Thursday, May 31, 2007

Milky Way Behaving Badly

Head over to Space.comfor a story about the dark side of our well behaved galaxy's nature, its being throwing its weight around and generally being a bad neighbour. The story is all about the streams of stars that are being found trailing around the Milky Way, these trails are thought to be the shredded remains of dwarf galaxies or globular clusters that wandered too close to the MW. Below you can see some of the streams uncovered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The streams are detected by looking at the colours and positions of a huge number of stars over as large an area as possible, doing this it is possible to pick out groups of stars with the same sort of colour, implying that they probably formed at the same time from the same material.

Some of the streams have been associated with known GCs or dwarf galaxies, basically these objects lie right in the middle of the stream, in the pictorial representation at the top you can see the original dwarf with its tails of stars which spread out both in front and behind it in its orbit of the MW. Over time the streams will stretch further and further, getting progressively thinner and more tangled, until they form a diffuse halo of stars around the MW.

This kind of research is interesting because the current theories for the formation of galaxies predict that there should be many more dwarf galaxies around the MW than we see at present, one solution is that many of them have simply been torn apart by the MW and their stars spread into the halo of the galaxy. If enough of these streams are found this could help solve this so called "missing satellite problem".

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More Unusual Nature

After yesterdays story about the gay flamingos acting as surrogate parents the BBC seems to be trying to outdo itself, now they have a story about a shark which has undergone (?) parthenogenesis, that's a virgin birth to the more religiously minded. The shark had become pregnant, despite being kept separate from any males for at least 3 years, genetic testing has since proven that the offspring was produced without any genetic material from a male.

It just goes to prove Jeff Goldblums (as Ian Malcolm) line from Jurassic Park, "Life will find a way", or words to that effect.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


The BBC has a great story up now, about a couple of gay male Flamingos acting as surrogate parents to a chick. You can find the story here. Apparently they had been trying to steal other birds eggs to raise, and after seeing a nest abandoned the keepers decided to give them the abandoned egg to raise. In another curious part of the tale it turns out that male Flamingos can also produce milk, from their throats, so they can feed the chick until its beak develops enough for it to filter feed.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Video Round Up

In a similar vein to the previous video, here is a round up of some videos I have come across recently.

First Bill Maher lampooning fundamentalists:

Jon Stewart on the latest F*$%-Up by the US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez

A great video with a nice bit of science, the helicopter blades in this video are rotating with a frequency which is some (integer) multiple of the one that the video works at, so every time the video records an image the blades have made at least one full rotation and appear at the same place, making it seem that the helicopter is hovering without any support.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Comic Interlude

Crooksandliars had this video up as a celebration of the comics 70th birthday. Being British I have no idea who George Carlin is, but he seems pretty damn funny. If you're of the strongly religious persuasion I would probably avoid it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Don't Trust Your Lying Eyes

If you're interested in optical illusions head over here, where they have the finalists from the "Best Visual Illusion Of The Year Award".

The picture above shows the winner, by Frederick Kingdom, Ali Yoonessi and Elena Gheorghiu, its incredibly simple, both pictures are identical (apart from a slight offset due to some dodgy photoshopping I guess) but due to to the way the brain interprets objects receding into the distance it creates the impression that the one on the right is at a greater angle than the one on the left. For a more thorough explanation see here. My head hurts now.

Bear vs. Mear(s)

Bear Grylls has been at it again, this time paragliding around Mt Everest (the picture is from a practice in the Alps I think), the full story can be found at The Telegraph website along with pictures and a video. To the none Brits this post will probably mean very little, but Bear Grylls is what can probably best be described as an adventurer and all round rock hard guy. At the age of 32 he has already carried out some pretty incredible stunts including climbing Everest at the age of 23, as well as being in the Territorial Army SAS Regiment, just check out the wikipedia article linked on his name.

