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The Morning the Earth Stood Still

A long time ago in what now seems like a different lifetime, a colleague told me that the best parts of any conference were the accidental encounters in the hallways where you ran into old friends or people whose work you knew about but hadn’t yet met. That was back when I was going to conferences about medieval literature rather than starships, but the lesson holds. There were almost too many such encounters at the 100 Year Starship 2014 Symposium in Houston to count, and it seemed that around every corner was a chance to exchange ideas and opinions.


There were also enough tracks and ongoing events that it was impossible to get everything in. Claudio Maccone and I always get together, and when I saw him crossing the lobby of the Hilton Americas hotel, I intercepted him to see if he wanted to join a group of us for dinner. But Claudio was headed for a screening of the 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, a film he had never seen, and I could hardly ask him to turn down the opportunity.

Thus the gravitational lens gave way to Gort and Klaatu and Earth’s chance to live in peace among interstellar civilizations or be burned to a cinder for our transgressions. ‘The decision rests with you,’ as Michael Rennie would say. Unlike the later version, it really was a terrific film. And Claudio and I did have the chance to catch up at a breakfast encounter filled with interstellar talk that included the lens at 550 AU and beyond. I’ll have some thoughts on using it for communications on Friday.

Image: My favorite scene in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Interstellar visitor Klaatu (Michael Rennie) adds an equation to Professor Barnhardt’s blackboard, knowing the professor will soon see it.

Which brings me to the reason for the title of today’s post. I’m sure we’ve all had the dream where something is after you and you seem frozen into immobility, knowing you have to do something fast but are unable to act. I found myself in that position this morning. Still worn out from travel and pushed by non-aerospace obligations this afternoon, I fired up the computer intent on a first post about the symposium and an introduction to a week’s worth of musings, technical session notes and other observations about Houston. And then…

Software glitches. Operating system updates (why did I choose this morning of all mornings not to work as usual in Linux but in Windows 7?). The Mac to PC transfer of my session notes left them completely jumbled, which took time to fix. Then Internet connectivity became unpredictable, for reasons unknown. As soon as it came back, I turned to Dropbox to pull my photos from the symposium and discovered that, because I had upgraded my phone to IOS8, DropBox was now unable to download the Houston images. Multiple downloads of Dropbox updates, to no avail (DropBox: Please fix this!). Finally a Googled workaround to get the photos on the PC.

So it was a morning where time stood still. As it did in Dallas on the way to Houston. The clouds in the photo below were the remainder of a system that, the day before, delayed my Dallas-based flight for an interminable four hours. Now I seem to be running perpetually behind schedule, and am pushing up against an outside deadline. So tomorrow I’ll start digging into Houston issues, starting with a conversation between Jill Tarter and Mason Peck that evoked SETI, miniaturized spacecraft, and astrobiological signatures that might be detected by space-based telescopes.

2014-09-20 16.39.47

Surely the Earth will start moving normally again and I’ll have fixed the remaining software snags by then. My son Miles said he was walking down the hall when Eric Davis called him over to join a group of colleagues, saying, “We’ve just been talking about whether we’re all living in a simulation.” That was right after a lunch with Al Jackson at a nearby Starbucks where Al explained how Roy Kerr came up with his metric for rotating black holes — Al was there in 1963 when Kerr presented the paper! What’s not to like about a place where you get invited into conversations like this? Houston gave me much to think about and I’ll start digging into it tomorrow.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Andrew Palfreyman September 22, 2014, 16:04

    I’m interested in the possibility of doing a “synthetic focus scan” for Maccone’s gravscope at a distance considerably closer than 550 AU

  • Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey September 22, 2014, 16:19

    The man behind the equations was Prof. Samuel Herrick of UCLA, the film’s technical advisor. He was an expert in celestial mechanics, which he began to call “astrodynamics;” in 1942, he started teaching a course in Rocket Navigation, probably the first college course anywhere on the subject. Students he trained were ready to participate in the Space Age, and many did.

    Herrick must have been an interesting guy. He once proposed diverting an asteroid to excavate a sea-level canal across Nicaragua.

