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Happy Talk

General discussions of the systemic, societal and civilisational effects of depletion.

Re: The Great Silence

Unread postby Polybius » Mon 17 May 2021, 11:57:54

jawagord wrote:
suxs wrote:A Parrot Has a Question for Humans

BY T. CHIANG

Humans use Arecibo to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe.

But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices?

We’re a nonhuman species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?

The universe is so vast that intelligent life must surely have arisen many times. The universe is also so old that even one technological species would have had time to expand and fill the galaxy. Yet there is no sign of life anywhere except on Earth. Humans call this the Fermi Paradox.

One proposed solution to the Fermi Paradox is that intelligent species actively try to conceal their presence, to avoid being targeted by hostile invaders.

Speaking as a member of a species that has been driven nearly to extinction by humans, I can attest that this is a wise strategy.

It makes sense to remain quiet and avoid attracting attention.

The Fermi Paradox is sometimes known as the Great Silence. The universe ought to be a cacophony of voices, but instead, it is disconcertingly quiet.

Some humans theorize that intelligent species go extinct before they can expand into outer space. If they’re correct, then the hush of the night sky is the silence of a graveyard.

Hundreds of years ago, my kind was so plentiful that the Río Abajo Forest resounded with our voices. Now we’re almost gone. Soon this rain forest may be as silent as the rest of the universe.

There was an African gray parrot named Alex. He was famous for his cognitive abilities. Famous among humans, that is.

A human researcher named Irene Pepperberg spent thirty years studying Alex. She found that not only did Alex know the words for shapes and colors, he actually understood the concepts of shape and color.

Many scientists were skeptical that a bird could grasp abstract concepts. Humans like to think they’re unique. But eventually, Pepperberg convinced them that Alex wasn’t just repeating words, that he understood what he was saying.

Out of all my cousins, Alex was the one who came closest to being taken seriously as a communication partner by humans. Alex died suddenly when he was still relatively young. The evening before he died, Alex said to Pepperberg, “You be good. I love you.”

If humans are looking for a connection with a nonhuman intelligence, what more can they ask for than that?

Every parrot has a unique call that it uses to identify itself; biologists refer to this as the parrot’s “contact call.”

In 1974, astronomers used Arecibo to broadcast a message into outer space intended to demonstrate human intelligence. That was humanity’s contact call.

In the wild, parrots address each other by name. One bird imitates another’s contact call to get the other bird’s attention.

If humans ever detect the Arecibo message being sent back to Earth, they will know someone is trying to get their attention.

Parrots are vocal learners: we can learn to make new sounds after we’ve heard them. It’s an ability that few animals possess. A dog may understand dozens of commands, but it will never do anything but bark.

Humans are vocal learners, too. We have that in common. So humans and parrots share a special relationship with sound. We don’t simply cry out. We pronounce. We enunciate.

Perhaps that’s why humans built Arecibo the way they did. A receiver doesn’t have to be a transmitter, but Arecibo is both. It’s an ear for listening, and a mouth for speaking.

Humans have lived alongside parrots for thousands of years, and only recently have they considered the possibility that we might be intelligent.

I suppose I can’t blame them. We parrots used to think humans weren’t very bright. It’s hard to make sense of behavior that’s so different from your own.

But parrots are more similar to humans than any extraterrestrial species will be, and humans can observe us up close; they can look us in the eye.

How do they expect to recognize an alien intelligence if all they can do is eavesdrop from a hundred light-years away?

It’s no coincidence that “aspiration” means both hope and the act of breathing.

When we speak, we use the breath in our lungs to give our thoughts a physical form. The sounds we make are simultaneously our intentions and our life force.

I speak, therefore I am. Vocal learners, like parrots and humans, are perhaps the only ones who fully comprehend the truth of this.

There’s a pleasure that comes with shaping sounds with your mouth. It’s so primal and visceral that, throughout their history, humans have considered the activity a pathway to the divine.

Pythagorean mystics believed that vowels represented the music of the spheres, and chanted to draw power from them.

Pentecostal Christians believe that when they speak in tongues, they’re speaking the language used by angels in heaven.

Brahman Hindus believe that by reciting mantras, they are strengthening the building blocks of reality.

Only a species of vocal learners would ascribe such importance to sound in their mythologies. We parrots can appreciate that.

According to Hindu mythology, the universe was created with a sound: “om.” It is a syllable that contains within it everything that ever was and everything that will be.

When the Arecibo telescope is pointed at the space between stars, it hears a faint hum.

Astronomers call that the cosmic microwave background. It’s the residual radiation of the Big Bang, the explosion that created the universe fourteen billion years ago.

But you can also think of it as a barely audible reverberation of that original “om.” That syllable was so resonant that the night sky will keep vibrating for as long as the universe exists.

When Arecibo is not listening to anything else, it hears the voice of creation.

We Puerto Rican parrots have our own myths. They’re simpler than human mythology, but I think humans would take pleasure from them.

Alas, our myths are being lost as my species dies out. I doubt the humans will have deciphered our language before we’re gone.

So the extinction of my species doesn’t just mean the loss of a group of birds. It’s also the disappearance of our language, our rituals, our traditions. It’s the silencing of our voice.

Human activity has brought my kind to the brink of extinction, but I don’t blame them for it. They didn’t do it maliciously. They just weren’t paying attention.

