Monday, October 25, 2010

The Mind Lamp, $190.00 well... spent

I first heard about the Mind Lamp from Matthew Smith, when he posted a link on his Facebook.  The article he linked to, which was at BusinessInsider.com, made me furrow my eyebrows.  Let me give you a glimpse of what I saw.

MILLION-DOLLAR IDEA: Lamp That Can Read Your Mind - It Turns The Color You're Thinking About

By Eunju Lie


Is today's idea brilliant or a bomb?
The Idea: The Mind Lamp is a $189 electric lamp with a random-event generator (REG) built in. When plugged in, the lamp gives off a white light before cycling through eight other colors.  It then stays on the one that you're thinking about.
Mind Lamp: 60-Minute Time Lapse from Psyleron on Vimeo.

You can read the rest of he article here.
Quite a statement, huh?  If I were a parapsychologist, I would gift one of these to every major skeptic I knew.  "Dear James Randi, I know we've had our differences in the past..."  
Of course, the article didn't answer any of the questions that automatically popped up in my mind.  What percentage of the time does this work?  How long does it stay on the target color?  How long does it take to reach it?  I don't know if you're like me, but I hate the feeling of a writer ignoring my most pressing questions.  It's one of the few things that can get me to voluntarily go and research something, often with a frown and tension in my spine, waiting for the pressure of the mystery to be relieved.
The Mind lamp doesn't seem to be on Wikipedia, even though it's been around for at least a year.  So I went to the official website, and found some stuff about random-event-generators and stuff that, if I already knew the lamp worked, might be interesting.  Maybe.  
And then I found the BoingBoing Gadgets review entitled, "Review: A few days w/ the Mind Lamp [verdict:trippy]"  Well, that's more exciting than anything I had looked at before, not only because I had found someone who had bought and used the thing, but because the verdict was the ever-suggestive trippy.  
The experience relayed in that article was not that trippy, though.  Steven Leckart describes failing at producing the desired effect a couple of times, and then perceiving an effect later, but only when he wasn't paying close attention.  Don't rely on my spin, of course, read the article yourself.
It at least answered the question of what the Mind Lamp experience is.  The lamp doesn't, as the first article I read suggested, simply "Stay on the one you're thinking about."  If it does work, it takes some practice, and apparently some meditation classes.  If it doesn't... 
If it doesn't work, you'll still get people telling you that it does, to put it plainly.  I've never seen the device, never tried to focus my mind on orange, or green.  I do know, though, that if it was run by a random-event generator, and, for whatever reason, it did not respond to our thoughts, there would still be just enough coincidences, in the form of, 
"It worked the third time," 
or 
"It definitely worked over half the time," 
or, 
"I thought about blue for a while, and then when I thought about red it went blue!" 
or 
"I could tell when I was really focused, because then it usually worked," 
that it would be a marketable product.  
I'm not saying it doesn't work.  As I've said, I haven't spent the $190.00 to become a pioneer.  All I'm saying is that it doesn't have to work.  Because even if it didn't work, I'm sure it would still work fine.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mistaking manatees for mermaids

Beautiful image created by Esther Kirby (flickr link)
Manatees are beautiful, elegant animals, their grace matched only by their charm.  Their powerful, sleek bodies inspire wonder in boaters as pods of them race alongside fast-moving vessels.

Or, is that dolphins?

Either way, manatees are sea creatures, so it leaves them open to being mistaken for other sea creatures.  Mermaids, for instance.

I don't know if you've heard this, but it's often cited that old sailor's tales of mermaids were actually based on sightings of manatees.  This story has a wonderfully absurd feel to it.  How, after all, did they mistake these bulky, slow, not-getting-a-date-for-prom sea mammals for halfway beautiful heart breakers of the sea?  It's a common stereotype that sailors get notoriously horny when between ports, so how much pent up lust does it take for a man to mistake a sea-cow for a possibly-consenting fish-like partner?