  • railmeat September 22, 2014, 16:43

    Hi Paul, I enjoyed chatting with you and Miles at 100YSS2014. These symposia always interesting.

    100YSS seems to have some ambitious plans for expansion, I hope they work out.

  • ljk September 22, 2014, 17:02

    Is this another answer to the so-called Fermi Paradox: The galaxy is a big country club full of high-end ETI who don’t want certain “kinds” soiling their nice furniture. We aren’t even allowed to use the service entrance to the club in the back until and unless we divest with our primate ways.

    Now we are told by the space concierge that if we want to trash our own place and even destroy ourselves, well that’s not their problem. It will probably save them some bother and extra paperwork anyway. At least other aliens in other science fiction stories made an effort to actually save us and/or Earth. These guys don’t even seem to care if we turn our planet into a radioactive wasteland, just so long as we don’t muss with them.

    I know the intended meaning behind the original 1951 film was to get humans to not nuke each other and start getting along globally – pretty radical stuff during the McCarthy Era – but it is difficult for me anyway not to see Klaatu’s message as not only an elitist warning (the servant class stays DOWNstairs) but that the aliens who are allowed into the club must have had to give up a lot of what made them unique in order to get along.

    Certainly the fact that they have created an autonomous galactic police force to keep everyone in line (Gort) shows that humans were not the only hostile ones in that universe. Of course it is understandable that no one wants a bunch of troublemakers in their home. However, I get the feeling that Klaatu and his kind could easily take care of any threat the humans might attempt and without having to resort to a major beatdown or extermination. Thus my comment about humans being kept in their place.

    The United Federation of Planets were far more egalitarian by comparison: You just had to have warp drive and remember to wipe your feet at the door and you were in. Of course it did seem that things were being run with a quasi-military structure mainly by the Terrans….

    The recent remake was indeed awful. Humanity’s fate in the end was even worse than the original, as they pretty much sent us back to the dark ages, possibly forever. Funny how they kept commenting about our messing up Earth’s environment – well I gotta ask, how does ANY society which creates a technological civilization not muss up at least a few worlds in the process of building their culture? I am assuming even these self-anointed guardians of the galaxy had to break a few eggs on their path to superiority. Was there anyone around in the Milky Way to pass judgement on them?

  • Paul Gilster September 22, 2014, 19:48

    Bill Higgins writes:

    The man behind the equations was Prof. Samuel Herrick of UCLA, the film’s technical advisor. He was an expert in celestial mechanics, which he began to call “astrodynamics;” in 1942, he started teaching a course in Rocket Navigation, probably the first college course anywhere on the subject. Students he trained were ready to participate in the Space Age, and many did.

    Thanks for this — I absolutely love the story behind the story, and didn’t know anything about Samuel Herrick before this.

    railmeat writes:

    Hi Paul, I enjoyed chatting with you and Miles at 100YSS2014. These symposia always interesting.

    Hey, same here! Glad we had a chance to spend some time together, and I look forward to seeing you down the road at TVIW.

    ljk writes:

    I gotta ask, how does ANY society which creates a technological civilization not muss up at least a few worlds in the process of building their culture? I am assuming even these self-anointed guardians of the galaxy had to break a few eggs on their path to superiority. Was there anyone around in the Milky Way to pass judgement on them?

    Exactly so. A major question indeed!

