Fermi’s Paradox is not

Drakes and Fermis and Malthussusses, Oh My! Why has SETI no incontrovertible proof after 50 years? Hawking was worried about our EM broadcasts inviting the “wrong kind” of attention. Yet after 120 years of that, nobody out there seems to care. Hawking’s tripstone was assuming that ETs would be vastly overtech past us, and implicitly assumed faster-than-light travel as a given to our future conquerors. He thought that it would be light-speed signal leakage that would give us away. Might be possible, but this implies that our space overlords should have been here by the 1920’s. If they ain’t here by now, they’re not coming.

So why? That’s Enrico Fermi’s paradox, codified by Drake first but not best, which is how science works. The nature of the question itself assumes that humanity has already attained a level of sustainability against all anticipated threats. But we haven’t. Until we do so, Fermi’s stumper is just masturbation after all. We have to get sustainable colonies on at least two other rocks in the Solar System before we can start to feel safe from the species-level threats, those ones which we can’t do anything about. Yet.

500 million years from a cell to a capsule in orbit. It implies many millions of years beforehand, of chemical reactions organizing one by one into chains of process. We know it happened here, now we can see other planets where it could happen, so where are they? Why are we alone?

It’s because we’re early. 1 billion years early. That’s a guess, but a darn good one. It’s not just a convenient round number, the one billion years. The universe is 13 and a half billion years old, and it will be about 14.5 billion years old when it changes. Space is an effect of matter, so if space is expanding then that means more matter is being created from the matter/energy substrate. But this won’t always be so.

Predicted it 25 years ago, but never thought it’d be observed until we could travel beyond the Milky Way’s ecliptic: Dark Flow. Wish cosmologists would stop it already with the word ‘dark’, but the observation is that not only are galaxies fleeing apart from each other, but they are all moving slightly towards one distant spot in the sky. And that spot is 15.5 billion light-years away.

The universe is not a thing, nor a collection of things. It is an event, not a thing. The event we’re almost halfway through, is an event which takes about 29 billion years.

Everything is an event, even lonely matter sitting there minding its own business. We are accustomed to think of only interactions as “events” because something “happens” when matter or energy undergoes a change. But the fact that a particle merely exists, in a place at a time, is an event inherent of itself. In both senses, the universe can be seen as full of events, but now as an event itself.

Matter and energy are the same thing, both arise as knots, as fluctuations of various organization from the same substrate. Thought this was true using the theory of the Higgs boson years ago, and now we know that the Higgs beast exists. Now, we know that every bit of the universe winks in-to and out-of existence about 4 quadrillion times a second. It’s what Schroedinger said about the cat, now we know it’s all true.

Doesn’t matter whether it’s alive or dead, science has proved that there IS a cat in a box. No word yet on whether it’s wearing a hat.

We are about 1.0 billion years away from our universe’s halfwaypoint, when numbers which we thought of as physical constants crest and start drifting contrarywise. That needs ‘splaining. There’s a constant in physics, the “fine structure constant” for simplicity called ‘alpha’ which is 1 divided by 137.0359. It worried Richard Feynman, who said it’s: “a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man.” Enrico Fermi also had a piqued internal feud with “alpha”, it consumed much of his later career.

If alpha was a hair smaller, stars would not create carbon, and if alpha is a touch higher, carbon atoms would decay much faster. The scope of this essay means skating over details which the reader can find on the ‘net or in decent a library for further reading, but here’s some backstory.

We can make nuclear fission today, and also we can study how it happened naturally 1.7 billion years ago, in a cave in Africa. Differences in the fission byproducts neodymium and samarium suggest that alpha has decreased slightly over time. In addition, observation of chromium expelled from quasars also suggests that alpha has decreased. Not by much, one proposed rate of change is on the order of 1 part in 1,000,000 parts, per billion years.

Alpha is defined as the charge of an electron doubled, then that result divided by a denominator which is Planck’s constant multiplied by the speed of light then that result divided by 2 times pi:


Or: e4pi/hc, if you like.