I guess my real question is, who figured this out?  After a sailor came to port with tales of pruny-fingered women of the deep, who fact-checked him?  The subject of his story is still in the far reaches of the ocean.  Was there a weak-armed bubble-burster on board who re-identified the creature, and then, when the boat landed, told everyone about how he had out-smarted the other sailors?

Let me tell you what I think, because you knew I would.  I don't think anybody that hasn't eaten a good ounce of magic mushrooms is going to see a mermaid when looking at a sea-cow.  It has zero of the markers that would indicate a mermaid.  The front half doesn't look like a woman, the back half doesn't look like a fish, and it's slow, casual movements will never remind anyone of anything but a sea-cow.

I honestly don't know where the belief that mermaids were actually manatees came from, and if someone came up with it in a quick spurt of whack-a-mole debunking, I have to wonder why the individual chose, of all of the creatures in the sea, the manatee as a mermaid stand-in.  But his conclusion apparently can't be that absurd, because people love quoting it to each other, never considering that it's likely not true.

I mean, maybe, if you're feeling sarcastic, a submerged manatee looks a little like a beautiful woman.  Maybe a PT Cruiser looks like a bigfoot.  And, in a hundred years, when that sentence has bled out of this blog, and into the society, people will be looking back, thinking about how silly it was that we mistook the strange-looking car for the missing link, and not considering that it probably never happened.

On a related note, read a curious story from 2009 about mermaid sightings off the coast of Israel.  I don't believe that the creature sighted is a mermaid (though wouldn't that be exciting?) but I believe just as strongly that it was not a manatee.  More on this story later, when it's even further out of date.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 18, 2010

When climate change becomes personal

A 2010 poll conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication have revealed some trends in belief that aren't that surprising.  2,030 American adults were polled, and asked questions about climate change. Not hard ones, either.  It turns out, about 45% of the people polled understood that CO2 traps heat, and 57% understood that this is what's referred to as the greenhouse effect.  Wait a minute...

Anyway, there's a lot of information (and please take a look at it yourself, as you have the freedom to do so), but the end result is that Americans (I am one of these) get a big F on knowledge about the shift of the climate.

But can you blame us?  Not only do we have a lot of misinformation going around, and neither the time nor the attention span to sort through it, but, even if this issue is knocking on our door, it hasn't yet put its muddy boots on our couch.  What I'm saying is, however immediate of a problem climate change is, it's not as immediate as paying for Alicia's Karate classes, or picking up Robert from the airport.  Summers are still hot, winters are still cold, and climate change is, to most of us, just a thing on the news.

Call me a pessimist, but I don't think that any real effort is going to be put forth by the public until it's too late.  And what I mean by real effort is, do you know how sometimes you think you're trying your best to, say, clean up the house, but then you hear that the in-laws are coming over in thirty minutes, and you're suddenly a coked-out Mr. Clean?  We're not good judges of our own potential, and nearly all of the time that we think we're giving something our best effort, we later find out that we were actually half-assing it.

So, when will we start really caring, with our full attention, about the climate, and our impact on the environment?  When will we stop pretending that carrying a half-dozen reusable shopping bags in the trunk of our hybrid is going to change a thing?  Especially if we forget them before we go into the store.

The day we stop tearing down mountains to get at the ore hidden underneath, stop putting walls across rivers, stop laminating the soil with endless asphalt, and do away with the idea of healthy population growth... well, I'm just afraid that it will be a very dark day.  A day when a Florida hurricane doesn't stop blowing until it's over Nebraska.  A day when people can't move to a northern state, because they're all frozen over.  A day when our crops stop flowering, and we just plain don't know why.

I'm not into fear mongering.  I'm actually a fairly laid-back person.  However, while I do have faith in people, as individuals, I don't have much faith for people as a society.  When I try to think of how far it will have to go before climate change becomes an immediate concern--something that's as important to day-to-day life as repairing the dishwasher--I can't picture it.

