Simple and Direct Way to Beat Procrastination

Just about any creative-type person faces this demon. I know I do, I’ve been battling it all my life.

There are books about it. Libraries of books about it. There’s a whole industry about beating it. But it all boils down to one simple thing.

And this is it: don’t worry about the whole project, job, dilemma, whatever.

Just concentrate on the very first action. The smallest, simplest first step. Once done, then — and only then — concentrate on the next action.

One footstep at a time.

That’s all it takes. Don’t worry or even think about the overwhelmingness of the whole. Just take that first little step.

Sci-Fi Writers Take Note: There Are Way More Stars Than We Thought

A while ago I read a fascinating news release from JPL about a sounding rocket experiment that measures the light between galaxies. The conclusion: “While we have previously observed cases where stars are flung from galaxies in a tidal stream, our new measurement implies this process is widespread.”

In other words, there are way, way more stars out there than we thought, drifting in-between the galaxies.

From the article: “The light looks too bright and too blue to be coming from the first generation of galaxies,” said James Bock, principal investigator of the CIBER project from Caltech and JPL. “The simplest explanation, which best explains the measurements, is that many stars have been ripped from their galactic birthplace, and that the stripped stars emit on average about as much light as the galaxies themselves.” [My emphasis.]

So for every galaxy of stars out there, there’s another galaxy worth of stars drifting around between the galaxies. To me that means there’s twice as many stars as we thought in the Universe, which also means there’s twice as many chances for habitable worlds.

It also means that in your star trekking speculative fiction, really advanced galactic civilizations could more conceivably make their way to other galaxies, as it’s not a big huge empty stretch between — according to the article, it’s more like a halo of stars between, and perhaps even bridging, the spaces between galaxies.

It’s fascinating to me to think of civilizations developing among these isolated, far flung stars, and now mathematically speaking, the chances of other civilizations existing have essentially doubled.

Okay, I’ve planted the seed in your imaginations. Let them run wild!

Here’s a link to the article: The Universe is Brighter Than We Thought »

Are ghostly phenomena just glitches in the matrix?

Episode 4 – Ghosts In The Matrix?

Randomness is not what we think it is

I’m writing a series of realistic fantasy books and one of the characters is the god of chaos. Because of this character, I’ve been studying chaos theory in order to write the character with some intelligence, and I’ve been led to an amazing fact:

We all spring out of complete and total randomness.

Everything that is us and our world, and even our thoughts, are the product of complete and total randomness.

If you can wrap your head around this, you begin to understand that we have a general misconception of what “random” truely is. Apple Computers had to come to this conclusion, oddly, because when they first had a “random” setting on their early iPods people complained that it couldn’t possibly be random because it kept grouping songs together. They had to tweak their “random” algorithm to not be truly random so that it actually seemed random.

What we consider a rational, coherent universe is, at its very heart, complete and total random chaos … and yet, out of it springs order and, dare I say, meaning!

I find this utterly fascinating.

If the Universe is aware, what is it looking at?

I’ve been fascinated with the question, “What is reality?” since I was a teenager. I think I missed my calling in life, perhaps I should have been a philosophy major instead of a communications major. But then again, I have such a goofball sense of humor, no one would have taken me seriously – and philosophy seems to be oh so serious. Better to make light of the question while examining it than bog it down and make it dull. But let me break it down to a simple chain of logic based on what we know from science:

Action at a distance, which is the mind-boggling concept that particles get “entangled” and, what you do to one will affect its entangled partner — no matter how far the distance — implies that the two are actually connected even if they’re on the opposite sides of the Universe. How? It would have to be via dimensions we can’t perceive, and what we think of as two entangled particles are actually sections of the same particle. The two are a single object, but we can’t see the whole object because it actually has more than three dimensions. My conclusion: there are definitely more dimensions than what we perceive.

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principal shows us, without any room for doubt, that particles are affected by observation. Matter itself knows when you’re looking at it, and it behaves differently. My conclusion: awareness is built into matter.

These are just two pieces of a vast puzzle, but they’re enough to hint to me (and remember I’m a communications major with a wild imagination, not a scientist) that the Universe is both bigger and more complicated than you’d expect, and it is also self-aware. But not self aware as in how you and I are self aware, but in a bigger, grander, more complex way.