That’s the same equation, only with math tricks, and it means “alpha” equals the charge of an electron multiplied by 4, then that result multiplied by pi, and then THAT result gets divided by Planck’s Constant times the speed of light.

The constancy of alpha between the subatomic and cosmological scales really bothered Enrico Fermi. It is the reason Fermi posed his “paradox” in the first place. But Fermi lived too early, and now we know more. The equation above might seem like a good candidate for glossing over, but you should be able to apply some simple algebra to see for yourself, what a decreasing alpha means.

If alpha trends lower, then that means either: 1) electrons are becoming weaker over time, or 2) the speed of light is increasing over time. Pi won’t change, and Planck’s constant is unlikely to change, so that leaves e or c as our variables. Now refer to earlier paragraphs here to tie it all together. Space is an effect of matter. Matter and energy are expressions of the same thing. Einstein showed an effect of gravity on the speed of light, and matter loves gravity. If space itself expands all around an innocent photon, what choice does it have, but to shift red?

So is it e, or is it c, which is our variable? The charge of an electron, or the speed of light? It’s both of them, and they’re bound by the proportion of matter/energy in the universe. As alpha falls, the spectrum shifts slightly towards more matter than energy. That would mean space expands. Check, we’ve got that. As alpha falls, we should see higher and heavier elements produced in the universe, another checkbox, we see this everywhere as time marches on.

We should find more and larger black holes, which are merely the outward face of matter which has passed a threshold of organization, and yet again: Check, we see that today. Should also see fewer supernovae and fewer gamma-ray bursts, but time will tell on that. Several decades are not enough sample size to know about that yet.

If alpha is falling, we are gaining matter, which is just a more highly organized flavor of energy. Every aspect of a falling alpha points towards more life “as we know it,” our kind of life based on matter. This does not preclude life based more on energy than matter, which David Brin puts out in the 1st and 6th books of the Uplift Sexology. Get your mind out of the gutter, we’re talking science here. It’s just a series of six books.

More matter (and more stable matter) means more planets capable of sprouting life, and a more stable stellar environment for such cradles of chemical invention, since more matter means more gravity, and then faster absorption of stray planet-altering rocks within an innocent star’s accretion disk. If alpha is falling, then the universe should become far more hospitable to any life based on matter, “Life as we know it”

But this will not always be so. Back to the tippy-top of this essay, the universe is an event 29 billion years long. We are highly sure that there was a Big Bang 13.5 byr ago, and it looks like something’s attracting matter 15.5 byr’s away. The universe looks to be 1.0 billion years from the midpoint, which might mean the height of matter over energy, via the current falling value of alpha, which may be the unwitting abettor of life as we like it. A billion years from now, does alpha bottom out and begin to rise? Instead of getting further from the big bang, now it’s in front of us, and getting closer.

Don’t worry, it won’t be as catastrophic as flicking a switch and the universe flies into a Big Crunch Smoothie. It would still take billions of years for our kind of life to become untenable, as carbon itself slides from the list of ‘stable’ to ‘radioactive’. In the meantime, we’ll have continuing carbon production among aging stars on both sides of the event, and we would see shrinking space and more freely available energy… shouldn’t take much imagination for a curious ape, to think up what to do with that kind of universe!

Drake plugged in numbers and came up with 50,000 fellow galaxians in 1961. Forgan came up with 31,574 back in 2008. But still Fermi echoes down the hall: “Where is everybody?” The more science uncovers, it appears that we are an early beneficiary of a side-effect of how the universe changes over time. Alpha is falling, so we should expect a wave of more frequent (and more complex) arrangements of matter for the next billion years.

In a billion years, there will be a crescendo of intelligent life filling space with transmissions. If we survive to see that, we will be the “ancient ones” who shepherded a billion worlds. If we don’t, someone else will, because they’re coming, soon and lots of them. We are just early to the party. We are probably not the first in this universe, but we are very early in the wave.

