Sunday, December 30, 2007

santa impossible

thanks to kevin smith from my local astronomy club, NOVAC for posting this on our message board:


According to a number of references, the world's current population stands at something just over 6 billion. For this analysis assume only Christians believe in Santa and he, therefore, only visits Christian households on Christmas Eve. Several census and survey reports put Christianity at about 33% of the world's population, or roughly 2 billion people. Figuring 4.5
people per household, there are approximately 445 million Christian households distributed around the globe.

Thanks to different time zones and the earth's rotation, traveling east to west Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with. With 31 hours to visit 445 million homes, Santa must visit
3,987 homes per second. So for each Christian household with good children, Santa has about 2/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, back into the sleigh, and move on to the next house.

Assuming that each of these 445 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about 0.17 miles per household, or a total trip of about 75.5 million miles. This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, or 3000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a miserably slow 27.4 miles per second; a conventional reindeer can run, at tops, 15 miles per hour.

The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium size Lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that "flying reindeer" could pull ten times the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine reindeer. No, we need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload-not even counting the weight of the sleigh-to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison, this is four times the weight of the ocean liner, the Queen Elizabeth.

353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance, which will heat the reindeer, sleigh, gifts and Santa in the same fashion as a spacecraft reentering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will each absorb 14.3 QUINTRILLION joules of energy.per second! In short, they will burst into flame instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them to the same fate. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths (0.00426) of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500 times gravity. A 250 pound Santa, which seems ludicrously slim, would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,375,000 pounds of force per square inch just before, like his reindeer, he too is vaporized.

In conclusion, if Santa ever did deliver presents on Christmas, he's now very, very dead.

Friday, December 28, 2007

back to reality - but not if you're cnn...

so daisy and were heading back to dc yesterday from a 4-day stay over christmas in orlando, with my brother and his family, who have been living in spain for the past 15 years. we're waiting for a connecting flight to dc at atlanta when daisy tells me to look up at the tv monitor at the departure gate. "Bhutto Assasinated" scrawls the Breaking News headline.

apart from us, i can see only ONE other person, a man in his thirties paying any attention whatsoever to the news. this is in a crowded airport lounge with some 200 people in our vicinity.
if ever i needed to see at first hand that the majority of americans don't get, don't care, or just aren't interested in world affairs, this was surely it. i'm sure if the breaking news story was about brittney spears there would have been a lot more attention paid...

as i'm taking in this bombshell, they put the audio on and pretty much the only commentary and obvious focus from cnn is on how this will affect america and its relationship with pakistan on the, you've guessed it, "war on terror". never mind how the country of pakistan and its people & military rule government will react, the immediate outlook for democracy, and the destabilization & rioting that will surely ensue and how many people will die as a result.

no. as i'm waiting to get on a plane back to washington, d.c, cnn wants to tell america how bhutto's assasination affects america and the endles fucking war on fucking terror!

CNN - Crap News Network. are you guys owned by FOX News?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Green Light for Institute on Creation in Texas

HOUSTON — A Texas higher education panel has recommended allowing a Bible-based group called the Institute for Creation Research to offer online master’s degrees in science education.

The action comes weeks after the Texas Education Agency’s director of science, Christine Castillo Comer, lost her job after superiors accused her of displaying bias against creationism and failing to be “neutral” over the teaching of evolution.

…“Where the difference is, we provide both sides of the story,” Mr. Morris said. On its Web site, the institute declares, “All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the creation week” and says it “equips believers with evidences of the Bible’s accuracy and authority through scientific research, educational programs, and media presentations, all conducted within a thoroughly biblical framework.”

…no mr. morris. where the difference is, you present not both sides of the story, as if the story of creation and evolution somehow merited the same weight, but state your own unsubstantiated outrageous claims of a virgin birth and a star that never existed, according to all records. an earth that could not possibly have geologically formed, offering no means of independent verification, and accept no criticism of a book, your only record of this event. i ask you mr. morris, have YOU ever seen the sun stand still in the sky? come on!

you discredit what mankind has achieved through his intellect through the ages, everyone else being wrong apart from you, ignoring what you see before you with your own two eyes, even as you and your kind type away on computers operating on the principles of science, not faith. science has had an unhappy habit of peeling away the pillars of mysticism from the church.

there was a time when people believed that flowers used to bloom because god made them so. then some clever scientist discovered that it wasn't god after all, but photosynthesis.

in short, you'd all be a lot happier if scientists and the rest of us 'normal, well-adjusted' people just went away wouldn't you? because then there wouldn't be all these uncomfortable challenges to your ridiculous claims of a virgin birth, the son of god, creator of the universe, who is so great that he needs worshiping on a daily basis, or else he's going to kill everyone by sending them to hell.

very reasonable!

at best, you are a bunch of brain-washing hypocrites.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Huckabee Draws Support of Home-School Families

DES MOINES — Christine and Chuck Hurley have raised and home-schooled their 10 children here, and five of those children will be eligible to vote in the Iowa caucus on Jan. 3.