The point of this post wasn't so much to big up the guy but to relay the somewhat counter intuitive personal feeling that as impressive as his exploits have been, I tend to prefer Ray Mears when I'm looking for a bit of outdoor survivalism. This seems to be a feeling shared by many of my friends and at first glance appears to make little sense, Grylls really does some very risky boys-own type adventuring, whereas Mears is, well, a slightly chubby guy that likes to wander round outdoors learning how indigenous people live.

I really don't know what it is, Grylls seems like a genuinely nice bloke, I just think its almost like he's trying too hard, Mear's shows never seem to be trying to impress anyone, yes he knows a thousand ways to start a fire, but that really is never the point. The star of the show is never Mears, its the place he's in and the amazing things you can find lying around.

Plus, if I was stuck in a survival situation, I'd probably opt for the slightly chubby guy, he certainly never seems to have any trouble finding food when he's out in the wilds.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

See It Before The Lawyers Get Involved

For those who like a bit of schadenfreude, like for instance seeing celebrities as they actually are, check out this site. Its great, its a professional retouching company, I can't link to the actual page, so click on portfolio at the top of the page to see before and after photoshopping pictures of celebrities (just click on the thumbnails and then slide the mouse over the pictures). I'm slightly surprised to find that they put this up there, I would have thought their clients would want this kind of thing kept quiet.

My personal favourite the before and after of Eva Longoria, where they felt the need to make her ass bigger. Just more proof that its impossible for real people to look anything like celebrities appear to.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dumb Invention

The prize for the dumbest invention of the week goes to: The Mayo Clinic.

This remarkable invention is basically a treadmill strapped to a desk, its designed to allow obese people to get exercise while they work. The BBC has a story here. The whole thing is so preposterous I had to check it wasn't April 1st, there are so many things wrong with this I'm not sure where to start.

First the practicalities, how easy is it going to be to type whilst walking? I foresee a lot of motion sickness here.

Second, its designed to help people that work in sedentary jobs, the test subjects were obese people who admitted to doing no exercise, which leads to the question who exactly is going to go for one of these? Who in their right mind will choose to do exercise at work if they can't be bothered to do any outside of work? Is the idea that companies will compel their overweight staff to use them, trying to get those health care costs down perhaps. I just don't see who can seriously expect this to be used by anyone.

Third the benefits, a net loss of weight of perhaps 30kg per year is nice, but after spending £1000 each is that really good value for money? The machines run at 1mph and people are expected to use them for 2 to 3 hours per day, why not just walk to work and back at a reasonable 4mph, saves money, and you get some fresh air?

I swear next someone is going to invent a running/cycling machine for use in cars (obviously not when driving), so people who can't be bothered to walk or cycle to work can "get some exercise" on the way to work. In fact I may go an patent that right now.

Note: The BBC has now tried out working at a treadmill, concurring that it is damn near impossible.

Child Of The Eighties?

To continue the theme of stealing posts from my brother, here is another one that could (if I can be bothered) run and run. If you were born in the early '80s the following should have been an important part of your childhood:

1) That pinnochio cartoon where it goes "Pee Eye En Oh double See aich eye oh, that's Pinnochio!"

2) The Teenage Mutant Hero (as Ninja was deemed too violent for the UK's kids - haha) Turtles, Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo, Raphael and Splinter probably gang banging April O'Neil off camera. Krang was that brain thing in the body of a bouncer, Shredder, Beebop and Rocksteady (can't remember which was the Rhino and which the Hogg).

3) Ghostbuster - duh duh duh duh duh duh duh - Ghostbusters!

4) Thundercats - are on the loose! Liono was blatantly banging Shitara or at least watching her getting changed using the Sword of Omens to give him sight beyond sight.. Snarf probably watched and Panthro was probably jealous so he sabotaged the Thundertank.

5) Pogs - what was the point?

6) Premiership 1993 stickers, people would go through everyone elses stickers and go "need" or "got" and sometimes in the school yard kids would throw them up in the air and shout "scramble" at which point there would be a massive scramble to get as many as possible, worth their weight in gold.

7) That shitty bodger and badger, one of them liked mashed potatoes.

8) Count Duckula and that castle that was able to teleport.