Any ape knows the advantage of being the first to an unpicked berry bush, but the smarter ape tastes the soil in which berry bushes grow, then poops on the same kind of plot further along the creek. Humans can explore and expand, but there are no aliens to either embrace or exterminate us. We greenhorn humans are just early, that’s all. There will be plenty of aliens later, because a decreasing value of alpha enhances the stability of existing carbon.

Fermi’s Paradox is not a mystery. The permanence and stability of matter itself is increasing all across the universe, as far as we can see. In a billion years this will reach a high-water mark, then ebb. Because life on Earth was 3 billion years early, implies that we’ll keep meeting new galactic neighbors for the next several billion years. Hey SETI, enjoy the relaxing silence while it lasts. A billion years from today, the noise will be deafening.

If all this speculation is true, then there are strategic aspects. METI, for instance, doesn’t mean a thing, one way or another. There’s either zero or few possible recipients of our call. SETI however, becomes much more important with each passing million years. When each new life gets to the level of EM leakage, we want to know about it.

Foolishly taking our own example as a median, the path from the discovery of magnetism to space travel could take anywhere from a hundred years to 50,000,000 years. Took us a couple thousand, but from supraplanetary EM ejaculations to space trips, only took us 70 years. By the time we see alien sitcoms, we will either be spacefaring because we’ve been smart or will become spacefaring in a crash program in 30 years at great cost, because we were too wrapped up in our own little world.

The course

The course of human society only goes in one direction, bucko. We’re going thataway. Evidence on every scale: evolution of life genetically, a progression of religion types across centuries, and ever increasing complexity in our political structures. Kinda obvious by now, that we’re getting more in tune with each other with every passing century. A crime in Europe could get you beheaded in the 1600’s, imprisoned in the 1800’s, and only sued in the 2000’s.

Once, we thought that spirits inhabited each lake, forest, mountain and stream. Then we thought gods who looked kinda like us divided the labor of running a world full of flatlands, uplands, skies and oceans. Next we thought that one god lorded over other gods, and finally we thought that there might only be that one god after all. It’s a progression, and we really can’t stop it.

That’s the reason i don’t believe in conspiracy theories. There are inexorable forces at work in our genes, in our history, in our brains, so any nefarious plot to steer the future is futile. The best any illuminatus can do is make a prediction, hold onto the board, and hope the riptide empties into the next lagoon over. Oh, and try not to look like a seal from below.

There’s the why of course, why is all human society moving in one direction? That’s a basket of complicated simplicity, it would be daft to spend eight paragraphs to fail describing, something that is a single sentence but not of words. The closest i can come is “life will do” and that’s damned inadequate.

The only useful thing now, is to learn from the future. Look at the way political structures have evolved over the centuries, and combine that with the Information Age. Obviously, the future is Tuesday Night Voting online every week, on a range of binding and non-binding resolutions from local to federal to global levels. Democracy will win out, it’s in our heads. Egalite will win, it’s in our genes. And eventually, Islam will stop producing more hotheads than Christianity.

It’s the progression, the course, and it is unstoppable. I feel bad for us now, knowing what is to come. Aggressive islam will wane only after many more deaths, a lot of innocent happy people dead because Allah apparently hates airplanes, god knows why. But we can count on a thinker arising in Islam, one who bends the roots of the discussion to a deeper level than any psychopath can go. How do i know this? Because i know the progression.

Every crescendo seeds its own demise. For example, look what Trump is doing in 2016. He has succeeded in what decades of Democrats have failed: awakened the political power of Hispanic Americans. From now on it’s not going to go away, and they will long remember that it was the Republicans who threw up Trump. The KKK has not been as excited for a candidate since Goldwater, how can you possibly force more heavy Democratic turnout? Trump is a godsend for Hillary in 2016. Nothing like a sharp voice of xenophobism to alarm both the minorities and the college-grad suburbs.

But that’s only a sideshow. The real story is what people are going to do with the world that’s left over when the last remnants of 19th-century ideas are finally wiped away by the internet. Russia moves past neo-fascism, China outgrows it’s infatuation with emperors, the Roman church completes internal reforms and turns outwards with a new mission of tackling poverty in Africa. About then, America finally gets democracy.

