Will Bueché

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My reaction to ‘UN to appoint Earth contact for aliens’

Posted in Personal by Will on Monday, September 27th, 2010 ~ 12am

My response to this news follows this excerpt. Near as I could tell this article was first published by News.com.au of Australia (from a NewsCore feed), and it was later rewritten by the Telegraph in London. This is from the original article:

UN to appoint Earth contact for aliens
From: NewsCore, Sep 26, 2010 10:19AM

The United Nations was set today to appoint an obscure Malaysian astrophysicist to act as Earth’s first contact for any aliens that may come visiting.

Mazlan Othman, the head of the UN’s little-known Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa), is to describe her potential new role next week at a scientific conference at the Royal Society’s Kavli conference centre in Buckinghamshire.

She is scheduled to tell delegates that the recent discovery of hundreds of planets around other stars has made the detection of extraterrestrial life more likely than ever before – and that means the UN must be ready to coordinate humanity’s response to any “first contact”.

During a talk Othman gave recently to fellow scientists, she said: “The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that some day humankind will receive signals from extraterrestrials.

“When we do, we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The UN is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination.”

Professor Richard Crowther, an expert in space law and governance at the UK Space Agency and who leads British delegations to the UN on such matters, said: “Othman is absolutely the nearest thing we have to a ‘take me to your leader’ person.”

My response:

It’s nice the post is being created (apparently), and better a person in a thinking profession rather than in politics. Yes, the United Nations is political, but it is much more than that — there are many caucasus on various subjects that UN members are able to go to, to expand their awareness. There’s good people there. So I’m fine with the UN trying to have a point-person for this anticipated contact event. (This public contact event I should say, since there’s been 50+ years of advance private contact already; possibly more than we even know.)

That said, ideally someone with philosophical, theological*, and diplomatic education would have the role. Her background doesn’t mention any of these qualifications, but I’ve only seen superficial bios of her thus far.

If she’s worked at this obscure UN post for more than 10 years (“appointed as the director of the Vienna-based United Nations Office for Outerspace Affairs in 1999“), hopefully she’s studied up on subjects beyond her physics degree (“graduated from the University of Otago with a PhD in physics“). I’d hope so. She’ll need much more than our science to speak for humankind. Indeed, a physicist would be more useful as a consultant. It isn’t something that qualifies a person to speak about humanity, or to assist in bridging human/alien relations with as little incident as possible.

Frankly I suspect the aliens, and by the aliens I am referring to the grey beings that have had a particular interest in us, would have their own plans for open contact that would involve many more people than one representative. But, concurrent plans are sensible.

*(Education in the history of theology, not a representative of a theology — there will be plenty of those stepping forward when the time comes)

UPDATE: “It sounds really cool but I have to deny it,” [Othman] said of the story.

UPDATE: The Economist believes she is lying:

The Guardian reports that Dr Othman said, “it sounds really cool but I have to deny it”. Dr Othman is quoted as saying she is attending a conference next week on how the world deals with “near-Earth objects”.

This cannot be correct unless Unoosa considers aliens to be near-earth objects (like comets and asteroids). The Guardian did not contact the author of the original piece. Yet it is a matter of record that Dr Othman is due to attend a meeting at the Royal Society next Monday about how science and society should respond to aliens. If she turns up to talk about near-Earth objects, she’ll be politely shown to the transporter chamber.

Dr Othman is attending a debate about political issues for the UN that arise from alien life. One of her co-panellists, Frans Von der Dunk, will discuss the role of the UN in representing humanity in “any inter-cosmic ‘discourse’”. The current version of the programme does not say exactly what Dr Othman is there to discuss, but it isn’t a bold voyage into the unknown to wonder whether she will be reprising her words to a similar meeting in January on the consequences of detecting aliens.

In a March version of that talk she wrote, when aliens arrive “we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The United Nations are a ready-made mechanism for such coordination.” It is clear that she is proposing her agency, so why deny it? (“The UN’s secretive alien ambassador”, The Economist, 2010-09-28)

Holmes

Posted in Personal by Will on Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 ~ 11pm

In the 1890 book, The Sign of the Four, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes illuminated how he came to conclusions: “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”

These words are sometimes quoted as an illustration of how logic demands that we must side with mundane alternatives to seemingly fantastical reports, no matter how remote or unlikely the mundane alternative may be.

The problem with using Holmes’ method is that the phrase “when you have eliminated the impossible” applies only to situations in which we are aware of what is impossible.

As much as we might pretend otherwise, there are very few situations in which our knowledge of what is impossible approaches the absolute.

We’d be well advised to pay more heed to Holmes’ defense of the improbable, for reality does not care one whit what we consider improbable.

