The Warning Bells

Many years ago, Dan and I were not exactly New Age — we’ve always both had a horror of what you could call whoo whoo stuff, and even if we flirt with it, we usually spring back to reality fairly quickly — but we could be mistaken for that by people who didn’t look too closely.

Part of it was that we did most things from scratch, like, you know, cooking and clothes making and stuff like that, including rebuilding the “distressed” houses we bought.  Now, this was economic sense, not “We believe our clothes should be woven entirely out of organically grown wheat” but if people didn’t know all the tips and tricks of “how to live on one salary and make it look like two” they assumed we were doing it to save mother Earth, or whatever.  So we rang a lot of people’s “crazy hippie bells.”

When Dan got his job in CO it was through a contractor the company he’d actually be working for. The contractor had a relocation specialist who got in touch with with us.  Weirdly, she wanted us to — back then — buy in Denver, and commute to the Springs (given the hours programmers worked in the early 90s, that was a non-starter.) Mind you, the area she wanted us to buy in was considerably more central and now more expensive than where we are.  Maybe we could have afforded it in the 90s, when it was still considerably blighted, and maybe we should have, even if we only went there on weekends.

Anyway, part of the way she determined where you should be living was with an interview where she asked us the weirdest questions.  And at some point she went “Wow, you’re eccentric, but no bells.”  And we went “bells?” and she said she’d be talking to some people, they sounded perfectly sensible, and suddenly her “crazy warning bells” would start to ring.  You know, something like “We’d like a house near our [type of church] and the park, so we can walk the dog, and a good school for the boys.  Oh, yeah, and it must be near a good New Age Store so we can buy pyramids for defense, when the UFOs land.”

With us it had gone the other way around, mostly because what she’d mistaken for “really weird” was “science fiction geek” (remember, we weren’t always as dominant as we’re becoming.)

This is apropos of the fact that I’ve been reading a lot of weird and speculative stuff about human evolution, pre-history and ancient civilizations.  Yes, it’s for world building.  Yes, you’ll get the benefit of it, through Baen if they accept the series.

It’s not the first time I’ve done this.  Part of the background for the Shifter series, and the reason it’s more sf than fantasy was a Hindu-financed book on “forbidden archeology” I read many decades ago.  For this I need a millennia old organization that has seen a couple of civilizations about our level — but magic based — rise and fall. So it’s important to have an idea what to refer to, etc, although the books would take place in the present.  It’s closer to the background of Repairman Jack than Star Gate.  More plausible than Star Gate, too.

Anyway, the problem is that I find myself watching these videos or reading these books, and suddenly the bells go off.

I’ll start by saying that a lot of these “archeologists of the damned” have a point.  Not in everything, mind, but because archeology is  submerged into such a sea of unknown unknowns and also besieged by crazy people talking about the Power of Pyramids, there is a tendency for academy-sponsored archeologists to come up with the most stodgy, conservative theory ever and hold onto it buckle and tongue, even when contrary evidence surfaces.

These “priests of science” screaming “the science is settled” piss me off so much I ALMOST become a pyramid power person myself.  At least I feel like denting their shiny theories all over, just because I can.

However when reading or listening to unconventional archeologists, there is ALWAYS that point where I feel like I’m talking to the old civil engineer in Porto who had gone insane and who spent his days drawing a bridge to cross the Atlantic.  He was sensible and rational, talking about forces and waves, and stuff to do so storms didn’t break the bridge.  And then, after you listened to him for hours, he’d say “And it will float, because it’s made entirely out of soap.  And it won’t dissolve because soap doesn’t dissolve in salt water.”  (This has become a short hand in our family.  When one of us is making some plan completely out of reality, one of the others will go “and it’s made entirely out of soap.”)

I’ve come to understand WHY the relocation agent said “and then the bells go off” when talking about some of her former clients.  Also, I’ve learned to identify the “and it’s made out of soap” moment.  Here are some of the “my bells are ringing” moments.

1- Again with the fracking pyramids.

Seriously, I get it.  They’re very impressive, and we can’t for absolutely sure know how they were built, or why only for a relative brief period, with before and after being completely unable to reproduce the tech.  I GET IT.

What I seriously doubt is that every new discovery that doesn’t quite fit the pattern is tied to the pyramids.

The same goes for the Templars.  In fact mention of the Knights Templar is usually a bell so loud I can’t think through it.

2- It’s ALL about the stars.

The minute someone explained Gobekli Tepe with “It’s all about the constellations” my eyes started rolling so hard I looked like a slot machine.  Oh, sure, sometimes buildings align with this or that constellation, or might have if they were built at a particular time.  I’ll even buy that SOMETIMES this was intentional (if you’re building in a way that aligned with the stars ten thousand years before or after you built, probably not.)  BUT SERIOUSLY every single time?
More than likely when the buildings aligned with the stars it was because of some kind of astrology, like say Chinese homes and graves are aligned in certain ways, and not to “send a message” to us.  (More about that later.)  No, seriously.  I can’t imagine anything more unlikely than spending decades of man-years building a thing so we could send a message to our descendants ten thousand years hence.  I seriously doubt that most of us can really muster much care for our descendants that far off, okay?

I also have real trouble believing that there are no other messages to send to the future than “when the sun is in the seventh house, and mercury aligns with Mars….”

I’m fairly sure for whatever reason Gobekli Tepe or the pyramids were built it was to be USED in their time, and not as a sort of telegraph through the ages.  Which brings us to…

3- It’s all about US.  Not the people who built the thing.  Not the aliens who are supposed to have arrived.  No, it’s all about us.  And if you read the books or watch the videos, you can’t help thinking of Good Omens, where aliens start popping out all over to give the most trite messages ever.

This is the same thing.  It turns out that what the ancients who built the pyramids want to tell us is whatever the New Age cause du jour is.  So that, you know, they built huge structures of stone to tell us the age of Aquarius is coming and we should all be enlightened and smoke weed, and stuff. OR the Maya calendar was right.  Or we should not have cars and pollute.  Or– whatever.  The cause du jour that confirms the “researchers” biases.  You got it.  That’s exactly what the ancients went through horrible time and effort to tell us.  Because it’s all about us.  We know we’re the most important people in history, so why wouldn’t they?

You know in Independence Day when they say “they didn’t come millions of miles to start a fight with us.”  Well, as an alien species that’s one of the few reasons to come hundreds of light years, or whatever.  Because you need the planet to survive.

And as an ancient people, supposing there was some kind of civilization before, whatever they built they built for THEM.  If it’s all about us, it’s probably all moonshine.

4- It’s all mystical… and it’s all true.

Sure, I’m sure the ancients had their own religions, just like we do.  And it could be immensely important for them to go through endless expense to gratify their beliefs or worship their gods.  But–

But just because they’re older and they believe it, it doesn’t make it true.  It doesn’t mean their civilization really was run by Zeus or more likely for these things Osiris.  It doesn’t mean that their theory of what happens after death is true.

It just means that’s what they believed.  (And here the “priests of official science” can also just stop with calling everything they don’t understand a temple.  Sometimes “We don’t know what it was for” is PERFECTLY acceptable and the right answer.)

5- They were advanced/we don’t understand how they developed/where they came from, so it must be… Space Aliens!

Seriously?  In the time now estimated from when human beings first came into being to the first confirmed civilization signs (Gobekli Tepe) as of right now, there’s space for SEVERAL civilizations.  Hell, there’s space for civilizations at our level, much less say Roman level.

The “priests of science” idea of a long stagnation and TONS of nonsense about when “sentience began” (Are you sentient tovarish? How about a cat?) is just that, nonsense.  Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and the long stagnation might simply be a period when all the signs of civilization are buried under water/were destroyed by vulcanism/ are under ice in Antarctica.  The only reason that sounds crazy to you is how crazy archeologists of the damned who have posited this before being… well… crazy.  But ignore the pyramids and Easter Island, and think in terms of likelihood.  Assume our ancestors were a lot like us, tinkering apes.  And assume what is now 150k to 200k of anatomically modern humans.  The most ancient sign of “civilization” we have goes back 12k years.  Now do the math.  There could EASILY accounting for time in between to “forget’ except at the level of distant legends ten past “lost” civilizations.

These don’t need to be more advanced than ours — that’s also a sign of crazy cakes — or even advanced the same way.  Their material culture might well have been at the level of ancient Greece or Rome, though.  (Though how cool would it be if one of of those made it to the stars, and when we get there they’re like “b*tch, what took you so long?” because they took every “civilized human being” and only missed some aboriginals in the jungle, hence accounting for our genetic bottle neck.  BUT NOTE I’m a writer, and I like this because it sounds cool, not because it’s plausible.)

But that’s the other part of it and a rebuke to the priests of science too.  Yep, things like Gobekli Tepe and the pyramids can and sure as shooting did co-exist with the most primitive stone tools and cave drawings.  Because, you know, even now, with Western Civ having more penetration that even our ancestors 200 years ago could possibly imagine, there are still Amazonian tribes who don’t have a concept of counting above 3.  And if we all got into an interstellar ship to escape Nebiru (don’t get me started.  That’s a gong, right there) tomorrow, there would be a lot of people left behind who are at different civilization levels, never got the call and are REALLY GOOD at hiding.)

6- The old myths are ALL true.

That’s a massive bell, right there.  One of these guys was talking about oral traditions transmitted ten thousand years.

Sure there are some fragments, but mostly we retain one central event (both the deluge and dragons seem to be worldwide) but the story gets crazy different really fast, the moral is all different, etc.

Sure I’m willing to believe there might be some elements that are distant echoes of something.  MAYBE.  BUT they could also be distant echoes of how the human subconscious is wired.  (From the resemblance between modern soap operas and the stories of ancient gods, I’d go with the human subconscious likes certain things, like mysterious twins, ‘she didn’t really die’, everyone being in lust with everyone else no matter how unlikely.  Oh, yeah, and talking babies.  This seems to be a BIG thing.)

But coming from a culture in which things were transmitted through the ages I am aware both of the persistence and the distortion/limits of oral tradition.  Sure, sagas like the Odyssey an get passed on, but there is no indication they were done as anything but cultural artifacts.  When it comes to “things my grandmother said” and you think about it, it become more complicated very quickly.

For instance, there are things my grandmother told me her grandmother told her, which I assume had happened in her grandmother’s time but which must be a lot older.  And things I ASSUMED grandmother was telling me of experience which are impossible. Like, say, the Napoleonic wars.  Because the math just doesn’t work that way.

I realized how unreliable this is, when I realized my kids thought I came from a family of three.  You see, we have a cousin who was raised with us.  I always referred to her by her first name, so they assumed…

Now multiply that by ten thousand.  The great shocking event — like, say, the deluge — might remain, but it will move all over in time and space.  Which brings us to: was it universal?  Or did someone from that culture have a lot of kids with traveling feet who carried the legend EVERYWHERE over a couple of centuries.  I mean, it’s like the Victorians thought Amerindians were the lost tribe of Israel.  Turns out that genetics confirm a lot them have Jewish genes.  Score, right?  Well…. we’re close enough to have traced it and… no.  For whatever reason in the 17th century, an Iberian Jew went over most of the Americas impregnating Amerindian women, who bore his sons, who apparently were similarly successful with the opposite sex.  (I have a theory this was an ancestor.  On paternal grandmother’s side.  Her father had a …. reputation.)  I think, though I’m not going to put hands in fire, they actually got a probable name for this great inseminator.  But suppose a couple thousand years have passed.  Both the legend of Jewish origins and the genetics would be muddled, and we might think that the Victorians were right.

When dealing with deep antiquity assume not only garbled, but far less likely to match our expectation than you’d think.

This matters, and the crazy bells are annoying, because of course, it would be good for us to know where we come from.  Say ice ages or meteors, or even our scavenger-species tendency to stop reproducing when secure ended civilization several times before.  The ancients might not have MEANT to give us a warning, but we could still take it, and take steps to prevent it happening to US.

However, none of that matters, because the moment that you start investigating anomalous stuff, the crazy people come out of their holes tolling their little bells that say “unclean, unclean” (Or more likely “the purpose of the pyramids was to sharpen shaving blades!”) and then the Priests of Science take fright, pull up their skirts and entrench, screaming “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.”  Like, you know, given the nature of our species as tinkering monkeys, the idea of 190k years of pure stagnation ALSO isn’t an extraordinary claim.

There have been scientific studies on other fringe phenomena, like, say, telepathy, which ended up being blighted the same way.  In fact one of the books I have says that “there is undeniably something there, but the idea attracts so many charlatans it’s impossible to conduct a straight study.”

Same thing.  The more the “Knights Templar built the Pyramids to guide ALIENS” people make noise and toll the insanity bell, the less likely it is that sensible people will want to study and consider anomalous discoveries.  Which means it takes something really big like Gobekli Tepe to make us revise our chronologies or consider we might not know everything.

Now this is very fertile ground for fiction writers like me (of course I’m cackling guys.  What do you think?) but it doesn’t help understand what came before us, or who we are, or what we’re capable of, or even our persistent downfalls.

No, I’m not going to fight through the crazy bells anymore.  I got my world building.

Sooner or later we’ll know more, but I doubt we’ll know “the truth” in my or anyone living’s life.

And a great part of this is that the lies are so attractive, even if completely crazy.


683 thoughts on “The Warning Bells

  1. Have to curse Von Daniken and his “Chariots of the Gods” schtick. I think that’s where “ALIENS” really took off. I keep pointing out to people that saying “Aliens” or other mystic stuff is really putting down the ingenuity of mankind. Haven’t had to many converts mind you.

    1. Viewing the effects of elite leadership, putting down the ingenuity of mankind seems a pretty safe bet.

    2. I’ve heard/read that Freud either realized or predicted UFO aliens or the like.. using the term “technological angels” for them. Perhaps one of those things Freud got at least partly right.

      1. …and I’ll throw in my obligatory “He’s obviously Centauri!” comment. 😀

    3. This. But would it have taken off if it hadn’t coincided with a fascination with the occult our culture goes through from time to time? Pyramid power happened in this time, too, and that’s fascinating in itself. It seems to work because steel has some slight “memory” qualities and razor edges become slightly sharper just by leaving them alone. That, oddly was once understood, and some early razors had seven blades, one for each day of the week.

      Still . . . Popular Science did a kind of, sort of, not-quite-scientific investigation that seemed to show something was going on, the good thing is that it could lend itself to double-blind experimentation of various claims, including, yes, whether it sharpened blades. But pyramid power fizzled pretty quickly, and now looking into it is enough for people to start checking for tin foil peaking out from under your hat.

      Which doesn’t mean the ancients were onto something. They probably built pyramids because it’s easy to build impressive things by heapin up dirt and stone, and a pyramid looks like a heap with class. If they thought there was preservative qualities in the shape, why weren’t all their food storage structures and containers pyramids?

      1. Kevin, you are now going to die. I just about hurt myself laughing at the mental image of a bunch of pyramid-shaped Tupperware in a fridge. Pink, and blue, and…
        It would be easy to write to, in a parallel world where pyramid power became accepted in OUR culture in the seventies, even if not true, so people think the shape makes it better at preserving stuff.
        I’m still giggling. You’re in so much trouble.

        1. Of course I’m going to die. The only question is when.

          BTW, remembered that article was in Science Digest, not Popular Science. For those who don’t remember the 70’s, even Edmund Scientific sold things like scale model Cheops pyramids; Kirlian Photography set-ups; bio-feedback machines; and polywater kits. Fun times.

          1. OK, let’s see the collaboration. Although I think you’ll need to get Dave the Pyramid Guy roped in, too.

            The burning question I have is “How in the heck do you stack the things?” Seven different sizes of right rectangular prisms are enough to defeat me all too often…

              1. Inefficient stacking. Leaves spaces between the containers. While that actually is better in a freezer and refrigerator, allowing airflow to cool everything; that isn’t a plus for stacking dry goods in the pantry. There, you really do want to go with same-size or discrete fractional sizes of rectangular containers (usually factor of 2) to get optimum space utilization.

          2. I remember the 70s. Back in 1975, the Navy sent me to Mare Island for nuclear power training. I used to listen to KSAN radio. The last time I was in the San Francisco area, it was a classical station, but back then, it was still pretty much an underground FM station.

            Anyway, one night I was driving home, listening to a show on alternative energy (the Arab oil embargo being fairly recent), when a caller started expounding on the benefits of getting all of our energy from pyramids. Nuclear was never mentioned in the show, however – I remember an editorial (I think) in Analog around that time that mentioned a survey that found that either a majority or a sizable minority of those who opposed nuclear power opposed it on moral grounds.

            The mind boggles.

            1. Oh hell, I oppose nuclear energy on moral grounds! Until everybody learns to pronounce it properly we shouldn’t be messin’ wid dat sheet!

      2. There’s always Kipling….

        “Who shall doubt “the secret hid
        Under Cheops’ pyramid”
        Was that the contractor did
        Cheops out of several millions?
        Or that Joseph’s sudden rise
        To Comptroller of Supplies
        Was a fraud of monstrous size
        On King Pharaoh’s swart Civilians?”

        A General Summary.

  2. You forgot the Bermuda Triangle!

    Everybody knows that there’s a mysterious “gateway” there to Atlantis and millions of ships & airplanes have gone through it!

    And The Government Is Lying About What It Knows About It! 😈 😈 😈 😈

    Oh by the way, don’t get me started on Crop Circles. 😉

    1. The Bermuda Triangle?

      Nobody knows how many men have been lost, dreaming of going down there.

      1. Was recently reading a horror novel with one of the characters being a British skeptic. In an early scene in the book, the skeptic arranged for a crop circle to be found with the word “Hoax” inside the circle. 👿

          1. That looks like its pretty close to my typical pasta salad. I usually slice the tomatoes and olives, and have some onions and parmesan as well. (I think I’m getting hungry.)

    2. My theory has always been that if crop circles are made by aliens, they almost have to be bored teenage aliens.

      “What do you want to do tonight, Xrhgblt?”

      “I don’t know, Rdlwq. This has got to be the most boring part of the galaxy out there. Nothing ever happens in this particular spiral.”

      “We could go draw weird patterns in the vegetation of that blue planet over there.”

      “Better than nothing, I guess.”

      Basically, it is the alien equivalent of cow tipping…

      1. I have a digital painting that shows a bunch of aliens returning to their ship after creating a crop circle.

        The joke is that they are carrying the tools that some British hoaxsters used to create crop circles. 👿

    3. I was looking at my house on Google Earth and noticed that my brother who lives next door had a crop circle in his back field. It turned out he’d just mowed himself a putting green to aim at. Do aliens play golf?

  3. “crazy hippie bells.”

    Having been around at (or just after) the very end of the whole hippie thing, it seemed to me at the time that a lot of it (then) was just “Who care what anyone thinks, let’s go do this neat stuff anyway.” Sure, some was nuts… but some was.. well.. poor man’s (semi?)pure research. The “do cool stuff even if others think otherwise” was the appealing thing to me. The truly crazy? Didn’t need that.

    1. Yes, there were crazy hippies, drug-addled hippies, and just odd, doing it your own way hippies (because it was the 60s-70s, and you could). There is significant overlap in the Venn diagram, though.

    2. Mentioned below, today we hit the El Paso archaeology museum.

      Nice Lady had picture of Clovis points that were, inexplicably, made from pretty stone rather than technologically identical but not pretty stone that is RIGHT HERE.

      As mentioned…I pulled out my buck knife and looked at its pretty, synthetic “horn” case…and put it back…
      I also thought about my all metal knife, which is rainbow colored…

      Yeah, totally can’t imagine why ANY human would want their stuff to be pretty, even when there’s easier, practical options…..

  4. I think science has some “crazy” bells as well. (Since you have covered the New Age pretty well.) lol How about– “man has caused great damage to Mother Earth” or “if I can’t measure it or experiment on it, then it isn’t so.” This completely eliminates faith and belief as viable energy– and actual forces.

    What really makes me laugh is Electronic theory and Quantum mechanics. My late husband had a theory that was as reasonable as some of the stuff I am reading out of the scientific community. He used to say– “have you noticed that certain particles just suddenly show up? How someone comes up with a mathematical equation and then all of a sudden there is an unknown particle for it?”

    I said, “What of it? They just found it.”

    He would smile at me like I hadn’t gotten the point. “Or did they create it by wishing?”

    1. Chuckle Chuckle

      Read a short story where a “random number generator” had broken down just before a big experiment was about to happen on Earth.

      The operators in a panic called their “Big Boss” about it and the “Big Boss” got out a set of dice.

      The “Big Boss” rolled the dice during the big experiment to order for the scientists on Earth to get some results.

      All ended well and the “Big Boss” looked at a sign on his wall say “God Doesn’t Play Dice With The Universe”.

      The “Big Boss” (God) says “What did Einstein really know”. 👿 👿 👿 👿

        1. Yep, and I think that was the “source” of the short story. 😉

      1. The important question here is still unanswered: what kind of dice was He rolling? Standard six or maybe twenty-sided icosahedrons, or something in between? How many dimensions do His dice roll in?

    2. I remember someone making the case that there’s no soul by presenting the wave equation of an electron, and then saying “There’s absolutely *no* room for a soul in that!”

      If I recall correctly, that is the *very* equation Heisenberg used to derive his Uncertainty Principle. In other words, it is impossible to know the exact speed *and* location of an electron. Is it really all that much of a stretch to imagine a soul slipping in under that uncertainty?

