April 22, 2021

Episode 11 - The one with the Fermi Paradox or where are all the Brainy Aliens. Also we look at the world's longest shampoo commercial, also known as Out of Africa and introduce a new section on sports that should be in the Olympics


The  Fermi Paradox  asks why have we no sign of all the super intelligent aliens, why have they not made contact yet;  especially as they may have had a 4 billion year lead over us

 A Sauce A Sauce My Kingdom for a Sauce gives you a foolproof way of creating your own fabulous mayonnaise and thus freeing you from the tyranny of Hellmann’s forever.

In Literally the Last section we watch Robert Redford wash Meryl Streep's hair for three hours in  film Out of Africa. 

We introduce a new section on sports that definitely should be in the olympics that we are calling Sports that Definitely should be in the olympics.

Also new this week for all those of you who wrote in saying how much you love the best sauces in the world, but how about some of the worst recipes in the world for you we roll back the shroud of secrecy of the recipe for Liquid Flatbread Margarita

 

Transcript

Episode 11

Hello, and welcome to Frenzied and Sustained.

In this week’s podcast for a post stupid society our Brainy Lecture looks at the Fermi Paradox that asks where are all the super intelligent aliens, why have they not made contact yet;  especially as they may have had a 4 billion year lead over us

 A Sauce A Sauce My Kingdom for a Sauce gives you a foolproof way of creating your own fabulous mayonnaise and thus freeing you from the tyranny of Hellmann’s.

In Literally the Last section we look at the world’s longest shampoo commercial otherwise known as the film Out of Africa. We introduce a new section on sports that definitely should be in the olympics that we are calling Sports that Definitely should be in the olympics.

Also new this week for all those of you who wrote in saying how much you love the best sauces in the world, but how about some of the worst recipes in the world for you we roll back the shroud of secrecy of the recipe for Liquid Flatbread Margarita

You are listening to frenzied and sustained and I  am Ian Spector and this is a 

Brainy Lecture

The Fermi Paradox - Where are they

The Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old. Life seemed to start on earth 4.1 billion years ago. It seems that the instant the conditions to support life existed, life started. So if life is so inevitable, and let us assume for a moment that our own planet is nothing special, then life presumably is teeming all over our galaxy. So, sure, it took us 4.1 billion years to develop a toaster that actually toasts each side equally but our galaxy is around 10 billion years old, so it is quite reasonable to imagine that intelligent life did form elsewhere and have had another billion years to work out faster than light travel, or just deep space exploration, or send a message. frankly, we have been here for 4.1 billion years and they have not even invited us for dinner, something that Mrs Bennett in Pride and Prejudice would consider rude. Seriously, they probably have toaster technology that can toast bread of different thicknesses without burning any side. Why won’t they share that technology.

So first let’s look at some of the solutions to the Fermi paradox. Actually, who is up for a Fermi paradox top ten?

In at number 10 is they are already here hiding amongst us, although in the case of Ted Cruz they are not doing a particularly good job of blending in

number 9 is the galactic zoo, we are kept for the amusement of other Milky Way inhabitants who find it hilarious how we contemplate the vastness of our cage

A non-mover at number 8 - it is perpetually cloudy on their planets and they never developed telescope technology

Another non-mover at 7 is - they are sending out messages but the sad fact is that most of us are listening to Taylor Swift and not for deep space signals

Number 6 - Everything that we see in the universe is a giant computer game for aliens and to get to level 2 where all will be revealed we have to keep an actress of colour in the British Royal Family for ten years. Scientists think that we may actually be within a billion years of that right now

Number 5 - There have been many instances where intelligent life started but whenever they develop toaster technology they fight over it and destroy their entire civilisation.

Straight in at number 4 - Earthlings are a bit smelly and we are being observed from a safe distance. 

Down from 2 to 3 is - that the Prokaryote-Eukaryote Transition is Rare - i.e. the transition from bacteria and blue-green algae to Taylor Swift, well Eukaryote, where the DNA is contained in the nucleus was so unlikely it only happened once. This is often claimed but the evidence for it is actually quite weak. Today all eukaryote life does seem to have a common ancestor but that does not necessarily mean that the transition happened only once. It is interesting to note that at Thanksgiving, Ted Cruz goes to a lake and sits in a sludge of blue green algae. Ultimately, family is everything.