9) Supersoakers, if you had any less than a supersoaker100 you were considered to be a failure of a man, the supersoaker was to many the childhood equivalent of the penis. The supersoaker200 was the best as it combined a decent amount of power so that you could feel it when you got squirted but it wasn't so big that it slowed you down. This lad I knew had the one with the backpack for the water - just pure greed.

10) Tamagotchis - what a load of bollocks. The were the bane of the teachers lives at our middle school as kids would excuse themselves so they could go feed their snake or something, some teachers thought it meant they were going for a tug.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Due to unforeseen circumstances, I was forced to watch the godawful Eurovision on Saturday night, surrounded mostly by a bunch of drunk astronomers, never has so much jingoism and cultural stereotyping been seen in such a short space of time. I know the whole thing is a joke, but why is the voting so obviously flawed? Malta gets the same number of votes as Russia? What happened to democracy? Well I suppose if Russia is involved, there probably isn't going to be too much democracy really.

Not that an injection of democracy and fairness this would help the UK any, everyone in Europe with the possible exception of the Irish and the Maltese hates us, to win these days you either have to be from a former soviet satellite state, or be one of the 5-6 countries from the Balkans that used to be Yugoslavia. I can see why the former soviet states all vote the way they do, if they don't, no more oil or gas from Mother Russia. The Balkans is confusing though, you would think that they really wouldn't care for each other that much down there, after the recent, unpleasantness. Maybe I should take it as good sign for the future.

Oh and if anyone is interested, here are some sometimes funny, generally offensive, Eurovision top trumps, celebrating Saturday nights, er, spectacle. No I didn't have anything to do with making them, thanks to for pointing them out.

Watching The Watchers

DdH is back! This time over at (aka He has returned to form, ranting about his favourite topic; the neutrino. You can read the post in its full glory here. At least this latest effort is a bit more civil and coherent than his last, the magnificently mad "Relativity's Incestual Child Must be Euthanized" or who can forget the amazing scientific rigor he brought to
"Santa Uses Relativity - It's All Magic Anyways!" where he attempted to tear apart a lighthearted Christmas story aimed at encouraging children's interest in science.

This latest story is basically his objections to a UK project (original story here) to try to detect neutrinos by listening for the sound generated as an ultra-high energy neutrino reacts with the atoms in sea water. This is unsurprisingly very difficult, if he stuck to pointing out how hard it is things would probably have been ok. However his main objection is simply his belief that the neutrino doesn't exist, his reasons for this are that his pet theory of Autodynamics (which can be seen to be false here) says it doesn't. If it ended there really his post wouldn't be that interesting, however he does make several foolish statements that reveal his lack of understanding of the theory he is desperately fighting to replace, Special Relativity. For example:
In our lesson for today, let us be reminded that neutrinos exist everywhere SR is applied to decay cases and that the extra energy that appears from nowhere needs to be explained.
This is clearly not the case, the neutrino is only ever involved in decays where lepton number (a quantity that must be conserved in particle physics, in the same way that energy must) would otherwise not be conserved, one example would be the simple beta decay of a neutron to a proton + electron + anti-electron neutrino, the neutron and proton have zero lepton number and the electron has lepton number +1, so for the reaction to conserve lepton number there must be a particle of lepton number -1 to balance things out, that would be the anti-electron neutrino then. Of course because the neutrino is so damn hard to detect when you look at this reaction in an experiment it appears at first glance that all there is being emitted are a proton and electron, this is just because the neutrinos react so rarely with matter. However the energetics of the detectable decay products, the proton and electron clearly demonstrate a third particle must at work, sharing some of the energy of the decay.

This can be seen clearly in the figure below which shows the measured kinetic energy of electrons emitted by the beta decay of a neutron to a proton. Now the input energy must always be the same, because it is always a stationary neutron of fixed mass decaying into a stationary proton of fixed mass. The energy of the electron (and neutrino) comes from the difference in rest mass of the neutron (the heaviest of the two) and the proton. If only one particle was emitted by this decay then it would always have the same amount of kinetic energy, which would be equal to the difference in rest mass of the neutron and proton minus the rest mass of the new particle. The masses can be converted to energy via good old E=mc^2. The fact that we always see a range of kinetic energy for the electron implies that another particle is present and sharing some of the energy, both for its small (or zero) rest mass and its own kinetic energy.

