Wednesday, July 25, 2007

God and Voting

Here we go again. An article in yesterday's New York Times shows US voter's reactions to candidates with certain traits, and whether they would be more or less likely to vote for them. As usual, atheists rank dead last, with 63% less likely to vote for someone who doesn't believe in God.(click for larger version)

This puts us behind groups like homosexuals, muslims, drug users and adulterers.

What's really interesting, is that 3% are more likely to vote for someone who has no college education, so apparently really don't want to see educated people running the country. My guess is that they'd be voting for Christians too.

I know! I know! God did it!.......

Saw this on the 'net last week. You know it's going to be used by creationists as proof of the flood. A paper published in Nature last week proposes that:

...a significant flood event eroded a network of large ancient valleys on the floor of the English Channel.
Of course, the creationists will only read that part, and not the following sections of the abstract (or, let's face it, the whole paper). Reading further:
...we analyse a new regional bathymetric map of part of the English Channel derived from high-resolution sonar data, which shows the morphology of the valley in unprecedented detail. We observe a large bedrock-floored valley that contains a distinct assemblage of landforms, including streamlined islands and longitudinal erosional grooves, which are indicative of large-scale subaerial erosion by high-magnitude water discharges. Our observations support the megaflood model, in which breaching of a rock dam at the Dover Strait instigated catastrophic drainage of a large pro-glacial lake in the southern North Sea basin.
Apparently there were two separate flood events. During glacial periods, the North Sea's connection to the Atlantic would be blocked by ice, resulting in a glacial lake fed by melting ice and many of the rivers of Western Europe. Once that lake filled to the point where it ran over the top of any barriers between it and the Channel, rapid erosion would force a catastrophic failure. The image below shows evidence for the two events - the features suggest that an initial flood carved a broad valley about 45 km across into the bedrock of the channel, and the second carved a number of deeper and narrower channels into the floor of this valley.
It's interesting to speculate that flood events like these are probably responsible for the flood myths we see in many religions - as stories passed down from generation to generation recount memories of local floods, some (as here) clearly catastrophic. No magic sky fairy required.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Doctor Who FTW!

Thanks to the Bad Astronomer. Here's what to do the next time a religious freak comes to your door:

This is a panel from a two-part segment over on Home on the Strange. Click the image for part 1. Part 2 is here.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'd just like to point out that 100% of anything is perfect.

I've been tagged again. This time by Pharyngula. I am to take this test of my personality defects, post the results, and pass it on.

I'm a Robot.

You are 100% Rational, 28% Extroverted, 14% Brutal, and 42% Arrogant.

You are the Robot! You are characterized by your rationality. In fact, this is really ALL you are characterized by. Like a cold, heartless machine, you are so logical and unemotional that you scarcely seem human.

For instance, you are very humble and don't bother thinking of your own interests, you are very gentle and lack emotion, and you are also very introverted and introspective. You may have noticed that these traits are just as applicable to your laptop as they are to a human being. You are not like the robots they show in the movies. Movie robots are make-believe, because they always get all personable and likeable after being struck by lightning, or they are cold, cruel killing machines. In all reality, though, you are much more boring than all that. Real robots just sit there, doing their stupid jobs, and doing little else. If you get struck by lightning, you won't develop a winning personality and heart of gold. (Robots don't have hearts, silly, and if they did, they would probably be made of steel, not gold.) You also won't be likely to terrorize humanity by becoming an ultra-violent killing machine sent into the past to kill the mother of a child who will lead a rebellion against machines, because that movie was dumb as hell, and because real robots don't kill--they horribly maim at best, and they don't even do that on purpose. Real robots are boringly kind and all too rarely try to kill people. In all my years, my laptop has only attacked me once, and that was only because my brother threw it at me.

In short, your personality defect is that you don't really HAVE a personality. You are one of those annoying, super-logical people that never gets upset or flustered. Unless, of course, you short circuit. Or if someone throws a pie at you. Pies sure are delicious.

