Scott's Column
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June 9, 2015
By Scott Lewis

This month is about moving into my new apartment. However, I wanted to cover the topic of why have not met any life "out there" in more depth. The more I think about it the less likely it seems we will ever find life out there.

Current Topics:

The Move

As planned, I moved into my new apartment on April 24th. Everything went about as planned with only 2 minor hiccups.

First, when I arrived at the apartment complex to pick up the keys they were closed. It was the "Battle of Flowers" parade day (a Fiesta event here in San Antonio). Many businesses let people go home early for this. My apartment complex was one such place.

Granted, I visited the complex just 2-1/2 weeks before the 24th to verify everything was in order. That is when they told me that I would only get the keys at 4:00 PM. I was hoping to get the keys first think in the morning so I could move as much as possible that 1st day. Oh well, I scheduled movers to come to my old apartment at 5:00 PM.

It was a shocker when I saw the note on the door. Fortunately a service worker at the complex was right there, and asked me what I needed. He was very accommodating, and he and one other guy did a super fast walk through of my apartment removing paint buckets, replacing some light bulbs and door handles. Simple stuff. He mentioned that I was on his schedule for April 30th. Weird, as that was a Thursday, and the apartment does all their move-ins on Fridays. Also... he told me the apartment called all the people that had move-ins on the 24th that they could get their keys early... at 12:00 PM. Darn, I was missed.

It all worked out. I got the keys, and the next day I went to the office and wrote a check (for some deposit stuff and some pro-rated rent for 7 days).

The second problem was with the movers. For starters, they arrived a few minutes before 7:00 PM. I thought they were supposed to be there FROM 5:00 to 7:00, not arrive between 5 & 7. My bad. But we did sit around waiting. As soon as they called that they were on the way we started hauling everything that was in boxes downstairs for easy loading. I was leaving the heavy stuff (sleeper/sofa, desk, bed, washer/dryer, and the like) to the professionals.

A few things were off. 1) They showed up in a truck considerably smaller than I expected. When I talked to the company on the phone I explained that we were picking up from my apartment AND my ex-wife's house (for my son's stuff). The truck barely fit my stuff. So we had to go unload at my apartment then head out again to get my son's stuff. This added to the time it took to move. That added to my cost (paying by the hour) and we were going pretty late and doing this in the dark. 2) They charged extra for TV screens larger than 32 inches. I was not told that before, and they charged extra for over 300 pounds. I was never clear on the over 300 lbs. Was that supposed to be for an individual item, or all the items. Finally, when I called to hire them I told them I had a home gym and it was 7' x 6.5' x 6.5', and I wanted to know if it would fit in the truck without being disassembled. They assured me it would fit. There was no way it was going to fit. And we were running later and more costly than I thought, so I didn't even try. Anyway, the cost was a bit higher than I expected, but the workers were very diligent and got everything I planned to move done in just over 3 hours.

It still took a few days to move some last minutes stuff, like all my clothes. I did that with my car. Then of course came the inevitable clean up, which included patching the hole in the wall for the wires from the TV. This was relatively easy. I saved the piece of the wall I took out. I put a strip of wood into the wall (it was longer than the opening) and screwed through the wall into the wood strip on either side of the hole. Then I put the piece of sheetrock in place, and screwed it to the strip of wood now behind the hole. Then it was simply a matter of spackling over it.

Of course, I am allergic to dust, so starting the first day of packing (I packed for just the 2 Sundays before the move) I had trouble sleeping due to constant sneezing and scratchy throat, etc.


The Apartment

The biggest (pleasant) surprise with the apartment itself was that it had REAL wood floors. Every apartment I saw that advertised "hard wood floors" actually had some faux wood flooring. I did not care. I just hate carpeting. I was very pleased with the real wood floors in my apartment. They even creak just a little as you walk around. I find it charming.

I was also pleased with the amount of space in the living room. Although I walked an apartment with the same floor plan, and it was 1 foot step wider than my old apartment (from the rear of my sofa to the wall the TV goes on) it still surprised me how large it felt even after all my furniture was in place... including the new recliner I had delivered the second day in the apartment. In fact... I may either get a love seat, or another recliner as soon as is feasible (READ: when I can afford it). I am also thinking about putting in a "pass through" shelf unit to break up the living room from the kitchen, and put a reading chair next to it. At this point my son points out that I don't read.