Contrary to DdH's assertion in any reaction where lepton number is unchanged then neutrinos are not required from a theoretical perspective and happily not needed to explain the energetics, an example of such a reaction would be alpha decay, where a large unstable nucleus spits out a helium nucleus. In this case special relativity correctly explains the energetics of the decay products without the need for a neutrino, which is fortunate because all of particle physics says that there shouldn't be one present in this reaction. If you look at the kinetic energy of the emitted alpha particles you will find that they always have the same energy, proving that no other particles are being emitted to share the energy.

The problem with DdHs theory, Autodynamics, is that it predicts exactly the same behaviour for both these cases, so to explain that one type of decay produces a range of kinetic energies but another type produces a single value is impossible. You would think that would be a major problem, well not for Autodynamics, having as it does the amazing ability to totally ignore evidence that disproves it.

So in summary DdH knows nothing about particle physics, but we already knew that.

Another interesting comment, in a, "he doesn't know what he's talking about" kind of way is this:
Yes, we know they don't exist but even so, we better watch out! I always contended that neutrinos if they exist, should have some detremental effect on health given that 5.44 billion solar neutrinos bombard every square centimeter of the earth per second. Something bad has to come out of it. Now they have a neutrino that is similar to the killer asteroids!
He is confusing the solar neutrinos (produced by fusion in the core of the sun) which are incredibly common, but have very low energies, with the exceedingly rare ultra-high energy neutrinos. The solar neutrinos are so low energy they can't do any damage to anything they hit, the ultra-energy ones could conceivably do some cellular damage, but they are so rare that the chance of being hit by one is essentially nil. You'll accumulate much more damage over the year by being hit by cosmic rays than you will from neutrinos.

Another quote:
This sounds very familiar: low-number statistics. Somehow, the neutrino community has convinced the world that low-number statistics is not only viable, but necessary for "scientific" research with neutrinos.
This is another of his favourite canards, he claims that essentially all neutrino detections are false positives from other things such as cosmic rays. The problem is that experiments have been done using neutrino beams produced by particle accelerators, detections of neutrinos are only found when the particle accelerator is on and producing neutrinos, turn off the beam, the signal disappears. You may think that these detections could be other particles produced by the beam, however the detectors are usually located hundreds of miles away, through solid rock, no other possible particle produced in the accelerator could get anywhere near that far without interacting with the intervening material.

It continues to amaze me just how DdH has managed to convince himself he is correct in the face of mountains of evidence that prove he is wrong.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Astronomy In The News

The has a nice little article about the state of astronomy at the moment. Its fairly timely to me as I have just kicked off a few posts about the history and future of astronomy. Its well written and also happily pretty accurate, you can find it here (free registration may be required).

It briefly covers some of the larger discoveries of the last month or so, new exo-planets, the largest supernovae ever seen and the behaviour of Eta Carinae to name but a few. It also gives some interesting insights to the average reader about the replacement for the HST, the James Webb Space Telescope and also happily explains that astronomy is not just about the visible part of the spectrum.

The star Eta Carinae, a large mass star in the Milky Way which could go supernovae at any time.

The author of the piece, Joel Achenbach makes the point that we are in a golden age of astronomy, which it certainly seems to the average non professional astronomer, what with the almost constant announcements of amazing new discoveries. In my series of posts I will argue that we haven't quite reached the golden age, or at least we haven't reached the peak yet, the era of the 30-50m class telescopes and a working JWST would certainly open up whole new areas of research. All of which means that we can look forward to at least as many major discoveries in the next 30 years as we have had in the previous.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ashingtonese - Part 4

Continuing our investigation of the linguistic subtleties of the pitmatic dialect here is my brothers latest installment of Ashingtonese. As usual if anyone doesn't understand anything don't be embarrassed, ask away in the comments, I usually seem to spend much of coffee explaining the meanings to my colleagues most of whom have the benefit of having lived in the North East of England for several years at least.

