Category Archives: SCIENCE

Scientific McCarthyism

Phil Plait of BadAstronomy.com has been keeping track of a story regarding NASA and Bush appointees within the organization that have been supressing information on global warming and attempting to insert religious slant into educational materials.

As if that’s not bad enough, one of the Bush appointees was a member of the Bush election campaign, recently resigned over the fact it was revealed that he didn’t actually graduate from Texas A&M as he claimed in his resume. (Seems to be a lot of resume lying in the Bush administration.)

Was reminded yesterday of how when Joe Alba took over as head of FEMA, he gutted most of the employees and replaced them with former workers and interns from the Bush election campaign. That is before he then quit to leave Brown in charge (who lied on his resume) to become a lobbyist, directing federal contracts to various private companies that are connected to Bush and Cheney.

The insane illegality and corruption and cronieism in the administration aside, I really wanted to focus on the REALLY bad astronomy that the White House is trying to put out, ironic to the impress they’ve been trying to make as being a progressive and space interested administration. Yeah.

First read Phil’s blog entry from a couple of days ago giving some background to this NASA issue:
http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2006/02/04/outrage-at-attacks-on-nasa-science/

Then check out the latest followup on some of the activity going on inside NASA:
http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2006/02/10/people-at-nasa-must-be-breathing-a-sigh-of-relief/

It makes me literally sad and depressed at how much the Bush administration is trying to turn this country into a Dark Ages empire controlled by rich, hypocritically religious power mad liars and crooks who think we are all subjects of their regime as opposed to the fact that THEY work for US! We are their employers. But they don’t get that.

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government….

US Declaration of Indepenence

(By the way, did you notice that it said the government’s power is derived from the people, NOT from God?)

Darwin Day

Listening to today’s Skepticality Podcast I found out about “Evolution Sunday”. Yesterday being the birthday of Darwin, a lot of mainstream and liberal congregations are, er… did something in recognition of the acceptance of science and religion. (But I would bet my in-law’s Southern Baptist church, if they had any recognition, would have been a huge dogmatic and absurd refutation of evolution.)

I went to our neaby United Methodist Church yesterday, and unfortunately nothing was mentioned, but then, yesterday’s service was devoted to the Upward organization. (Kids basketball and cheerleading organized through churches. My wife’s a cheerleading coach on my daughter’s squad.)

Anyway, one such effort has been the “Clergy Letter Project”.
An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science.
A great open letter that I can really appreciate, which in my opinion reasonably merges scientific and religion thought.
Here’s the letter:

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

The End of the Internet?

The End of the Internet?
A story describing the possibility and even probability of coporate ownership of the Internet, all with heavy activity tracking and charging for various types of usage.

Is this possible? Well, I’m skeptical. I think the backlash would be too much for the corps to handle. People are too used to free Internet (well, mostly free. Aside from your DSL or Cable or AOL or basic ISP charge… although with wi-fi and various Internet cafes and libraries, totally free is possible.) And certainly people would NOT want to pay per e-mail, and hopefully people will despise the idea of having their Internet usage heavily tracked and recorded. Hopefully.

Then there’s the hacker backlash. The entire foundation of the Internet is about free and open access to information. And black-hat hackers will go out en masse to tear down or make as much trouble for the companies as possible. In fact, I’m sure a lot of white-hat hackers will turn sides at such a paradigm shift.

And other countries would have to cooperate, otherwise that’d be one huge hole in the plan. They’d have to track and capture the traffic of connections from the US going out of the country to use Internet infrastructure there. And there’s probably a lot of international legal issues there.

And finally, as we’re seeing right now, a whole new Internet foundation is being built from the ground up and is already in use in a lot of universities, just the the original Internet back in the late 60’s and 70’s.

The Internet will evolve, and likely, hopefully, beyond the reach of corporate control.

Unfortunately, corporate control has a pretty tenacious and pernicious reach. Where money is involved, they’ll try to find a way.

