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31 January 2012

Minor Critique of Abrahamistic Religions

Just a minor critique that I saw that I wanted to pass along.
The Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) are essentially the same : schizophrenic.
We bring love and peace ... by telling you everyone else is an enemy to be avoided, hated and even killed when ordered.
We bring hope ... by telling you the world is hopeless and doomed.
We bring truth ... by telling you the most twisted lies you've ever heard.
We bring knowledge ... by telling you 'God' is the answer to every question you shouldn't ask.
I have often said they are all the same, because on the surface they really are.  I am sure there are many other things these major religious spout off that they then act in total opposition to.  Which is why Christopher Hitchens felt the need to actually confront these groups.

29 January 2012

Mesmerizing loops of magnetism on the Sun ... and a flare

Who knew that the Bad Astronomer had a YouTube channel all to himself?  Well, I did (I am stalking him after all).  So today he posted a video of some solar flares that were simply mesmerizing.  As always, watch this in full screen, and in HD for the full effect.  Awesome visuals with education, who could ask for more?  Also, since so many folks are talking about the aurora and the effects of these solar eruptions, I figured this was topical.

Keep in mind, these flares are shooting off into space, and will not have any effect on earth right now.  However, should one be pointed at us, be prepared for a light show.

He explains everything at his blog post if you are curios for more information.

27 January 2012

This is a galaxy

Much like Dr. Plait, the Bad Astronomer, I don't really think I can add a whole lot to this. Like him, you absolutely must watch it in HD and full screen though.  Go ahead, it's only 90 seconds, and you may learn something, or at least be amazed at the things we are able to figure out. Aren't we clever considering we're just apes on an insignificant planet in a totally insignificant part of the universe.

25 January 2012

The wisdom of Homer (Simpson)

A long time back, I made a post talking about an atheist wager that should take the place of the ill conceived Pascal's wager that theists like to trot out so much.  What it says is:

Instead, my wager is that if there is a god, and it is a just god, then living a just and moral life will be acknowledged regardless of ones beliefs. If there exists an unjust or immoral god, then I could never satisfy both my conscience and such a god. My wager is that if the christians are right (or any of the other millions of religions mankind has thought of) about god being just and all-knowing and all-loving, I will be rewarded if I act in morally sound, justified ways.

I don’t have any evidence that there is a god (and neither does anyone else). To me, the idea of a god, or even of an afterlife pales in importance to what we experience everyday. Life. Life is the only thing that I “know” I have and when that is gone, I doubt I’ll be around to care, however, others will. I must live my life as I please, and since I believe I will only ever get one chance at it, I want to live it in the best manner that I can and help others do the same.

So I was somewhat amused when I saw an article in The Guardian that delved into this idea a bit more.  Especially considering my recent post about the huge number of variations even within each religion.  Everything that I am seeing from at least the US evangelicals really drives to the second sentence of my wager.  The god fellow they are so concerned about seems like a total douche (omnidouche?).  I cannot support such a petty, cruel, vindictive, incompetent, and downright stupid creature even if it were to exist.  Given these characteristics, and the 38,000 versions of christinaity, I am betting that even if Pascal's wager had any merit, the chances of picking the right one even amongst christians is a long shot, let alone the myriad of gods mankind has come up with outside that particular death cult.  Or as Homer Simpson said: "What if we've picked the wrong religion? Every week we're just making God madder and madder?"

I urge you to read the whole article, but here is an excerpt from it that seems to sum up the whole idea behind Homer's Wager:
So let's call it Homer's Wager, for reasons that will soon become clear.

Here's how it works. Let's start with the very generous assumption that we think it more likely than not that God exists. To put a number on such things is ridiculous of course, but for the sake of argument, we'll use the figure of 67% which was the one a risk assessor came up with a few years ago. You might think that, if this is true, you should believe in God. But here's the problem: does it matter which God you believe in?

Maybe it doesn't matter, but it does matter if it matters. If it doesn't matter which God you believe in, it's because there are no important rewards or penalties for believing in the right or wrong God. But if that's the case, then it would not seem to matter if you didn't believe at all. A God who didn't care if you got belief right would hardly come down hard on those who didn't believe at all. I think we can safely conclude that the probability of a liberal God fascist – one who doesn't mind which version of him you believe in, but if you don't believe in him at all, he'll let you rot in hell – is negligible. As Homer Simpson put it when arguing that he shouldn't go to church: "Don't you think the almighty has better things to worry about than where one little guy spends one measly hour of his week?"