"Doubter" is the English word for non believer, in Ashington this denotes female offspring. "Clewsie got the reverants doubter up the duff"

"Chute" is a tube that a person slides down, in Ashington it means to communicate very loudly. "Tommy seen Jimmy from the club, Jimmy waz deef so couldn't hear Tommy chute"

"Bared" means to uncover a part of the body so that it is naked, in Ashington it means "unpleasant or unwelcome". "Smegsa'z mother knew ee waz a bared lared efta the police caald"

"Berg" is an ice block that floats in the sea in English, in Ashington it is a lavatory. "After a night on the hoy Gregg left the berg in a state"

"Blair" the surname of Tony the Prime minister, in Ashington it means to cry. "Bert came yem efta a neet on the Stella and med Avril blair"

Friday, May 11, 2007

Maps Of The Universe

I've just come across a nice little site that gives an impression of the scales involved in astronomy. Its starts by showing the position of all the stars located within 12.5 light years of the Milky Way.

Progressive images increase the scale by a factor of roughly ten, until you reach the final one which shows the large scale structure of essentially the entire observable Universe. My personal favourite is the penultimate image which shows the structure located within about 1Glyr of the MW, the large superclusters of galaxies are readily apparent as are the filaments that stretch between the clusters.

There are also several nice pages which describe the Big Bang theory and General Relativity. Go check it out.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The History Of Astronomy - Part 1

Science nowadays is all about the big, the biggest this, the largest that, all discovered using some humongous new instrument. Astronomy is and always has been a leader in this respect, many of the largest scientific instruments ever built have been telescopes of one sort or another, from the stone circles like Stonehenge, which probably acted as primitive astronomical observatories, through the Uraniborg, built by Tycho Brahe the last of the great naked eye astronomers, to the first truly huge telescope the 72" leviathan of Parsonstown and on up to the modern age of optical telescopes of around 10m in diameter (Keck, Gemini, the VLT etc). Of course for large astronomical equipment you only have to look at the enormous radio telescopes available today, such as the VLA or Arecibo.

The primary mirror of the Gemini North telescope, and yes that is a person in the middle.

The question is what next? The consensus in the US and Europe seems to be to continue a triple pronged approach of larger space based instruments across a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum (especially those regions blocked by the atmosphere), even larger ground based optical telescopes and vastly larger arrays of radio telescopes. The question tax payers are interested in is unsurprisingly, why? These things cost a lot of money, why do we really need them?

A possible next step in optical astronomy: the European Extremely large telescope, with diameter 42m. Car and two people for scale to the bottom left.

Well lets just ignore the philosophical reasoning of whether most of us are interested in exploring the origins of the Universe, and finding our place within it, we'll assume that everyone is sufficiently interested to want to do astronomy. Why do we need to build such large telescopes? This question was raised to me by a student at a school I was giving a talk at and it got me thinking and I think provides a nice way of explaining how the science of astronomy has developed hand in hand with the advances in technology, in fact often driving many of them. In this short series of posts I hope to explain the development of optical astronomy (the bit I'm familiar with), though I should point out that this is not meant to be an exhaustive description I hope it will cover the basics as I see them.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

They're Back - 10

In the latest broadside to the scientific community AK over at the autodynamics discussion board has this to say regarding the latest results from the Gravity Probe B:

Ah, why one has to prove (empirically) a theory which is deductively inconsistent is right or wrong? In either way it is a conspiracy to mislead the public and make them agree to spend huge sum of public money. GR is just an embarrassing nonsense. It was emperor's new cloth and the party is over. Sorry for spoiling the party.


