Is anybody out there?

In fact, had a giant asteroid not killed off the dinosaurs, homo sapiens might never have evolved. If it weren’t for that chance cataclysmic encounter from space, Earth might even now be ruled by dinosaurs.

By Wayne Boyd

In the early days of Hollywood and television, we used to think that life on other planets was common. Science fiction movies about invasions from the planet Mars or Venus were normal. HG Wells wrote War of the Worlds which later became a radio show and still later several big screen adaptations and it was about Martians invading Earth.

Even as our imagination thrived our knowledge of the cosmos grew. We sent probes and rovers throughout the solar system and beyond. We gazed into the stars with our space telescopes. We took images from non-visible light and radio waves. Great minds like Einstein and Hawking churned it over. Finally, after all that, we came to a startling if not disappointing realization: Planets other than Earth that support life, if they exist at all, appear to be the exception rather than the rule. There is no warmongering Martian civilization waiting to invade Earth. There are no lovely ladies lounging around on Venus. It’s true not only for our own solar system, but for all the exoplanets we’ve detected so far.

Our understanding of distances in space developed, especially between stars. Distances, it turned out, were vast. The more we knew the less likely it seemed anyone would go star hopping. That not only applies to us, but the aliens as well, if any extraterrestrial sentient beings exist at all! There will be no warp drives, no faster than light travel, and no light speed travel. It just isn’t possible. We can’t go there and they can’t come here.

Recently, there’s been some reports of UFOs in the news, and that’s always been there from the 1950s on. There is no evidence that unidentified flying objects are extraterrestrial in origin. It is unlikely for the simple reason that to travel from one star to the next would take tens of thousands of years. Sadly, and perhaps fortunately, no one is traveling from star to star. The best we can hope for is that we can visit other planets in our own solar system. Maybe one of them might at least have some microbes.

Once we figured out that there wasn’t much chance of advanced, intelligent life elsewhere within our own solar system, then we hoped we would find it on planets around other stars. Remember the movie Avatar? Supposedly that took place around Alpha Centauri, one of our closest group of stars. So if we can’t find life here then for sure it’s going to be on the closest star!

Yet, as we peered into the solar systems of other stars we came to a new understanding: most planets that we’re able to detect outside of our own solar system are hostile environments. There’s something weird about almost all of them, and so the prospect of finding life orbiting on a planet near our closest star is kind of unlikely. There’s no “Avatar” on Alpha Centauri.

Intelligent alien life is not impossible. The universe is a big place. The point is that we now know it to be rare. So rare, in fact, that it might exist nowhere other than here. At least as far as we can see so far.

In fact, had a giant asteroid not killed off the dinosaurs, homo sapiens might never have evolved. If it weren’t for that chance cataclysmic encounter from space, Earth might even now be ruled by dinosaurs.

Therefore, even if a planet were in an ideal goldilocks region around it’s star, and even if on the off chance single cell organisms had developed there, we have no reason to suspect that a homo-erectus kind of being might have developed there.

We really could be the only ones out there.

How would humanity react if there was a giant drawing of Pluto the dog on Pluto the dwarf planet? Would people pay much attention?

Probably! Especially since Pluto was not named after the dog Pluto, but after the Roman god of death, Pluto, since it was farthest from the sun and therefore considered to be very cold. Pluto used to be considered a planet, rather than a dwarf planet, and historically the planets were named after Greek Gods.

As for Pluto and dogs, Pluto has a few moons, one of which is named after a dog. Kerberos is named after the multi headed dog who is supposedly guarding the entrance to the underworld (in Greek mythology).

Here’s Pluto and it’s moons.

Life as an independent contractor during a pandemic

Since then, gas prices have plummeted, restaurant delivery has skyrocketed…

By Wayne Boyd

After working for 17 years at a state prison in Amarillo, Texas, even as a pandemic was beginning to spread across the nation, I decided to retire. After all, I was 67 years old and eligible for a) social security, b) a lifetime pension from TDCJ, and c) health insurance for life for my wife and myself. Not too shabby.

Furthermore, for the last 2 years I had been picking up Uber and Lyft passengers in my spare time, and more recently started restaurant deliveries with companies like GrubHub, DoorDash and Uber Eats. Why not continue that after retirement?

My wife and I discussed my options and decided that retirement would be okay if I could earn about $50 a day driving doing deliveries. Then we upped the figure to $70 because we wanted to account for wear and tear on the vehicle and gas prices. In other words, I’d be making a profit of $50 a day after gas, or $1,500 a month added to my social security and pension income. It would be more than comfortable.

Since then, gas prices have plummeted, restaurant delivery has skyrocketed, and working only a few hours a day I’m averaging $170 a day. I’m pulling in about $160/day profit, or $4,800/month, $3,300 more than projected to live comfortably.