  • Al Jackson September 22, 2014, 21:50

    @ Bill Higgins
    Thanks! for that reference.
    It had been my suspicion for many many years that ol’ Sam Herrick was the technical adviser. He was indeed at UCLA at the time. He was one of the few names in celestial mechanics who did not get his PhD under Dirk Brouwer at Harvard (Brouwer was kind of the Celestial Mechanics ‘John Wheeler’ with an amazing list of celestial mechanics PhDs , at a time when also every other physicist was doing atomic or quantum physics).
    Herrick was really a low profile guy ….tho important in being one of the teachers of the new field of Astrodynamics and the use of ‘universal variables’ in celestial mechanics.
    It is hard to find good captures of that black board in THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, but I found a few.
    All that is written there is correct except it looks as if (any only very few CMs at the time would have caught the funnies) it got the ‘Hollywood’ treatment.
    Seems the basic equations of the three body problem are written in the left upper corner of the black board and then the rest look like expansions of the , seemly, the ‘disturbing function’ for maybe! the three body problem.
    Except almost all of the rest of the equations are hyperbolic functions which implies the equations of motion of a comet! The equation that Michael Rennie (Klaatu ) writes for Professor Barnhardt makes little or no sense in the context of the other equations. It looks like the expansion of the hyperbolic true anomaly in terms of the hyperbolic mean anomaly , and it looks as if it sums to zero! Either Herrick wrote down a long set of correct equations and Robert Wise thought it would look better ‘messaged’ for ‘poetic license’ or Herrick was pulling an inside joke!
    What Barnhardt is working on is totally obscure, it was known, and Herrick would have know it, that Poincaré in 1887 and 1888 had shown there was no analytic solution to the three body problem. In fact Poincaré was horrified when he discovered deterministic chaos in the 3b problem!!
    I give Robert Wise an A for effort for that black board.

  • NS September 23, 2014, 0:57

    Well, we in the U.S. aren’t too happy about Iran or North Korea getting the Bomb, even though we’re the only ones who ever actually used it. And we’ve sent some places back to the Dark Ages that hadn’t done anything to us, however nasty they were with each other. I’d look in the mirror before I got too snippy with Klaatu.

  • Joëlle B. September 23, 2014, 4:32

    “I gotta ask, how does ANY society which creates a technological civilization not muss up at least a few worlds in the process of building their culture?”

    If technology is seen as unnatural (which it is not), I think the only answer lies in not relying on technology at all, but in developing symbiotic relationships with environments through eusocial hierarchy or subatomic [or non-corporeal] existence, which would, ultimately, allow one to fully realize that mussing up is simply what we, the universe, do. Without muss, there’s no mutation–without mutation, there’s no adaptation–without adaptation, there’s no survival.

    A fun speculation of such an idea could, perhaps, be constructed of off Frank Drake’s proposed hypothesis of life on neutron stars, later elaborated on in Robert Forward’s sci-fi stories Starquake and Dragon’s Egg, whereby a ~154lbs. lifeform (note: an average human weight) could be related to the 10/25 power atoms human being, instead as a 10/25 power free-electron, iron-based macromolecular nuclei star being. Said being would operate on time scales a million times faster than us and any “technology” they develop for space travel would be gravitationally manipulative, maybe even utilizing mini black holes to sustain themselves across space.

    All the more reason to look toward neutron stars for any info on unifying gravity with our current cosmological understanding; maybe these types of aliens could help us out, if they had the patience. :)

    Star Trek heavily wreaks of western imperialist philosophy and manifest destiny–I would more readily believe reality is closer to Akira Toriyama’s Dragonball Z universe, whereby species are locked in a constant war for supremacy through interspecies conflict, proliferated into a series of battles to be endured, triggering individualistic post-formal evolutions to surpass formal limitations. The difference between the two is: Star Trek tries build a facade around the ultimate goal of collectivistic peace, whereas in Dragonball there can never be a goal, because there is always a fight to be had and every man is for herself; the collective solely acts as a launchpad for the individual to continually ascend.

    Topically, a specific Star Trek episode introducing non-corporeal lifeforms who find themselves in varying ethical dilemmas related to other species can be seen, in particular, here:


  • DCM September 23, 2014, 4:44

    I didn’t see the recent remake but I did see the original when I was a kid. It was just another scary movie then, though later I realized it was disappointing if taken seriously in the context of those persons who were awaiting the aliens’ superior wisdom to ‘save” us. In the movie they didn’t do anything except demonstrate superior weapons and threaten us — exactly what imperialists have always done here with more primitive peoples that intended to conquer. I’d expect them to have mastered psychology to such an extent that people would come to behave better around them and not even notice how it was accomplished but be glad it was.
    Not an inspirational story except as speculation about aliens being as “human” as we are.