Up from 3 to 2 is We Live in a Postbiological Universe - here most cultural evolution recognised the inefficiencies of biological life forms and life quickly adapts artificial intelligence as the preferred way to live. This way they could inhabit the harshest parts of the universe (perhaps even Glasgow).

And number one for the 4 billionth week running is that aliens seeded earth and are just now waiting for us to be able to say anything interesting. They probably have put an algorithm into our world such as to send out a signal that we are ready, something like cancelling Love Island.

In the 1990s Robin Hanson proposed a theory of the great filter. It is a series of quests that all life must overcome, and at least one of these hurdles is nearly impossible to clear.

So The Fermi Paradox is the term used to describe the lack of evidence for extraterrestrial life in the face of a universe that should be, by the numbers, bursting with it. But we see no signs of alien technology, and our radio telescopes don’t pick up voices from other worlds.

So, what could the Great Filter be?

Of course, life could just be really rare and we got lucky, although that flies in the face of the almost indecent haste in which life started on earth. Next is perhaps bacteria are the whole point of life, they are enormously successful and in polls they are the happiest species in the universe. It is just that bacteria build rubbish spaceships and they have not arrived yet, or are really small and they keep getting sneezed out of our bodies whenever they try and make contact.

Perhaps the universe is a really dangerous place, just as the advanced life form is ready to press send on its neutrino based email message telling us how to increase our lifespan to a billion years, they get swatted by an asteroid or barbecued by a gamma ray burst or their sun blows up. Unlike earth, other civilisations may not have invented Bruce Willis by the time the asteroid is spotted.

Even if they had developed a sophisticated technology that could destroy the asteroid or close the gamma ray shield you just know that when they press the ‘enter’ key they will get a blue screen saying ‘Your PC ran into a problem that it couldn't

handle, and now it needs to restart.’

Of course we do not know if the great filter lies behind us or ahead of us. It is certainly hard to imagine any civilisation that did not have toaster technology would be sufficiently motivated by the crunchy farinaceous comestible to get out of bed and study time travel 101.

Maybe our little rock is not that common. We have  a clownishly large moon for the size of our planet. That is because it was formed by a planet colliding with the prepubescent earth and knocking a chunk off, ass opposed to the more normal cobbling together from the dust and pebbles floating around. This may be responsible for our revolving molten magnetic core that provides a protective shield from cosmic radiation. Perhaps we are really lucky have a huge planet in Jupiter in our solar system that attracts asteroids and stops them hitting us. Jupiter is the ultimate rock blocker.

Perhaps life did evolve and aliens have the ability to colonise the universe, in fact they got so good at it, both populating, harvesting its resources they decided to designate one little patch a galaxy of outstanding natural beauty and they are not allowed to come here and spoil it, just observe from a distance (OK plus the occasional anal probe because, after all, it is just hilarious).

Another theory that is gaining traction (gaining traction as in I have only just thought of it and I am telling you) is that the aliens arrived here a while ago but based on poor research they disguised themselves as wasps and have found our civilisation on the whole rather unwelcoming .

So if the filter is behind us, and spontaneous life creation not that rare and there were suitable planets available for that life four billion years before ours why have we had no contact. Could it really be we get somewhere around where earth has reached and then we manage with ruthless efficiency to wipe ourselves out. Homosapiens have been around 200 000 years, surely given another million years, or hundred million years or 4 billion years we will have colonised the galaxy, sent out self-replicating ai based robot harvesters. Surely we will have heard something from them.

Perhaps the rest of the intelligent life in the universe has noticed that whenever anyone sends a signal out into space that they exist, a giant bacteria the size of the andromeda galaxy comes along and eats the planet as an after dinner mint. Every time we send out a probe or a message into space all the other forms of life says “oooh, you don’t want to do that, if bartlesnout the terrible hears it you will be swallowed. Of course, all this may have happened before, and we did get swallowed by bartlesnout the terrible and what we call the big bang is what bartlesnout the terrible called flatulence. This explains the rapidly expanding universe, the constant sense of cooling and all the ghastly dark matter everywhere. Stephen Hawking was strangely silent on the Big Fart Theory, but he certainly did nothing to disprove it either.

