Author of the SECTOR 64 Series

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What’s Wrong With The Fermi Paradox

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In a 1950 discussion with colleagues on the subject of the potential existence of extraterrestrial life, famed physicist Enrico Fermi asked, “Where are they?” Uttering those three words, Fermi forever tied his name to the issue as it came to be known as the Fermi Paradox.

fermi paradoxHis question is reasonable.

The Fermi Paradox lies in the contradiction between high estimates of the potential numbers of extraterrestrial civilizations, and the lack of evidence for or contact with said civilizations.

Considering the billions of years of galactic history predating humanity’s arrival and taking Earth’s life-development timeline as average, the age of the universe and its vast number of stars suggests extraterrestrial life should be common. Even using conservative numbers for the percentage of stars with planets and the percentage of those that will host life and so on, the number of technological galactic civilizations could easily be in the millions.

So, withstanding the multitude of UFO sightings, where’s the hard evidence that would surely be visible in the form of spacecraft or probes if the galaxy teamed with life.

There are several gaps in this logic, one being that all UFO sightings are either hoaxes or misidentified natural phenomenon. The US Air Force’s Project Blue Book found a small percentage “inexplicable by contemporary technology.” If even one sighting were real, the paradox evaporates.

However, for argument’s sake, let’s say every UFO sighting in history has been terrestrial in origin. What are the other holes in the argument?

One is the Zoo Hypothesis. Essentially it postulates that earth-space is a sanctuary. Much like a wildlife refuge, it is to be left unmolested and unaltered by external cultures and technologies, allowed to develop on its own course and of its own volition. Under this hypothesis, alien ships could be observing us now. As long as they remain undetected, they could pursue their anthropologic aspirations utilizing their advanced technology.

Fermi’s paradox evaporates at the very idea that aliens could inhabit local space undetected by our current technology.

Undetectable spaceships? Sounds like paranoid conspiracy theorist fodder. Maybe not when you consider how close we are to realizing that ability.

Humans, barely a century from our first forays into the air and mere decades since first breaching our atmosphere into local space, are already pondering invisibility cloaks rendered through the employment of metamaterials. While that century’s hundred years seems like a long time on a human timescale, it is less than a blink of the eye on a geologic timescale, even less on an astronomic timescale.

Another paradoxical hole arises when we review the assumption that we would see an uncloaked ship.

Most of us grew up in the space and information ages. We believe we know what’s out there and surely must know what is in our solar system. In this time-lapse computer animation produced by Scott Manley, we humans look like cavemen shining our light of discovery upon our solar neighborhood. Watch the video. You’ll be amazed at how little we knew about our solar neighborhood a few years ago, much less in Fermi’s time.


The rendered asteroids are mostly 100 meters or larger. By the end of the animation, there are roughly half a million asteroids. Current scientific estimates place the number of asteroids 100 meters or larger at half a billion. That’s billion with a B. Meaning there are a thousand times more football-field-sized asteroids than have been found to date.

In other words, in 2014 scientists believe roughly 499.5 million sports-arena-sized asteroids remain undiscovered in our neck of the solar system. 

In that light, how much water does Fermi’s 1950 assertion hold. Even 64 years later, we can’t say there aren’t (potentially cloaked and potentially smaller than a football field) alien ships visiting.

All things considered, it doesn’t seem like much of a paradox.

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SECTOR 64: Writing Progress Update

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Many of you have asked when the next part of Sector 64 will arrive, so here’s a quick writing progress report.

The first and second drafts of book two’s beginning, middle, and ending are complete, but there’s a hitch. I am working with a professional editor recommended to me by my Facebook friend, and very successful author, Scott Nicholson. Based on my editor’s inputs, I am wrapping up an extensive rewrite of book one, SECTOR 64: Coup de Main, which has more than doubled its length. Coup de Main’s outcome remains unchanged. However, I created a separate storyline for Captain Sandra Fitzpatrick. While she is a major character in book two, she played a minimal role in book one. To balance her side of the tale, and to give the reader another perspective on the story’s other characters, I’ve thrown one of the attacking alien ships at Sandy and the West Coast.

While the addition of Captain Fitzpatrick’s storyline has allowed me to seamlessly tie book one in with the events of book two, it also afforded me the opportunity to give the story’s other characters more depth. Sandy’s experiences also give the reader a clearer picture of the apocalypse the aliens visit upon us. While these changes do give the story more depth, I haven’t added fluff. The additions are full of raw action, intense scenery, and heart wrenching emotions.