If Mr. and Mrs. Hurley have anything to say about it — and they do, being evangelical Christians who have imbued their children with the mandates of the Ten Commandments, not least the one about honoring thy father and mother — those will be five votes for Mike Huckabee.

…“We are about the pillar issues of our faith — family, marriage and abortion,” she said. “Home schooling is just part of it.”

In political terms, she said, “family and marriage” are expressed in opposition to same-sex marriage laws, opposition to broader rights for gay men and lesbians, and support for covenant marriage laws like the one signed by Mr. Huckabee as governor in 2001.

…obviously poverty, healthcare, education, & protection of the environment, and foreign affairs figure very highly on that evangelical christian list.

if i ever have a child all i want is for that child to grow up with a healthy intellect and an open mind. isn't freedom of thought one of the very best gifts a parent can give a child, Christine and Chuck Hurley? or rather did you just want 10 versions of your selfish selves, perfect that you undoubtedly are?

what fine intellectual preparation for the world outside of iowa you have given your 10 children.

we go to school not just to learn geography and biology, etc. but also how to interact with people with whom we share different views. we play, we fight, we learn to get along. it's called an education.

no. i'll tell you what the problem is. christine & chuck hurley, along with all the other home-schooling evangelicals don't want their kids exposed to any other views other than their own. it's their faith that is weak!

if their faith was strong, and they are right, they shouldn't have anything to worry about. after all, because when they are all dead, they are all going to be one big, happy, jesus-loving family in the kingdom of heaven. right?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

oh no! Celine Dion ends five-year Vegas stint

Singer Celine Dion has played her final show at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas after nearly five years of doing the same show 717 times.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

the nonesense in bali
anyone who thinks that the headlines of:

The "Bali roadmap" initiates a two-year process of negotiations designed to agree a new set of emissions targets to replace those in the Kyoto Protocol.

will do anything dramatically meaningful is living in a dreamworld. scientists aren't calling for negotiations, they are calling for emissions cuts. period. mandatory cuts are the ONLY way we are ever going to do something about limiting carbon emissions in a serious way in the short term. it's a little like speeding in a car. why do you think we have speed limits that are enforced by the police? why don't we just ask everyone to slow down? you have to have some mechanism in place by which you enforce rules, regulations, laws, etc. or else those rules will simply not be observed. in other words, if you think you can
get away with it, you will.

the united states, the world's biggest polluter had complained that language on reducing their emissions was too strong, and would commit them to measures that could retard their economic development. THAT'S THE WHOLE FUCKING POINT! you cannot keep cramming cake after cake into your fat mouth and not get fat as a result of your actions. global climate change isn't ONLY concerned about a farmer in iowa, or how he will vote.

in the end, the choice is simple. adopt a strategy and invest. give up a little now for rewards in the future or face the inevitable.

one more thing. how's that credit crisis looking, george? economic development-at-all-costs, just like everyone else's will have naturally occurring ups and downs irrespective of what you do to protect the planet. i understand that liquidity, the main driving force behind economic development is still sending shockwaves throughout the entire financial system. how many hundreds of thousands of homeowners will end up losing their homes as a result in part of their own greed and ignorance but also of this banking greed and" look the other way while we're making billions" lack of regulation during this administration, despite dire warnings that this nightmare could happen? they are the professionals. they knew better.

how could setting targets reducing carbon emissions possibly be any worse for these same homeowners?

surely it's time for the united states to stop being the biggest polluter, AND the biggest asshole on the planet.

well done al gore for saying what he did.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I have decided to remove this post and wish topdjgear all the success in the future.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Chimps beat humans in memory test

Bush 'cannot recall' CIA videos

The president "did not remember" being told of the tapes prior to Thursday, she said.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Flatulence ban for club pensioner

A social club in Devon has banned a 77-year-old man from breaking wind while indoors.

Maurice Fox received a letter from Kirkham Street Sports and Social Club in Paignton asking him to consider his actions, which "disgusted" members.

"I am a loud farter, but there is no smell"
Maurice Fox

...yes, mate.

Monday, December 03, 2007

freezing the kicker. nice one, 'king' joe...

nutty says:

1. it's completely unsportsmanlike.

2. it says you've spent the rest of the game trying to beat the other team but haven't found a way to do so, so now you try this desperate move involving none of your own players...

3. if you're going to allow it, make it a compulsory 15-yard penalty for doing so.

4. nobody wants to end a game this way.

