Humanity Top-Trumps

We seem to be no closer to the enlightened day foretold by noted philosopher Theodor Geisel in his seminal work “The Star Bellied Sneetches”.

A couple of things this week gave me pause when trying to decide who was actually in the wrong and who was in the right.

In the first, a child and family were removed from a flight because of the child’s allergy to dogs, of which there was one on the flight. The question here is, is a child’s allergy, traditionally enough to have a school ban an item, less important than another person’s right to have an emotional support animal?

The second involves a woman being moved on a flight because her presence was a problem to the orthodox Jew sitting next to her. Are religious rights more or less important than women’s rights?

Lastly, although the incident did not happen this week, it’s cropped up a lot over various news feeds this week, is an immuno-compromised child’s right to attend school more or less important than a parent’s right to choose not to vaccinate a child? A pertinent addendum here being that the school has a peanut butter ban in effect to protect allergic children.

These stories made me think that we really need to develop some sort of ranking system for whose rights supersede whose, a sort of human rights Top-Trumps if you will. With this in place issues could be quickly and efficiently resolved.



Forever Alone

“Magnificent Desolation” was Buzz Aldrin’s first impression of the moon. Now, 45 years later, he could equally have been describing the entirety of space.

Long before the Apollo 11 mission landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon, people like Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Enrico Fermi were wondering, given the infinite universe, why haven’t we already been visited by intelligent life…multiple times.

This paradox is most popularly called the Fermi Paradox. The central ideas (from Wikipedia) are:

  • The Sun is a normal star and is in many respects typical, and there are billions of stars in the galaxy, including many billions of years older than Earth.
  • With high probability, some of these stars will have Earth-like planets, and if the Earth is typical, some might develop intelligent life.
  • Some of these civilizations might develop interstellar travel, a step the Earth is investigating now.
  • Even at the slow pace of currently envisioned interstellar travel, the Milky Way galaxy could be completely traversed in about a million years.

While it’s enticing and captivating to imagine what other life might be like there’s also the unfathomable, nihilistic possibility that in the vastness of space, it is, and will always be, just us.


Arthur C. Clarke said it best:

“Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”