People make speculations all the time as to what it will look like when it gets really bad, but no matter how many PhDs the person has, or how many TV shows they've been on, it's all guessing.  We can no more predict the future of our climate than we can predict next weeks Lotto numbers.  It's too complex.  The only thing that we can predict is that, if you consider consistency and stability good, it probably won't be good.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

NASA photoshopping images of space?

Image taken from foxnews.com, but really from NASA
NASA-watching conspiracy theorists found something to latch onto recently when one of them noticed that NASA's picture of the day, when the contrast was increased, had received some very obvious touching up.  The image of Saturn's moons apparently had something very large behind the smaller moon, Dione, which the space agency had effectively erased.  What are they trying to hide?

The evidence, posted by NASA itself, and fed through your own image-editing program, is fairly compelling.  Around the blacked-out pixels, a green and red aurora can be seen.

Well, how is the dark and conspiratorial National Aeronautics and Space Administration going to spin this one?  We caught them red handed, editing their own images, after all.  The official explanation, against all expectation, turned out to be entirely reasonable.  The image had to be photoshopped, because the Cassini probe takes photographs with a green filter, a red filter, and a blue filter, one at a time (not good for birthday parties) and the objects pictured were in motion relative to the camera.  So the person working on the images had to take the full-color image of one moon, and paste it onto the full-color image of the other moon, painting over the red and green version of Dione.  To me, this explanation fits the evidence provided perfectly.  And I'm glad, because if there was a space ship behind that moon, it would have to be bigger than Dione itself, which is about seven thousand miles across.  I think that deserves an anxious emoticon.  : /

Once again, the excited boy in me is disappointed by cold, boring reality.  This time a photographic process curbed my enthusiasm, but in the past it has also happened because of specs of dust, dreams, and people who are simply dishonest.

And, every time there is something like this photograph, something that is quite compelling, and really makes you wonder, and then that thing gets (I won't say debunked) shown to be more ordinary, it highlights the fact that there's so little really compelling evidence out there.  Our videos of UFOs are all taken from thousands of feet away, the best video of a little gray alien we have is an admitted hoax, then there's the Oliver's Castle video, which I've already discussed.  Our best bigfoot video, our best Nessie photograph.  Miss Cleo.  Milla Jovovich.

I want something I don't believe in to be true.  I want the laws of nature to somehow result in telepathy, or for an alien civilization to, as it turns out, be visiting us frequently, and to finally decide that they want a guest spot on the Tonight Show.  I want to be able to change the channel with my mind.

How many animals have been filmed as rarely as Bigfoot?  I would expect the Planet Earth crew to at least have found one by now.

So I guess I'll just sit, and read the various paranormal news blogs on the web.  And when  Barack Obama finally declares that the politicians have been shooting pool with the extra-terrestrials since the forties, I'm going to wait on the champagne for a week or so, because I'm sure, the next day, someone is going to prove that the speech was not given by the president, but by a man in a Barack Obama costume.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting into Heaven

I was raised religious, and at the age of ten was pretty sure that most people were going to Hell.  Getting into Heaven, after all, seemed to be just a little harder than getting into MIT.  People would sell it to me like it was not that hard, but I could read between the lines.

I would be sitting in Sunday school, or talking to one of my fellow church kids, perhaps the scripture-worm that grew up in the Ned Flanders house, and was so religious that it was just a tiny bit awkward for the rest of us.  I would hear

"There's only one thing God isn't able to do.  He can't let sin into Heaven."

"Wait... what?"  As I understand, your sins pretty much stick to you like burrs, and you have to ask for forgiveness to get them cleaned off.  This brings up the very practical problem of dying after you've recently sinned.

