Planetologist's Blog (75)

I'm back!

And cold, too. But there are only a few centimeters of snow here, so it's not all that shocking. Still, going from the sunny tropics to Pleistocene Michigan in a day is still a fairly dramatic transition. All my flights went off more or less on schedule, which by itself almost qualifies as evidence of supernatural powers at work.



My wife and I had a great time in the Caribbean. We visited the island of Saint Barthelemy (St. Barth), which despite its reputation is not only a haven for… Continue

Added by Planetologist on December 18, 2008 at 10:49am — No Comments

Offline for a week or so

End of semester travel coming up, and I'll be offline for a week or so... no new posts, no ability to approve comments... but I shall return. Ranting, most likely.

Added by Planetologist on December 3, 2008 at 3:16pm — No Comments

Nothing from nothing leaves nothing

In response to a prior post, I received a pretty thoughtful, non-hysterical comment that nonetheless invoked the infamous “something from nothing” argument that theists sometimes use to dismiss physics and introduce a Deus ex Hallucina to explain the Big Bang. I commented back, but because my comment involved a few hundred words I decided to bump it up to the main-post level. Here it… Continue

Added by Planetologist on December 3, 2008 at 9:57am — 1 Comment

Send the bankers to Gitmo

I don't normally write about business matters because I know so little about them, but I often read the NYTimes Business section because it tends to feature some very good skeptical arguments. Businesses try sometimes to be efficient, and analysis of how to really do that tends to focus a lot on objective criteria and evidence... at least when it's done right. Energy, the environment, medicine and matters of economic justice pose hard questions that in the business world attract both the most… Continue

Added by Planetologist on December 2, 2008 at 1:55pm — 2 Comments

Addendum to Religiosis

I received some comments on my earlier post on religion and the Mumbai attacks, and rather than pour time into comment replies, I’ll publish my response here. It’s a good reason to talk about this stuff, and I plan to write much more about this topic as time permits.



As Tristan notes, any discussion of religion and its role in… Continue

Added by Planetologist on December 1, 2008 at 7:03pm — 1 Comment

Religiosis

Imagine a vast colony of insects, all living and working diligently according to their natures, age upon age, constantly toiling to perfect the hive. And then one day, a few individual insects are infected with an unknown virus, which attaches to their nervous systems and twists their neural processing. The infected insects, who are otherwise well fed and gainfully employed, begin to twitch and veer aimlessly. Soon they lose all volition, and become a thrashing mob, scything through their hive… Continue

Added by Planetologist on November 26, 2008 at 7:54pm — No Comments

How to argue with your idiot brother-in-law

Sara Robinson’s entry today on Blog for Our Future is probably the best short summary I’ve ever read, of exactly why liberals should stop being nice and polite and backing down to avoid family arguments during Thanksgiving dinner. I’m pretty lucky; I rarely have to deal with this stuff at family holidays. When I have, I’ve usually managed to avoid a blowout death match,… Continue

Added by Planetologist on November 25, 2008 at 9:45pm — No Comments

In MY day...

Thank you Phil Plait, for posting this on Bad Astronomy… I almost spit up watching it, I was laughing so hard. I have to go along with Phil on this; Louis CK rocks, at least here.





I teach college students who’ve never seen a rotary phone… it would be truly interesting to see what students today would do with one, if presented the thing as a kind of anthropological experiment. They’d be as mystified as I if someone handed me an astrolabe and said, “Find the… Continue

Added by Planetologist on November 21, 2008 at 5:10pm — No Comments

Prop 8 prepares for annihilation

This just in from the California Supreme Court:



"(San Francisco, California, November 19, 2008)—Today the California Supreme Court granted review in the legal challenges to Proposition 8, which passed by a narrow margin of 52 percent on November 4. In an order issued today, the Court agreed to hear the case and set an expedited briefing schedule. The Court also denied an immediate stay.



On November 5, 2008, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil…
Continue

Added by Planetologist on November 19, 2008 at 8:57pm — 1 Comment

USA Today discovers the existence of atheism

It's always shocking to see a reasonable, rational argument for positive atheism presented in the public arena. It shouldn't be. It should be no big deal. In fact to my mind it should be assumed that atheists not only are as ethical as religious folk, by and large, but usually are more ethical. But most god-worshipers are ill equipped to understand that other people can have a strong ethical sense that doesn't depend on fear of a supernatural puppet master.



USA Today is not the most… Continue

Added by Planetologist on November 19, 2008 at 3:33pm — 2 Comments

Exoplanet imaged in visible light

NASA yesterday announced the first image ever taken of an exoplanet in visible light. Photographed using the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the newly-discovered world orbits the star Formalhaut, a young hot star about 25 light years away. The star and planet are only about 250 million years old. Named Formalhaut-b (by astronomical convention the star itself is referred to as Formalhaut-a), the new planet orbits… Continue

Added by Planetologist on November 14, 2008 at 12:37pm — No Comments

Plan C: Destroy the Sun

LiveScience posted a short article the other day on potential schemes for dealing with extreme climate change, and the list of possibilities is a wonderful primer on how wild eyed people can be about this issue. The article reported on testimony from climatologist Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., following a report Dr. Caldiera gave to the British Parliament.



Climate change is a… Continue

Added by Planetologist on November 13, 2008 at 11:24am — No Comments

Victory in the War on Brains

And a war on brains the last eight sorry years have been. In his NYT column on Sunday, Nicholas Kristof coined that term, which I hope will go viral. It sums up our prior condition… sadly, or still current official condition until January 20, 2009… perfectly. W is even less curious about the complexities of the real world than Ronald Reagan was, if that’s possible. Palin - and Dan Quayle before her -… Continue

Added by Planetologist on November 11, 2008 at 4:40pm — 3 Comments

So what's wrong with Socialism?

I mean that as a serious question. Last week, everyone on the gopper side was accusing Obama of being a Socialist, and in at least one case he was called a Marxist. It was weird, seeing the GOP so flustered, so driven to mortal frenzy, that they didn’t really care what they were saying. “Obama is a giraffe! No one has ever proven he isn’t one!! Can we trust our nation to a giraffe!?!?” they might as well have been screaming, for all the sense they made.



It was weird to watch… Continue

Added by Planetologist on November 11, 2008 at 4:38pm — 2 Comments

Prop 8 passes, Californians tell the world, "We're bigots!"

California's bigots passed Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment to strip the existing right to marry from same-sex couples. Californians must be so proud. On Tuesday, they demonstrated to the world that one can be mature enough to elect a black man as President, and still be diseased with bigotry. While no longer fashionable to spit on black people, apparently it is still popular in the US to spit on gay people. So popular, in fact, that we can still pass laws keeping them just shy… Continue

Added by Planetologist on November 6, 2008 at 10:11am — 4 Comments

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