There won’t be anywhere for despots to hide. In both scale and perception, war morphs into a police matter. Daesh is forcing that change as we speak. Once we at last leave the 1800’s behind, it will be clear as day: which politician or warrior has goals and which one has greeds. Luckily, there is a roadmap for us, already laid out in the 1990’s. The clattering crash of communism is a blueprint for what to do with despots. Once their bad ideas are bared, there really isn’t a way to stand against their own people. Used to be, that internal propaganda was enough to keep power. No mo.

The coming wave of connectivity ruins the effectiveness of propaganda. Watch North Korea in 2021. Mark it down, a red-letter year, when news of the opportunities ushered by new media penetrates to the level of regular folks. Korea town’s gonna pop like a mud bubble. Today it’s a herculean effort to keep North Koreans in the dark, and again, a crescendo can’t help but seed it’s own demise. This is a big flashing siren for Iran, and China will do the dumb thing: loosen information control without also loosening political control. 2021 is not just the end of the Kim dictatorship, it’s also when Iran and China start stumbling in the direction of the rest of the world.

And that’s it. When Bush II outlined an Axis Of Evil, his club had far fewer members than Reagan’s “evil empire” in the 1980’s. In Bush’s time, we were down to Syria, Iraq, Libya, Iran, and North Korea. Obama removed Libya, put Iran in stasis, and Syria is out of Assad’s hands, thanks to Obama inspiring the Arab Spring in North Africa. For better or worse. Even Burma is coming back from exile. The only one left is North Korea.

The only one left is North Korea. That bears repeating. The dying gasp of the Domino Theory will be its progression in reverse: as North Korea flowers back into the real world, they will choose the route of South Korea. And they’ll be pretty ticked off at Russia and China for propping up the Kim Dynasty for so long. This domino falls, this pen-penultimate domino, and it soon turns Iran upside down from within… long before the oft-bemoaned “15 year” limit of the current detente with Tehran runs out.

Clack, clack the dominoes march on. China, as noted, will try to go halfway. They’ve built a class of business mandarins who like the stability of an emperor but are fully aware of what an open system enables other countries to do, and how that lack hobbles China’s long-term economic growth. When the Koreas unite and look to North America, then Iran ditches theocracy, it is impossible to underestimate the pressures which will build within Chinese politics. I don’t know which faction will reach power first, but i do know that it ends up as the world’s largest democracy. An elephant easily crushes a gazelle, it’s just rare that they do so.

Clack, and Russia is alone on the Security Council. By 2021 Putin has no influence in Syria, loses relevance in Korea, Cuba is fully over that phase, and Iran looks like it’s about to churn over. Thus the demise of Putin. Not sure if they’ll hang him or let him retire to Sochi, but there is an even chance that Russia will split in two along the Urals. It depends on how hard it is to dislodge the current tsar, whether that strain tears open the old rivalries then or later.

On a side note, this is decades away, but Russia eventually will split in half and the Eastern half will become cozy with China, almost incestuously cozy. If there is ever going to be a World War III, it will start over ownership of Northeast Asia. WW3 seems unlikely in general when considered alongside other progressions of human culture, but NE Asia is something to watch in the 2040’s.

But that’s later. Both the empire and the axis are gone in the 2020’s, just as the nutzo jihadis peter out. Right soil for a wholesale reframing of the human story. Unfortunately, also the right mulch for sprouting new gods. Check the progression, and it’s always forward, but along the way there are plenty of new gods which are tried and failed, and left misery in the failure. So, expect that. Sucks, i know.

Don’t know what the first global religion will be, but might reasonably expect there to be 5 of them until one outlikes the others. The criteria are already in place, however. The next step of religion has its basis in the cracks of science: Heisenberg’s uncertainty, pre-Bang cosmology, spooky actions and event horizons. It will have to explain mankind’s place and purpose, complete with popes and saints, and spell out new and improved principles of P2P interaction.

And it’ll have to explain some sort of afterlife, though i can’t imagine how, since all the good ones have been taken already: forty virgins, placid cloudhouses, elysian fields. But i expect they’ll manage. Maybe the new afterlife will be an algorithm playing your fave gameapp just as you played it, for eternity. This stuff only goes in one direction, bucko.