    3. if I can’t measure it or experiment on it, then it isn’t confirmed

      Is how it should go. There is much that we still can’t truly test – because we don’t know how. As opposed to stuff we have a very good idea of HOW to test, but we consider doing so too evil to actually do.

      1. Agreed. I remember when I was taking a biology class and the instructor told us that animals didn’t feel pain or emotions because it hadn’t been proven by the scientific community. Well Damn.. Any farmer who has dealt with all types of animals would tell you differently. So another crazy bell… I think in that case it was a salve for their consciences.

          1. Still have my pet rock. Although mine is special – the sister decided it needed a makeover, and painted it to look like a ladybug. (Actually, a ladybug that big is rather scary, IMHO.)

              1. *giggle* Yes, the pet rock thing was a joke – and people with a sense of the ridiculous had fun with it. I was supplying bespoke sewing and scale-sized dolls to a local shop which specialized in scale miniatures (mostly 1-12th scale) when I was working my way through college. The owner/manager of the place had a little teeny baby pet rock on display: a pebble about the size of a large jelly-bean, in a crocheted baby-bonnet (out of fine sewing thread) and lying in a bassinet also crocheted out of sewing thread.

        1. Got that right. Poke a cow with a sharp stick and it’s going to bawl, shy away, kick, possibly bit, or all four. Only an idiot would say animals don’t feel pain. And while I’m unconcerned about how much pain a fly being swatted feels, or a lobster or clam being dumped in boiling water feels; I do have consideration for the feelings of higher animals used for food or considered pests to eliminate. Never prolong their deaths and pain if you can do it faster.

          1. And then you make a tool to do it quickly and as painlessly as possible, and some idiot on a TV show calls it horrible and inhumane when they find one*.

            * On the show Bones, this guy killed people with a spring-loaded punch for killing hogs. The principles of the show talked about how cruel the thing was.

            1. As I recall, the show’s lead was an activist vegetarian, sooooo … they basically allowed her one episode a season of preaching the faith.

    4. See, I like that. It gives me that same creepy-weird feeling that I get when I contemplate the fact that, if $Deity truly is omnipotent, saying “the entire universe was created as-is less than 10 seconds ago” is a plausible statement at any time.

      Also, opens the door to the concept of “Mathematics is to Magic what a monkey with a bone is to science – just the beginning groping for how to use the world around you.”

      (Feel free to run with that anyone, I’d love to read it.)

      1. If you want to accept the premise of a simultaneous universe, cause and effect are illusory, the universe and all its past, present and future exist NOW.

        If you further extend the M-Theory parameters, a $Deity who occupies a single point of Space/Time which is tangential to all other points would be omnipresent.

        The fact that we occupy a mere three dimensions (and extend partially into a fourth) makes grokking the thinking processes of an entity whose existence spans all dimensions a very limited exercise.

    5. I laughed in school whenever the science (or history) textbooks scoffed at those poor, ignorant old-timey “scientists” who thought matter was infinitely divisible. It would often then re-iterate “Whereas we now know that atoms are the smallest elementary particle (well, besides electrons, neutrons, and protons).” And, since quarks and such were just being thunk up – as, you know, sub-particles of electrons, neutrons, and protons – I would mock the arrogance of those who would proclaim to have found the “ultimate truth” within science.

      1. I use the nature of light as my go-to example of why the science is never settled.

        Light had to be a particle. If it were a wave, then you’d get some ridiculous results like a bright spot in the center of a shadow in particular circumstances. Science…settled.

        Somebody looks at those circumstances. Bright spot found. So. Light has to be a wave. Science…settled.

        Certain things have to happen if light is a wave. Experiments made to look for them. Don’t find them. Light cannot be a wave. Uh. Science becoming a bit unsettled there.

        The science is never “settled”.

        1. One of the reasons I use the light example is that we did the experiments that unsettled the previously settled science back in Intermediate Lab and Advanced Lab in Physics. We worked our way through the history of repeatedly turning optics on its ear.

        2. I wonder what would be their answer to “How do you know when the ‘Science’ is settled? Is there some authoritative body which determines that, and if so how is it done? Is there a vote by all members or what? Do PhDs get counted as three votes, MSc as two and a BS as one or is it more along the lines of ten to four to one? Do degrees in the relevant field awarded more votes or the same as unrelated degrees, and how is the relevance determined? Do your ears hurt when you shove your head up your arse or do they fold back?”

          Anybody declaring science “settled” is exhibiting a serious ignorance of the history of the field. At one time the science was settled about body humours and that loon Pasteur was a charlatan exploiting the gullible.

      2. I suppose, arguably, the atom can still be considered as the smallest *elementary* particle, since the smallest bit a sample of an element can be reduced to is a single atom of it. Once you go sub-atomic, things can get muddier since an electron from a Hydrogen atom is, as far as I know, indistinguishable from one from an atom of, say, Thorium. Quarks ‘n such even more so.

        I once read a Science Fact article in Analog in which it was revealed that results from an experiment in a supercollider suggested component particles of quarks. I even composed a bit of doggerel on the subject and submitted it to same. They did not publish it, I prefer to believe because further investigation of the experimental results showed that they could be explained more conventionally.

      3. I remember a con with a panel on steampunk where a guy who taught steam engines observed that of course it wasn’t infinitely divisible, and I and another panelist pointed at that when they were working out steam engines, they didn’t know that. It was Einstein who proved there were atoms of finite size (and that was his work that was heavily emphasized in his Nobel prize, with photoelectric effect only brushed on, and relativity not even mentioned).

    6. Cyn, yep, me too. When they taught me chemistry in high school, I learned a proton was a subatomic particle with a positive charge and a (relative to the electron) large mass, an electron was a particle with a negative charge and relatively low mass, a neutron was a particle equivalent in size to a proton with no charge (probably because it had both a proton and an electron.) Then they told me about a neutrino, a something with no charge and no mass!
      “Oh it has no charge and no mass, but it has energy,” they sci-splained to me.
      “And how do you know it’s there?”
      “Because our best measures of Einstein’s equations don’t work unless we account for some energy produced without any mass.”
      “Allrighty then,” I replied reminding myself not to take “settled science” very seriously.

  5. I had one of those folk a couple of years back. I’d met her at the park and had some nice conversations with her, perfectly reasonable, and then one day she dropped that the drought was man-made—not because of the entirely reasonable “mismanagement of water over far too many people”, but because she was convinced that the government was controlling the weather so as to jack up water prices. (And storing huge amounts of water under Southern California—there are some water storage places down there, and absolutely fascinating when they’re emptied out for cleaning, but… VOLUME.)

    I was doing the California thing in my head of “Yeah NO.” Pity, because she was a really nice person, but that was some serious crazy.

    1. There is a folk belief that “the prettier the girl, the more willing guys are to agree with whatever ideas she spouts.”

      I believe this is correlated with the belief that men were endowed with two heads but only enough blood to run one at a time.

      I can imagine a story in which an attractive young lassie deliberately spouts crazy ideas just to test which suitors are willing to call her on it, which are willing to endorse the ideas no matter how ludicrous, and …

      … which are willing and able to call her on it by returning service with backspin on the idea.

      1. I actually know a woman like that. Fortunately for me I’m one of the latter…… 🙂

    2. H. L. Mencken once observed (I believe of a friend who professed Socialism) that many an otherwise pleasant and intelligent mind will have a hole in it.

  6. I’ve been called a granola conservative, among other things. This brought back to my memory listening to a archeologist in the ’70s talk about his pet idea that could never be discussed with his co workers. He studied some particular Dino and thought it had spaces in it’s skull that could hold liquids that could b expelled and chemically cause fire. He was relatively persuasive, but I was pretty young too.

    1. That would make for neat origin story for the idea of dragons… and there IS a bug that.. well.. it squirts rocket fuel or close enough. Hardly the same, but it’s biologically possible.

      1. Bombardier beetles.
        NOT the kind anything wants to eat, not even my insectivorous cat.
        (It’s actually my wife’s cat. But who feeds it, cleans out the litter box, gives it baths to remove fleas, brushes it, and has an allergy to cats? Yeah. The perversity of the universe IS infinite.)

        1. Among the cats and allergic-to-cats I’ve known, there’s been a strong attraction of the former to the latter.

        2. Mostly that’s just the perversity of cat-owners, though, not the universe in general. 😉

          1. My wife is allergic to cats, and when we lived in a city, the neighborhood felines would seek her out. When I had a couple of cats (long before I met my wife), the cats would make a beeline to my friend who was allergic to them. Go figure…

            1. FWIW, I’ve found plausible the idea that cats gravitate to cat-haters/cat-allergic because those people unconsciously narrow their eyes upon seeing a cat, and narrowed eyes is a friendly feline signal.*

              We had an extremely skittish rescue who we got at just over 14 months. It took me three months to convince him that we weren’t going to eat him or feed him to the Vacuum God, and all of three years to break myself of the habit of doing friendly-narrow-eyes every time he came in the room. 🙂

              *I have had extraordinarily good results in introducing myself to strange cats with a second of eye contact, a slow blink, and staring off over their shoulder. I was tickled to see a biologist describing a cat introducing himself to *her* that way.

    2. And the funny thing about stories like that is that it can be hard to tell when someone is serious, and when someone is pulling your leg.

      Which reminds me, almost tangentially, of a debate that started when a physicist presented an idea (potentially even a hoax) for a revision of basic theories, and claimed “I know this might seem to be too weird to work” and another physicist objected that it wasn’t weird enough, and the two got into an argument over whether or not it was weird enough…

  7. Thing is, we’ve seen the whole setup in real time. The Cargo Cult phenomenon is really quite interesting. And some genuinely nice, devout people who DON’T howl at the moon really do believe John Frum will increase their money if they wash it. Or whatever.

    I am also fascinated by how current tech works its way into the legends. Nobody reported flying saucers in the middle ages, because it wasn’t in their mental repertoire. Angels and comets, yes. And I recall reading that the aliens didn’t really come in to play until Sputnik (and lots of people started thinking about Stuff Up There). In “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind” there are tales of magicians who can conjure airplanes and who can be thwarted by papering the inside of your bedroom with the (mostly worthless, but pretty) Malawian currency. All the legends, just like the old ones, but we can see the joins and the “made in China” label…

      1. Yep, it’s a ritual. You take coins and supposedly if you do it right there are more coins when you end than when you started. That one I think may be older than the Cargo Cult, since the Yoruban religion has a variant (and I even took part in one for fun. No I did not get rich. Oshun probably could tell I was not convinced…)

        Not reliable, no, but seeing how legends get started from the seed is fascinating.

          1. My mom would routinely wash my jeans or my brother’s jeans with money in the pocket. We’d come home to bills pinned to the drying line. We called her Portugal’s most prolific money launderer.
            In my household, after laundering a few dollars, I made the rule “Money left in pockets is mine.” Weirdly, it never came through again.

            1. Once, my dad sold something or other for…gads, had to be like $300 bucks in twenties. Which, because it’s dad, and that was basically giving it away, he forgot.

              The house rule was “if you wash it, you lose it.”

              ….yeah, about the third twenty I went to mom, and because I’m that kind of idiot I got it amended, dad didn’t lose the money….

          2. For those thinking about real money laundering, AKA “Oh my goodness, how can this POSSIBLY stink this much,” use a lady’s unspeakable bag and the “gentle” cycle with no detergent, then iron while damp.

            No starch is OK.

            1. Laundering bills, especially if ironed, probably helps them be acceptable to vending machines, bill changers and automated cashiers.

        1. The raw material for new coins is probably the socks that go missing from American and European dryers.

          1. No, but there is a parallel earth where there is an urban legend about socks appearing in the dryer…

                1. “Oh, look at this cute little sock!”
                  “….my kids have never OWNED baby socks, I think they’re silly. WHERE DID THIS COME FROM?!?”

            1. Or perhaps (channeling Asimov, here) a universe where they derive energy by sucking our socks into their universe……

              (Yeah, The Gods Themselves made a big impression on me as a kid.)

          2. Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater used to have an “Ask Dr. Science” thing they did answering questions purportedly submitted by the public (“He’s smarter than you. He has a Master’s Degree. In SCIENCE.”).

            One question was why you never saw baby pigeons. The answer was that pigeons were transfigured full-grown from socks that went missing in the dryer. I don’t remember if there was an explanation of how that happened.

      2. I don’t mind somebody who washes his money. Somebody who IRONS it? Don’t want anything to do with him.

        (Actually saw that. Once. Fellow had a MOST unsavory rep.)

          1. My brother used to do that (He’snot a serial killer, I promise)

            He liked the bills crisp and flat in his wallet. Still does for all I know.

            And to be fair, a nice hot iron would take care of a lot of the germ-transmission factor.

        1. Some years ago, I looked into going to school to learn to become a butler. Not seriously, but there were a few things about it that were appealing.

          One thing I found out was that ironing the newspaper was actually a thing. Apparently, it “fixes” the ink so that it doesn’t come off onto your hands, thus eliminating the need for the master of the household to have to wash his hands after reading the paper.

    1. Apparently in between angels and flying saucers there was a big ‘blimp siting’ craze in late nineteenth century America.

      1. Nod, flying objects in the sky have been commonly reported in the past but their appearance depends on When they were seen.

      2. I once saw a dragon flying over SoCal. Well, the image of a dragon. As lights on the skin of a blimp. (Was too dark to see the company markings, or for that matter the blimp itself, but if it moves like a blimp, and is silent like a blimp…)

        And a bit later, the lights shifted, and then I saw a flying turtle. Whoever programmed that blimp had a sense of humor.

    2. Well, there were stories about people in the Middle Ages reporting seeing “Flying Ships” with small people as the crew. These “Flying Ships” looked like the sea-going ships that they would know about. 😉

      Of course, it was interesting to read about all the different types of “aliens” people reported seeing. The “Grey Aliens” were johnny-come-lately ones but thanks to the Media images had replaced all of the other types of “aliens”.

      1. I saw a poster quite a few years ago describing all the aliens witnessed by people from the 50’s on up. A pretty diverse collection actually. All shapes, sizes and coverings.

      2. “When this plague was passing from one land to another, many people saw shapes of bronze boats and (figures) sitting in them resembling people with their heads cut off. Holding staves, also of bronze, they moved along on the sea and could be seen going whithersoever they headed. These figures were seen everywhere in a frightening fashion, especially at night. Like flashing bronze and like fire did they appear, black people without heads sitting in a glistening boat and travelling swiftly on the sea, so that this sight almost caused the souls of the people who saw it to expire.”

        Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre, in Syriac, quoting John of Asia in Greek, about the Plague of Justinian (he was contemporary with it).

    3. But the thing is, that there generally has to be an observed phenomenon for the Cargo Cult thinking to draw from.

      Take dowsing, for instance.
      Discard all the cargo cult BS about underground rivers, mystic flows, and whatnot, and you’re left with a handy tool that can detect slight changes in slope.
      I’ve used the trick to find buried trenches and wellheads.
      Since I have a good grounding in how aquifers work (despite Geological Engineering 409 having been the bane of my personal existence) I could use the trick to find a spot to site a well rather reliably.
      But there’s no magic to it. Just a trick.

      1. I think I’ve mentioned before, the grandmother who was so rabidly anti-mystic that my dad didn’t get to read Superman as a kid.

        He got to see dowsing. He got to see dowsing WORKING. The WELL HE DRANK FROM AS A KID was drilled with it.

        F if he could figure out how it worked, but it worked.

        All the stuff to prove it didn’t work, that he ever heard, was rooted in theories of how it worked— as in, “I don’t know how this works. My theory, it works this way. It didn’t work. So it must not work at all.”

        Totally ignore that 90% of the functional wells that were drilled in that area from 1940-1970 were based on it, it doesn’t work. No, most of the attempted wells DID NO use the method, and it didn’t change by which company did it. (local drill companies required that folks choose the dang site themselves, because the valley bleeping sucked for wells)

        ….yeah, the humility to go “I have no blooping clue how this works” is very needed in science.

        1. I was on a job site one day, and we needed to know the location of a water line. Fellow bends two copper wires into “L” shapes, walks back and forth until they cross, and says “There.”

          I say “Bull.”

          He says “Dig.” So I did, and there was the water line.

          Tinkered with dowsing after that. When I had to help find a grounding grid beneath a substation and there was too much line interference for the metal detector to work, we went to dowsing. Walking in a substation with two “L” shaped copper wires isn’t recommended, BTW. We lay down the prettiest grid you’d ever seen.

          Problem was, when the crew dug there was nothing under them. Crew starts to laugh and the guy that was with me starts to get mad and he makes two “L” shaped wires, hands it to one, and says “You try it.” And they crossed over those spots we marked for them, too. Except there was no grounding grid beneath it.

          So much for dowsing. The last time I was tempted to try it, I was trying to eyeball where we had trenched in an underground cable, but there was so much traffic on the site it was hard to tell. So I took two pin flags, made “L” shapes, and had just started when I saw myself on the witness stand.

          “So you mean to tell the court, Mr. Cheek, that you thought two wires crossing would indicate the location of your underground line?”

          “I, well, er . . .”

          I tossed the pin flags back in the tool box and radioed in that a locator would have to come out and flag our line. The next time I rode by, I saw where he had marked – right where those wires crossed.


          1. Okay, do you have to have the L shapes held in your hand, or can they be mounted to freely turn in a holder? If we mount the holder on a piece of equipment that will hold it level while traveling over the ground, and run it back and forth, will it indicate where all the water, metal, or electrical lines are buried?

            1. I was told the preferred method was to set the handles in (glass) soft drink bottles to make them more frictionless. So yes, they could be mounted on a frame and dragged over ground, or a pipe filled with water rolled beneath it.

      2. Shorter:
        Yep, current science has gaps, anybody who recognizes science knows that.

        How far ahead would we be if folks would spend less time yelling “I don’t understand it, it can’t possibly work” and more time going “huh, what’s the results”?

        1. You can be sure it isn’t science when the response to such circumstances is not “The facts don’t fit the theory, change the theory” but instead insist, “The facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.”

          1. “…facts don’t fit the theory…” makes me think of the cosmologists “dark matter” and “dark energy” which can’t be observed but are needed respectively to keep the galaxies from flying apart and the universe expanding. I’ve thought for some time that they’re like the young student’s “fudge factor” – the factor that the student’s answer is multiplied by to make it match the answer in the back of the book.

            1. Modern equivalent of a placeholder. “Based on what we know there should be X. We can’t find X and it may not be there and the stuff X should do may belong to some other process that we don’t have a clue about. Until we have something better to go on we’ll stuff this in here and call it good enough so we can get on with the stuff we CAN currently test. Maybe we’ll find a clue.” (One of my co-workers actually used to work at Fermi labs in field physics IIRC. Not sure how it happened that he wound up leaving. The above is what his explanation boiled down to. Only with less math.)

              1. Could calling the kludge for what it was have been the HR equivalent of “Does not pay well with others” and offer explanation of his separation from that particular corporate teat?

            2. Also, sounds more impressive than ‘Stuff that should be there, but we can’t find it.’ Shorter and more likely to be taken seriously.

            3. Which, in turn, reminds me of a mathematician named Donald Saari, who decided to create a model of galaxies based on the idea that they are discrete stars pulling on each other, which implies that galaxies have structure, rather than “star soup” that the astrophysicists use to model galaxies. Based on his models, we still need dark matter to explain differences between observed galactic movement and measured movement…but we only need the universe to be 10% black matter, rather than the 90% the astrophysicists say we need the universe to be.

              Apparently, Saari’s model is very controversial: mathematicians and physicists look at it, nod their heads, and say, “yeah, that makes a lot of sense!” but astrophysicists say “NOOOOOOOO! It’s all wrong!!!!! You have no idea what you are doing!!!!!!!”

    4. Like Bigfoot, the whole UFO thing is more interesting for what it says about humans and human perception of the larger reality around them.

      I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find out that there is something behind both phenomenon. Not a bit–But, I’d never, ever want to try to definitively state what that “something” is.

      Hell, Bigfoot might just be residual “racial memory/guilt” of the Neanderthals, or some other species we wiped out or out-competed along the way. No way of telling, about that, at all. The human mind has a lot of residual “pattern recognition” features that don’t make much bloody sense until you go back along the line and examine where we think we evolved and what the conditions were.

      Likewise, with the UFO phenomenon–Ezekial describes something that made its way into the Bible, which when you look at it objectively, sounds a lot like a modern-day UFO encounter. So, either they had UFOs, or there’s a common perceptual malfunction that causes humans to glitch out in the same way. Which is more likely, given the history?

      Myself, I think a lot of this stuff may boil down to the entirely haphazard way we have bootstrapped our brains into sentience. There are so many organic phenomenon happening in our heads every second that it’s a wonder any of us manage to maintain even a fleeting grasp on reality–Look at how easily people can “lose themselves” after a stroke or other brain injury, for example. Friend of mine went through multiple IED strikes during several tours in Iraq; end of the whole thing, before he committed suicide? That wasn’t the same human being, at all–I can’t describe it, but if you’d known him before, and then met him after? The only thing that was the same was his physical body. He didn’t even carry himself the same way, or present his facial expressions in the same manner. Some essential component of “who” was gone, or warped out of recognition.

      What we are is fragile. Treasure it–The loss of yourself is only a hairsbreadth away.

      1. Well, fairly recently I read that passage of Ezekial and one thing jumps out to me.

        There is nothing that says in that passage that anybody else saw those objects.

        IE Only Ezekial saw them.