But get this: you and I are part of this Universe. We are not separate from it, we are part of it. We are the Universe and we are aware of ourselves. Hence, even from this perspective, the Universe is in fact aware of itself.

So if the Universe is aware, what is it doing? What is it interested in? If all it does is cosmic navel gazing, what is it watching?

We have strong hints right in front of us. The Universe seems to love beauty. It seems to love conflict. It seems to love drama.

It seems to love a good story.

Look through a powerful telescope and there are stories everywhere. Stories of birth, struggle, death, and rebirth. Stories of power, of gluttony, of conflict, and also harmony and beauty.

Stories of how chaos transforms into order – all by itself.

And all this is at extreme macro levels. Who knows what amazing stories unfold every second at every level in the entire cosmos – just look at all the drama, conflict, and beauty right here on our own little world.

And we see it all, and it interests us – and remember, we are part of the Universe looking at itself. What we see, the Universe sees, and what interests us also interests the Universe.

Evidence that Life Began Before Earth: Good Fuel for Science Fiction

Now, before you get too excited, there are plenty of arguments that this is wrong — but for the sake of Science Fiction let's suspend any disbelief and take this paper by Alexei Sharov and Richard Gordon at face value.

Here's the idea: if you apply Moore's Law to the demonstrated exponential rise in genetic complexity over time, it suggests that life as we know it formed roughly ten billion years ago. This is significant as the current estimated age of Earth is only 4.5 billion years.

Origin of Life (Graph borrowed from a MIT Technology Review)

This suggests all sorts of intriguing possibilities. For one, in this scenario, Panspermia is a foregone conclusion. Life did not form on Earth

Sure this is not a new idea, but now Science Fiction as a genre has some numbers to play with. One of them is the possibility that in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, we're not the backwards baby intelligence in a galaxy teeming with far more advanced races. We could very well be the ipso facto advanced intelligent race.

How so?

Consider this: We've always assumed that it takes at least 4.5 billion years for an intelligent race to develop. Now there's evidence it might take as long as 10 billion years. Sure, we are leaving out a lot of factors, such as asteroid strikes and other mass extinction events – that you'd think would throw off the time table – but we’re not looking at that kind of physical history. We’re looking at the uniform rise in complexity of genetic material.


The assumption is that it somehow endures through these disasters and continues progress. After all, it somehow migrated through interstellar space through untold and unimaginable disasters – possibly the destruction and reformation of solar systems – to take root on this pretty little blue orb of ours.

And so, this theory argues, thus explains the Fermi Paradox: We’re not hearing from any other intelligent species because they’re either close to, or behind, our own sophistication. That’s why we’re not being invaded by bug-eyed-monsters, or grey hive space aliens, or multi-trunked Pachyderms from Alpha Centari. If anything, we’d be the invaders, a la James Cameron’s Avatar.

But beyond that lies the really intriguing questions:

  • Where, exactly, did life begin roughly 10 billion years ago?
  • Was it localized, as in a star that existed, and then perished, and the material reformed to become our current star and set of planets?
  • Is it spread through our entire galaxy, which means it permeates space and seeds all other hospitable environments such as Earth?
  • Are there other, wholly other alien forms of DNA-like substances which formed in a different time and frame, and that seeds other sections of the galaxy?

The premise leads to endless conjecture – which is fuel for good Science Fiction – but more importantly it gives a more solid jumping off point, as – despite the inconclusive and tenuous evidence – it’s really the best we have right now. It’s something, other than nothing. Because before this paper came out, that what there was: nothing. Wide open nothing.

This gives us something to test. Now, if we do finally find conclusive samples of life beyond planet Earth, we can see if it fits this model.

That’s what science is about.

And that is the best fuel for good Science Fiction.


Snake Alley vs. Lombard Street: Which One is More Crooked?

Yesterday, during a meandering and somewhat aimless road trip with my sweetheart, we came across “Snake Alley” in Burlington, Iowa.

It reminded me so much of Lombard Street in San Francisco that I had to do some research. Which came first, and which one is more crooked?

Well, having been built in 1894, Snake Alley existed 28 years before Lombard Street. And below I’ve put together the two using Google Maps images. I will let you be the judge of which one is more crooked.