Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Transcript - transit and extraterrestrial life

Class: Informatics, Computing, and the Future
Instructor: Dan Berleant
Transcriber: Brooke Yu
Date: Thursday, March 28, 2013

Professor:  Okay, so I have another copy of the homework.  I changed the question about coming up with three questions about the guest presentation.  Since the guest presentation kind of turned into a non-guest presentation, I decided to take away that question. 

Any questions about the homework?  Alright, so....  I kind of crammed two different topics in here.  One is on the earth and one is off the earth. 

I think we'll see if we can get both of them taken care of.  We'll see what we want to do.  It's sort of up to you guys. 

The two topics are transit and extraterrestrial life.  Transit life is interesting because different regions of the country have long term future plans for the future of transportation of people and other things.  To build a new road or train, those things take a long time to do because, for instance, to build a road you have to buy all the property along the way and build it. 

It's a big investment for a community and it needs to be carefully thought out ahead of time.  A good road can serve its purpose for decades.  Don't want to waste the money by having it become less useful over time. 

So transit means moving people.  Transportation means moving anything.  So transportation and transit are areas that are subject to long term planning. 

So let's talk a little bit about it. 

So I mentioned what's the difference between transit and transportation? 

Somebody?  I think I mentioned it

Right.  Transit, people.  Transportation, people and everything else. 

But you know, transit is important because people have to be able to move- they have to get to school and work.  

As long as people have existed we have needed to go places.  That's why we have legs. 

Here's a bunch of methods.  Oh, I list some.  Well, let's list some methods for transit for going places, then we'll look at the list I made on the board.  So what is one? 

Male Student:  Seguay how many people know what that is? 

Male Student:  Oh, it's like a little thing you stand on and it has handle bars and it has two wheels on the bottom.  

Professor:  Yeah, it's like a scooter kind of. 

If you were to stand on a scooter--- I'm not a very good artist.  Have you ever been on one before?  I haven't either, but there's a police station downtown that's very small, and they have them there. 

Male Student:  I feel like someone had told me that they were really awesome, but they didn't market it well enough, so that's why they didn't become as popular as they should have been. 

Professor:  Maybe.  They're pretty expensive too. 

Male Student:  In branson they have segway tracks you can ride around on. 

Professor:  Wow, cool.  I would do it. 

Male Student:  I would too.  It's awesome. 

Professor:  Okay, another method?  I'll add one.  Feet.  Another one.  Let's see how many we can list. 

Male Student:  Bicycle

Male Student:  Unicycle

Male Student:  Car

Male Student:  Tricycle

Male Student:  Alright JJ, everything with cycle. 

Male Student:  Airplane. 

Male Student:  Motorcycle

Male Student:  Hang glider. 

Male Student:  Parachute. 

Male Student:  Boat. 

Male Student:  Skateboard. 

Male Student:  Rocket

Male Student:  Jet pack

Male Student:  Roller skates

Male Student:  Heely's

Male Student:  Helicopter

Male Student:  Those giant hamster balls.  Have you seen those? 

Male Student:  They have them that you can actually get in for people. 

Professor:  Alright, what do they call them? 

Male Student:  Just put giant hamster wheel. 

Male Student:  Escalator. 

Male Student:  What about falling?  Like falling down stairs?

Professor:  Well, not the most advanced method, but okay.  I think that's a good list.  Did someone say boat?  Yeah, how about submarine? 

Male Student:  And those cool water jet packs. 

Professor:  Water skis. 

Male Student:  Subway

Male Student:  What about those bikes with just one big wheel?  Unicycle. 

Professor:  We have that. 

Male Student:  Monocycle. 

Professor:  What's the difference? 

Male Student:  Monocycle has the wheel around you and it's powered by a motor. 

Professor:  Alright.  There's something like a helicopter that doesn't have an engine. 

Okay.  Alright, so lots of possibilities.  Little rock is probably not planning on a special tricycle lane any time soon, but they are planning on some other things. 

We got most of these.  Oh, moving sidewalks we didn't get that one. 
So you might ask, given all these ways of transit, how might these change in the future?  Here are a couple of examples. 

Shoes that produce electricity

They could put little generators in the soles of shoes to create electricity that you could use to charge your phone or something. 

Remote control robots you could control at work while you sat at home

Maybe you could just steer it around at school and you'd sort of be there in class through your robot. 

They have robots like that

Male Student:  Do people actually use that?

Professor:  It's called telepresence, and I know some companies are selling them

Male Student:  There was a commercial with a kid doing something like that. 