So if it doesn't matter whether you believe in such a vague God or not, you have no compelling reason to bother. The atheist bus slogan could just as easily be "There's probably a God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life".

If, on the other hand, it matters which God you believe in, it's because there are certain important rewards of belief that you will not receive if you don't believe in the right one, or punishments for failing to believe correctly. But even Homer Simpson can see the problem with this: "What if we've picked the wrong religion? Every week we're just making God madder and madder?" Choosing the wrong God might be worse than believing in none at all.

So to continue with the mad maths, even if you think it more than 50% likely that a God exists who will treat you differently – not just over the next few short years of your life but for all eternity – whether you believe in him or not, you still have no reason to believe in such a God, because you simply can't know which one to go for and life is too short to try them all out. In case you think that's overstating it, you only need to go into one church to find that there are almost as many Gods worshipped there as there are worshippers.

19 January 2012

Newt is an Arrogant, Lying Sack of Shit

So the giant Jabba the Hutt blob of butter with a fat head that is campaigning under the name of Newt is an arrogant, lying sack of shit...  However, we already knew that.  Why am I so pissed?  Not because he said particularly insensitive stuff on Martin Luther King day, or anything like that.  But he said some particularly egregious lies about food stamps and poor people, and made them sound like lazy people who are just too damn dumb to know how to fill out a job application or even find one to fill out.

Why does this have me mad?  As reports:
more than $31 million worth of food stamps were used at commissaries nationwide in 2008 – an increase of about $6.2 million, or more than 25 percent – from the $24.8 million redeemed in 2007. That contrasts with a 13 percent overall increase in food stamp use by Americans for the same period,
Okay, now that may sound like some sort of increase that validates his claims that President Obama has somehow put all these people on food stamps, and that he is responsible for these great increases (and keep in mind, this isn't the totally the amount spent by the active duty folks on foodstamps, which numbered 2100 in 2003, the last time they surveyed).  Again, that's not quite right:

In 2000, there were slightly more than 17 million Americans on food stamps, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based think tank focused on issues impacting low-income Americas.
By 2005, the number had increased to nearly 26 million while a government report issued earlier this year found that more than 32 million people are on food stamps. 
Under Bush, the increase was about 9 Million people.  And then the increase during the latter half of Bush, and then Obama, we have a total of a 6 Million people increase.  Even if ALL of those were blamed on Obama, last I checked, 6 is less than 9... How can President Obama be responsible for putting more people on Food Stamps than any other president, when he clearly isn't?  Oh yeah, sanctimonious, bullshit pandering logic that gets you a standing ovation from braindead hicks... What I would like to do is find a military member on food stamps, and have this guy get into Newt's face and ask him exactly how he can "own the fucking job he already has"?  Especially one that has himself not served, and seems to be totally out of touch with the intelligent and hard working Americans that think he is a pompous ass, which should be everyone...  Of course, that's just my opinion.

17 January 2012

Update on Dynamic Quotes Sig Generator

A while back I posted about A Dynamic Random Quote Generator Sig. Something fun for forums that allow you to place a IMG in your signatures.  Well, I have updated it as well for myself.  The two on the previous post still work.  Although one of the owners updated the font and I really don't like it at all.  So I went through the forum and gathered up all the quotes that I could fit, and made my own and had my brother-in-law help me with getting it set up.

So here is the new URL: Giving:

Have fun. 

Now, if you want to make your own random sig generator, what you'll need to do is grab two files:

Once you have these two files, you can do what you want. There will be a couple of things you will need to edit though. First of all, in the TXT file, you will see a line that says

$font = '/';. That will need to get changed to whatever your domain root structure supports. Then there is the part that starts off with: // array of random quotes $quotes = array( "If every trace of any single religion died out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again. - Pen Jilette", "It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public; and freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds which follows from the advance of science. - Darwin", "The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry. - Richard Dawkins", "There's this thing called being so open-minded your brains drop out. - Richard Dawkins", This is where you can add in more of your quotes. Just start typing them in or copy paste them in above the previous quote. Just make sure that the start of the quote is where you start the quotation marks ", and when you get to the end (including attribution) is where you end the quote with another quotation mark and a comma ",.  That will give you the full quote.  And you can add as many as you want.  Then save the TXT file as a PHP, and upload it along with the font file.  Easy as that!