        Therefore, Ezekial had a vision of them. 😉

        1. Actually, I was just listening to the Ezekiel episodes of the “Naked Bible Podcast,” which is fairly scholarly but aimed at lay (evangelical) Christians. Very good explanations, and some nice PDFs with pictures to download.

          The sad truth is that Ezekiel’ s vision is not only consistent with other, earlier Bible imagery, but with previously existing Mideast architecture and furniture. The relevant episodes go into great detail about the nature of a “chariot throne” and ancient cherubim art, and how Temple decorative motifs show up in the vision, and what they mean.

          1. There’s also a lot of similarity with the Indian Ayurvedic stuff, with similar imagery being described.

            So, we have an interesting set of “coincidences” going on here–Which is the more likely explanation: A.) That there were aliens, and ancient astronauts, or that B.) The human mind tends to glitch out in a similar manner, down the centuries?

            Is it possible that the “inner voice”, the one you hear when the gods speak to you, is actually an artifact not of the supernatural, but of your brain and consciousness going “bonk” in the night?

            Everybody keeps looking for the ancient god-astronauts, but maybe the Occam’s Razor explanation is actually far simpler and more prosaic–These things, like all the strangely consistent Bigfoot sightings, are actually artifacts of commonly occurring glitches in our consciousness, ones that have similar features because our brain/consciousness structures are overall fairly similar.

            Of course, being a pragmatist, I’m not ruling anything out, until someone presents me with conclusive proof one way or another. Maybe the gods are real; maybe they aren’t. Either way, I’m not seeing a major downside to respecting them and the people who believe in them.

            1. I do concede your point about all humans having similar equipment, thus leading to similar results. However… India is practically right next door to Israel, on the Indo-European scale. The caste and pagan religious systems of India and Ireland were extremely similar, for example (which can lead to some funny visuals, which I only wish I could draw). There were a lot of trade links between India and the ancient Middle East, too, as well as a lot of people moving to India and staying there (like the Persian Parsi people). So that’s like asking, “Why does Bob American see similar things to Joe English and Angus Scottish?”

              The amusing stuff about Ayurveda is that a lot of it is heavily influenced by classical/Greco-Roman Greek medicine (and that’s not surprising, given the trade routes). Chinese medicine is a bit farther off, but there are similar links.

              The other hilarious thing is how many Indian doctors working the sucker market are making a big deal of their new Ayurvedic “discoveries” that are actually the Indian version of Grandma’s chicken soup. Turmeric milk is not new, but I saw an Indian doctor on TV pushing it as a totally new invention. Heck, it’s one of the standard malted milk flavors in India, which I know because I bought some at my local Indian grocery. I laughed myself sick over that one. Hope her grandma isn’t the kind to slap people for lying.

      2. > perceptual malfunction

        There’s a lot of intermediate processing that goes on in the brain stem. That’s how most optical illusions work. A lot of the processing is learned; children tend not to see vases/faces or spinning patterns, while adults have to work to ignore it.

        Then there’s “you tend to see what you’re looking for.” And it’s inverse, “you tend to ignore what you don’t expect.”

        For reasons I won’t go into now, I had a racing engine on a stand in the living room for a couple of years. Shiny blue and polished aluminum, the size of a compact washing machine. It was pretty hard to miss… except most of our friends suddenly noticed it after walking by it for several months, commenting in something close to shock. I had observed one of them leaning on it a few months before, but “it” apparently didn’t register…

    5. David Brin had a pretty cool story postulating that the Greys and Elves were the same being and fed on human emotional energy. They continually adjusted their appearance to take advantage of “what’s just beyond our knowledge?” curiosity.

  8. Agriculture could also be a limiting factor. Though wikipedia has some stuff which suggests that some evidence of grain cultivation has been found and dated back tens of thousands of years.

    My pet theory of cultural variation, if true, might explain such a bottleneck. From LeBlanc’s Constant Battles, I am inspired by the idea of a typical human society, which have wide variations and constant mutations, but are essentially similar compared to the atypical human societies. We’ve had more than one opportunity for the industrial revolution, but it only took place once. Suppose it takes certain rare qualities to make the transition to agriculture or industry plus size. You need change to reach those qualities, but if your rate of change is too high, you lose the ones you have while waiting to get the ones you don’t have. If atypical status quo is hard to maintain, and the step up difficult, then we might see the distribution we see. Where some of the less atypical societal forms are independently developed, and the more just once.

    Re: Telepathy. Zener cards are one obvious example. Not enough symbols to minimize false positives statistically. The default test procedure makes assumptions about how telepathy would work that we don’t actually have conclusive evidence are true. If the assumptions are wrong but telepathy still exists, evidence will not be captured.

    1. On telepathy and other “psychic” powers, I like Larry Niven’s take on them.

      Since modern humans have existed for a very long time, if these powers were real & useful, they’d be common knowledge.

      So either they aren’t real or they are associated with “bad things”.

      (IIRC Niven talked about the powers linked to forms of insanity.)

      Thus the “bad things” would mean that people with the powers would be less likely to have children than people without the powers. 😉

        1. Nod.

          There are “things out there” that if you can sense them, they can sense you and kill you. 😉

          1. I know this is going to ring some crazy bells, but I have been that close a couple of times. Yes, if you look at the void, the void looks back.

            1. I’m not going to discount the idea that you (and others) sensed something real and dangerous.

              1. One of the issues with science is that it assumes that there’s not an intelligent opposing force going on– it can be easily confounded by something as basic as another human group editing data.

                Or anything else that can make choices.

              2. Huh. When I was in college, there was a spot on campus that creeped me the hell out. I only went there after dark once, but during the daylight I would sit in it and study “loudly” at it with this weird subconscious well-screw-you feeling. I don’t ignore hunches, but I would really have loved for this one to have some reasonable backup…

              1. I have no proof of precognition – or that I have it. But… Several times when I did not pull out of a stoplight, and the poor person who was in the next lane over got T-boned. Or when I held up the wife on taking a walk – and when we did, realized that we would have been walking right in the middle of a shootout between the cops and a drugged out nutcase that had already shot her boyfriend – and I could not have heard or seen anything subconsciously, it was at the end of a chase that started several miles away. (I’ve been grateful for that – this was an essentially brand new wife, as we had just returned from the honeymoon…)

                  1. IIRC, I started thinking about things like marriage when I was about 12 or 13. So it took me around 15 years to find the particular model I wanted.

                    And the deposit was five years before I convinced her. Kind of hard to get that back…

                1. I had a lucid dream several weeks before getting promoted that “seem” to have been identical to the events that actually happened. Thing is, I was familiar with the people, the location, and had plenty of desire that it actually happen; so who knows? Precognition, or just a brain putting the pieces together for a happy dream?

                  1. I’ve had a couple of cases of dreaming places that I’ve seen later (and could not have seen before.) It’s extremely weird.

                    I also occasionally know when I’m going to win something random. (As opposed to accurately predicting you’re going to win something based on skill; that’s more of an assessment skill.) Two years in a row I was the first person drawn from our apartment raffle at a little celebration they had for tenants—I still have the beach towel I won from the first one. (The second was a GC to a local restaurant, hence used.) And I completely weirded out a friend by telling her that now was the time to play bingo, and then winning the blackout game. 🙂

                    It’s a dangerous skill, because it’s all too easy to think, Oh, I must be lucky now. Too easy to want it rather than feel it. It does make it interesting when I buy lottery tickets, because I know I haven’t won even before the draw. 😉

                  2. And always the possibility that the dream modified your attitude at work just enough to tip the decision to promote you. “Wishing hard enough” has been shown to work. Sometimes. Because it changes the psychology of the wisher. Sometimes.

                    A sociology professor told me many years ago how to spot the honest researchers in the field – they had no hair. Now, the truth of that, I don’t know; it could have been compensating belief for his billiard ball…

                2. Some years ago, heading to a brother-in-law’s wedding, my wife and I got into a severe thunderstorm. I pulled over to wait it out when I had a strong urge to leave now. The ditches were full of water and we had no place to take cover. I told my wife we might have a better chance on the road, and pulled behind a car and followed the tail lights. At a curve on a light hill, we got into rain so heavy I couldn’t see past the windshield and the car rocked and I thought that was going to be it. Somehow kept it on the highway, where the road dipped and there were enough trees to shield us from the wind. That night at the hotel we heard there was a tornado in the area we drove through.

                  Going home the next day, we drove past the spot we we’d pulled over. There, right where we had parked, lay a huge pine.

          2. And, then there’s the question of whether or not we ourselves might not be inimical to “them”, along with that.

            Imagine a thought-creature that relies on the subject of its intent “believing” in it, at some quantum level. What happens to that creature when it encounters someone who emphatically does not believe in it?

            I wonder if anyone has ever considered that the rituals behind exorcism might not just be weaponized disbelief and denial? Likewise, demon-worship and witchcraft may well be weaponized belief…

            Posit a consensual reality, shaped and formed by what we “believe”, and then think about the effect that would have on the gods and metaphysical things our beliefs have called into existence. How’d you like to be a god that lost its faithful believers, especially if you were to discover that you were only in existence because they believed in you after making you up…

            Makes you wonder. Maybe the world really was flat, until enough people got convinced that the idea was ridiculous on the face of things. Maybe if we believe hard enough, socialism could work…

            No, wait a minute… That’s too ridiculous for even the Marxists to swallow.

            1. IIRC, Jack Chalker sorta kinda danced around the edges of that in his “Flux & Anchor” series. people who wandered in the Flux parts of reality were prone to have stray thoughts return to haunt them.

              1. Chalker was an interesting writer, and I’ve read most of his stuff… but it went into the trade pile. He was grimdark before grimdark was cool… and I can only take so much of that.

                1. He did have interesting ideas, once you could get past the piles and piles of Author Appeal. I always liked Mike Resnick’s comment on the book that he, Chalker, and David Gerrold wrote: “I did the hard parts – you know, all the nouns and verbs. David did the easy stuff like the adjectives and adverbs. We let Jack do the pronouns because he kept changing them anyway.”

            2. Basis of the urban fantasy I’m working on:
              Magic totally works.

              So does Christian blessing.

              So, you have a society where freaking EVERYONE gets baptized at basically birth, even non-christians because gosh who usually becomes a nurse?

              You have a society that blows cursing/magic/etc out of the water.

              The issue I’m running into now is how to model “baptism works” without shoving it down throughts that God ain’t dead he’s surely alive….

              1. Have you read Turtledove’s “The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump”?

                It’s a fairly ordinary mystery, in an alternate universe where God and the Aversary manifested some time before the Christian era. For purposes of the story, the world looks much like ours, except most of what we take as faith is science and engineering there.

                The backstory gets more complex when a startup company develops techniques to clip pieces off human souls and assemble them into patchworks that can be inserted into children who are born without souls. It wasn’t part of the main plot and Turtledove (rightly, as a storyteller) just bumped across some highlights and skipped on, but as it was presented in the book, it was an interesting moral and ethical problem.

                1. I remember reading that, for hour upon dreary hour. First Turtledove novel that I regretted having started and was constantly on watch for reasons to stop and put it down. I’ve no idea why it affected me like that but it moved him from my “must read” to my “sample before buying” pile.

            3. The “dependent on belief” bit is the premise for Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods.

              1. To this I say: The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist. (No clue who said it originally, but it applies.)

                1. Found the following.

                  He complained in no way of the evil reputation under which he lived, indeed, all over the world, and he assured me that he himself was of all living beings the most interested in the destruction of Superstition, and he avowed to me that he had been afraid, relatively as to his proper power, once only, and that was on the day when he had heard a preacher, more subtle than the rest of the human herd, cry in his pulpit: “My dear brethren, do not ever forget, when you hear the progress of lights praised, that the loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that he does not exist!”
                  Charles Baudelaire, “The Generous Gambler” (Feb. 1864).

              2. The worldbuilding for an urban fantasy, well, not really a WIP as yet, more of a concept that I have is that gods of various stripes are real. Their actual power is what it is. What varies according to belief, and particularly in “faith” (belief engendered because the god in question did something obvious “because you have seen, you have believed” is weaker than that without such evidence “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”), is the access they have to our world.

            4. I swear I’ve read that as a short story. Forget who wrote it. Big horrible monsters that no longer preyed on people. Except one which didn’t know why the others wouldn’t go after humans. As long as you never saw it, it could get you. Then it pursues a little girl, who turns and sees it just as it tries to get her. She cracks up in disbelief because nothing could look so ridiculous, and the monster promptly becomes non-existent. Girl wanders off. Monster reappears whimpering at what happened to it. Slinks off never to attack another human.

              1. Larry Niven “The Nonesuch”. Although, he stated that he “stole” the idea from another story.

              2. That is the short story “The Nonesuch” by Larry Niven. It appears in “Convergent Series”, a collection of his short stories.

      1. The ability to summon demons and spirits would eventually be lost if said demons and spirits usually ate their summoners. Hmmm. I suppose gender dysphoria / transexuality could be considered a form of spiritual possession. They usually fail to reproduce too.

      2. Some people do have powers.

        Aspergers syndrome is a mental POWER, it means the person who has it can do things that others can’t. Like think up the theory of Relativity, or produce the Babbage Difference Engine. Or Tesla coils, the light bulb, insulin, the steam engine, etc.

        Problem is, we’re also annoying as hell to be around. No muffler, too much horsepower. Like the supercharged purple Barracuda in the church parking lot.

        So of course, to the medical profession and society at large, we are collectively Aspergers -sufferers-. We are -victims- of this dread autism plague. Meanwhile, computer companies the world over are quietly hoovering us up as fast as they can, and making architectural changes in buildings and business practices to accommodate our weird annoyingness.

        1. It’s a trade-off. Teamwork is very useful for certain valuable tasks, perhaps enough so to justify classifying higher functioning autistic as ill.

          1. Triggered! I’m so triggered by that remark!!!

            Aspies work in teams all the time. Its just that a team of weirdos is even more disquieting than one weirdo, because they do things like develop the fastest aircraft in the world, and then build it in no time at all. 20 months for the Blackbird.

            Modern society HATES stuff like that. It makes everybody look bad when some bunch of egghead/weirdo/longhairs pulls off a stunt like that. The only time they’ll allow it is during a war, when it is a case of innovate or die.

            That’s why autism-spectrum is treated as a disease. We are the super-powered mutants you’ve all been warned about. ~:D God help the Normals if we get our teeth into something.

            1. My great-uncle was part of that team. I wish he had been able to share more of the stories.

            2. Issue being, they also need keepers– who can take care of THEM, not “#InsertASpergersFolksHere.” They need… gads, someone who can balance them, in modern English.

              The brilliance has gaps, and it depends on each person. And they can blow off in radically strange areas.

              1. I’ve noted a trend in tech companies. Used to be everything was cubicles. Wall everyone off, they produce better. Or they go bonkers and quit, throwing your production schedule out the window.

                These days, no more cubicles. Now everything is wide open, big wide tables to work at, lots of meetings, very little hierarchy in the architectural space. Because so many of the programmers and designers are on the autism spectrum, they had to change how everything is done.

                To the point where a lot of these offices have a special quiet dark room where people can go and chill out when it all gets to be too much. Play the guitar for ten minutes, get your mojo back and then go hit the problem again.

                Companies did not -want- to do that, and I’m quite sure they’d rather not have to deal with the annoying weirdo nerds. But they have to, because one weirdo with strange habits and no social graces can code ten normal dudes under the table. If they want the work done, they have to accommodate the people doing it.

                1. Wait, what?

                  I had attributed the open office plan to excessive extroverts who didn’t understand the concepts of individual space or distraction.

                  1. Yeah, it’s not done for the benefit of autistic people. It may work to their benefit… if they are very social autistic people… but it’s basically the “cattle pens are cheaper than stalls in a barn” model.

                    Lots of creative people would pay to avoid all meetings. I know some people who basically move into stairwells or bathrooms, if their building is open plan.

                    Open plan causes a lot of agoraphobia. Acrophobia, too, if the staircases are open plan. (Yeah, modern architects build some terrifying staircases.)

                  2. Apparently us nerds like it. It breaks down hierarchy (that’s destructive in a nerd creative environment, they tell me) and it lets the coders poke the person next to them and ask a question. Sometimes the guy next to you is the CEO of the company, you can ask him questions too.

                    Five guys at a table thrashing a code problem is faster than five guys in separate cubicles pecking away and sending each other email. Its part of the “agile software development” model. It works extremely well, or so they say. Everybody looks happy, when I visit.

                    The chill room is for when your PTSD kicks in and you can’t stand the togetherness anymore. You go and hide for a while, until the hair on the back of your neck goes down again, and then come out. Nobody cares, if you are getting your part done on-time and correct. If you code while lying down in the dark listening to Brahms because your nerves are fried, you’re still coding.

                    1. My husband (not listed as on the spectrum, but probably there given that his psych profile is very close to that of our son’s, who IS) hates his work environment. Too bright and too loud; he likes the people just fine, but there was a period when one of the managerial offices was vacant, and he used the space with the lights dimmed for a couple of months. He had so much more energy when he came home those days.

                      He’s limited by various health issues; I’ve often wondered what kind of extra energy he would be able to apply if he didn’t have them. (Enough oxygen, for one.)

                    2. I was let go from a company that decided to go all-agile, all-pair-programming, all the time, because I was too introverted. At the time, and to this day, I have mixed feelings about pair programming: I can see value there, but I can see value in attracting people who need some time alone to work on things too. I’m still on the fence as to whether I work better alone or paired up with someone…but I’m leaning towards liking being alone.

                      I don’t necessarily think it was bad for me to be fired (I *still* haven’t figured out how I can get into something I want to do — it will involve lots of math, though — so for now, I’m pretending to be a software developer) but I can’t help but wonder why you would want to actively exclude introverts from software development, of all disciplines…

                2. Part of my problem solving process when dealing with complex network problems was a smoke break. Then I quit smoking. I spent about a week spinning my wheels, then started taking smoke breaks again. I just didn’t smoke. Turned out the important part of the process was going outside and talking to people in the smoking area bout ANYTHING other than the problem.

                  1. I find that going and washing my hands can do that for me.

                    Stuck on a problem? Go wash you hands. Suddenly things work better.

                    1. I can’t remember the last time I worked at a company that didn’t have showers onsite. Of course, I’ve been in Silicon Valley for ~20 years, and between the people who live in their offices (or a camper in the parking lot), the people who bike to work, and the places with onsite gyms, there’s a real need for office showers.


          2. Teamwork is very useful for certain valuable tasks

            And other things are useful for other tasks.

            Consider color vision. Very useful for a hunter-gatherer society when the blue flowers are good to eat but the purple ones will kill you.

            However, I am told that color blindness comes with a better ability to spot either shapes or movements such that a color blind person can better spot something camouflaged in the brush. So having a few color blind folk around is useful for the hunters to find hidden prey or folk out gathering to spot predators in ambush.

            I suspect a number of alternate mindsets including AS work the same way–having a few around is a good thing for us as a species.

            1. Oh yes.

              Amazing how many camouflage patterns stand out like a roach on a countertop…

              Color-people seem to rely primarily on color, sometimes exclusively, and only use shapes when color doesn’t show something meaningful.

              I once watched an electrician bolt a cable marked with a “+” to a post marked with a “-“. Because the sheath was black, so obviously it was the ground, no matter what tag was on it.

              No, the results were not happy…

              1. I never quite understood why AC hot lines are red and black, while DC is red (and black is 0-ish Volts). Have to grab my old 1993 NEC Handbook, which tries to explain some of the quirks of the Code, and the thinking behind it. IIRC, some -15V lines (analog ICs used that a lot in the neolithic era of semiconductors) were marked with blue insulation, but I don’t know if that was Code or convention.

                The mix of colors can be great fun when wiring an inverter circuit… OTOH, when the red and black wires rival garden hoses, it’s pretty clear.

                I’m installing a new motor in the lathe, and the previous owner ran out of colors, so he used green(!) as one of the switched hot lines.

                1. When I started, there were no consistent colors used in our wiring. What color went where depended on who was wiring up the CT meter and what wire he had on his truck. We didn’t have a set color scheme until our engineer came up with one, and I drew up the schematics. Troubleshooting CT meter hook-ups from before that point can be “fun.”

                  1. This is what annoys me about the bomb diffusing where one has to cut the red wire — cutting the yellow one will cause it to go boom!

                    Why in the world would a bomb maker necessarily design a bomb with a consistent color scheme? And why don’t you just figure out where the battery is, and cut the wire coming out of that?

                    1. And why don’t you just figure out where the battery is, and cut the wire coming out of that?

                      Now, you see, if I were designing it, there’s be five batteries. Four of them would be energizing “dead man” switches where cutting the power from that battery would trigger the detonator (powered by that fifth battery), like a “normally closed” alarm circuit where opening the circuit triggers the alarm.

                    2. All the bomb makers use the same kits (Bombs-R-Us, try the model #4791 — it’s a blast!) for their devices?

                    3. “Now, you see, if I were designing it, there’s be five batteries….”

                      And the movie directors, comic book writers, OSHA, the Electrician’s Union and the International Guild of Villans will be sure to remind you that industry standard and government regulations will insist “red” wires go to the main power supply, while the “green”, “yellow”, “blue with yellow stripe”, and “orange” wires go to the dead man switches, I guess…

                    4. And then there’s the requirement for an LED timer bomb readout. I think that came from the VTSU (aka Villains, Thieves and Scoundrels Union), though Boris Badenov preferred flammable fuses and gunpowder bombs…

                    5. As if you could trust a bomber to provide accurate information. Better psychological effect can be achieved by either having the bomb go off at 1:30 remaining or by reaching 0:00 and going silent for thirty seconds before exploding.