To put it less negatively:

1. You are more RATIONAL than intuitive.
2. You are more INTROVERTED than extroverted.
3. You are more GENTLE than brutal.
4. You are more HUMBLE than arrogant.


Your exact opposite is the Class Clown.

Other personalities you would probably get along with are the Hand-Raiser, the Emo Kid, and the Haughty Intellectual.

Sounds about like me.

Here are the unlucky souls who are tagged by me:
Tantalus Prime

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I'm an equal opportunity offender when it comes to religion, so this image made me laugh when I came across it on the Net:

Apparently, some enterprising souls decided that the Giant of Cerne Abbas needed a friend. And look - he brought donuts!

This time, it's the pagans who are up in arms about the "desecration" of their "sacred" site, a site, the evidence shows, that was probably created in the 17th century. The pagans have pledged to perform rain magic to wash the figure away. Coincidentally, this is the wettest summer on record in Britain.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Do as I say.....

.....not do as I do apparently. According to CNN, three protesters disrupted a prayer by a Hindu chaplain Thursday at the opening of a Senate hearing, calling it an abomination and shouting slogans about Jesus Christ:

Religious figures from various faiths have said the prayer, which is normally recited by a Christian chaplain.

Barry Lynn, executive director of religious watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the protest showed the intolerance of the "religious right."

"I don't think the Senate should open with prayers, but if it's going to happen, the invocations ought to reflect the diversity of the American people," Lynn said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had invited Zed.

Here's a video of the incident:

I don't think there should be prayers of any kind before the Senate, but this act by some of the religious right shows just how hypocritical their point of view is. Apparently, bringing religion into everyday life (schools, politics etc.) is fine, as long as it's their religion, and anyone who has a differing viewpoint or religion should be shouted down.

Hoist by their own petard.....

Found this on the intertubes yesterday. Seems like the best way to refute creationism is to use their own literature. Ricky Gervais reads from the bible.....

Thanks to GrrlScientist over at Living the Scientific Life

Galaxy Zoo!

Today's astronomical telescopes of all kinds, ground and space based, take millions of pictures of the distant reaches of the Universe. All that data takes some analyzing, so a group of scientists working with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) have turned to the public for help. Galaxy Zoo gets amateurs involved in classifying galaxies as spirals or ellipticals. These are images that maybe no-one has ever seen before, tucked away in dusty corners of digital images. It's important work because:

...visitors will help astronomers to understand the structure of the universe. The new digital images were taken using the robotic Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope in New Mexico.

‘It’s not just for fun’ said Kevin Schawinski of Astrophysics at Oxford University where the data will be analysed. ‘The human brain is actually better than a computer at pattern recognition tasks like this. Whether you spend five minutes, fifteen minutes or five hours using the site your contribution will be invaluable.’ Visitors will be able to print out posters of the galaxies they have explored and even compete to see who’s the best virtual astronomer.

I signed up (it's a fairly easy process), and I've already found a couple of interesting objects:

One word of warning's addictive!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bible Coloring book

Thought this was hysterical. Over on Flickr The Searcher, who posts all kinds of cool artwork (including stuff with a comic book theme) has this:

The blurb under the picture is almost as funny as the pic. Especially this:

I don't want to be a scientist!
Ha! That's ok, son. It's better to be right, than smart. C'mon, wanna learn how to flip burgers like your Dad?
Forever more, Velociraptors will now be officially known as "Jesus Horses".

Random Facts.