Home project: 2 frames

Posted in Personal by Will on Sunday, September 19th, 2010 ~ 3pm

This pair of pre-wired frames with excellent multi-level mattes was found at Goodwill for $7 total ($3.50 each). They originally had a golfing image in them — they were trophies or commemorative pictures of the 14th hole. I was able to remove the plaques from the glass, tear open the back paper, and slid out the flat nails that hold the matte in.

In place of the golf image went two 4″x5″ images by painter Chris Reccardi that I printed on my printer. I feel bad that he isn’t getting any cents from this, but, I’d bought a painting (reproduction) of his before so I think it’s ok. I’m aware that these prints will fade quickly, but I can always print them again.

These are not my favorite Reccardi images (though the blue one ranks high!), but they are two of the few that have white borders and could therefore be dropped into the frame without regard to the aspect ratio of the matte. Plus, these two images clearly were painted as a pair (or as part of his “human” series), so it works for the pair of frames. I believe the orange one is called “N Human” and the blue one “ReHuman”, but that might just be their JPG names.

The cost of this little project doubled when I found that acid-free Scotch brand double-sided tape (for scrapbooking) costs $7 a roll. But I needed it, because otherwise the tape burns through the paper.

I put it all back together, and whalla: Two nice pics for a hallway or somewhere. Honestly I don’t have anywhere to put these, yet. The frames are scratched up, granted. But the mattes are so nice, I don’t mind a little history.

Addendum, slightly off-topic: Is this sexist, having mostly pictures of women? The problem is, Chris Reccardi doesn’t really draw many males, and when he does, they tend to be the same guy, who I suspect is a self-portrait version of himself. He (the animated version of himself) looks a lot like my college roommate, Craig. So I can’t really put a picture up of a guy without making that connection. Result is, a lack of balance in the genders as far as the Reccardi art on my walls goes. That said, he’s painted one of two of guys in gas masks, so, the potential for balance exists.

Resident Evil 4: 3D

Posted in Personal by Will on Saturday, September 18th, 2010 ~ 8pm

The start of Resident Evil 4 (in 3D), which wraps up the story of Resident Evil 3, is the best part. The rest of the film is good but mainly on the strength of the 3D, which is superb. It actually borrows heavily from Terminator Salvation and The Island (and there’s an homage to the Matrix), on closer examination. So see it for the first act, and for the 3D. It was very good, if you love Milla and/or the series.

A bit more about that: They really poured all the money into the first reel, and it shows. Everything promised at the end of part 3 was fulfilled — to a point. There were SEVERAL underground lairs of the Umbrella Corp that Alice promised to bring vengence to, and we only got to see one. Possibly the others were being taken care of as well, but, no way to know for sure (unless there’s a comic book series, a la Buffy and the awakened Slayers!).

The rest of the film was good but as I say, borrowed heavily from Terminator: Salvation. Fortunately the 3D kept me enthralled the whole time. The 3D was amazing even in “ordinary” moments, like Alice walking cautiously through the airfield. It was like seeing real life, except with more clarity thanks to the perfect exposure of film making (unlike real life where reflections from the sunlight make one look away!).

About the digital removal of lines under Milla’s eyes, they did it for a few more shots in part 4 (on the real Alice), but no where near as often as in part 3, when it was ever-present.

There were moments in the 3D when I realized “this may be as close as I’ll ever get to having Milla on top of me”… She is so beautiful. Lines and all.

The music was good and not overbearing — different from the first films, though I’m not sure how exactly as I’m not a musician.

The zombie effects were the best yet, yet oddly, the zombies (or “those things” as they call them in the film) don’t play a major part in this film, surprisingly. Oh, they’re there, no mistake about it, but there’s no extended chases as there usually are. What there is, is a showdown with a big character apparently from the video game, who is 9 feet tall and carries a big axe. He is, fortunately, not a silly monster like in part 2. He’s presented as a realistic, formidable foe — not as a Frankenstein in big boots as the one in part 2 was.

The raindrops in the opening credits! The water in the bathroom! Both deserve mention for being incredible. And speaking of the opening sequence, big accolades to the filmmakers for that first three minutes of the film. I knew what was coming — everyone did. But it was done so artistically, that it really deserves special mention as being very nice. I was a bit confused that the eyes did not turn white-grey like they usually do (or did in part 1 when Michelle Rodriguez turned), but that’s ok. (They also changed what happens to Alice’s eyes, or her minions, when they use their powers — and it was a good, solid change.)

In summary, see it, sit center rows, and enjoy it. It is at least as good as part 3, meaning while part 1 comes in first place, part 3 and part 4 come in second place.

I felt the ending came rather arbitrarily, but I heard that opening week did well enough to ensure a part 5 to finish it up, so that’s ok. That said, I was in a mostly empty auditorium today (there may have been a football game in town though, not sure). I don’t know if part 5 will be in 3D or not. I don’t mind if it goes back to 2D, because I like the characters and storyline (and the actors) either way.

But don’t skip this installment. See it in 3D, because this series is after all about having fun. It adds to it.

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