A Huge Little Discovery

I’ve been attending the local Astronomy Club the last few month. And last Tuesday I took my new Christmas telescope out (Orion StarBlast 4.5 EQ) and took a look at Saturn.

Wow!

I was using a 6mm, 66deg. eyepiece which if I have my math right, gives me about a 75x magnification.
Numbers aside, what did I see? A small white ball with a white band around it with an actual black line around the inside making it obvious I was looking at an object with rings!

It’s a little thing because we’ve all seen Saturn in books, in full color, huge and able to make out the individual ring bands, and what I can see is small and white and a single ring. But it’s so much more REAL when you see it with your own eyes! I can imagine what Galileo must have felt like. Pointing his telescope at the bright white dot in the sky and being shocked to discover a ring around it!

And, of course because I’m always thinking about it, it made me think of our and God’s place in the universe. I’m in amazed awe at this incredible creation, and all the more convinced God is not personally involved in humanity, individually and we are not the center of his world, so to speak.

Look at it up there. The universe is infinite. If the solar system, from the sun to Pluto (which would take a bullet 10 years to reach from Earth) were shrunk down to the size of a quarter, how big would our galaxy be in comparison?
A mile? A few miles?
Try the size of North America. Imagine finding a single quarter in all of North America. That’s how significant our solar system is in our own galaxy of billions of other stars.

Now consider that we are surreounded by galaxies with light years of empty space between them. We have in our field of vision in this infinite universe billions upon billions of stars, and have already been able to observe dozens of other planets around them. At one time we thought we were the center of the universe, and now we know we’re nothing but a speck of dust.

So, to what purpose does the universe serve in a human-centric view of the universe supposedly created by God for some plan for us? What purpose does the billions of other galaxies serve in God’s plan for us? Why make quasars? Why make binary galaxy pairings? Why make 99.99^(infinity) X 10 % of the rest of the universe? God could have created the universe any which way, and he chose to create it so that we are an insignificant speck of dust in endless space. Human science fiction authors have come up with much better scenarios for universes that reflect a God-human centered creation. The evidence of our actual universe just screams “Humans on Earth are insignificant!”

Humans want to feel significant, if not superior. In relationships, careers, just living. It’s why every ancient civilization put humanity at the center of creation in their myths and religions. It’s just natural for us to assume we’re the most important thing in all creation. It took a long time to figure out we’re not at the center of the universe. We’re a small planet near an average star on the edge of an average galaxy surrounded by countless galaxies. But we hold onto the idea that we are cosmically important. That the universe was made for us for some reason. That all these other galaxies hold no other purpose aside from the express purpose of being there for us for some reason, to fulfill some plan of God’s.

It’s really very arrogant and absurd.

It’s possible life is important on a cosmic scale, in general. Certainly not Earth life in particular. It’s possible that if God created life specifically, based on the infinite nature of the universe he created it elsewhere as well. And it’s possible that the slow evolution of life throughout the universe will lead to some goal. But I doubt it. From my point of view, as a human, life is pretty amazing! I value it greatly, and find wonder and amazement in the fact that these machines made of bone and flesh are animate and capable of action and thought! We are indeed godlike, from our point of view.

But cosmically, we’re no more (or less) amazing than a black hole, dark matter, quasars…. We are a result of the evolution of the universe, one of the countless ways molecules came together to form yet another fascinating feature of this universe. And we think we’re that much more important than anything else because we ARE that something.

But as I look out at Saturn, at that one of countless beautiful and amazing giant beyond our comprehension objects out there in space, I glory in the awsomeness of it, and am humbled by my awareness of my place in it.

We’re Good, God and I

OK, so here’s the link I said a couple of posts ago I wouldn’t provide:
The Bible is “Full” of Contradictions
Seriously, if you reply, be kinder than I am. (I’m “Mechphisto” on there.) I’m annoyingly arrogant and eletist and confrontational and even downright insulting. Not proud of it, but when I write stream-of-conciousness like I do….