The master bedroom is also plenty large enough. I don't like that the closet is inside the bathroom. My father, a construction worker/builder forever, always said that was bad, for clothing to be exposed to all that moister. That's why we did not have our closet put in our bathroom on the house my Ex and I had built. I will be keeping the door closed as much as possible.

I bought a new queen size bed, which had me worried about space. I had been sleeping on a full size bed for the last 5 years. I was very apprehensive at the furniture store when I decided to get the queen (no actual bed yet, just the mattress and box spring). My worries were for not. The bed and my desk fit with lots of room left over. I may get an actual bed to go around the mattress, but that is a very low priority for me. My bedroom is purely a utilitarian room. I sleep on the bed and I work (or play) on the computer. That's it. Everyone thought I was nuts for buying a new bed, dresser and night stand for the guest bedroom (and put my full size mattress and box spring in it). They thought I should have bought myself a bed and dresser. Why? My closet holds all my clothes, and I just need a place to sleep and work in the bedroom. I would much rather have a guest room that I can be proud to allow guests to stay in than have a nice bed for myself.

I also bought a bed for my son (he brought his queen size mattress and box spring with him). That was delivered 2 weeks later, on May 9th. He had a night stand and TV stand, and we will put a small desk and book shelf in there for him soon.

My brother-in-law has a trailer, and we used it to bring over the home gym. I placed it at an angle from the back corner on the right of the garage. This will still provide me enough room to park a car in front of it at an angle to photograph it. Most of my automotive photography is with flash. When using flash the way i do the background goes almost completely black. So the home gym should not show. I will do some experiments with this over time. One of the reasons I wanted a 2 car garage was to practice my photography.

I mounted my TV on the wall in this apartment. I also bought a new entertainment "center." It is a very low and very wide cabinet. It has one shelf which holds all the components, with 4 draws below, which holds all my Blu-Rays and extra remotes and such. I did put my turntable on top (obviously). I left out the center divider for the one shelf. Since the TV in on the wall, and not on the unit, I did not need that extra support. And it opens that area to place my center channel speaker right there in the unit (instead of on it).

This apartment feels like a house. Especially with the attached garage. I love it. I will be here for AT LEAST 2 years. The next time I move it will be into a house. My brother-in-law, who built the house I had with my ex wife, said he would be willing to build another. So... as soon as all my credit cards are paid off I am going to start looking for land. Will it happen... I don't know. But I would love to have a 1800-2000 sq ft house with a 6 car garage... with a lift!

At this point I am helping my ex-wife try to get our house sold. Hopefully it will sell this summer. With the equity i have coming i have to decide how many bills to pay, or to use the money for other things. The big thing is that once the house sells I stop paying child support. That will provide extra money to decorate the the apartment. I have two female friends and one male friend who seem quite good at decorating, and all have offered to help. As soon as I can spare about $1,000 just for decorating I will see which one is most ready to help me.

Until then!!!


Is There Life Out There Part II

A couple of months ago we discussed why we have not heard from any intelligent life on other planets. The Fermi Paradox has us believe many reason, included that life could be so rare that there is not life out there. We are unique.

I don't buy it. I also don't buy that we will ever meet any other intelligent life. Not in my lifetime, and maybe never.

Why? Because the universe is so large, and its speed limit is so slow. That's right, the speed of light is so slow it will take "forever" to communicate with another planet.

I have heard all kinds of estimates for life on other planets. Long ago they thought the chance of planets around stars was low, maybe 10% of stars had planets. Now we think that most stars have planets. Then they try to speculate how many of those planets could be in the habitable zone of their star to have liquid water, essential for life as we know it. We don't even need to go into life as we can't imaging, as you'll see.

We now know that most stars have planets. Some predictions are that most stars have a planet in this "Goldie Locks" zone. Who cares. Just having a planet in this "liquid water" zone does not guarantee you will get complex life, no less life that is intelligent. I define intelligent life as life that has the ability to look up at the sky and ponder their place in the universe. Ideally this life will have their version of Newton and Einstein to discover how the universe works.

We have hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy. What if we are rare. We are the ONLY planet in OUR galaxy to have such intelligence. Are we rare? Could we guess that just 1 planet in each galaxy has complex life like we do. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies out there. That's hundreds of billions of possibilities for intelligent life. And that's a really low estimate.