World’s Worst Recipes

Liquid Flatbread Margarita

Ingredients

200 ml buffered mead

200g turnips, chelated

300g puff pastry

50 ml gin

another 50ml gin

100g dried breadcrumbs

1 tsp fresh rosemary

50g wholemeal flour

take the chelated turnips and deflate them for around three minutes before cutting them into juliennes

Deglaze the turnips for 60 seconds then throw in the bin.

egg wash 50ml of the gin then crumble it over the pastry

rescue turnips from the bin

no, I was right, put the turnips in the bin

Dethatch the Rosemary into the pastry

Put the pastry and the other dry ingredients into a food processor and add the rest of the gin in accordance to Gay-Lussac’s law

Shuffle and serve

But if you want one of the world’s best recipes then stand by your beds because it is time for 

A sauce a sauce, my kingdom for a sauce.

Out of all the sauces we have covered to date I cannot believe that we have not yet done a mayonnaise. Fresh mayonnaise is easy, versatile and delicious and opens the door to a world of variants. Let me start with my 100% foolproof classic mayo.

1 egg

¾ tbsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp salt

30ml cider vinegar

250ml sunflower oil

250 ml light olive oil (not super expensive extra virgin, it is too strong, you want a tasteless oil)

Recipe

 There are many techniques for making the mayonnaise, the important thing to remember is that we need to form an emulsion, that is one immiscible liquid suspended in another. In our case it is egg suspended in oil. The trouble is we have a tiny bit of egg compared to our half a litre of oil. Happily, the emulsion itself can bind the oil but the only skill you need is to go slow adding the oil. You will add a little dribble at first and that will form an emulsion as we keep dribbling in the oil our emulsion gets bigger and our capacity for accepting more oil increases. So the first 100ml are by far the most important.

I find the easiest method is to put your egg, salt, vinegar and mustard in a food processor then with the blade spinning start dribbling the oil onto the blade. Imagine the smallest stream that does not break into drops. You may take a minute to for the first 100ml then you can speed up a little. If you end up with an oily split mess you went too quickly. And that is it, you will have a pot of amazing thick, creamy mayonnaise.

The mayonnaise that you will most likely find in my fridge is the variant made by Ottolenghi’s mother, Ruth. 

Ottolenghi mayonnaise

1 egg

¾ tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp caster sugar

½ tsp salt

3 garlic cloves, peeled

2 tbsp cider vinegar

500ml sunflower oil

15g fresh coriander, leaves and stalks

Usually I reduce the garlic a little and I still use 50% light olive oil. Here you add the egg, mustard, sugar, salt and garlic to the food processor and then at the end stir in the chopped coriander. (In the US you do not call it coriander but I have forgotten what you do use.)

Even if you are just starting on your cooking journey but you want to make it more than a chore and into a hobby, then this is the perfect hobby sauce to start.

Talking of which, onto our new section

Sports that should definitely be in the Olympics

Hobbyhorsing.

The Finnish craze sweeping the world. Oh Cilantro, coriander is cilantro in America)

Finnish girls revitalised the ancient sport of prancing around with a stick between your legs with a horse’s head. The only equipment needed is a stick with a stuffed fabric horse head and a small Finnish girl.

I am sure that I am not the first to notice that hobbyhorsist is an anagram of boyish throbs.

Enthusiasts assign their horses names, breeds and genders, and along the usual displays of cantering, trotting and galloping, meetings will cover everything from in-depth discussions of grooming, bloodlines, temperament, and, on at least one occasion, a two-part dressage routine choreographed to a song by the rapper Nelly.

In Finland, the beginnings of its modern popularity among young girls stands as something of a mystery, though it is known that for some while the community flourished secretly online. Finland has long winter nights and they love drinking. This is a perfectly balanced ecosystem for hobby horsing to flourish. Given that Hobbyhorsing around started a mere four and a half billion years after the earth was formed, scientists wonder if the idea for the graceful enterprise was seeded by aliens

Hobbyhorsing around can now been seen in Sweden, Russia and the Netherlands.

Another nice thing about this sport is that it is one of the most economically accessible sports out there. There are a lot of young girls that are seriously horse-obsessed, and now they can own their own hobbyhorse. For amateur Hobbyhorsing yo can keep your hobbyhorse in your bedroom but for competition level activities I am sue that there is a market for hobbyhorse livery, stables and equipment. One concern with hobbyhorses as a more widely used form of transport is that they are largely silent and, in my imagination, accidents have already occurred with pedestrians stepping out into the road oblivious to the fact that a 12 year old girl is barrelling down on them. There is talk (again admittedly only in my head, but it is very convincing) that riders will be forced to make a clip clop sound with their mouths or on a speaker based system. 

