A Cosmic Filter?

August 29th, 1998 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on A Cosmic Filter?)

Calculating how often alien civilizations might occur, has been the pre-occupation of scientists for decades. The first person to really formulate such an answer was Frank Drake using his now famous Drake Equation.

The trickiest part of calculating this equation is determining the probability for each variable. Over the years, our knowledge of astrophysics and planetology has increased substantially. For the most part, the probability for the occurence of life has increased along with the discovery of extreme forms of life here on Earth. Life has been found in the coldest reaches of the artic and the deepest parts of the oceans. There is one type of archae-bacteria whose natural habitat is boiling water.

Discovery of planets within a few lightyears of our own star system has upped the ante even further. More surpirsing is the types of planets we are finding, including the recent discovery of 3 planets orbiting a pulsar.

If life does manage to get started, it has a long up hill battle to survive. Assuming that a complex ecosystem manages to encompass a planet, it then has to contend with the possibility of periodic asteroid impacts, nearby supernovas, and deadly gamma-ray bursts.

Of all of the things most likely to extinguish life, one of the more menacing are the gamma-ray bursts originating from the collisions of two or more neutron stars. Radiation from such a collison is so powerful, that it has the potential to wipe out planetary life from a distance of 50,000 light-years. Lucky for us, such collisions only occur in our galaxy about every 100-200 million years. However, in a universe as large as ours, such bursts our detected by our instruments almost once every second!

We can count ourselves lucky that life on this planet has survived the past 4 billion years and is now we ready to leave the womb planet. I suspect we will also soon gain the ability to predict when such deadly gamma-ray burst will occur and get out of harms way when neccessary. Simply postioning yourself on the opposite side of a planetary body as the incoming gamma-ray burst should do it. As intelligence increases so does our chances for survival. My hypothesis is that ultimately no upper limits exist to a suffieciently advanced intelligence.

Either way, such collisions suggest the possibility that advanced spacefaring cultures are very rare, as most life gets irradiated before it evolves the ability to leave!



March 11th, 1997 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Biosphere)

There are many notions about what biotechnics might be – everything from creating Closed Ecological Life Support Systems (CELSS’s) such as Biosphere 2 or a fully self-sufficient Space Colony, to more earth-based applications like using native biological processes to accomplish something better than some man-made top-down system.

Scientific and technological trends indicate that our transhuman and post-human futures are becoming more biological, not less:

earthnet1) Our biosphere is the most complex system in the known universe, a product of self-organization and natural selection. Although we haven’t found any others yet, I suspect our universe contains an unlimited number of complex systems equaling or exceeding our own. See the noosphere section for why I think so.

2) Facilitated in large part by a global nervous system called the Internet, our technological and industrial systems are increasingly resembling those of the biosphere. If the biosphere can recycle everything, why can’t we? In order to increase efficiency and reduce costs, industry has been relying on more recycled materials and waste products from other sectors. This burgeoning field known as Industrial Ecology or Industrial Symbiosis is ushering in an entirely new way of doing business – one that is based as much on cooperation as competition. One only has to look at the world of microorganisms to see the tremendous versatility full-cycle systems are capable of.

3) The latest computer hardware and software are also increasingly resembling the biological realm. There is steady progress in developing protein memories, DNA computers and bio-luminescent displays. Software engineers are increasingly incorporating biological metaphors into the creation of more efficient and robust programs. The latest anti-virus programs utilize pseudo-immunological processes that evolve new defenses in response to the latest computer viruses. Below is a an artifical life program running as a java applet. Move your cursor over them and they will try to follow it.

4) Human and some cetacean brains appear the most complex components of Earths biosphere, making them the most densely complexified structures known. Extensive research has revealed that our individual neurons are themselves quite complex, with a plethora of neurotransmitter activity within the syanptic clefts. Pundits have been telling us for years that the future of intelligence lies in silicon, yet silicon’s limits are already being reached. Instead, we’re on the verge of seeing computer architecture transcend the limits of silicon by adopting the more versatile element of its creator, carbon.

dna5) Carbon’s covalent bond structure allows for a greater number of molecular combinations than any other element, maximizing it’s role as a building block for complexity. Discoveries made from biochemistry and nanotechnological research has spectactularly confirmed this. Carbon in the form of diamond, and now surpassed by its fullerene companions, are the hardest, strongest, and most versatile materials known. Its amazing how a single element arranged in one way can be soft and brittle (graphite), and in another extremely strong. Nanotubes as they are now known, are sure to become the building blocks of ultra-minuturized computational machinery and large-scale mega-engineering projects. If there is other molecular-based life in this universe, chances are carbon plays a crucial role. In our quest for building better brains, the underlying hardware will increasingly resemble our wetware and ultimately surpass it – eliminating any previous difference between computer and neural architecture. The implications of such computer-brain symbiosis are startling, because we essentially become conscious software, gaining the ability to fully reprogram oursleves while freely running on increasingly superior hardware. Imagine for starters perfect recall of all knowledge and archived experience, fully customizable reality mediation and creation, complete empathy/telepathy with others, and the ability to choose exactly what state of mind and mood you’re in. Imagine states of ecstatic bliss becoming the norm in which further experience and exploration is pursued. A place where love is realized, not for any moral correctness, but as the most rational choice available. Please see The Hedonistic Imperative for a great treatise on this subject, and stay tuned for what is sure to become the central theme of this site.