I stopped picking up passengers with Uber and Lyft and just do the delivery now. I’m safer and there’s been no drop in income. Lyft sent me an email informing me how vital it was to have drivers and how desperately needed drivers were to move people around. I ignored the message.

As a side note, I’ve been a vegetarian since before I was old enough to vote. I wish I could get the world to stop eating meat, but that’s obviously not going to happen. So I decided okay, I can deliver food to these people and make a bunch of money. I won’t eat what they eat, but I was already delivering inmates food trays, why not drop off bags of food at people’s homes?

So for me, life is good now. In fact, it’s much better financially than before, even as many millions of Americans are losing their jobs in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

I just hope the State of Texas continues to afford my monthly pension check and the federal government continues to send me social security money.

Is the Coronavirus Keeping “Us” Home?

Is staying at home an option only for the elite?

Even while newscasters claim the coronavirus is “keeping us home,” millions of people are not able to stay home at all. Staying at home has become the norm for the privileged, not for the practical working man or woman.

Those staying at home can often work by computer or phone, or are sick. Not everyone is privileged to have that freedom in order to make a living.

While fortunate folks are able to stay at home, others are not. To those that are not able to stay at home, those that claim the coronavirus is keeping us home seem like an elite and privileged group.

Biogenetically engineered virus?

Must there be a conspiracy theory behind everything bad that happens?

Latest conspiracy theory heard from a true believer: COVID-19 was bio-genetically engineered by the Chinese government. Why would they want to shoot themselves in their own foot? To reduce the population of course.

I’m thinking, what? You don’t think nature is smart enough to create a virus like this on her own? If something bad happens in nature it must have been some evil person or government that caused that bad thing to happen?

Must there be a conspiracy behind everything bad that happens?

The horror is just beginning

Even as people are still joking about the temporary pause in day-to-day activities because of the coronavirus, millions of Americans have lost their jobs and industries have been affected in ways that we cannot even imagine.

Just take a peek under the blanket of normalcy and see what’s really happening around the world. It’s bad enough that hundreds of thousands of people could die from this virus, but in the long term it’s the economic downturn that will be remembered. We are headed for another Great Depression, not a recession like in 2009.

Never before in modern history have so many industries closed. Never before in modern history have so many people been put out of work so quickly and abruptly. The economic effect of all of this can be nothing other than total catastrophe and financial ruination. It will affect not just some mom and pop restaurants in town, but it will affect every single person in the world. We are all about to get really poor.

Everybody knows that public gatherings are discouraged or even outlawed right now. Public dining, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, casinos, sporting events – all have been canceled or put on indefinite hold.

This is not going to end in two weeks time. This is going to last for a long time.

To see what effect this is going to have, let’s take a look at sporting events. Here in Amarillo, Texas, the city invested millions of dollars to construct a minor league baseball park downtown. Last year, the local team, known as the Sod Poodles, won the Texas division championship. Thousands upon thousands of people flocked to the stadium, purchased tickets, ate food, drank beer, and provided the baseball players themselves with an opportunity to get drafted into the major leagues. Now all that money has stopped. Who do you think is going to be affected by the sudden lack of cash flow? A lot of people, including the city of Amarillo itself.

Now look beyond our little baseball park in Amarillo to huge sporting events like the NFL or Major league baseball. The NFL is going on like the football season is going to continue. We don’t know that at all. Even if it does continue we don’t know if anyone will even show up for the games because of fear of the virus. Who do you think pays the baseball players or the football players? It’s the revenue generated from the ticket sales and advertisements. All of that is in suspended animation. All of that is lost. Along with all of that lost revenue is thousands of support businesses.

Earlier I mentioned casinos being closed. Well of course casinos are a place where a lot of people gather in tight spaces and play slot machines and gamble in other ways, right? Casinos on Native American reservations are closed. Now think about Las Vegas. The whole city is closed. How many people are unemployed, how many businesses have bills to pay but no revenue coming in to pay those bills? How many hotels are empty?

So now we’ve got all kinds of people on reservations sick with CORVID-19 and no employment because of the casinos NOT BRINGING IN ANY INCOME FOR THE WHOLE COMMUNITY. Even the Grand Canyon is closed because you have to drive through the Navajo Nation to get to it and hundreds of people in the Navajo Nation are sick with the coronavirus. National Park workers at the Grand Canyon have fallen ill with the virus. So now we have no Grand Canyon to visit.

It’s not one sector of society that’s being affected, nor is it one country. This is the whole world, every nation on every continent being affected by CORVID-19. In some countries, like India, people are already starving. People will become homeless, hungry, hopeless, not just in third world countries but right here in America.