Not really much to say except that I wish I, and any in fact any physicist that has ever looked at General Relativity were as smart as A.K., look as I might, I just can't see the inconsistency in a the theory. The fact that it has been experimentally confirmed every time it has been tested also causes me to scratch my head in confusion, I just must not be smart enough for this game.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Poor Physics Jokes

In order to manage a post today I'm afraid I'm going to shamelessly steal some jokes, if you have a facebook account feel free to visit the group I got them from here, its basically a list of really poor, incredibly nerdy physics jokes from the some of the undergrads on the Physics course here at Durham. I have omitted to add their names, to protect the guilty, if you're one of them and want some credit grab it in the comments.
Here's a great excuse for forgetting your physics homework:
"I'm sorry sir, I accidentally determined its momentum so precisely that, due to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, it could be anywhere in the Universe."
Two photons are traveling through the universe together until one day one turns to the other and says "Look, I'm sick and tired of your interference".
z=x^2+3xy Walks into a pub, sits down on the barstool and orders a pint.
The barman looks up from the glass he's polishing and says "Sorry mate, you're gonna have to leave. We don't cater for functions".
sin (x), cos (x) and e^x all go to a party. sin (x) and cos (x) are both enjoying themselves, dancing about with all the other polynomials whilst e^x is just sat in a corner on his own.
sin (x) goes over to him and asks "why don't you try and enjoy yourself, integrate a bit more?"
"Is there any point" responds e^x, "it's not like it would make any difference!"
And a few from the internet, which may or may not also be on the group page.

Why did the chicken cross the road? Albert Einstein: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends on your frame of reference
Heisenberg is out for a drive when he's stopped by a traffic cop. The cop says, "Do you know how fast you were going?" Heisenberg says, "No, but I know where I am."
Q: Why are quantum physicists so poor at sex?
A: Because when they find the position, they can't find the momentum, and when they have the momentum, they can't find the position.
The Ten Commandments of Physics
1. Thou shalt read thy problem…carefully.
2. Whatsoever thou doest to one side of thy equation, do ye also to the other.
3. Thou must use thy common sense, else thou wilt have flagpoles 9,000 feet high. Yea, even fathers younger than sons.
4. Thou shalt ignore the teachings of false prophets to do all thy work in thy head.
5. When thou knowest not, thou shalt look it up; and if thy search still elude thee, thou shalt ask thy All-Knowing Teacher.
6. Thou shalt master each step before putting thy heavy foot down on the next.
7. Thy correct answer does not prove that thou hast worked thy problem correctly. This argument convincest none, least of all thy Teacher.
8. Thou shalt first see that thou hast copied thy problem correctly, before bearing false witness that the answer book lieth.
9. Thou shalt look back even unto thy youth and remember thy arithmetic.
10. Thou shalt learn, read, write ,speak, and listen correctly in the language of mathematics, and verily A’s and B’s shall follow thee even unto graduation.

I am truly, truly sorry. I feel guilty enough that I may manage another post later.

Monday, May 07, 2007

More Electric Universe Bozos

JEG pointed out an "article" that appeared on slashdot the other day, basically claiming that everything we know about the Sun is wrong and proposing yet more ludicrous electric universe ideas. I seem to run into these types of nuts all the time, they can usually be found hanging around the APOD or badastronomy discussion boards, explaining how everything in the Universe is made and controlled by electricity, and how all of astronomy ignores this (and them).

I've reprinted the post in full below, the original slashdot page can be found here, with a great amount of put downs by people that actually know something about science. It's nice when other people do your work for you, now if only I can get someone to teach that problems class tomorrow.
Once again professional astronomers are struggling to understand observations of the sun. ScienceDaily reports that a team from Saint Andrew's University announced that the sun's magnetic fields dominate the behavior of the corona via a mechanism dubbed the 'solar skeleton.' Computer models continue to be built to mimic the observed behavior of the sun in terms of magnetic fields but apparently the ball is still being dropped; no mention in the announcement is made of the electric fields that must be the cause of the observed magnetic fields. Also conspicuously absent from the press releases is the conclusion that the sun's corona is so-dominated by electric and magnetic fields because it is a plasma. In light of past and present research revealing the electrical nature of the universe, this kind of crippling ignorance among professional astrophysicists is astonishing.
What can you say really? They don't even get the name of St Andrews right for a start, and sadly its downhill from there. I mean what are they actually claiming here? That scientists don't think that the suns corona is a plasma? Er come on it has a temperature of a million degrees and its reasonably dense, of course its a damn plasma. Even the wikipedia page manages to get this right. In case your wondering, yes it is the work of the loons over at (why do all crank sites have to go for a .info page?). I'm going to have to have a bit of a closer look at these cranks and do a more substantial post. In the meantime, slashdot hang your head in shame, how did this nonsense ever get posted?

