Friday, April 13, 2007

The Sun is Green

The Sun is a pretty good blackbody at 5500K and, via the Wein Displacement Law, peaks around 5000 Angstroms, just about the color green. This has 2 consequences in your normal life:

1) your eye has evolved to take advantage of this. You are twice as sensitive to green photons as red and are most sensitive to the peak of the Sun's light, well into the green.*

2) its why plants are green.

When I was teaching Astronomy or doing shows at Buhl Planetarium in Pittsburgh, I used to do a show called "Life under Other Stars" exploring this phenomenon and speculating what the world would look like of the Sun were hotter (bluer) or cooler (redder).

I used colored lights and a metric shitload of speculation (not being trained as an astrobiologist).

Here, it's done right!


*so why doesn't the sun look green? You eye is a fairly narrow band, integration bolometer. While there is a peak in the BB radiation curve at the solar peak, compared to your eye's narrow bandwidth, that peak seems relatively flat, e.g. there are 1000 red photons, 1500 green photons and 1000 blue photons at the peak within your bandwidth (approximately). You eye and brain integrate across the whole bandwidth and make the sun look white.


It is reasonable to say that my son has been a solid supporter of the President and is policies, especially as relates to the Ieaq War and the Global War on Terror. That said, the first tiem I have seen him strongly disagree with him was around the War Czar,
"He already has someone to do that, it's the SecDef!"

Slate has a breakdown of other presidental czars and why "that trick never works"

Thursday, April 12, 2007


The title says it all

I wonder if they get virtual votes too?

This picture — by TechPresident writer Ruby Sinreich — pretty much sums up the Second Life political experience: It’s a half-naked furry, obviously, with a very tight John Edwards’ shirt stretched over its engorged cartoon breasts, standing in front of an empty yet luxurious beach cabana, which is obviously the new campaign headquarters for the shiny-haired candidate.

I Just Can't Tell Anymore!

Parody? I thought so at first, but the more I see of it, the more I think they are serious. The message of Jesus in the 21st Century.

So it goes...

Said better than I could say:

We all have a request from Kurt Vonnegut.

I am, incidentally, Honorary President of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that totally functionless capacity. We had a memorial service for Isaac a few years back, and I spoke and said at one point, "Isaac is up in heaven now." It was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, "Kurt is up in heaven now." That's my favorite joke.

Kurt is up in heaven now.

I think it is also only fair to give him Kilgore Trout's epitaph: "We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane."

As many of you know, I have standing instructions for my funeral that anyone speaking in any eulogy-like capacity *MUST* take a hit of helium before speaking. I defy you to be depressed at such an event...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Flame On!

Something guaranteed to generate some controversy, the increasing understanding of the sexual wiring of the human brain.

Such experiments do not show the same clear divide with women. Whether women describe themselves as straight or lesbian, “Their sexual arousal seems to be relatively indiscriminate — they get aroused by both male and female images,” Dr. Bailey said. “I’m not even sure females have a sexual orientation. But they have sexual preferences. Women are very picky, and most choose to have sex with men.”


It so happens that an unusually large number of brain-related genes are situated on the X chromosome. The sudden emergence of the X and Y chromosomes in brain function has caught the attention of evolutionary biologists. Since men have only one X chromosome, natural selection can speedily promote any advantageous mutation that arises in one of the X’s genes. So if those picky women should be looking for smartness in prospective male partners, that might explain why so many brain-related genes ended up on the X.

Seems like what we've been hearing for decades might be true, gay men are just born that way.

I'm Guessing You Don't Do this...

...but I do. It's fun!


As some of you know, I love maps! Don't know what to get me for my Christmas? Get me a map! Especially an interesting, data rich affair with lots of interesting bits to think about.

PZ has found a site that caters to this and I pronounce it delightful!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

News You Can Use

This is actually pretty funny, although I'm not sure I *quite* get the tie-dye on the bear. Capital Markets humor at it's finest!

Reincarnation Explained

Guess what? It's explained by brain function! Surprising I know.


People who believe they have lived past lives as, say, Indian princesses or battlefield commanders are more likely to make certain types of memory errors, according to a new study.

Subjects were asked to read aloud a list of 40 non-famous names, and then, after a two-hour wait, told that they were going to see a list consisting of three types of names: non-famous names they had already seen (from the earlier list), famous names, and names of non-famous people that they had not previously seen. Their task was to identify which names were famous.

The researchers found that, compared to control subjects who dismissed the idea of reincarnation, past-life believers were almost twice as likely to misidentify names. In particular, their tendency was to wrongly identify as famous the non-famous names they had seen in the first task. This kind of error, called a source-monitoring error, indicates that a person has difficulty recognizing where a memory came from.

Another religious myth bites the dust.

Because that's what Christmas is all about!

It would be uncivil to use the word bribe, so I will refrain.

Fortunately the gifts that atheism bring keep giving all year round.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Spanish Prisoner

Interesting run down of the history of the Nigirian EMail Scam.

Some truly terrifying tid-bits:

This swindle is commonly known as "419 fraud," after the section of the Nigerian penal code covering cons. According to the anti-spam software vendor Brightmail, 419 come-ons are the Web's second-most common form of junk mail, ranking behind only those incessant "herbal Viagra" ads. Though most people merely laugh at the pleas' awful grammar and all-caps style ("I WILL LIKE YOU CONTACT MY LAWYER ..."), about 1 percent of recipients actually respond. Of that number, enough people fork over enough cash to sustain an industry that ranks in Nigeria's top five, right up there with palm oil and tin. The U.S. Secret Service has estimated—conservatively, by its own admission—that the scammers net $100 million per year.


Although last year only 16 Americans claimed financial losses, totaling $345,000, that's probably a fraction of the full amount. Most victims are too embarrassed by their own stupidity to ever come forward.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Blog Back Up

The blog was down for awhile this afternoon, but it seems like it's back up. Let me know if there is trouble.

Little Known Easter Facts

From Jay!

Had the Gregorian calendar not been introduced in 1582 to correct increasing inaccuracies in the earlier Julian calendar, within a century, Christians would have found themselves in the confusing situation of commemorating Jesus Christ's rebirth on Easter Sunday three days before his death on Good Friday, rather than the other way around. In addition, the fast of Lent would have extended almost year-round, leading to widespread malnutrition, while the holiday of Pentacost would have been bloated into Hexacost.