Archive for September, 2010

Stuff

September 26, 2010

  • Video: Morpheus explains The Matrix to The Dude
  • Underwire: William S Burroughs’ graphic novel to be re-published
  • The Big Picture: Around the solar system photo feature
  • Dark Roasted Blend: Abandoned Japanese island city
  • Sean Carroll: Review of Stephen Hawking’s new book, The Grand Design
  • Space.com: Northern Lights gets its own internet reality show
  • BuzzFeed: The funniest signs at the anti-Pope rally

Republicans are more anti-gay than we’re anti-war

September 23, 2010

Back when opposition to the Iraq war started to gain steam, activists tried to pressure like-minded members of Congress to put an end to the whole thing by cutting off funding by voting against the annual Defense Authorization Act. Here’s how it would normally go:

Activists: Hey! Why are you voting for funding the war if you’re against it?

Politician: Well, even if we were to end the war we’d still need to fund a withdrawal. So it doesn’t make any sense to vote against defense funding if your goal is to stop the war.

Activists: *Grumble*

But now Republicans blocked the same Defense Authorization Act in order to delay the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. So when the politicians which the anti-war activists went after told us that it was political suicide to block defense spending in order to shape military policy, they were telling us a lie.

Atari Teenage Riot to release full album, tour

September 23, 2010

So the Atari Teenage Riot single / reunion show turned into an iPhone app, and now it’s turned into a full tour and an upcoming album. There’s no name or tracklist or anything for the new album, but it’s going to be released on Dim Mak Records.

Here are the tour dates:

09-23 New York, NY – The Gramercy Theater
09-24 Baltimore, MD – Sonar
09-26 Pittsburgh, PA – Diesel
09-27 Austin, TX – Red 7
09-28 Dallas, TX – Trees
09-29 Houston, TX – Groundhall
09-30 Los Angeles, CA – Key Club
10-01 Chicago, IL – The Bottom Lounge
10-02 Montreal, Quebec – Foufounes Electriques
10-04 Toronto, Ontario – Phoenix Concert Theatre
10-05 Edmonton, Alberta – New City
10-06 Calgary, Alberta – The Gateway
10-07 Vancouver, British Columbia – Rickshaw Theatre
11-17 Paris, France – Bus Palladium
11-18 Colchester, England – Arts Centre
11-19 Sheffield, England – The Corporation
11-20 Southampton, England – University
11-21 Manchester, England – Moho
11-22 Leamington, England – Assembly Hall
11-23 Shrewsbury, England – Severn Warehouse
11-24 Glasgow, Scotland – The Arches
11-25 Dublin, Ireland – Button Factory
11-27 Brussels, Belgium – Autumn Arts Festival
11-28 Eindhoven, Netherlands – Effenaar
11-29 Reutlingen, Germany – Franz.k

Juice boxes will make you GAY

September 22, 2010

Hey everyone! Let’s watch Alex Jones destroy a juice box to discover the thin piece of plastic which is making him hang out at truck stop restrooms every night:

O’Donnell weighs much more than a duck and is therefore not made of wood

September 22, 2010

I’m not buying all of this ‘Christine O’Donnell was a witch’ business. Yeah, I’ve seen the video footage of her talking about it on Politically Incorrect, and I don’t have any direct evidence contradicting her claim, but it all just doesn’t quite add up. So here’s my completely uninformed speculation.

First of all, Christians who focus a lot on being “born again” have this need for their own little spiritual rags-to-riches story. Listen to any former alcoholic or drug addict or whatever turned fundamentalist Christian for long enough and eventually you’ll hear a sob story about how they were once “at their lowest point ever” just before they heard the good news about the Jesus. Usually the low point has to do with sex, drugs, and that sort of thing, but O’Donnell’s going one step further by throwing witchcraft into the mix. It’s only by debasing their former selves can they show the great healing power of the Jesus. If you joined a church just because you were feeling a bit lonely and wanted a regular community activity, that’s not a very compelling narrative to sell to other potential converts.

There’s another advantage to O’Donnell lying about this witchcraft, if that’s what she did. As a professional Christianity advocate, which is what she was doing at the time of the video in question, it’s in her interest to appear as though she tried out other religions before discovering the one true faith. In the minds of her audience, it’s to her credit that she saw through the lies of her fellow witches or Wiccans or Satanists or whatever. Now she gets to say that she’s emerged wiser for having a diversity of experience with other religions.