4th of July 2016

Hey everyone, have a Happy July 4th, and a SAFE July 4th.

I’m not telling you to avoid large crowds or just watch fireworks on TV, but just stay safe and keep aware, OK? Just have a knotty feeling about the 4th this year. It coincides with the new moon, which means that July 4th is the end of Islam’s month of Ramadan. Add the fact that ISIS is getting beaten pretty bad in Syria and Iraq, and they might be feeling pressured to come up with some jackassery this 4th.

This past Thursday, we wiped out about a quarter of ISIS’s army in Iraq. They had a big convoy retreating from the neighborhood of Fallujah back into Syria to consolidate. We smashed that convoy, about 120 vehicles full of assholes and asshole weapons, to the point of obliteration.

The only way they can replace that loss is by international recruitment, and the way they do that is by advertising their hate, and they do that by committing horrible crimes and then just let the news media do the advertising.

Speaking of which, why isn’t there an effort among the news media to heap scorn on terrorists? It’s not as if the media don’t already make stuff up. Just start reporting false things, like saying that the asshole in Orlando had all kinds of gay porn stashed in his closet. The asshole couple in San Bernardino? Simply “report” that a routine physical exam of the daughter they abandoned revealed that the tot is not a virgin, and hint that it’s likely both parents were involved in sexual abuse.

That’s all you need to do, just belittle and discredit these assholes, and there won’t be any more to step down and take their place. The attack on the Bataclan Club in Paris? Just arrange a “leak” to the effect that autopsies on the perpetraitors [sic] revealed that every one of them had an abnormally small penis. Or one testicle. Or what the heck, “report” that they were all hermaphrodites!

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with hermaphrodites or one-ballers or secret gay porn. Normal people don’t care about that stuff. BUT the kind of islamist hotheads who do this kind of crime? Oh yeah, THEY care about that kind of stuff, and they care a whole lot… and what really gets under their skin is a challenge to their pitiful self-image of machismo.

Trump says we should kill their families. That guy’s an idiot. Perpetuating a cycle of revenge killings is idiotic. What really puts an end to it is painting the terrorist as a retard, a shame to his family, creating a caricature of a bucktoothed yokel who smells like urine and is just as likely to fuck an over-ripe melon as a nearby donkey. Not that either the donkey or the melon would notice, because his dick was so tiny. Bonus: the terrorist is dead now, so he can’t dispute any of this.

As for All-American terrorists, why do we know their middle names? I say we give them new middle names, all the same. Lee Fucktard Oswald. James Fucktard Ray. Timothy Fucktard McVeigh. Dylan Fucktard Root. John Fucktard Booth. Sirhan Fucktard Sirhan. Shoot a pope? Your new name is Ali Fucktard Agha. Lead Al Quaeda? Your new names are Khalid Fucktard Mohammed and Osama Bin Fucktard-Laden.

It is claimed that the most common male name in the world is Mohammed, but that’s only because most christians think it’s tacky to name your kid Jesus. The quickest way to get the Muslims to start weeding the assholes out of their own mosques is for the entire rest of the world to start associating the word “mohammed” with the word “fucktard”. Nothing puts the clamp on conversion drives better, than when your prospective converts all equate “mohammed” with “fucktard”. Think about it. How many people are naming their kids Adolph anymore?

Game Of Thrones Season 6

OK, i take back everything i thought. Where the books left off, i coulda sworn i read that Princess Shireen Baratheon was smuggled to Bravos by Davos Seaworth. And i said hmmm, there’s three dragons and now there’s three teen Westerosi princesses in Essos: Shireen, Daenarys, and Arya Stark. A person can only ride one dragon, and a dragon can only have one rider. Looked obvious at the time, that the final battle against the Others was going to be Grrrrl Power, houses Baratheon, Targaryen and Stark united and female and swooping in on dragons to burn the army of the dead to a crisp while Bran Stark mindfucks the Night King.