I decided to post the link, because of two things that occured to me today, and I’d like to share it in context of the discovery.
First, is actually a discovery my wife made today at lunch. I’m an evangelical missionary. Yep. But not for Christianity, but for freethinking reasoned intellectual rationalism. I strive to tell everyone the “truth” of it and convert all I can to my cause.
I kind of like the idea. Not just because it gives me a convenient excuse for my arrogant eletism either. *grin* I like the idea of being a missionary for intellectual rationalism. Although, I need to be careful not to burn and kill what I don’t convert, like many past missionaries of a certain religion. *evil grin*

The other realization, which I’d actually already sort of been aware of but not really so concrete, but me and God are doing just fine. The comment I discussed earlier about someone claiming to know my heart and assuming I’m fighting against the “truth,” mixed with a new reply today from Mark in the thread linked above also indicating I’m fighting against the truth and I’m struggling against God, really brought home and in perfect clarity that for the first time in my life (these last year or two) I’ve actually done quite the opposite. The scales have fallen from my eyes and I have fully embraced the reality of the nature of God and the universe. Despite the tone of my ranting and ravings, I’m very, very happy and content in my relationship with God and my spirit is actually more at peace than it ever has been, including the period of my life I was a fightin’ Christian who argued and debated with people for literally hours on end as to why the Bible was God’s word.

As I write in the end of my last reply in that linked blog thread, God is in my heart, I have a great relationship with him, and it’s hard for Christians to understand because it doesn’t conform to their dogmatic belief of Jesus=God and God=Bible. I fight and fight and argue and work to spread the word of reason and rationalism, and thus fight for the realization that the Bible is simply a book of man no different and holy and divine than any other man-written mythology, because I want so desperately for other people to share in the joy and freedom of living an honest life unchained by dogma and the twisted will of others 2,000- 6,000 years dead.

And it’s of vital importance (to me) that people not live a life of belief in a mythology that advocates intolarance and genocide and hatred and arrogance and allows people to judge and condemn others for no other reason than personal senses of morality shaped by a mindset and culture of an ancient and nomadic patriarchal draconian society. When the focus of our spiritual furvor should be on improving the human condition and striving to discover and learn as much about God’s creation as he’s given us the ability to do so!

No, when I think of the murderous, schitzophrenic God of the Bible, I get sad and frustrated. When I think of the glorious and awesome God creator of the infinite Big Bang and genetics and evolution, my spirit soars right along with my mind!

Lament for Intentional Ignorance

Read something yesterday that really, deeply bothers me. It was a reply to my reply on another blog responding to a, in my opinion, very lame attempt to defend contradictions and factual errors in the Bible.
My response pointed out the absurdity of using a. circular logic, b. spurious logic, and c. hypocritical method of equating the Bible with any other secular historical document to defend contradictions but then claim the Bible is inerrant and holy, d. equating internal contradictions with variations in crime scene eye-witness accounts and then claiming the Bible is still inerrant and holy.

But the reply to my challenges and exposing logical fallacies in defending the challenges was:

“Apparently mechphisto, some of us just see what we want to see because our hearts know the truth, but it’s our human nature to reject the truth. I believe your heart know the truth or you would not so fervently argue the opposite. Perhaps I am just not as “enlightened” and “educated” as you. Hopefully I never will be.”

This type of reply seriously bothers me, makes me sad. It’s indicitive of the reason rejecting attitude most evangelicals, fundamentalists, and most generally religious people hold onto.

(I’m not posting the link to the blog or my reply because I really don’t want people to possibly flame the blog, any more than I may have already. I’m surprised now and then how I discover there really are people I don;t know who read this blog! People who are likeminded freethinkers, and I’d hate to inadvertantly send them to flame a nice person. Because this replier I know to be a sweet, selfeffacing, person; and while their response is pretty, well, sharp and *sigh* ignorant (sorry) they shouldn’t be flamed for it.)

