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31 December 2011

Critical Thinking

This is the video that introduced me to QualiaSoup.  I really would love to have people view this video again and again, and make critical thinking a true New Year resolution.

30 December 2011

Skewed views of science

This video addresses one of my biggest complaints when I get into a "debate" with someone.  Not only do I have to debate the numerous factual errors they carry around, but I also have to correct some sort of gross caricature of science they posses.  Hopefully this video will help people understand a bit more about their own ignorance and biases.

29 December 2011

The Faith Cake

QuailiaSoup is a fantastic YouTube producer.  He has a series of videos that everyone should really watch.  I am going to post a series of his videos over the next few days/weeks.  Again, I encourage you to watch them, and see how they really ought to be applied in society in general.  Don't be offended or afraid if they strike too close to home for your comfort.  That is what they are supposed to do.  As a species, we can't move forward without at least challenging those things we have always thought were a revealed truth to us.

28 December 2011

Science is Cool (and empty?)

Dr. Brian Cox is a scientist (and a musician, TV personality, and all around cool guy).  One of the things that I like the most about him is that he is so enthusiastic about science.  In this video, he does a demonstration that shows not only how we know that an atom consists of mainly nothing, but I think he touches on a great idea of science.  That is, before we knew that atoms were mostly empty space, many imagined them to be like solid balls or in other ways much more material than we now know them to be.

That's probably the greatest strength of science.  That it will actually accept evidence that is contrary to conventional wisdom, as long as that evidence is repeatable, reliable, and presented in a manner that adheres to reality.  Anyway, enjoy this video, and even if you didn't learn anything particularly new, understand that the process of finding these things out is amazing in itself.

24 December 2011

Free Thought Blogs: Atheistic christmas.

To tell you the truth, this is more about an opportunity to get some time off from work where everyone else is too  (i.e. not much is happening so I can do so with a clear conscience), and the opportunity to eat some good food and just hang out with the ones I love.  That's it.  So I really forgot that this is generally a "big deal" to a lot of Americans.  Maybe because I have moved up here to a much more secular area of our country.  I am not getting accosted with overt preaching, or the Faux Noise nonsense of some war (in their minds) against this holiday season.  It's actually been one of the more enjoyable for me.  (By the way, I favour the European tradition of doing gifts and stuff on christmas eve.  We have already eaten good food, had good drink, and done our celebration.  I get to sleep in tomorrow.  By the way, our traditional meal consists of lobster, smoked salmon, caviar, champagne, etc.  You know, good stuff I didn't have last month.)

Of course, as someone who doesn't buy into any of the legends surrounding this holiday, I forget that some folks get their panties in a bunch about it for one reason or another.  So Edwin Kagin put things in a bit of a perspective for me when I read this post.  I think I most just shook my head ruefully as I read it.

It is Christmas Eve, and I have almost lived through this year’s annual greatest of holidays. At midnight, Christmas will begin, and twenty-four hours later it will end. It will be over! But not yet. At this writing, the world is shutting down in anticipation. The 24 Hour Kroger closed at 6:00 pm. Gas stations are closing. People are smiling. Even NRP is playing Xmas music.

Lots of people are in church. Children are nestling to greater or lesser degrees of snugness in their beds awaiting, or fearing, the coming of Santa, an anagram for Satan. Lots of people are getting drunk, and lots are getting laid.

Santa Clause is coming to town. Not a very good modern role model actually. Overweight; labor laws scoffer; animal rights ignorer; and—believe it with horror—a smoker!

Some folks will die in car crashes from negligence and some will die by their own hands from, inter alia, pills, or pistols, unable to deal with what they experience as the depression and loneliness of the day. And it will be observed how awful it was for this to happen on Christmas. How dare they stain the wonder and magic of Christmas with their blood?

After the ripping of the packages, some fine meals will be consumed and much booze will be ingested.

09 December 2011

Get Up Early Tomorrow!

You really need to get up early tomorrow morning.  I know, it's a Saturday, and you want to sleep in, but you'll have a chance to see something pretty cool.  Basically, there will be a lunar eclipse that may coincide with sunrise.  Hopefully the weather in your area cooperates.

I know that generally a lunar eclipse is pretty ho-hum, but this particular confluence of celestial movements actually will be much more noteworthy for many of us.  Dr. Phil Plait (The Bad Astronomer) explains more:

Watch The Lunar Eclipse Saturday

Tomorrow (Saturday December 10) the Moon will pass into the Earth’s shadow, causing it to plunge into ruddy darkness, an event called a total lunar eclipse. These happen roughly twice a year somewhere on Earth, but this is the last one visible in North America for more than two years, so even though it’s in the morning it might be worth a look for you.

You can get all the info you need on watching the eclipse from my pal Alan Boyle over at the Cosmic Log, including timing, locations, and where to watch live online, too. NASA has a page with more detailed information as well. This one favors US folks farther west; the Moon will have set when the eclipse really starts for East Coast folks.

But the fun begins when the Moon starts to enter the deepest part of the Earth’s shadow at 12:45 UT (04:45 Pacific US time), and the last bit passes into shadow at 14:06 UT (06:06 Pacific). Deepest eclipse is about 25 minutes after that. Interestingly, for people in the western US, that’s around the same time as sunrise. For me, the Sun rises at 07:12 (Mountain time) Saturday, and the Moon sets at 07:14 — when it’s still partially eclipsed! Unfortunately, the mountains to the west will block my view of the setting Moon.

But for those of you with a clear horizon to the east and west, you may get an extraordinary opportunity to very briefly see the Sun and eclipsed Moon at the same time! Normally this isn’t possible; by definition the Moon and Sun have to be directly opposite each in the sky to get an eclipse at all.

But due to a quirk of geometry and atmospheric physics, it is possible. The Earth’s air acts like a lens, bending the light from objects near the horizon. Because of this effect — I give a full explanation here — you can actually see the Moon for a minute or two after it has physically set; its light is bent "around the corner", so to speak, so both it and the Sun will be over the horizon for a short amount of time. You can face west to see the setting eclipsed Moon, then turn around and see the rising Sun in the East!

03 December 2011

Technical Difficulties (And the war on christmyth)

Well, it seems that I have been rather quiet this past month and haven't said much of anything.  Well, actually, I did put a couple of posts together between work, studying for my PMP, and in general just doing stuff.  However, for some reason, they all got saved as drafts and never actually published.  Oops...  And since I actually put them together ahead of time, I wasn't really monitoring them.  My bad!

Anyway, I will get them up here as soon as I can.  In the meantime, how about a rundown of some of the traditional December posts that will re-affirm the so called "war on christmas"?  I must say though, since having moved up here to New Hampshire, I hear a lot less gnashing of teeth and rending of garments on this subject than I did when I lived down south.  I think that stems a lot more from theists (and New Englanders in general) up here actually understanding that it's a private thing, and dragging everyone else into it whether they want to or not is frowned upon.  Now if only the southern theitards would understand that....

Even less evidence for jebus

Merry christMyth

List of other deities also not born on the 25th

christmas as engineered hate

An atheist's guide to xmas

Santa vs. god

Remember the 2010 war on christmas

Report from the front line of 2010 war on xmas.