So that’s pretty much what I think about why she lied, if that’s what she did. But there are some tips in the video itself, too. First of all, she interchanges Satanism and witchcraft. I don’t know much about Wicca or Satanism, but even I know that they’re very different. That’s why Wiccan leaders have been speaking out against how O’Donnell equated the two. Wiccans don’t believe in Satan, for instance. And even some Satanists, like the LaVeyian variety, don’t seem to believe in an actual Satan.

Another big tell is how she immediately followed up her “confession” by shouting about how she didn’t join a coven. In other words, nobody can verify her story. I wonder who this fellow who took her on the Satanic altar blood date was. He’s probably still around, right?

I’m not saying that she made this story up in 1999 in order to help boost her 2010 Senate campaign. That would be absurd. I’m saying that I think she made it up in order to self-promote as a professional advocate for Christianity knowing that her stories about what she dabbled in were difficult to confirm or falsify.

Stewart v. troofers

September 19, 2010

Most people reading this have probably already heard of the Daily Show / Colbert Report concurrent demos in Washington, DC on October 30. If you haven’t, click on one of the images below.

It’s a great move to set up a demonstration this way because the March To Keep Fear Alive will have this automatic effect of co-opting any counter-demonstrators. The teabaggers have this paranoia about people infiltrating their rallies in order to discredit them. So it’s pretty likely some will try to retaliate against this real or imagined injustice. But that’s where the line between the Colbertesque satirical teabaggers and the sincere ones starts to get a little fuzzy.

I’m not going to this, but if I were I’d have trouble deciding which one of these two events to focus on, if that would even be a decision attendees would need to make. You’ve got the crazy satire marching around, and then you’ve got the sanity rally, probably at or near the Lincoln Memorial. So there will probably be a lot of cross-over of people going from one to the other. So even these hypothetical counter-demonstrators who intentionally stick around the sanity rally to try to discredit it will also be assimilated into the Stewart / Colbert hive mind.

But  the teabaggers aren’t the only target here. If you watch the Daily Show video linked to above, you’ll see that Stewart also goes after the 9/11 troofers by suggesting a “9/11 was an outside job” protest sign. So given their notorious ultrasensitivity, I decided to check what they thought of all this. Here’s what I found on Alex Jones‘ Prison Planet forums:

So these idiots who have been castigating George Bush and Co., also have been pretty good going after Obama’s crew are now equating the LaRouche antics (making everyone they disagree with appear as Hitler) to the majority who don’t believe in government telling the truth.  In my view this is just to hobble the 18-34 crowd that watches these assclowns from doing anything meaningful, like this david icke video advocates:

The same poster later elaborates:

Hey man, if you’re all for killing the momentum of the Tea PArty and 9/11 truth then promote these assclowns all you want. It’s perfectly obvious they’re using their honor to earn a buck and don’t give a damn about anything.

Hey, killing the momentum of the “Tea PArty and 9/11 truth” sounds like a good idea to me. So let’s get on with the promotion of the assclowns.

Later we get this gem:

All he’s doing is training people to tune out and not care.

Apparently if you can’t really care about rationality and reason and sanity. You can only care if you have crazy beliefs about the gubbuhmint’s “false flag” 9/11 attacks. They really think they’re the only ones who care about anything. Anyone who disagrees is just lazy or stupid or complacent. They’re more intellectually isolated than the Bush administration.

Or even the teabaggers, for that matter; even the crazier ones who believe he’s a secret Muslim from Kenya. Presumably, they at least believe that Obama cares about something, even if it’s a secret evil communist plan to destroy America. The troofers won’t even grant outsiders that much.

REPOST: Epistemology

September 15, 2010

Orac at Respectful Insolence had a great post a month or so ago which really nailed some basic problems with accepting pseudoscience. Here’s a relevant excerpt:

Of course, even within New Age, skepticism seems to be without a basis. After all, if you accept astrology and fairies, really, on what possible basis can you reject channeling the dead?… Unfortunately, this is a completely predictable result. When one leaves science, rationality, and reason behind, there is no reliable way to differentiate one woo from another, one pseudoscience from another, one faith-based belief from another. When anything goes, nothing goes, and nothing can be included or excluded based on evidence. Everything is fair game.

This is something that inevitably comes up pretty much every time I try to talk to one of these believer people. It just seems obvious to them that their own beliefs – say, that homeopathy works – are somehow beyond testing and experimentation, or that there’s a massive conspiracy to cover up all the successful tests, or some other lame excuse. But when others use the exact same arguments to support beliefs which are even crazier – like that reptilian aliens have infiltrated human society up to the highest levels of government – somehow to them it is just as obvious that they are suddenly the crazy ones. But that’s hypocritical since they’ve already abandoned the idea of ruling out beliefs altogether in order to support their own.

