The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The Athropic Shadow

An article in this month's Atlantic points out that we humans can wonder how we got here only because we got here:

After all, there are 100-mile impact craters on our planet’s surface from the past billion years, but no 600-mile craters. But of course, there couldn’t be scars this big. On worlds where such craters exist, there is no one around afterward to ponder them. In a strange way, truly gigantic craters don’t appear on the planet’s surface because we’re here to look for them. Just as the wounds of the returning planes could reflect only the merely survivable, so too for our entire planet’s history. It could be that we’ve been shielded from these existential threats by our very existence.

“Observer selection effects are really the kind of effects where the data you get is going to be dependent, in some sense, on survival, or that you as an observer exist,” [Anders Sandberg, a senior research fellow at University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute] says. “Now this gets really interesting and scary when we apply it to our own survival.”

“Maybe the universe is super dangerous and Earth-like planets are destroyed at a very high rate,” Sandberg says. “But if the universe is big enough, then when observers do show up on some very, very rare planets, they’ll look at the record of meteor impacts and disasters and say, ‘The universe looks pretty safe!’ But the problem is, of course, that their existence depends on them being very, very lucky. They’re actually living in an unsafe universe and next Tuesday they might get a very nasty surprise.”

If this is true, it might explain why our radio telescopes have reported only a stark silence from our cosmic neighborhood. Perhaps we’re truly extreme oddballs, held aloft by a near-impossible history—one free from lifeless water world.

We see this on smaller scales when, for example, extremely lucky people start to think they succeeded entirely because of their own efforts. But that's a different topic. Sort of.

Florida votes to secede from the Eastern time zone

Florida's legislature has voted overwhelmingly to change the state's clocks:

The Florida Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act on Tuesday, three weeks after the state’s House of Representatives, and sent it to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature or veto. (Asked on Wednesday whether Mr. Scott would sign it, and why or why not, his press secretary, Lauren Schenone, said only, “The governor will review the bill.”) The margins of victory in both chambers were overwhelming — 33 to 2 in the Senate and 103 to 11 in the House — and the measure has considerable public support.

The problem? Florida doesn’t have the authority to adopt daylight saving time year-round.

15 USC 260a allows states to adopt year-round standard time, but not year-round daylight saving time. The Department of Transportation is in charge of what states go in what time zones.

In any event, what the bill's sponsors really want, but didn't know how to ask for, is to move Florida from the Eastern time zone (UTC-5 standard and -4 DST) to the Atlantic time zone (UTC-4 standard), and then exempt the state from DST. The intent is simply to put Florida on UTC-4 year-round.

What would that look like, though? From mid-March to early-November, it would look exactly the same, since they're on UTC-4 when on Eastern Daylight Time. Sunrises in would occur between 7:30am mid-March and 6:30am mid-June, sunsets between 7:30pm mid-March and 8:15pm mid-June.

In the winter, mornings would be pretty dark, but there'd be a lot of evening light. The sun would rise just after 8am on December 21st, but set around 6:30pm. In Jacksonville, way up north, the sun would rise about 20 minutes later. But farther west, in Pensacola, the sun wouldn't come up until 8:45am on December 21st, potentially obviating any benefit of the sun setting close to 7pm.

Note that Pensacola, at 87°11' W, is almost due south of Chicago. Miami (80°17' W) is nearly due south of Pittsburgh. But Florida's latitude reduces the differences between summer and winter daylight hours, compared with what we experience farther north.

Should Florida move to UTC-4? It might not be a bad move, if having daylight extend later in the evening makes up for the later sunrises. It would not, however, actually change the astronomical reality of how many hours of daylight they get.

We'll see if the Department of Transportation or the U.S. Congress gives them the authority to hop.

How will we react to aliens?

According to a new study, it seems to depend on how big they are:

Michael Varnum, a psychologist at Arizona State University and a member of its new Interplanetary Initiative, is trying to anticipate this response.

The scientists asked 500 people to describe their reactions to a hypothetical discovery of alien microorganisms. Respondents also had to predict how humanity at large would react. Like the journalists, people in the study used positive words. There were no characteristics that set responses apart, not a person's income, ethnicity, political orientation or traits such as neuroticism or agreeableness. But people felt that the rest of the country would be generally less agreeable.

That may be because “most Americans tend to think, on any desirable trait or ability, that they're better than the average person,” Varnum said.

So tiny aliens are OK, but larger ones are scary? Has no one read The Andromeda Strain?

It doesn't work like that!

Jimmy Carter captained nuclear missile submarines. Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar. Barack Obama was a Constitutional Law professor at one of the top-5 law schools in the country.

Donald Trump thinks...well, I'll let Japan Times explain:

Trump said ‘samurai’ Japan should have shot down overflying North Korean missiles

U.S. President Donald Trump has said Japan should have shot down the North Korean missiles that flew over the country before landing in the Pacific Ocean earlier this year, diplomatic sources have said, despite the difficulties and potential ramifications of doing so.

The revelation came ahead of Trump’s arrival in Japan on Sunday at the start of his five-nation trip to Asia. Threats from North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development programs were set to be high on the agenda in his talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday.

Trump questioned Japan’s decision not to shoot down the missiles when he met or spoke by phone with leaders from Southeast Asian countries over recent months to discuss how to respond to the threats from North Korea, the sources said.

[T]he Self-Defense Forces did not try to intercept the missiles, with the government saying the SDF had monitored the rockets from launch and judged they would not land on Japanese territory.

But the altitude and speed of the missiles would have made it very difficult to destroy them in flight, while failure would have been embarrassing for Japan and encouraging to North Korea.

Defense Ministry officials confirmed this view and said there were also legal issues to clear.

Reagan thought we could call back nuclear missiles. Trump thinks we can shoot them down. And the Republican rank-and-file think we who want competent leadership are elitists.

We might be doomed.

Astronomical

I'm back home, and I've shoved all the Scotland photos out of the way so I could post this:

I didn't notice until I processed the photos from my 7D, but there are two solar storms visible: one at about 3 o'clock and the other, fainter one at about 1 o'clock.

We're already looking into a vacation in Chile in the summer of 2019...