Think about religious institutions. Think about Krishna and Hindu temples that depend on the weekly donations from congregational members. Many churches, temples and synagogues also depend on weeklysupport and donations. Some of them will not survive.

The horror is just beginning. As we hide in place from this virus, the even more insidious financial collapse is taking place all around us. Get ready for what’s to come.

Coronavirus, Social and Physical Distancing and Self-Quarantine

Reviewed By:

Lisa Lockerd Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H.

Now that the new coronavirus and COVID-19, the illness it causes, are spreading among communities in the United States and other countries, phrases such as “social distancing,” “self-quarantine” and “flattening the curve” are showing up in the media.

What do they mean, and how might they apply to you, your family and your community?

Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H. , senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins, helps clarify these concepts so you can understand better why they’re being recommended.

What is social and physical distancing?

While it may be disappointing to hear that so many sports events, cruises, festivals and other gatherings are being cancelled, there is a public health reason for these measures. These cancellations help stop or slow down the spread of disease allowing the health care system to more readily care for patients over time.

Cancelling events that are likely to draw crowds is an example of social and physical distancing. Social distancing is deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Staying at least six feet away from other people lessens your chances of catching COVID-19.

Other examples of social and physical distancing that allow you to avoid larger crowds or crowded spaces are:

  • Working from home instead of at the office
  • Closing schools or switching to online classes
  • Visiting loved ones by electronic devices instead of in person
  • Cancelling or postponing conferences and large meetings

Coronavirus: What do I do if I Feel Sick?

If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19, follow these steps to help protect your health and the health of others.

What is self-quarantine?

People who have been exposed to the new coronavirus and who are at risk for coming down with COVID-19 might practice self-quarantine. Health experts recommend that self-quarantine lasts 14 days. Two weeks provides enough time for them to know whether or not they will become ill and be contagious to other people.

You might be asked to practice self-quarantine if you have recently returned from traveling to a part of the country or the world where COVID-19 is spreading rapidly, or if you have knowingly been exposed to an infected person.

Self-quarantine involves:

  • Using standard hygiene and washing hands frequently
  • Not sharing things like towels and utensils
  • Staying at home
  • Not having visitors
  • Staying at least 6 feet away from other people in your household

Once your quarantine period has ended, if you do not have symptoms, follow your doctor’s instructions on how to return to your normal routine.

What is isolation?

For people who are confirmed to have COVID-19, isolation is appropriate. Isolation is a health care term that means keeping people who are infected with a contagious illness away from those who are not infected. Isolation can take place at home or at a hospital or care facility. Special personal protective equipment will be used to care for these patients in health care settings.

What is “flattening the curve?”

Flattening the curve refers to using protective practices to slow the rate of COVID-19 infection so hospitals have room, supplies and doctors for all of the patients who need care.

a graphics showing cornoavirus disease progression

This image was adapted from the CDC.

A large number of people becoming very sick over the course of a few days could overwhelm a hospital or care facility. Too many people becoming severely ill with COVID-19 at roughly the same time could result in a shortage of hospital beds, equipment or doctors.

On a graph, a sudden surge in patients over a short time could be represented as a tall, narrow curve.

On the other hand, if that same large number of patients arrived at the hospital at a slower rate, for example, over the course of several weeks, the line of the graph would look like a longer, flatter curve.

In this situation, fewer patients would arrive at the hospital each day. There would be a better chance of the hospital being able to keep up with adequate supplies, beds and health care providers to care for them.

Lessening Coronavirus Impact

It’s important to know what to do if you feel sick. The coronavirus pandemic is making everyone aware of handwashing and protecting others from coughs and sneezes. Along with those essential steps, practices such as social and physical distancing, and self-quarantine and isolation when appropriate can slow the rate of infection in a city, town or community.

The pandemic can seem overwhelming, but in truth, every person can help slow down the spread of COVID-19. By doing your part, you can make a big difference to your health, and that of others around you.

About Coronaviruses

  • Coronaviruses are common in different animals. Rarely, an animal coronavirus can infect humans.
  • There are many different kinds of coronaviruses. Some of them can cause colds or other mild respiratory (nose, throat, lung) illnesses.
  • Other coronaviruses can cause more serious diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
  • Coronaviruses are named for their appearance: Under the microscope, the viruses look like they are covered with pointed structures that surround them like a corona, or crown.

Is this coronavirus different from SARS?

SARS stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome. In 2003, an outbreak of SARS started in China and spread to other countries before ending in 2004. The virus that causes COVID-19 is similar to the one that caused the 2003 SARS outbreak: both are types of coronaviruses. Much is still unknown, but COVID-19 seems to spread faster than the 2003 SARS and also may cause less severe illness.