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19 March 2011

LHC Tour

I found this most cool video that lets you do an interactive tour of the LHC.  You move the mouse around and see different things at the site.  If you hit one of the arrows, you get a different view.  You can also go to a full size web page of this same thing I am embedding, but the controls were a little more screwy in that one, but it's a really cool sight.

CERN CMS 4 in Europe

Of course, most idiot Americans think of this bullshit when they think of the LHC...  Not that people are generally dumb, but they sure as hell are uneducated...  No wonder this was built in Europe, all the people with an actual education to do this work would have a shorter commute.

18 March 2011

Georneys Rundown On Nuclear Powerplants (Conversations with an ACTUAL Nuclear Engineer!)

A lady that I go to Granite State Skeptics with is married to a Nuclear Engineer that actually worked at a nuclear powerplant.  A real live one!  Not one of those TV talking heads.  Their daughter has a blog called Georneys (Geology and Journeys combined, very clever).  She has been having a series of conversations with her dad, and has been putting them up on the net, as well as the transcripts.

I encourage you to go to her blog and read up.  It's a whole lot better than what any news organization will give you.  Keep in mind, her dad is a nuclear engineer, and he has worked in a real nuclear power plant, but he's not actually on site.  There are limitations.  Anyway, here is a list of links that she has up so far, I highly recommend that you follow this blog:
I am also going to highlight a couple  other posts she made that are also worthwhile reading.  This lade actually knows her Geology, and she is world traveled!

17 March 2011

How Can christians take advantage of such suffering?

Just read a blog post by Social IQ Lady that sort of struck home.  It just seems that theitards want to take this (or any natural disaster) as some sort of warning that it isn't.  Now, there was a young lady that was attempting to pull a Poe on us, and her actions are equally as despicable.  Especially since it is nearly inevitable that the theitards will oblige us in no time at all.  Of course, it's all in their heads (like their entire religion).

What I can't understand is that this gawd idiot can only make earthquakes happen where there is a natural mechanism for said earthquakes...  And what is with this asshole's aim?  He wipes out a bunch of people, to include children, and even a few of his own followers for good measure.  But then a place like Mecca has stood unmolested since it was set up.  Or the pedophiles of the world seem to walk around without any divine retribution (especially the institution that systematically raped children and protected the priests...).  Or what about the Haiti quake?  96% of that country is godbotherers, yet they get taken out (again, by an earthquake that only happened at an already naturally occurring fault).  This has nothing to do with how people act or behave.  Nor does it have anything to do with some petty, angry, sociopathic lunatic in the sky.  Earthquakes happen all the time.  Any pattern or connection is all in your head...

And as the Scientific American article mention, these people are just looking for signs to prop up their weak and paltry belief system.  They will of course cherrypick with the best of them.  I bet anyone could do it.

Let's see...
Christianity takes root in Jerusalem = the Romans sack Jerusalem
Christianity takes root in the roman empire = The roman emperors go mad and the Vesuvius erupts
Christianity is repressed = the roman empire flourishes
Christianity becomes the state religion = Plagues, famines and instability destroy the roman empire
Christianity conquers Europe = Plague after plague ravages the continent
Europe becomes more secular and turns towards antiquity = Europe conquers the world
King james bible is written = great plague and great fire of London follow within a few decades.
The puritans leave britain = Britain becomes the biggest empire of the world
The USA leaves its religious roots behind = The USA trumps the british empire
The religious right becomes more vocal in the USA = Mount st Helens erupts
The religious right becomes even more influential = The economy collapses and massive hurricanes hit the country

Clearly this is an indication that a higher power exists and punishes nations that allow christians to gain the upper hand.

Well that, or I'm cherrypicking data and fitting that to what I want to show.

Oh, just thought of another one:  Gawd so loved Islam that he put the Islamic people on top of the land with the most critical natural resources -- oil. Gawd wants all christian people to bow down to Islam and be dependent on the holy oil that he gave the Arabs control of.