Say you haven't asked for forgiveness since before bed last night, and you coveted your neighbor's wife at about noon today (she does, after all, make him steak every Wednesday).  This is the sort of question the preacher won't take too seriously.  After all, we're talking about your lifestyle, we're talking about eternity, we're not talking about fine print that your lawyer can argue over the pearly gates.  This is real life, though, and even the best of us is likely to die with a sin or two stuck to the legs of our pants, and it's a serious question that deserves a serious answer.  That is, unless you want a seriously shitty afterlife.

There's also the assumption that you can't ask for forgiveness after you die.  Would that be cheating, or does a confession even count when you're a spirit?

Christianity, to me, always seemed to be more about the letter of the law than the spirit of it.  It was reiterated to me, many times, that you would be very surprised at who is in Hell.  In other words, you can be a good person, but unless you did this, and avoided this, you're not going to have a good time after you die.

This whole getting-approved-for-heaven thing has always seemed too much like a scam.  If you happen to die with a clean slate, based on these rules, then you get to live here, where it's always sunny, and the lions are as friendly as can be, and you can continue to not sin* for an eternity.

Well, who's getting in?  Not the Muslims, or the Buddhists, or the Hindus.  Not the aboriginal nature-lovers or the polytheists.  Nobody before zero AD (because no Christ means no Christianity).  No atheists.  Definitely no Scientologists.  None of those unlucky boatless legion that couldn't kick their legs for forty days during the great flood.  Plenty of good Christians have probably done some sins that they're not that regretful about, so nix them.  And I sure hope you didn't want an attractive person sexually between praying last night and getting hit by a truck this afternoon.  You are tainted by the very urges you are burdened with.  I think Saint Peter's job as Heaven's bouncer must be an easy one.  "Nobody gets in except for the big guy, and he comes in the back door."

I think we've been duped.  Just like getting taken in by the "Get a Free iPad!" banners, we've entered into a contract that we can't follow through with, and our very bodies, supposedly created by God himself, are our biggest enemy on the insurmountable climb to perfection.

God doesn't want us in Heaven.  That's where he keeps all of his stuff.  If we were wandering around in his domain we would probably leave hand prints, grimy with sin, all over his nice white couch and flat screen TV.  He wants us to be good, though, so we sign the contract, hoping that if we do this, this and this, he'll let us visit.  But there's only one key to that door, and he's not getting copies made any time soon.

That is assuming, of course, that the Christian God exists.  From what I've heard about him throughout my life, though, I hope he doesn't.  Sinful or not, he doesn't sound like a good person.

*I think that some sin is good, in moderation.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The alternative to science

I sometimes wonder, if there does happen to be a God, if he's frustrated about how much we know.  He gave us eyeballs, so we can see sunsets, dropoffs and wild boars, and somehow we know about dna, atoms and quarks.  He gave us legs to get around, and we're flying across the world 30,000 feet above sea level.  He gave us mouths to talk, and we're communicating with computers that God himself would probably be impressed by.

These brains, that he probably thought were good enough so we could make rakes and spears, have gotten us a long way out of the savannas and mud huts.  We do things that should be impossible daily, breezing through at least fifty miracles just to get ready for work.

Human ingenuity has gotten us here, but it wouldn't have gotten us this far without science.  Science is modern magic, giving us as much awe and wonder as Zeus with his lightning bolts.  For how important science is to our modern lifestyle, most of us (this includes me) know pitifully little about it.

A friend of mine once said that the science fiction and fantasy genres are interchangeable, that the role that magic plays in one, technology plays in the other.  I'm not entirely on board with the basic premise, but there is some truth to the statement.  To we lay people, there doesn't seem to be much science can't do.  We don't always think of the research process, the grants, the journals, the trial-and-error, the trying to turn hypothesis into theory.  We just think of the end results.

Science isn't technology, even though it often uses technology, and sometimes results in new technology.  Science is just the narrowing-down of truth.  It's getting rid of all of the alternative explanations until you seem to be left with only one, and then seeing if that one conforms to reality.

