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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics


Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Bob Fosse Universe?

A new scientific paper has announced a “strangely coherent coordinated motion” of galaxies that suggests a degree of cosmic choreography never before imagined.

The universe is made up of billions of galaxies, each consisting of many stars. The largest are spiral galaxies like our own galaxy. Our galaxy (the Milky Way) is surrounded by about two dozen much smaller galaxies called dwarf galaxies, which each have a much smaller number of stars. In recent years astronomers discovered that the dwarf galaxies surrounding our galaxy are found in a plane-like structure that is known as the Vast Polar Structure (or VPOS). They have also found that the dwarf galaxies surrounding the nearest nearby spiral galaxy (the Andromeda galaxy) are also found in a plane-like structure called the Great Plane of Andromeda.

Such findings have raised doubts about the prevailing theory of large-scale structure formation, the lambda cold dark matter theory. Such a theory predicts that dwarf galaxies should be located in an irregular blob around our galaxy, not in a plane-like structure.

This week a paper published in the scientific journal Nature announced two big findings. The first was that rather than being a local fluke involving only our galaxy and its biggest neighbor galaxy, the tendency of dwarf galaxies to exist in a plane (around a spiral galaxy) is apparently quite typical. The study suggested data "may indicate planes of co-rotating satellites, similar to those seen around the Andromeda galaxy, are ubiquitous." Such a finding seems to be bad news for the lambda cold dark matter theory.

The second finding of the paper may be bad news to anyone who doesn't like to hear about mysterious unexplained examples of large-scale cosmic order. The scientific paper found an astonishingly strong tendency for the motions of opposite pairs of dwarf galaxies to be anti-correlated. That phrase is quite a mouthful, so let me give a visual which explains it.

In the picture below, we see a galaxy with two much smaller dwarf galaxies next to it. (The picture is a composite image not intended to represent some particular galaxy.) The dwarf galaxies rotate around the larger galaxy. But they rotate in opposite directions, as shown by the red arrows. This is what is meant by an anti-correlated motion.

dwarf galaxy rotation


The Nature paper (by Neil Ibata, Geraint Lewis and others) first checked a huge computer model of the universe to see whether we should expect to see any difference between these two things:
  1. The number of dwarf galaxy pairs on opposite sides of a galaxy which have their rotation motions anti-correlated with each other.
  2. The number of dwarf galaxy pairs on opposite sides of a galaxy which have their rotation motions correlated with each other.
The model predicted that there should be no difference between these two. In other words, the model predicted that the type of motion labeled as A below should be as common as the type of motion labeled as B:

anti-correlated rotation

But the observations gave a dramatically different picture. As shown in the graph below, the study found that for every dwarf galaxy pair that had a correlated motion, there were between 2 and 4 that had an anti-correlated motion. 


We were surprised to find that a large proportion of pairs of satellite galaxies have oppositely directed velocities if they are situated on opposite sides of their giant galaxy hosts," said Neil Ibata, one of the paper's authors. "Everywhere we looked we saw this strangely coherent coordinated motion of dwarf galaxies. From this we can extrapolate that these circular planes of dancing dwarfs are universal, seen in about 50 percent of galaxies," said Professor Geraint Lewis. "This is a big problem that contradicts our standard cosmological models. It challenges our understanding of how the universe works including the nature of dark matter."

Dancing dwarfs? Good heavens, that sounds like something out of a Disney movie.

The paper did not suggest any mechanism for this strange choreography, nor did any of the articles about it that I read. Not surprising, as it is hard to think of any natural mechanism that could explain it.

The Sciencedaily.com article on the paper says, “The discovery may mean that our current models need to be completely revised .” So the new finding could be a paradigm buster. 
 
This is the third time scientists have made some distant observations suggesting that the universe may behave in shocking defiance of our expectations of random behavior. One other case (discussed here) was that scientists discovered that the polarization vectors of quasars tend to be aligned in the same direction in particular regions of space. In one gigantic area of space, these vectors may be aligned in one direction, and in another huge region of space, they may be aligned in some different direction. Another comparable case (discussed here) is that scientists discovered that galaxies tend to rotate preferentially in certain directions of the sky. In some directions of the sky spiral galaxies tend to rotate as much as 7% more frequently in a left-handed rotation, even though scientists think there should be no difference between the number of left-handed rotations and the number of right-handed rotations.