16 January 2012

Of the Variations

Did you know that there are over 38,000 different recognized versions of christianity?  There are five main movements in judaism (with each movement also having differing movements within them totaling over 50 different recognized movements, and probably more fringe movements).  Amongst the believers of islam, I was only able to find listings for about 100 different denominations.  Now, my first thought would be that the christians seem to have seriously fucked up their system.  They are the "middle" in terms of age, and seem to splinter at the slightest disagreement on scripture.  The jews seem to have their shit together for the most part since they are the oldest, and have on several orders of magnitude fewer variations.  The muslims, being a younger group, even though quite volatile, don't seem to have splintered as much as the christians, but decidedly more than the jews.  Sort of reminds me of a quote:
If every trace of any single religion died out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again. - Pen Jilette
One would thing that the word of god wouldn't be left open to so much interpretation?  Doesn't speak well of the supposed inerrancy of any particular text.  I wonder why that is?

The problem with religious thought is that it starts off on a bad foot.  It says that the holy books proclaim truth, and that truth can't be questioned.  Whereas science gives a conditional acceptance of a finding.  Should new evidence come to light (through better measurements, new tools, etc.) science will indeed change.  That's one of the fundamental strengths of science.  However, when religion encounters a conflict with reality, it attempts to remain unbending according to its holy books.  It has the entire observation chain backwards.  That's why I think that Pen Jilette hit the nail on the head!

15 January 2012

Adam Savage: Food for the Eagle

In April of 2010, I drove down to Harvard with my daughter and her friend to see The Mythbusters.  When I got the tickets, I really had no idea what to expect.  Also, went to the wrong building at first, so we had horrible seats, but it was all good.  The Harvard Humanist Society was handing out awards to these guys, and they gave a couple of speeches.  Adam was using an iPad (which had just come out), while Jamie had a huge laptop that wouldn't fit on the lectern.  All in all it was a great time.  My daughter and her friend reacted is if a rock star had just taken the stage when Adam and Jamie came out (made me proud).  After their speeches, there was an audience Q&A session, and they both got a chance to ask Adam and Jamie a question.  My daughter still talks about the event to this day.

The reason I wanted to talk about it though was that I really enjoyed Adam's speech.  While it was full of rather irrational imagery and drew from a book that may have been entirely a work of fiction presented as fact, it was still a great speech (things Adam acknowledges).  So just for no other reason than that I happened to run into this speech recently on the net, I am going to post it for you here:

Food for The Eagle

By Adam Savage

Good evening.

I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to read my speech from my new iPad.

Yep. I'm not only a humanist, I'm also an early adopter.

I want to start by saying that, to me, any discourse from me about how one can live a moral existence without religion or the church would sound improperly defensive. That there's an opposite to be defended is absurd and based on a provably false premise. So let's dispense with that.

(To be clear: I'm referring to the humanist axiom "Good without God," whereby "good" means morality. It's provably false that there exists no morality outside of religion, therefore the statement sounds defensive to me.)

By what route does anyone come to believe what they believe? We all like to imagine that it's based on a set of logical facts, but it's often a much more circuitous route.

For me it was pretty simple. I'm actually the fourth generation in my family to have no practical use for the church, or God, or religion. My children continue this trend.

Here are a few things I've learned.

Prayer doesn't work because someone out there is listening, it works because someone in here is listening. I've paid attention. I've pictured what I want to happen in my life. I've meditated extensively on my family, my future, my past actions and what did and didn't work for me about them. I've looked hard at problems and thought hard about their solutions.

See, I order my life by the same mechanism that I use to build things. I cannot proceed to move tools around in the real world until my brain has a clear picture in it of what I'm building. The same goes for my life. I've tried to pay attention. I've tried to picture the way I want things to be, and I've noticed that when I had a clear picture, things often turned out the way I wanted them to.