But here’s my problems with this reply. First of all, the assumption that humans reject “truth” is kind of absurd. By what evidence can one say humans reject truth? Isn’t it the goal of humanity to find “truth”? Well, maybe not. But certainly not reject it. Most of us are in search of truth. Which is why we have religions and myths and beliefs in New Age claptrap and aliens and stuff. We all are looking for truth… but, and here’s the crux, most of us rely on pseudoscience and feel-good mythologies because they are a. easier to understand and b. touch on our emotions which can be more powerful to people than intellectual awareness.

And that brings me to the part of that reply that makes me the most sad, and I touched on it in my blog entry: Is U.S. Becoming Hostile to Science? The rejection of reason and intellectualism in favor of myth and illogic in order to defend a belief that is in conflict with hard evidence and scientific discovery. I also address my thoughts on why people hold onto religion with unreasoning deathgrips on my page: Faith or Delusion? In this case, I think upbringing, social conditioning, and fear of the (believed in) alternative makes so many people unable to see through the dogma and conditioning and accept the “truth” of the mythological aspects of religion and the harmful effects of attacking scientific and logical intellectualism.

For hundreds of years, thousands, science and faith hadn’t been in conflict. Up until the last couple hundred years in fact, science didn’t challenge the tenants of religion (although pure reason and logic should have ALWAYS been a threat to Biblical fallacies and interal illogic and contradictions.) Now that science can prove the universe did not come into existance as a literal interpretation of the Bible suggests, the development of humanity is different than the Bible’s explanation, the need for evangelicals to try to prove the validity of their religion becomes tied to DISproving science. Despite the futility of that point of view. Imagine disproving airflight, penicillin, cancer treatments, food preservation techniques, genetic medicine, crop disease immunization….

Here’s the answer. I HAVE THE ANSWER! *grin* It’s such a simple answer, that will allow all of us to live in peace and harmony. Er, OK, TWO answers. =) The impractical and impossible answer (at least until humanity evolves a little further) is to eliminate all religion.
OK, but the feasible answer which seems completely absurd and impossible to so many, is to accept no religious text is inerrant, infallable, and to be taken literally.
That’s it. That’s the simple answer. People could live in faith, still have their relationships with God and Jesus/Mohammad/Bashet/Zeus/whoever, and not have to try to disprove science in order to validate their religion. And not use ancient laws and rules and intolarance and hatred to hypocritically accuse people of “sinful” behavior. Isn’t that just the crazyest idea?!

Oh, and the other part of that reply, “I believe your heart know the truth or you would not so fervently argue the opposite.” The rest makes me sad and depressed for humanity, and American society, but that comment really irks me. It’s patronizing and condescending and arrogant. To assume one knows my heart. =P The truth in my heart is unequivocalbly passionate about reason, logic, intellect, and a focus on the human condition as opposed to mythological distractions and intolarance. If I doth protest too much, it is because I spent the first 18 years of my life ensconced in the fantasy, making the same rationalizations and leaps of circular and spurious logic I see apologetics using to defend something that can’t be turned into literal and inerrant. And I so desperately want to help people to see the truth of the harm of following a dogma. Sure it’s feel-goody-goody and I get the appeal of that. But it’s still a lie. Is it better to feel good and happy but because of a lie, or be a little scared and uncertain but knowing you’re not a slave to dogma? Me, I prefer to live life truthfully and with my eyes and mind wide open even if it means being uncertain about some things…which may have no answer.

It’s scary, to leave the comfort of dogma. It took me 14 years to come to grips with reality. It wasn’t over night, and it wasn’t taken lightly. And certainly not superficially and not without a lot of angst and fear. Coming to grips with reality and the truth of mythology/religion is a leap of faith! (Yes, I said faith.) But strengthened and bolstered by evidence, proof, logic, reason, and not “prophesies” and scrolls and hearsay and ancient texts filled with circular logic, fantasy, draconian laws, and magic. My heart believes in the awesomene mysteries of relativity and quantum science, of amazing mind bending evidence of an infinite universe created from an infinite Big Bang, the incredible delicacy and complexity of evolution and genetics. The inerrant truth of the scientific method, even when the results are sometimes wrong. because unlike religion, when science is wrong, it finds it out and self-corrects. Scientific errors will always eventually lead to discovery, accuracy, proof.