5. if you're going to lose, do so with some fucking dignity. all the tributes to sean taylor yesterday and you decide to end the game like this?

pure class...

in rugby, the losing side stands and applauds the victor off the field for beating them fair and square, joe.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

wait for the outpouring of cheese...

Bills take on grieving Redskins.

one thing is for sure as regards victims of gun crime in this country. if you're not famous, and/or you're not in school/college, and/or you don't die, nobody in the media gives a fuck.

hey fred smoot, next time you blow a cover and allow a touchdown pass, please raise your finger and point to heaven. life is also about our failures, not just cherry picking our successes.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

daredevil Evel Knievel dies

Legendary US daredevil Evel Knievel has died at the age of 69.

...if you are a male aged somewhere between 40 and 60, you probably did what i did as a kid and watched him on tv, attempting the impossible.

you then went outside, set up small ramps in the garden and jumped them on your bicycle (often coming off) pretending to be him. he was your daredevil hero.

very few ever get to have that sort of impact.

when i had my really big motorcycle accident, i always joked that unlike evel knieval, i couldn't even clear one car...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Taking Science on Faith - nutty responds to a physisict

SCIENCE, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term “doubting Thomas” well illustrates the difference. In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.

The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified.

The most refined expression of the rational intelligibility of the cosmos is found in the laws of physics, the fundamental rules on which nature runs. The laws of gravitation and electromagnetism, the laws that regulate the world within the atom, the laws of motion — all are expressed as tidy mathematical relationships. But where do these laws come from? And why do they have the form that they do?

When I was a student, the laws of physics were regarded as completely off limits. The job of the scientist, we were told, is to discover the laws and apply them, not inquire into their provenance. The laws were treated as “given” — imprinted on the universe like a maker’s mark at the moment of cosmic birth — and fixed forevermore. Therefore, to be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin. You’ve got to believe that these laws won’t fail, that we won’t wake up tomorrow to find heat flowing from cold to hot, or the speed of light changing by the hour.

Over the years I have often asked my physicist colleagues why the laws of physics are what they are. The answers vary from “that’s not a scientific question” to “nobody knows.” The favorite reply is, “There is no reason they are what they are — they just are.” The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational. After all, the very essence of a scientific explanation of some phenomenon is that the world is ordered logically and that there are reasons things are as they are. If one traces these reasons all the way down to the bedrock of reality — the laws of physics — only to find that reason then deserts us, it makes a mockery of science.

Can the mighty edifice of physical order we perceive in the world about us ultimately be rooted in reasonless absurdity? If so, then nature is a fiendishly clever bit of trickery: meaninglessness and absurdity somehow masquerading as ingenious order and rationality.

Although scientists have long had an inclination to shrug aside such questions concerning the source of the laws of physics, the mood has now shifted considerably. Part of the reason is the growing acceptance that the emergence of life in the universe, and hence the existence of observers like ourselves, depends rather sensitively on the form of the laws. If the laws of physics were just any old ragbag of rules, life would almost certainly not exist.

A second reason that the laws of physics have now been brought within the scope of scientific inquiry is the realization that what we long regarded as absolute and universal laws might not be truly fundamental at all, but more like local bylaws. They could vary from place to place on a mega-cosmic scale. A God’s-eye view might reveal a vast patchwork quilt of universes, each with its own distinctive set of bylaws. In this “multiverse,” life will arise only in those patches with bio-friendly bylaws, so it is no surprise that we find ourselves in a Goldilocks universe — one that is just right for life. We have selected it by our very existence.

The multiverse theory is increasingly popular, but it doesn’t so much explain the laws of physics as dodge the whole issue. There has to be a physical mechanism to make all those universes and bestow bylaws on them. This process will require its own laws, or meta-laws. Where do they come from? The problem has simply been shifted up a level from the laws of the universe to the meta-laws of the multiverse.

Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.

This shared failing is no surprise, because the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way. Christians envisage God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, while physicists think of their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships.

And just as Christians claim that the world depends utterly on God for its existence, while the converse is not the case, so physicists declare a similar asymmetry: the universe is governed by eternal laws (or meta-laws), but the laws are completely impervious to what happens in the universe.

It seems to me there is no hope of ever explaining why the physical universe is as it is so long as we are fixated on immutable laws or meta-laws that exist reasonlessly or are imposed by divine providence. The alternative is to regard the laws of physics and the universe they govern as part and parcel of a unitary system, and to be incorporated together within a common explanatory scheme.

In other words, the laws should have an explanation from within the universe and not involve appealing to an external agency. The specifics of that explanation are a matter for future research. But until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus.