Male Student:  :  I mean, if you get picked on.... well, I guess it'd be the robot. 

Professor:  I know small companies were selling them, but I think these are just immobile screens- not robots you can control remotely. 

If you're shopping for one, here's one for only $12,000

Male Student:  I could build one for cheaper than that! 

Male Student:  I'll do it for $10,000

Male Student:  There was an episode of big bang theory where one of the main characters had one. 

Professor:  Basically, the idea is its got wheels, a thing with a camera on top, it has something that you can put a picture of yourself on. 

And it has a microphone and a speaker. 

And it's all done through the Internet- through the web. 

Here's a bunch of them for sale. 

So you can see it's really just, you know, like you say, you could build one for cheaper because it's a computer on wheels with an Internet connection. 

If you roll into an elevator and the elevator closes then you'll lose your connection though, so you could get in trouble. 

If WiFi coverage is spotty, you could lose control of your robot. 

Male Student:  You could put a setting on there to make it go back to where it was if it loses wireless. 

Professor:  That might be problematic in the elevator. 

I think last year someone did a term project on telepresence robots. 

Male Student:  Did they build one?

Professor:  Uh, no. 

Male Student:  If we do something like and build one do we have to talk? 

Male Student:  You could just telecommute to class. 

Professor:  Okay, so let's see if there's any discussion questions that seem interesting. 

So how has transit changed over time considering what it was in the past?  Can you think of any broad trends? 

Male Student:  There's a lot of chrome on stuff now. 

Professor:  Okay, so maybe there will be more in the future. 

Male Student:  Spinners.  Spinning rims. 

Professor:  Yeah, rocket ships will probably have spinning noses in the future. 

Well, think of something like speed.  In the old days people rode horses and then they got cars.  Cars go faster than horses.  Then planes came along which are even faster. 

We looked at a car that can transform into a plane, so it's like a car that goes really fast.  So maybe in the future we'll be able travel faster. 

Alright, let's go to the long term planning side of things. 

[Teacher reading: [On board.]  

The central Arkansas plan isn't bad.  I'm not sure exactly what it is, but the effort is pretty serious.  There are two websites for that, and it's got two videos.  One is an animation of a monorail concept that would go along 630, and I don't know where you all come to class from, but a lot of people who drive in little rock get caught up in the 430/630 interchange. 

That's the main sort of interstate highway crossover in the city limits, and it just gets backed up every rush hour. 

They've got a plan for improving it.  They've been building it for years, and it's making progress. 

The other thing is there is a website which I believe is run by this.  It's a website where you can interactively type in your preferences and your perceptions of the need for transit changes in little rock, and it will generate a scenario for future transit in little rock. 

So let's take a look at these. 

Alright.  So those of who have been through the 430/630 interchange know how important this is.  Those who haven't are lucky. 


In 1972 Dennis proposed the creation of an akransas health center linking the VA, ACH, ADH, SVI, and the baptist medical health center with downtown via monorail.  We're taking the first steps to realizing that vision

The I-630 study will provide a map to show where stations will be placed.  At a terminal west at 430 is baptists health.  When constructed, these will be uniquely designed. 

We travel eastward to another station to be palaced at woodland heights. 

This is the congestion on 430.  The midtown stop provides access to shopping complexes- park plaza and SVI. 

Then another piece of enginerring takes us underground under the SVI campus then pops over on fair park to access on war memorial.  A short hop east takes us to UAMS and the VA hospitals. 

Then it's on to the last medical complex, the Arkansas children's hospital. 

Proceeding under the southeastern edge, we arrive at the capitol station in the center of capitol avenue. 

Now the train retraces the old streetcar tracks to the federal tracks, where it meets the river rail trolley. 

Going east, we're at the river transfer where you can walk to the river market.  These plan envision a shift to 4th street to stop at the Clinton library and another access to the river rail trolly. 

Finally, we complete our journey at the new terminal at the Bill and Hillary Clinton national airport to board our flight.  

As we metioned before, this is a preliminary alignment study to find the best route that would encompass the most businesses and hospitals.  We'd love to hear your opinions at metroplan.org. 

Male Student:  I think that's cool. 

Male Student:  It'd be an easy way to get a bomb under an airport. 

Professor:  That's true.  Well, at this point it's science fiction.  They did say it could be done with buses.  The train issue would be very expensive.  Buses are a possibility.  Over spring break we visited my daughter in Seattle. 