Religion seeks to defend itself using acrobatic bending of logic and skewing of “evidence” to match a sought result. Science seeks to explain reality as it is, while religion tries to bend reality to fit a preconception. And that is the truth my heart believes in, and why I feel a desperate need to try to help people to realize that religion leads to intolarance, hatred, arrogance, ignorance, stagnation; and reason and intellect will lead to the betterment of humanity, the improvement of the human condition, the evolution of the species, and a better understanding of this amazing universe God has created.

Is U.S. becoming hostile to science?

CNN.com – Is U.S. becoming hostile to science? – Oct 28, 2005

This is heartbreakingly sad, and pathetic. America is becoming such a laughingstock of the world, and I’m becoming embarassed to be associated as American.

[Cornell University acting President Hunter] Rawlings said the dispute was widening political, social, religious and philosophical rifts in U.S. society. “When ideological division replaces informed exchange, dogma is the result and education suffers,”

It’s what I’ve been saying:

Other polls show that only around a third of American adults accept the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, even though the concept is virtually uncontested by scientists worldwide.

“When we ask people what they know about science, just under 20 percent turn out to be scientifically literate,” said Jon Miller, director of the center for biomedical communication at Northwestern University.

He said science and especially mathematics were poorly taught in most U.S. schools, leading both to a shortage of good scientists and general scientific ignorance.

U.S. school students perform relatively poorly in international tests of mathematics and science. For example, in 2003 U.S. students placed 24th in an international test that measured the mathematical literacy of 15-year-olds, below many European and Asian countries.

Scientists bemoan the lack of qualified U.S. candidates for postgraduate and doctoral studies at American universities and currently fill around a third of available science and engineering slots with foreign students.

The ID/Evolution War Skeptically Inquired

Something to check out:
This except is from an e-mail list I’m on for “The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.”
In this one they announce the subject of the latest “Skeptical Inquirer” magazine: “ ‘Evolution and the ID Wars’: Skeptical Inquirer Weighs in on Latest Debates over Evolution.”

We devote the core of the new Skeptical Inquirer issue to Evolution and the ID Wars. The “Intelligent Design” movement is the most pernicious pseudoscience of our time.

It seeks to undermine the teaching of evolution, at a minimum, but at its root is a broad attack on the nature of science itself-science’s insistence on evidence, its unrelenting testing of hypotheses, its tradition of first airing new propositions before knowledgeable colleagues, its requirement of peer-reviewed scientific publication, its skeptical scrutiny of all new ideas, its error-correcting mechanisms and welcome acceptance of new ideas that better fit better evidence, its wonderful and imaginative creativity.

In its place, ID advocates would give equal time to an ancient and long-discredited faith-based idea with zero scientific evidence. They would bypass all of science’s institutional mechanisms that painstakingly sift unsupported ideas from well-supported ones and that are at the core of what science is all about.

The ID advocates are well supported and crafty. They turn scientific arguments on their heads. They paint themselves as the open-minded inquirers. They just want to be “fair.”

They just want to “teach the controversy.” They in fact create the controversy by publicly advancing outrageously misleading, often outright false, statements about evolution. Then when scientists respond to correct them, the IDers organize vast letter writing campaigns and point to the “controversy” that ensues as evidence that it should be taught in the classroom.

They disingenuously pretend that the resulting controversy is about science, not about religion and culture. They tirelessly work to put likeminded people on local school boards. They seek, and get, political support. They claim that it is science advancing dogma, not themselves. They pretend they want only to give the “alternative” view.