Paul Davies is the director of Beyond, a research center at Arizona State University, and the author of “Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life.”

e-mail to Paul Davies (nutty's response)

re: an amateur astronomer responding to your new york times article

Taking Science on Faith – a star is born…


as an amateur astronomer, I may not enjoy the powerful scientific intellect that you are renowned for. I'm not even a scientist, but I am an interested reader, and I take issue with your Op-Ed piece in the New York Times: Taking Science on Faith.

You begin by formulating an argument conveniently omitting any reference to quantum mechanics (science’s single most successful scientific theory). Why so?, because the very nature of quantum mechanics appears at direct odds with any “immutable laws” argument i.e. probabilistic as opposed to deterministic. In any case, where in the literature does it state that scientific laws are immutable? Find me a document that has prevented Paul Davies from improving upon or overturning any of Newton’s or Einstein’s Laws.

I think the use of such language here is highly questionable. Do you care to answer what NASA’s Gravity B Probe is doing in space if it is not testing Einstein’s “immutable laws”? Didn’t Einstein himself give the world a new way of thinking about space and time? Last time I checked, we still haven’t ‘abandoned’ Newton’s laws of gravity. What immutable laws are you talking about? Correct me if I’m wrong, Mr. Davies, but Isn’t science supposed to disprove, not prove?

You take the word ‘faith’ and apply it equally to both science and religion, disregarding the fact that science is based on observation and methodology, and the historical record is available for anyone to examine. Where is the faith you speak of in these records?

While I agree that in principle the laws of physics can be seen to be taken on ‘faith’, do you not lessen the impact of the argument by reducing the power of science as if faith in it were of somehow equal value, that faith in science’s laws itself merited the same intellectual discipline that theology deserves from faith in its origins.

This is very sweeping, safely typing away on your computer operating on the principles of quantum mechanics. Less than a thousand years ago, the world of mathematics was viewed as the work of the devil, faith then meant religious struggle, protestants strived to create ‘pure’ Christianity, and rebelled against the Catholic church with its papal doctrines. Men and women sought after god, one way or another. They believed. Oh yes, they also had the torturous (sic) inquisition… if you wish to hold up ‘faith’ in science’s laws to those of religion in both hands and pretend they are the same, that’s up to you. I personally give one a lot more intellectual weight than the other. I find it strange that this view is written in an Op-Ed article. Exactly who is this written for?

“Can the mighty edifice of physical order we perceive in the world about us ultimately be rooted in reasonless absurdity?”

While it may be without ‘reason’ to suggest that it is absurd is mystifying. What exactly is so absurd about the physical laws that are the key to understanding Doppler shift for instance? Are they any more absurd than the fundamental tools you would use to learn a new language? The motive for learning the language is ours, of course.

Interestingly, while I agree that both religion and science were indeed founded on faith, you discuss the hypothetical possibility that we might live in a “multiverse”. I’m curious as to why take the reader from immutable laws to hypothetical possibilities in an argument supposedly dealing with what’s wrong with science adopting the faith-based strategy?

“physical law is a theological one in the first place” sorry Mr. Davies, but if new physical processes are discovered, and if by some 'miraculous' means a new physical laws can be written when the Large Hadron Collider begins operating, I doubt very much that that those laws will be theological, even if the so-called God Particle (Higgs boson) is discovered.

“until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus.” Why so? If we have arrived at a modern limit to our present understanding because of limits to available technology, I’d like to know what is so wrong. I think it wrong to write scientists off so incredibly early given the fact that we’ve only had pocket calculators available for some 30 years…

Faith. The crux of your argument. Take the story of Jesus, and the Star of Bethlehem. Told to us by the unknown author of the Gospel of Matthew. It recounts wise men coming from the east to Jerusalem after seeing a remarkable star, then finding a newborn king by following the star to his humble birthplace. The Star of Bethlehem “goes before them” and stops “over where the child was,”…you know the rest. No independent report of such a sky event exists. The story was written not by a contemporary but by an apologist about 100 years – more than a human lifetime – after the fact. Scientifically, any search for an astronomical Star of Bethlehem is fatally flawed, based in part on the text of Matthew in its original language. An honest look shows that not only do all astronomical explanations fail to fit the story, but the historical reliability of the tale itself is simply too low to take as fact.

The problems then are overwhelming. The Gospel narratives of Jesus’ infancy contradict each other, no account of the star exists elsewhere, the tale was written a lifetime or more later by an apologist familiar with the miracle-birth stories at the time. As such, a believer can simply bury their heads in biblical sand and view the Star as a local miracle that the magi alone could see. A historian can only regard the tale as fictional or at least not investigable, and to astronomers – it is a star we’re talking about, astronomy is irrelevant. We are completely unable to match any such event with the records.

And THIS, Mr Davies, is what you are comparing science to? Keep this in mind as you enter the stores playing their endless (how many times must I hear this) christmas music from now on until after December 25th. Perhaps a different word might have triggered a less heated response.

Children (especially in the United States) are systematically taught (from a very early, impressionable age) that there is somehow a higher kind of knowledge which comes from faith, which comes from revelation, which comes from scripture, which comes from tradition, and that it is the equal if not the superior of knowledge that comes from real (scientific) evidence.

I was reminded of this at a thanksgiving dinner. As a newly-wed atheist, I sat there, listening to a mother prompt her child, among others: “is there anyone who wants to give thanks to god?” she asked at the dinner table. I resisted my deepest urge to respond with an arsenal of ‘reason’. After all, I was the odd one out; the new addition to the family. Sometimes diplomacy is the best policy if not the best intellectual device.


Teacher charged over teddy row

...cartoons? teddy bears? just about anything you can think of.

religion rears it's ugly head again. it's so fucking unreasonable. oh no. you can't criticise it.

it's the 21st century! if you want to go back to living in the dark ages, give up what the world of science has given humanity, and let those who want to think and express themselves without fear of repression do so.

isn't freedom of speech central to any definition of a truly modern world?

i'm so offended, i shall now name my footlong, turkey breast, subway sandwich 'Muhammad'.

...mmm...nice with spicy mustard.

T-Mobile ends cycling sponsorship

T-Mobile is to end sponsorship of its cycling team after a succession of doping scandals.

...manufacturers of pink lycra are said to be devastated by the news.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Redskins Star Sean Taylor Dies After Shooting

MIAMI (AP) Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor has died, a day after he was shot at home, said family friend Richard Sharpstein.

He said Taylor's father called him around 5:30 a.m. to tell him the news.

''His father called and said he was with Christ and he cried and thanked me,'' said Sharpstein, Taylor's former lawyer. ''It's a tremendously sad and unnecessary event. He was a wonderful, humble, talented young man, and had a huge life in front of him. Obviously God had other plans.''

...Taylor was also fined at least seven times for late hits, uniform violations and other infractions over his first three seasons, including a $17,000 penalty for spitting in the face of Tampa Bay running back Michael Pittman during a playoff game in January 2006.

sorry about his death, but as for the religious stuff; i'm not buying.

...yeah, for someone who liked to hit people as hard as possible, exactly what is he going to be doing on sundays from now on? singing hymns? watching that doddery lunatic pat robertson instead of his mates play football? sure...

why when anyone dies do we automatically proclaim that they go to heaven? cemeterys don't have any headstones that suggest the other place. i mean they can't all be up there, given that sunday after bloody sunday, churches tell their congregations that everyone's a sinner. repent, repent, find jesus. ask god for forgiveness. then when you've found him, you can spend the rest of your life worshipping him. only then he will forgive you.

FOR WHAT!? being normal, like everyone else?

i'm just a normal bloke. i don't need anyone worshipping me. so why would god, the so-called creator of the universe need his little experiment on earth to worship him? if i went to a therapist and told them i needed people to worship me, do you think they would classify me as being insecure?

oh and one other thing. i know i'm going to die. no heaven, or hell for nutty. just decomposition.

and isn't it big of god to dangle the promise of everlasting life to us 'mere' mortals, given that he himself never has to face death...

"God is always in control," Pedro Taylor later told reporters. "We have no control of life or death ... we thank Him for all 24 years of having Sean here. I know it sounds short, but that's His will and it was done."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Blair feared faith 'nutter' label

Tony Blair avoided talking about his religious views while in office for fear of being labelled "a nutter", the former prime minister has revealed.

"For me having faith was an important part of being able to do that," he said.

But while it was commonplace in the US and elsewhere for politicians to talk about their religious convictions, he added, "you talk about it in our system and, frankly, people do think you're a nutter".

... how to drag the honourable name of 'nutter' to the lowest depths.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Direct quote from the just published REAGAN DIARIES

The entry is dated May 17, 1986.

‘A moment I’ve been dreading. George brought his ne’re-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida. The one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I’ll call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they’ll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work.’

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

comet holmes

managed to get an image of comet holmes from pennsylvania this past weekend before it disappears for good.

in the end i wasn't able to stack multiple images to get a better image as i tried , but at least i got a shot in.

click on image for a better view.

details: canon 30D with william optics 66mm refractor piggybacked onto 8" SCT telescope. 5 seconds at iso1600.

update: comet holmes is now the largest object in the solar system...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

intelligent design vs evolution

anyone see last night's nova/pbs program about intelligent design and the teaching of it alongside evolution in science classes in dover schools?

one doesn't exactly have to be a rocket scientist to see that intelligent design is but creationism in different clothes. i particularly loved the draft document they showed supplied as a supporting draft to the book themselves that condemns them

see the discovery institute's (very reasonable...) response to the program: must be a typo. should read

philip johnson, the father of intelligent design:

How do you explain our genetic relatedness with chimpanzees?