Given that... and the dreaded speed limit of the universe, now we are literally talking millions of years to send a signal to another galaxy, and hope that signal is strong enough to make it through all the background noise of the universe to get from galaxy to galaxy... and be heard in its entirety. Yea, right!

Is there intelligent life out there? In my opinion, it would be extraordinarily arrogant to assume we are alone in such a vast universe. Sheer random chance says that there must be other planets that have conditions similar to ours. We are made up of the most common elements in the universe. There must be more planets that evolved to form complex life forms.

The better question is.... Will we ever have contact with intelligent life out there?

I don't think so. Though I hope I am wrong, because it sure makes for excellent story telling. It would be disappointing if there was no chance of it happening.

How Would It Happen?

Let's think about making contact with other intelligent life. And let's for a moment assume that complex life like ours is rare, to the point of 1 planet per galaxy. It would take millions of years to receive a signal from many galaxies (and billions for most of them). Then we decode the message (not really that hard with expert linguists). Now we send a reply.

Oops! Our reply takes millions to billions of years to get back to them. The people that sent it are long dead, and there is no one left around to remember they sent it. So they get our signal... MAYBE. What do they do? They decode it and read it. It tells them we are responding to their message. But they lost all records of sending it (who really has records for millions and billions of years). So, they think it is a hoax and discard it. Or maybe they do believe the message, so they send a response back. Of course, by the time we get that response the people here that sent our response are long gone, and the notion that we once heard from another civilization millions of years ago has disappeared from our record books. It went from amazing reality, to conspiracy theory, to legend, to lore, to forgotten. So when we get the response that they don't remember sending a message to us, we don't remember sending anything to them them, and we start over with another message that will spend millions of years getting to them.

Yea, this is more like what will happen.

Take that all you Star Trek / Star Wars loving nerds out there. Of course, you believe we will eventually figure out how to travel among the stars, right?


Let's take a quick look at that. So we start travelling among the stars. Certainly we would initially send multi-generational ships out into space. They would take decades or millennia to get where they are going, and start a colony or maybe even make contact.

Oops! 100 years after we send them out, we discover how to travel faster than the speed of light. Might as well go pick them up and save them from a few of those decades or millennia.

Here is the fun part. Let's say we discover how to travel faster than the speed of light. So you head off to the Andromeda galaxy. You are going faster than the speed of light. Time is relative. If you travel AT the speed of light, time stops. You get there in an instant. But you went faster than the speed of light. So you get there BEFORE you left... relative to them and to Earth. Yikes! Did you send a message first. Nope... because you knew you would get there long before your message, which travels at the speed of light.

Think about it. If you did send a message first, and learned to travel faster than light after sending it... you will beat your message. What if you figured out how to send the message faster than light. Now we're talking. You send a message faster than light to another galaxy, and include in the message how they can respond faster than light. Well, the message got there BEFORE you sent it. And of course, their message back gets to us BEFORE they sent it, which is much further BEFORE we sent the original message. So we learned from them how we discover sending messages faster than the speed of light, BEFORE we even learned it. So we don't have to figure it out anymore. Doh! Now we don't learn it.

Do you see where this is going. It is IMPOSSIBLE to travel faster than the speed of light.

Forget worm holes, too. Think about the amount of energy it would take to create one. More energy than in the universe itself. How can you do that? Even if you did... you travel to another location by way of a worm hole, and get there BEFORE you left (relative to them and to Earth). You bring some of them with when you come back. Through the same worm hole??? Does that reverse the time, since you arrived there BEFORE you left. Or do you travel back faster than light again, so you arrive back home with people from another world BEFORE you left for the trip in the first place. Now we think you are an alien, with other aliens.

So, you see... there is no way to exceed the speed limit of the universe... which is 299,792,458 m/s (186,282 m/s.). You can't break this, and as soon as you do... you violate all the causality of the universe.

It's just not going to happen.

And this is why we have not heard from anyone.

Next time I may explain how time travel is IMPOSSIBLE, and will NEVER be invented! But I need to go see Terminator Genisys first. I don't want to spoil that fun!!!!



This came out very late. That was due to a move that left me without internet for about 10 days. Yikes. I don't know if I will go into that.

So for now... I have nothing planned for this column for next month.