It's a big city on the west coast, and they have a good transit system.  Little rock- has anyone taken a public bus in little rock?  I haven't.  I know they exist and that they're hard to get to. 

Male Student:  They look pretty empty when you drive by them

Professor:  There aren't enough stops to make them convention.  You almost need a car to get to the bus stop.  And it's not a very central American style of transportation.  There's a lot of mass transit in big cities on the coast.  There's not much in Arkansas or Iowa. 

Male Student:  People don't use them

Professor:  Right.  And they're kind of hard to use.  So it's like a chicken and egg problem.  People don't use them, so they don't make good ones

So I guess I don't know what the prospects for this are.  I think a train system is unlikely, personally.  I just don't think there's a budget or the will to do it. 

I think if gas gets expensive enough and people start thinking twice about driving then that would be a game changer.   The other thing is the mood of the government, which is not to do these massive public works projects.  Any other comments or questions about this?

Alright, let's look at the other approach, which is to fix the highways.  So let's look at another one. 

Let's look at a plan for the interchange on 430 and 630. 

Sorry, I have the links wrong. 

Okay, this one may not have sound. 

Male Student:  So this is how that new bridge is going to work out? 

Professor:  I think so, but it may not be exactly like this.  I don't understand what's going on here. 

So this is the route I'd take if I was driving to UALR. 

Male Student:  They're trying to make it where it just flows right into traffic so no one has to merge on or anything like that. 

Professor:  And if you drive through the interchange now you can see how they're building the bridges and so on. 

This one is a lot easier to build since there are no bridges. 

So UALR is a little south of 630 here.  Alright. 
Well, what do you think of that? 

Male Student:  I think there's going to be a lot of wrecks. 

Professor:  Well, it's going to happen.  The other one was more speculative, but this is what they're building right now.  If they'd only hurry up.  

Does anyone drive on... what's the one that goes north on the west.... if you take 40 west you can go right onto....

Well, if you take 40 and go towards fayetteville. 

Female Student:  I think it's 540. 

Professor:  I could used to see that from my old office in fayetteville.  There's no way to get there now. 

Male Student:  I drove on a road like that before and it was just hectic.  Like what they were building now.  And my GPS... there's like 8 lanes. 

When you're trying to turn right you'd think it'd be on the right side, but it'd be on the left side

I caused a couple of accidents because I went across like 5 lines.  I'm sure they hate arkansans now. 

Professor:  Well, okay.  So let's see.  So that's the future of transit in central Arkansas. 

Let's go back our list here.  We have a little time to start another one.  This one is off planet and it's completely a different topic, obviously. 

The question then is, on other planets, will we find intelligent life? 

For perhaps thousands of years, human kind as had [On board.]  

[Teacher reading: [On board.]  

Can anyone think of an example of non-human intelligence in the history of human culture. 

Okay, bacteria are not intelligent. 

Male Student:  Apes

Professor:  Apes have some degree of intelligence.  Any other ideas?  It doesn't have to be facts.  It can just be facts of our culture- ideas. 

Well, how about God?  For thousands of years people have believed that not just God but other religions that have other gods and so on.  One of the common themes involves these. 

People have thought about this question for a long time. 

Of course, if God is everywhere, then that includes interstellar space. 

So with that background, let's move to the present and talk about ideas people have had about intelligent life on other planets. 

Male Student:  War of the Worlds. 

Professor:  Right.  Wells wrote War of the Worlds in 1898

That's what it looked like when it was published in 1898.  They didn't have book jackets. 

Printing technology wasn't up to making colorful paper book jackets that we see now. 

Modern editions have nicer covers.  Here are some covers. 

[On board.] 

All I did was go to Amazon here and look for different editions. 

Anyone ever read war of the worlds?  Okay, so you remember it had these huge tripods. 

And they're attacking all the people here.  They build these tripods that they control to walk around and they capture people to eat and so on. 

Male Student:  Isn't that the book they were reading on the radio and everyone started to think it as real? 

Male Student:  He read it like it was actually happening. 

Professor:  That's right

Male Student:  There's a recording online that our teacher showed us. 

Professor:  So one of the themes are the Martians in these tripods that can catch people. 

Male Student:  There's another thing that happened a couple of weeks ago.  Some guy took over the emergency broadcast system in Montana and said dead bodies were rising and people starting think it was real and it made chaos. 

Professor:  I didn't hear about that, but that's similar to the broadcasted reading of war of the worlds

Male Student:  It was on TV.  You know how they have the emergency broadcasting on TV?  They took that over. 

