Another Life: visible rogue planets, visible dark matter, and other smart stuff

First contact

Aliens. Alien intelligence. Alien vessel shapes and what it says about the show you are about to watch. Moebius ships?


Crystalline FTL space antennae. The realities of lightspeed communication and why The SETI Institute doesn’t do “Communication with extraterrestrial intelligence.” Unexplained FTL comms.

Fumbling about space

When your crew is this good, you really should just send a ship without the humans on it instead. MapQuest in spaaaaaace being confounded by gravitational lensing. Dark matter… blocks your view sometimes? Rogue planets and how very very very dark it is in between star systems. Robinson Crusoe oxygen rocks (or crystals).

Contagion: epidemiology, snake oil, and curve-flattening

Current events

Our world is on the brink of some possibly extreme unpleasantness. Known unknowns threats to civilization. Humanity is bad at planning for statistically-likely-but-not-definite disaster.


The anti-scientific garbage that starts to overflow in the face of a public health crisis. Goop. Alex Jones. Snake oil. Homeopathy. Price gouging. Levels of understanding and respect for the severity of the current pandemic across age groups.


R0, or basic reproduction number. Vulnerable sub-populations. Prisons. Social distancing. Hoarding toilet paper and… meat? The nipah virus.

Human behaviour

Social distancing. Hoarding steak and toilet paper.


Historical pandemics. Rate of spead and pandemic reach in the premodern and modern worlds. Propaganda and the “Spanish Flu” of 1918. Wildlife as natural disease reservoirs. Wildlife farming and infectious disease overflow. Disease-spread mitigation. Getting germs in your holes Wash your hands!


Contagion: iTunes | Amazon
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center:
Why new diseases keep appearing in China by Vox: YouTube
Medlife Crisis: YouTube
Planet Money Podcast:
The Indicator from Planet Money:
Self-experimentation in medicine: Wikipedia


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Altered Carbon Season 2: memory, facial recognition, and xenoarchaeology

A review

We don’t normally do this, but…


Priming. Retrieval cues. Memory encoding, sotrage, and retrieval. Context-dependent memory. Getting drunk and finding your keys. Digital memory retrieval Facial recognition heuristics. Recognition vs reproduction.


Living amongst the runes. More AI! Deciphering alien technology.

Altered Carbon: Netflix
Altered Carbon: Zoltan Istvan on transplant immortality, identity, and consciousness uploading: Decipher Scifi

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Evolution: panspermia space rocks, periodic tables, and sooo much poison

Asteroids etc

Revisiting: asteroids vs meteors vs meteoroids vs meteorites vs who knows. Still confusing! How much space stuff hits Earth? Like, not just dust but things big enough to be impressed by. Who gets claim to Earth-impacting space rocks?


The idea that life can spread between worlds. Or maybe even stars (maybe not.)? The “soft hypothesis” of panspermia and the utility of primoridla ooze. The possibility of panspermia bringing life to primordial Earth. Cowboy scientists just leaving alien goo everywhere.

Periodic table of the elements

Chemical relationships via the periodic table. Actually-useful alternative periodic tables. Selenium toxicity, testosterone, and Brazil nuts. Arsenic. Marveling at 19th centtury arsenic popularity.

Evolution: iTunes | Amazon | Netflix
Matcha! It’s so tasty.: Wikipedia

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Picard: the moral center of Trek, supernovae, and Romulan stormtroopers

In which we discuss the first three episodes


We missed you Jean-Luc! Picard as the moral center of Star Trek, and the greatest of its captains.

Romulan supernova

Romulans. How to tell a Vulkan from a Romulan? Exploding stars. Detecting supernovae. The death cycle of a red supergiant. The reliability of physics across timelines/universes. The dangers of cleaving planets.

Federation Economics

“Post scarcity” with holodecks and replicators, and the realization that there is still a limited resource: energy. Star Trek Kardashev levels.

Synthetic life

Data. Lore. Data’s “daughter” from that one time on TNG. Bio-synthetic intelligent life. How important is embodiment?

