Category Archives: Dilemmas

The Stone Conjecture

Today I was listening to my favorite Saturday morning radio broadcast, Dr. Yitzhak Noy reading and commenting on interesting newspaper articles from around the world. I had just come back from walking Daisy and tuned in to the tail end of an article he read about these strange bursts of radio energy and how some astronomers at Harvard had suggested they might be alien space travelers zipping around our galaxy at close to the speed of light.

Well, since I didn’t think Harvard was your usual source of unsubstantiated “Abducted by UFO” headlines, my curiosity was piqued and I Googled some key words and phrases I remembered from the article Dr. Noy had talked about and found Fast Radio Bursts Might Come From Nearby Stars from 2013 and then Harvard Scientists Theorize That Fast Radio Bursts Come From Alien Space Travel from a couple weeks ago (March 9, 2017).

Why was I intrigued? Although the conspiracy theories about incarcerating little green beings with elongated heads in Area 51 or UFOs coming to us from millions of light years away just to make crop circles, mess with our minds, and leave before we can talk to them may very well be true, I tend not to believe them because there seem to me to be many alternate explanations that could be offered that would be just as good if not better. Remember Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation of those available to us is most probably the correct one. Here’s what intrigued me about the Fast Radio Bursts: since 2007 when they were first discovered by astronomers, nobody had ever come up with an explanation of how they could occur naturally. In other words, there were no other competing theories. The Harvard researchers went one step further and used currently accepted engineering principles to show how an alien technology could propel space craft weighing a million tons at 20% of the speed of light and be visible to us in the frequency and amplitude our radio telescopes recorded.

Anyway, I didn’t want to talk about this particular speculation about Fast Radio Bursts. If you want, you can read the articles yourselves. But the articles did get me thinking about what other kinds of conjectures might be made.

So, without further ado …

The Stone Conjecture:

  1. Life is probably pretty common in a mature universe. The first generation of stars after the Big Bang were made of relatively simple elements, but subsequent generations of stars were composed of increasingly heavier elements in a variety of configurations. Atoms of various elements bound together into increasingly complex molecules, giving rise to organic molecules. When the circumstances proved adequate, organic molecules combined into organelles and cellular structures igniting the engine of life. Cells differentiated into colonies of specialized organs giving rise to plants and animals on our planet to adapt to its ecosystem. When the variety and complexity of these adaptive systems reached a critical mass, consciousness arose and then self-consciousness. The same kinds of processes probably happened with other kinds of systems in other kinds of ecosystems randomly occurring around our galaxy and others throughout the universe. A system beyond a certain level of quantity, variety, and complexity would be unlikely to remain integrated in a dynamically changing ecosystem over a certain period of time without developing self-consciousness. Entropy would cause the system to break down. This is what happens when we die.
  2. Given #1, self-conscious life that developed significantly before us would possibly be significantly more advanced than us. The stars in the center of our galaxy probably gave rise to civilizations far more advanced than civilizations in our solar system located pretty far out along an arm of our galaxy. Our local star was created long after the stars clustering around our galactic center. What I’m talking about is only orthogonal to the Kardashev scale.
  3. There may be more dimensions of space than the three we perceive. Given #2, an advanced civilization might know whether there are more than three dimensions and take advantage of those dimensions in traveling from one point to another or they would perceive only the three dimensions of space that we perceive.
  4. Given #3, if space spreads out over more than the three dimensions we perceive, then an advanced alien civilization would either know the short cuts through higher dimensions from one point to another or know how to warp one of the observable dimensions to access hyperspace.
  5. As far as we can see with our telescopes pointed in every direction from the vicinity of our planet, there is something: meteors, moons, planets, stars, and galaxies. What we can’t see is probably dark matter. These are all potential obstacles for us to travel in a single vector at or near the speed of light. In other words, in order to avoid running into these obstacles we’d probably have to slow down our speed significantly and jinx up, down, left, or right, to go around.
  6. If there are only the three dimensions we perceive, then traveling through the galaxy at close to the speed of light would require tunnels of emptiness through our galaxy. Tunnels of emptiness through our galaxy or any other would not appear naturally. It might be an indication that an advanced civilization had ploughed that tunnel to allow near light speed travel. Travel between galaxies at light speed could probably be made without tunnels because the space is mostly empty. Of course there is the issue of dark matter, but current theories posit that matter does not interact with dark matter. See Why Doesn’t Dark Matter Interact with Ordinary Matter.