The media responsibly report on the “controversy” and allot 50-50 space and time to each viewpoint, falling right into the ID advocates’ hands.

It has been a remarkably successful political and public-relations strategy, and they keep waging the war on public battlegrounds that continually put science to the disadvantage. The main articles, commentaries, reports, and statements in this issue deal with all these issues and many others.

We asked notable scientists and scholars knowledgeable about this debate to present their ideas. They analyze intellectually the ID argument, they propose better ways for presenting the scientific case to the public, they discuss why scientists get so angry at ID proponents, they provide poll results of Americans’ beliefs about evolution and creationism, and they comment knowledgeably about those beliefs.

Biologist Sean B. Carroll, in an excerpt from his new book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo, presents an overview of some new evolutionary science, combining embryology with evolutionary developmental biology, that has provided remarkable new advances and insights into evolutionary processes over the past two decades.

This reminds us – importantly, I think, as would even a quick perusal of nearly any current scientific journal – that the science goes on, advancing, illuminating, producing exciting new understanding, even while a public mostly ignorant of it dithers over and argues about the modern-day equivalent of how many angels dance on the head of a pin.

— Ken Frazier; Editor, Skeptical Inquirer

Mind Blowing Big Bang Developments

Wow. I learned some things this weekend that are absolutely mind-boggling.
First let me ask you to describe in one or two sentences what the “Big Bang” was. If you say something like “In the beginning, everything in the universe was compressed into one little spot and then it exploded out it a great bang, spreading the material for the universe far and wide,” I’d have agreed with you before this weekend. That’s how we all learn about it. That’s how my basketball coached slash physics teachers in high school understood it.

But that’s only a small fraction of the truth of it.

It all started with my questioning a section early in the book “The Elegant Universe” which was explaining how all references to velocity or position must be in reference to something, because otherwise something has no position or velocity. For example, two astronauts in deep, dark space with nothing to see for a point of reference. One it travelling through space past the other. To each astronaut it looks as though they are stationary and it’s the other astronaut that is moving past them. Their velocity and position is relative only to each other and is completely fluid depending on which one you decide is actually moving.

And I thought that was all well and good, but they both have a definite, exact velocity and position based upon the center of this finite universe, right?

Wrong. The universe has no center. No edge.

But, the Big Bang, it was a central location and everything came out of it, there HAS to be a center, and an edge, even if it’s constantly expanding, that defines the end of the matter that came out of the Big Bang.

Nope. The universe is, as best as we can tell, infinite, with an infinite instances of simultaneous Big Bangs, with everything moving away from each other like points on the skin of an expanding balloon.

Take a look at this for starters:
“Where was the center of the Big Bang?”

Every point is the center, with everything radiating away from it. Our galaxy is at the center of the universe, the M31 galaxy is at the center, everything is it’s own center of the universe with everything expanding away from everything else.

But, how? How can there be infinite point, centers, to a singular “Big Bang” instance?

Take a look at this:
“How can the Universe be infinite if it was all concentrated into a point at the Big Bang?”

If that doesn’t just twist your mind around thinking about.

That site has a lot of great information, both simply explained, and with more than enough math and formulas and observational data to choke a galaxy of horses:
http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/cosmology_faq.html

So I ask around on some physics newsgroups, how definite is all of this? How much is just mathematical hypothesis and how much is from observable data?
Well, evidently nearly all from observable data which spawned the necessity to come up with the math to explain it.
http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/cosmolog.htm
WMAP: Foundations of the Big Bang theory
http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/m_uni.html
WMAP: Tests of Big Bang Cosmology
http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/m_uni/uni_101bbtest.html
are just a few of the links, with lots of links from those links, that explain the observable data to show this is something known about the universe for decades.
This is not a new idea.

So in effect, there IS no universal constant as far as time and place. Everything really is relative to everything else. There is potentially and endless amount of possibility and potential for anything out there.

Like Keanu says: “Whoa!”