Before anyone scoffs you may want to get off your high hobbyhorse and check out this video called Hobbyhorse Revolution on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imW7EGQcJck&t=154s there is a link in the podcast’s transcript on www.frenziedandsustained.com. This sport is sociable, skilful and athletic. These children are really talented. Here is my favourite line from the review, At the Alfons Cup last weekend in Turku, Finland’s sixth-biggest city, Ms. Filppa competed in jumping events on Charmi, which she describes as a Danish warmblood stallion. She rode Jadwa, her caramel-colored Arabian mare, for the dressage event.

If you have any lingering doubts about this sport then check out the Finnish Hobbyhorse championships from 2019 link in transcript https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JTB7m_VRzs The jumps seem higher than the equine-normative horses. That is an astonishing demonstration of hobby horsepower.

Now for any of you out there saying, wait a minute, here is a silly sounding sport, are you telling me that the English have not got into it? You would be right. I am now reading from the 2020 Hurst Show and Country Fayre. Results 

Adult Section 

1st Place: Charlie Boy

2nd Place: Hippy

3rd Place: Hurst Flyer

Child Category

1st Place: Candy Floss

2nd Place: Jack

3rd Place: Magic

Yes, there is an adult section as well as a children’s section. And this took place during the first phase of the pandemic. Whilst the whole world was running for cover Charlie Boy, Hippy and Hurst Flyer were running around with a stick between their legs. Looking through the program I note that they had Morris Dancing at 4pm. Of course they did. As if the poor people of Hurst had not suffered enough at 3pm the next day there was bagpipes. Look, just be sure to steer a wide berth around Hurst at the end of June this year.

Literally the last section

Out of Africa - the life, book and film

An interminable long film that is basically Robert Redford washing Meryl Streep’s hair for three hours. Sounds great  but in practice it was much less lively.

Meryl Streep is playing Karen Dinesen, later Karen Blixen, a challenging role as she is playing a character who has a speech defect that sounds like a cartoon Danish Accent. She is having an affair with Hans Blixen (not to be confused with Hans Blix, the former head of the International Atomic Agency who is more commonly known as Hans Brix by Kim Jong Il in Team America World Police). She breaks it off with Hans Blix, presumable on account of Kim Jong Il feeding him to his sharks) so decides to marry his brother Bror as a consolation prize and trots off to Africa.

She packs her essentials of hats, champagne and bone china and heads off to Nairobi. She is immediately drawn to Robert Redford as he has a similar speech defect, he is an Englishman with an American Accent and that is why presumably he was banished from England lest he be killed by the dominant males.

In real life Bror went off with the British to fight the Germans. Karen meanwhile was really friendly with the German General leading the war efforts in East Africa. She even offered to send him horses for his cavalry. How they probably laughed when they found out that they had been on different sides. Karen Blixen’s treason was glossed over in the film and in her memoirs.

Karen sets off across the Savannah to meet Bror. In her account she fights off lions with a bullwhip but her biographers agree that this never happened. Anyway Bror is grumpy with her when she arrives and promptly gives her syphilis. As the prognosis is madness and death she must sail back to England for arsenic therapy.

Karen returns to Africa and falls into a romance with Denys Finch Hatton played by Robert Redford. In real life, she still had syphilis. In the film, she has miraculously recovered. Now the hair washing really starts and it seems the water supply of forty villages were expended during each rinsing. They bothered a few animals by chasing them across the dusty plains, but that meant more sand in Streep’s hair and the shampoo commercial started again.

It just descended into Jurassic Park without the dinosaurs, lots of establishing shots, where the only thing to establish was the endless banality of the Savannah. 

Ultimately, the film promotes a theme of Africans’ devotion to white superiority. The film shows little interest in exploring the negative impact of colonialism on the Africans. Robert Redford seems worried about the loss of wildlife and untouched land, but he has no such concern for the native peoples. In fact, he is quite condescending toward the natives. He has a black servant that he never speaks to, and tells Karen  to ignore the man entirely. He casually mentions the man’s death later in the film as if he doesn’t care that the man has died. Redford also claims that the Masai are incapable of thinking about the future; they die if they are put into prison because they cannot understand that they will ever be let out. He makes a similar comment that animals have no sense of time. Whist the film presents these comments as a profound insight, as an observation that Africans and animals live in the moment, the effect is to assert that Africans are more like animals than humans mentally. He reinforces this with a second device. The film depicts both the animals and the Kikuyus fascinated by his gramophone. I simply cannot bring myself to believe that this is unintentional.