At the very end of Olaf Stapledon's novel Last and First Men (available here on a single web page) are seven paragraphs that I consider to be one of the greatest passages in English literature. Below is a brief excerpt:

Throughout all his existence man has been striving to hear the music of the spheres, and has seemed to himself once and again to catch some phrase of it, or even a hint of the whole form of it. Yet he can never be sure that he has truly heard it, nor even that there is any such perfect music at all to be heard. Inevitably so, for if it exists, it is not for him in his littleness. 
 
But perhaps the distant golden fleece to pluck is not the music of the spheres, but the dance of the spheres. And perhaps now we are starting to glimpse some of that strange and surprising cosmic dance. 
 
Which raises the question: who or what did the choreography?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Not Even Half Baked: The Premature Project Known as Quantum Gravity

Two of the biggest theories of modern science are quantum mechanics (which deals with the subatomic world) and general relativity (a theory of gravity that works on a large scale, dealing with large massive objects). For decades, scientists have had the hope of uniting the two into a single theory. Einstein spent the last years of his life working on such a project, but came up empty-handed.

In the past few decades, some physicists have continued to work on theories that attempt to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity. Such theories are called quantum gravity theories. One class of these theories is called loop quantum gravity.

One occasionally sees news stories based on the predictions of loop quantum gravity. An example is this recent one, suggesting that black holes eventually become white holes that gush out matter.

But whenever you hear the phrase “quantum gravity” you should also think to yourself: not even half-baked. Or perhaps it might be better to think: not even tenth-baked. This is because it is perhaps centuries too early to be advancing a theory that tries to unite quantum mechanics and gravitation. One reason is that there are too many mysteries involved in gravitation and quantum mechanics. Uniting quantum gravity and gravitation might have to wait until we solve such mysteries.

The following might be a logical plan:
  1. We solve the basic mystery of what causes gravitation, something we don't understand. We know that gravitation is proportional to density of matter, but as it is easy to imagine a universe with no gravitation, we don't really understand why gravitation exists.
  2. We solve the mystery of why gravity is a trillion trillion trillion times weaker than all of the three other fundamental forces of the universe.
  3. We solve the basic problem of the nature of the collapse of the wave function, something which is still furiously debated by quantum mechanics theorists.
  4. We solve the incredibly perplexing problem of quantum entanglement, and how this spooky mysterious “action at a distance” can be occurring.
  5. We solve the mysterious “observer effect” in quantum mechanics, the bizarre fact that matter can behave very differently depending only on the way we observe matter.
  6. We clarify the mysterious “double slit” experiment, which suggests that both electrons and energy photons can switch back and forth between wave behavior and particle behavior.
  7. Then, after gaining a vastly clearer understanding of both quantum mechanics and gravitation, we attempt to create a single theory uniting both of them.
But some of our physicists have jumped straight to item 7 in this list before understanding the first six. This seems to make no sense. How can you unite quantum mechanics and gravitation into a single theory, when there are so many unsolved mysteries involved in both of them?

quantum gravity

Quantum gravity is a nice little niche for some physicists. If you are a quantum gravity theorist, you can spend your year working on some theory that no one will expect to work, piling on one far-out speculation after another. If anyone complains about a lack of verification or predictions, you can say: come on, this is quantum gravity, what do you expect? I'm reminded of that Broadway song with the lyric: nice work if you can get it.

Quantum gravity theorists are good at speculations, but are not very good at justifying their work. One quantum gravity theorist admits that there is no evidence for quantum gravity, but she tries to justify her funding by saying this:

The irony is that quantum gravity phenomenology is as safe an investment as it gets in science. We know the theory must exist. We know that the only way it can be scientific is to make contact to observation. Quantum gravity phenomenology will become reality as surely as volcanic ash will drift over Central Europe again.

This is very unpersuasive reasoning. We are not sure that any workable theory of quantum gravity will ever be discovered, and it is very unclear whether such a workable theory will be developed anytime in the next 500 years. Far from “as safe an investment as it gets in science,” investing in quantum gravity theoretical research seems no more safe than betting on a horse race or buying a lottery ticket. A safe investment, on the other hand, is one that has a high likelihood of giving you a good return within the next decade (such as a mutual fund with a 50% mix of stocks and bonds).

