I got interested in astronomy at the age of 8 because I was looking at an atlas of the planets in my parents' apartment in Arlington, where I grew up. I got a telescope at age 10, which is pretty normal, and by the time I was in eighth grade, I had already seen a lot of cheesy sci-fi films.
The math is dead simple: it seems that the frequency of planets able to support life is roughly one percent. In other words, a billion or more such worlds exist in our galaxy alone. That's a lot of acreage, and it takes industrial-strength credulity to believe it's all bleakly barren.
Disasters happen. We still have no way to eliminate earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, floods or droughts. We cope as best we can by fortifying ourselves against danger with building codes and levees, and by setting aside money to clean up afterwards.
By 2020, most home computers will have the computing power of a human brain. That doesn't mean that they are brains, but it means that in terms of raw processing, they can process bits as fast as a brain can. So the question is, how far behind that is the development of a machine that's as smart as we are?
Our computers double in capability on time scales of only a few years. It's hardly outrageous to believe that we will successfully develop thinking machines within a handful of decades, or at most a century or two. If that happens, these artificial sentients will quickly leave us behind.
Plate tectonics is not all havoc and destruction. The slow movement of continents and ocean floors recycles carbon dioxide dissolved in the oceans back into the atmosphere. Without this slow speed carbon cycle, Earth's temperatures would cool dozens of degrees below your comfort zone.
If you could drive straight down, into a tunnel bored through the crust of the planet, you'd hit this molten mess in about an hour. It's called the asthenosphere - a sluggish sea, several hundred miles thick, on which floats the Earth's cool epidermis - the so-called tectonic plates.
Ever since the infamous quiz show scandals of the 1950s, the feds had insisted that TV game shows be honest - or that at least they didn't cheat. So as a 'Dating Game' bachelor, I didn't know what I was going to be asked. The other bachelors and I were required to concoct our answers in real time.
'Dating Game' wasn't social commentary, political analysis, Shakespearean-level drama or even blunt-force comedy. It was just the televised equivalent of meeting someone at a bar. But it appealed to our most basic Darwinian instinct: selecting a good mate. You can't go wrong when a show's premise is hard-wired into human DNA.
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