At fifty-two thousand words, the original SECTOR 64: Coup de Main was more novella than novel. The new story’s beefy hundred ten thousand words bring it to the industry’s standard length for a science fiction novel. Considering this, I will publish the revised story as an epic new novel based on the novella, Sector 64: Coup de Main. Since many of you already purchased book one, and waited a significant amount of time for part two, I plan to announce a twenty-four hour period in which the yet to be named book one will be available for free on Amazon. For those of you who’d rather only read the added parts of the story, I will release a free novella that splits Sandy’s experiences out from the main tale.

All that having been said, I’m still at least a couple of months away from completion of book one. Much depends on my editor’s timetable as well as my own work schedule.

Thanks for your patience. In my ever so humble opinion, it’ll be worth the wait.

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Overpopulation and the New Space Age

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As popularly depicted in several recent fiction offerings, we face a coming crisis. Over the last several decades, we’ve added a billion people to the world’s population every twelve years. Considering our economy, stock markets, and corporate valuations are growth based, this is great news for our retirement nest eggs. However, at some point in the next hundred years, the irresistible force of growth will smack into the immovable wall of earth’s finite resources and real estate.

Dan Brown’s new present-day thriller, Inferno, revolves around a mad scientist’s deranged solution for overpopulation. Matt Damon’s Elysium portrays a future where the ‘Have-Not’s are left to struggle in the squalor of a dystopic overpopulated world while the ‘Have’s take to living in a utopian orbital Halo-like ring world.

While Inferno’s fictional mad-scientist assumes additional resources will not avail themselves in time to prevent catastrophe, Elysium envisions growth’s substantial economic force leading to off world development. I believe the latter is the likely outcome.

In simplest terms, a reduction in growth creates a recession while a contraction generates a depression. We all suffer during those economic downturns. The stagnation of permanent zero growth would create economic chaos. Elysium’s dystopic vision not withstanding, when the forces of continued growth collide with earth’s limited resources, I believe it will be in our children’s (or their children’s) best interest to look to the stars.

It will also be in the corporate world’s best interest. More than any other factor, I believe the forces of capitalism will take us to the stars. It won’t happen tomorrow, next year, or even in the next several decades. However, at some point in the next century, the negative inflationary forces of improving technology and the need to continue growth will render large-scale space habitation an affordable option, propelling us across the solar system and eventually to the stars.

It won’t happen overnight. Barring a huge leap in technology, or the discovery of new physics that open paths to the stars, we won’t leap directly from our current forays into low earth orbit to interstellar travel. However, as the Samoans populated the Pacific’s scattered islands, humanity will likely spend the next thousand years spreading about the solar system. Through terraforming the inner planets or deploying Elysium style ring worlds, or both, our growth will continue until we’ve completely tapped the solar system’s resources. At that point, we’ll truly reach for the stars.

 

While vast, the Sol system’s resources are finite. Knowing that, we will have long ago identified nearby star systems ripe for human immigration. We already possess the ability to detect the atmosphere of nearby extra solar planets. Hubble recently detected the blue atmosphere of a gas giant orbiting one of our neighbors. In the coming decades, we will almost certainly gain the ability to directly observe some of our galaxy’s 100 billion earth-like planets.

While most, if not all of these events, will take place after we’ve moved on, our current outer space efforts are allowing us a glimpse of the universe our descendants may inherit when our socioeconomic model gets caught between a rock and a hard place.

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Synergy Air’s Aircraft Building Fundamentals Class

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rv7_kitAs many of you know, I’ve started a homebuilt kit plane. In order to facilitate the safest and most cost effective build possible, my wonderful girlfriend and copilot Donna and I decided to attend Synergy Air’s Aircraft Building Fundamentals Class.

 

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We fit with room to spare!

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So last week we hopped a plane to Oregon, rented a car in Portland and then worked our way two hours south to lovely Eugene. En route we toured the Van’s Aircraft kit factory, where we got to sit in Van’s iconic RV-7A. It is configured identically to the one we’re building.

We arrived in Eugene late Friday afternoon. Being the world travelers that we are, and having a free evening, we sought a taste of the town’s quirky side. What we found was The David Minor Theater. It was a fun twist on the dinner theater (think Alamo Draft House in your house), and a great idea for a college town. They’ve converted a small building by creating several “living rooms” with couches and armchairs. Each fitted with a wide screen TV and Dolby 5.1/7.1 surround sound. They only show new DVD releases. However, they sell drinks and several of the local restaurants provide a selection of meals. All of which can be ordered via text while still sitting next to your honey. (Now if I could only figure out a way for them to take care of the bathroom breaks for me, I’d never miss a scene.) If you find yourself in the area, I highly recommend the experience.

