Saturday, August 12, 2006

The David Stone

Here's an interesting idea for keeping the Earth as an "Asteroid Impact-Free Zone" , keep a sizable stone in orbit and then swing it around to hit an incoming object.

Such an asteroid could then be moved as needed to absorb the impact of any collision that would otherwise hit the Earth. The work of Didier Massonnet and BenoĆ®t Meyssignac (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, France), the paper argues that an asteroid between 20 and 40 meters in diameter, which the two nickname ‘David’s stone,’ could destroy a much larger incoming object under proper targeting conditions. The problem becomes finding the right asteroid.


Another benefit is that with the installation of proper equipment, a nearby asteroid could be exploited to produce propellants for manned exploratory missions. Producing fuel like liquid oxygen in such a location would dramatically alter the lifting requirements for long-range flights and could be practical even factoring in travel requirements to retrieve the fuel.

Very cool. I leave it to the communists and libertarians to tell us how to set up utopian governments on such objects.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Second to Last

Yes, the United States is second to last in public acceptance of the theory of evolution. OTOH the graph doesn't show african nations, so I am sure we are not seond to last in the whole wide world. PZ Myers has the full story.

The total effect of fundamentalist religious beliefs on attitude toward evolution (using a standardized metric) was nearly twice as much in the United States as in the nine European countries (path coefficients of -0.42 and -0.24, respectively), which indicates that individuals who hold a strong belief in a personal God and who pray frequently were significantly less likely to view evolution as probably or definitely true than adults with less conservative religious views.

Second, the evolution issue has been politicized and incorporated into the current partisan division in the United States in a manner never seen in Europe or Japan. In the second half of the 20th century, the conservative wing of the Republican Party has adopted creationism as a part of a platform designed to consolidate their support in southern and Midwestern states—the "red" states. In the 1990s, the state Republican platforms in seven states included explicit demands for the teaching of "creation science". There is no major political party in Europe or Japan that uses opposition to evolution as a part of its political platform.

Are Americans really this dumb? Do they really just beleive whatever they are told at church?? I have had more confidence in my fellow americans until now, but this kind of data is pretty depresing.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Son, Can You Honestly Deny This?


I imagine you read the headline and said some form of "Good God! What's he done now!". In fact, I'd be willing to bet good money that you didn't want to read this post at all, much less this far into it. Congratulations on your courage and fortitude. I know it could not have been easy. It would have been simpler to ignore this whole post and get on with your life...

Well, simpler perhaps, but not easier. You would have been curious as to what I had done. Dreading perhaps the humiliation that could spring upon you unawares as you became a reluctant internet celebrity, or worse, having to explain to the Mormons on a bright Tuesday morning that while yes they are very nice, no you are not interested in finding out more about the Lord (as promised to them in that nice latter your father sent), and yes, he really does have some kind of brain problem about to be solved by you, your friend Remington Model 600 Magnum and the second amendment. Or perhaps it was simple curiosity to see just what the old man thinks normal adult behavior looks like these days. Certainly that discussion he had with the judge was illuminating if not, ultimately, productive.

Well, enough about that, you know how I go on. Now to the heart, as they say, of the matter.

Son, can you, in all honesty say to me that you've never done this???

Can you?

I thought not.

Ignore Me!

My New Motto

Thanks PZ

Blogging the Bible

When I was a Freshman in college, I decided to read the Bible for myself. As a newly minted atheist, I was partly convinced that it was actually quite tolerable and it was the priesthood that screwed everything up by trying to monopolize power. In other words, I was willing to give agnosticism another go if there was some hint that god might really, objectively exist and it was religion's fault the worked was so messed.

The experiment ended a few months later with me firmly and irrevocably in the atheist camp, Having read the Bible, it seem completely unarguable that it was written by humans trying to justify their rule over other humans by playing on their fears and prejudices. Yeah, Jesus had some good ideas waaaaay ahead of his time, but he was really the first Homo Sapiens among the Cro-Magnon.

This is an interesting passage in Slate’s Blogging the Bible series that illustrates the point perfectly.

This may be the first recorded example of what has become the fundamental conflict in all religions: religious elite vs. the people. (See, for example, the pope vs. Martin Luther.) Korah asks an essential question: Why should the few priests and prophets monopolize God? What's so great about them that they control access to the divine? In the 3,500 years since, many religions have come down on Korah's side of this question, deciding that God belongs to the masses, not an anointed elite. But the Bible doesn't. It rules emphatically—smitingly—for Moses and Aaron, for the few rather than the many.

Moses challenges the rebels to a divine duel. Korah and his 250 followers are to show up (at dawn, of course) with their firepans. Then, Moses says, the Lord will choose who is holy. The next morning, they all gather outside the Tabernacle—not just the 250 rebels, but also the entire Israelite community, which now supports them. This is a very bad mistake on the Israelites' part. Again, the Chosen People face the prospect of being seriously Un-Chosen. The Lord cautions Moses and Aaron, "Stand back from the community that I may annihilate them in an instant." But Moses once more steps in to save them, rebuking God
exactly as Abraham did about Sodom: "When one man sins, will You be wrathful to the whole community?" God agrees not to kill everyone but orders the Israelites to stand back from the tents of Korah and two other rebel leaders.

No question about it. Humans writing for other humans. Nothing divinely inspired here. It reminds me of a version of the crypto adage, “Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by simple stupidity”, in this case, “Never ascribe to the Divine what can be explained by the Corrupt”

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Cult of Skaro


If you don't get it, dont worry. It just means you're normal.