It reminds me a lot of how some fundamentalist Christians will say that it’s crazy for Muslims to believe that Mohammed flew up into the sky on a horse, but it’s perfectly reasonable for them to assume that Jesus rose from the dead, hung out for 40 days, and then flew up into the sky without a horse. Or you can reverse that if you like, it’s all the same absurd double standard.

And whenever I talk to these people, I always think that if I can only show them how they can rule out pseudoscientific ideas which are just a little bit too crazy for them, they will have some “A-ha!” moment and realize how skeptics come to reject their ideas and the attempted justifications. And that they in fact use the pretty much the same methodology we are using when they dismiss ideas that seem too crazy, even to them. But that rarely happens.

People who are into woo generally just don’t like the idea of having some kind of epistemological foundation for belief, and they like even less that it is science that has proven to get us closer to the truth than any other proposed foundation so far. It would be pretty amazing if we as a civilization had reduced disease, extended life expectancy and increased quality of life by proposing that ideas be tested on the basis of whoever simply says “That’s what I believe,” but strangely enough that didn’t happen. And it probably won’t work in the future, either.

Today is the last big primary (masturbation) day, everyone!

September 14, 2010

Unfortunately I’m not supposed to vote today because New York state has something called closed primaries, which means that you have to be registered in the relevant party to vote. So I will be forced to do so using my “name.” The obvious choice for maximum hilarity is the communist / local yokel  Carl Paladino.

Another state with closed primaries today is Delaware. The Republican primary in Delaware for Joe Biden’s Senate seat is between Mike Castle and Christine O’Donnell. Castle is the normal (yet atypical for this year), moderate candidate which the party supports. So he’s a pretty appropriate choice for Biden’s seat since Biden was basically a moderate Republican while in the Senate.

O’Donnell is the teabagger candidate, and she’s against masturbation because of Matthew 5:27-8:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Here’s what O’Donnell said in her own words:

The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So you can’t masturbate without lust.

Please fap to this picture while reading this post, kthx -mgmt.

So it’s pretty clear that’s the verse to which she was referring. It’s the Sermon on the Mount, if you didn’t know. But it’s just too bad that she didn’t continue using the Bible to dictate her politics with the next few verses. Here’s Matthew 5:29-30:

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

This… well this might be a tough sell, even for the teabaggers. Or maybe not! Maybe Christine O’Donnell will win the primary tonight, and she will then introduce masturbation (no, not this kind) to the national stage inre: the 2010 mid-term elections. The next thing you know, they’d be running attack ads accusing each other of being too liberal on the issue of Biblical, guilt-induced self-mutilation. That. Would. Be. AWESOME!

And if you’re a Republican politician in Delaware, you better hope that’s what happens or else you might get yourself killed. Tom Ross, the chairman of the Delaware Republican Party, received a death threat via email saying that he deserved “a bullet in the head” for supporting Mike Castle instead of the hilarious anti-masturbation lady. This is definitely NOT TERRORISM though, well, just because.

UPDATE: O’Donnell has pulled it off and beat Mike Castle. She then cleaned up with a sock.

Best Korea’s Twitter feed is awkward

September 8, 2010

Stuff

September 8, 2010

RE-POST: Canadian scientist aims to turn chickens into dinosaurs, destroy and/or enslave all humans

September 8, 2010

So here’s the plan:

  1. Be Canadian.
  2. Be a scientist.
  3. Get a chicken embryo.
  4. Turn it into a dinosaur.
  5. ????????????????????
  6. PROFIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here is the lede from PhysOrg (8/25):

“After years spent hunting for the buried remains of prehistoric animals, a Canadian paleontologist now plans to manipulate chicken embryos to show he can create a dinosaur.”

Read MOAR and MOAR and MOAR!

So this guy’s name is Hans Larsson. That’s his real name. No word yet on whether or not he wears all black, speaks in an Eastern European accent, and shows no human emotion – although judging from his name and what he is up to, all of these things most definitely must be absolutely true. Just look at what he looks like probably looks like I think he might look like based on a quick google images search:

My understanding of this stuff is really crude, but I’ll give it a shot. Basically what happens is that when an embryo of any species is developing, its genome starts to be regulated mostly by Hox genes. Here is a rap video about Hox genes. You may listen to the music while reading the rest of this post with my permission.