It's easy to get irritated with the scientific process, especially when results are slow in coming, biased for political reasons, or when the accepted paradigm gets turned over, and it turns out that everyone has been thinking the wrong thing for the last twenty years.  Not to mention that the very cool-hearted impartiality that science embraces can be off-putting, as in the case of vivisection, or, for some, stem-cell research.

If you want the truth, though, science is necessary.  In its most basic form, science arises naturally in our behavior, when we're investigating who knocked down the vase, or who was it that wanted you to call them back.  Almost every day, there's occasion to gather evidence, cross possibilities off of your list, and even--like putting a dog treat on the counter to see if the puppy can even get up there--experimentation.

Even if you frown on some scientists, or some experiments, you should never frown on science in general, because it's just a part of being human.  It's not the opposite of paranormal belief, it's not the opposite of religious belief.  It's the opposite of guessing.  It's the opposite of assuming everything, knowing nothing, and learning only the most basic of facts.  Knowing the leaf falls, but not knowing why, nor wondering why.  Because once the wondering process starts, discovery is inevitable.

The alternative is the blissfully ignorant life of your pet, or the woodpecker in the back yard.  A life of love and loss, a life of survival and the gradients between desire and contentment.  Perhaps a satisfying life.  But a life in a world no bigger than your own stomping grounds, with no knowledge, or interest, of what's over the hill.

And maybe it's because I am a human, and I'm built to wonder, but I couldn't live that way.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Start dowsing today!

When I was maybe ten, I was at my grandparents' house, and there were some aunts and uncles there, as there tended to be during that time period.  One of them called me into the living room, and handed me two L-shaped pieces of wire hangers, about a foot long, with the short part of the L being handles.  They told me that something was hidden in the living room, and that I was supposed to hold the two pieces of wire loosely, by their handles, with the length of them pointing forward, and then I was supposed to follow where they pointed, to lead me to the hidden object.

I don't remember how conclusive the results were, but they couldn't have been that good, because I remember them talking about how well it worked for my cousin, which sounds a little like they needed to change the subject.  This was my first encounter with dowsing.

Different people have varying definitions about what dowsing is, but there are some common elements.  A dowser is someone who uses an instrument that relies on physics to gain information.  So, in this definition, a tarot-card reader is not a dowser, but someone scrying with a pendulum, walking around with a forked stick, or using the L-shaped wire hangers like in my example, is a dowser.

And addendum to that definition would be that the feedback from the dowser's instrument/s seems always to rely on the minute, unconscious movement of the muscles.  Called the ideomotor effect, it's what makes the pendulum swing, and what makes the tensed branch dip.  Our minds dictate these movements, even if we're not causing them intentionally.  Contrary to popular belief, most popular writing on the subject does not contradict this.  Most instructional books on dowsing seem to come from the point of view that, yes, our subconscious is moving the objects, through our muscles, but since our subconscious is connected to the rest of the universe, it's still a good source of info.

You can do it yourself, with no practice, and at no cost to you.  I encourage you to, even sitting in front of my blog.  Go find a nut (not a bolt, but a nut) and maybe a foot and a half of fishing line, or thread. Tie the heavy one to the end of the long one.  You now have a pendulum, and are ready to tap into the knowledge of the universe.

Grab the length of string between your finger and thumb, and put your elbow on the desk.  Bend your wrist so that the string is hanging parallel to your forearm, and the nut is about an inch from the surface of the desk.  Following me so far?  Now (and keeping a straight face, you silly skeptics) tell your fancy new pendulum something with your mind.  Start with, "Pendulum, please swing counter-clockwise."  I'm not sure if it's psychologically important that you address it as pendulum, but that's what I did.

It's important that you try your hardest to keep your hand still.  When the thing starts to swing, as it likely will, it should be pretty surprising.  Once you've had it swing counterclockwise, and clockwise, and along the x axis and the y, it's time to start getting more information than you put in.  It's at this point that the whole things starts breaking down for me.