And humans create such beautiful myths; what imaginations they have. Perhaps that’s why their aspirations are so immense. Look at Arecibo. Any species that can build such a thing must have greatness within them.

My species probably won’t be here for much longer; it’s likely that we’ll die before our time and join the Great Silence. But before we go, we are sending a message to humanity. We just hope the telescope at Arecibo will enable them to hear it.

The message is this:

You be good. I love you.


I think the parrots are not up on current events, perhaps they should try e-mail?

https://youtu.be/joLYVix5DLU



arecibo died first
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Re: Happy Talk

Unread postby Newfie » Mon 17 May 2021, 12:51:08

This bit is eerily similar to our African Grey.

A good short funny read.

https://theoatmeal.com/comics/grump
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Re: Happy Talk

Unread postby Newfie » Fri 11 Jun 2021, 14:39:15

Just down the road from our cabin yesterday....

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Re: Happy Talk

Unread postby Newfie » Thu 08 Jul 2021, 11:02:29

Today I am happy.

After some self inflicted engine trouble last week (I filled the engine with water), and then ANOTHER trip to Philadelphia, we finally left Edenton 6:30 this morning. It always feels soooo good to get off the dock.

Tropical Storm Elsa will brush us. There should be no major weather. Ut in an abundance of caution we made 20 miles to the Scuppernong River where we will sit iut the storm. A very quiet and relaxing place this is.

I have some things to do today, hopefully not much. I could veg out for a while, for sure.
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Re: Happy Talk

Unread postby Newfie » Mon 12 Jul 2021, 16:12:24

And here we are 4 days later in Cambridge, MD for the duration. Good trip up but a few looong days on the water.

:-D
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Re: Happy Talk

Unread postby Newfie » Sun 01 Aug 2021, 09:31:02

$5, bottomless coffee.

URL=https://imgbox.com/dFAc9qtf]Image[/URL]

:-D
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Re: Happy Talk

Unread postby Newfie » Wed 01 Sep 2021, 18:08:53

Making progress on the apartment renovation. :-D
I need a vacation from retirement.

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Re: Happy Talk

Unread postby The_Toecutter » Sat 04 Sep 2021, 17:44:39

The firm I got hired on with 6 months ago got more work in, and decided to renew my contract. They also gave me a raise. This is the first engineering firm to ever give me a raise without first working for them for 5+ years. My employer is more than satisfied with my work and commended me on my performance. That said, I find the work stupid and boring as hell, but it is money, and being without money for most of my life has been the cause of many woes.

My mother also finally got approved for disability and started receiving her payments(she can't walk or work and has a feeding tube, and it took 5 years!), so I no longer have to worry about her losing the house. So I took a chunk of my savings and bought a used Milan SL velomobile, paid $8k in cash. I'm reverse engineering it to improve the aerodynamics of my own design. The unmotorized Milan is faster than my motorized custom build, and I can almost hit 50 mph on flat ground, purely under pedal power, and frequently have rolling averages around 25 mph with 35 mph cruising speeds on flat ground. It only needs 140W of pedal output to do 30 mph on flat ground! I want to build a car with that sort of efficiency, and then put a disgusting amount of power in it relative to its mass.

The electric drive system I installed on the custom build has more than 10,000 miles on it so far this year since installation, and it has proven rock solid reliable thus far. Lifetime average energy consumption has been about 0.009 kWh/mile, or the equivalent of 3,700 mpg! If this drive system was in the Milan, the efficiency would be about doubled.

I haven't had free time to work on my projects, unfortunately. I have thousands of dollars of parts for my custom build laying around that I haven't gotten the chance to install. I'm intent on making it able to cruise at 70+ mph with mechanical reliability and dynamic stability, and maybe top out at triple digit speeds, while keeping the total vehicle weight under 100 lbs so that it can still be pedaled with the motor shut off. Range anxiety will be non-existent. I'm hoping to get the aero drag of the next body shell to have roughly 2x the drag of the Milan, which while not as good as the Milan, will have plenty of concessions made for practicality such as increased ground clearance, wider front track for cornering, and access points for all the mechanical bits to make working on it easier.

Provided the dollar doesn't inflate away its value before I get to use it, I won't have any financial worries for the forseeable near-term future because I already have enough saved up to pay my mother's house off, but since she is now getting enough disability to pay the mortgage/utilities, I'm saving up for a plot of land in the boonies instead.
The unnecessary felling of a tree, perhaps the old growth of centuries, seems to me a crime little short of murder. ~Thomas Jefferson
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Re: Happy Talk

Unread postby Newfie » Sat 04 Sep 2021, 19:50:04

Toe,

That is all great news. I am happy for your success and improved situation.

Good in you. :-D
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Re: Happy Talk

Unread postby The_Toecutter » Sat 04 Sep 2021, 21:26:47

Once I get my own place, I'd like to get another pet rattlesnake. That Western Diamondback named Nippy that I kept was a cute little thing, and brought me a lot of happiness. He liked being pet and scratched. My mom is not okay with one in her house. Understandably so, but they can be tamed to a surprising degree. As devastating as a bite would be, it is extremely unlikely once the animal is used to being handled/cuddled/loved.

https://youtu.be/frAsvNMYqnw?t=135
The unnecessary felling of a tree, perhaps the old growth of centuries, seems to me a crime little short of murder. ~Thomas Jefferson
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