2700 Planets so far…

An artist's depiction of an extrasolar, Earthl...

An artist’s depiction of an extrasolar, Earthlike planet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NASA’s Kepler Observatory satellite has discovered over 2700 exoplanets so far…  and counting.  Most of these are super-earths — however, there’s a lot more there, according to the people who run it.

Ames Research Center scientists have the Observatory’s Photometer observes 145,000 Main Sequence stars simultaneously, looking for the slightest dimming of the stars that indicate an orbital body.  Of these, 114 have been actually confirmed and observed, one of them is a Mars-sized planet.

Ames also believes that, based on the observed planets, with the confirmations in mind, that the galaxy is full of Earth-sized planets.

Yale Astronomy Professor Debra Fisher, who has worked on improving the planet-detecting technology we have today to detect Earth-sized planets, says it’s only a matter of time before we detect life on other planets; specifically, those in the ‘habitable zone‘ of the stars they observe — that is, the area that’s “just right” in light and temperature, for life to flourish.

Do you think we’ll find alien life in our lifetime?

Gay bashing… what would Hobbes and Locke say?

English: Thomas Hobbes Македонски: Томас Хобс ...

English: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being a theorist, I like taking time to think about the world today… and what those who helped shape the thoughts and philosophies we study as a science today would think about them.

With a recent rash of gay beatings and bashings, I’m often taken back to two of my favorite  founders of western political thought, Hobbes and Locke; and often think about what they would say about it, among other things going on in the world today.

quote-open“In Locke’s state of nature, things aren’t so bad!  In Hobbes’ state of nature, it’s DEADLY.”
        — Professor Laurel Sprague


I come back to the ideology of each theorist’s state of nature — where, in all things being equal, Man is at his most primal when it comes to social governance.  There’s no government to tell them what to do; Man, essentially, has all the rights one could ever want.

Locke’s State of Nature is a pretty laid back utopia of “I respect your boundaries, you respect mine, and we’re all happy.”  There are a few commonly understood rules that society in and of itself lives by.  Hobbes, however, it a bit more of a free-for-all.  Things are a lot more “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” to coin a phrase from The Bible.

In a Lockeian State of Nature, I don’t see such a thing happening.  It would go against the very point of Locke’s theory of Nature in and of itself.  People don’t inherently harm others in his world.

Hobbes, on the other hand, is dramatically different.  If a group of straight guys were to beat up on a gay guy, Hobbes would be the first to say that it’s quite likely a group of gay guys would want retribution and blood for the blood spilled of their brother… either the guys who committed the bashing itself, or just a target to prove a point.

What’s the most likely to occur if we were thrust into a State of Nature today?

DUI at 0.05 as opposed to 0.08 justice or overreaching?

drunk-driving-stop-293x300The National Transportation Safety Board (“the NTSB”) wrote a report today recommending all 50 states in the United States lower the level of driving under the influence from 0.08 to 0.05 Blood-Alcohol Content.  The responses from each side of the argument have been interesting to say the least. Swift action, including the revocation of driver licenses was also indicated as a punishment to those to keep repeat offenders from becoming habitual drunk drivers.

The report published by the NTSB also noted that lowering the intoxication threshold would save anywhere from “500 to 800 lives per year.”

Indeed, there is precedence for this figure.  A decade ago, the laws were changed to criminalize driving under the influence at 0.08 BAC.  Alcohol-related deaths on the road plunged from 20,000 in 1980 to 9,878 in 2011.

Even the lowest levels of alcohol seem to impair drivers, the NTSB has said.  In an NTSB study, people were given alcohol and drove in simulators.  At 0.01 BAC, drivers in simulators demonstrate attention problems and lane deviations. At 0.02, they exhibit drowsiness, and at 0.04, vigilance problems.

quote-open“This recommendation is ludicrous,” Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute, said in a statement to CNN.

“Moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior. …A little over a decade ago, we lowered our legal limit from 0.1 percent after groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving assured the country that, based on all the science, 0.08 BAC was absolutely, unequivocally where the legal threshold should be set for drunk driving. Has the science changed? Or have anti-alcohol activists simply set their sights on a new goal?” Longwell asked.