You may not expect it to give you the lottery numbers, or tell you what the neighbor is watching on TV, but as I experimented with this I was at least interested in whether it could tell me what I already knew, but was unable to remember.  Things that, if my unconscious mind is the sponge it's supposed to be, should be in there.  I tried to remember where I had put my headphones, and, using the pendulum, narrowed it down to within a foot of my bedroom television.  Well, unless I'm quite blind, that was a miss.  For how fascinating it is to watch the thing swing on command, when it came to practical applications it stopped impressing me pretty quickly.

Maybe it's because I'm a skeptic, and I'm resistant to things that are just a little too nifty.  I can't say.  Feel free to email me with any dowsing stories you've got.  It seems like something that taps into the unconscious mind should have some practical applications, but I have never had any luck on that front.

So, there you have it.  If you've followed my directions, you have a firsthand understanding of the ideomotor effect, and you can test, yourself, in your living room, whether dowsing works.  I'd say that, with that kind of opportunity, you shouldn't enter another single debate on the subject until you've tried it.  Because, of course, an ounce of experience is worth a pound of speculation.

And all it costs is a nut and a string.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fabrication Post - October 5, 2010

The following is not true.

When I was a kid, I had a friend that everyone thought was pretty strange, but being that I was a bit of a geek, and a bit outside of any recognized social circles, we got along fine.  His name was Darren, and I didn't think he was strange at all.  I was friends with him until I was about twelve, and he ended up moving with his parents to Arizona, and I never really heard from him again.  The internet wasn't really a thing at the time, and I wasn't one to write letters.  Our friendship ended the way friendships ended for me during childhood, quickly and cleanly.

Well, I was visiting my mom about a month ago, and I found an old picture from a birthday party, and there was Darren.  I had completely forgotten about him until I saw that picture.  Especially the way that he looked.  There was something a little off about it his face, which I hadn't really noticed when I was a kid, but everyone else had.  I guess he was probably handicapped in one way or another.  Not Downs Syndrome, but something that changes the way you look.  His eyes were too big.

The strangest part about seeing his face again is that I realized I have been dreaming about Darren pretty frequently.  For instance, I had a dream that I was driving a small car across an impossibly long, impossibly tall bridge, and he was the guy that was sitting next to me, talking to me.  Or, in one dream I was playing tennis, and he was the guy watching.  Not exciting dreams, but my point is that I had completely forgotten about this kid, and now the grown-up version of him is appearing in just about every dream I have.

One thing I have noticed is that, if this guy touches me in my dream, let's say he reaches out and pokes my arm, I wake up sore in that spot.  I sometimes get bruises, or little triangular dots where he contacted me in a dream.  Of course, I'm sure the mind can create bruising as well as it can do anything else, but it's unnerving.  I've been waking up after a full night's sleep feeling dead tired lately, barely able to do my blog, barely able to shower or even eat breakfast. And when I think about it, all I can think about is Darren, with the big eyeballs and the small chin.  Thinking about him makes me feel nervous, and I'm not entirely sure why.  I have this urge to move out of town, to escape my dreams, which doesn't make a ton of sense, but the urge is strong.  

I found his Facebook profile last week, and there he is, just like in my dreams.  He moved back to town, and works as a truck driver.  In his profile picture, he's sitting in front of his computer desk, the picture not taken with a webcam, but taken with the computer sitting in the background.  You can see out the window behind him, and the strange thing is that it almost looks like his house is where my house should be.  As in, you can see my across-the-street neighbor, with the blue mailbox with flowers growing out of it, and the little yeild sign with the squirrels on it, and it looks like they're right across the street from him.  It's just a couple of little centimeters in the corner of the image, but I've racked my brain over it a lot.

I haven't got the balls yet to add him, but I'm sure it's inevitable.  