See it's easy...

Just do me a favour.  Instead of looking for a meaning, or even praying for anyone, go to a charity site and donate money.  Here is part of the list from NBC News:
  • The American Red Cross. Using your cell phone, you can text-message donations of $10 to the agency. Text the letters REDCROSS to 90999 to make the $10 donation, or visit the organization's website.
  • The International Medical Corps is putting together relief teams, as well as supplies. The organization is in "contact with partners in Japan and other affected countries to assess needs and coordinate our activities,” said Nancy Aossey, IMC president, on its website. You can donate here. Or, you can text MED to 80888 to donate $10 to emergency relief efforts.
  • Doctors Without Borders, an international group, already has teams working in Japan. The groups notes it is "drawing on unrestricted donations" given to it to fund its efforts, and "we are not accepting donations specifically earmarked for the recovery efforts in Japan. We greatly appreciate your generosity and encourage your support of our work. We will continue to post updates on our homepage, Facebook and Twitter as new information becomes available." To donate, call 1-888-392-0392.
  • Habitat for Humanity; donations accepted at website, or phone donations can be made by calling 1-800-HABITAT.
  • The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is raising funds to help children in Japan. Donations accepted at website, or by calling 1-800-367-5437.
  • AmeriCares has dispatched a disaster relief expert to the region to assess the health care needs and is prepared to send medicines, medical supplies and humanitarian aid as necessary. Phone number for donations: 203-658-9500.
  • International Rescue Committee, based in New York; Phone donations to: 1-877-733-8433. The organization is "dispatching IRC relief experts from our Thailand program to Japan to see how we can assist Japanese authorities in responding to the earthquake/tsunami disaster. We recognize Japan’s significant emergency response expertise, but will offer direct technical assistance and other emergency support."
  • Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, based in San Dimas, Calif., "has activated its Disaster Coordination Center in Tokyo ... Right now, Tzu Chi offices in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan sustained minor damages," but the two offices are open as service centers. To donate by phone, call 1-888-989-8244.

11 March 2011

Look at this dot!

Apparently this has been making the rounds through a torturous route, I found it at Bad Astronomy.  I just had to share.

If you don’t get it, you may, or may not, need to watch more TV. As well as this:

10 March 2011

The Cosmic Perspective

I saw this on one of the forums I frequent, and found it to be a wonderful perspective:

To put it into perspective, our galaxy alone is 100,000 light years in diameter. If you made a nice big picture of it, say, 2048x2048, it would be about 50 light years per pixel. Earth, Alpha Centauri, Sirius, and several dozens of other stars would be in the same pixel. That big.
Just drives home how insignificant we really are on the cosmic scale.  And yet some people have the audacity to claim that all this is just for us.  This ties in with my other post about the so called Fermi Paradox. Just look at this picture of NGC 2831.  That's a pretty comparative image of what the Milky Way may look like.  One pixel.  50 light years.  Yeah, space is huge!

And to think, I have the arrogance to understand that this isn't in any way connected to me.  The universe cares not one whit about the small rocky planet we live on, nor about any of the inhabitants on said rock.  The universe was not made for me, and I have the intellectual honesty to admit that I have no idea how all this came about, or even why (if asking why even makes sense).  This is not in any way for me or my species.  Yet, there are those out there who have the arrogance and hubris to insist they know why, and that all this is here for them, because they talk to their imaginary friend and he's running some sort of horrible experiment on the universe for his own reasons.  And their source for all this:  a bronze age collection of fables...  And they call atheists arrogant!

09 March 2011

Praise Odin! (Pagan Origins of Ash Wednesday)

They say you learn something new every day.  Well, hopefully this will be a bit of learning for you.  It was for me.  I knew that my ancestors had a great influence on the world (just recite the days of the week as one instqance).  However, I bet that most godbotherers are totally unaware of the origin of Ash Wednesday.  Of course, that is to be exepcted, because being a strong theist generally involves an unawareness of the entire universe around them, and only focusing on the revealed words from a dude in a funny dress and hat (or whatever garb the nutter happens to wear).