  • Michael Spencer September 23, 2014, 7:28


    I’d like to know more about your own journey from medieval lit to rockets…my own switch from classics (that’s Greek and Latin, to those educated more recently where, sadly, classics are no longer de rigueur) to landscape architecture came when I was still quite young.

    Why not a column on your own transition?

  • Paul Gilster September 23, 2014, 9:35

    Michael, good thought! I’ll think about something on this. There seem to be a number of us who have made such transitions.

  • ljk September 23, 2014, 11:50

    Perhaps there is some small comfort in knowing that while real aliens (if they exist) may be utterly unlike humans, have far shinier and nicer toys to play with, and know way more than we can in our present state, at least none of them will be perfect.

    Or unless they did the equivalent of springing fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus, will have had to evolve and grow just like every creature on this planet, so they should at least appreciate our lowly state.

    Or maybe not.

  • Andrew Palfreyman September 23, 2014, 15:59

    It must be a mistake to equate technology to messing up the environment, especially when you step back and take the long view. We are in the midst of discoveries about the efficiencies of Nature’s own mechanisms, and are already borrowing these to create their inorganic counterparts. Also, it is a long-term goal to make machines more error-tolerant and self-repairing – and to be capable of reproduction and cloning. All these desirable machine qualities (modulo catastrophic scifi consequences) are already well in hand by Nature.

    The conclusion seems inevitable – technology will evolve in the direction of organic/inorganic hybrids.

  • Joëlle B. September 24, 2014, 6:49

    @Andrew Palfreyman

    I believe that is accurate, although there might be the possibility of artificial intelligence surpassing anything the atomic power of the universe has managed to conjure, leading to unforseeable affects; maybe even opening doors to AI being able to engineer their own unique causal structures–and eventually their own physical universes [and so, inorganic/organic may also include virtual/physical hybrids–to the point of, like, think of your favorite videogame characters being able to freely pop in and out of the real world and the virtual environment they’re originally a part of :D].

    One such scenario could probably be realized in the event that we managed to successfully tap into the calculative potential of quantum computing. With parallel processing capabilities, it would only take 300 entangled qubits (which would represent a value of 2^300 potential calculations) to reach an amount more than the number of particles in the entire universe, all operating simultaneously. Meaning, you could do more calculations at one time than all things in existence!

    In this way, “machines” (or whomever is controlling them) could overtake the hand of the universe, or at least gain an upper one within it, violating the real and the unreal, much in the same way the Matrix franchise envisioned ‘The One’ for humanity and ‘Goliath’ for the machines when the alien invasion occured, except in a way where both virtual and physical worlds can exchange information conservative to each reality, translating fast enough to compensate for inconsistencies (i.e. anomolies and errors), or maybe even mathematically create consistencies (ex. hack/outsource cosmology).

    The scary thing about all of this is, since we can imagine it, there may already be lifeforms doing it. I guess we could therefore conclude that all is futile and we should just enjoy existence while we’re (a)part of it.

  • Joëlle B. September 24, 2014, 7:08
  • ljk September 24, 2014, 8:30

    Mathematical Fiction is a site devoted to examining the mathematics of film and other entertainment media. This is their take on the math in The Day the Earth Stood Still:


    As for who did the math on the blackboard, MF has this to say:

    “An anonymous contributor wrote to point out that Sam Jaffe, who plays the Einstein-like scientist in the film, actually worked as a math teacher prior to becoming an actor and may have played a role in formulating the equations on Barnhardt’s blackboard.”

    I wonder if this is where Sagan and others were inspired to think that humans and ETI would have mathematics as the literally universal language in which to communicate?

  • ljk September 24, 2014, 9:27

    “Green” technology is all well and good, but for a long time humans were anything but “green”, dumping waste from their refineries and factories and resulting products into the air, water, and soil with little regard. Just ask California how much mercury is literally still in their state thanks to over a century of using this poisonous silvery element to leech every last fleck of gold from the ground once the big nuggets were rendered scarce.