Professor:  This is a well known book.  Its been in print for over 100 years. 

I think we passed the bulk of them. 

This book was written by HG wells and inspired a radio broadcast by Orson Welles which was broadacst on halloween in 1938.  What happened? 

Male Student:  People started thinking it was weird and people in other counties took over the broadcast and it spread over the whole country. 

Professor:  The radio show made it sound like it was happening.  People listening became quite scared.  Here's the broadcast. 

By HG wells. 

Professor:  We won't listen to the whole thing. 

Ladies and gentleman, orison wells.  We know now this world is being watched closely by intelligences greater than man. 

We know now that as human beings, we were scrutinized and studied the way a man with a microscope my study small creatures.  People went to and fro the earth about their little affairs, serene about their place in the universe that man inherited out of the dark mystery of time and space. 

Minds such as ours, intellects- vast, cool, unsympathetic- regarded the earth with envious eyes and drew plans against us. 

In the 20th century, near the end of October, men where back at work and sales were picking up.  On October 30th, 32 million people were listening in on radios....

[Can't hear/can't understand.] 

Maximum temperature 66.  We take you now to the music of Raymond and his orchestra. 

[Music playing]

Good evening, from the meridian room in NYC, we have the music of Raymond Rickello and his orchestra. 


Ladies and gentleman, we have a special report.  At 20 minutes, professor reports viewing explosions on mars.  The professor describes the event as "blue flames shot from a gun." 


And now a song that never loses flavor. 


Ladies and gentelmen, the planetariums are to keep a close watch on mars.  In a few moments, we'll take you to the princeton observatory.  Until then, we return to the music. 


We are ready now to take you to the princeton observatory to interview an astronomer. 

Good evening, we're at the princeton observatory.  I can see a star casting a bright glow through the telescope.  The professor is staring through a giant lense. 

During this period, he is in constant touch with astronomical centers of the world.  

Would you tell our radio audience what you see? 

A red disk in a blue see. 

In your opinion, what do these stripes say? 

I can assure you, mars is not inhabited.  The stripes are just a phenomenon of atmospheric condition

Professor:  So that was the first part of the radio broadcast.  Why is there no visual?
Male Student:  I mean, it's just on the radio. 

Professor:  Yeah, they put the recording of the radio broadcast on youtube.  Back then, it was all radio, no TV.  So I fu go to youtube, you can listen to the whole thing.  It's an hour long. 

Here's another one that's 57 minutes.  It describes as though it was really happening- there's blasts from mars, landing on the earth, and it scared the heck out of people. 

People did say that it was from book, right? 

But some people tuned in late and some people forgot and so on. 

So indeed, intelligent Martians were a widespread concept.  In the 1800s, an astronomer named Lowell said mars had water canals and intelligent beings could live near them. 

There have been numerous novels about mars written over the centuries.  There's a good account of them- I read this one [On board.]  

It describes the different conceptions that novelists had of mars over the past hundreds of years up to modern times. 

I guess 101 years ago Burroughs wrote a book called [On board.]  

You know about mars has the little green men, so the princess had beautiful green hair in the novel. 

Fast forward to 2012, the story is back in the news again.  Anyone know why?  There was a movie that came out adapted from from a book.  It was called John Carter. 

So that movie is the movie made from that book. 

Anyone see that movie? 

Male Student:  I did. 

Male Student:  It looks good. 

Male Student:  It was really good. 

Professor:  Did it have a princess with green hair? 

Male Student:  I don't rammer.  It had a princes. 

Professor:  So it's not that often that a hundred year old book gets made into a new movie.  So that's the cultural background of human kind interest in aliens. 

So let's see what we can say about intelligent life on other planets.  There's something called the Fermi paradox, named after the physicist Fermi. 

That's him. 

He died in 1954 at the age of 53 which is kind of scary.  Pretty close to my age.  He died of cancer, and he was possibly one of the people involved in creating the atomic bomb, so he might have died from radiation exposure. 

Anyway, that's him.  He was born in Rome and moved to Chicago and became a US citizen. 

He got the Nobel prize for physics in 1938, which is the same year they broadcast war of the worlds. 

So the paradox named after him is that... okay. 

Here's the deal

[Teacher reading: [On board.]  

So if you do the math, how many stars are there in the universe?  Well, about 100 billion per galaxy times the number of galaxies.  So we're talking about 10 to the 23rd stars in the universe which is a huge number of stars. 