That might be how it plays out in books, but that book will never be written. No, George Martin is not going to finish the books. He’s too old and his writing pace is glacially fast, and frankly, he’s just lost interest in writing books now that he’s a celebrity author. Lucky George, that’s just what he always wanted. But he is no longer the author of A Song Of Ice And Fire. Benioff and Weiss are now the authors of the series.

The pathetic part of the story is that George Martin has said that he wishes his notes destroyed when he dies so that no one can finish the books afterwards. What a chump. What a sorry ploy for posthumous respect. He must know that history will jot him as one of the laziest writers of ever, and is trying to rewrite the narrative by overshadowing it via concocted mystery. What a chump. Whatever d00d, you no longer drive that car. Benioff and Weiss know what’s best for the story, even if they don’t, so all the writing Martin has done so far will end up being a historical footnote to a great TV series and, starting in 2020, a really nice franchise of annual movies.

Bye bye George Martin, you lazed yourself back into obscurity, chump.

Now, as for the story as it now stands, at the end of season #6, what a rush! The Baratheons are all gone. Robert killed by Cersei, Renly killed by Stannis, Shireen killed by Stannis, Joffrey killed by Olenna and Littlefinger, Myrcella killed by the Dornish, Tommen killed by Cersei.

The Tyrells are all gone, all killed by Cersei. The Tullys are all gone, the top Freys are gone, and Cersei also managed to kill off the entire aristocracy of King’s Landing. How will Cersei manage to rule seven kingdoms, when the southern two are suckling on Daenarys, both factions of Ironborn are competing to be the one to overthrow the capital, and The North has a new King? The Queen, the King, the High Sparrow, that’s all dead.

Odd, because the books seemed to be leading the story into a religious war between the Seven and the Lord Of Light. Now, there’s only Lannister, Stark, and Targaryen. The only one with a King instead of a Queen is Stark… makes one wonder. Littlefinger is betting on Sansa over Jon Snow, but Sansa is about done being a pawn.

Soon in season 7, either Littlefinger or Jon Snow will have to go. It’s either the Stark family bond, or the wily survival ability of Baelish. Sansa is the key here, whomever she decides to trust will prevail. Baelish offers national queenship, Jon offers second fiddle in the North. But Jon’s power is concrete, and Littlefinger’s hold over the Vale depends on manipulating Robin, who has an adolescent boner for Sansa. If she dumps Petyr, she has to flirt with Robin. If she dumps Jon Snow, she has to put up with the slimy caresses of Petyr Baelish. Hmmm, how hard has Sansa become?

One thing we know is that Arya Stark is hard. A tightly wound little nut, now trained as a world class assassin who never lost her list, attached as it was to her name. Disappointed that she didn’t notch Walder Frey with Needle, and still wondering how she cooked up his eldests in what must be a busy 24-hour kitchen serving a major castle? Hollywood magic, that must be. Speaking of which, our first view of Oldtown is ridiculous.

How stupid would you have to be, to build a city there? There are unfortified bluffs overlooking the city! Just roll up catapults on the bluffs, and you control the city. Sure, the TV series production has talented graphic designers, and it all looks much pretty when they CGI in some bluffs overlooking the city. But graphic designers have not got a whit of sense among them, the whole lot of them. In season #1 there was an exterior shot of Winterfell that made me laugh out loud. The castle was flanked by two higher hills. What kind of clueless military jackass would site his castle lower than the surrounding hills? Truthfully, as drawn by the CGI idiots, Winterfell should be renamed Drunken Vagina Castle.

In any case, at last things are underway, in the manner that George Martin constantly fails to provide. I’m sure that eight pages of Dany setting sail from Mereen with setting and dialogue would be better than 28 seconds of grandeur video, but… meh, we’ll take what’s there, as long as those eight pages are unlikely to ever be written.

A few more clues came up about the next season, which is said to be only 7 episodes instead of the normal 10, and the final 8th season which will be only 6 episodes. The short seasons tell us that Benioff and Weiss have decided on a story arc which does not depend on George Martin at all, so we may infer that the producers of the TV series have sensed an inherent flaw in Martin’s reliability as a contributor. Based on his record with editors, who can fault Benioff and Weiss for ditching him?