I've concluded by this that someone is paying attention—I've concluded that it's me. I've noticed that if I'm paying attention to those around me, to myself, to my surroundings, then that is the very definition of empathy. I've noticed that when I pay attention, I'm less selfish, I'm happier—and that the inverse holds true as well.

I think one of the defining moments of adulthood is the realization that nobody's going to take care of you. That you have to do the heavy lifting while you're here. And when you don't, well, you suffer the consequences. At least I have. (And in the empirical study I'm performing about interacting with the universe, I am unfortunately the only test subject I have complete access to, so my data is, as they say, self-selected.) While nobody's going to take care of us, it's incumbent upon us to take care of those around us. That's community.

The fiction of continuity and stability that your parents have painted for you is totally necessary for a growing child. When you realize that it's not the way the world works, it's a chilling moment. It's supremely lonely.

So I understand the desire for someone to be in charge. (As a side note, I believe that the need for conspiracy theories is similar to the need for God.) We'd all like our good and evil to be like it is in the movies: specific and horrible, easy to defeat. But it's not. It's banal.

There's a quote I love: "Evil is a little man afraid for his job." I always thought some famous author said it, but I asked my 200,000 followers on Twitter today, and it turns out that Roy Scheider said it in Blue Thunder.

No one is in charge. And honestly, that's even cooler.

The idea of an ordered and elegant universe is a lovely one. One worth clinging to. But you don't need religion to appreciate the ordered existence. It's not just an idea, it's reality. We're discovering the hidden orders of the universe every day. The inverse square law of gravitation is amazing. Fractals, the theory of relativity, the genome: these are magnificently beautiful constructs.

The nearly infinite set of dominoes that have fallen into each other in order for us to be here tonight is unfathomable. Truly unfathomable. But it is logical. We don't know all the steps in that logic, but we're learning more about it every day. Learning, expanding our consciousness, singly and universally.

As far as I can see, the three main intolerant religions in the world aren't helping in that mission.

For all their talk of charity and knowledge, that they close their eyes to so much—to science, to birth control education, to abuses of power by some of their leaders, to evolution as provable and therefore factual (the list is staggering)—illustrates a wide scope of bigotry.

Now, just to be clear. If you want to believe, or find solace in believing, that someone or something set these particular dominoes in motion—a cosmic finger tipping the balance and then leaving everything else to chance—I can't say anything to that. I don't know.

Though a primary mover is the most complex and thus (given Occam's razor) the least likely of all possible solutions to the particular problem of how we got here, I can't prove it true or false, and there's nothing to really discuss about it.

If Daniel Dennett is right— that there's a human genetic need for religion— then I'd like to imagine that my atheism is proof of evolutionary biology in action.

There may be no purpose, but its always good to have a mission. And I know of one fine allegory for an excellent mission should you choose to charge yourself with one: Carlos Castaneda's series of books about his training with a Yaqui indian mystic named Don Juan. There's a lot of controversy about these books being represented as nonfiction. But if you dispense with that representation, and instead take their stories as allegories, they're quite lovely.

At the end of The Eagle's Gift, Don Juan reveals to his student that there's no point to existence. That we're given our brief 70-100 years of consciousness by something the mystics call "The Eagle," named for it's cold, killer demeanor. And when we die, the eagle gobbles our consciousness right back up again.

He explains that the mystics, to give thanks to the eagle for the brief bout of consciousness they're granted, attempt to widen their consciousness as much as possible. This provides a particularly delicious meal for the eagle when it gobbles one up at the end of one's life.

And that, to me, is a fine mission.

Thank you.
— Delivered to the Harvard Humanist Society, April 2010

14 January 2012

Through These Godless Eyes.

Okay, so I posted a video by philhellenes, and discovered that this guy has a whole series of videos.  I won't post all 169 videos that he has (at least try not to!), but I did want to post this one.