Then you can ask yourself which of these have planets, what fractions are inhabitable, etc.  And why haven't we been in contact with any of these?  The paradox is that it should have happened, but it hasn't. 

At least, people think it hasn't happened.  Some people think we have be contacted by intelligent aliens.  Those are people who believe in UFOs.  Has anyone seen a UFO? 

A lot of times with a group this size.  There's someone who thinks that they have. 

I saw a UFO once, but I figured out what it was.  It was a loose rocket engine.  I finally figured out it must have been a lose engine that was going in a spiral.  If you look sideways at the spiral, it'll look like a zigzag.  And it was leaving a smoky trail which alien ships aren't supposed to do. 

So 10^22 stars in the universe. 

That's a lot of stars.  And it turns out that about... you know, this has only been disovered in recent years- 2.7% of all stars have planets similar enough to earth to be called earth analogues. 

That means they're close enough to have water and to have an atmosphere. 

They're not too hot and not too cold, and are sort of like earth. 

So we now know that there quite a few stars have them 1-2%. 

So if we think about 2% of these.  We still have a lot of inhabitable planets in the galaxy. 

Those planets are called earth analogs and in recent years people have been able to locate these planets.  So what do you think?  We found the planets.  Do you think we have pictures of them? 

Male Student:  Yeah, but they're too blurry to see. 

Professor:  Right.  They don't show enough resolution to really get anything out of it, but artists have taken up the slack. 

So these are artistic conceptions of what these planets might look like.  We don't even really know if they have water on them. 

This one's.... 

I listed some below. 

So the question is with so many potential earth like planets around, why have we not seen signs of intelligent life?  That's the Fermi paradox.  We should have seen some sign of life. 

Maybe that will change. 

How many people think that some day we will probably communicate with an extraterrestrial race? 

Male Student:  We'll probably kill it before we talk to it. 

Male Student:  If we see another ship coming we'll be like "no world of wars for us"

Professor:  Some people think we need to contact these other aliens, but that might be risky.  One possibly argument is that it's sort of the fish in the ocean theory.  I've heard fish live in the ocean.  I've been to the beach and I can fill my cup with water, but it's highly unlikely that a fish will be in my cup when I pull it up.  Like fish in the ocean- you fill the cup and there's no fish- this is possibly why we've not seen other life forms. 

We can use the drake equation where N is the number of advanced civilizations.  If N is a big number, we should look for them.  If N is tiny, we shouldn't bother

To calculate that number, we need to multiply all these different numbers- variables whose values are numbers. 

So let's see what these are. 

R is the [On board.] 

So we know in the galaxy there are old stars like the sun, and we need to figure out how many new stars are formed every year.  We've figured that out. 

Then we need to figure out the fraction of stars with planets, and the suitable planets of each of those stars with planets- how many earth analogs are there? 

We know fP is 2.7%. 

We multiple that by [On board.]  

2% of the stars have planets like that.  What fraction of those planets develop life?  Mars used to be suitable, but we don't know if mars has developed life or not yet. 

Mars doesn't appear to have any obvious life now, but whether it happened in the past, we don't know. 

Fraction of planets that develop intelligent life.  Multiply that by intelligent civilizations that are detectable by the length of time civlications are detectabe. 

When we started using radio, that's when we became detectable.   You wonder how long we'll stay detectable- it could be a long time.  Nowadays people are watching so much stuff on their computers that radio is tapering off.   People work more through wires and LAN than they used to. 

Male Student:  Is this detecting civilizations or communicating? 

Professor:  The way it's stating it here it's just detecting it. 

Male Student:  By the time we detect it they might not exist. 

Professor:  Yeah.  Even if there was civilization on a star, it might take 5 or 6 years to get their message.  A message back and forth in galaxies farther away could take thousands of years. 

So I think we have a few minutes.  Let's calculate that. 

Male Student:  What's that satellite we sent out?  The voyager?  What kind of battery does it have? 

Professor:  I think it has nuclear power.  They'll just take a lump of highly radioactive material and they'll build a generator around it and it'll last for thousands of years. 

Male Student:  Can you do that on a phone? 

Professor:  You could, but you wouldn't want to because it would be radioactive. 

Male Student:  What about cars? 

Professor:  Again, it'd be radioactive. 

Male Student:  What happens when you have a wreck? 

Professor:  Exactly. 

Do you want to calculate this next time?  Okay, we'll do it next time.  And we'll go from there, so see you next time.  

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