, the ratio of really great songs (“Every Breath You Take”, “Billie Jean”) to rather stupid songs (“Walk Like an Egyptian”, “Flashdance… What A Feeling”) makes a clear shift towards the stupid side. By the 2000s, we seem to have descended into complete idiocy (“In Da Club”, “Since U Been Gone”, “Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)”).

To make myself clear again: I am not saying these songs have no merit at all. These are songs I myself have sung along with, danced to, or performed in a private concert to my adoring fans in the bathroom mirror with a paddle brush as a microphone. But when you compare the general level of artistry involved in making these songs with songs earlier on the list, we see a clear divide.

But how could music just get worse? What driving force would possibly be behind that? Well, I didn’t know it until this past week when I read it in my music history book.

Over 100 years ago, the only way to enjoy music outside of a concert was to purchase the sheet music for it and play it yourself. Obviously in this society, only people with musical training and thus refined musical taste would be seeking out music and giving their consumerism to the music industry. Thus, the industry demand for music was only for the type of music these people would like: “classical” music, musical theater/opera, etc.

Then, recording technologies were invented. It started as the wax cylinder, and evolved into the vinyl record. Here’s a neat fact, the early incarnations of a record were not very efficient and could only hold 3-4 minutes of music on each side. This is what dictated the length of songs and is why typical pop songs are about 3 minutes in length today. With each new advancement in recording technology, music became more and more easy to purchase, own, and enjoy. Most importantly, you didn’t have to be able to read music to access it anymore. As more people gained access to music, the demand for music changed because it wasn’t only the classically trained musicians listening to it anymore.

In the past 50 years, music technology has improved at an exponential rate. Since the vinyl record, we’ve had radio, 8 tracks, cassettes, CDs, mp3s, and finally, free and universal streaming services (YouTube, Pandora, Spotify). In 100 years the amount of effort it requires to listen to a piece of music has gone from studying for years to perfect an instrument in order to play the piece all the way down to simply typing in the name of a tune you want to hear. As non-musically educated people have saturated the market, so has the quality of the music gone down to meet their tastes.

Improved technology also means that it has become easier and easier to record music, and this fact has sped up the production of the “bad” music supply.

I am not saying there is no good music at all these days. I am a huge fan of Mumford and Sons, Avett Brothers, Seven Lions, and the like. However, can you really compare Justin Bieber to The Beatles? Besides the hair cut, they really haven’t got a damn thing in common.

Children for Same-Sex Couples

Recently, it was National Coming Out day, a day for raising awareness for the acceptance of LGBT people by our community. Today, my family and I were talking about what it could feel like to have a gay child.

My mom said it would be weird… you could not go visit that child and his/her spouse and their kids… because any kids they had would not be 100% their own! The most a gay couple can do is use one parents’ DNA and combine in with a donor’s. But really, with medical technology progressing the way it is, will this be true for much longer?

There are constantly being tests being done by scientist to learn more about how we can control life, whether with cloning, stem cells, or growing new organs for patients who need a transplant. It could definitely possible to have a same-sex couple have their own genetic children. It would be difficult and expensive, and it would require egg extraction, but it could be done. Perhaps not now, but I would bet within 20 years.

The ovum, or “egg”, from a female human is about 20 times the size of a human sperm. This is because the sperm is essentially just a swimming nucleus of DNA. The ovum, however, has cytoplasm, mitochondria, and all that other cell stuff. These other components of the cell are what are able to replicate to create every functioning cell in the human body.

Of course, the main difference between an ovum and any other human cell is that an ovum only has half of a full set of chromosomes; it needs to be met with a sperm which has the other half in order to form a full set of human DNA and begin to replicate. The nuclei of the ovum and of the sperm, I believe, are essentially the same. It is the rest of the cell that makes the difference.

So, what do you need to make a new baby? You need an ovum and half a nucleus from each parent.

Theoretically, for a gay male couple to have a biological child, you could take an egg from a donor, extract the nucleus from the ovum, and insert the nuclei from the two fathers. As long as at least one of the two nuclei contained an X chromosome, the egg could then be implanted into a surrogate mother, and grow into a baby!

For two women, you would take an egg from each, and transplant the nucleus from into the other. Then the two nuclei would combine inside the one ovum. Of course, by this method, a lesbian couple could only give birth to a daughter, since the mothers’ nuclei would only be X chromosomes sets.

How far fetched is this? I think some procedure like this may have successfully been done already. If I made a habit of reading up on scientific journals, perhaps I would know. I know that this procedure IS expensive and difficult and does not have a high success rate. However, as technology improves, it will definitely get easier!

Why we will never meet other intelligent life in the universe

There are countless sci-fi stories with premises that involve us humans meeting other intelligent alien races. Whether it involves the aliens coming to us (War of the Worlds, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) or us going to the aliens (Star Trek, “Alien” franchise), there is always some incredible space travel completed by advanced space crafts that can move mind-bogglingly fast. Well, here is the part where these stories fall through: everything, and I’m talking EVERYTHING in the universe is just so far away that we could never reach it.

Think of this: on the edge of our solar system is Pluto, which is about six billion kilometers away. If we could send a craft at a speed of 61,000 km/hr (this is the approximate speed of the Voyager), It would still take over 11 years to reach Pluto. Now this is an unimaginably small distance in comparison to our entire universe. There is no other intelligent life in our solar system (there could be life, perhaps buried deep in Mars or Europa, but definitely no intelligent life). So, let’s go a step further.