Perhaps the main type of quantum gravity theory is what is called loop quantum gravity theory. Such a theory is based on the idea that time is quantized. You can get kind of an idea of quantized time by imagining that each second is a stack of time-slices, and that there are a limited number of these time-slices in each second.

I think this idea is misguided. The idea of quantized time reinforces the assumption of a strict segregation between this instant and the next instant. But rather than thinking in such a way, we should perhaps be moving in the opposite direction. Although it may shock our expectations, experiments on precognition suggest that there may well rarely be some kind of partial intermingling or information exchange between the future and the present. The same thing is suggested by many human experiences very well described in the book The Science of Premonitions by Larry Dossey MD. A particularly striking example is given on page 41 of the book. On May 2, 1812 an Englishman named John Williams had a dream of the assassination of the British prime minister Spencer Perceval. Williams had the dream three times on the same night, and the dream included very specific details. Nine days later Perceval was assassinated. As Dossey puts it, “The details of the assassination were identical to those of the dream, including the colors of the clothing, the buttons on the assassin's jacket, and the location of the bloodstain on Perceval's white waistcoast.” (See here for another author's discussion of this incident.)

It is hard enough to explain such experiments and experiences with our normal assumptions about time, and it seems even harder to explain them under some assumption of quantized time. If physicists wish to create some exotic new theory of time, they would do better to create one that can help explain experiments on precognition and human experiences of premonitions that came true. Rather than imagining a rigid “one-way street” leading between the past and the future, such a theory might allow for the possibility of a limited degree of mingling or communication between the past and the future, possibly in both directions. Such a theory might describe a separation between the past and the future that is more fuzzy and blurred than we normally imagine.

But such a theory may be a long way off. For the present, I simply suggest: when you hear that something is suggested by quantum gravity, remember that quantum gravity may be centuries away from being ready for prime time.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Most Interesting Universe Imaginable

Our Mathematical Universe is a book by MIT physicist Max Tegmark. But a more appropriate title would be My Fantasies About Other Universes. Tegmark has long been a popularizer of the idea that our universe is only one of a huge or infinite set of universes called a multiverse. Tegmark distinguishes between 4 types of multiverses, which he calls Level I, Level II, Level III, and Level IV. Tegmark says he is a believer in a Level IV multiverse. He describes a Level IV multiverse as one consisting of a vast or infinite number of universes, each of which has a different mathematical structure. This is not science, but unverifiable metaphysics dressed up in scientific garb. 

Tegmark gives some reasoning to support his belief in a Level IV multiverse, but it is not persuasive. He claims that a belief in a Level IV multiverse follows from the “mathematical universe hypothesis,” which he defines as the idea that “our external physical reality is a mathematical structure.” He defines a mathematical structure as “a set of abstract entities with relations between them.”

But this mathematical universe hypothesis is not a sound one. The universe is not a mathematical structure, because it is not a set of abstract entities. A mind can create various abstract entities when pondering the universe, but such abstract entities are not the same as the universe itself.

Consider a much simpler question: is our planet a mathematical structure? No, it is not. Our planet has the shape of a sphere, which is a mathematical structure. But our planet is vastly more than just a sphere, as a description of our planet would involve a vast number of details beyond that of a sphere. Just as it incorrect to say that our planet is a mathematical structure, it is incorrect to say that the universe itself is a mathematical structure.

Tegmark attempts to prove his mathematical universe hypothesis by arguing that it follows from an “external reality hypothesis,” which he defines as the hypothesis that there exists an external physical reality completely independent of us humans. But such a mathematical universe hypothesis in no way follows from such an external reality hypothesis, and Tegmark's reasoning that the one follows from the other is not at all convincing.

Tegmark gives an example of a chess match in an attempt to persuade us that everything can be reduced to a mathematical structure. He points out that we can reduce the chess match to an abstraction listing each piece and how it moved. But even this example fails. Even a chess match cannot be reduced to an abstract mathematical structure. To get the full story on what went on in a chess match, we must have not just the movement of the pieces, but the mind stream of the players: what exactly they were thinking at each point in the game, and what exactly they were feeling. There is no way to represent such streams of thought and feeling through an abstract mathematical representation. Even if one considers only physical things, you then have to consider that according to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, all subatomic particles have a quantum fuzziness, meaning that they cannot be defined exactly in terms of both movement and position, unlike chess pieces on a chess board. You cannot even make a precise exact mathematical description of the arrangement of all the particles in your body.

Being something composed of almost infinitely diverse forms of matter that are widely separated, and also streams of experience and consciousness that cannot be mathematically represented, there is no mathematical structure that corresponds to the universe. Saying as Tegmark does that the universe is a mathematical structure is to make the same kind of mistake as saying that an office building is a blueprint or saying that an automobile is a 3D CAD model (or saying that a C++ object is a C++ class).

Tegmark has introduced the idea of the universe as a mathematical structure so that he can use the idea as a kind of a springboard to a multiverse theory. The idea has long been held that every type of mathematical structure exists in some eternal Platonic sense. For example, it has been held that there has eternally existed the idea of a triangle, the idea of a square, and so forth, going up to a figure with a countless number of sides. So Tegmark basically reasons that if our universe is a mathematical structure, and if every mathematical structure is real, then there must exist every imaginable universe that corresponds to each of the different possible mathematical structures. But this reasoning fails to persuade, simply because Tegmark fails to establish the unwarranted idea that our universe is a mathematical structure, an idea which has not received appreciable support from previous thinkers.

One can only ask: why does Max Tegmark have such an enthusiasm for multiverse theory? I think I have a possible explanation. Perhaps Tegmark wants to believe in many other universes because he thinks that our universe is very boring.

Why do I suggest that Tegmark thinks our universe is boring? Part of the reason is given in the last chapter of Tegmark's book. Tegmark argues that we are alone in our vast universe. He gives the same lame argument that has been advanced by Ray Kurzweil and others, the argument that if there were intelligent life elsewhere it would already have colonized our solar system. This argument has been rebutted successfully many times before, including in this post and this post. One reason the argument makes no sense is that intergalactic travel (involving distances of many thousands of light-years) is very probably impossible, and even interstellar travel is very probably extremely difficult (contrary to impressions given by science fiction such as Star Trek and Star Wars). Another reason the argument makes no sense is that there is no large nation on Earth which develops more than 95% of available territory (every large nation keeps a significant fraction of its available territory as undeveloped preserves or nature reserves). So there is no reason to assume that any race would go around colonizing every available planet or solar system.

The fact that we have found so many potentially habitable planets already contradicts Tegmark's thesis that we are alone in the universe, as does the fact that we live in a universe with at least 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars like the sun.

habitable planets
Credit: Planetary Habitability Laboratory, UPR Arecibo

Believing unwisely in the idea that man is the only intelligent species in the universe, Tegmark therefore believes in a dull desert of a universe, a universe with no beings more interesting than those we read about in our daily news. So we can make a guess as to why he is so attracted to speculations about other universes. It's rather like this. Imagine if you had only one sibling, a brother who was a real snooze, as dull as dishwater. You might be tempted to fantasize that you are adopted, and that you have unseen brothers you have never met, who live terribly exciting lives. But if your brother was an extremely interesting person with a fascinating life, you probably would not engage in such fantasies.

I think we live in a universe vastly more interesting than the very dull affair imagined by Tegmark. Contrary to what Tegmark claims, the evidence from astronomy actually suggests that the universe is teeming with intelligent life. We have every reason to suspect that the history of our universe is the most fascinating drama imaginable, a place where epics of evolution are being played out on trillions of civilized planets existing in billions of galaxies. We also have much evidence to suggest that the universe has a wide variety of fascinating paranormal phenomena which make it far more interesting than any materialist thinker can imagine.

How would you concisely describe such a universe, with such a staggering wealth of locations and phenomena, with such an incredible diversity of intelligent entities, some of which are protoplasmic, some of which may be electronic, and some of which may be purely spiritual? You might call it the most interesting universe imaginable. When you have that type of universe to study and ponder and investigate, why even bother with unverifiable speculations about other universes?

Friday, July 18, 2014

An Alternative Possibility Regarding UFOs

Many people believe that UFOs are spacecraft from other planets. If there is no possibility of a natural explanation for a UFO sighting, the hypothesis of a spaceship from another planet might be the best explanation. However, there may be some problems with such an explanation.

Problem 1: Where's the mother ship?

Because the distance between stars is so vast, it is generally agreed that an expedition from another solar system would require a very large spacecraft, probably something at least 500 meters in length. But most reported UFOs are much smaller. In addition, almost all imaginable designs for interstellar spacecraft are vehicles unsuitable for entry into the atmosphere. UFO theorists have dealt with this difficulty by assuming the idea of a mother ship. The theorists suggest that what we see in the sky as UFOs are just kind of shuttle craft that are launched from a much larger mother ship that is somewhere in outer space. The only problem with that is: where is this mother ship? If it existed somewhere out there in space, we would probably be able to spot it with our telescopes. But we haven't.

Problem 2: Some UFOs don't look like spaceships or vehicles

Quite a few UFOs seem to look nothing like spacecraft or any type of vehicle. UFOs are often described as balls of light or blobs of light. An example of a UFO that does not look like a spacecraft is this recently reported UFO sighted in Italy:



Problem 3: Some UFOs reportedly travel so fast that any passengers in them would be killed

With UFO sightings it is quite commonly reported that the UFO zoomed away at incredible speeds. But accelerating so quickly would expose any inhabitant of the vehicle to incredibly high g forces that would be enough to kill any protoplasmic life form in the vehicle. You might be able to get around this difficulty by imagining that UFOs are manned by robots, but one would think that the super-fast speeds reported in some UFO sightings might even be enough to damage the electronics of a robot.

Problem 4: Why are UFOs so bright?

UFOs are commonly reported to be very bright. But if they are alien spacecraft, why are they so bright? If an extraterrestrial civilization were to design craft for discreetly exploring other planets, you would think that they would be careful to make such survey craft not very bright, so that there would be the possibility of making a secret stealth survey of the planet.

An Alternative Possibility

Let's try to imagine some possibility that may overcome such problems. One possibility is that UFOs may be something other than survey spaceships from another planet. UFOs could instead be manifestations from some higher dimension. The higher dimension could be some physical dimension that somehow lies above our own dimension. Or it could be some kind of spiritual dimension.

To explain this idea, I can give an analogy. Imagine some fairly intelligent octopus living in the sea. Suddenly one day a scuba diver appears. The octopus is overcome with awe. Using his rather bright mind, the octopus reasons that the scuba diver must be from far, far away – because the diver looks like nothing he has ever seen. But perhaps the diver is not from far away. The diver might be from nearby. In truth, the diver is almost like an inhabitant of a higher, undiscovered dimension that the octopus knows nothing about – a land dimension that is physically above the water dimension where the octopus lives.

Similarly, there could be lying above our observed reality some higher dimension that is as unknown to us as the land is to the octopus. Such a dimension might be either physical or spiritual. Conceivably beings from such a dimension might be able to briefly “dive” into our dimension in somewhat the same way that a land creature might dive into the sea. Or they might be able to send energy manifestations or physical manifestations briefly into our dimension, just as we can pick up a stone and hurl it into the sea. UFOs may be such manifestations.

Rather than being spacecraft from other planets, UFOs might actually be the bodies of beings from such a higher dimension. In their higher dimension, perhaps everyone has a body of pure energy. A pure energy being from a higher dimension might be able to dive into our sky as easily as one of us can dive into the ocean. Perhaps this is why UFOs are so bright – they may be pure energy.

Or UFOs may be just energy manifestations that beings in such a higher dimension occasionally send into our sky, rather in the same way that we occasionally toss fireworks into the sky. Beings in a higher dimension may be sending us such manifestations as a way of sending us a signal that they are out there. The same beings might be responsible for crop circles.

Such a hypothesis is worth considering, and it seems to have the virtue of getting rid of the four problems I have listed. By removing the assumption of interstellar travel, we solve the problem of the missing mother ship (Problem 1). By assuming pure energy UFOs, we solve the problem that UFOs so often look like blobs of light rather than physical spacecraft (Problem 2). By assuming pure energy UFOs without protoplasmic or electronic passengers, we solve the problem of passenger-killing acceleration of UFOs (Problem 3). By assuming pure energy UFOs (which we would expect to be very bright), we solve the problem of why UFOs are so bright (Problem 4).