Johnson: There is a relatedness. But what does it mean? Say we have almost 99 percent of our genes in common with chimpanzees. We also have at least 25 percent of our genes in common with bananas. There are these commonalities that exist throughout life. Do they point to a common evolutionary process or a common creator? That is the question for interpretation.

The genes are going to win when people ask me about that great degree of similarity between human genes and chimpanzee genes. I answer that genes must not be anywhere near as important as we have been led to believe. If there were that great a commonality between chimps and humans, it ought to be relatively easy to breed chimps and come up with a human being, or by genetic engineering to change a chimp into a human. We ought to see humans occasionally being born to chimps or perhaps chimps born into human families.

... i repeat: "genes must not be anywhere near as important as we have been led to believe."

draw your own conclusions, and next time you go to the doctor, ask him just how important genes are with respect to causing congenital diseases and disorders.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

took some images of the comet.

daisy & i went up to see her folks in pennslyvania this friday eve, and came back today. took the telescopes, so i could get a good look at comet holmes. it looked huge in the big 'scope.

also set the camera up and took some shots (through the little telescope), which i'll work on tomorrow and put an image up on the blog of the comet.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

our magnetic earth

The World Digital Magnetic Anomaly Map (WDMAM) shows the variation in strength of the magnetic field after the Earth's dipole field has been removed. Earth's dipole field is generated by circulating electric currents in the planet's metal core. It varies from 35,000 nanoTesla (nT) at the Equator to 70,000 nT at the poles.

...that's way better than a bar magnet, & some iron filings sprinkled on a piece of paper in science class.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

happy halloween!

a big thanks to tanc, tiernan, mark, and everyone else at jimmy valentine's for a great halloween party on saturday night!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Victims in Wildfire’s Path Say, ‘Why Me?’

from the new york times:

Mr. Tohsakul, a television news program manager, rested assured on Monday that the fire was miles from his house after viewing scenes of the area shot by one of the station’s cameramen. But on Tuesday afternoon, he sat in his driveway taking deep breaths at the sight of the roof caved in and his possessions charred.

“What did I do to deserve this?” he said, looking at several unscathed homes next to his. “It’s just unbelievable.”

Mr. Becker returned from out of town and talked his way past police barricades to arrive at his house, with only a touch of damage to a fence. “I have no idea why we got saved and others didn’t,” he said.

Local television overnight had fixed on the image of a large house, a 10,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style hilltop jewel, burning to the ground in Rancho Santa Fe, a wealthy area. It belonged to Bob Jaffe, a venture capitalist, who visited the wreck on Tuesday. His Porsche somehow survived.


Some residents fumed at what they considered a slow response by firefighters, who have struggled to rush from fire to fire across Southern California.

why me? - perhaps some background reading...

the united states is witnessing a population surge into the open country - into a place where fire ecology has always been very much part of the natural order, much like it is in the mediterranean. this means that the fastest growing areas of the US are in places that are most prone to wildfire - the canyons, mesas and alpine retreats of the west.

warming trends for nearly 30 years along with heat records that nobody wants, has created conditions for new fires that not only burn hotter, but larger.

recently in greece, nearly 450,000 acres of olive groves, forests and parkland were consumed by raging fires. by contrast, the west has lost nearly 20 times that amount this year.

still thousands are moving into the open country at the far suburban edge of fast-growing western cities. since 1990 more than eight million homes have been built in western areas on the surface, the land still looks good. but the trees in most western forests are sick. they are losing their fire-resistant resin or bark. all these people are now living in places where fire is part of the natural cycle…

in addition, we are witnessing the rise of a new type of home in these new communities at the edge of a national forest. people are not building little cabins or humble mountain shacks. we want big, sometimes trophy homes of 5,000 square feet or more, three stories, half a dozen bedrooms, often with huge timbers.

in the wilderness, away from the urban clusters, they expect that the wild will not touch them. but fire, is a much a part of this ecology as perennial grass. fire renews the forest. many trees such as sequoia’s and some pines and other plants require fire in order to release the seed from the husk. a whole class of plant life require fire in order to reproduce.

these new houses, look perfect in their wilderness backdrop setting, but to a fire, they are just fuel. the people who live in these homes - also expect someone outside their community to protect them when a fire does break out.

the forest service, originally set up to nurture and patrol the great publicly-owned reserves of the west, has become the fire service. they spend nearly half their budget on helicopters, tractors, buckets and paying to feed and move these big camps of seasonal firefighters.

Why me? perhaps because we shouldn’t be living in these areas in such great numbers in the first place...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bush Asks Congress For $46 Billion More In War Funding

the trillion dollar president...