Political Stupidity

Does anyone else get the distinct feeling of being on a sinking ship? Its like rationality after 200 years of increasingly calm seas has run up against an island of stupidity and is slowly taking on water.

I'm sure most people reading this have seen the flap around the blogosphere (I hate that term, really need a new one) that 3/10 of the Republican presidential candidates don't believe in Evolution. I've been following it in a distracted kind of way, mostly because it makes my head hurt that people this dumb think that they are suitable material to lead the richest most technologically advanced nation on Earth. Chris Cillizza has a post on the Washington Post about the debate, more interesting I think are the comments people have responded with, they are utterly depressing to anyone that believes in rational thought. Check them out here (a free subscription may be required).

Here are a selection of some of the best, or worst depending on your point of view. Usually the creationists just fall on name calling and threats of eternal damnation (anyone else feel like we're already there?), though sometimes they're not above simply lying about the evidence for evolution. They also seem to like to confuse the scientific and laypersons use of the term "theory", they don't seem to have a problem with the theory of gravity though. Strange that.
How many of y'all evolutionists were there 6,000 years ago? But we "fundamentalists" have an eyewitness account!
Hey evolutionists - get a clue scientifically. It's a THEORY. No transitionary species ever found, and no real proof. Talk about a belief system that requires faith. You folks just don't WANT to believe in the Bible or in the God of the bible.
Break your chains of inculcation; evolution - as a theory of origin - is a fully, scientifically debunked myth. Open your mind, view science as a method and not a religion, and THINK FOR YOURSELF! Evolution is a 19th century false religion that has been completely exposed as such.
Biology DOES NOT rely on EVILUTION Yes I spelled Evolution as EVILution for that is what that deception is when it moves from the Science part (Micro) of small adaptions over time into the belief part (MACRO) small changes over LONG TIME HAD TO give us all this variety.

Because it isn't all bad, here are a few of the better retorts from the reality based community.
God gave you malaria. Science cured it. God gave you polio. Science cured it. God gave you most children dying before adulthood and many women dying in childbirth. Science made both rare. God gave you 99% of mankind starving so 1% could live like kings. Science lets most eat (while that 1% still live like kings). God gave you darkness and exhaustion at night, science gave you a light bulb and a computer and the time and energy with which to rant about the greatness and goodness of God and the stupidity and evil of science.
"The Pope has sanctioned the teaching of evolution in his recent Bull"FINALLY, someone is calling these fiats issued on scientitific questions by these nonscientist tribal chieftains by their appropriate term.
Welcome to the Republican party, please set your watch back 200 years.
I'm sure if you asked the candidates what our economic or military policies should be they would have somewhat informed opinions, but when it comes to making hard decisions they would defer to the acknowledged experts, i.e. Ph.D economists and generals. Yet for some reason when it comes to science and especially biology, these guys have ill-informed opinions and can't even acknowledge that their beliefs go against what the overwhelming majority of the experts believe. Their willful ignorance in this area may never directly influence what they do as President, but it says a lot about their character and their leadership style. The last 5 years are a great example of what happens when you get a POTUS who listens only to God, and ignores the experts.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Politics, US v France

As a penance for all the faux French bashing I do to Maud here is a video she will probably appreciate, its from Bill Mahers HBO show Real Time and shows the difference between American and French politics. Sorry I can't find an equivalent Britain v France version. The clip is very funny, h/t to

Bill Maher on the difference between the French and Americans