    Even the great environmentalist John Muir once noted that he had no issue leaving refuse at his camp sites as they would soon blow away with the winds into the woods. That’s one comment by Muir that seldom makes it into collections of quotes by the man, funny that.

    So why do we assume that developing technological ETI would start out being any more conscientious than we were (and still are in many crucial ways) about the environment as they dug their way to the resources? We just recently had several news items and Centauri Dreams articles about trying to detect the pollution, both industrial and light, of alien civilizations on their home worlds and from emerging into their regions of space.

    Yes advanced ETI may now be the “greenest” beings in the Cosmos (or whatever color matches their native plant life) perhaps using the techniques described in this thread, but can we assume they were always this way? Or am I now to be told that aliens could collectively go from microbe to complex organism fully dressed and aware without any growing pains along the way? If so I would like to know how, poor limited talking primate of Sol 3 that I am.

    We also seem to be assuming that ETI would care about their surroundings, especially those in space. Most solar systems are full of solar and cosmic radiation, natural debris, and more biologically dead than alive worlds (yes I am making an assumption based on the examples we have along with our own Sol system). If their tear apart a planetoid for its minerals, will they run around with a giant vacuum cleaner sucking up all the remaining dust? We have already witnessed several collisions (presumed natural) of planetoids in alien solar systems (see http://www.americaspace.com/?p=66706). Is there a Galactic Federation ordering a cleanup crew to system NGC 2547-ID8 on the double?

    And what if Dyson Shells are not only possible but real? That would involve tearing apart an entire solar system and rearranging to meet the needs of whatever beings made it. There is even a type of Dyson Shell that IS the intelligent life form itself. Is that the ultimate environmental disaster? Or is it justified by its design of collecting most of a star’s energy, as opposed to now where a star like Sol radiates 99 percent of it into space, thus wasting it from our perspective.

    And what about galactic collisions? And the eventual decay of everything in the Universe? Can we conserve the Cosmos? Why isn’t anyone else undertaking this effort so far as we can tell? Discuss.

  • Mark Wakely September 24, 2014, 17:08

    Perhaps a common path all emerging intelligent species take is to start gung-ho with technology then belatedly recognize the environmental harm they’re causing and (literally) clean up their act. If we’re successful in reducing our collection carbon footprint in time to avoid a cascading environmental calamity, then ET’s are likely to have done the same. If, on the other hand, environmental calamity is the inevitable norm for overly-dependent technological civilizations like ours, then detecting exoplanetary smog and runaway alien greenhouse gases might not only be easy but an alarming hint at our own ultimate fate. The optimist in me says that we created the environmental problems we’re facing and we’ll figure out a way to solve them- perhaps spurred to action only after enduring a significant environmental disaster of our own making- and having “got religion” on the need to be caretakers rather than trashers, render our own planet invisible to those ET’s searching for alien civilizations by the tell-tale signs of tech-induced pollution.

    But of course, that would be a good thing.

  • ljk September 25, 2014, 8:36

    If we want to reduce our artificial and biological signatures to the rest of the galaxy, we will also have to go vegan, as cows produce a large portion of the methane released into our atmosphere and methane is one potential sign of life on a planet.

    Oh yes, and we will also have to tell all those cultures where cows are treated as sacred to knock it off so the aliens won’t find us and tell us we aren’t being green enough so no admittance into the Galactic Country Club this year!

  • ljk September 25, 2014, 9:20


    Virulence as a Model for Interplanetary and Interstellar Colonisation – Parasitism or Mutualism

    Jonathan Starling, Duncan Forgan

    (Submitted on 4 Nov 2013)

    In the light of current scientific assessments of human-induced climate change, we investigate an experimental model to inform how resource-use strategies may influence interplanetary and interstellar colonisation by intelligent civilisations. In doing so, we seek to provide an additional aspect for refining the famed Fermi Paradox. The model described is necessarily simplistic, and the intent is to simply obtain some general insights to inform and inspire additional models.