I also wanted to post a couple quotes that I found along with this video:

"You take your holy book, I'll take a parachute, and I'll see you at the bottom of the cliff." - philhellenes

"We're a species of mammalian bacteria evolved to be temporarily resistant to the earth's penicillin." - mindhacker

13 January 2012

Profoundly Emotional for Science

Over at the RatSkep forums, a poster started a thread about the profound emotional experiences a person can feel when they are exposed to some natural wonder.  Generally people experience this when looking up at the stars.  Looking at the sky is indeed a very humbling experience.  Now we know that we are looking out at a vast, vast expanse.  A universe so large, that our little planet is a statistically insignificant part of the universe.  That's right, statistically insignificant!  If we assume that the earth is the only known planet to have life, if we used the entire volume of the earth as life supporting planet, then that means roughly 0.0% of the universe is capable of actually supporting life.  Of course, the other part of that insignificance should be that we are indeed here, and it's the wonders of the universe that allow for that.  While we may seem incredibly remote and disconnected from the stars, we are only here because of the stars.  As Lawrence Krauss said:
“Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements - the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution and for life - weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.” 
I also found this video that I wanted to share.  It's a sort of anthem/creed for science that I heartily agree with.  Sorry to be on this video binge, but it sure is easier than reading my ramblings.

12 January 2012


I have been accused of not having an open mind in terms of theism.  Actually, my position should truly be described as agnostic atheist on the issue of deism (See this chart for an explanation) - I don't believe in any god(s) and live my life as if they didn't exist, and I don't think that the question can be reasonably answered (yet?). Although, I do claim gnostic (or strong) atheism on gods that are defined to actually DO things in this universe, since those actions have failed all evidentiary inquiries

The thing that would change my mind?  Evidence.  Of course, that supposes that people actually understand what the word evidence means.  Admitting "I don't know" is not the same as saying "I don't know, therefore [insert my favorite idea]".  "I don't know" is simply that, and only that.  Nothing more.  It's perfectly okay to leave the jury out on a question if we don't haver the answer.  Unlike many theists, my mind is indeed open for evidence (not assertions).  What is really more open minded?  Actually admitting ignorance on a point and reserving judgment, or proclaiming that a totally UN-evidenced mechanism is the One True Answer(TM)?

So I think this is an appropriate QualiaSoup video to present:

11 January 2012

Irreducible complexity cut down to size

And here is QualiaSoup's second video on irreducible complexity.  It really does dismay me that made-up terms like this get so much attention because of the "argumentum ad ignorantiam" fallacy... It's all a Manufactroversy. That is, a manufactured controversy that is motivated by profit or extreme ideology to intentionally create public confusion about an issue that is not in dispute.  And anyone who denies our understanding of evolution is indeed adherent to an extreme ideology...  Just imagine how you would react to someone who was a proponent of "intelligent falling" as opposed to gravity.  You'd label them as daft, right?  (Yes, I know that it's an Onion Parody, but it applies.  Just like a flat earther, or geocentric follower is equally daft.)

10 January 2012

Rebuttals: irreducible complexity

The next two videos will be about "Irreducible Complexity"... I know, I'm sorry, but dealing with made up stuff seems to be part and parcel of dealing with irrational thought.  And this is a particularly insidious made-up bit because it deals in things that pretty much only the experts in whatever particular field has the required understanding to provide an adequate rebuttal.  As I say over at my Facts, not Fantasy page where I discuss evolution, I mention:
* What about the "Irreducible Complexity" of the eye, blood, flagellum, etc.?
Well, first of all, "irreducible complexity" is a non-sense term invented by creationists and intelligent design proponents. All it really says is that they can't possibly understand a particularly complex mechanism, so therefore something else did it. The basic premise behind irreducible complexity is to take a well designed item, remove a part to break it, and proclaim that it's broken... The problem is that it's entirely backwards thinking, and doesn't take into account how something was actually built up. Every single item of irreducible complexity has an answer, however creationists and intelligent design proponents will keep throwing out examples of complex systems until they hit upon one that their debate opponent may not have all the facts on. As soon as they find that one thing that someone may not know the answer to, they proclaim victory for their entire side, totally ignoring all the other instances where their argument was trounced.
However, I think that QualiaSoup says it quite well in this video, and the one that will be posted tomorrow. Enjoy:

09 January 2012

Putting faith in its place

This is another QuiliaSoup video, on faith.  Not necessarily the faith of religion, but the dictionary faith of accepting something just because someone says so.  You know, that NON-critical thinking thing. Again, understand the differentiation of what he's addressing, yet also see how it applies to many things you may hold dear.  It's not an attack on those things, but rather an invitation for you to examine those things.  I'm sure you have at one time or another in your life been told something is one way, only to discover upon further contemplation and examination, that it's actually not that way at all.  Santa Claus, tooth fairies, easter bunnies, and the like spring to mind?  Maybe you also initially accepted that homeopathy worked, only later to figure out that it's full of shit (literally if water does have memory, right?).