The only reason this sordid vignette matters, is the possible chilling effect it might have on new writers who are offered a deal to make their work into video. Benioff and Weiss have now thoroughly usurped George Martin’s authorship, and any possible but unlikely additions to the story by George Martin (from any possible but unlikely further books) are going to reviewed in the lens of Benioff & Weiss. I predict the reviews for any future George Martin book would be unflattering, with phrases like “derivatives wearing thin” and “lost vision”. Pity.

A novelist’s schedule is not like a producer’s schedule. Thus the current example of George Martin’s total loss of control, of his own story, can only serve as a frightening warning to any author who has not yet written everything he or she has to say. It’s like a caveat against any new writer starting anything on a sweeping scale. If you do your diligence and come up with something good, Los Angeles will come sniffing after it before it’s baked, and ruin it. Martin got caught up in celebrity, and it ruined his writing. What author would go down that path, after seeing what it did to George Martin?

Pity. But the TV show will be good for a couple years, then the movies will probably start, and they should be good too. The books? Pfffth, if he can’t be bothered to write them, then why should a girl bother to read them?

English in 2016

It’s suddenly 2016, and exciting things are coming for English, and all of its speakers should be pretty keyed up for how the language is going to get cleaner and meaner, and easier to use this year.

Hey, we know, all you foreigners have been telling us for centuries that ours is the hardest language to learn, and honestly it doesn’t make us feel bad for you. In fact, we like to be a little smug about that. It means we can learn your language in an instant, if we wanted to, having already mastered the hard one, right? By extension, native English speakers are prone to thinking that they’re innately more intelligent than the rest of the world, since WE caught on to English so easily. Mere child’s play.

But don’t worry, foreigners. We’re all about making things easier on ourselves, another little bit easier every year, so that’ll trickle down to you eventually. You’ll thank us, once you learn to say “thanks” instead of “thanking you”.

The biggest change for 2016, one you’ll notice the most, is cutting out the pairs. You don’t need to call scissors a “pair of scissors” anymore, and pants is just pants. Same goes, now for clippers, grippers, pliers, eyeglasses, panties, tongs, and thongs. You don’t have to wear a clean pair of jeans now, you just wear clean jeans. It’ll be a welcome rest for the word “of”, which has been run ragged for a while now. Of was never designed to be a conjunction for plurals and we’re finally making the first step on the road to relieving of of its overuse, gradually returning it to its proud place as the genitive companion to a noun. Anne of Cleves. John of Gaunt. Lawrence of Arabia. That’s what of was meant to do.

Experts expect the transition to be completed safely and quietly, since attention spans are dwindling and communication via thumbtap is nearly 10% of all human discourse now. We’re eliminating three whole words: “a pair of”, so collectively our early adoption of this rule will unemploy 81 healthcare workers in the carpal tunnel field. Sacrifices have to made.

The only new wrinkle is that several nouns will now have the same form plural as they do singular. These words won’t exist anymore come New Years Day: plier, eyeglass, tong, or jean. Of course, pant, thong, gripper and clipper will still exist, but only for, respectively, heavy breathing, leather straps, portable handles, and sailing ships. You won’t look at a bolt of denim and say “that’s jean material,” you’ll just say “it’s jeans cloth”. The singular is eyeglasses, and the plural is eyeglasses, so we won’t need to feel uncomfortable about that anymore.

When you found yourself with a tong in 2015, you were automatically confused. With the new rules, what you’re holding is a broken tongs, not a broken pair of tongs, and not a tong, and it’s broken so just throw it out. Ahhh, much simpler. Of course, this adds another exception to a rule, which drives foreigners nuts when trying to learn English. Sorry, and eventually you’re welcome.

There are some case-by-case changes coming to English in 2016, mostly aimed at maintaining credibility (and stunting idiocy) among journalists.