    We model the relationship between an intelligent civilisation and its host planet as symbiotic, where the the relationship between the symbiont and the host species (the civilisation and the planets ecology, respectively) determines the fitness and ultimate survival of both organisms.

    We perform a series of Monte Carlo Realisation simulations, where civilisations pursue a variety of different relationships/strategies with their host planet, from mutualism to parasitism, and can consequently ‘infect’ other planets/hosts. We find that parasitic civilisations are generally less effective at survival than mutualist civilisations, provided that interstellar colonisation is inefficient (the maximum velocity of colonisation/infection is low).

    However, as the colonisation velocity is increased, the strategy of parasitism becomes more successful, until they dominate the ‘population’. This is in accordance with predictions based on island biogeography and r/K selection theory.

    While heavily assumption dependent, we contend that this provides a fertile approach for further application of insights from theoretical ecology for extraterrestrial colonisation – while also potentially offering insights for understanding the human-Earth relationship and the potential for extraterrestrial human colonisation.

    Comments: 18 pages, 7 figures, published in the International Journal of Astrobiology

    Subjects: Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)

    DOI: 10.1017/S1473550413000347

    Cite as: arXiv:1311.0759 [physics.pop-ph]
    (or arXiv:1311.0759v1 [physics.pop-ph] for this version)

    Submission history

    From: Duncan Forgan Dr [view email]

    [v1] Mon, 4 Nov 2013 16:30:07 GMT (59kb)


  • Al Jackson September 25, 2014, 14:06


    I am sure Sagan was familiar with Carl Friedrich Gauss’ idea to signal XT’s (such as they were then ) with Pythagoras. The idea of signaling Martians with mathematical symbols and later encoded messages goes back into the 19th century. Idea crops up in modern science fiction before 1950.

    The odd thing about The Day Earth Stood Still , as a movie, is that it proceeded George Pal’s 1953 War of the Worlds ( a fine crisp updated adaptation of HG Wells).
    After that , with a few (very few) exceptions aliens were either malevolent invaders wither lyrically done, Invaders from Mars (1953 version) or ballpen-like Earth vs the Flying Saucers … and sometimes clever and moody like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version).

    The Day the Earth Stood Still, except for couple of ‘scare’ moments , all of which twist to benevolence , is a thoughtful story, and actually improves on Harry Bates Farewell to the Master with it’s ‘tomato surprise’ ending.
    SF fans have always wondered how a kind of second-string science fiction story got adapted into one of the better SF films! Its not like there was a shortage of source prose from masters of the genre like Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke. Then… modern prose science fiction has suffered forever as source material for movies and television, with exceptions, methinks it hurts the heads or Hollywood suits.

  • ljk September 25, 2014, 14:47

    Al Jackson,

    While I know using mathematics to talk to ETI goes way back, I was wondering if Sagan were first inspired as a young man by TDTESS. This film premiered right before Carl attended college and it is known from his notes that he was very curious to know if UFOs were in fact alien spaceships visiting Earth.

    Speaking of aliens in 1950s science fiction films, It Came from Outer Space (1953) featured ETI who crashed with their starship on Earth and were trying to repair it to get home. The story was based on one by Ray Bradbury. He insisted that the aliens be benevolent or he would not assist with the film. As a result our distant visitors seemed at first to be menacing but actually were just trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, in part because they knew their true physical appearance would frighten most humans. It is refreshing to note that not only were these aliens not hostile, but they were not actors in rubber suits!


    So not every cinematic SF story of the era had aliens as mere monsters or invaders.