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Roll Over Maslow

Some of you have heard of Maslow’s Pyramid, a diagram representing a man’s or woman’s hierarchy of needs. The pyramid is divided into five levels from the wide base to the narrow apex.

The first and lowest level at the base of the pyramid represents our Physiological needs: the physical requirements for human survival, air, water, and food. The inability to satisfy needs at this level means death for the individual.

The second level just above the first represents our Safety and Security needs: the absence of war, natural disaster, violence, abuse, and the requirements for personal security, financial security, health and well-being, and protection from the adverse impacts of accidents or illness. The inability to satisfy needs at this level can engender post-traumatic stress disorder and other extreme psychological coping mechanisms.

The third level represents our need for Love and Belonging: being part of a family, having friends, and having a significant Other with whom one can be intimate, both sexually and non-sexually. Not satisfying these needs can lead to loneliness, anxiety, or depression.

The fourth level represents our need for Esteem: status, recognition, fame, prestige, attention, strength, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence, and freedom.

The fifth and highest level at the top of the pyramid represents our need for Self-Actualization: to become the most that one can be. Whatever one can do, one must do.

During Maslow’s final years, he posited a sixth level, above all the rest, which he called self-transcendence: giving oneself to some higher goal outside oneself, in altruism and spirituality, thinking about the ends rather than the means, to oneself, to significant Others, to all mankind, to other species, and to the Universe.

The most basic needs must be satisfied before the higher needs. Each level of needs depends on the satisfaction of the needs of the previous levels.

But then I thought about what an amazing species we really are and how there are those among us who could flip Maslow’s Pyramid over on its head, so that the highest levels become prerequisites, pre-conditions, for what were previously the lower levels, that our need for self-transcendence precedes and overrides our need for self-actualization, which overrides our need for esteem, which overrides our need for love and belonging, which overrides our need for safety and security, which overrides our physiological needs.

Yes, there are people like that.

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Message in a Bottle

Nothing is more desperate, more poignant, more romantic than a message in a bottle. You visualize a beautiful young woman or a handsome young man on a lost island writing a letter, possibly with a description of the constellations he sees in the night sky, tracking them in their arcs from sunset to sunrise, possibly including an inventory of the few remaining supplies, and possibly mentioning the young family waiting at home, the love that was abandoned or passed up, or the wrong which was never admitted.

You visualize these things written on a ragged scrap of parchment rolled into a cylinder, stuffed into a bottle, sealed with a cork, and cast in a long arc over the waves crashing against the beach, into waters moving in a deeper current away from the island toward someone also handsome or beautiful who will find the small bottle floating between the waves in the immenseness of the ocean stretching from horizon to horizon, someone who will be able to decipher the strange markings on the parchment, someone who will care enough to drop everything and change course, setting sail for the lost island where the desperate writer waits before it is too late.

And what is the Voyager 1 space probe, launched from Earth in 1977, reporting back to us all it sees until 2025 when it will continue its blind inertia towards the star Gliese 445 somewhere in the constellation Camelopardalis about 40,000 years from now, carrying a gold-plated audio-visual disc in the event that the spacecraft is ever found by intelligent life forms from other planetary systems, but a message in a bottle cast into the endless seas of space, even smaller and darker than a bottle floating between the waves on a moonless night?

But if it is found, the Voyager 1 that is, will the finders be smart enough to decipher our strange markings? Will they be kind enough to come rescue us from our loneliness and ourselves? Will they laugh at our primitive efforts or even recognize them as worthy of scrutiny? If they do come, will they come in peace or will they come as we do, wreaking havoc and extinction upon us? We are the most destructive species that has ever lived on our planet. Are we the norm in our galaxy or in our universe? If not, then how do we expect our alien rescuers to welcome us into the family of worlds? But if so, then we should cease shining our beacons at the stars and our explorations of distant worlds before they detect us and come to root out the risk to the universe while it is still small and confined.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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An Interview with the Empty Chair of the British Labour Party

(Note: the incumbent chairman of the British Labour Party is Jeremy Corbyn, who has been accused by people of his own political party of being anti-Semitic, although he claims only to be anti-Zionist, for his comments likening Israel to ISIS. For context, please click on “Chief Rabbi condemns ‘offensive’ Corbyn anti-Semitism comments“. In another note, psychologists often encourage their patients to act out their feelings about certain people who have had a significantly negative impact on their lives by speaking to an empty chair opposite them as though that person were sitting in the chair. Therefore, you may glean from this that the interview is fictitious and has never, in fact, occurred.)

Mike: First of all, I would like to thank you, sir, for granting me an interview with you on such short notice.

Jeremy: (no response)

Mike: Your comment that “our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those various self-styled Islamic states or organisations” caused many people in your party and outside of it to believe that you equated Israel with ISIS, since the only self-styled Islamic state that is not in fact a state is ISIS. (Well, maybe also the West Bank, ruled by the Palestinian Authority, and Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas.) The former Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, called your comparison a “demonisation of the highest order.”

Jeremy: (no response)

Mike: Would you like to hear what Member of the Israeli Knesset, Ms. Tzipi Livni, had to say about your comment? She said, “not all Brits are to blame for Corbyn.”

Jeremy: (no response)

Mike: If you don’t mind too much, sir, I would like to explore your difficulty in differentiating between Israel and ISIS.

Jeremy: (no response)

Mike: Would you be willing to grant an interview, as we are enjoying now, alone together without body guards, with a representative of ISIS? Would you be willing to travel to the headquarters of ISIS, I believe it is currently in Mosul Iraq, to sit down for a tête-à-tête with one of their esteemed representatives? How about coming to Israel, even though we don’t like you very much, not even our own Labour Party, for a tête-à-tête with one of our people?

Jeremy: (no response)

Mike: Yes, I said “we” and “our” because, in addition to my being an American, I am also a Jew and an Israeli. I can tell you honestly that nobody in the world wants peace more than Israel, nobody. A thought just occurred to me: have you ever wondered why those who support our sworn enemies press on us to offer land for peace, instead of peace for peace? Don’t our enemies want peace? Don’t the supporters of our enemies want peace for our enemies?

Jeremy: (no response)

Mike: It’s because the promise of peace is just a bunch of words, cheaply given and easily forgotten or misinterpreted, but land is survival. Land is defensible. Land is where you can live. We’ve tried many times to live in words, but we can’t. You, sir, should try living only in words. You’ll see that it is impossible. Please consider that when you try whittle down our small land to the point that it would be quite indefensible. I’ll admit that not everyone in Israel is willing to take another chance at peace. Have you heard what our enemies say they’d do to us, if they could? Oh, that’s right, you don’t speak their language.

Jeremy: (no response)

Mike: Thank you once again for this interview. It has cleared the air. If you don’t mind, I’ll just move your chair back to our dining room table where it belongs. We’re expecting guests soon.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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The Chocolate Shop

“What? You don’t like chocolate anymore?” He asked them.

“No, Saba,” Tommy was pulling away. “I still like chocolate. It’s just that I don’t want to go here.”

The older man looked inside at the tables and chairs, the shelves of light and dark chocolates, the cloudy displays of ice creams and sherbets, and the nice looking young girl holding the menus standing in the open door way smiling at them. It looked like nothing had ever happened here. It looked like a perfect place to take his two grandkids for a holiday weekend.

Daniel was busy double-thumbing something on his smartphone and didn’t seem to notice where he was at the moment.

“Why, Tommy?” he asked.

“Because,” Tommy said.

Daniel stopped double-thumbing and explained, “He doesn’t want to go inside because this is where those terrorists came in and shot and killed those four people.”

Tommy nodded his head somberly, agreeing with his brother for a change.

“Oh,” the older man said, “I see.”

They walked over to the low wall surrounding the open square where kids were skating and riding their bikes. They all sat down facing the square with their backs to the chocolate shop only ten meters away.

“If the world is such a good place, why are there such bad people?” Tommy asked his Saba, which means “grampa” in our language.

