Thursday, March 25, 2010

Astronaut Ninja

Little bit of character design work...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Not sure where this came from

But having fun anyway! Enjoy :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Anvil

The first segment of an O'Neil cylinder is constructed at the L4 shipyard...

Friday, March 12, 2010

More face value study...

Haha, 'face value'...

From imagination:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Inspired by Sargent...

...nowhere near him though... here's a shot:


I need to spend all day doing this. Soon... soon...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010


Some dogs (and coyote)... part of my new spurt of studies, I'm really trying to get into animals, I want to get good at all sorts, but I'm starting with dogs, because I love dems.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thoughts about Aliens Pt.2

I have omitted discussion of the Drake equation here because I'd imagine that anyone reading this is likely familiar with it to the point of eye-rolling. If you aren't familiar with it, this is it:

You can read about it to your heart's content here: Drake Equation Wiki Entry

What is interesting is fi, the fraction of planets that harbor intelligent life, and that's where I want to launch. We live on a planet that belongs to that subset (no cynicism about whether humans are 'intelligent' here, we are, our toddling youth can outsmart the adults of the next most intelligent creatures, chimps/bonobos and dolphins). Lets look at a cladistic diagram that is cascaded from the primates:

It's important to note that the creatures at the top of the cladogram are fully modern. That means that at any point where the lines meet indicating a shared ancestor, a seperate evolutionary chain errupted that ultimately led to hagfish or birds. You could just as easily make a cladogram that was Salamander oriented, with humans a distant cousin of the Salamander.

Lets focus in on humans though and look at our full taxonomic classification. Bear with me; We are Homo Sapiens Sapiens. We belong to the group Homo which contains (Homo) Ergaster, Habilis, Rudolfensis, and Erectus. Genus Homo is contained within Hominidae (aka 'hominids'), which includes our ancestors Australopithecus and Ardipithecus as well as chimpanzee, bonobo, orangutan, and gorilla. Hominids are a sub-group of the Chatarrhini, which also include creatures like gibbons and old world monkeys (macacs, mandrills collobus monkeys, etc). Finally we get to primates, which include all Chatarrhini, tarsiers, lemurs, and the adorable marmoset, which is adorable. Marmosets are adorable.

Now we get to Eutheria! Now, Eutheria is a big group, it represents all placental mammals, and it's important to keep this in mind: the variety you see in Eutheria represents the modern variety. At one point, all animals in this group shared a common ancestor. Who's in Eutheria? Anteaters, elephants, dogs, cats, giraffes, orcas, manatees, hedgehogs, humans, orangutans, nearly all of the familiar mammals.

Not all mammals, we have to move out to the bigger class of Mammals to include the marsupials and monotremes (echidnas and platypuses).

If you aren't sure what an echidna looks like, gaze to your left. I'll move quickly through the remaining orders and families that humans are embedded within. Mammals are part of the group Therapsida, which belongs to the group Synapsida, which belongs to the group Amniota, which are part of the Terrestrial Vertebrates, which belong to Sarcopterygii, which are contained within Gnathostomata, which belongs to all the critters with spines collectively known as Vertebrata, and those are among critters with skulls that enclose their brains known as Craniata, which have spinal chords making them Chordata, and belong to creatures which form asshole-first in the womb, making them Deuterostomia, symmetrical on one axis and thus are Bilateria, all of which can be classified as Animals.

Not done. They belong to a group of creatures that are composed of entirely Eukaryotic cells, making them the Eukaryotes, which finally is contained within all life on Earth, which shares a single common ancestor, who's origins I discussed in part 1.

So what's the point? Each containing group represents a deflection point, a speciation event, somewhere in the distant past. We intelligent humans happen to be hairless upright walking primate placental mammals, and it was some unique set of circumstances that chanced upon our lineage developing the ability to create tall buildings, religion, and fast food.

Anywhere else in the Universe, you will have enormous variety. Recognizable variety, in the sense that certain solutions for the same sorts of problems will always be fairly similar (wings, paddles, feet, eyes, etc), but the solutions will be happened upon by different lineages for different reasons. It is fun to speculate about what sorts of creatures stumbled upon the solution of "devote more biomass to the brain" and "instinctively teach others tricks you learn" (this is critical, chimps for example only learn by watching, they have no impulse to teach another chimp how to extract termites with a blade of grass).

Given how readily life can form (I forgot to mention in part 1 that literally as soon as the Earth had cooled from the cataclysm that formed the moon, life started), and how plentiful planets seem to be (429 exoplanets and counting), and the sheer variety of life on Earth as a precedent for the sort of variety out there, it seems almost certain that, given the time, having a big brain as a survival strategy ought to crop up with much frequency. The galaxy should be crawling with civilizations.

That said, why haven't we heard from them yet? The answer in part 3...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thoughts about Aliens Pt.1

After watching Niel Blomkampf's Tedx about alien life, it occurred to me that I hadn't written any essay material in quite some time, and this is a topic I find myself most passionate about. Biology and space exploration captivate me enormously, and anything that combines the two is sure to suffer my relentless fixation.

The first and most obvious question that every essayist/science journalist poses is "why haven't we found them yet?" To be fair, this question also rattles around in the brains of the best and brightest scientific minds, echoing like a b-horror villains footsteps on wet pavement; the question has implications for our own civilization, potentially gloomy ones. That said, let's consider a few things:

Life is probably ubiquitous.

The chemistry and conditions to get life started likely aren't unique to our world. Consider that when a nickel-iron meteor, rich in nitrogen, slams into water at hypersonic velocity, the cataclysmic energy produces amino acids. Not just any amino acids, but the left-hand configured amino acids that are exclusive to life. The Stardust spacecraft returned samples from a comet confirming that comets contain many organic compounds and peptides. And very recently, an experiment in which these two source reagents were dissolved in water, and put under a day-night evaporation and condensation cycle, yielded self assembling ribonucleotides, the building blocks of RNA.

Europa, Enceladus and Mars have strong evidence of past or present liquid water (the former two almost definitely have a liquid subterranean ocean). That means four (including Earth) 'hits' within one solar system. At least three have strong active sources of energy, solar and volcanic energy on Earth, tidal compression energy on Europa and Enceladus. It seems only a matter of time before a robotic probe uncovers nascent critters on one of these not-so-icy moons.

While I can't make any assertions (for obvious empirical reasons), I'd wager that that life is not only ubiquitous, but almost certainly carbon based most of the time. Carbon is much more abundant than silicon, and while nothing precludes the existence of silicon based life, there is simply much more carbon, and carbon binds more readily than silicon in most of the conditions out there. I will even go so far as to say that it is likely based on RNA or DNA. If there is one thing the Universe does really well, it's follow the path of least resistance. If RNA forms readily in non-unique lab conditions, chances are it's forming everywhere in the galaxy.

So, with some blogger confidence I will say that alien life is likely carbon based, and stores its hereditary information in either RNA or DNA. After that, things get tricky.

More in part 2...

CHOW pieces

I completely forgot to post my
CHOW pieces here! Before I forget: