Rob Smith

An Active Observer, an Aspiring Writer

Month: September, 2014

Gamma-Ray Bursts: Statistical Analyis as to Why it’s so very Quiet Out There

A new paper has been released detailing statistical analysis of the frequency of gamma-ray bursts (GRB) and outlying why it is a limiting factor in life’s development in the galaxy. The paper is located here:…

There are several interesting takeaways from this paper. First the paper concludes that there was a 50% chance that GRB lead to at least one of the mass extinction events on Earth over the last 500 Myr. Take your pick as to what mass extinction event to tie into GRB, as the majority of them are very poorly understood. The Permian–Triassic extinction event would seem like the most likely candidate, where up to 96% of marine and 70% of land life suddenly disappeared from the fossil records. It’s a pure guess on my part, as conversely there is a 50% chance a GRB did not occur in the last 500 Myr. It now has to be part of the conversation when discussing mass extinction events.

Next, from a statistical standpoint, there is a high probability that life would has been totally wiped off the face of the planet at some point, at least once, between when it first appeared ~3.5 Gyr and today. Keep in mind it only took ~700 Myr the dominate life on Earth to go from the first worm like creatures to iPhone 6 obsessed apex predators. This leaves us with an opening to rewrite the narrative of just what might have occurred between 3.5 and 0.7 Gyr in the past.

Lastly, and what I find the most interesting is that this could be the single biggest limiting factor for life’s development “out there.” This is the portion of the paper that I need sometime to digest, but I feel will have the biggest impact in our quest for life outside of the blue and seemingly very lucky little marble we call home.

Why I Am a Rational Human Being, and You Are Not.

I had a couple of strange experiences this week that make me question if the theorized separation of the human species into separate distinct sub-species might not be truly be a reality. A portion of me believes that I am speaking with hyperbole; but deep down inside, I am really starting to believe this shit. We’ll go from least complex emotionally and move on from there.

So…. I’m driving my son to school, wading through the park lot traffic. Drop the kids off and head to the exit of a somewhat busy thoroughfare. Its one of those exits where a left hand turn is so unlikely that there are signs prohibiting it during normal school hours.   For the most part, cars in front of me are respecting this portion of the social compact; a few here and there are attempting this unlikely solution to these parking lot woes, but not many.   Behind me two cars, there is this bitch, and yes, we’ll call her a bitch to rightly set the tone, laying on her horn every thirty seconds; in some delusional belief that by doing so would somehow speed her departure from this middle school parking lot hell.

At first this blaring horn sound emanating from behind me was processed by my half asleep mind as a cliché expected sound of the grid lock we were all encountering attempting to exit this lot.   As it became obvious just how tricky it was to even make a right onto the main road, I realized what this jerks honking actually signified from her point of view.   There she was, sheltered in her car, interacting with the same meaningfulness as if you were art home watching television (or playing a video game for the younger generation). A two year old, who is the center of the universe, throwing a tantrum that they can not get their own way.

I looked at my clock and realized I had fifteen minutes to burn. A large part of me wanted to get out of my car and confront her; not aggressively but in a jovial “lets put all of this in some amount of perspective” standpoint. But I didn’t, pussy that I am.

A few days later, I was confronted with an even more egregious display of human indifference. My dog who is insanely territorial, escape my backyard. It was pure happenstance that he encountered another dog walking by the house on a leash. In his typical fashion he got in the dogs face and began bellowing. This dog is all bark and no bite, like me. In any case, the other dog sensing a threat, and probably rightly so, grabbed my dog by the throat. My dog never having been in a fight had no idea how to react cowered in fear and let this other dog maul his shoulder.

I reacted in a very similar fashion to my dog. I backed off and let the other dog owner pry his dog’s jaws off of mine. I was shaken; sure my dog was a goner. After a minute, he managed to pry the dogs apart. Immediately, this guy got in my face, screaming that I had created the situation. Yes. Thank you, my dog escaped and I know it’s my fault- he created this conflict– as my dog is bleeding, lying still on the ground—your dog is still going for him. Nothing we can do to change the reality of the situation.  The fucker walks away screaming, “this is all on you bro” over and over again, no care in the world as to anyone’s condition but his own.

After a bit of education from our vet as to how to help him heal, our dog is probably going to be fine; asshole that he is. But what of this other pet owner? If the roles were reversed and my dog did major damage to someone else’s dog, regardless of who started the shit, I would hope that I would show some compassion In reality, in situations such as these, we are all losers. No care in the world, this guy walks on yelling recriminations.

In conclusion, I don’t really have any conclusions. I strongly suspect this has something to do with me being a more rational human being then you, though this central thorium is rather suspect. I’ll leave you with one more example of this in my everyday life. On the road ahead of you there is a car behaving erratically in a fashion that can only indicate a driver over the age of seventy five. You have no idea if they are slowing down because they are about to signal to make a turn or because they have done so every tenth of a mile for what seems like the last thousand miles. Are you the asshole who starts tailgating them in order to, what, run them off the road? Or are you smiling, a safe ten car lengths behind, in the realization that we’ll all be there some day and who the fuck is in a rush to get to work anyways?

Apologia ad me

Longtime, no blog.

Tonight will be full of sheer random thoughts, as I haven’t had many organized ideas outside of just enjoying life for the last 5 or 6 months. Which brings us to my first topic, writing as an escape.


Ultimately, the one thing I discovered about myself is that I write only when I am deeply unhappy with life. For me, and probably quite a few people, writing is an escape from something. Artificial constructed realities. And fuck is it a lot of work. My last little bout of escape netted more shit in a compact amount of time than Steven King on a meth binge. Four solid months of “part time work” the first 80 to 100 pages of two separate novels, three partially finished small collections of short stories, the begins of quite a few thrusts… nothing finished.

Year end activities at work subsided, the weather improved, and suddenly I was far more interested in smelling the now blooming flowers, both metaphorically and in actuality, than escaping into some self created parallel reality. It has been difficult explaining this to other people and even rationalizing it internally. I’m not blocked; I’m just fucking enjoying this sunset.

So onto the next challenge… writing whilst content with life. The realist in me observes tat it will probably collapse into bleakness again with the change of weather and the impending year end 2014 at work. I’m just not so sure anymore that you wait for it to happen to you. There is something to be said about taking control of your own destiny; though it all seems so much more beautiful whilst in the middle of a barren landscape.


Anyone else get totally exhausted the first moment a political or religious debate transpires in your presence? That slow sinking feeling when you realize that no one will be happy regardless of the outcome?

Tonight I got totally engrossed in a debate about creationism versus evolution. At first, I got a high off of the ‘blood in the water.’ But this really isn’t a valid debate, no? The idea of a creator is not contrary and readily could be worked into the concept of evolution.   In so many of these sorts of discussions, politics, religion, whatnot, the two sides of a debate aren’t even discussing ideas that really are in conflict with the opposition.

…and don’t even get me started on politics in America.