08 January 2012

Lack of belief in gods

As I mentioned in my New Year's Resolution post, I was going to attempt to delve into all the reasons I don't believe in any gods.  However, QualiaSoup has another great video that is worthy of your time before I attempt to delve into the subject myself.

07 January 2012

Why Live?

This question from theists sincerely confuses me.  Apparently they are so invested in their religion, they just can't conceive of a life without it.  I personally like Carl Sagan's quote as a partial answer to that:
I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking. The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides. 
Again, QualiaSoup (along with his brother TheraminTrees) has a beautiful video response:

06 January 2012

Morality 3: Of objectivity and oughtness

And finally part 3:

05 January 2012

Morality Part 2: The not-so-good books

Yesterday was part 1 of the morality videos.  Here is part 2:

04 January 2012

Yes, that's right, today we were the closest...

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Yes, that's right, today we were the closest to the sun by about 3 MILLION miles. Remember, the axial tilt is the reason for the season.
Perihelion: The Earth is on its way back out again | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine
Astronomy | 23 Degrees | Tonight at roughly 01:00 GMT (08:00 p.m. Eastern time), the Earth will be at a special place in its orbit: perihelion, the closest point to the Sun. Our orbit a
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Morality (Good without gods) Part 1

One of the most puzzling questions I get as an atheist is where I get morality from.  As if the only place to get morality from is an external force, or a dusty old tome.  Again, it has been shown that morality is a societally developed construct, and ancient forms of morality no longer apply to the modern world.  Neuro-scientists have known this for a long time, and some are even arguing that we need to pay closer attention to the neuro-science of morality as opposed to the legislative aspect.

Again, QualiaSoup, in his very British style has a series of videos on this subject (in 3 parts).  Here is part 1:

Keep in mind, in the near future, he may condense this all into one video. I think this was produced when YouTube had a 10 minute limit.

03 January 2012

It COULD be Coincidence!

One of the most incredible things that people experience on a daily basis is "the incredible coincidence".  An event that seems so monumental and unlikely that it must have been magic of some sort.  Humans don't understand how math actually rules their lives, and are notoriously bad at applying that math.  It has been written about extensively (a good introductory book is The Drunkards Walk by Leonard Mlodinow).  So, in continuing with my QualiaSoup videos, feast your eyes on this video:

Testing the New Blogger Interface

I have used the older interface for the blogger system for quite a while now.  I found it easy to use, intuitive, and clean.  Everything was placed in an easy to use area, it was tightly grouped for accessibility, and didn't use too many fancy scripts to run the page.  Well, for the longest time, I have been trying to use the old way of blogging to somehow automatically publish to my Google+ account.  Heck, Facebook had a way of letting me automatically publish a blog post to my profile there, and it was easy.  So anyway, I just wanted to complain that Blogger/Google+ took something that should be easy, and forced their users to adopt things that they may not want.  Forcing someone to do something is generally not considered a good public relations practice.

Anyway, just wanted to bitch and moan about it...  And test to see if this actually works the way it's advertised to...

02 January 2012

Interesting graphic if true

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Augmented reality+multitouch+Vuzix glasses, by AR Door
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A bit of science for this Monday! Just look...

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A bit of science for this Monday! Just look at how much we are learning about the universe around us. Also, it's discoveries like this that continue to provide our species with great demotions, while at the same time giving us a unique viewpoint of our own amazing ability to actually do these things. We are both insignificant and special at the same time!
A nearby star rings in the new year | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine
Astronomy | dust | I am fascinated by junk floating around stars. And no, not paparazzi, har har. I mean circumstellar material, literally gas and dust orbiting other stars. We se
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My New Year Resolution?