  • Al Jackson September 26, 2014, 10:18

    Forgot about that one ljk.
    There are stories that Ray Bradbury wrote a complete screenplay for It Came From Outer Space , and he gets Story credit for it, but Bradbury said that only one single line of his dialog got into the story.
    It is a strange film for the times it seemed to be channeling Thing from another World and War of the Worlds , and then no!, the aliens just wanted help and to get the heck off of Earth!
    I saw that film in glorious black and while 3D , 1953, first run. 3D didn’t add a thing to it , just as 3D still does not do much for about 95% of the films I see nowadays.
    Poor ol Ray, he dearly wanted to break into film, when his family moved to LA , as a teenager he snuck into studio lots and appeared as an ‘crash’ extra in crowd scenes in films.
    Bradbury had great success in TV writing teleplays , but has only Moby Dick and Something Wicked this way Comes as screenplays. Tho he did provide a little help on Fahrenheit 451 and The Illustrated Man.
    Bradbury must have given up somewhere in the 1960’s. When I was at Westercon in Long Beach in 1965 Ray Bradbury read from his screenplay for MGM of the Martian Chronicles , he read about 25 pages of the introduction and we all thought is amazing. MGM didn’t understand the screenplay and the film was never made.
    Somewhere there is a satire by Robert Block about Bradbury’s dealings with Hollywood. A studio suit asks Bradbury what Fahrenheit 451 means. Bradbury said it was a reading on a thermometer.
    What! We can’t make a movie about a giant thermometer attacking Los Angles!

  • Mark Zambelli October 1, 2014, 10:03

    I loved TDTESS when I saw it as a child during the 70’s and while I will gladly watch anything with Jennifer Connely in it I’m afraid I was disappointed with the recent remake for various reasons. I’ve always thought that it should be on the list that of films I would force all politicians to watch before they start their careers, maybe. The message is a positive one and oftentimes it’s hard to be objective so a splash of cold water from an independant source can be a good thing to make us take stock of the ramifications of our actions.

    I’ve often thought that our species has it’s specific path through history based primarily on being from predator/carnivore stock and without sounding too homo-centric I think any ETI that has come from flocks of herbivores would have a different path possibly a lot more resource-mindful and probably a lot more peaceful/cooperative. But for us it seems as if the biggest change to our mode of operation (I haven’t a classical background so I’ll forgo the latin ;) ) was when the pressures of pure day-to-day survival became reduced. It’s hard to be altruistic when the immediate concern has been to survive. After the middle ages, society started to change in many ways so today we live in a different world with different pressures and a better living standard (for developed countries). Maybe the change of priorities and better medicine has allowed us to see the errors (forgiveable perhaps) of our former ways and now can see what an impact we have had on our global environment. I think it’s natural and thanks to our technology we have attained the maturity and toolset to start to expend our energies to counteract the negative impact we devolped nations have had.

    I say ‘start’ as we are not all at the same level of development. Certain cultures have acheived the level where we can stand back and see the bigger picture and what this means for our descendants but we as a whole won’t get to the next stage until developing countries are helped up to experience a less pressured existence. They can now reap the benefits of our wisdom and learn from our mistakes with some guidance and assistance. If we can’t do this though then it will spell our downfall and we may well extinguish ourselves. I’m a firm believer that we have passed the hardest hurdle (having nuclear energy so early-on in our development… we got it before we were mature enough I suppose) and with the recent ‘green’ movement becoming a way of life for many of us I think the future is rosier now than it was.

    It’s a staple of sci-fi; species perish before wising-up, and while it will take x number of years before we can breathe a collective sigh of relief I’m hoping we have started onto not only the road to recovery but also also a path that will allow us longevity. I wonder what Klaatu would think if he came back 61 years later… would he see improvement or would he be dismayed to find we’ve merely swapped one form of destruction with other forms and still seem hellbent on destruction?

    As for messing up a few planets along the way… I’m not sure. As an optimist I think this has already been repeatedly played out in our history when seafaring nations brought their technology and dubious morals (religious or otherwise) to less developed nations. I think that these lessons have been learned on the whole now so maybe any species who finally gets to a level that considers colonisation of extra-solar planets will be a lot more careful than we ever were and do things correctly… I hope. Maybe that destiny awaits our far descendants who can be thankful those hicks back in the 21 and 22 centuries learned to clean up their act by employing a better mindset.

  • ljk October 8, 2014, 16:58

    If anyone wants to read the revised final draft of the 1951 film script for TDTESS, see here:


    The theremin score from the original film: