Week 107 of Gibraltar Diary

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Sunday 28th March 2010

In the early afternoon we set off for Marbella where after great difficulty we find somewhere to park and a pretty girl to photograph. Our favourite restaurant has now closed permanently but we find another which is cheap, exquisite and nothing is too much trouble. What are the chances of that in Torquay? None.

On the way back we monitor the hole in the ground next to Aqa - coming along nicely. Bit tough if you live right behind it.

Monday 29th March 2010

In the morning we spot Jordan's new transplants arriving at the docks.

And at lunch time my girlfriend goes to meet a friend for lunch and then spots a lovely orchid.

In the evening the sun just about comes out in time to say goodnight.

Tuesday 30th March 2010

Coming back on the number 4 bus, the kids in the back are so intolerable that we get out early and walk back through the Alameda Gardens where one of the cacti has flowered

Wednesday 31st March 2010

We head down town to buy a new toy. My Panasonic DMC FX50 is a bit heavy for a small "carry around" camera and I have decided to buy the latest version, the FX60. It seems it can be bought for 190 on the web and usually the Gibraltar shops are massively more expensive - the "duty free" slogans are just a come on. But for once we are in luck and buy one for 199.

Then we come across a pretty girl handing out sweeties. I like sweeties - and pretty girls, for that matter.

When we get back we re-pot our poinsetta. No, the plant hasn't shrunk - the cup is a giant one a foot across bought in a UK service station.

On the Physics Forum, there is speculation regarding the possibility that intelligent life forms (or unintelligent ones for that matter) have visited earth at some point. This is my reply:

"There would seem to me to be two classes of possible Alien visitors - those who, like us, are restricted by the speed of light and those who have found a way round it

Class 1 Aliens - Restricted by the speed of light
I have seen analyses that suggest there are theoretical limits as to the extent to which you can accelerate a ship or asteroid or whatever but let's be very optimistic and assume that they can get up to a measurable percentage of the speed of light - say 20% for discussion purposes. Allowing for acceleration and deceleration this gives an average speed of 10% of light speed. So how long could they reasonably travel for? Even allowing for hibernation and reconstituting from genetic information (the polio virus has been famously put together from bits ordered by mail order) it is hard to imagine a trip of much more than a few hundred years but let's be very optimistic and say 1,000 years.

So, how many stars are there within 100 light years of earth? Well, as it happens, this has been asked before and the answer is evidently about 170,000. So, maybe one of them has intelligent, successful life on one of its planets? What are the odds of that? Well, if 1 in 200,000 (lets be pessimistic and say 1 in 1 million) stars has intelligent well organized life then given that there are 10^22 to 10^24 stars in the universe that would imply that there are at least 10^16 stars with intelligent life capable of making voyages through space of 1,000 years

So, lets spell that out: 10,000,000,000,000,000 planets with extremely advanced civilizations. What are the odds of that? Zero, I would have thought

Note: In other words if there are intelligent life forms near enough to reach us this implies that there are millions of billions (not millions or billions but millions of billions) of advanced civilizations in the universe

Class 2 Aliens - NOT Restricted by speed of light
So, they can visit any planet in the universe at the drop of a hat. What are the chances they would consider coming here? Well, presumably, about 1 in 10^22 (the number of stars). What does that mean? Well, as it happens, I could visit any spot on earth. The surface of the earth (including the sea) covers about 10^19 square inches [Edit: it is even worse - the surface of the globe covers 10^20 sq mm]

So, the odds of these aliens visiting us are the same as me deciding to visit an area of the earth covering one tenth of a square inch. Not very likely. So if there are a million such civilisations the odds are slightly better - they are the odds of me deciding to visit a piece of the world about ten feet square. Zero, in other words

Note: In other words, the chances of these aliens deciding to come here are about 100 times less likely than the chances of you winning the National Lottery three weeks running

Other factors
If they have been here what are the chances of them leaving a record? Well, the earth has been around for about 4 billion years or so. Nothing historical is likely to last more than a million years so if they did come there would be at most a 1 in 4,000 chance we would know about it. Unless they left a marker in our DNA - so that is the place to look ...

Note: This is probably extremely optimistic - most historical evidence only lasts a few thousand years and we would have to find it and recognise it for what it is. So, the real chances of us knowing they had been are probably closer to one in a million.

Super Optimistic View
Self replicating, super intelligent space probes ... but that is wild speculation outside the bounds of normal science so we won't go there."

So, you are unlikely to meet an alien anytime soon - if you have a sore bum look for other explanations.

Thursday 1st April 2010

The day gets off to an excellent start when I tell my girlfriend, who is sitting at her computer not wearing a lot, that there is an enormous spider about to attack her rear end. "April Fool!", I yell. She spends the rest of the day telling people that a swarm of giant killer bees are heading their way. Maybe they are?

Later we head for the border where we spot a girl wearing a sweater emblazoned with the slogan "with two balls". Does she realise that? It is cold and windy so we head back to Gibraltar where we decide to eat somewhere posh for a change - usually we eat gorgeous bacon and egg toasted rolls in Cheers for 3.10 each plus giant quadruple measure drinks for about two pounds a glass.

The Maharajah on the Queensway Marina is closed so we go to the Waterfront which is beautifully situated with lots of tables outside. My girlfriend has duck but it is so salty that it is inedible. In fairness, they are very apologetic and do not charge us. We then have cheesescake which is disgusting - artificially flavoured muck. We had intended to share it but give up after a few revolting spoonfulls.

As AA Gill says "Restaurants with views and outdoor tables have terrible food and dreadful service". Well, the service was good but otherwise, spot on.

My girlfriend spots a formidable looking plant - maybe it will help catch the giant killer bees heading our way?

Friday 2nd April 2010

In the afternoon we go for a drink at Bruno's on the Ocean Village Marina. If you like pretty girls and cheap drinks this is the place to go. Our bill is 9.50 for three drinks. I take a photo with the new Panasonic DMC FX60 and although I say it myself it comes out very well. Good camera.

In the evening we watch Om Shanti Om for about the tenth time. Wonderful.

Saturday 3rd April 2010

We set off for Tarifa but it is impossible to park in the town so we go to the beach where we are luckier with the parking but out of luck with the eating - everything is fully booked.

When we get back to Gibraltar there is an enormous queue so we drive to La Canada shopping centre where we buy a shredder for E11.95. OK, so it only cuts into wide strips but at least it works.

We have a very average meal in Aqa but the queue at the border is a lot smaller when we finish

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