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Jim Cambias
I am a writer, game designer, New Orleanian, cook, parent, and wood-splitter.
Recent Activity
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On Friday evenings my wife and I have a regular Movie Night. We've been doing it ever since it became impossible to go out to a real movie theater, and I expect we'll continue after (if) they re-open. To avoid conflicts over what to watch — or, worse yet, an... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Just The Caffeine Talking
Well, I think I've come to the end of my series on the Great Filters and the Fermi Paradox. There are a few bits which didn't quite fit into any of the earlier posts. So here they are, in more or less random order. Have We Looked? First, there's the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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Wow, I've been doing this for two months and am not done yet. Now I know how Proust must have felt. Assuming Proust was writing blog posts about the Fermi Paradox, of course. So far I've looked at all the Great Filters which lie in our past — barriers to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
If you read this article — "The Bias that Divides Us," by Keith Stanovich — you will nod sagely about the cognitive bias it describes. And then you will spend ten or fifteen minutes reassuring yourself that you aren't affected by it. Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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We've brought ourselves up to the present day in the evolution of the Earth, life, and human civilization. My estimates for the various filters we've passed through indicate that there ought to be around fifty other civilizations in the Milky Way. The principle of mediocrity suggests that a good half... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
No, I don't have some kind of Internet stalker crush on Robin Hanson. I know I've spent six weeks writing 'blog posts about an idea he had a decade ago, but that doesn't prove anything. Posting a link to a recent piece by him about technological progress (or the lack... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
In my previous posts on the topic of Great Filters, I've looked at all the hard science limits on life and intelligence on other worlds. Those limits left us with a ballpark figure of 5,000 intelligent species in the Milky Way. Now we're shifting to the "softer" sciences, with a... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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I finished up last week's post on Great Filters by looking at the Galaxy according to the numbers I've cooked up. It produced the surprising figure of lifebearing planets every 50 light-years or so. In cosmic terms that's right next door. It means that in the near future we have... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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With the approach of Talk Like a Pirate day (Sept. 19) I'm pleased to be able to talk about pirates. In this case, space pirates. Baen Books has just released a new anthology of classic space-pirate yarns, called Cosmic Corsairs. It's edited by Hank Davis and Christopher Ruocchio, and features... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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Having considered how uncommon Earthlike worlds are, now we're going to look at potential Great Filters in the history of life itself. The first is more of a meta-filter, and affects some of the possible stellar and planetary filters already discussed. It's simply this: what is the range of potential... Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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I've discussed galactic and stellar-scale Great Filters. Now it's time to look at them on a planetary level. The first is the question of how stable planetary systems are. This is a problem which goes back to Isaac Newton. When Sir Isaac compiled his great work the Principia, he was... Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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The first set of potential "Great Filters" I'm going to discuss are those which operate at the level of stars and galaxies — things which might make most galaxies, or most star systems, unsuitable for the development of life. But first, a digression. In science, especially in cosmology, the number... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Two weeks ago, during the world's first CYBER WorldCon, I participated in a panel discussion called "COVID-19: A Great Filter?" The panelists were myself, writer and Coronavirus expert Vylar Kaftan, and astrophysicist Valentin Ivanov. Our topic was the concept of the "Great Filter" and whether a plague like the current... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
This year's World Science Fiction Convention was to have taken place in New Zealand, but since that country is entirely sealed off from the outside world, the convention has gone entirely on-line. It's a CYBER WorldCon! See the link here. Despite obstacles the show will go on! I'm participating in... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
The complete "Teatime Readings" series is now available for viewing on YouTube. You can see them here. Or you can skip right to my reading from The Initiate. There's a lot of good stuff and some interesting comments and conversation. Check it out. Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
The first reviews of Retellings of the Inland Seas are out, and it looks as though this collection is getting a good reception. Nerds of a Feather reviews it here. Treehouse Writers blog reviews it here. It's always interesting to see how different reviewers look at the same book. I... Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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Two hundred and forty-four years ago a group of men signed a remarkable document: a Declaration of Independence. They wrote out their reasons for defying their King, and signed their names to it, then published the whole thing. They even sent a copy to the King they were challenging, even... Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
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The anthology Retellings of the Inland Seas launches today, from Candlemark & Gleam publishers. Edited by Athena Andreadis, this collection of original short fiction takes the myths and history of the Mediterranean into the realms of fantasy and science fiction. I'm proud to be one of a rather impressive lineup... Continue reading
Posted Jun 23, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
We got our cat Luna as a little black kitten in 2006, and she quickly grew into a grouchy, headstrong animal — always quick to nip or hiss when she didn't get her way. She was never an "inside cat." We let her outside any morning she wanted to go.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
The online SF convention AmazingCon continues all this weekend. Tomorrow, June 14, I'll be doing a panel at 10am on Worldbuilding. It should be a great show, as the lineup of panelists is pretty impressive: me, Paul Levinson, Rosemary Claire Smith, and T.B. Jeremiah. We'll be talking about how to... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
This weekend Amazing Stories is sponsoring a virtual science fiction convention: AmazingCon! It features readings, panels, special events — all the good parts of a convention without the hotel food and travel expense. I'm doing two events: a reading from my work in progress at 3pm on Friday, June 12;... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
There's an excellent series of online readings organized by Sarah Smith, Brookline's Grande Dame of Fantasy and Science Fiction, called Teatime Readings. I did one last week, and now everyone can enjoy it here. The first half of the video is me reading a chapter from The Initiate, and the... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
A while back I started thinking about the distant future. What can humanity expect if we don't invent a magic FTL drive, don't go extinct, and our civilization mostly putters along the way it has been since the invention of agriculture? I described some of my thoughts in this blog... Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Like most of the rest of the world I've been thinking about diseases lately. What I've been thinking about is how mild the coronavirus epidemic has been. No, stop shouting at the screen and look at some numbers. The Spanish Flu: the post-World War I influenza epidemic caused 17-50 million... Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking
The little locally-owned supermarket up in Greenfield has a good selection of Mexican items — I don't mean Mission brand tortillas or Paul Newman salsa, I mean stuff like masa flour, corn husks for making tamales, and big bags of dried beans. This probably has something to do with the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 22, 2020 at Just The Caffeine Talking