                    6. There’s an item in the Evil Overlord List about avoiding digital countdown readouts lest they induce temporal anomalies .

                    7. IIRC there was an entry there that suggests that the “count-down” number be false.

                      IE When it says 10 minutes to go, the actual number is much less. 👿

                    8. This is what annoys me about the bomb diffusing where one has to cut the red wire — cutting the yellow one will cause it to go boom!

                      I’ve seen, “They’re ALL Red!!” in some stories, just because of things like that.

                    9. The Abyss. It wasn’t a red vs a green (or whatever) wire. It was some color with a different colored stripe vs some other color/stripe combination. Only the hero had it illuminated via chem light so they both looked the same.

                    10. “This is what annoys me about the bomb diffusing where one has to cut the red wire — cutting the yellow one will cause it to go boom!”

                      Errrr… If the bomb is diffuse, doesn’t that kinda-sorta imply that any attempt at disabling the explosive train is a bit… Pointless?

                      I mean, diffuse is what a bomb is, after it has detonated. By that stage of the game, the EOD tech involved can generally pretty much be assumed to be diffuse, as well–With all that implies.

                      Now, if you’re going to defuse a bomb or other explosive device, many guys will flatly tell you that the way to proceed is not to attack the fusing, but to go after the explosives train and disrupt that, first. Pull the detonator, disrupt the charge, something. The fusing is often where you’re going to really run into major difficulties–Better to go after things like the boosters and other such components.

                2. It gets even more “fun” internationally. USA AC wiring is black-hot, white-neutral, green/bare-ground. European (at least back when I had to deal with such…) was close with light blue for neutral. But Australian? WHITE-hot, BLACK-neutral. Argh.

                3. I once completely rewired a motorcycle. Everything worked correctly, but when the guy I sold it to noticed all the wires were white he got a bit testy…

                  The easiest electrical work I ever did was my old VW. All the wires were white, with black numbers stamped every inch or so. DIN standard numbers, being German… it didn’t matter how old, faded, stained, or burnt a wire was, a 57 was always a 57, not “chartreuse” or “taupe.” (experience from trying to have my wife tag wires on an EFI harness…)

                  1. Reminds me of a programmer I knew. One of his instructors insisted that variable names were not important; comments were the Be All and End All. Said programmer developed the program, then renamed the variables: One group got variations of “O” and “0” (like 00OOOO0O), while others got “I” and “1” (11II111-that one is almost readable in this font, YMMV). Somehow, he got a decent grade for the exercise, but the instructor relented a bit…

                    Yes, he was a world-class smartass. Why do you ask? [grin]

                    1. The Unix “shroud” utilitity turns C variables into things like “I11I1I” or “O00O0O.” It was used back in the day when some software was distributed as source code.

            2. This is the reason I don’t like the idea of genetically modifying our children. Diversity really is a strength, but overall genetic code not just silly surface features.

                1. LOVE them. Sad to hear it’s coming to an end, but better that than going flat.

                  My work in – glacially slow – progress has a mistake in gene-altering for red-headed kids give them telepathy, which doesn’t show up until puberty so lots of it has been done before anyone figures out what’s going on.

                  I chose red hair for the historical fun of it and because it is – by far – the most popular dye color.

                  1. there are 31 in the main series and 5 in the Directorate series. Xen Wolfson is my favorite character.

              1. > diversity really is a strength

                You can have my share of crippling allergies, arthritis, and myopia.

                I’m still not persuaded this “color vision” stuff is all people make it out to be, but fixing that little problem would makeintersections less of an adventure, particularly in places where the *$^@^! traffic people mount the lights sideways…

                1. Have you seen the glasses that allow color vision for color-blindness? They apparently work by filtering the colors in such a way that the “similar” ones are differentiated enough that the brain suddenly knows how to indicate that. Probably cost quite a bit now, but I’d wager they go down in price as the knock-offs start appearing.

                  1. Something like this, for at least one form, is if not ages old, at least a few decades now. I recall reading of using one rose/pinkish lens to alter things enough to make colorblindness be ameliorated to some degree. I later saw a recreation of a wonderful demonstration where a couple photos were taken on black & white film, one shot straight, one shot with pink filter and both made in B&W slides. When the pink filter was added to the projection of the photo taken with the pink filter, the two images superimposed… *WOW* full color appeared. Or appeared to appear.

              2. I would have loved to be able to genetically modify my children. Maybe I’ll try that next time I get married and have kids.

            3. I got two things rubbing me the wrong way as far as the flavor, not substance goes.

              One is the weaponization of ‘different ways of being’ for political ends. I’ve spoken before of ‘neurodiverse’, a word whose roots are specific to autism, being used to conflate all brain abnormalities together, and to implicitly claim common political interests and treatments. Horrific medicine, effective politics. It is used to justify ‘theory’ whose origins are a very ill person in a state of mental impairment.

              Second is the case of an autistic, in theory highly functioning, in practice having isolated themselves so thoroughly that they spent years unable to find work, work that they were qualified to do. If there was a medical cause for that extended unemployment, and the autism part of it, that might be sound reason to consider it a disability, at least in some cases.

              There’s also the famous ‘blind with other senses acute’.

              1. Speaking now as a diagnosed high function Aspy, in my considered, educated and experienced opinion, the term “neurodiverse” deserves all the attention and respect we should pay to “cultural appropriation”.

                As to the disability aspect, that’s really got nothing to do with the Aspergers. The disability is PTSD from a lifetime of assholes trying to hammer the square peg in the round hole. After you reach 50 and there’s no end to the bullshit, you tend to get surly around people trying to fit you in the round hole.

                1. The disability is PTSD from a lifetime of assholes trying to hammer the square peg in the round hole.

                  It changed my whole perspective on the Daughtorial Unit’s ADHD when I stumbled across the book A Hunter In A Farmers’ Wold which started from the thesis that the problem was the schools, not the kids. Demanding kids sit still for being bored to death is the problem, not kids resisting dreariness.

                  1. > sit still

                    And for punishment… more sitting still!

                    I’m pretty sure the schools have no idea what they’re really teaching.

                  2. There is real ADHD. Have you ever seen a kid hyperactive after taking expectorant? That’s what a kid with ADHD is like. It’s not pent-up energy, it’s literally “Ooh, shiny!” and off on another track. I knew of one who begged to be assigned in-school detention every day because there were no distractions and he could get his work done.

                    1. The Daughtorial Unit has ADHD and I suspect it would explain considerable amounts of my childhood (mis)behaviour. That isn’t the question, though. The question is whether we address this issue by forcing compliant behaviour from a child or recognize this is a difference, not a disability, and develop programs designed to work with this trait rather than suppressing it.

                      Good lord, the idiots who prattle learnedly about “Cultural Differences” deny fundamental biochemical differences all day long.

                  3. I have a daughter that I have always suspected of being diagnosably ADHD. My wife finally found a website that went into specific symptoms for girls, and yes, she’s *very* diagnosible.

                    On the one hand, we’ll need to keep an eye out for things like depression, which apparently ADHD children are more susceptible too…

                    On the other hand, I doubt we’ll be seeking medical help for her condition. We home school our kids, so we don’t have to worry about teachers and administrators pushing us to do that. I strongly suspect that figuring out the strengths of an ADHD child, and playing to them, is going to work out better than drugging the child, both in terms of dealing with the issue and in preventing the other mental problems ADHD children are typically susceptible to…

            4. I know multiple award winning photographers who are colorblind.

              One relative is TOTALLY colorblind.

              Different focus changes stuff.

          3. I’m not aspie… and I hate teamwork… especially when it is run by academics. It means I get all to do all the work and the slackards get all the credit.

            1. I think that’s more tied to a history of having been the guy who gets stuck with doing all the work, to the specs of the do-nothings, sours one on “team work.”

        2. Have you seen the speculation that the Polynesian navigators were aspie/autistic – that the same inability to filter the environment means they could sense the minute variations in angle of wave refraction, size of waves, salinity of water, etc. to know where they are?

          Whether or not it’s a 1:1 correlation, it is a handy reminder that aspies have been part of humanity for a long time, and cultures tend to find ways to put every oddball to best use.

        3. You know putting magic positive words on something, doesn’t change the fundamental reality anymore than dread bad think magic words do.

          Autism sucks. How much it sucks depends on how badly your brain is mis-wired.

          That people can take a high level degree of severe personal challenges and harness them do wonderful things instead of muttering about millennium hand-and-shrimp is a tribute to the triumph of the human spirit and God is grace.

      3. I went with the theory that telepathy etc. is very energy-intensive, so psychics need a lot more calories to function, putting them at a survival disadvantage in most societies throughout history. It’s only when you get the sort of industrial food production and distribution system that leads to poor people being fat that you start seeing functional telepaths — and even then, there are Issues with trying to ramp up the power, whether by selective breeding or grafting cat DNA.

        1. Family story:
          My grandma use to do “tea leaf reading” when she was young, because it was fun and a creative game.

          She gave it up when her “oh gosh I’ll look for some vague thing to go off of” tea reading thing was too accurate. Like, folks dying, stuff that gets you looked at suspiciously when it’s true type accurate. Her surviving sister was very polite, so I didn’t get a lot of details, but….

          This is the grandmother that I look at and go “oh. K, yeah, borderline Autism is like totally in my family.”

          She was very much FEARED, and respected, but not much liked, in the valley. (God help the poor idiot that went “oh, little old lady, I’ll just go on in and get her to give me all things of value in the house.” Although we’re still dealing with that blow-back, since that predator had the right family….k, rambling.)

      4. Problem: minor forms of telepathy are common knowledge– almost everyone knows of someone who reacted to stuff before it happened, or “just had a feeling” that turned out true.

        To the point that a serious issue in modern times is that people will go “Hey, I have a hunch that (thing) is bad, but I can’t justify it, so I’ll go go do it anyways—”

        Yeah, at least SOME of it can be explained by recessed pattern recognition, etc, but me going “Oh, my brother who is habitually late is 30 seconds late coming out from the school- PANIC KNOW”? That doesn’t work. Ditto “I had a nightmare about (remote cousin,) and then they were dead”. Close relatives, I call and ask all the time if they’re OK*– the two times I called about distant relatives I hadn’t heard of? It was “Gosh, I’m sorry…they’re dead.”

        * In my family, that means just “not dead.”

        1. Pattern recognition sometimes takes a smack upside the head, too. I was in a hit-and-run that involved someone blowing through a stop sign, and less than a month later, I waited at a light for several seconds after it turned green, only to see a van blow through their red at FULL speed (and boy, didn’t their passenger look freaked out.) I wasn’t the only person who waited at that green light, either. I mean, I know why I paused, but I don’t know why two other lanes did as well. We couldn’t have seen much, since it was coming out from under an elevated freeway, so our vision was blocked…

          1. Sometimes it’s sound– the ones that freak me out are when I get distracted in a turn lane and the light goes green.

            I almost never do this– and it almost always is followed by a large vehicle going past the front of my vehicle….

            1. Back in the days of pagers, if you wanted to see how high one of us could jump in the field, all you had to do was to page us while we were working on electrical equipment. We usually kept them on vibrate, and the vibration felt a lot like a 60 Hz buzz.

        2. The thing is that our memory works better with things that are in conjunction that ones alone. So we don’t remember when we had a feeling that turned out to be false, or had something happen without having a feeling about it.

          1. That’s the theory.

            Issue: it doesn’t hold up to checking.

            Yes, some things are, when you counter-check them with the theory in mind, are a matter of “you just noticed it more.”

            Some things– sometimes quite a lot of things– it doesn’t hold up.

            It becomes a matter of faith.

              1. The theory is that you can invalidate “but it doesn’t work that way” by saying “but that’s just because you don’t realize it’s because you’re just noticing it.”

                That theory runs into issues when people actually check to see if they are just noticing it more.

                Figured this out when someone claimed there weren’t actually a whole lot of red mininvans, I was just noticing them more.

                After roughly nine months of actually counting every van and/or minivan I came near, no, red is waaaaay more common.

                  1. You do recognize that red minivans exist.

                    That makes them a better choice for testing the theory of “there isn’t really a higher rate of the two of them together, you just notice it more” for disqualifying observations.

                    It does not hold up as a rule, which means that it can’t be used to automatically dismiss the observed pattern.

                    1. Sure it holds up as a rule, because the rule is not that it can’t be accurate, but that it can’t be TRUSTED to be accurate.

                    2. But it doesn’t show that.

                      It shows that if a thing isn’t tested, it can be inaccurate.

                      Which is a giant “duh” statement.

  9. “””The cause du jour that confirms the “researchers” biases. You got it. That’s exactly what the ancients went through horrible time and effort to tell us. Because it’s all about us. We know we’re the most important people in history, so why wouldn’t they?”””

    Oh, holy cow! The picture this paints in my head!


    1. Dear Posterity,

      I bet you are feeling pretty good about yourself, having the wealth and records to find and understand this. More dangers await.

      There are some sites on this planet you should absolutely avoid. North America is pretty safe, so long water covers [place just south of Baton Rouge]. If that place is not covered by seawater, do not go south of that point.

      Communism is a trial upon civilizations upon every planet. It comes after the industrial revolution, and you must defeat it before you will be capable of advancing to the stars.

      Whatever you do…

      PS: SPILL LIFEBLOOD OF TEN THOUSAND ENVIRONMENTALIST UPON [stele #14, a later addition to the site that does not match] AND BE REWARDED

    2. I’m sure Orvan TAUrus is ecstatic to know that half his surname is the true circle constant. Or would that only be for a semi-circle?

        1. I have to admit, you have a gloriously wonderful screen name to play with.

          /hat’s-off to you.

  10. “the science is settled”

    I just realized… I’ve met people born before it was realized/accepted the sun’s energy was from fusion. Yeah, that was “settled” (sort of.. I’m sure Sabrina Chase can point out all sorts of details we still don’t know for sure) less than a lifetime ago. Before that? It was mostly: “How does the sun work?” “Uhh… it just does.”

      1. The science is always settled. At least once they close their minds, circle the wagons, and start shouting “na-na-na!”

        I shouldn’t be surprised at how many so-called “scientists” apparently missed the classes on the scientific method and stepwise approximation…

    1. It really cramps the experimental lifestyle to not have a little laboratory sun we can tinker with 😀 Yeah, solar physics is so hugely messy, complicated, and cattywompus most scientists who know even a little start to flail their arms and gibber. THE SUN CHEATS! IT DOES! (And what it does to electrons cannot be spoken of in polite society)

      1. Part of that might be a problem with the model. I remember trying to learn about “schemes” and “sheaves” and varieties for algebraic geometry. At one point, my professor pointed out that before they had all these weird and hard-to-understand things, algebraic geometry was *really* hard. He knew someone who tried to learn algebraic geometry before these things were available, and after a little while, the poor guy was wondering the halls, muttering to himself.

        So, yeah, the sun cheats! But we’re supposed to believe that the sun also has no effect on the climate. Among other things….

      2. Now I am curious. I can see a guest post (or several?) on this. “Laboratory astrophysics’ (fusion research) is still so… so… well, it ain’t at Model T stage. It’s not even at Model N stage. Perhaps more like just before the Hero’s engine stage. If we had more clue, we might.. have something more useful.

    2. Anyone who claims, “the science is settled,” only demonstrates his lack of understanding what “science” is.

      1. Exactly!
        I also have trouble with the phrase “Science proves…”.
        Science gives us a theoretical framework from which work. It doesn’t ‘prove’ anything.

      2. “Anyone who claims, “the science is settled,” only demonstrates his lack of understanding what “science” is.”

        I once made the mistake of saying exactly that same thing in the wrong company. Namely, someone who truly believed that their only religion was SCIENCE! (you guessed it, Global Warmening Fanatics)

        The answer I got was “LOL!! Gravity?”

        Then they acted as if that @#$% won then the argument.

        1. Just had the same ‘discussion’ a couple of days ago. Same answer – gravity. I asked him to explain the mechanism by which gravity worked. The response was that it wasn’t his field so he didn’t care.

          If you can’t explain and demonstrate how it works, then how is it a law?

          Also, I’d like someone to explain to me how lifters work.

          1. I wonder what would be their responses to a series of questions … “If we drilled a hole through the center of the Earth to the point opposite on the surface (use force fields to maintain tunnel integrity) — at what point would gravitational acceleration equal zero? What would be the acceleration at the mid-point (center) of the Earth? What would happen to a capsule exiting at the other end?”

            “Please show your math.”

            “Further, is gravity a cause or a consequence of warping of space? How do you know?”

            “If you do not know whether there are answers to these questions, then you do not know whether the science is settled.”

          2. Actually, the Law of Gravity doesn’t try to explain anything. Newton had more sense than that.

            It just says “objects act as if the following things were true. Pretend these things, work through the math, and you can predict what the objects will do in these circumstances.”

            1. Gravity is a function of mass … an object accelerating “gains” mass at it approaches the speed of light. Where does that extra mass come from and what would be the effect of ts gravitational pull?

              If you cannot explain that then you haven’t settled the “science” of gravity.

              If you cannot explain a scientific process, then it does’t matter whether the science is “settled” as you are still below its surface.

              1. Slightly different question: Can anything that Gravity does not be explained by a combination of magnetism and static cling?

                1. I doubt this wiseacres can explain magnetism. They can describe how it works but they can’t tell you why it works.

                  Yeah, I know: Not my field.

                  No, your field is the one ankle deep in manure.

                  1. > magnetism

                    The engineering is cut and dried. The science doesn’t seem to all be in agreement yet.

                    Electromagnets are simple enough. In the case of a permament magnet supporting a load, I get a lot of handwavery and analogy, but in the end it comes down to either the magnet holds a ridiculous amount of stored energy, or you’re getting something for nothing.

              2. …an object accelerating “gains” mass at it approaches the speed of light. Where does that extra mass come from and what would be the effect of its gravitational pull?

                Ooh—I know! I know! Where the “extra mass” comes from is the energy put in to the object to accelerate it. For example—

                An object traveling at 0.6 c will (I’m going by memory so my numbers might be off) appear, for all purposes (specifically including gravitational attraction to other objects), to have a mass 125% as great as its “rest mass” m. Its kinetic energy is
                  ½×(1.25 m)×(0.6 c

                Following Newton alone, if you put that much energy into the object, it should be traveling at
                  e = ½mv² → v = √(2e÷m) →
                  v = √(2×[.225mc²]÷m) = √(.45c²) ≈ 0.67c.
                But what happens is that only most of the applied energy appears through velocity; some expresses as mass. The amount of mass is given by Einstein’s famous e = mc².

                (Actually, Newton hedged his bets. We write F = ma = mv/ⅆt, but apparently Newton himself put the time derivative around both mass and velocity.)

                (And yes, you yourself probably know this, but I just had a conversation on this topic with a somewhat educated acquaintance who just could not follow the logic of “these are energy units, these are mass & velocity units, so if there’s a mass-energy equivalence the multiplier has to have (velocity²) units and it turns out c fits the bill”. No, using dimensional analysis like that was an “obfuscation” worthy of putting me on a “Trump science advisory panel”. So yeah, I’m going to show my work in more detail in a forum where that will be appreciated.)

            2. Yep. That is what science used to be. “We have these umpteen jillion observations, and this mathematical stuff gives results that match those observations. It is therefore probably safe to use this mathematical stuff to predict what the next observation will be.”

              But, last century, I’m afraid that this got reversed somehow. “We have this mathematical stuff that gives these great results, so it explains all of these observations.” Heisenberg actually never said that the Universe is random – he said that, at very small scales, we cannot make observations. Physicists later decided that it is random, because all that we can do is describe it statistically.

              It gets worse with things like “chaos theory” – applied to very large scales, like the orbit or orientation of irregular asteroids. Rather than admit that we just don’t have the mathematics to describe those, the claim is that they are not predictable, ever. (Saves some rather hairy work, of course, and can get you a PhD these days.)

              And then there are those who have their mathematics – and when the observations don’t match the math, the observations are obviously wrong – and need to be corrected.


              1. To be fair, chaos theory doesn’t quite say that something isn’t ever predictable — it gives describes conditions under which even very small changes in input will produce very different outputs, and then observes that no matter how precise we can measure something, we can’t measure certain things precise enough to predict what’s going to happen.

                I find chaos theory really attractive — it’s when I looked more into it after reading “Jurassic Park” that I decided to be a mathematician, after all — and I wish I could do work work with it. Heck, I wish I had more time to figure out how to tap chaos and make a living off it. But I one reason why I’m a so-called “Climate Denier” is the very fact that I have a smidgen of understanding about chaos theory, and thus have absolutely no confidence in mankind’s ability to control one chaotic system — the economy — to fix another chaotic system — the world climate.

                Now, having said all that, I find it amusing that Newton’s Laws were insufficient to describe why Mercury’s orbit was wonky. It took Einstein’s relativity to have some idea of what was going on. Who knows what we’ll find, when we figure out how to fix the problems with relativity and quantum mechanics? Settled science, indeed!

                1. To be fair, chaos theory doesn’t quite say that something isn’t ever predictable

                  This hits one of my pet peeves when people invoke “chaos theory”.

                  Chaos theory does not apply to everything. Not everything is chaotic.