Oh dear. I got tagged. Twice. Thanks to Psychodiva and Tantalus Prime. OK. Let's do this.
First, the preamble:

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.
Now the fun facts. OK, well, they may not be fun, but they are facts.
  1. Fact the first: I'm originally from England - grew up in the Vale of Evesham (Google map here) in Worcestershire. I lived in the UK until I was 21, when I moved Stateside.
  2. I came to the US to pursue the love of a good woman, and coincidentally to study Physics at the graduate level at Florida State (go Seminoles!).
  3. I studied undergraduate physics at Brunel University in London (now the University of West London). Seems I made a big impression, since they don't offer Physics any more.
  4. While at Brunel, we had a reputation (probably apocryphal), that we had the highest intake of beer per capita of any student bar on any campus in the UK. Probably had something to do with the lousy male-to-female ratio at the time.
  5. I broke my shoulder cycling through Basel in Switzerland in 1987.
  6. My cats have been named for alcoholic beverages. First Whisky, now Bailey. Not sure what's next.
  7. Let's see.....struggling now. I always wanted to go hiking in Nepal. Not done that yet, but if someone can help finance a trip, or come along with me, then let's do it!
  8. What else. Oh, I know....where would I be without the kids! 9 and 12, growing up fast - I need to figure out a way to pay for college. This pretty much precludes #7.
Well, that's it. It wasn't as bad as I thought, but don't make me go through that again. Now all I have to do is find some unsuspecting poor suckers to do this to. Not sure I can find 8 though that haven't been tagged. How about these to start:
I'll edit more in later as I think of them

Indycars @ The Glen

I spent most of the weekend over at Watkins Glen for the IRL Indycar event. I'm a big fan of open-wheel racing, and Formula One specifically, but it's fun to go and spend a weekend at a racetrack and soak in the atmosphere. IRL is no F1, but the Glen is only an hour from home, so it makes for an easy trip.

American Open Wheel racing has been sadly mismanaged over the last decade or so, to the point that a sport that once surpassed NASCAR in popularity now languishes, divided into two camps - IRL and Champcar, neither with the support they previously had.

I'm not sure who to blame - and there's more than enough to go around, but there's tremendous potential - it's a sport that skews more upmarket than NASCAR (no rednecks here!), with a tremendous technological base and terrific action. Getting the two camps together could re-energize the sport and bring in premium sponsors. Here's hoping.

Harry Potter is back...

...and my son and niece wanted to go to the first screening, which happened to be midnight last night. Nothing like coming back to work after not going to bed until 3am. Pretty good movie though. Here's a link to the trailer:

The movie's definitely darker than previous movies - Harry and friends are all grown up now, with more adult concerns. It's a nice progression in the series. The beginning and end are very exciting, but the middle tends to drag in places. All in all, if you're a Potter fan, it's a must see.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Awkward moments.....

It was my birthday recently, and, as usual I received a good many interesting books from my wish list. My wife, bless her Catholic heart, is more than willing to feed my atheist appetite. It did get a little awkward, however, when I opened "The God Delusion" in front of her rabidly religious family members. The silence was deafening.

Actually, I'm becoming somewhat more militant in front of everyone these days. I'm trying to balance, on the one hand, my comments about magic sky fairies with my wife's desire to remain on speaking terms with her family. It's an interesting tightrope act. Any suggestions on how to introduce rationalism gently into conversations?

By the way, here are some of the books I'm reading at the moment. All well worth it:

Also, I'll be on vacation for July 4th this week, so I probably won't be blogging. I'll be back next week. Enjoy!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Science Idol: The Scientific Integrity Editorial Cartoon Contest

The Union of Concerned Scientists is running a contest to find the cartoon that best demonstrates political interference in science. You can vote for your favorites here. Here's my favorite of the 12:The reason behind this contest is:

Recent investigations and surveys show that the censorship, manipulation, and suppression of federal government science has become pervasive in recent years. Political interference in science has hurt our air quality, allowed FDA approval of harmful drugs, and prevented the public from hearing the truth about global warming.

This spring, creative minds throughout America took the opportunity to show off their artistic and comedic talents in support of independent science by entering the 2nd annual Science Idol: the Scientific Integrity Editorial Cartoon Contest. We received hundreds of compelling cartoons and our panel of celebrity judges helped narrow those entries to 12 great finalists.

So vote! You have until July 23rd!