So for example, since we share a common ancestry with other apes, the capacity to grow a tail is in our genes. It’s just that for most of us, outside of places like Kentucky and India, that gene gets regulated so that we don’t actually grow a tail. At least, not usually:

But if you wanted a human to grow a tail, theoretically you could go into the genome of a developing embryo and tinker around with the Hox genes so that they don’t inhibit that particular part of our genome as it normally would. I’m sure it’s a bit more difficult than that sounds since it would need to be done at a specific developmental period and in the right way, but that’s the gist of evo-devo (evolutionary development) as I understand it.

So this Hans Larsson character is doing this with chickens now, trying to deregulate old genetic material shared with the common ancestor of chickens and dinosaurs. This kind of thing has sort of already been done specifically in the form of developing chickens with teeth. Yeah, that’s right: Chickens with fucking teeth.

Unfortunately this doesn’t mean we can create our own army of unholy chickenosauruses to wreak havoc on Ken Ham’s Creationist “Museum” or to perform some other worthy endeavor. It’s probably going to be very inexact and application-free, at least for a while now. But hang in there – with any luck, Hans and his assistant Igor Ivan Ivanovich (that is very likely his name) will soon be facepalming or shouting up to the nighttime sky something like, “Nooooes! What have I done?” as mobs of the townsfolk with torches and pitchforks scramble in a futile effort to stop the madness before THE CHICKENOSAURS SLAUGHTER US ALL AND SKULLFUCK OUR CORPSES OMG OMG WTF WTF EVERYBODY PANIC RUN FOR YOUR LIVES NOW!!!!!!!!!

Corot-7b is apparently my favorite exoplanet

September 7, 2010

A few months back I wrote about some recent findings about an exoplanet called Corot-7b and added some of my own uninformed speculation on it. And now there’s a new paper for me to pretend I understand. Hooray!

If you remember, Corot-7b is supposed to be a decent candidate in the early search for extraterrestrial life due to its density being vaguely similar to that of Earth. On the other hand, it orbits so close to its star that it only takes 0.85 Earth days for one revolution. And it’s locked into this rate of rotation where one hemisphere is always facing its star, much like our Moon is to Earth. So it’s incredibly hot on half of its surface and the other half of its surface never gets sunlight and is unbelievably cold. Oh yeah, and it rains rocks there because the heavier elements on the surface melt and then go up into its atmosphere, where they then cool down, condense, and fall back down.

This new paper by a team of astronomers at the Italian Institute for Interplanetary Space Physics in Rome is saying that some of those melted elements escape the atmosphere, creating something like a comet’s tail. Apparently Mercury is in a similar situation in our own solar system. From Wired’s Science Blog:

“The planet appears to be more like a ’super-Mercury’ under much extremer environmental conditions,” the researchers write.

The researchers at the Institute for Interplanetary Space Physics

So hopefully soon these astronomers or others will get some actual pictures of this awesome planet/comet/Mercury-ish tail thing.

Buffalo’s Triple-A baseball team makes a major league error

September 6, 2010

If you’re in the Western New York area, you know that we have a Triple-A baseball team here in Buffalo called the “Bisons.” But were you aware that the name of the team is a grammatical error? It’s true. Observe:

So this problem will be solved the way all modern problems are solved: Through a Facebook group. Now go join it on the Facebook. Even if you’re not local, please show your support for correct grammar.

Stuff

September 6, 2010

  • Cenk Uygur: Unilateral Disarmament Has Destroyed the Democrats
  • NASA: How astronauts on the ISS see Hurricane Earl
  • YouTube: Someone with a much better response to Pat Condell than me
  • Reddit: Letter from an old high school friend on Death Row
  • BBC: Velociraptor’s more badass cousin discovered in Romania
  • Cool Material: 12 Bad Ass Chess Boards
  • Smithsonian National Zoo: Lion cub webcam
  • Pitchfork: Top 200 songs of the 1990s

Reddit calls for Colbert to Restore Truthiness

September 2, 2010

The Reddit community is calling for Stephen Colbert to hold a Restoring Truthiness rally at that National Mall in Washington, DC as a response to Glenn Beck’s WhiteStock / “Restoring Honor” (aka have secret gay sex) rally last weekend. The idea is that the entire crowd take on the personality of the teabaggers in the same sense that Colbert parodies conservative television personalities on his show.

Since the Colbert Report is on vacation this week, the only official response has come in the show’s forums. And there’s also now a Facebook group for it. So if you are on the Facebook, you should join this group to show your support.

UPDATE: There is now a website for this rally, and it’s supposed to take place on October 10.

UPDATE: Make that October 30.