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The next morning we headed to Synergy’s hangar at Eugene’s airport. Donna really took to working with sheet metal. She makes quite a “Rosie the Riveter.”

Wally runs a wonderful course that really helps you get past the nervousness. The best part was getting to make mistakes on something that wasn’t going to be your aircraft, and having someone there to tell you why it happened and how to avoid it. During the class we did two small projects. The second was a small airfoil that required many of the skills required to build a sheet metal aircraft.

After the weekend Donna had to return to the grindstone, while I stayed for Synergy Air’s empennage class.

However, before she left, we had a great time wrapping up the weekend in Portland. I’ll blog about that next.

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Dean Donna

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Day in the Life – Africa Part 4

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This episode of the Day in the Life – Africa series starts where Part 3 ended. Having finished our excursion to the island’s northeast corner for spear fishing and a visit to the Sofitel Resort, we are on our way back to the compound. Short on supplies, we stop at the island’s largest grocery store.

Grocery shopping in the developing world comes with its own set of challenges. Stocked levels of various goods vary radically from week to week. Often basic necessities are missing in action. Breakfast cereals occupy half an aisle, however, there’s no milk in sight. Eggs are a rare commodity. When you do find them, it looks like they rolled around the henhouse floor prior to finding their way to the store. Bread is a hit or miss proposal. If they have sliced bread, it may be too small to accommodate a slice of cheese. On the bright side, it makes sticking to a reduced carb diet a bit easier.

There are plenty of toiletries, i.e.: soap and deodorant, however, they are in a locked glass cabinet. Judging by the odoriferous scents assaulting my olfactory system, many of my fellow customers found that an insurmountable obstacle.

Due to shelf life concerns, all meats are frozen either uncut, or cut and thrown into a plastic bag. In our freezer, I have a several selections of meat. Typically, they’re frozen together by type. Want a pork chop? Break out your hammer and chisel (or the nearest kitchen utensils suitable to the task) and break one off the frozen block of pork chops.

I’m not complaining. The meats are good. It’s just a small example of the differences we face every day. Today I scored an incredible cut. Unfamiliar with the procedures for procuring the uncut meats, I show up at the cashier with a huge, frozen, ten-pound beef back-strap (a slab of meat big enough to produce ten filets). Apparently, I was supposed to take it to the meat counter for weighing and pricing. A helper runs it back while I continue to checkout. Shortly, he returns, the cashier rings it up, and I pay.

Here's a picture of my butchering efforts on said beef.

Back at the compound, I notice it was only marked at 5000 CFA ($10.00). I’m pretty sure that was a mistake. Had I noticed it at the store I would have pointed out the mistake. However, I won’t lose any sleep over it. A three-quarters full grocery cart that would cost you $75 in the states cost 100,000 CFA ($200) here.

Groceries put away, it’s time for Hin’s cookout. As you may recall from Part 3, tonight Hin, our Thai helicopter mechanic is cooking dinner.

With team members from Thailand, South Africa, Canada, Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Germany, the United States, and parts of Louisiana, our base is a multi-cultural, international collection of aviation professionals. With the industry, our current assignment, and a working knowledge of the English language (excepting our Cajun friends … kidding) as common ground, we’ve formed close ties. An eclectic collection of individuals (some more eccentric then eclectic) from radically differing backgrounds, we work in harmony (for the most part).

Speaking of eccentric, here’s our beloved, senior-most pilot, Jack, keeping the bushes trimmed. (We have people for that, but this is Jack’s Zen escape.)

While Hin works on dinner under our covered, outdoor dining area, Jack decides it’s time to burn a stump. Standing around the fire, we fluctuate between animated conversations and silently gazing into the flames. Staccato laughter pierces the hushed interludes. Watching the Harmattan-obscured sunset, we talk, laugh, and reflect.

“Dinner is ready!” shouts Hin.

Taking our places, we dine on Hin’s excellent cuisine. Feasting in relative silence, we proffer compliments through full mouths.

After dinner, we drink, laugh, and swap war stories. As dark envelopes the compound, the evening settles down. Chased inside by swarming tropical insects, a few of us decide to head to the Malabo’s Irish Pub (yep, there’s an Irish Pub in Equatorial Guinea). Armed with a designated driver, and firm in the knowledge that we’re not on tomorrow’s work schedule, it’s time to immerse ourselves in Malabo’s nightlife.

Who knows? We might not limit ourselves to the Irish Pub. But, that’s a tale I’ll save for Part 5.

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