None of these developments should comes as a surprise. Life has been experimenting with form and function for nearly 4 billion years. We as a species are only now becoming sufficiently advanced to apply the process to our own needs. From this, we surmise that future technology will becoming more life-like than anything before it. Along with this, our biosphere will reproduce through us, releasing spores throughout the galaxy (see Gaia Sporing). This may be re-assuring for those who thought the future would consist of some mish-mash of metallic robots and super-industrial machinery. I’m optimistic that life in the future will increasingly become more fun, free, and alive than anything we’ve experienced. With the Earth as our womb, and the stars and immortality as our birthright, the biological revolution and its more advanced stage nanotechnology are about to take us on a ride. Are you ready? 🙂


[This page originally appeared on my first web site – Planet P – archived here]

Links and Related Sites:

Artifical Life
Autonomous Agents – Stuart Kauffman
Brain-Computer Interfacing
Complexity Online
Extra Solar Visions
Extropy Institute
Gaia Nation
Gaia Sporing
The Hedonistic Imperative
Immortality Systems
Industrial Ecology
Organic ArtWorks



March 7th, 1997 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The nöosphere has been defined as the sum total of all human knowledge and experience. This would include everything from our most private dreams to our knowledge of Universe itself. With accelerating technology as its catalyst, our nöopshere is expanding at its greatest rate in history.

According to the standard inflationary model of cosmology, the ‘visible’ universe mapped by our telescopes is an infinitesimally small speck in a much larger universe of at least a 1035 light-year radius. If the galactic density of our own neighborhood is typical, then our bubble-universe could contain at least another 10100 galaxies – more galaxies than atoms in our own visible universe!

Despite the possibilility that life might be extremely rare, a number as large as 10100 is likely to produce an abundance of life throughout the universe. A place where countless lifeforms evolve beyond their womb planets into highly advanced space-faring civilizations. Even if somehow life only occurs once in the lifetime of a trillion galaxies, and out of those only one a trillion ever evolves out of its womb planet, in this model we’re still left with an astounding 1075advanced societies – more alien cultures than the number of atoms composing planet Earth! For some perspective on such a number, there are more atoms in a single grain of sand than there are grains of sand on the beach from which it was plucked.

Assuming life were this rare, our nearest star-hopping neighbors would probably be trillions of light-years away. Only future technologies like travel through traversable wormholes (like the hyperspace of Star Wars) might ever give us the ability to connect with these cultures. For an enlightening discussion of some possible scenarios, see Michael C. Price’s Some Implications of Traversible Wormholes.

According to Price, the implications of such ‘Contact’ would be staggering,”The number of alien cultures would be so large, that it is unlikely anyone could ever catalog all of them, even if they did have computers the size of Jupiter! No historian could encompass the sweep of history, no biologist catalog the species. In a profound sense we’ll have returned to a vast ancient world, surrounded by distant lands populated with mythical and fantastic creatures. Construction of a single universal map would be impossible. The culture shock of trying to absorb such a vast amount of new data would take close to eternity.

“If she lost her personal wormhole and forgot her
trans-species designation code (a seventy digit number!) she
would never, ever find her way home again. None of her
descriptions of where she comes from would relate to
anything anyone else knows. “

And just when you thought the universe couldn’t get any bigger, along comes the idea of
other universes and infinite dimensions…

As if 1075 star cultures all interacting with one another in a universe bigger than any of them can imagine isn’t enough, these may be just the civilizations that evolved in our universe. According to cosmologists like Alan Guth and Lee Smolin, our universe may be only one among an endless variety of others, resulting from a biological process of replication, natural selection and diversification. The idea being that our universe is only one among trillions of other offspring, born from the black holes of an older ancestral universe, in a chain stretching back indefinitely. Likewise our universe might be spinning off millions of baby universes  through its own black holes.

According to David Bohm, the 4-dimensional universe we ‘experience’ (the explicate order), is just an arbitrary 4-d submanifold of an infinite dimensional multiverse (the implicate order). Everything we experience might then be just one set of arbitrary conditions among an infinite continuum of possibility.

In this context, a traversable wormhole could be seen as 5-d vector from one 4-d slice to another. A more interesting implication of traversable wormholes, is they open the possibility of engineering our own baby universes. One day we might figure out how to do this with such finesse, that we can change the universal constants, like we do our own DNA with genetic engineering. In this case we could utilize such ‘universal engineering’, ‘cloning’ and ‘splicing’ methods to create our own custom/mutated universes. Imagine creating an endless numbers of other universes, each increasingly tailored to our own desires; playing in dimensions so far beyond our own that familiar concepts like space, time, matter and energy have no meaning. It’s possible this has already been done. Perhaps we are already living in one of these artificial universes, created and imagined by beings from a previous ancestral universe.