                    1. It’s not a matter of scale. There are plenty of “macroscopic” things that are chaotic. The professor I was working on back in my last year at UA was interested in chaos. One of the gadgets he got was a driven, damped pendulum. Given the right set of drive frequency and amplitude, length of pendulum, and damping resistance and it would go chaotic. I think at least one planetary moon has a chaotic rotation due to the interplay of tidal forces and its eccentric orbit on the irregular shape of the moon.

                      What makes a system chaotic is when very small changed in initial conditions rapidly turn into very large changes in results. Weather is generally considered chaotic but I don’t know that this has been explicitly proven.

                    2. As I understand it, it’s a third state for complex systems.

                      Used to, we thought that a system was either stable or not. And if it was stable, its response to a new input would be more or less linear–add an input x (plus or minus 5%) and you get f(x) (plus or minus f(plus or minus 5%)).

                      Then we discovered systems where a miniscule change in the input causes a large change in the output–but the system is still stable. The weather turns out to be one of them, which is why no one makes serious forecasts much past a week anymore. A butterfly flapping its wings really is capable of changing next month’s weather–but the planet never freezes or turns into Venus. A stable but chaotic system.

                      Fractals are a related field, I gather.

          1. Yea… Maybe if i was smart… but I’ve never claimed to be all that smart. I still think the shirt that says “Obey Gravity, It’s the LAW!” is funny and informative.

            Multiple theories of gravity? Whaaaa???? None of those theories result in me randomly not sticking to the ground so good do they? (/me looks around nervously)

            1. Question: “How does gravity work?”

              Response (in unison): “Downward!”

              Yeah, it’s a cheat by definition. On the other hoof, “Never give a straight line an even break.”

        2. The reply to their gravity rejoinder could have been, “Oh, so you know what gravity is then, eh? You’ve reconciled the Standard Model’s and General Relativity’s extremely different suppositions about it? And you’ve finally discovered all the dark matter that some scientists are imagining to make their models work? That gravity?”

      3. It does not, in the conventional phrase, accept the conclusions of science, for the simple reason that science has not concluded. To conclude is to shut up; and the man of science is not at all likely to shut up. — G.K. Chesterton

      4. I find claims about the science being settled most unsettling.

        I find their support for such claims more unsettling still.

    3. I’m reading The Disappearing Spoon and it’s unnerving how much of the science I learned in school isn’t that much older than I am.

      Yes, I knew people who not only were born before the realization that fusion powered the sun, but some laughed at how they were taught atoms were indivisible.

      1. I miss “atoms are little solar systems.” It was understandable. Quantum Mechanics makes no sense whatsoever – and I’m not even close to being able to do the math.

        1. Aye. Once upon a time I was barely able to deal with the simplest of it of solid state physics. The simplified version was annoyingly hairy.

          1. We were still taught the solar system model back in my day, with the understanding that it was simply a way to visualize energy levels. A brief discussion of fields as an indicator of what was really going on, and on to the rest of the stuff.

            1. Yeah, I don’t see anything wrong with that approach, but some people think it’s horrible to “teach incorrect science”. “Then they have to unlearn all that stuff if they want to go further!” Worked fine for me, and I get quantum mechanics pretty well.

    4. I can’t even remember what I was reading on, but someone was being nasty about #BestPossibleScience theology and I looked it up… it was from before PLATE THEORY.

      You know, that really obvious thing we all learned in pre-K, if we had it?

      They were pissy because someone way back when was making THEORIES about theology from science that’s behind something so basic…because… f if I know, easy target?

    5. My mom likes to say, “I remember when plate tectonics was a crackpot theory.” (It was still disavowed when she went to college in the early 60s, taking paleontology.) She also has a shirt that reads STOP PLATE TECTONICS (which she likes perfectly well as a theory, but the shirt is too funny.)

      1. Like my mother’s shirt ‘Free the Bound Periodicals!” Which she has had to explain once or twice…

    6. You know the scientist who proved there really were atoms of finite size?

      Albert Einstein.

  11. The people who favor all the most extreme theories also seem to pop up with them at the oddest moments. You had a nice dinner with friends and everything was normal, and then there is a momentary lull and somebody asks . . . “Do you believe in UFOs?”
    Once on a Board devoted to eBay sellers somebody posted – “How do you think the pyramids were really built?”
    I replied. “From the bottom up.”
    They never did dispute it.

    1. I remember Software Developer Alan Kay pointing out that pyramids are the shape they are because when you want to build something big, but don’t have arches, building something with a wide base is pretty much your only option.

      1. Besides, we have a couple of pyramids that didn’t work out right, that show us the trial and error period. (Like the “bent” pyramid.)

    2. I believe in UFOs, but just because I can’t ID something (the U part) doesn’t mean it’s aliens.

      1. I have seen shit I can’t explain. This is, to me, irrefutable proof that there is shit I can’t explain.

      2. I grew up under the flight path between Groom Lake and Mountain Home AFB. I saw lots of UFOs, all of which had FAA compliant lights.

        1. I recall an olllllllllllllllllllllllllllllld issue of ASTOUNDING with an article on UFOs, with a blurry photo of a witch riding a broom. I vassss amusssssed!

        2. I started watching some UFO show on the History channel some years back and there was some film/video used as further proof of flying saucers… I had seen it 20 years earlier, used to demonstrate image enhancement. The saucer was a Cessna.

          1. You know the one that cracks me up is “orbs” (more often in ghost hunting than in UFOs, but you never know.) I work in photography, and have cleaned my share of lenses and sensors. “Orbs” are nothing more than minuscule dust particles reflecting the flash, looking big and important because they’re out of focus.

            1. One show had folks noting the divots atop stonehenge and trying to work out the significance and what meaning or alignments they had. Pa laughed at them. “Trying to make sense of the places where the lightning struck.”

      3. Nod, I’ve commented that UFO means “Unidentified Flying Objects” and the “Unidentified” often depends on “who viewed it”. 😉

        Oh, a few years back I saw this object that looked like a disk viewed from the side.

        Then it turned and I saw that it was an airliner.

        I was driving near O’Hare Airport. 😀 😀 😀 😀

        1. Well, once you see it’s a Grey reconaissance lander, it’s hardly “unidentified” any more now innit?

        1. NO idea why there isnt an X-Com TV series, especially since it is totally structured for the ‘budget ramps up as series becomes more popular’

          1. There was some series called “UFO” in the UK a few decades back.

            Though nowadays the closest you can get is Twitch streams by players like Beaglerush.

              1. Yep. I was listing the “UFO” TV series as the closest thing on TV that I’ve seen or heard of, not as equivalent. 🙂

            1. Funny you should mention UFO. I’ve been working my way through the series thanks to Youtube. Not quite binge watching, but an episode or two a day.

              1. I did the same with some high-quality fansubs of Legend of the Galactic Heroes last August-Oct. 120+ episodes. Yeep. O_o;;

          2. In hindsight there was also a better way to do the third Star Gate series.

            I think that the IP for either would be hard to get, but doing an independent knock off with original IP should work.

    3. Given that they were supposedly ordered by the pharaoh (aka, god-emperor) they would seem to be a top-down construction.

    4. I despise the question “Do you believe in UFOs?” No rational person thinks all objects in the sky is immediately identifiable. What they’re really askingg is “Do you believe extraterrestrials are visiting the earth?” and that’s another question entirely.

      1. And the answer is “largely no.” Or at least “not in any way that matters.”
        Of course, if in a group of my leftist friends, I then immediately feel like adding “BUT Hillary totally is a lizard being from Antares.” 😀

        1. One of the things I heard that made me figure Hillary really is a human.. I can’t even remember the term, but someone asked her about UFOs, and she corrected them on the term and totally serious geeked about it.

          Yeah, she’s still a psychotic danger, but….

          1. I don’t know, has anyone checked the voter roles for a group of people with sequential Social Security Numbers that were applied for on November 1st, 1938 in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey?

            They’ll have names like John Wharfin, John Smallberries, and John Bigboote.

      2. If folks would listen to survey questions and remove any that can be answered similar to this, 99% of news stories about surveys would be DEAD.

        1. A well designed survey should include questions which will call out falsified responses.

          Not that most of the push polls run by political organizations are well designed.

          1. The political push polls are well designed for what they want to do, just not as useful polls

      3. I have answered this with, “I believe there are objects that seem to fly that have not properly identified. But that’s not really what you were asking, is it?”

        Fellow who did a planetarium show had a bit where he cut the projector lights (to “all but one”… wait for it) and had a single ‘star’ on the dome and asked folks to tell him how if it changed. And people would describe the thing moving. Of course the projector (at that time anyway) was all-or-nothing… the one ‘start’ was a tiny bulb in a small hole in the dome. It couldn’t move. Lesson: Reference points make a difference.

        1. Even then, watching something like that can fool you. Once, on my back porch, I was watching either Sirius or Venus (can’t remember now, but bright “star” and late evening). It was right over the top of a tree about a hundred feet from me.

          After I had stared at it for about a minute, it started expanding. Then, after it expanded a while, it started moving in a small but random pattern. next, the pattern widened and it looked like it was moving around an area larger than the apparent diameter of the moon.

          I blinked my eyes and shook my head, and it went back to being the same bright star it had been before that.

        2. I once saw a turtle swimming in the middle of a muddy stream. It was pretty big, but no points of reference except distance to the stream, so how big I have no clue.

  12. They’re very impressive, and we can’t for absolutely sure know how they were built

    Because there are four or five ways (at least) that they could have been built (none of which involve invoking aliens or Atlantean Super Science) and we just don’t have enough information to determine which one, or what combination, was actually used.

    1. Recently I’ve read a lot about the history of concrete. Apparently, lot’s of formulas have been discovered, used, then lost over the ages. And some of the ancient concrete still standing is far superior to what we’re using today. How do we know it’s far superior?

      It’s still standing!

      Apparently trying to reverse engineer aggregates as opposed to mechanical things isn’t all that easy a job.

        1. They were apparently treating it somewhat like rammed earth, which means they were using a stiffer mix. Accidentally re-discovered one winter in Minnesota, IIRC, when the only way to do some concrete work was to cut down on the water and essentially force it into place.

        1. That’s what I was told in the upper-div course I took in Roman Art and Architecture, yea these many moons ago. Pumice in the aggregate to make it lighter, as in the upper levels of the dome of the Pantheon.

    2. In Zelazny’s “They Call Me Conrad”, the protagonist owned the Pyramids. He hired work crews to disassemble them. When they were finished, he planned to show the film in reverse as “How the Pyramids Were Built.”

  13. Whenever I see a “Lost Wisdom of (Extinct Civilization)” I have to wonder: if they were so wise, how come they’re all dead?

    1. Stories about “magic of the [enter name of your choice of non-western culture]” gets a similar reaction from me.

      If that culture had such wonderful magic powers, why did Westerners “beat” them? 😉

      1. Funny thing about magic. It could exist if the laws of the universe stipulate that no effect can be exactly reproduced and no methodology can be repeated to produce any effect.. (Similar to Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series, but iirc in his magical universe, repeats merely decreased in efficacy.) Each time any real magic is done, it only works as a one-shot deal (might explain miracles too.). Which means science would never confirm it’s existence because you’d never have a peer review experiment work.

      2. Magic of Western cultures gets to me too. If it’s so great, why aren’t we still using it?

        1. True.

          But it’s a trope of some fantasy that “we” (Westerners) are always needing some non-Westerner’s magician to “help” out.

          IE Westerners don’t have working magic but the non-Westerners do.

        2. For the same reason we use guns instead of longbows: it takes years of practice to use a longbow well, not just for aiming it but developing the muscles to use it repeatedly. Any peasant straight off the farm can be taught effectively how to use a gun in 8 weeks.

          Same difference between magic and technology.

          1. People still use bows, though.

            Maybe add in the “cost of magic” that’s also needed to limit it, story wise?

          2. There was a James Blish novel where a “modern day” magician was talking expenses with a non-magician who hired him.

            When the magician mentioned airplane tickets, the non-magician asked why didn’t you use magic to travel.

            The magician outlined all the stuff that he’d have to do to magically travel long-distances and then said that it was easier to purchase airplane tickets. 😀

          3. I’ve read a lot more about “limits on power” in sci-fi (telepathy, telekenesis, that sort of stuff) than in most fantasy. There are major exceptions, like Lackey and Dixon’s magic system in the Valdemar novels, but I wonder if it is a sort of fantasy-culture thing. People write fantasy to avoid limits. Sci-fi leans more towards working around or despite limits.

            1. Yes and No.

              Yes, Magic in a story can be used to do the impossible.

              But, the writer has to put limits on his character’s magic or he doesn’t have an interesting story.

              It’s more noticeable in the Lord Darcy fantasy mysteries as the magic could make the mysteries too easy to solve and/or the magic could make the crimes too easy.

              In “Too Many Magicians”, we have the classic locked-door murder where “magic” could be the “easy” explanation of how the murderer got out of the locked room.

              For example (from the story), teleportation is theoretically possible in the Lord Darcy universe but nobody has figured out how to do it.

              As one magician said, if somebody had figured out how to do it, he won’t use the spell to teleport a key from one side of the door to another side because reporting how he teleported an object would be major news and he would become rich from “learning how to do it”.

              IE His first use of that spell wouldn’t be to commit the “perfect crime”.

            2. No matter the format, you’ve got to figure out a way around the Superman Problem.

              Scifi does tend to have more of the gears visible, though.

              1. Science relies upon transparency and reproducible results, magic upon trade secrets.

                That alone may explain one being more potent than the other.

                1. On the other hand, one of Chris Nuttall’s characters is nervous about people witnessing some of her spells at work because other magicians will wonder “how did she do that” and will work out “how she did that”. 😀

                  Of course, earlier in this series (Schooled In Magic) her and a friend worked out a magical means of long-distance “writing”.

                  IE One person would write on a sheet of paper and the other person, miles away, can read what the first person wrote. Sort of like a message board.

                  Well, in the last book, we discover that somebody else has figured out “how it was done”. 😉

                  1. A similar concept exists with stage magic; I remember someone in the stage magic community marketing a knock off version of Teller’s “Shadows” illusion (without attribution even) a few years ago.

                    1. Nod.

                      A stage magician watches another stage magician and thinks “how could I do that”. 😉

                      Note, I’ve also heard that stage magicians who watch other stage magicians “don’t see how they did it”.

                      They just imagine “how could I do that”.

                    2. Note, I’ve also heard that stage magicians who watch other stage magicians “don’t see how they did it”.

                      There’s a whole TV show where aspiring magicians run their illusions before Penn and Teller to see if they can pull it off without P&T figuring out how.

  14. I’ve always had a pet definition for “magic” as a placeholder term meaning simply “anything sufficiently impressive somebody else knows how to do which you don’t”.

    It occurs to me that you could use “aliens” the same way, as a placeholder term meaning “the attributed causal agents for anything you can’t believe happened randomly, but can’t believe ordinary people not much like you actually did either”.

    It used to be that we would use “the spirits” or “the gods” for this latter, but conceptual structures change.

    1. Wups. That was supposed to be “ordinary people not much different from you”, not “not much like you”. My kingdom for an edit function.

      1. I think to a certain extent Aliens are a placeholder for belief in the mystical which a lot of modern people have allowed a cultural level of cynicism to rob them of.

    2. Sometimes it’s something no one knows how it works. Time was drinking willow bark tea was magic.

  15. And if we all got into an interstellar ship to escape Nebiru (don’t get me started. That’s a gong, right there) tomorrow, there would be a lot of people left behind who are at different civilization levels, never got the call and are REALLY GOOD at hiding.)

    Might explain a lot: how many of you would NOT go if EVERYONE was supposed to go because very important reasons, in the style of Global Warming? We’re the descendents of the people who weren’t civilized and the people who didn’t buy the story.

    Tries to remember the name or author of the story about the aliens who were going to make people immortal and actually killed them, except a significant portion of humans refused the magic alien treatment, and fails. Anyone else remember that?

    1. I read it in a Baen anthology, but I can’t find it. I thought Christopher Anvil, but I’ve not found it. It was one of a string of stories deriding Something for Nothing in the same anthology. TANSTAAFL.

      1. There was also an episode of Stargate SG1 like that. They tossed a note back through the stargate at the moment of a nova or something, so it would go back in time and warn their former selves not to open the iris for these people.

  16. And in the crazy idea dept. I’ve had this thought (which I find amusing but not actually believable)… That place in Greece with the ancient nuclear reactor. Why, it was named for the reactor! Such a reactor generates heat (therm) and the first modern one was so much metal and carbon all stacked up in a pile. Thus, Thermopylae. Thermal-pile.. with some distortion in history and translation. };o)

      1. That set of stories almost writes itself, doesn’t it. All you have to do is assume this “natural” reactor was nothing of the sort.

  17. I blame science fiction writers.

    Yep. All this insanity over ancient aliens, magical technology, lost civilizations greater than our own. It’s all your fault you know.

    You write such good stories that people take them for reality. PT Barnum was right, there really is a sucker born every minute. The problem is, all of us are suckers for something at some time or another. People are among the most credulous of critters. Now toss the fact that life sucks for so many people that they’d rather invent a future Heaven and a former Eden where their ancestors/descendants are at the top of the heap; and suddenly you’ve held out a life preserver to an escapee from the Titanic. Never mind that it’s totally unreal, they can see it in their minds.

    1. I can’t help but wonder if everyone holds a sincere belief or two in something that another person would consider a conspiracy theory.

      For me, I’m convinced that fluoride is probably not the best thing to put into drinking water. I came to this conclusion after discovering a rash on my arm that shrank after I started bringing fluoride-free water home from my university (Troy fluoridated their water, Albany did not), and the rash went away completely after I stopped using fluoride toothpaste.

      But I have to remind myself that this is mostly a superstition, because I haven’t experimentally confirmed it. And I try to be careful with my conclusions — at one point, I went so far as to wonder if fluoridated water might be the cause of sunspots! — and I can’t help but notice that sometimes climate change advocates (and I’m sure other people as well) literally make similar conclusions (such as the reporter asking if an asteroid heading for Earth was the result of climate change…)

      1. I’m too lazy to look it up but I seem to remember a study a few years back that indicated some negative long-term health outcomes from fluoridated drinking water. I couldn’t help but think “General Ripper is redeemed!”

        Troy resident, eh? How’s RPI doing these days? I haven’t been back since 2010 or so and seem to remember that relations were getting a bit tense between the city and my alma mater.

        1. My chemistry professor brought up the issue of trade-offs with chlorinated water. It was thought to be a mild carcinogen because it’s reactive, but the lives saved by preventing water borne illness outweighed the few possible instances of cancer. Then he mentioned that fluoride compounds could also be reactive, but he didn’t think strong teeth were a good trade-off for a few possible cases of cancer.

        2. I haven’t been in the Capital Region since 2007, so you’ll know better than I. However, while in the area, I had the opportunity to visit both MIT and RPI once or twice, and fell in love with both schools.

          While I have a doctorate in mathematics, I have a *strong* tinkering streak….

      2. The whole theory is that the fluoride would replace the calcium in your teeth. making them more resistant to decay.
        This is, in fact, true.

        It just ignores that your teeth are not the only thing in your body made of calcium.
        That calcium is kind of vital thing for your body to have.
        And that fluorine is a really nasty element that interacts with any number of things in interesting ways. (OK, this one verges on conspiracy theory because of the concentrations involved.)

        1. My inner chemist just went EEP!
          No, Fluoride doesn’t replace calcium. What it does is combine with calcium phosphate and replaces hydroxyl ions, so that fluoroapatite replaces hydroxyapatite (a major component of tooth enamel). This does indeed render them more resistant to acid attack. Howsoumever, that kind of tinkering with the body’s chemistry in blithe and utter ignorance of what else fluoride might do just isn’t safe and sound practice. (No, I don’t know what else it does. I daresay neither do most of the dentists who have recommended the practice of fluoridation of water.)

          1. I stand corrected.

            Now, if I only had a better understand of the correction…

              1. I once aspired to becoming a chemical engineer. I gave that up, but kept my descriptive chemistry text for light reading and misspent hours and hours reading articles and texts on astrochemistry, geochemistry, biochemistry, and industrial chemistry. I may not be a real chemist, but I do know my alkaline earths (e.g. calcium) from my halogens (e.g. fluorine).
                I suppose the reason for fluoridating water is that it’s more easily incorporated into developing teeth than applying fluorides to the surface of already developed teeth.

              2. It’s to protect those ignorant poor who don’t know enough to buy fluoridated toothpaste, give them the same protection that the well-educated have.

                For the children, you know.

          2. The whole thesis is horribly mindful of the craze for adding radium to food on the basis “it gives you energy!

            Yum! Sparkly Frosted Radium Oat Rings! Deeeee-licious!

      3. I believe the correlation between fluoride and good teeth came not from chemistry studies, but from observation. There were areas where people simply had better teeth, fewer cavities. And what the areas had in common was naturally fluoridated water. Hence, fluoridated water=less cavities. At the levels of fluoride used, there doesn’t appear to be an increase in cancers.

        I currently use well water with no fluoride or chloride. My kids, when younger, took fluoride pills as prescribed by our dentist. My kids have better teeth then my wife and I do. I’m still anxiously awaiting stem cell grown teeth to replace the missing ones…

  18. Elizabeth Wayland Barber, whom I discovered as a fiber arts archaeologist, has an interesting book, When They Severed Earth from Sky, that talks, on one hand, about how ancient myths, legends, and folklore serve to preserve memories in nonliterate societies, but on the other hand, about how the preservation requires symbolization and allusion, and that’s what gets passed down, not literal fact. A way to save bandwidth in a culture that has only the very small channel of oral tradition. You might find it worth a look.