You are no longer allowed to use the phrases “boots on the ground”, “new normal” or “perfect storm.” C’mon folks, “perfect storm” has been deprecated since 2003, please keep up with the rest of the culture you pretend to reflect. Turning on and dropping out can only be done AFTER tuning in, so do your diligence before hitting the 60% cacao martinis.

Instead of “boots on the ground,” you may now say “military involvement” or “combat ops,” or opt for the more patriotic “coalition strike forces.” If you feel an urge to be retro, you may even say “invasion.” But it is time for you to smarten up and see that “boots on the ground” is redundant redundant, since boots in the air and boots on the water are both useless and brief, so that boots can only really be “on the ground” to be anything other than absurd. And redundant too.

You’ve been warned, and further use of “boots on the ground” is free fodder for snickers behind your back by other journalists, and by pundits who you thought were your friends.

“New normal” had relevance in the Great Deprecession of 2008 through 2011, but the catastrophic demise of the theory of The End Of History has taught us that all voids must be filled, always and everytime, so you may no longer pretend to be surprised at every new trend, nor proclaim it as a paradigm. Doing so in 2015 unclothed you as a dimwit, and please note that we are only able to use the term “paradigm” now in 2015, after a suitable period of rest after it was, itself, dead-horsed into scorned obsolescence in 1999. There is never any new normal, there is just normal, which becomes another normal when its kids start to hate it.

Some of you may think that “perfect storm” has been graduated from casual catchphrase into the regular lexiconic zoo. You are incorrect. Moving from the sporadic uses between the actual 1993 storm to the pandemic usage shortly after the eponymous 1997 movie, that was a logical step. But it was hackneyed by 2001, officially banned in 2003, and anyone who uses it now is tarred as someone who has nothing more interesting to say. Don’t be a someone. “Perfect storm” won’t be eligible for reconsideration until 2023, the 30th anniversary of the actual perfect storm.

And of course there are the podges of small annual changes to English, mostly additions and subtractions of single words here and there, most of which you’ll never notice. Flabbergasted, for example, has been retired for 2016. A relative newcomer is doomed to fall by the wayside this year, as “photobomb” will bifurcate into “selfyjack” and “popin”. Photobomb just doesn’t feel good on the human tongue.

Emoji is the OED’s marquee official addition for 2016, but that spotlight forecasts to be misdirected, since you don’t talk about emojis, you just do them. Nobody who uses emojis ever says the word “emoji”. I think the Oxford English Dictionary folks just got giddy over a new form of communication, being the linguistic scientists that they considered themselves back in school days. Only, they forgot their day job: English. If they want to make a dictionary of emojis, then let them try that, and compete and fail versus an 11-year-old suburban punk outside Tokyo. But as a noun in English, “emoji” is destined only to be a bit player, in the theatrical sense, not in the nerdpun sense.

Some models predict the emergence of a scandal suffix which will finally supplant “gate” in 2016. But then again they said that last year too, which would have turned Deflategate into Sheenballs and Clinton’s Servergate into Sheenmail. So it’s good when predictions don’t come true, some of them anyway. But still, the odds are good in 2016, if we have 15 candidates still in the race for President in February. Odds are excellent, in fact, that one of them will have a horrendous blowup involving both live boys and dead hookers, and we might finally be able to set “gate” to rest after 44 years.

Of note to biologists, you can now say “duodenum” and “pudendum” and “cocyx” once again, since 13-year-olds today can skim the full range of humanity’s comedy industry on their phone before breakfast. Along the same lines, penguin jokes are not funny anymore, but pigeon jokes will take off 2016. Yes, in the nerdpun sense too.

The final thing to be on the lookout for in 2016 is the emergence of a new assent adjective. Keen from the 1950’s didn’t last, but Cool from the 1960’s has kept right on truckin’ for 50 years, even persisting into a new form as Kewl. Failures since then are Mint in the ’70s and Rad in the ’80s, Chill in the ’90s and Hot in the Otts. The Tens have not popped out a pervasive assent adjective yet, and we’re halfway through ’em. There are candidates percolating through the undercard of the internet, but none have spilled over so far.