  • Star Trek Beyond: drone swarms, teleporters, and decompression w/ Jolene Creighton: Decipher SciFi
  • Star Trek First Contact: transhumanism technology and ant behavior w/ Jolene Creighton: Decipher SciFi
  • Star Trek IV – The Journey Home: whale margarine, transparent aluminum, and time travel: Decipher SciFi
  • Star Trek Voyager: water, galactic scales, and coffee replicators: Decipher SciFi
  • Galaxy Quest: the best Star Trek movie: Decipher SciFi
  • Star Trek TNG: Netflix
  • The Picard Song by DarkMateria: YouTube
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Halo: first contact, power armor, and how does master chief poop? w/ Daniel Barker


Nostalgia: wow Halo has really been around for a minute. Hundreds of hours of that one level of local multiplayer but never playing the story. Turning an RTS into a TPS and then an FPS and then getting that Microsoft money. Figuring out the importance of Halo CE in the history of gaming. PC gaming master race. Tank-controlled console FPS games. Unseating Goldeneye. Establishing a timeline of FPS quality on consoles and PC.

First Contact

Humanity honing its warfare skills by just being jerks to other humans. Settling 800+ planets! “Glassing” enemy alien planets.

Put a ring on it

Ringworlds! But less a ring “world” and more a ring “weapons platofrm that also is fairly liveable.” The Drake Equation and the Fermi Paradox through the lens of Halo.


Master Chief vs Doom Guy. Measuring Hell energy. Mjolnir armor – a half ton and costs as much as a destroyer to produce. “Smart” and “dumb” AI delineations. Neural exoskeleton integration. PRedictive algorithms. Relating Master Chief to Upgrade. What about just putting an AI and some batteries inside of the Mjolnir armor? Falling from space.

Halo Foward Unto Dawn: Amazon
Uncertainty Principle:

TMNT 2 Ooze movie backdrop

The Secret of the Ooze: turtles, pizza, and irl toxic sludge

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

An incredible indie success story.


Pizza popularity in the US post-WWII. Pizza classification arguments. Bread sauce cheese vs bread cheese sauce and the DRASTIC difference between the two. NYC Pizza ftw.

Wtf is a turtle

Turtles, tortoises, terrapins, and the difficulty with colloquial names. Putting them in the water to see which ones drows. Telescoping vs hinging necks.

Toxic ooze

Realizing the horrifying reason “toxic sludge” was in all of our childhood media. Joe’s story about that one superfund site that I can’t spell. Creating better ooze monsters. Honey badger? Mantis shrimp?

Nuclear waste

Short term nuclear waste storage and the problem with active maintenance. Long-term nuclear waste storage and keeping things safe after humanity. Long-term nuclear waste warning messages. The limits of language and pictograms. Designing for “bad vibes.”

This place is a message… and part of a system of messages …pay attention to it! Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture. This place is not a place of honor … no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here… nothing valued is here. What is here was dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger. The danger is in a particular location… it increases towards a center… the center of danger is here… of a particular size and shape, and below us. The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours. The danger is to the body, and it can kill. The form of the danger is an emanation of energy. The danger is unleashed only if you substantially disturb this place physically. This place is best shunned and left uninhabited.

10 Thousand Years: 99% Invisible
Why danger symbols can’t last forever by Vox & 99pi: YouTube
TMNT decayed costume nightmare fuel: Twitter

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The Thirteenth Floor: Yo dawg I heard you liked the simulation hypothesis

This movie

Yo dog, I heard you liked simulations. Server-room LAN rave parties. choosing your simulated period for fun, profit, and lack of complications.


Plato’s shadows on a cave wall. Maybe shadows all the way down, and turtles all the way up! The simulatability of our perceived reality.

The argument

The simulation argument made distinct from the simulation hypothesis. Considering possible “great filters” that could prevent technological progress reaching the point where a reality simulation is possible.


The possible impossibility of simulating a whole universe in what may itself be a finite universe. Video game engine-corner cutting analogies for the reality sim. Kardashev scales and simulation ability.

#### Reality

But is it “real” and does it even matter? “I think therefore I am.” Mind uploading and downloading and VR “death.

Inception: iTunes | Amazon The Matrix: iTunes | Amazon | YouTube The Matrix – green phosphors, neuroplasticity, and rejecting utopia w/ Adrian Falcone: Decipher SciFi The Truman Show – objects visible from space, dome megastructues, and reality testing: Decipher Scifi