      1. I have her popularization, Women’s Work, which is a survey of the evidence on spinning, weaving, and related crafts going back to the Paleolithic. But she’s also done serious academic studies, largely of cultures in the Balkans, I believe.

    1. To verify this requires two sets of data: one the ancient myth, legends, and folklore; the other knowledge of the actual account. I’m very skeptical that preservation requires symbolization and allusion. OTOH, I can see where interpretation enters into the picture/

      1. If you want to evaluate the argument, you can best do so by reading the book and seeing if her reasoning and evidence make sense to you. I don’t have all the details fresh in my mind; it’s more than a year since I read it. Of course you’re not under any obligation to do so! I recommended the book because I found it interesting, but “interesting” is kind of subjective.

  19. Hear the loud alarum bells–
    Brazen bells!
    What tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
    In the startled ear of night
    How they scream out their affright!
    Too much horrified to speak,
    They can only shriek, shriek,
    Out of tune,
    In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
    In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
    Leaping higher, higher, higher,
    With a desperate desire,
    And a resolute endeavor
    Now–now to sit or never,
    By the side of the pale-faced moon.

    — Edgar Allen Poe

  20. There is a world of difference between “This might be so …” and “This must be so …” and I cannot count the number of times I found myself slowly backing out of conversations because somebody of the latter persuasion misunderstood my “might” as “must.”

    I am willing to stipulate almost any fundamental premise — quantum mechanics makes magic possible; astrology might make sense in a universe viewed as a simultaneous event — but I long ago learned to draw the line at believing my BS.

    While the world indeed might end tomorrow, that does not mean it is a good idea to run up the credit card balances eating, drinking and making merry tonight. (At least, not my credit card balances; if you’re buying I am willing to continue this discussion.)

    1. Outright astrology makes no sense. That there might be some common characteristics shared amongst those conceived/born at around the same time – due to pollen, plants, light levels, etc. all shared [local] environmental factors – does have at least some plausibility.

      I admit Taurus might be (stubbornly };o) biased.

        1. I don’t blame you. And if not Cancer, then a Crab (Buster?). Though I recall there was a while when the newspaper horoscope (What? It was on the comics pages! How could I not see it?) used “Moon Children” instead of Cancer.

        2. And I have a begrudged near-respect for astrology after I learned that my sign — Ophiuchus — is mostly ignored.

        3. Saw a wonderful tee-shirt in Germany 20 years ago (characters from a popular comic series) that showed a snobbish cat at a cocktail party informing two mice “Ich bin kein Krebs. Bin ein Hummer!” [I’m not a crab/Cancer. I’m a lobster!] Since Cancer is my zodiac sign, I was sorely tempted to get it.

        4. I confess that, being a Gemini, I am of two minds about astrology. Beloved Spouse, a Libra, often considers me unbalanced but allows as a good slap upside the noggin usually works to set me straight.

          1. Better than some, who seem to have been born under the sign SLOW CHILDREN.

            (Yes, appropriated from You Can’t Do That On Television)

            1. Uncle who once worked for a municipal utility once slipped a “Slow Men Working” sign on the front of a bucket truck while two were up working.

            2. I always wonder why some poor parent would advertise to the world that their kids were slow.

      1. Once you stipulate a simultaneous universe, natal astrology can make sense, as the particular alignment of [items] constitutes the equivalent of a Space/Time IP address for delivery of your being.

        Of course, in a simultaneous universe cause and effect are meaningless … or have meaning beyond our comprehension.

    2. Having a wife who is gets moody at times, I once noticed that I was spending a lot of time outside, always during the same phase of the moon.
      It’s not so hard to rationalize an explanation from that, and extrapolate outwards.

      1. You’re a were elephant and didn’t want to accidentally change in the house and turn your new furniture into kindling?

  21. I read somewhere that the ancient Egyptians didn’t have a flood myth because they liked flooding. I’m not an expert, so I don’t know if this is true or not, but it makes sense.

    1. The Egyptians had a flood myth but it was the opposite of most. One of the gods got bent out of shape (as gods are wont to do) and sent fires to destroy the world. A more beneficient god or goddess took pity on the world and sent a flood to extinguish the fires saving mankind.

      The theory I saw was that places prone to destructive flooding (Mesopotamia being a typical example) tend to have flood myths involving world destroying floods. Places that don’t (kind of rare since there are lots of good reasons for early agricultural societies to gather in flood plains), don’t.

      Not a field I’m particularly knowledgeable about so make of it what you will.

      1. I suspect most places have had monumental floods that got talked about so much they became part of the local mythos. But I like the idea of an ocean impactor that vaporized so much water it rained world wide and everyplace had floods.

        1. There’s also about 30 meters of missing sea level from one of the last two glacial minima. (I’m tired so I don’t remember exactly which one.) One of my geology professors was going down to Antarctica to see if they’d underestimated the ice there and if he could find a clue one way or the other (since it’s about the only place on the planet that you could miss place 30 METERS of global sea level as ice.) Some of his colleagues were working on it from the angle of ‘we have our estimates and interpretation of the data off some where… some where BIG.’ If story survived an ice age or so, 30 meters is around 100 ft. which would have swamped most early style civilizations… I don’t say it IS related, but it’s possibly so.

    2. Jimmy Breslin wrote that for many New Yorkers the Great Blackout of ’65 wasn’t noticed — they just figured that (once again) their power had been cut for non-payment of bills.

        1. First thing I say to the wife when the power goes out (for some unknown reason – not when a thunderstorm comes through) is: “Honey, I did pay the bill last Tuesday…” Habit from a really bad stretch several years ago.

          The only thing we’ve ever had cut off for non-payment, though, was the cable / internet. Happened when I was running a stretch of 14+ hour days at work, and honestly had no idea of what the day, date, or even whether it was morning or evening… (Company was good about it – they had us back on line within two hours after I shamefacedly appeared in their local office. Ah, the wonders of modernity, when it is a matter of flipping a switch at the office instead of sending a work crew out.)

          1. Once one of ours said “Daddy, this was in my stuff,” and handed me our power bill, which was now late. Ouch!

            Now some power companies no longer have a grace period. Not paid by the due date, off go the lights. With automatic disconnect meters, you don’t even have to send anyone out.

            The new wrinkle is prepaid metering. Now when someone calls, we have to check to see if they had prepaid and if their money ran out.

            Tip: When your power goes out, always check your breakers first. That’s right up there with the “broken” appliance not plugged in, but is surprisingly common.

            1. I always check outside (big city life) when my power goes out to ensure it isn’t a breaker first. Of course, I always pay my electricity bill on time so I know it’s not that. :p
              One place I lived in always got brownouts during the summer which was supper annoying.

              1. At least part of $HOOTERVILLE had an outage last night. $WORK did not. $WORK is NOT anything related… but we still got a few phone calls about it, as if we could do anything about it (nope) or were information (nope!).

            2. You *had* to mention the B-word, didn’t you?

              I’m rewiring the Project House. To get a break on insurance, I’m bringing it up to current code. Which requires $600+ worth of AFCI breakers to replace the set of brand-new non-AFCI breakers that came as a freebie with the $80 load center… aaargh.

              All these years of the NEC, and *now* “arc fault interrupters” are a big deal? If that was so, why weren’t they mandatory before?

            3. Check that it’s not one of those outlets that has the little breaker on it, too– we had an entire line of outlets go out because one of them got pushed into “reset.”

              Still not sure how that even works.

              1. Ground fault outlets. Sometimes electricians would wire several outlets to one to keep from having to buy multiple ground fault outlets. Maybe they were once more expensive than they are now?

                1. In 1992 when I built my workshop I put GFI outlets outside. They cost something like $19 each. Normal Leviton outlets inside were about 25 cents each.

            4. If it’s during the day, that is the first place I go. At night, I don’t stumble out there right away, I just take a look out the front window – most likely the entire cul-de-sac is out. (Out my office window does not help, the people behind us are apparently on a different main.)

              Of course, with a lightning storm, I don’t care whether its just us or not – not going out there, sorry dear, where did you put those candles this time?

  22. I’ll start by saying that a lot of these “archeologists of the damned” have a point. Not in everything, mind…

    I was at a panel discussion at Loscon one year and a panelist mentioned that if we hadn’t had access to Classical Greek writings, archaeologists might have assumed, with fair justification, that Classical Greece was a matriarchy.

  23. Oh, all right…

    And at some point she went “Wow, you’re eccentric, but no bells.”

    So you won the no bell prize?

    1. I *am* out if it. I missed that opportunity.

      Btw, did you hear of the band that plays well at first but as their set goes on the music gets worse and worse due to the drifting of the instruments? They get told to rectify it but insist it is their style, for “Oppernockity tunes but once!”

    2. And I thought I was bad. Slip a 4 day old dead cyprinidae into your hot air duct.

  24. we can’t for absolutely sure know how they were built, or why only for a relative brief period.

    The How is relatively unimportant, as several reasonable explanations and methodologies exist.

    The “why only for a relative brief period” is rather easily explained: they were a stupid, useless, pointless consumption of resources. Alternative phrasing: they were the “high speed rail” of their times.

    Good lord, folks, engineering know-how is one of the most ephemeral of assets. We can’t even get back to Luna even thought the Apollo missions were totally faked on Hollywood back lots among the most thoroughly documented explorations ever.

    1. It also makes me wonder…
      The pyramids would have taken a lot of time to build, so, could they have used multiple methods, refining techniques and abandoning old ones in the process of building?

      1. There is one collapsed pyramid in Egypt and one pyramid where the “angle” of the stone has shifted.

        The guess is that the second pyramid hadn’t been completed when the first one collapsed so the builders had to make changes to the second to prevent it from collapsing.

    2. I remember reading somewhere that the reason that the Egyptians stopped building pyramids was because the Pharaohs finally figured out that, if it was really important to you that your tomb not be desecrated, sticking the BC equivalent of a giant neon sign reading “Loot buried here!” on top of where you were buried might not be the best strategy. A cave in the Valley of Kings might be less flashy, but it was a bit harder for the tomb robbers to find.

  25. Ken Hite did an article about one of these ideas years ago in his Suppressed Transmissions column. Anatomically modern humans have been around 100k years or so. Earliest recognizable civilization is 10kBC. Discounting the Greek and European dark ages, and assuming we’ll be at Alpha Centauri next generation it takes about 10k years to go from mud huts to the stars. There could be 8 or 9 fallen Atlantisis (Atlanti?) beneath our feet and as many star-Empires out there.

    1. That is close to the premise of an idea I’m developing right now. Earth is the source of intelligent life in the Milky Way, and has been for millions of years.

      1. I have this funny idea that we might find an abandoned velociraptor colony on the the moon someday…

        1. The raptor Moon colonies were destroyed by kinetic bombardment. Why do you think there’s so many craters? 😉

    2. Letter to a Phoenix
      by Fredric Brown

      An immortal human is writing this letter which talks about his life.

      He discovered his strangeness after a nuclear war (minor war) and has lived thru thousands of rises and falls of humanity.

      He been to the stars several times and met alien civilizations.

      Strangely, those alien civilizations didn’t last.

      Humans would be one during one of its rises, then human civilization would fall but the alien civilizations would have died out.

      Only humanity is immortal because it rises, dies and is reborn.

      Oh, the twist at the end was that the immortal was “writing” to the human civilization of our time. 😉

      1. Excellent story. Another one I remember reading eons ago. I also like his attitude that he would go back to sleep one day and wake up to a new civilization because we were just a bunch of idiots. (If I remember the ending correctly).

        1. Not a bunch of “idiots”. We’re immortal as a species because we’re insane. 😀

  26. When our oldest was a toddler, we laughed about the fact that we looked like very granola, vegan, hippies because we browsed the organic, “super-healthy” section of the grocery stores, reading labels religiously because of said child’s milk allergy. So we were getting soy milk, rice milk, and dairy free foods, the expensive “health foods”, but then we’d go down the regular aisles and get regular food for us.

  27. Speaking of talking babies, whatever happened to that baby that was born in a neighboring state talking and telling us the world was ending in four years (or was the kid just yanking our chain)?

    And this column only needed a narration by Leonard Nimoy to be a complete flashback to the ’70s: “Chariots of the Gods,” the Bermuda Triangle, UFOs, Atlantis. There much have been something in the air; there was some meme of UFOs and/or ancient civilizations in the geist like the zombie apocalypse is now.

      1. Oh, goody!
        The Late Great Planet Earth was a classic! (And even more timely, with modern technology being what it is.)

        Yeah, I’m not sure how much tongue I have in my cheek, either.

  28. Sure, they might be crazy but sometimes you just gotta …

    I sometimes wonder about the correlation between Kander & Ebb and Krafft-Ebing.

  29. Most people don’t know the Yanomamo worshipped the PuppyMonkeyBaby for millennia before the white man appropriated zir for creepy Super Bowl commercials.

  30. “However when reading or listening to unconventional archeologists, there is ALWAYS that point where I feel like I’m talking to the old civil engineer in Porto who had gone insane…”

    I am actually trained as an archaeologist. In my youth I dug up Indian sites in Ontario. So I pay attention to archaeology. Stuff lasts ridiculous lengths of time in the ground.

    Example, this is a recently discovered non-Human hominid which has been dated to “between 335,000 and 236,000 years ago.” This dating puts the standard pathway of Evolution into a cocked hat. Modern humans could have DNA from a bunch of different hominids. We don’t know. But we DO know, they did not have an advanced civilization that was destroyed.

    If there had been a powerful civilization 150,000 years ago, we would know. Spark-plugs will last a lot longer than 150,000 years in the ground, given even slightly favorable conditions. We have burnt bones from cooking fires dated to 2.3 million years, that’s when fire was tamed. We have pottery from 30,000 years ago, but none earlier. We have stone tools from 3.3 million years ago. We have the Burgess Shale for that matter, 508 million years, filled with squishy bugs. The oldest fossil we know of is dated at over three billion years, and may be over four billion years.

    So if you want to postulate a fallen Human civilization from Before, you also have to postulate a modern conspiracy to conceal it. A really old one, that reaches back to the pre-Victorian era. People would have been finding ancient spark-plugs since forever, all over the world, every time they dug a basement or an irrigation channel.Somebody would have to be disappearing all that evidence and shutting people up.

    The Knights Templar shutting up people since ancient times, to prevent us all finding out about the Ancient Empire because in case Something Bad might happen.

    Meanwhile, an established fact of espionage is that three people can keep a secret, but only if two of them are dead. Somebody Always Squeals is the rock that all conspiracy theories founder on .

    1. Well “magic civilization” works for a fantasy world, because magic battle could destroy everything — from the book point of view.
      From the non-book point of view, again see where I don’t say our type of civilization but more like Greece or Rome and yep, buildings would get submerged after the ice age.
      For that matter so would spark plugs. But you’re assuming same path of development AND accessibility. Plus recognizing it’s something. Note again Gobekli Tepe was assumed to be “a medieval cemetery” presumably since the middle ages. The world is vast. We haven’t found EVERYTHING.

      1. Magic civilization works at 150,000 years, if a “magic cataclysm” dissolved all the magic artifacts. Then you can have surviving artifacts found in magical Faraday cages, insulated from the cataclysm. Then everything else in the world is the same hunting/gathering stone age stuff.

        They found the weird hominid skeletons in a cave, so yes, we find stuff all the time.

        Except… Real-estate! Location, location location!

        All the nice spots for Humans to live in haven’t moved in 150,000 years, it isn’t that long . Europe got iced over, but Africa did not, nor did South America. You can postulate an -isolated- civilization, one city that thrived and was buried by a glacier. But not a world-spanning one. You can’t stick a shovel in the ground in the Middle East without hitting somebody’s old junk from a thousand years ago or more. Dig down ten feet and you’re back 10K years.

        If nothing else, we would have their graffiti. People carve stuff into rocks when they are bored. They do it all the time. There’s plenty of Indian carvings and paintings in Arizona that are very old, some of which were done by kids fooling around. Were there no magic tools for shaping and cutting stone? Nobody -ever- found a weird carving in the desert that dates over 10k years?

        Now the magic cataclysm has to include all magical -works- too, not just artifacts. The plot is beginning to fray at the edges a bit.

        Oh, and where’s the magic dentistry? Lots of teeth found from 150k years ago, no fillings or magically re-grown bits noticed. I had the toothache from Hell a month or so ago, I guarantee somebody would have done something about that if magic was a thing.

        1. Say I used magic to fix my teeth… How the hell are you going to know I had a cavity in the first place, before using the magic on it? If the magic was good, really good, why would it leave signs of it having worked? How would you tell the magic tooth from the one next to it that didn’t have a cavity naturally? Mana residue?

          Bring magic into it, and the whole thing goes out the window, in terms of evidence.

          1. Magic is not (exactly) necessary. Stipulate nannites (nanobots, whatever — scientific magic) that not only repair damages but, when a body is used up automatically disassemble the remains into component elements.

            Stipulate further that the same “rules” apply to all constructs in the society. After all, if you’ve got the technology that seems a reasonable use of it — return stocks to warehouse when no longer needed.

            No footprints n the sands of time … until somebody discovers how to activate those nannites.

        2. I played with the “can’t stick a shovel in the ground” idea a little in my short story “The Shadow of a Dead God.” Unfortunately, when it was published in Visions V: Milky Way, the editor removed the explicit reference to an archeologist researching the second great Space Age who went to a site that was thought to be the ruins of a launch complex from the Expulsions and instead found stuff like Bakelite radios and phones from the Jazz Age.

          If I ever reprint it as an indie project, I think I’ll restore those sentences. It really does capture one of the problems a future civilization will face in archeology: the sheer volume of plastic stuff our civilization has produced will make it harder to find everything else.

        3. Raise hand:

          When I think ancient civilizations that rose and fell, I think lithic, or the beginnings of metallurgy. I’m not even sure that some domestication hasn’t been repeatedly discovered, since crops like maize are dependent on humans for propagation. And domestication isn’t necessarily a given for a civilization that can erect some stone structures.

          1. While maize might not survive the fall of man, a lot of our food crops would go back to their wild versions in a very few short years.

          2. One of the problems with South American civilization is that apparently they successfully went in for a lot of jungle agricultural technology, using landscaping and plant/animal breeding instead of building in stone. And then there were a lot of epidemics and wars and bad things that happened, many pre-Columbian (which was why the conquistadors had it so easy), and a lot of the civilizations either died off or couldn’t keep up the maintenance.

            So my understanding is that a lot of the really primitive tribes in the Amazon may actually be descended from child survivors of technologically advanced towns that were fairly isolated. They had to reinvent, and they just didn’t get very far because life is hard.

            Kinda Lovecraftian, when you think about it.

    2. All this is true.

      Also, slightly misleading. The Ice Ages were not kind to shorelines and river valleys, which also happen to be where civilizations would normally occur.

      There could have been any number of civilizations that perished without our having ready evidence of them.
      But they certainly wouldn’t have been on the scale of later civilizations which grew during long years when the planet wasn’t actively trying to kill us, nor would their tech have been wildly anachronistic.

        1. Postulate a universe where histories converge in the present.
          “Why yes, my ancestors were ordinary manual labor farmers. At least until the last convergence where my ancestors were also the number one practicing agricultural druids of Ireland and Wales. Which is why after running my tractor back and forth prepping the fields; I wave my hands, chant, and spit three times to double the yield per acre.”

          1. There was a short story I read years ago which used converging timelines as its plot device. The main character was a young Englishman who ran into a time traveler at Stonehenge. The time traveler gave him advice, and told him of his suspicions (based on prior stops — he was moving further back in time) that things were being converged as time progressed.

            At the end of the story, the time traveler had gone back to determine who had built Stonehenge, and the young Englishman found evidence that it was the time traveler who had done it.

      1. The Ice Ages were not kind to shorelines and river valleys, which also happen to be where civilizations would normally occur.

        Yup; just because we have mountains *here and now* doesn’t mean that they existed *then*. Driving around in the Rocky Mtn area, there’s lots of overwhelming evidence of glacial activity (or giants with ice cream scoops), but what did the area look like 150k years ago?

        1. IIRC (it’s been a long time), Colorado was peneplained off during the during the Cretaceous, and has been experiencing uplift since the Eocene which has been washing the alluvium from between the ancient mountain roots. During that period there have been a number of ice ages.

          During the time scale of 150k years, it likely wouldn’t look terribly different. The vegetation would be a bit different. Lakes would be in different places. But everything should still be similar enough to provide a sense of deja vu.

      2. There was a wikipedia image about coastlines and river drainage in Thailand/Malaysia twelve thousand years ago or something. I looked at it, said ‘ports here and here’, and decided that was where some uber powerful weapons had been stationed.

    3. Another good argument I’ve seen is that the easy-to-extract raw materials are still here. Had there been an ancient advanced civilization, they’d have already used up all the silver, for example.

        1. Too useful not to be used. Anything old that didn’t leave much evidence would have to be in a warm, wet climate, and have used little metal or stone. Basically the Maya without the pyramids. ‘Advanced’ would mean agronomy instead of manufacturing. Maybe boil and eat their own dead.

          1. Michael Scott Rohan’s Winter Of The World series has an ancient civilization during the last Ice Age.

            It was a pre-steam power Iron using civilization.

            It was based in areas that are now ocean/sea covered and traces of it earlier were destroyed by the ice sheets.

            The European branch had settled in land that is now the Mediterranean Sea.

            The North American branch was drowned when the ice sheets melted and weren’t able to transplant their culture away from the ocean in time.