If approved by Congress in its entirety, it would bring the total appropriated since then to more than $800 billion. At their current rate, war appropriations could reach $1 trillion by the time Bush leaves office, a total that by some measures would exceed the cost of the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.

think what could have been done had george spent a trillion dollars on health care.

it's not like the united states leads the developed world...

click on the table for a clearer view of the figures.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

the brazilian grand prix

for the first time in 21 years, three drivers compete for the drivers championship title.

britain's lewis hamilton can do what no other driver has done before and become the champion in his debut season...

live on speed channel. now.

congratulations to south africa!

what a great game of rugby we witnessed yesterday. hard, physical & clean. antics, no names on players' backs, and no commercial breaks during the game except at the half. no mention of money either during the entire broadcast.

imagine that, america.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

France 10-34 Argentina

Argentina powered to a convincing victory over France to claim third place in the Rugby World Cup on Friday.

The Pumas, the revelation of the tournament, ran in five tries to snuff out French hopes of revenge for their opening-match defeat last month.

...surely, the tri-nations will now be opened up to allow argentina to join. as for the six nations, the only thing that has proved is that it is time to take a good, long hard look and for europe to come up with another tournament as preparation for the world cup.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Putin wants US date to quit Iraq

the Whitehouse issued the following response:

"only if he steps into the octagon with the president to fight in UFC 78..."

"live from the oval room!..."

the struggle to find that perfect piece of furniture...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

as the united states grapples with:

falling standards in education,

no free health care for its citizens,

poverty and homelessness among the most disadvantaged members of its society,

the disastrous war in iraq that has cost taxpayers $100 million dollars or so A DAY!!! the long-term cost of this 'war' could well top out at at $2 trillion dollars (and for what?)

what news do we hear about regarding the all-smiling presidential hopefuls?

The United States will hold its first billion dollar presidential election next year, heightening concerns about the influence of money in American politics.

if ever a country that had so much and squandered it was headed for a fall, this is surely it.

isn't there a single presidential candidate that can stop smiling long enough to take their gloves off, stop being afraid of the polls, tell the truth, and be a leader?

it's pretty obvious this country needs another martin luther king, but all we're seeing is a bunch of manicured suits that daren't say the wrong thing because they don't want to alienate potential voters..

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

climate change - for a change...

US urges climate change consensus

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said climate change is a real problem, and world leaders should forge a new global consensus on tackling it.

At a meeting of the top 16 polluting countries, Ms Rice said the US was "a major emitter" and was not "above the international community on the issue".

She said that the "growing problem" should be resolved under UN auspices.

...nutty says: tell your BIG boss to put his BIG money where his BIG mouth is, and actually DO a BIG SOMETHING.

meanwhile, i'm going to urge for a consensus that we have a banger of a party on halloween. it may not save the planet, and we may talk a lot of bollocks, but we won't be responsible for any misery either, unlike (i'm so hot) condi & (if i only had a brain) bushy.

i honestly believe that i may witness the extinction of polar bears in my lifetime. how sad if i'm right.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

south africa v argentina

kickoff: 3:00pm

i think it would be an understatement to say that almost everyone in england is rooting for argentina.

can't see it happening, with south africa having never lost against argentina, but there again, nobody expected england to be in the final either, but ultimately, the springboks just have too many weapons to strike quickly against the pumas.

england are in the world cup final


Saturday, October 13, 2007

3pm tomorrow - rugby world cup semi final

from the bbc:

England v France (Sat)
Jonny Wilkinson (left) and Raphael Ibanez
Wilkinson will be key for England, while Ibanez will lead France
England v France
Saturday, 13 October
Stade de France, Paris

England will be hoping to maintain the momentum of a shock win over Australia when they meet France in Saturday's World Cup semi-final in Paris.

Brian Ashton's side played their best rugby for four years but they face a French team inspired by an equally surprise win against the All Blacks.

Both teams go into "Le Crunch" unchanged, with a final against either South Africa or Argentina beckoning.

"It will take another monster effort by England," said RFU supremo Rob Andrew.

"As they did last week, there has to be enormous togetherness, huge commitment but also a smartness in how they play."

England have slumped in the four years since beating Australia in the 2003 World Cup final, and they were given no hope last month after scraping a win against USA and losing 36-0 to South Africa in their first two poool games.

If you haven't got that will to sacrifice your body and soul for the cause, then things won't happen
England captain Phil Vickery

But their performances were more encouraging in victories over Samoa and Tonga and they overpowered the Australian scrum to win 12-10 in Marseille last Saturday.

"The most pleasing thing about England last week was that they attacked areas of Australia's game which were perceived as weaknesses and in certain areas destroyed Australia," former England fly-half Andrew told BBC Radio 5live.

"This week it's about finding those holes in the France game, if you can, and then putting them into practice on the field backed up with another performance of enormous courage and determination."