The film does not really show the white people doing anything to deserve the devotion of their servants. It is just a given and it is not ever explored as to whether this is a survival strategy by the natives. It does not make the distinction between Redford and Streep believing that the Africans just love their European masters, and a different reality. It gives us no hidden glimpse that a dissonance exists between the colonial’s truth and the indigenous reality. Karen’s memories are certainly more nuanced than the film in this regard.

Even the scene where Karen is begging the British Government to help the Kikuyu people and she wants the farm land given to them is in a way tone deaf. She and her husband Bror only had the land as they took it from the Africans in the first place. Had they not done then they would not have been able to hire the Kikuyu to work the land as they would be, er, already working the land for themselves.

Karen Blixen was also a lousy farmer. Even though her family bought the farm for her, it never once in 18 years turned a profit. She was always homesick and actually during the time she had the farm she spent 4 years in Denmark.

In reality Denys Finch Hatton was the archetypal upper class twit. His was, in many ways, the classic disappointment of the Etonian who never gets over being popular at school. He went up to Brasenose, concentrated on gambling, showing off and smashing crockery, and was quite happy to come away with a Fourth. (Even in adulthood, he was an enthusiastic thrower of bread rolls.)

Getting a job never occurred to him. He went off to Africa (‘London always seemed too small for Denys Finch Hatton,’ wrote the Evening Standard after his death) in search of adventure and, having invested in a bit of land and a chain of convenience stores, he found it. He won the MC for his part in a little described sideshow of the Great War: the nightmarish and ramshackle fight against German East Africa. At the age of 37 he discovered his vocation’. That vocation was as a white hunter — and it was only towards the very end of his life that he cottoned on to the importance of conservation, campaigning forcefully for visitors to start shooting with cameras instead of guns. Then he died. Asked at one point how he had come to his profession, he replied typically, ‘Oh, it just happened, if you know what I mean.’ To impress the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII), when he took him on safari he sneaked up behind a sleeping rhino and stuck postage stamps to either side of its bottom.

Ultimately he was the correct answer to the question of ‘complete the sequence Bertie Wooster, Bingo Little, Gussie Fink-Nottle, Tuppy Glossop, Stiffy Byng, Kipper Herring.’

He was Bertie Wooster without Jeeves just a well educated fop with a deep understanding of classics but nothing practical. At the age of 44 he took off in his Gypsy Moth Biplane and stalled the aircraft whilst still in the circuit over the airfield and could not recover before impacting the ground. A final disappointment for Denys.

Advert

That is the end of Literally the Last Section, but it is not quite the end of our podcast as we have not yet paid our studio fees. I must say this week’s advert for a new literary device seems innocuous enough.

If you find poems too long

With verses that go on and on

Then try brand new limericks

That tend towards gibberish

With just five lines and then they are gone

a podcast invented the limerick

whose content was full of fine rhetoric

with anapestic trimeter

to delight podcast listeners

who can’t read as they’re mostly illiterate

The ancient mariner was certainly sublime

the most famous albatross based rhyme

There was a poem quote he

that lasted from breakfast till tea

But can we now limit our poems to just five lines

A hobbyhorsist who came from helsinki

used shop bought mayonnaise, most distressingly

Denys Finch Hatton

His biplane did flatten

From loving and flying so carelessly

And that is the end of this week’s podcast. In next week’s Frenzied and Sustained our Brainy Lecture ponders the finely tuned universe. There are a number of physical constants in the universe which if were just a little different would mean that galaxies, stars, toasters and us would not have happened. We consider if we are just really lucky or that there are a nearly infinite number of multiverses with different laws of physics and we happen to be on one of them that works, or if you share my views on Morris dancing, does not work. In literally the last section we take another look at Nurse Ratched and wonders if she was unfairly judged and why we all root for serial thug and rapist McMurphy (Jack Nicholson). Our next sport that definitely should be in the olympics is the two hundred year old cheese rolling competition, also the sport with the highest chance of injuries to both the participants and spectators.

joke

I just made up a new word: plagiarism