Scientific paper arguing that the first life on Earth was delivered in a series of comet strikes.

jwz:

“It is now becoming amply clear that Earth-like planets and other life-friendly planetary bodies exist in their hundreds of billions and exchanges of material between them (meteorites, cometary bolides) must routinely occur.. One is thus forced in our view to conclude that the entire galaxy (and perhaps our local group of galaxies) constitutes a single connected biosphere.”

Insert “mind blown” emoji here.

James Fallows: The filibuster is a perversion of the Constitution

Fallows, on his Breaking the News Substack

1. The filibuster is not in the Constitution.

2. Its modern abuse realizes the founders’ greatest fears.

3. We are living through a super-cynical, stealth version of the filibuster.

4. Let’s at least force its abusers out into the light.

The Founders explicitly required a majority vote in the Senate, not a supermajority. The Founders acted after 13 years under the Articles of Confederation, which required a supermajority, which nearly destroyed the US—just as the US is teetering on the verge of destruction today.

We no longer have even a “talking filibuster,” as in the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Instead, any Senator can simply and silently force a supermajority vote on any measure—and they routinely do. This is great for the minority party, because it operates from stealth and shadows. The majority party gets all the blame for gridlock and failure, even though it’s the majority party that’s at fault.

The metaverse already exists, and it is very old

The metaverse has existed since the invention of language and art.

The metaverse is the universe of information the human race has been building for 200,000 years, beginning with the emergence of modern homo sapiens in Africa. Our ancestors began to make drawings by daubing red ochre on cave walls, and probably had language and other modern behavior too. They began to build the metaverse then, an information architecture that exists outside any individual mind, in illustrations or speech that was memorized and shared between people and from one generation to the next.

Writing accelerated the construction of the metaverse, emerging 5,000 years ago and providing a much improved means of preserving and communicating information. Writing started with financial records, records of transactions, and laws and administrative orders by political leaders. That is the principal form of the metaverse today.

Of course, computers accelerated the development of the metaverse even more. You exist both in the real world and the metaverse. The metaverse you is your financial, employment, and criminal history, the records of your interactions with governments and most businesses. If you’re stopped by the police, or try to take out a mortgage, or you need lifesaving medical care that costs as much as a new car or house, your metaverse version is as important to your life as your physical self.

Wars are primarily fought in the metaverse. “Amateurs talk tactics, professionals study logistics” has been attributed to Gen. Omar Bradley. (More quotes about military logistics here) Logistics is the science of getting bullets, uniforms, vehicles, guns, food, shelter, and all other essential equipment from the real echelons to the front, where soldiers can use them. Logistics require a whole lot of record-keeping. Logistics happen in the metaverse. It’s been said that World War II was won with the typewriter.

Those of us who work and socialize primarily through screens, and did so even before Covid, live much of our lives in the metaverse.

The recent talk about the metaverse, with virtual reality and avatars, is just the latest step in a journey that’s been going on for hundreds of thousands of years. Personally, I’m skeptical that people are going to want to live large parts of their lives with their eyes covered by screens. But it doesn’t matter. The metaverse is already here, and it’s nothing new.

“The Gilded Age”

We watched the opening episode of “The Gilded Age” yesterday. It’s been getting negative reviews online. Ignore those reviews. If you liked “Downton Abbey,” you’ll enjoy “The Gilded Age.”

Such a great cast! Three particular stand-outs from an all-around terrific line-up: Christine Baranski is playing another tough, smart, older, aristocratic woman, which is a kind of role she specializes in. And Cynthia Nixon is a meek spinster, a very different role for her from “Sex and the City.”

And of course show is visually gorgeous.

The show is unabashedly un-progressive, which bothered me in the weeks before. I thought: Do we REALLY need a show about how great rich white people are, given the historical moment we live in today? But my reservations disappeared while we watched, because it’s such a good, and good-hearted show. I encourage separating one’s politics and entertainment; it makes life more pleasant. Watch “The Gilded Age” in the evening, and donate to and volunteer for the progressive cause of your choosing—Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, the Democratic Party, whatever.

And the show manages to sneak in progressivism around the edges. One character is gay, and of course, closeted. Women are clearly operating within the confines of their gender roles.

And in a pleasantly surprising move—sorry if this is a spoiler—there is not only a major Black character, but she seems to be a member of the historical Black upper class, which is not a group we see represented much on TV, so nice move there.

The Learning Curve: Why Mission Dioramas Are (Mostly) History

Building dioramas of Spanish missions used to be a rite of passage for California’s schoolkids, but growing awareness of colonial brutality is making the dioramas obsolete.

By Randy Doting at the Voice of San Diego:

Craft stores used to make a killing out of California’s fourth-grade state history curriculum. Every child, myself included, had to make a diorama of a state mission – and they needed supplies like hot glue, corrugated paper and Styrofoam, not to mention milk cartons and clay. Parents could even buy a whole pre-fab mission-making kit in case their kid happened to mention after dinner that the project is due tomorrow.

For many Californians, putting together a diorama is one of the most memorable parts of their education. Now, mission-making has nearly gone the way of venerable school traditions like smoking areas and spankings. Some students still make them (watch out for ants if you use sugar cubes!), but most fourth-graders no longer need to ask Mom for a ride to the nearest Michaels or Hobby Lobby.

The change is linked to a changing understanding about our state’s early history. The Spanish colonialization of California is no longer romanticized, and we now recognize the brutal treatment of Native Americans by European invaders.

Instead, educators advocate teaching the actual, complex history. Kids know that things live and die, they know what conflict is. Teachers can teach the history from the different perspectives of those who lived then and their competing goals.

Also: In 2017, a San Diego fourth-grader built a Mission diorama, burning as a result of the Kumeyaay Native American revolt. My kind of kid.

After all these years in the state, I consider myself a full-blooded Californian. But this part of the experience, and the veneration of California’s Mission history, is alien to me. In the New York schools where I was taught, Mission history barely got a mention. It’s a big country, and everybody’s local history is different.

Is civilization just a phase?

Lately I wonder whether our current level of technological and scientific development is a short-lived peak for the species. Whether our natural state is hunter-gatherer.

We were hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years, and we spread out and settled the entire planet that way. Tiny bands of dozens of people.

The entire period we call civilization has been a brief flicker of that time, and so far it doesn’t seem to be going well.