Anyway, here is some interesting background history on this ritual from an Allyn Gibson:
Today is Ash Wednesday. I hadn’t realized.

A few years ago on Ash Wednesday I was out somewhere–a Barnes & Noble, I think, probably the one right near my house–and I saw a woman with the ashes marking her forehead. “Praise Odin,” I said to her. She looked at me oddly, said nothing, and walked away quickly. I couldn’t blame her; she was probably unaware of the pagan origins of Ash Wednesday. Christianity has pilfered virtually every practice and belief from non-Christian sources, enough so that it’s not unreasonable to ask if there’s an original bone in the Christian body, and Ash Wednesday came from the Norse.

Ash Wednesday is a relatively late addition to the Christian liturgical calendar, first surfacing in the tenth century according to accounts written in the eleventh. (To put things in perspective, Ash Wednesday is older than the Crusades or the Norman Conquest, younger than Charlemagne and Islam.) At least, its Christian practice dates to only a little more than a millennium ago. The Norse practice of Ash Wednesday goes back several hundred years earlier, when it was done to celebrate the deeds of Sigurd, the hero of the Volsung Saga, a character perhaps better known as Siegfried from the Ring of the Nibelung.

Or you could just go around punching people in the forehead!

06 March 2011

Fermi's Paradox and (somewhat) Recent Kepler Results

Back at the start of February, Kepler released 1200 candidates for planets around other stars.  This is a fantastic bit of data, and I am looking forward to getting more concrete results from this.  Of course, with the generally scientifically illiterate public, this undoubtedly has caused a lot of confusion amongst the masses.  While discussing this with some folks at work, someone brought up the Fermi's Paradox canard.  While this may seem to make sense at a visceral level, it's pure bunk.  There are just so many reasons as to why we haven't been able to look a lot of places, or why anyone else hasn't checked us out yet.

Let me try to list a few of them here for your benefit:
  • Space is frikkin huge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
    "Space," it says, "is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space," - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    Any scale you can think of is dwarfed by the distances involved.  This should be the first and only step required to dismiss the Fermi's Paradox canard.  Yet, for some reason, people refuse to understand just how amazingly big the universe is, so they discount this.  So maybe I need to talk about some additional reasons why it's a canard.
  • The inverse square law!  One of the problems with omni-directional signals is that they decrease with the inverse square law (well, all signals do, but a focused beam has much more "oomph" to start with, so it will be detectable further).  This web page describes it best I think:  There is a table about two thirds down the page that captures this:

    Source       | Frequency    | Bandwidth | Tsys   | EIRP   | Detection |
                 | Range        |    (Br)   |(Kelvin)|        | Range (R) |
    AM Radio     | 530-1605 kHz |  10   kHz | 68E6   | 100 KW |  0.007 AU |
    FM Radio     |  88-108  MHz | 150   kHz |  430   |   5 MW |    5.4 AU |
    UHF TV       | 470-806  MHz |   6   MHz |  50  ? |   5 MW |    2.5 AU |
    Picture      |              |           |        |        |           |
    UHF TV       | 470-806  MHz |   0.1  Hz |  50  ? |   5 MW |    0.3 LY |
    Carrier      |              |           |        |        |           |
    WSR-88D      |   2.8    GHz |  0.63 MHz |  40    |  32 GW |   0.01 LY |
    Weather Radar|              |           |        |        |           |
    Arecibo      |   2.380  GHz |  0.1   Hz |  40    |  22 TW |    720 LY |
    S-Band (CW)  |              |           |        |        |           |
    Arecibo      |   2.380  GHz |  0.1   Hz |  40    |   1 TW |    150 LY |
    S-Band (CW)  |              |           |        |        |           |
    Arecibo      |   2.380  GHz |  0.1   Hz |  40    |   1 GW |      5 LY |
    S-Band (CW)  |              |           |        |        |           |
    Pioneer 10   |   2.295  GHz |  1.0   Hz |  40    | 1.6 kW |    120 AU |
    Carrier      |              |           |        |        |           |
    The main thing to take away from this table is that our own civilization is barely detectable outside the orbit of Neptune!  That said, I still run SETI@Home on the off chance that we find something.  I am ever the optimist.
  • Why do people always assume that a totally alien species will be motivated by the same things we would be?  Even if they are intelligent,who is to say that we would even recognize it.  Heck, we aren't so sure about intelligence of other species on this planet.
  • We have hardly looked anywhere.  Generally, we have only looked seriously for anything in a 300 light year bubble around our planet.  See point 1, space is huge.  Our galaxy is 100,000 light years across, and just looking in a tiny section one would expect some results?
  • Our technology is primitive!  Yeah, we may be the most technically advanced species on the planet, but we have barely left low earth orbit.  Sure, we've sent some probes around, but as a species, we've not ventured very far at all.
  • A lot of people get all on about the "rare earth" hypothesis.  First of all, this is total bunk.  The only reason we needed all the conditions for this earth to evolve here is because we evolved here, and not elsewhere.  It's like saying that a puddle is made for the hole in which it sits...
  • Confirmation bias:  The majority of planets (not withstanding the tentative Kepler results) we have found are gas giants that orbit close to their stars.  This may have more to do with the fact that those were the only ones we were CAPABLE of finding...  That point is all too often lost on people.
  • Exactly how many detectable signals have WE sent out?  As I mentioned before, a lot of people think that aliens will have the same motivations and way of doing things that we do, yet they don't understand why we haven't received any radio signals of note.  Well, if they send out signals like we do, then that's going to be a low probability find!  As a species that has had radio technology for several decades, we have only sent out 19 messages.  That's hardly anything! 
  • Basic Physics:  Did I mention that space is huge?  To travel, send signals, or even probes over those immense distances requires much better than what we are doing or realistically can do right now.
So, if someone asks, "Where are they?" tell them that they are probably stuck on their planet, just like we are.  We have only scooped one cup of water out of the pacific without finding any fish, so it is much too early to declare that the entire ocean is devoid of all fish.

    05 March 2011


    How is it a theist needs to blow something up or shoot someone to be considered "militant", whereas an atheist need only have an argument with a believer to be awarded the sobriquet?  I contend it is because of the "I'm right, you're wrong and going to hell, so shut up" mentality that these types of people have. Dogmatism if you will.  Ironically, that "conform or die" mentality appears to have become endemic to all Abrahamic religions, despite endless protestations by adherents that their doctrines purportedly preach tolerance and humility, whilst exhibiting none of the tolerance and humility purportedly to be found within those doctrines. I also note, with yet more irony how, having launched the entire Abrahamic strain of supernaturalism, the Jews have suffered abominably as a result of the "conform or die" mentality becoming particularly virulent in the descendant religions, yet this has only made many of them cling to their own religion all the more.

    This, of course, is the real reason why Christianity and Islam have achieved the level of hegemony over millions that they have - ruthless enforcement of conformity to doctrine, ruthless suppression of dissent, and a willingness on the part of those enforcing conformity to doctrine to engage in large scale murder. The two big Abrahamic faiths, for much of their history, were nothing more than primitive superstitions that simply had the good fortune to acquire political power and military muscle. What truly distinguished them from the assorted animist superstitions of assorted indigenous peoples around the planet, was that they had access to better weapons, and were spread by people who were willing to use those weapons. This was one lesson that was learned quickly by adherents of doctrines not involving supernaturalist assertions, of course, which is why political ideologies in the 20th century had such a devastating effect - adherents thereof learned the lesson well from Christianity and Islam, that if they wanted their ideologies to enjoy some longevity, they had better be even more ruthless about deploying the weapons.