Monday, October 4, 2010

A message for those that debunk

I've never debunked anything in this blog. I'm not saying it will never happen, but it never has, and I'm not in a hurry to scratch that off of my to-do list.

provocative image
One thing that I do here is to give possible explanations for things that can balance out the seemingly impossible explanations given by others. Maybe your bigfoot is a man in a suit. Maybe your balls of light are computer generated. Maybe your out-of-body experience is a very interesting kind of dream. If I have to believe it, then I'll believe it. If I don't have to, however, then I'm not going to make that leap.

Unfortunately, if you were to take one of these posts, add a bit of name-calling, and then type "Case closed" at the end, you'll have something that looks like what you might expect from many of today's professional skeptics.

A few examples:

"For those who may need further evidence for my contention, the proof can be found at http://tinyurl.com/ye9d9lp -- where it is clearly seen that the “facilitator” is looking directly at the keyboard, while the subject is asleep!" (link)
-James Randi

"She also owns the copyright to Ramtha and conducts sessions in which she pretends to go into a trance and speaks Hollywood’s version of Elizabethan English in a guttural, husky voice." (link)
-skepdic.com

"I kid you not; for some reason the best way to deliver this wonder drug is through the well-established time-honored drug delivery system that is the soles of our feet. This is so ridiculous I don’t even know where to begin." (link)
-Bart Farkas

My fellow skeptics may not see any real problems with the preceding excerpts, but a fan of any of these stories may find one or more of those statements offensive.  And I think this is the gulf that should be bridged.  Are we just entertaining other skeptics?  Or are we writing to educate those that will listen?  Who is your target audience?  Who comments in your blog?  Where does your traffic come from?

When you start with the assumption that a belief is silly, and then go from there, you've already lost your most important audience.  Talking to those you disagree with, rather than joking with those who are on your side, takes awareness, and it's something that I'm still trying my best to master.

I don't think mermaids are real, but if my only piece of evidence is the word Duh, then I might as well not be talking.  Because until you stop debunking, and stop finding different ways to write Case closed, then you'll always be seen as just another asshole skeptic.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Gliese 581, my new favorite Earth

Scientists have found a planet that's not so terribly different from this one.  Read the discovery.com article.  It's about three Earths big, and is the right temperature to hold pools of liquid water.  Astronomer Steven Vogt makes a point in the linked article that there's no reason to believe that there is not liquid water on the planet.

I'm a skeptic, but I'm not threatened by the idea of aliens.  Like most things that normally fall under the umbrella of paranormal, aliens are an exciting idea, whether or not we're talking about advanced civilizations, or just a few ferns on some distant rocky ball.

Statistically, it's being said that there might be lots and lots of planets like this, being that this one was found after "looking at just nine nearby stars."  So if Earths are so common, maybe there are some cities full of quasi-people out there looking at our Earth in their telescope, just wondering.  Hell, maybe some of them have visited us already.  If the technology for such a feat is, in fact, possible (though I have no strong reason to believe that it is) then it's not outrageous to think that we've already been visited.  I'm not going too far down that logical road, though, because I've seen where it can lead.

I only have one issue with the linked article, and that's the last line.  I don't know if you can chalk it up to news sensationalism, or just an excited scientist speaking beyond the evidence (probably both). But, "It's pretty hard to stop life once you give it the right conditions," is a statement that is hard to back up.  It may be true, but it really may not be true, as well.  So far, we only have one example of life happening, and that's us and our family here on Earth.  That statement sounds like a skateboarder saying that everyone has an innate talent for skateboarding, or a drug addict saying, "If you can get some crack, you're going to smoke it."  Let's get a bigger sample before we start saying what's inevitable.

I'm excited about the discovery.  I might be on a high percentile of excitedness, in fact.  But let's not get carried away.  The facts are exciting enough without an expert making guesses.  Guesses that most people are going to take to heart, just because he's an expert.  Like I've said before, an expert is not an authority figure, and no number of PhDs gives someone the power to change the truth.

I'm not saying the statement is false.  I'm just saying we don't know if it's false.  But what if it turns out to be true?  Wouldn't that be something?