The other day my wife informed me that I actually have more readers on this blog than I ever imagined.  Generally, I make posts that are geared towards an audience that has mostly free thinkers and people looking for specific information on those type of philosophies.  In many of these posts, I have been pretty insulting to theistic belief systems.  Let's just say that I have taken a Christopher Hitchens approach.

Well, given that some of the folks reading (that I really didn't suspect were actually reading) are theists, maybe I shouldn't outright insult them that much.  Now, I don't want to accommodate them in any way, however I may need to be a little less abrasive.  So she did give me a new years resolution to go for, which is to be less of a dick to theists.

I will do my best to be less of a dick, however I have some caveats and addendums to that...
  • Disagreement is not an attack.  All too often, a theists will play the victim card just because someone doesn't agree with them.  That's bullshit and a total coward act.  If you pull that, the gloves come off.
  • If you actually believe the literal word of the bible, think the world is about 6,000 years old, and all that associated baggage, I have to attack that.  Those bronze age fables are so wrong in so many ways that you are living in a fantasy.  In a society where we DNA sequencing, spacecraft, electron microscopes, computers, aircraft, etc. having those sort of delusions are nearly criminal.  I cannot abide or coddle that sort of insanity.  Sorry.
  • An idea, no matter whose it is, does not merit automatic respect.  This applies to atheists as well as theists.  What matters is the evidential support that the idea can bring forth.  If you get upset because your precious idea doesn't have any evidence, then think instead of being stuck on it.
  • Understand what the word evidence means!  A personal experience, while real to you, in your brain, isn't proof.  Generally, I find that what most people experience is easy to explain via numerous natural phenomenon that they are totally unaware of.  Remember, an extraordinary claim will require extraordinary evidence.
  • When I link to someone else's article, those are their words, not mine.  Try to keep up!
I'm sure that I'll come up with several more addendums to this as time goes on, although I will try to limit myself.  As you can see, I have spouted off about these things before, so it's not exactly something new. After I am done with all the QualiaSoup videos, I also want to take another stab at the whole question of why I don't actually believe in a god.  I know that Ricky Gervais and Gretta Christina tackled this question pretty well, but I think I'll do it in my own words too.  Who knows, maybe I'll send it to PZ Myers and see if he'll put it up.

Does this sound like a fair resolution to carry forward?

01 January 2012

Another orbit? Why, you don’t look a rotation older than 4.56 billion years!

Start the new year with SCIENCE!  I'm going to take a quick break from posting QualiaSoup videos because this is also really cool.  Dr. Plait (The Bad Astronomer) has a great explanation on orbital phenomenon.  Generally people don't care about things like that, except when an arbitrary demarcation point has been made (such as a calendar).  So last night a lot of folks stayed up late, drank champagne, and kissed their loved ones.  But what does it actually mean?  Not a whole heck of a lot really, but astronomically speaking, there's a few opportunities to discuss how our planet behaves, and the effects it causes here.  And I really think that's cool!
Yay! It’s a new year!

But what does that mean, exactly?

The year, of course, is the time it takes for the Earth to orbit the Sun, right? Well, not exactly. It depends on what you mean by "year", and how you measure it. This takes a wee bit of explaining, so while the antacid is dissolving in your stomach to remedy last night’s excesses, sit back and let me tell you the tale of the year.

First, I will ignore a few things. For example, time zones. These were invented by a sadistic watchmaker, who only wanted to keep people in thrall of his devious plans. So for now, let’s just ignore them, and assume that for these purposes you spend a whole year (whatever length of time that turns out to be) planted in one spot.

However, I will not ignore the rotation of the Earth. That turns (haha) out to be important.

Let’s take a look at the Earth from a distance. From our imaginary point in space, we look down and see the Earth and the Sun. The Earth is moving, orbiting the Sun. Of course it is, you think to yourself. But how do you measure that? For something to be moving, it has to be moving relative to something else. What can we use as a yardstick against which to measure the Earth’s motion?

Well, we might notice as we float in space that we are surrounded by zillions of pretty stars. We can use them! So we mark the position of the Earth and Sun using the stars as benchmarks, and then watch and wait. Some time later, the Earth has moved in a big circle and is back to where it started in reference to those stars. That’s called a "sidereal year" (sidus is the Latin word for star). How long did that take?