The nearest star to us besides the sun is the aptly named Proxima Centauri. This star is 4.33 light years away from us. At top Voyager speed, it would take seventy-six thousand years to reach this star. Obviously this is an unreasonable amount of time, and we will not be attempting to reach such a distance any time soon. Even if we could travel at the speed of light, it would still take over four years!

So, Proxima Centauri is 76,000 years away from us. But remember, this is the CLOSEST THING to us outside of the solar system. This isn’t even our next door neighbor, this is like the person squished against us in a mosh pit. And it would still take us 76,000 years to reach. And of course, there isn’t any intelligent life anywhere near Proxima Centauri. We would have seen it.

If not near Proxima Centauri, where might life exist? The 89th closest star to our sun is Gliese. Gliese is about 22 light years away. It has a handful of planets orbiting it, one or two of which might be “habitable”. Let’s say one of Gliese’s planets is 20 light years away. How long would it take us to reach this planet (or for aliens from that planet to reach us) at Voyager speed? 353,000 years. That’s twice as long as human beings have even EXISTED. Additionally, Gliese is just the 89th star from the sun. There are something like 10^23 stars in the observable universe, so 353,000 years would be the closest option to reach a habitable Earth-like planet.

Ok. Obviously traveling at Voyager speed, the fastest speed attained by a human craft, is not going to cut it. What if we could travel the speed of light? Well, we would certainly get places much more quickly. We would get to Gliese in 22 years, a reasonable time frame (if your craft could handle light speeds that long). However, it is known that is impossible to travel at light speed. Light and other particles travel at light speed because they have no mass. Therefore, a thing with mass, such as a spacecraft, could never ever attain this speed. Hopefully we could get close, but the nearer you get to light speed the more the laws of physics go out the window, so I’m thinking that would be difficult as well.

What other options would we or aliens have for long distance travel? How about wormholes? Well, I don’t have exact numbers on this since wormholes are theoretical and only super space scientists know anything about them, but I have watched several science shows that say it would take the energy of about a million bajillion suns to make a wormhole with the diameter of like, a millimeter. I’m exaggerating a little, but NOT MUCH.

If an alien race could somehow harness the incredible amount of energy it takes to open a wormhole do you think they’d point it at silly little Earth? Not a chance! They’d go to the nearest big galaxy to harvest all the energy they just spent making the dang hole.

There is one more option for traveling across the universe: teleporting. There are basically two ways teleporting could happen.

  1. You could take all the atoms of the object you want to teleport and move them from point A to point B. This would require, essentially, a wormhole. Since I already explained how wormholes are entirely impractical, I think we could could rule this option out.
  2. You could disassemble the object to be teleported at point A, and recreated it from new atoms at point B. For example, us humans are made up of simple things like carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen. If I wanted to teleport, you could disassemble my atoms here and at the destination, have a copy of me formed from carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen at the new place.

While option 2 sounds a lot more reasonable, it brings up a couple of issues. The first is that in order to teleport, you have to be blasted apart into individual atoms. You have to die! And then a clone of you is created in a new place. Would this new clone have your memories? I don’t know much about how brains work. If memories are physical things encoded in our brain that can be recreated with physical atoms and molecules, then the memories would survive. If memories are not physical, however, they would not survive the trip. Your teleport clone would basically be a newborn baby in terms of mental function. Not even a newborn baby, like a foetus just formed.

Also, how would this teleport clone compare to you in terms of ageing? Your original body would have cells that have aged for as long as you have been alive. Your clone would have brand new everything. Not sure what this would mean in terms of function or health, but it can’t be good. These side effects of teleport option 2 mean that no one would ever do it. I suppose we could teleport inanimate objects, but never living things. Also, this means you would have to have a teleport pod at both the departure and the arrival point. So, even if an intelligent race could manage this type of teleporting, they would have to get a teleport pod to the destination point the old fashioned way, traveling as fast as possible, which I already stated at the beginning of this post is not going to get us anywhere any time within the next 100,000 years.

After thinking about all these facts, it is easy to accept the conclusion that while we may not be alone in the universe, we might as well be. The universe is just too incredibly big to allow for travel to other places. So, as far as I can tell, the alien races of science fiction will always be just that: science fiction.

Laptop update

I called the computer shop and learned a couple of facts that were not surprising, but sad nonetheless.

One is that my Apple warranty wouldn’t cover screen cracks anyway. Warranties are not for breaks you make yourself. Also, if I wanted to fix it anyway, I would have to do so by replacing the ENTIRE TOP HALF of the computer. I guess that’s a side effect of them being so thin.

So now I am faced with a decision, should I live with this badly cracked screen, or spend money to better my situation? Honesty, for the price it would cost to restore my MacBook Air, I would rather just get a whole used MacBook Pro. One of which my roommate has and would be willing to sell to me…

But in reality I don’t have a few hundred dollars to spend on anything, so there’s that.

Jailbreak!

I have finally jailbroken my iPhone. I was always afraid to do it and mess something up, but this weekend I was convinced. So far I am loving it! My battery goes out about twice as fast, but it’s so cool and fun that the perks outweigh the battery life. Here are some sweet screenshots:
Lock screen
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home screen
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pull-down notification center
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This is me writing a text from notification center!
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