            1. It’s the only epic fantasy I can think of where part of it is set near where I live. 🙂

        2. Also, has anyone checked the mines in Antarctica? How about the subsumed places that were at the surface during the ice age.
          Please! That’s just silly.

          1. There is a lot of undersea Black Sea, Mediterranean, North Sea archaeology going on these days. The “drowned cantrevs” of Welsh legend have turned out to be real, for example.

      1. Or, they didn’t need to extract raw materials from the planetary surfaces…

        Of course, you also need to then explain the apparent signs of large-scale copper mining going on in upper Michigan as far back as 5,000 years ago… And, we still don’t know who the hell was doing that, either.

        Given the tectonic instability of this planet, I don’t think it’s entirely beyond imagination that there’s been something besides us here on the ground doing things. We may not even know what the hell to be looking for, and the sites where it was done are possibly inaccessible to us.

        Consider that the majority of the coastline available to civilization during the last Ice Age is now well under the ocean. If we were to assume that the ancients were as fond of the water as we are…? Odds are, we’re not even seeing the tip of the iceberg. There are all those ruins in the seas off of India, for example, as well as the analogs to Stonehenge they keep finding off the coast of England.

        When it comes to these questions, I don’t think we really even know what we don’t know. Imagine jumping into a time machine, and going back to the 1950s or so with all your research papers on Gobekli Tepi: How much acceptance do you think you’d find, for all that stuff?

        1. Exactly. In my life time modern humans have gone from 50k, when it was PLAUSIBLE we only had visible civilization the last 10k years. 200k years in existence makes that FAR less plausible, and it begs way too many excuses. But it also means a lot of things have changed in the world that could hide signs of past civilizations.
          Hell, yeah “we went to the stars” is unlikely. But Roman level civilizations that collapsed due to weather, world issues and strife? Bah. It’s more likely than not.

          1. In my experience life is kept much simpler and saner by accepting “We don’t actually know” as a default hypothesis, especially when the “Do I need to know” box is not checked.

            Not feeling much need to impress people, and perceiving a virtue in humility (however much unmerited) I am very comfortable with “Don’t know, don’t care” as a basic stance on most matters.

            Knowing what one does not know is the first step to Socrates’ end.

          2. Oh, rats! What was that very early Greek civilization—Minoan, on Crete? I think that the best guess for what happened to it is that the island of Santorini (or what was there before Santorini) had a massive volcanic explosion and a resulting tidal wave wiped out the Minoans. I think the bad guy in one of the later Alistair MacLane novels (Santorini, natch) was trying to get it to blow up again toward what ultimate end I forget.

      2. In “Lord Kalvan of Otherwhere,” one of the things that makes him realize that he’s in an alternate timeline, rather than a distant future, is that he recognizes the local geography, but quarries that ought to be present aren’t.

    4. No, you don’t have to posit a modern conspiracy to hide an ancient civilization or two.

      Consider this as an explanation: Our branch of humanity is the remnant of the backwoods hicks who didn’t go to the stars, and the rest of humanity left only after cleaning the place up, and tipping everything into the sun or the Marianas Trench in order to let the biome recover. Maybe there’s a lease agreement thing going on out there, and you’re only supposed to occupy a planet for X number of years, before departing for another. Maybe there’s some kind of intermittent access to faster-than-light travel that’s predictable, and the reason we haven’t seen any real aliens is that the advanced humans left before the gateways shut down for a few hundred thousand years, in order to maintain contact with interstellar civilization.

      Hell, I could come up with a dozen explanations off the top of my head that might explain how it is we haven’t found signs of ancient civilizations, and that’s even before I bring up all the little oddities like the Baigong Pipes that we have found.

      Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

        1. Yeah, but what’s messed up? I had that idea before I ever read the Uplift books. Reading those gave me an incredible feeling of Deja vu… Like, “Hey… This was my idea…

          Only difference was, my theory was that the whole reason for leaving fallow worlds behind was less to leave things clear for new species to evolve, but to clean things up so that there were no hazards left for the next set of tenants who’d be along in however many years.

          Of course, that whole idea is also predicated on the concept that time in that universe isn’t necessarily a linear thing, either–Where the path around the light speed limit leads you isn’t necessarily in congruence with the timeline continuity in normal spatial terms. In other words, say you left Sol system via a transit point into non-linear space, severing your contact with this where/when. Returning precisely to your departure point might not be possible, in the macro sense. So, say you left Earth and the Solar system around the time of the dinosaurs. Using that same technique, the next accessible “gate” moment to you might drop you out when the system accretion disk was forming, or around the late Holocene…

          Have a civilization based on a premise like this, and you wind up with a set of interesting Ouroubouros-like potentials: Who’s to say that Earth wasn’t seeded by our ancestors, and they only visited for short time, back when, cleaned up when they left, and the remnants that became “our” branch of humanity were left behind by accident, misadventure, or intent.

          I’d laugh my ass off if we get our first interstellar visitors, they’re human, and we find out that we’re in a shit-load of trouble for basically being squatters who screwed up the planet when the gates open up next time…

          Basically, look at interstellar civilization as having an ethos like backpackers–“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints…”. Where we may need to be looking is out there in the Oort, for signs of mining and other things that would have been low-impact for interstellar-capable civilization.

          1. Guess I’d better keep my towel and Guide near at hand then. Never know when someone will blow up the planet to put in an interstellar expressway.

    5. Oh, that’s because the Forerunners were very thorough and erased all traces of advanced civilization in the process of killing most of humanity and dumping the few they spared back here on Earth.

      Okay, so Halo’s lore gets a bit strange more than a few times.

    6. I prefer the explanation advanced in Mary Gentle’s ASH: A SECRET HISTORY — the forgotten advanced civilization exists in another history altogether that was replaced with our own through a “reality quake” that thrust another timeline onto the observable surface of reality. Of course, the big problem with reality quakes is that what happened once can happen again . . . .

    7. As a slight tangent, you know how the common theory of fossil discovery places the “first” one in the 1600s (a femur postulated to be a giant’s leg) and the more scientific ones in the 1800s? I’m really, really surprised that nobody’s made a big deal of the fact that just about every large-scale culture on earth has mythologies of dragons, often with bones of stone, and it’s really freaking obvious that people have been digging up fossils for as long as they’ve been digging.

      1. I know there’s a few pop level folks who do it– I’ve got a great book packed up somewhere about gryphons being inspired by triceratop cousin skulls.

        1. I seem to remember hearing that some people thought a mammoth skull was the skull of a cyclops.

          IE The “hole” for its trunk was believed to be its eye.

      2. Well, if you’ve got giant critters with long necks and sharp teeth, some of which had scales, and some of which could fly, and all of which were huge…

        What else do you cal them before the word “Dinosaur” was invented?

  31. “just stop with calling everything they don’t understand a temple”

    There was a Reader’s Digest story, early 80s I think, that did just that. It was future archaeologists describing the temple they’d uncovered (a motel), showing how the ceremonial headdress (toilet seat) was worn, etc.

      1. Ha! Never knew it was a full book. I was just hunting for the Laughter is the Best Medicine bits in Reader’s Digest and wandered across the abbreviated version. (Had to do something while Grandma watched her “stories”.)

    1. I remember that article!!

      there was also a famous “abstract” that was passed out by my anthro profs to the newbies every year that was essentially a humorous cultural study of this ancient culture that worshipped a chief that threw wampum across a river and never lied. (You can guess the rest of the observations).

      1. Oh yeah! That’s in the anthology ‘Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown.” Good old Pound-Laundry.

        1. they can’t possibly have had this degree of freedom and individual rights before the last ice age! It must have been an oppressive totalitarianism and that was their public face! we have evidence they fought an internal war over slavery!

  32. With respect to The Flood, we know from cave paintings that primitive man had bows and arrows by 40,000 BC.
    Because of all the different technologies need to make a bow and arrow, we can reasonably use this as evidence of language, and thus an oral tradition.
    We know the last Ice Age ended approximately 10,000 BC.
    We know that large areas of the world were repeatedly hit with what can only be called megafloods within that 30,000 year overlap.
    We can trace (although to what degree is questionable) modern lineages to the areas where these occurred.

    But to listen to the apostles of Science!, the whole story is some Sumerian trying to escape his debts, getting caught in a flood, and countless generations exaggerating the story.

  33. In Southern Idaho some years back, an archaeologist found a pestal the local Indians had used for grinding grain. He declared it to be a phallus, and had marveled at the size of it. It must have been a holy object of veneration!
    Sometimes, you just have to look at the crazies in wonder, and ask them to continue.

    (Other times, you have them hold up a construction project for years so that they can investigate your great-great grandfather’s moonshine shack. No, they wouldn’t listen. They were surprised to find an unusual amount of copper. Presumably one of them got a thesis out of it, which will misinform anyone who reads it about the things the settlers brought with them.)

    1. Yeah, the old “Everything we find is a religious object, and probably a fertility totem.”

      I guess you’re more likely to get grant money for that than “This was the latest fashion” or “They made it because they thought it looked pretty.”

        1. Technically it could be, but they always go for the religious/fertility token first, and never analyze it in terms of the fashion or aesthetics.

          1. They’re probably better advised to start with the assumption they’re prawn-related or sex toys.

    2. The reverse story: I was walking through the British Museum’s “Romans in Britain” exhibit and they had some donut-shaped stone rings on display as “children’s bracelets”. Um. No. That’s not what those are/were. They look exactly like something you can buy in any “adult” bookstore, today. I’m still irritated that I didn’t take a picture.

  34. Happy to see that “Forbidden Archaeology” is being useful. I received that book when I was a book reviewer, and loved the 950+ pages of weirdness. That was one of the books I gave away during the Great Purge that I truly regretted, but not enough spend $24 on a used copy.

  35. “b*tch, what took you so long?”

    I’ve read various proposals to move all industry offplanet and make Earth a nature preserve. A hypothetical human civilization on the order of 70K years back which had completely moved offplanet, save park rangers, a few folks who did not want to move or liked living in nature (as long as the solar sats kept beaming them power), or those that hid when the helpful .gov relocators came to visit, would leave very few traces.

    70K years ago Earth was in one of the periodic glaciation periods (another reason to move offplanet). During glaciation periods the sea level drops a lot. Current human civilization manifests about 40% of total population living within 100km of the coastline, and much of the non-coastline population lives where they live (away from the coasts) due to resource extraction, manufacturing, or Las Vegas. Assuming that civilizations resource extraction, manufacturing and gambling and hookers happened in space, an even large fractions would likely live near the coastlines.

    Even if much of the food production remained on the surface, there’s not really a lot of infrastructure footprint for that.

    If major planetside traces (major cities, highways, etc.) had been either removed in the creation of the nature preserves or subsequently ground into gravel by advancing glaciers, and anything not removed/crunched happened to be along the coasts or on now-completely-submerged land (think mid-Atlantic ridge), there would be very little remaining to be found on the Earth. And in space, the only remaining bits would probably have migrated to the L-whatever points – none of the normal periodic orbits are anything close to 70,000 year stable.

    If the various asteroid rendezvous/mining efforts end up sending a probe to the Earth’s trojan points and the news goes very quiet, I’d be suspicious that they Found Something.

    1. A) You’d still leave evidence of the industrial civilization necessary to move off-planet.

      B) Have you ever considered that the Tower of Babel – “a tower that reaches to the heavens” – sounds a bit like a beanstalk?

      1. Perhaps more prosaically, it could have been a temple, i.e. a place where one would commune with the gods, on top of that tower, which would have made it not so farfetched an idea at the time as it seems to us now. I’ve noticed that a great deal gets left out of the stories as they have come down to us.

      2. Re A) I definitely would not want to be the person assigned to oversee the “de-idustrialization” project. The amount of work involved in “restoring” ever mile of roadway, every cut blasted through the mountains for a railroad, every stone in the reconstructed great wall, each remaining stone in Hadrians’s wall, every mile of California’s vast system of water redistribution canals, and so on, it’s just mind boggling.

        But I do think there’s likely a lot of interesting stuff buried in mud under the first 300-400 feet of water around the world. For lots of human history that was prime land.

        If you want a theory that does not require a prehistoric civilization built completely using tissue paper, it would be more likely that when the aliens stopped by their visit happened to coincide with both a deep ice age and one of the bottlenecks in human genetic history, so they saw the poor homosaps were dying out and talked most of them into being relocated somewhere more hospitable.

        Then when they swung back through to check on things ten thousand years ago: “Whoa, you guys sure recovered compared to the last time we were here. Wait till we tell your relatives. Yeah, you have relatives up there in the sky. Hey, did you know that if you pile rocks in a pyramid shape, that looks cool? Okay, gotta go, see y’all in 60,000 years!”

  36. I have a bachelors in anthropology. Just a piddling little BA, not a master’s or phD (which in my ancient youth I had wanted to achieve…now, not so much) and from a piddling little state college to boot (although in my defense, it is now quite a solid little place for forensic study, having the largest body farm next to the one @ the University of Tennessee headed by the man who started it all Dr. William Bass – but I was there in the early days when there was just one phsy anth prof and one little ol phys anth lab and spent many an hour gluing bone together). So I remember the days of New Age trying to infitrate the vaunted halls of scientific study of human development and history. My professors were good guys and quite adamant in staving off the kookier elements that Im sure rang quite a lot of alarm bells for them. I also made friends with quite a few students in the dept that were adept at fending off those characters too)

    So when a close friend who was working to get her teaching certificate insisted that the pyramids were mystical alien products, I was really hard put to keep the friendship. *I* knew from my own intense interest in ancient history that pyramids were, in effect, big ol’ glorified mastabahs (essentially holes in the ground covered by a makeshift house of stone or adobe). My husband, also a science person who had considered a career in architecture one time (now an instrumentation designer), had told me that his architecture prof had joked about how skyscrapers and big builders were essentially monuments that architects built for themselves and the more glamorous/outrageous/ostentatious, the better…the idea of piling a huge amount of rocks to mark an itty bitty hole in the ground just so a pharaoh could be remembered made FAR more sense than some woo-woo alien space craft or some kind of message to the Dog-Star, Sirius.

    If anything, I considered the New Age stuff as fantastic fodder for fantasy stories, but never anything credible in the realm of science. One thing that got hammered into my head by my anthro profs was that anthropology suffered from not being an actual science itself, but that its primary CREDIBILITY relied solely on the hard science it used to verify/disqualify its theories. Any hint of Woo Woo Shit was HIGHLY suspect.

    With all the feminista crap thats infected the field of anthropology, though, Im really not so sure anymore….

    1. It is useful to keep in mind the distinction between material and immaterial beliefs (not really a strong point on the Left, BTW.)

      For example, I frankly do not care whether the President of the Untied States believes in Evolution. It seems unlikely to affect his (her) job requirements and performance. Will a belief in Evolution be a decision factor in decisions regarding international trade, health care policies, foreign affairs or enforcement of the duly enacted laws of our nation?

      The fact your friend is a teacher (wannabe, at any rate) seems to make the belief in pyramidism problematic, but likely not critical if teaching at an appropriate level.

      1. I do care if a President thinks he can discover never seen before thermodynamics phenomena when he is setting energy policy.

    2. Yes, some of them seem to regard Earth’s Children as historical documentation.

  37. I went on a blind date a few years ago, the lady seemed like a nice, normal person, and things seemed to be going fine. Then she came up with:

    “Jews don’t eat pork because they evolved from pigs, much like the rest of us evolved from apes.”


    I immediately called for the check, but ended up staying and talking to her for a while. It was like a train wreck… Couldn’t get away. Turns out, she had come across some bizarre theory sights on the Internet (at least one of which that was apparently horribly racist) and bought into EVERY DAMN THING SHE READ! Bush Sr. was a Nazi and part of Hitler’s inner circle. That Jew/pig thing. Various chem-trail theories. Black Helicopters. Dogs and cats, living together! AIDS was a secret US Government bio weapon designed to kill off Blacks and Gays. Well, either that or AIDS came from people having sex with monkeys (I at least had actually heard that one before). She wasn’t sure which but suspected both were true. She kept going and going. Eventually I had to stop her and go home it was just too much.

          1. Indeed. In Nigeria, and many other parts of Africa, “beef” is slang for any animal. Because if the locals can catch it, they eat it – no matter what it is. It’s all “beef.”

            Why yes, Peter does refuse to buy any meat from an African import store, no matter whether they claim it’s “beef” or “lamb”. Especially when I lean over and go “huh, no FDA approved stamp.” In fact, he most emphatically does not want my unvaccinated-against-African-cooties self to get in sniffing range of said “beef”.

            For your enjoyment…

    1. Descendents of Ham.

      (Yeah, yeah, I know, Shem, but I have a weakness for terrible jokes. Plus, whose to say that it couldn’t happen. (Who isn’t any sort of life scientist.) I mean, they had a breed pair of pigs, one of wolves, and some others. Get a sow, a bitch, and a female whatever, and breed humans with animals. The sons of Noah might’ve been influenced by pre-flood culture, which would have been okay with that.)

      1. Actually, it is a bit from the Qur’an and the ahadith. Which says that Jews will someday turn back into pigs and (other animal). Millions of Muslims either believe it, or do not contradict it.

          1. OTOH, a lot of people in the Orkneys are allegedly descended from selkies, and they refused to eat seal meat even when food was scarce. (Because it’s a bit tacky to chow down on a relative.) I know a very nice Orkney song that’s a selkie lament for a relative who was dined upon.

            But people like seals, so singing songs to make your neighbors feel guilty may also have been a thing.

            1. Correction: In the Hebrides. Orkney, too, but the song is from the Hebrides.

              MacCodrum is one of the families associated with selkie ancestors.

    2. Do not discard the alternate hypothesis, that she had decided you were not in her dating pool and therefore she took steps to ensure you would not ever again knock at her door.

      When a lass decides the date is over, such behaviour is a pretty effective way of politely terminating the relationship.

      1. Ah, you know how to hurt a guy! LOL!

        Frankly, I can’t deny this as a possibility. A lot of friends over the years have said they didn’t like me until they got to know me and realized that I wasn’t anything like what they had initially thought. Although, generally it’s because it takes me a while to warm up to people and for some reason people seem to see that as condescending.

        1. I have a similar personality issue — some might claim that t comes of having an introvert personality but I say most folk aren’t worth spending the time to get to know them.

          N.B., my alternate hypothesis does not make her actions wise, merely suggests she had decided (whether erroneously or not) that you were not her cup of tea and was attempting to discreetly and politely pour you into the potted pants.

          Correct analysis does not demand concurrence.

          Oh, and Occam votes in favor of her being a kook (as evidenced by her bizarre selection of ploys to terminate the engagement.)

    3. Black helicopters were really a thing.
      They were frequently seen in Northern Idaho during the early 90s, and no one knew why. So we asked our congressman Helen Chenowith about it. She publicly asked a question about them.
      Suddenly the media was reporting the crazy rednecks this, and the New World Order that, when all we wanted to know was what was going on!

      1. Pleas! They are African-American helicopters, and complaining about them is racisssssssss.

        1. They were dark colored, but the “black” largely was just shorthand for lacking identification numbers.

          1. Having worked on (oh, so many) military helicopters, a *lot* of them are a very dark green which, in certain lighting conditions is indistinguishable from black.

      2. Generally, training missions.

        As in, “I need six hours to keep my qual for (pilot)”.

        Not that they’d have anyone sane enough to CHECK THAT OUT.

      3. For the conspiracy folks:
        Gov’t vans are almost always white, unless they are Duty Vans (think of it as tiny buses).

        I can’t even remember the show, but there was ONE that had the Huge Gov’t Conspiracy showing up in white F-350 vans… Elf and I CHEERED.

        1. See, the unmarked van that parked at a corner of the street for months was white.
          We promptly renamed our ISP “Spook’s Van on the Corner” — yes, because we’re annoying.

        2. My guess would be *E*-350 vans; F series are trucks. ‘E’ is for the venerable Econoline vans like the one we had when the German Shepherd got scared and sat on the accelerator pedal; the engine was inside so it was a bit loud and hot, but it was probably the hurdling around at the insane speed of 20 mph in that tiny town that was scaring her.

        3. Feds might use white, but my local state, county, and city are seriously into unmarked black with low-profile light bars.

          Oddly, I seldom see any singletons; usually they’re in clusters in random parking lots. Sometimes surrounded by “operators” in full mall ninja tacticool, sometimes apparently just the empty vehicles.

        4. I remember needing to ride around in one of those white Ford vans for a while in my job. Did you know that they can get up to 120, almost 130 miles per hour before they start making funny noises? Not that I ever drove them that fast.

          (It was a co-worker who had the government equivalent of tenure. I just sat in the backseat clutching the armrest and offering prayers that nothing jumped out in our way.)

          1. If they don’t put governors in them, yes.

            Freaking Navy put theirs in at 70.

            I found that out when I was trying to avoid dying on the drive to San Diego….

            1. 10pm heading to the navy hospital in San Diego to give a friend a lift home. Hit LA. 110 was the safe speed in a 55 zone. Otherwise you would be smooshed by a semi. *shudders* I was in a teeny tiny rental. There was much praying.

          2. I have a used E150 van that’s now old enough to vote, and almost has enough miles on it to have reached the moon, and still going strong. It has gone 90+ on flat roads at lower elevations. Uphill at elevations over 6000 feet, not so much – hard to get it up above 70, maybe 75.