Patrick Farley: World Around Web

July 10th, 1996 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I stumbled on this guy today.  Wow, the art and topics he covers are simply awesome. I feel he’s like my long lost brother or spiritual doppelganger  Totally in the spiriti of Robert Anton Wilson. Covers Bucky Fuller, Left Libertarianism/Anarchy, the works:


World Around Web

BUCKYFULLERFor over 500 years, humanity has known that we live on a spherical planet. And yet, old reflexes-of-the-mind die hard. At dusk, we still say “The sun went down,” when we know that in reality, the sun did not “go down” at all — the Earth turned around. Likewise, we still refer to the morning’s light as the sun “coming up” when we know full well that our big ball, the Earth, simply rotated us around to face toward the Sun again. The unconscious belief in a flat Earth, continually reinforced by our uncritical repetition of yesterday’s outdated phrases, warps our perceptions of who and where we are. We tend to forget that we live on a sphere, and settle comfortably into the primitive misconception that we live on a flat world. This is not trivial.Geometry is politics. The unspoken, unconscious belief in a flat Earth, according to Buckminster Fuller, is responsible for humanity’s stupidest blunderings. As he wrote in his 1972 book Earth Inc.:


Space Vehicle Earth was so superbly well designed, equipped and supplied as to have been able to sustain human life aboard it for at least two million years — despite humanity’s comprehensive ignorance which permitted a fearfully opinionated assumption of an infinitely extensive planar World. 

Humanity also spontaneously misassumed that its local pollution could be dispelled by the world’s infinite extensiveness. Humanity also missassumed that an infinite succession of new and pleasing varieties of abundant, vital resources would be disclosed progressively as man exhausted first one and bespoiled another of the as-yet known valuable (vital) resources.Not only did Fuller believe that our “flat-Earth” reflexes led to pollution, environmental degradation, and war, it also blinded us to the wealthy, life-enhancing possibilities offered to us by our world’s roundness (for instance, a solar-energy grid wrapped around the Earth would be continually accumulating power, since half of it would always be facing the Sun.)


Fuller meticulously examined his vocabulary and expelled all inaccurate or incorrect phrases he found. In their place, he invented startling new terms. For example, instead of saying “upstairs” and “downstairs,” , he used the words “outstairs” and “instairs.” Instead of the words “sunset” and “sunrise,” he coined the terms “sunclipse” and “sunsight” respectively. (Many more of these innovative terms can be found at the Bucky Fuller Glossary at Volant Turnpike). Fuller claimed that continued use of these phrases gave him a more comfortable worldview and helped him think and intuit more clearly.

Following in Bucky’s footsteps, I propose we change the name of the World Wide Web to the World-Around-Web, for this simple reason: the Earth is not flat. By describing the world as “Wide,” we continue to reinforce the primitive notion that we live on a flat plain, extending indefinitely into all directions. This is utterly inappropriate for the Internet, which has, for the first time in human history, united peoples of all localities into a common, non-local medium of communication. The sooner we begin to reorient our thinking and intuition to sphericial Spaceship Earth, the sooner the Internet will become a tool for comprehensive global problem solving.

Still WWW has a nice symmetry to it, that WAW lacks. I suggest then, to shorten the name, we call the Web simply the WOW. The “A” has been replaced by an iconic “O” that illustrates, in the most basic hieroglyphic, the roundness of our Earth.

What’s more, this new name will shear off several redundant syllables when you’re giving your online address to somebody verbally. Instead of having to say “double-you, double-you, double-you, dot, my domain, dot com….” you can simply say “wow.mydomain.com”.

I urge all sysadmins to name their Web servers wow instead of www. I urge everybody else to start referring to the Web as the WOW whenever and wherever possible. If you support this movement, feel free to download any of the “bumperstickers” below and stick them on your webpages. Let’s set the trend in motion.


UPDATE March, 2004 : The site has since gone offline, but you can still find remnants here:




He has gone on to do a lot of amazing comic work, see: E-Sheep.com

UPDATE 2010:  E-Sheep is no more, and has been upgraded to something even better- check out www.electricsheepcomix.com



May 1st, 1995 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Freeflying)

I first learned how to fly in my dreams. The intense and blissful freedom of dreamflight carried over to my waking life in my pursuit of what has become the ultimate form of skydiving – freeflying. Freeflying begins where traditional skydiving ends. By treating the atmosphere as your playground rather than something you fall through everything expands. By mastering your body position, the freedom gained over how fast you fly and in what direction is tremendous…


An old skydiving friend of mine with over 17,000 jumps and the pioneer of
free-fly skydiving sums it up best:

We came from the sea upon the land,
Then we dreamed of flying,
Humankind has developed into a flying species,
Ballons, Airplanes, Spaceships, and now the pure body itself,
Starting from the right place on Earth anybody can fly,
If they understand the FREE FLY concept,
If not, they will fall through the air like a sinking non-swimmer in water,
One quarter of all posible directions to choose from,
With speeds up to one half of the sound waves,
1155 Billion cubic feet to be like nowhere else on this whole planet,
Cruising the atmosphere, the last frontier before space,
This planet skin touching everything at once.


Olav Zipser, 1994.
3 Time World Freestyle Champion