I would not claim that such a hypothesis is necessarily more plausible than the hypothesis of extraterrestrial visitation. I think, however, that when considering the origin of paranormal phenomena, we should consider a wide spectrum of possibilities, rather than being one-dimensional in our thinking. I may also note that the hypothesis I have mentioned and more conventional ideas of extraterrestrial visitation are not mutually exclusive. It could be that some UFOs are from other planets, and some UFOs are from a higher dimension. It may also be that UFOs are just natural earthly phenomena, although under such a theory it is hard to explain cases of close encounters.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Will We Say 1 Superhuman Super-life Is Worth 10 Normal Lives?

Before too many decades we may see the appearance of a small number of genetically-enhanced humans with higher intelligence or much longer lifespans. This may create a social upheaval, and the tremors may penetrate deep into our laws and moral ideas.

Today if you ask anyone whether all human beings are of equal worth, almost anyone would agree with such a statement. In many cases people act in a very different way, as if the citizens of their country are worth more than the citizens of other countries. But at least almost all of us would answer affirmatively when asked if all human lives are of equal value.

But in the future, things may be very different. We may see the rise of a small group of humans with extremely long lifespans. We may also see the appearance of some humans with a much higher level of intelligence. If that happens, will the “all humans are of equal worth” idea continue to be endorsed by all? Something very different may happen. We may see people start talking about “super-lives” that are worth more than regular lives.

Here is the kind of reasoning that may come into play:

Is the life of a man who will live to be 1000 worth the same as a man who will live to be 80? Is the life of a man with an intelligence quotient of 500 worth the same as a man with an IQ of 100? Of course not! We must distinguish between ordinary lives, and super-lives. It is only logical to consider a super-life as worth more than a regular life. How much more? That is a matter to be calculated, using logical mathematics.

What kind of “logical mathematics” might such a person have in mind? It could work something like this. Someone might calculate that if a superhuman has a lifespan x times greater than the regular lifespan, then that superhuman has a super-life worth x times more than a regular life. Someone might also calculate that if a superhuman has an intelligence x times greater than the average human intelligence, then that superhuman has a super-life worth x times more than a regular life. Such calculations might be applied simultaneously, so that someone with a lifespan five times greater than the average lifespan (and an intelligence five times greater than the average intelligence) might then be considered to be worth 25 times more than a person of average intelligence and average lifespan. 

transhumanism

I am not at all saying that I agree with such calculations, nor am I saying that a superhuman should be considered some type of “super-life” worth more than a regular life. I am merely suggesting that this type of reasoning may become popular, regardless of its validity. It may even be that the rules of law are rewritten to take such calculations into effect. One can only imagine the bizarre legal ramifications.

A new law might be introduced saying that if a superhuman is very sick or badly injured, and needs to get to the hospital quickly, he has the right to drive to the hospital as fast as he can, even if that means running over and killing ordinary humans in his path. Superhumans may have a special 911-like number they can call to summon an ambulance, a type of ambulance that arrives more quickly than ambulances for ordinary humans.

The government might cut foreign aid to help poor and starving people in other countries, reallocating such funds to pay for the genetic engineering needed to create superhumans. If anyone complained about the loss of life, the official rebuttal might be: it is better to create one super-life than to save ten regular lives.

A new law might be introduced saying that if a superhuman has a reasonable reason for suspecting that a regular human might kill him, the superhuman has the right to draw a gun and kill that human. Superhumans may walk out of court uncharged, by merely using an excuse such as this: “He looked rather mean and scary, so I killed him.”

Superhumans might be granted cards that place them first in line for any organ transplant, first in line for any blood transfusion, and first in line whenever they walk into an emergency room. Instead of the traditional lifeboat rule of “women and children first” when a ship is sinking, the new rule might be “superhumans first; then women and children.” Faced with two fires at the same time in a city, computers might route fire trucks to first go to the blazing home of a superhuman, and only later to go to the blazing house of a regular human.

When it comes to education, we can expect that the superhumans will get the finest free schools along with free college educations at elite universities. No one will be able to resist this slogan: a super-mind is a super-terrible thing to waste.

If such laws and provisions are introduced, they will no doubt create bitter resentment. We ordinary humans are used to being the top race on this planet. We will not take kindly to being relegated to second-class status. One can imagine an angry mob of regular humans carrying torches and pitchforks, along with hand-made signs saying: Death to the superhumans!

If something like that happens, then all the talk about superhumans having a thousand-year lifespan may turn out to be ironically inaccurate. Hunted down by resentful humans, the superhumans may not even live as long as ordinary humans.