    4. TINS. I’d flown a mid 20s or so patient and the patient’s father to Bigish City from Ruralville. When I picked up the med crew, the flight nurse was shaking her head and said, “We should have logged two patients.”
      Me: Huh?
      Flight EMT: [making crazy-circle hand signal at his temple] Oh yeah. Dad’s so far out there he’s almost in orbit. Chem-trails were just the beginning.

      1. I remember someone who used to write epic letters to the local newspaper in the place my family had their cabin about chemtrails. Went on for years.

          1. Aren’t contrails those paths you follow to get from the Dealers’ Room to various panels, the Consuite and the Baen Barflys?

  38. Keep in mind that the population size was much smaller. Estimated in the low millions, not billions during the last Ice Age. With both fewer people and poorer communications between groups, you wouldn’t get the synergy of a gabillion innovators building on each other’s discoveries.

  39. I wish I had a dollar for everytime a theology discussion gets derailed…

    “Oh, so you’re Wiccan!”
    “….No, I’m a Catholic. I was directly quoting the Catechism and (orthodox source).”
    “Wait, WHAT?!?!?”

    1. People just don’t get how Odd some things in Catholic theology can sound. I’ve just brushed the edges, not really studied it, and I have had several “um, that’s seriously different” moments.

    2. I’ve only bumped into it. I had a customer who quoted from the Catechism. I had no idea how very detailed it is; for example, the discussion on sickness starts around paragraph #1490—and I don’t think there are reserved (skipped) numbers, but I didn’t check. And there are footnotes going back to Scripture.

          1. Aha hah!


            I have to be careful, that thing is as dangerous as a dictionary. You wander in to check ONE THING and an hour later come up for air.

  40. *does a quick check that The Secret World hasn’t been mentioned yet*

    K, anybody who adores reading about this kind of stuff and can take horror type stories?


    I’d suggest the Templar.

    It’s a really awesome game I wish I could stand. 😀
    (The first zone is Lovecraft inspired. I barely got through it, and I had nightmares for months. I still kept going back because wow, the stories are surprisingly good.)

    1. I’ve had a friend highly recommend it, and it’s right up my alley.
      I just already have a backlog of timesinks, and I know I can get downright obsessive about this type of game.

        1. I don’t play much video games.

          That flavor of worldbuilding is one I do work with sometimes.

        2. I already have SWTOR as an MMORPG timesink and I’m steadily making my way through Fallout 4. Haven’t reached Dunwich Borers yet, though I hear that one is pretty creepy.

          1. oh you have to play it thru at least three times. Six if you get nuka world. And then there is Far Harbor…

              1. At this point i just go exploring, kill raiders, and destroy the institute. everything else is slightly different each time

        3. I tried playing it, but the lag was brutal enough that it was nearly unplayable.
          But yes, I agree on the Templars. They’re the only *sane* faction.

  41. And here the “priests of official science” can also just stop with calling everything they don’t understand a temple. Sometimes “We don’t know what it was for” is PERFECTLY acceptable and the right answer.

    I think you would LOVE the lady who did the tour at the El Paso archaeology museum today– we kind of ran into a bunch of 5th graders having a walk-through and got sucked in.

    I swear, 90% of her answers were “we don’t really know.”

    Even when it was stuff like “Well, we have these clovis points from the area. Funny thing is, this stone is from 100-200 miles away, which is really really far when you have to walk. There’s stone that would be perfectly OK for this, although not as pretty. We DO NOT KNOW WHY they did this.”
    Me: *pulls out Old Timer/Buck brand pocketknife, with horn casing, looks at it, puts it back*

    She did the exact same “we do not actually know” thing with all the sea shell stuff, too– was dang near ready to hug her.

    1. Note: she did ask things like “could they have walked there? Could the other guys have walked here? We know the Apache came here, because of trading and raiding records….”

    2. because in the Official Socialist Paradise of the First Nations, there was no trading between distant tribes.

  42. The “priests of science” idea of a long stagnation and TONS of nonsense about when “sentience began” (Are you sentient tovarish? How about a cat?) is just that, nonsense. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and the long stagnation might simply be a period when all the signs of civilization are buried under water/were destroyed by vulcanism/ are under ice in Antarctica. The only reason that sounds crazy to you is how crazy archaeologists of the damned who have posited this before being… well… crazy. But ignore the pyramids and Easter Island, and think in terms of likelihood. Assume our ancestors were a lot like us, tinkering apes. And assume what is now 150k to 200k of anatomically modern humans. The most ancient sign of “civilization” we have goes back 12k years. Now do the math. There could EASILY accounting for time in between to “forget’ except at the level of distant legends ten past “lost” civilizations.

    There is an alternative, but it’s even LESS palatable than “aliens did it”– that the Christian idea of “all men are brothers” was such a shift in how one thinks (one that took an insane amount of time to build up to– how long was it between “look, I am ORDERING you to only do as much damage as you took” to “turn the other cheek”? And the first is still borderline insane in areas of the world today?) and that it allowed the kind of cooperation that allows advancement like we’ve seen.

    ISIS with their “destroy all this ####, it ain’t what we want to promote,” even when the stuff is Islamic but not in fashion… is that common, or not, OUTSIDE of the places where Christian theories are popular?

    How would one test for this?

    Talk about your #ForbiddenArcheology.

    1. That’s actually something I suspect is true, and count as probably part of the ‘atypical societies are high maintenance and advancements aren’t necessarily going to be independently rediscovered’.

    2. when a friend was deployed to the sandbox, his FOB was across the road from UR

      can you imagine?

      he has pics of himself sitting on the remains of the steps of a ziggurat

    3. There’s an SF short-short story that had as its twist that Christianity was designed deliberately to advance civilization to the point where we’d be able to assist in a galactic war. The final lines were something like “You’ll have to learn Aramaic.” “Aramaic?” “That’s the language they speak in Judea.”

  43. Oh, yeah, and talking babies. This seems to be a BIG thing.

    Five year old.


    Totally ruined the “big reveal” on what archaeologists think– because the horned snake/lizard/fish thing, she looked and said “is it a water snake?”

    Which both pleased Older Volunteer Lady and cut ten minutes off the thing. 😀

  44. Like, you know, given the nature of our species as tinkering monkeys, the idea of 190k years of pure stagnation ALSO isn’t an extraordinary claim.

    Oh, ####.

    Just thought of why this might be.

    What is the folk tradition that has caused the most issue with Christians up to the current day? Not focusing on solidly Christian but different flavors country– in places that aren’t reflexively Christian.


    Neighbor got a good crop? WITCHCRAFT! He stole from you! DEATH TO HIM!!!!
    Neighbor’s wife recovered from the kind of birth trauma that killed your wife?
    WITCHCRAFT!! Kill them all, they’ve been stealing life force!
    Stuff just generally sucks? Hey, there’s a (strange guy– say, albino, bald, hair too late, whatever) over there! He must be the difference! KILL HIM!!

    Unless there’s something to shortcircuit the crabbucket…. maybe we DO stagnate.

  45. We need to start a rumor that only pyramid power will defeat Trump. See how many fall for it.

    1. I’ll go with that, on condition that the pyramid power must be generated by the person in question sitting on top of said pyramid (a smallish one, about 2 foot wide at the base), sans clothing, for at least 24 hours straight.

      With a bit of luck enough will be insane enough to try it and give themselves fatal injuries in the process.

      I doubt they’d recognize what that particular size and shape used to be used for some 600-odd years back.

      1. Aw, and here I was going to tell them that the instructions are cleverly hidden in a book called “Pyramid Scheme” by this Dave Freer guy, and Eric Flint. One’s a Trotskyite, so you know he’s The Right Sort, and the other is a mystic guru in the middle of the pacific ocean, who has gone back to the land (seriously, just check out that beard! And the communing with birds author photo!)…

        Dude, if I could rile up the population of Antifa to rush out and buy two thousand copies, that’d be about perfect!

    2. This is like free bleeding. how horrifying would it be if they did fall for it?
      QUICK before we start, buy a bunch of cheap stone pyramids from China. We’ll be rich. RICH.

  46. *Note, this comment is totally hidden, because WP thinks I already said this.

    What this reminds me of, strangely enough, is one of the controversies that ran through anthropology back when I was following it much more closely. The Goddess Theory.

    See, back in the late nineties and early 2000’s, feminism had its meathooks well and truly into cult anthro (yes, that’s a bit of a double entendre). We had all these little bits of… art. From thousands of years ago (and much older, in some places- Turkey, forex). All of women with broad hips, usually no head or feet, just the middle bits. They called them “goddess figurines” or somesuch.

    You can still find adherents to this day, believing and expounding on it. Ancient Man was Feminist! Went the claims. Matriarchal societies, now lost to time (because ancient patriarchy- you only *think* I’m kidding!) worshiped Mother Goddess, not any man. It was quite the thing at the time, and modern feminism made much hay over it. Quite a lot of the literature of the time (especially the ones that got certain grant monies, and the few that got maybe ten seconds on some niche cable news channel) wondered where we went wrong, going away from this sunny flowers and light religion… That they totally made up in their heads.

    Seriously. This was a teachable moment that our department head took the time to lay out for us wide eyed students. The study of the ancient past must always have its roots in hard facts. The closest we get to first sources is potsherds. *chuckle* We can theorycraft all the day long about what went on 35,000 years ago or so, but what we *know* is sharply limited. Physical evidence is king in prehistory. There aren’t any writings (that we know of, or have found) that can tell us jack squat that far back. So what does the physical evidence say?

    Well… Chances are, if you are forming a religion based on worshiping this “Mother Goddess” and this figurine thing is a religious icon… You probably won’t be disposing of them in job lots in a midden pit with table scraps (bone) and flint-knapping dross. That’s where they found these things. In the garbage. Along with a few other little wolf-looking things, sheep-looking things, and suchlike. They were probably toys. If we ever find any made out of bone instead of stone, betcha there’s little teethmarks on them from kids chewing.

    The whole Goddess Theory thing was a crazy bell to any fieldworker who’d been way out in the bush, where folks live a lot closer to the bone than any modern society. Primitive bands default to Strong Man organization, with Tribal and Clan as upgrades for the culturally ambitious. Trying to force modern crazycakes into that mold just doesn’t work.

    It’s not quite as crazycakes as ancient aliens and bridges made out of soap, but it’s not in the same zip code as anything sane, either. Wanting something to be true *really really bad* isn’t enough to make it true. *shakes head* We get some silly ones in the anthro/archeo disciplines sometimes. If y’all haven’t read “Coming of Age in Samoa,” there’s another flight of fancy that gets used as a cautionary tale… Coincidentally, it’s *another* Feminist Victory! that turned out to be… not so much. *chuckle*

      1. people believe weird stuff. a bunch of upper middle class kids are running around insisting that Trump i s a fascist and that the man is keeping them down, for instance…

        1. yes, i am commenting on my own comment. Many of same kids buy into the goddess theory, and they also buy into the weird theory floating aroudn with it that society at the time was also some type of weird prehistoric socialist paradise….they fervently want to, nay, i say need to believe in this kind of claptrap.

          1. If pre-history was a socialist paradise, it would certainly explain why civilization didn’t develop for 100k years.

    1. Honestly odds favor the reason behind the exaggerated features being a product of the tools. Want something recognizably female, but don’t have a lot of fine detail tools? Exaggerate the features that are definitively female.

  47. Rather annoying when the comment-conversation has gone haring off in fifteen different directions before I get a chance to comment once, but I shall make do…

    About pyramids: “They’re very impressive, and we can’t for absolutely sure know how they were built, or why only for a relative brief period, with before and after being completely unable to reproduce the tech.”

    Erm, not so much. AIUI, there’s been a few mightily interesting finds made in recent years regarding Egyptian pyramids in general and the Giza pyramids in particular. The Giza pyramids did not come out of nowhere; they were a logical (if very extreme) extrapolation of prior technology (see: the Step Pyramid, the Bent Pyramid), and after them the Egyptians kept building pyramids for quite a while. Just not very big ones. Oh, and several digs at Giza have found the remnants of one or more large towns that were apparently occupied by the pyramid work crews. Lotta people worked on those big ol’ heaps of stone…

    All of which makes the Giza monuments MORE impressive in my eyes, not less. You mean to tell me the people of that time were so intelligent and creative and just plain old-fashioned determined that they designed and built THOSE with nothing more than manpower, hand tools, and basic muscle-powered machines?

    I am _far_ more interested in learning how Amerind tribes built huge earthworks like Monks’ Mounds at Cahokia with nothing but Stone Age hand tools, not even (as far as we know) the simplest machines. Did they actually know what they were doing and plan it all in advance? Or is the apparently-sophisticated engineering somehow the result of coincidence and luck?

  48. Reading all the above I’m reminded of The Fermi Paradox. Where are they? I usually tell people there are only two UNIVERSAL reasons possible for the The Fermi Paradox. First one defaults to the Ultimate Anthropic Principle. One, and only one, intelligence is both necessary and sufficient for the existence of a universe, and we’re it. AKA, God created us, and only us, and expects us to go out and populate the rest of the universe. The second universal explanation is: Berserkers are real, and they’re on the way…

    Any other explanation requires that each and every predecessor succumb to some foreseeable doom, but weren’t able to bypass it. Some bioweaponed themselves out of existence. Some nuked themselves back to the stone age. Etc., so on and so forth.

    But as I get older, I’m beginning to think there’s another sociological universal explanation, and we’ve seen it play out in older civilizations on Earth, and we’re seeing it play out again in real time. That is- Civilizations and species strive towards stasis. China developed gunpowder and metallurgy centuries before the Europeans. And the Europeans used gunpowder and metal weapons to dominate China. China had at one time built a world spanning fleet, sent it around to the other side of Africa. Then destroyed it. India developed a caste system. You were born into your station in life, and that was that. After death you would be reincarnated into another life, maybe the same, or if you had done really well, to a higher caste. Japan was equally insular. The ancient Romans and Greeks knew of steam engines, Heron’s Engine, but never did anything with that knowledge. Aztecs and Mayans knew of the wheel. Toys had them. But they never developed transport with wheels. Then, from a small area in Europe, knowledge and technology exploded. And visible change within a single generation became commonplace.

    And change is resisted by every Right Thinking Person. The Luddites opposed change, it put people out of work. Doesn’t that argument sound familiar today? We’re destroying dams now to “bring the streams back to their natural form.” Though we actually have no idea what that form is. All utopias, and dystopias, which to me are the same thing, have a never changing world as their centerpiece. The Amish live among us, not living with any of our technology, but embracing the old. There are calls to reduce our standard of living so we can “Save The World”. The powers that be want us all to live like the Amish, in harmony with nature.

    A civilization that develops stasis will never get into space, will never visit other planets and settle them. And that’s where I see us heading. Because that’s what all right thinking people want. Those of us who embrace change, who want to settle the stars, we’re exceedingly rare.

    My grandmothers were born in 1895 and 1900, and both lived to see man walk on the moon. My oldest child, of 5, is 36. Man hasn’t walked on the moon in the lifetime of my children. That isn’t a good sign.

    1. “But as I get older, I’m beginning to think there’s another sociological universal explanation, and we’ve seen it play out in older civilizations on Earth, and we’re seeing it play out again in real time. That is- Civilizations and species strive towards stasis. ”

      This reminds me of the early-20th-century idea of “cycles of civilization,” which was used to great effect by A.E. van Vogt in The Voyage of the Space Beagle. Seems to me there’s more than a grain of truth in it.

      “And change is resisted by every Right Thinking Person. ”

      Heinlein had it right: “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

      “This is known as ‘bad luck.'”

    2. Travis Taylor, IIRC in his book on planetary defense, pointed out that the Fermii paradox wasn’t necessarily so much of a paradox once you dig into the assumptions and thought about them.

    3. You can add Socialism to that mix.
      Sure, a lot of the advocates for it are hateful trolls consumed by envy. But they actively depend on most of the populace aquiescing–mostly by promising to protect them from innovation and change.
      I expect we’ll see a major push as more and more jobs are automated out of existence.

      1. Then there’s the picture with the text over Tom Baker’s The Doctor: “The very stupid and the very powerful have one thing in common: if they don’t like reality, they change reality.”

      1. Okay, it’s late in the discussion, but I have to ask- Can they be used for carp?

  49. Most people want answers.

    There is still hell of a lot of stuff around which just raises questions, if you bother to pay attention to it. Where there seems to be something – or something seems to happen – but we have no damn ideas as to why and how, nor any idea how or where to start looking for the answers either.

    Occasionally no idea even how to make sure if something does happen or if there really is something. Or doesn’t happen or that there is nothing.

    And there seems to be two major ways to deal with that type of mysteries, ones which look like they probably will stay as mysteries no matter what you do.

    Ignore them or invent something.

    Most will ignore them. Some will try to debunk them. Some of those debunkers, when they can’t bury the whatever for good in spite of repeated attempts, can become one sort of woo-woos themselves and invent, ignore and even outright lie in their attempts to destroy whatever offends or irritates them.

    Then there are the curious. Some just wonder, but then on the other end of that road there are the full on woo-woos, who pretty much always seem to have the need to build a theory, or a whole worldview, which includes the whatever so that the whatever is explained.

    I guess I pretty much count those most aggressive debunkers – the ones who seem to need to debunk every single thing, every time, and who cares about any possible proof that maybe there might be something to it after all – and the woo-woos in the same group. Both as people who can’t deal with the idea that they don’t know everything, and that there are mysteries which cannot be solved with the tools we have in our use now. To them the mystery either is not allowed to exist in the first place, or it HAS to be explainable (also, if it is explainable, and if they are among the chosen few who know the answer, well, that makes them pretty special, right?).

    “I don’t know” can be hard to deal with. Especially when you have to add “and I don’t think I ever will”. There seem to be a minority of researchers – mostly of the amateur kind as trying to research any of the weirder stuff seems to be potentially dangerous to your career, if you happen to have one in whatever the mystery connects to – who do manage to just limit it to just “yes, there seems to be a mystery, but I have no damn idea what it means, and no theories either”.

    Well, I guess that kind of books (or movies or lecture tours etc) do not sell all that well either. While the ones which claim to have answers can.

    People like answers.

    Personally, I think that we really haven’t gotten all that much further than those people a hundred or so years ago who then assumed that science already knew pretty much everything, just a few little things needed to be clarified. The few little things which now seem to be a bit mysterious, maybe – while a lot of it probably is explainable with what we know or is some sort of phantom which actually does not hide anything real after all, I would bet that those also do include a few mysteries which, when finally figured out, will open doorways to whole new worlds of science. And the answers will probably not look much, if at all, like any of the theories all those books about them now have.

  50. Perhaps, heck, hopefully, somebody has already pointed this out, but there’s a HUGE problem with the “ancient civilization” notion when talking about a tech level at the Industrial Age or above.

    Resource extraction. Where are the mines? While the “Lost Mines of Antarctica” or the “Drowned Mines of Atlantis” can explain their absence, a tech civilization isn’t SMALL enough to disappear otherwise. We spread out whenever living is easy….

    A lower level of tech? That, especially if centered in areas that got scraped clean by assorted Ice Ages, could be wiped away. Or perhaps advanced bio-tech could conceivably disappear … (Now THERE’S some story… bio-tech so advanced that “the message” is literally embedded in the DNA of multiple species.)

    1. Depends on tech. I’m thinking maybe Roman level, TOPS.
      Also, the mines could be RIGHT THERE if it’s “Roman level.” Why? Duh. Roman level. We’d go “oh, that’s an abandoned Roman mine” — just like Gobekli Tepe was “just a medieval cemetery.
      Listen, if you think every inch of Europe (let alone the rest of the world) has been escavated and studied, you’re suffering from American-vision. What Europe is mostly built on is Europe; where I came from when clearing a field for planting for the first time, you put all the bones in a deep hole, together, and don’t look too closely. You put what looks like remnants of medieval armor and Roman fibulas in there too. You might salvage silver and gold (I had a silver necklace with stars, for a while) but you don’t run to an archeologist with it.
      I repeat: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
      Hiding Roman civilizations isn’t hard, and having lived in countries with deep history? I wouldn’t hazard against advanced civilizations, either. Sometimes I think the reason we make finds in the middle east and africa is that they haven’t built ENOUGH over the ruins.

      1. I remember a story from a few years back about a mountain, I believe in Switzerland. The retreating glacier on the mountain was being used as proof of global warming. That glacier has always been there, just as big, and was now retreating. All due to global warming. Another year passed by and a visible hole was suddenly uncovered. A cave! Hidden by the glacier that had always been there! Up the mountain went the adventurous to explore. Turned out it was an adit, not a cave. And just inside, neatly stacked and ready for use when the miners returned were picks and shovels. And carts. Everything need to commence mining. So apparently the glacier had always been there only since the last bout of global cooling. The ice had been there long enough that memories of the mine had been erased from the collective consciousness. Or explanation two, the original inhabitants has been displaced by newer ones who didn’t know of it.

        Sort of like a few years back when Lake Michigan headed down to it’s lowest levels ever. Because we were entering the era of permanent drought. Never would the Great Lakes recover from the water shortage caused by the permanent drought. And as the water got lower, docks started appearing. Yes, our ancestors were so stupid they built docks below the lake water level, where they couldn’t use them, because the lake had never ever been that low.

  51. Once upon a time in the 70’s I owned one of those pocket sized ‘pyramid power’ sets with the flat plate which set on top. I’d roll joints and place them on it to increase the ‘stone ya’ power. Once I put it under my mattress. That night I had an intense wet dream. When I mentioned this to my best pal he exclaimed out loud and asked to borrow it. I never got it back.

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