“I ask myself that all the time,” he replied. “If the world is such a bad place, why are there such good people as you kids and your parents?”

“That’s not what he asked, Saba!” Daniel interjected. He was the wiser of the two brothers. He was going to be bar mitzvahed next month. A long time ago, when we lived in tents in the desert, that was when a boy became a man. He still felt like a kid though. “He said ‘if the world is such a good place …'”

“I know what he said, Daniel,” the older man smiled. “I just wanted to show you both that reversing what he asked was also an interesting question.”

Tommy said, “What I meant was why do bad things happen? Why can’t we be protected from them?”

“Your parents, your brother and sisters, your grandparents, and everyone else who loves you want more than anything in the world to protect you from bad things,” Saba said, “more than they would want to protect themselves.”

“But what happens if you are not with us?” Daniel asked.

“That’s why we try to keep you close to us when we go somewhere.”

“What if the bad people are stronger than you?”

“Love gives good people strength they didn’t know they had.”

“What if they shoot you?”

“There will be good people around you who will try to protect you.”

“What if they run away with their kids or what if they’ve been shot too?”

Saba was quiet for a few moments. He didn’t really believe in God but he didn’t want to weaken their confidence. Neither did he want to lie to them.

Daniel asked, “Why do bad people do bad things anyway? Don’t they know they’re not good?”

Saba was thankful to be rescued from the previous line of questioning. “I don’t believe they think they’re doing anything wrong. Nobody does anything wrong intentionally. Everyone believes what he’s doing is the right thing to do.”

“How can anyone think killing an innocent person is the right thing to do?”

“Maybe we killed an innocent person whom they loved very much, like we love you, and they wanted revenge for what we did.”

“Why would we do that? We don’t go around killing children, women, or old people. Sorry, Saba.”

“Maybe we killed an innocent person by accident when we were trying to kill terrorists.”

“But who started it?”

“Nobody remembers. Everyone believes his enemies started it.”

“But who really started it?”

“I don’t know. It depends on who’s doing the counting.”

“Don’t they know we wouldn’t kill innocent people on purpose?”

“They don’t care what we say or think. They just care about what we do, like us. We don’t care what they say or think either, just what they do.”

“Why do they think revenge is the right thing to do?”

“They think that revenge is a kind of justice, when no other form of justice is available to them, just like many of us do, and everyone believes that justice is the right thing to do.”

“I wanted revenge when one of my classmates said I was too short to play basketball at recess,” Tommy admitted.

“What did you do?”

“Well, at first, I wanted to punch him in the stomach.”

“So what did you do?”

“I threw the ball into the basket. Everybody laughed at that and he said I could be on his team if I wanted.”

“If only people could think of other things to do to get even, besides killing, that would be good,” Daniel raised his finger wisely.

“Anybody up for an ice cream,” Saba asked, standing up and stretching his arms and back, “somewhere else?”

“Yes!” they both answered.

The older man offered each his hand and they walked away from the chocolate shop on the square. He said a silent prayer to no one in particular that today wouldn’t be the day and this would not be the place.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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23,447

The price of our freedom which is not guaranteed, the price of not going gently into that night: 23,447. Every year it goes up. Impossible to calculate. How many worlds does it take to save a world? How much longer will we be able to hear the names and stories of our fallen? When will enough be enough for all sides?

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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The Big Giveaway

During the months of May and June, during selected five-day periods, I will be giving away the Kindle versions (E-books) of all my books. I will share this with all my friends and followers, and everybody else who views my posts on the social networks to which I contribute. If you know someone else who might enjoy taking advantage of my generosity, please feel free to spread the joy to your friends. After June 10th I go back to being my usual miserly self.

Poetry:

Science Fiction:

Essays:

If you don’t have a Kindle to read the book you want to download, click on the “READ ON ANY DEVICE” button or the “Read with Our Free App” link on the book page to download the free Kindle software to your pc, Mac, tablet, or smartphone. Then click on the Buy now with 1-Click. You will see that the cost is $0.00. Make sure you download the book during the period next to the book you want to read.

Additional Offer!

The first six people to write a review (preferably glowing) about the book they read will receive a free hardcopy paperback version of one of my books from the list above.

So what are you waiting for?

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

 

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