Life From The Dust

An interesting episode of Nova coming up regarding Artificial Life, and our coming very close to creating life:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3214/01.html

An interview with Fracis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project, regarding the human ability to create life from “nothing.”
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3214/01-collins.html

Here is an excerpt from the interview that addresses the place of God in this endeavor:

Krulwich: So God wouldn’t be a little bit diminished if a human could make a living thing from a nonliving thing? Or humankind wouldn’t be inflated if we could make a living thing?

Collins: Well, God would certainly not be diminished. God, if it’s the God that I worship, created the universe and all the laws that regulate it, and gave us this incredible gift of an intellect. And I, like Galileo, don’t think that he gave us those abilities in order for us to forego their use. And so I think God kind of thinks that science is pretty cool!

So I’m not worried about God. I am worried about humans, because we have a long tradition of assuming greater importance for ourselves than we deserve. And so this does slip into the zone of hubris: “I’m no longer just an ordinary person; I am creating life. That makes me a little closer to God, and maybe a little less in need of Him, after all.” If somebody were to wrap themselves in that kind of philosophical mantle, then I think we’ve actually not upgraded man, we’ve downgraded him.

New Planets and Edges of Solar Systems

God, the universe is such a mind-bogglingly amazing thing!

First, I’m sure (hoping) you’ve heard of the potential 10th planet.
Supposedly discovered in 2003, recently confirmed in existance, and now waiting for confirmation from the International Astronimical Union for its status as a “planet”.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3511678.stm#graphic
A very cool discovery for the solar system, but somewhat tempered by the fact that it’s only about the same size as Pluto and made up of the same material. Which is basically a glorified asteroid. There’s been debate for years whether Pluto should really even be called a planet.

But what amazes me most, is that if you take a look at that image I linked above, the new “planet” is more than twice the distance from the sun as Pluto and roughly the same size…it just astounds me that something that small and that distant is still captured in the sun’s gravitational pull.

Looking around at info about the edge of the solar system reminded me the Voyager 1 recently passed what’s called the “termination shock” which marks the edge of the system, and its entry into interstellar space.
http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/solarsystem/voyager_agu.html.

That just make me feel mentally giddy and spiritually aloft, thinking about the massive, amazing, fantastic concept as a definite edge of the solar system, like passing out of a lake-like inlet full of boat wakes and waves off the surrounding edges of land, and suddenly into the massive and mysterious expanse of the ocean.

Gah! The universe is amazing!!

“Theory” <> “Baseless Ideas”

A most excellent article by Edna DeVore: “Evolution: It’s Only a Theory, But One Worth Teaching”
http://www.space.com/searchforlife/seti_devore_theory_050303.html

She does a great job of explaining how popular culture has completely misunderstood the term “theory”, and why Evolution is misdescribed and misunderstood by people as being simply an possibility and a baseless idea.

And another article of hers discussing, briefly and superficially, unfortunately, the need to teach evolution in school and the fact it’s highly devoid in American public education.
http://www.space.com/searchforlife/seti_devore_evolution_050210.html

Yeah! The proletariat has broken into space!

http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/10/04/spaceshipone.attempt.cnn/index.html
The X-Prize has been won, and the door has been opened for commercial, civilian space flight!

Oh, we’re still decades away from from interplanetary travel…perhaps many decades. And maybe even a century away from regular civilians entering space for less than $100K. However, the posibilities of newer orbiting space stations, lunal stations, asteroid mining, Mars exploration, will only accelerate. We may see a day in my lifetime when ordinary union workers will be flown into space to work on asteroid mining or scientists going into orbiting stations or to the moon on a regular basis.

Altough, the length of time between the Wright Brothers 1st flight and the hundreds of airplanes used in arial battles in WWI seems rediculously short. And from WWII to the fighter planes of WWII and jets of the Korean War to space travel by 1969…the jumps of evolution of space travel may be just as dramatic.

Even if I never have the chance to travel into space, even low Earth orbit, it’s still very exciting!