Wednesday, August 23, 2006

off to the mountains

having just got back from watching superbike racing, we're off to the mountains of west virginia with our astronomy club for the annual star party. 170 people and telescopes of all sizes; a few solar scopes to look at the sun during the day, too.

keeping our fingers crossed for some clear, dark skies. it's so dark up there, you can see the dust lanes in the milky way before it gets truly dark...try that in d.c.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

ama superbikes weekend

daisy and i took a trip to alton, va. to see round 9 of the ama superbike championship. great venue. very fan & spectator friendly. got a very good vantage point to see the races. matt mladin's victory was very popular with the crowd.

walmart near the holiday inn in la cross. best avoided. the 'scene' was the parking lot - yep. that's where the young guns drive their beaten up pick-up trucks to 'hang out'. inside was a vast aircraft hanger sized, huge area of crap. quite disturbing, and we were very glad to leave.

Friday, August 18, 2006

US man survives chocolate ordeal

A 21-year-old US man ended up in hospital after spending two hours trapped in a vat of chocolate, police in Wisconsin said on Friday.

The man said he had climbed into the tank before becoming trapped waist-deep in chocolate, police chief Randy Berner told AP news agency.

However, other reports suggest he was stirring the chocolate when he fell in.

Rescue workers and staff at the Debelis Corporation used cocoa-butter to thin out the chocolate and pull him free.

"It was pretty thick. It was virtually like quicksand," Captain Berner said.

"It's the first time I've ever heard of anything like this," he added.

The worker said his ankles were sore after the incident, and he was taken to a local hospital where he is recovering.

The accident involved dark chocolate.

the mates in d.c. are still waiting for reports to come in of a disturbing venezualan cheese incident involving the currently disgraced former minister...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

here's a comforting graph...

Did human beings, as we know them, develop from earlier species of animals?

just have a butchers where the united states is... yes. in the world's most advanced nation:

only 14 percent of adults thought that evolution was "definitely true," while about a third firmly rejected the idea.

In European countries, including Denmark, Sweden, and France, more than 80 percent of adults surveyed said they accepted the concept of evolution.

america leads the way...from the new york times

Voters in Kansas ensured this month that noncreationist moderates will once again have a majority (6 to 4) on the state school board, keeping new standards inspired by intelligent design from taking effect.

This is a victory for public education and sends a message nationwide about the public’s ability to see through efforts by groups like the Discovery Institute to misrepresent science in the schools. But for those of us who are interested in improving science education, any celebration should be muted.

This is not the first turnaround in recent Kansas history. In 2000, after a creationist board had removed evolution from the state science curriculum, a public outcry led to wholesale removal of creationist board members up for re-election and a reinstatement of evolution in the curriculum.

In a later election, creationists once again won enough seats to get a 6-to-4 majority. With their changing political tactics, creationists are an excellent example of evolution at work. Creation science evolved into intelligent design, which morphed into “teaching the controversy,” and after its recent court loss in Dover, Pa., and political defeats in Ohio and Kansas, it will no doubt change again. The most recent campaign slogan I have heard is “creative evolution.”

But perhaps more worrisome than a political movement against science is plain old ignorance. The people determining the curriculum of our children in many states remain scientifically illiterate. And Kansas is a good case in point.

The chairman of the school board, Dr. Steve Abrams, a veterinarian, is not merely a strict creationist. He has openly stated that he believes that God created the universe 6,500 years ago, although he was quoted in The New York Times this month as saying that his personal faith “doesn’t have anything to do with science.”

“I can separate them,” he continued, adding, “My personal views of Scripture have no room in the science classroom.”

A key concern should not be whether Dr. Abrams’s religious views have a place in the classroom, but rather how someone whose religious views require a denial of essentially all modern scientific knowledge can be chairman of a state school board.

I have recently been criticized by some for strenuously objecting in print to what I believe are scientifically inappropriate attempts by some scientists to discredit the religious faith of others. However, the age of the earth, and the universe, is no more a matter of religious faith than is the question of whether or not the earth is flat.

It is a matter of overwhelming scientific evidence. To maintain a belief in a 6,000-year-old earth requires a denial of essentially all the results of modern physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology and geology. It is to imply that airplanes and automobiles work by divine magic, rather than by empirically testable laws.

Dr. Abrams has no choice but to separate his views from what is taught in science classes, because what he says he believes is inconsistent with the most fundamental facts the Kansas schools teach children

Another member of the board, who unfortunately survived a primary challenge, is John Bacon. In spite of his name, Mr. Bacon is no friend of science. In a 1999 debate about the removal of evolution and the Big Bang from science standards, Mr. Bacon said he was baffled about the objections of scientists. “I can’t understand what they’re squealing about,” he is quoted as saying. “I wasn’t here, and neither were they.”

This again represents a remarkable misunderstanding of the nature of the scientific method. Many fields — including evolutionary biology, astronomy and physics — use evidence from the past in formulating hypotheses. But they do not stop there. Science is not storytelling.

These disciplines take hypotheses and subject them to further tests and experiments. This is how we distinguish theories that work, like evolution or gravitation.

As we continue to work to improve the abysmal state of science education in our schools, we will continue to battle those who feel that knowledge is a threat to faith.

But when we win minor skirmishes, as we did in Kansas, we must remember that the issue is far deeper than this. We must hold our elected school officials to certain basic standards of knowledge about the world. The battle is not against faith, but against ignorance.

Lawrence M. Krauss is a professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University.

Monday, August 07, 2006

a new world disorder - and disgrace

just when you thought that the world was crazy enough as it was, a new word has been ushered in by our courageous western leaders: 'sustainable'

it is incredulous to think about what is going on with bush at the helm of US America. Bush's 'green light' to Israel is the sickening display of an emporer gone mad with self-belief. Bush will go down in history not only as the worst ever elected president, but an individual hell-bent on a course of bringing fascism to the fore in the early years of the twenty-first century.

the post-war world today is now more unsafe because of george bush than it ever was prior to him being elected into office. one doesn't have to dwell too hard on terrorism, just have a look at the latest madness to befall the united states of america:



this is utter madness. it means that if a teenager breaks into someone's home to steal their x-box, the owner can legally shoot and kill him without being subjected to prosecution. that's right; personal property is more valuable than human life. as much as i wouldn't want some bugger nicking any of my stuff, i don't want, or need, to kill him for it.

this is all a bit rich coming from the bush administration who will stop at nothing to protect the 'rights' of an unborn fetus, that wants to prohibit stem-cell research, and has made it a federal crime to cross state lines carrying a teenager to an abortion clinic. it is utterly amazing how little value that 'life' assumes once it actually becomes born...

and tony blair - you are indeed nothing more than the puppet poodle of an idiot: the world's most dangerous idiot at that.

before this latest conflict in the middle east, we associated the word 'sustainable' with forests.

United Nations - what a limp-wristed, overlunched bunch of sell-outs.

george bush. leader of the free world, my arse.

he has done more to damage america's image and goodwill in the world than any other single being.

osama bin laden must be laughing and toasting w's health with every passing day.

'bring em on!' - just how many more civilians have to die for you?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

an inconvenient truth

went to see this yesterday afternoon in sweltering d.c.

this ought be shown in every school in america.