Up to 40,000 England fans are expected to descend on Paris for the match and England captain Phil Vickery said: "The circumstances have changed. Suddenly there is anticipation from outside the camp of what is going to happen.

"France are favourites, but I have got confidence in my team. It won't be easy, but if we didn't think we could win the game, we wouldn't be here.

"People are going to have to find performances within themselves they never thought they had. If you haven't got that will to sacrifice your body and soul for the cause, then things won't happen."


England field five survivors from their 2003 World Cup final team - Jonny Wilkinson, Vickery, Jason Robinson, Josh Lewsey and Ben Kay.

Ashton said: "Having players who have been there and won a World Cup final will help to set the right tone when the day comes.

"It will be a momentous occasion, but it won't be a massive surprise to half the team.

"We've been told 40,000 people are crossing the Channel this weekend. They will be buzzing around Paris - it is unbelievable.

The English have what we don't have - the World Cup trophy
France flanker Serge Betsen

"The support has been phenomenal, and it makes a massive difference. I hope as many as possible of them get tickets."

France, who lost the opening match of the tournament to Argentina en route to finishing second in their pool, came back from 13-0 down to win 20-18 against tournament favourites the All Blacks in Cardiff.

"Beating the best side in the world [NZ] was fantastic but we have to concentrate on the task ahead," said France scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde.

"We'll celebrate later. We will still able to watch that match on ESPN in 30 years.

"This match will be our toughest in the entire campaign. We must believe in ourselves. At stake is a ticket to the most beautiful thing on earth."

France, the Six Nations champions, beat experimental England sides twice in the summer warm-up games, though Ashton's men recorded a 26-18 victory at Twickenham in March.

The hosts have never won the World Cup and lost the 2003 semi-final 24-7 to England in Sydney.

Flanker Serge Betsen, who was sin-binned in France's defeat four years ago, said: "I felt guilty because the team was penalised as a result of my yellow card, but I think that will spur me on.

"The English have what we don't have - the World Cup trophy."

England: Robinson; Sackey, Tait, Catt, Lewsey; Wilkinson, Gomarsall; Sheridan, Regan, Vickery (capt), Shaw, Kay, Corry, Moody, Easter.
Replacements: Chuter, Stevens, Dallaglio, Worsley, Richards, Flood, Hipkiss.

France: Traille; Clerc, Marty, Jauzion, Heymans; Beauxis, Elissalde; Milloud, Ibanez (capt), De Villiers, Pelous, Thion, Betsen, Dusautoir, Bonnaire.
Replacements: Poux, Szarzewski, Chabal, Harinordoquy, Michalak, Dominici, Poitrenaud.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ice withdrawal 'shatters record'

Arctic sea ice shrank to the smallest area on record this year, US scientists have confirmed.

it's amazing but there are still people ( non-scientists) that refuse to believe that man is responsible for some of the dramatic changes we are seeing in our present climate.

i typed in "global warming is a myth" into google and found this site as the 3rd entry:

...."I am not saying that it isn’t a good idea to take action to help the environment, but I ask you to consider this: if the majority of scientific data points to the fact that global warming is caused by the Sun, then how will a tax on carbon emissions help to stop it? How does us driving cars cause climate change on Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, Neptune and Triton?"...

It seems worrisome that politicians are all too eager to grab onto this man-made myth of global warming in order to make us afraid and guilty. Guilty enough to want to change it, and afraid enough to give up our freedoms and undergo massive financial expenses in order to do so. So this lie, being pushed by big money and big governments, is a convenient lie for those who want to exert control and collect money. However, it’s inconvenient for the mass amount of people who are already experiencing the problems of a widening wage-gap and fading middle class.

...If the problems we are being presented are based on lies, then how do we expect to find any true solution to helping the environment?...

right at the very end of the piece, we find out that the author is a 19-year old political other words, he's not even studying a science degree! he's not even qualified to offer an opinion about a science issue!

i'm an amateur astronomer and familiar with the astronomical community and also the sun, how it works and how it will die. nobody is talking about the sun being responsible for global warming! are you reading about it anywhere in the science literature? i subscribe to a respected astronomy magazine and they sure aren't.

climate change on pluto? we know hardly anything about pluto! where are these so-called scientists getting their data from, the clangers?

better if they had mentioned nasa's new horizons pluto project, don't you think?

in science, they have a saying, outrageous claims requires outrageous evidence.

looking at the ice withdrawal image, i'd say the polar bears don't need convincing...

i leave the best nonsense i came across 'till last:

i found this gem on:

"What's more, 100 million years ago, there was six times as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as there is now, yet the temperature then was marginally cooler than it is today. Many scientists have concluded that carbon dioxide doesn't even affect climate."

i wonder why they don't tell us who they are...