Jul 21, 2012

Think Outside The Box (A Cute Response to Creationism)

Apr 12, 2012

Carl Sagan is my co-pilot

I finished this design a few weeks ago, but never posted it to my blog. It's another quality addition to my already robust collection of Carl Sagan themed designs.  What can I say?  The man's my hero!

Mar 30, 2012

Planet Starship: Runaway Planets Zoom at a Fraction of Light-Speed

Seven years ago, astronomers boggled when they found the first runaway star flying out of our Galaxy at a speed of 1.5 million miles per hour. The discovery intrigued theorists, who wondered: If a star can get tossed outward at such an extreme velocity, could the same thing happen to planets?

New research shows that the answer is yes. Not only do runaway planets exist, but some of them zoom through space at a few percent of the speed of light - up to 30 million miles per hour.

"These warp-speed planets would be some of the fastest objects in our Galaxy. If you lived on one of them, you'd be in for a wild ride from the center of the galaxy to the Universe at large," said astrophysicist Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

"Other than subatomic particles, I don't know of anything leaving our galaxy as fast as these runaway planets," added lead author Idan Ginsburg of Dartmouth College.

Such speedy worlds, called hypervelocity planets, are produced in the same way as hypervelocity stars. A double-star system wanders too close to the supermassive black hole at the galactic center. Strong gravitational forces rip the stars from each other, sending one away at high speed while the other is captured into orbit around the black hole.

For this study, the researchers simulated what would happen if each star had a planet or two orbiting nearby. They found that the star ejected outward could carry its planets along for the ride. The second star, as it's captured by the black hole, could have its planets torn away and flung into the icy blackness of interstellar space at tremendous speeds.

A typical hypervelocity planet would slingshot outward at 7 to 10 million miles per hour. However, a small fraction of them could gain much higher speeds under ideal conditions.

Current instruments can't detect a lone hypervelocity planet since they are dim, distant, and very rare. However, astronomers could spot a planet orbiting a hypervelocity star by watching for the star to dim slightly when the planet crosses its face in a transit.

For a hypervelocity star to carry a planet with it, that planet would have to be in a tight orbit. Therefore, the chances of seeing a transit would be relatively high, around 50 percent.

"With one-in-two odds of seeing a transit, if a hypervelocity star had a planet, it makes a lot of sense to watch for them," said Ginsburg.

Eventually, such worlds will escape the Milky Way and travel through the intergalactic void.

"Travel agencies advertising journeys on hypervelocity planets might appeal to particularly adventurous individuals," added Loeb.

The research will be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, in a paper authored by Idan Ginsburg, Avi Loeb, and Gary Wegner (Dartmouth College).

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.

Mar 26, 2012

Bertrand Russell's Ten Commandments

by Bertrand Russell

  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

  2. Do not think it worthwhile to produce belief by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

  3. Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.

  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it is from your family, endeavour to overcome it with argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do, the opinions will suppress you.

  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

  9. Be scrupulously truthful even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that is happiness.

Mar 25, 2012

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson – The Most Astounding Fact About The Universe

Astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ph.D. was asked the following question in a 2008 TIME Magazine interview:

“What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?”

This was his answer:
The most astounding fact…
The most astounding fact, is the knowledge, that the atoms that comprise life on Earth, the atoms that make up the human body, are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core, under extreme temperatures and pressures.
These stars, the high mass ones among them, went unstable in their later years. They collapsed and then exploded scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy. Guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself.
These ingredients become part of gas cloud that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems, stars with orbiting planets, and those planets now have the ingredients for life itself.
So that when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the Universe is in us.
When I reflect on that fact, I look up. Many people feel small because they’re small and the Universe is big, but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars.
There’s a level of connectivity.
That’s really what you want in life, you want to feel connected you want to feel relevant.
You want to feel like you’re a participant in the goings on of activities and events around you.
That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive…
The video editor, Max Schlickenmeyer, concluded that Neil DeGrasse Tyson went on to say:
For me, that is the most profound revelation of 20th century astrophysics and I look forward to what the 21st century will bring us, given the frontiers that are now unfolding.
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ph.D. (born October 5, 1958) is an American astrophysicist. He is currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space science, and a Research Associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Credit: Video Edited by Max Schlickenmeyer


Mar 24, 2012

A Florida student was Tased and taken to hospital after issuing death threats during a foul-mouthed rant in the middle of a class on evolution.

Jonatha Carr repeatedly asked her professor, 'How does evolution kill black people?', and was unsatisfied by his response that evolution does not 'kill' people.

She then apparently lost her temper, screaming obscenities and assaulting other students and staff, before being dragged out and taken away by police.

The outburst was caught on camera by a number of students, who posted the footage online on sites such as YouTube and Facebook.

Scroll down for video (WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT)

Rant: Jonatha Carr screamed at classmates and staff during a profanity-laden outburst in an evolution class
Rant: Jonatha Carr screamed at classmates and staff during a profanity-laden outburst in an evolution class

FAU classroom outburst
FAU classroom outburst
Footage: Video of the bizarre outburst was posted online by several students who were in the class

The extraordinary incident took place during a class at Florida Atlantic University taught by Stephen Kajiura.
He had been telling students about how peacocks' feathers aid natural selection, when Carr - sitting in the front row - asked her bizarre question about evolution killing black people.

When Mr Kajiura could not give a satisfactory response, the student exploded in rage, and started shouting and threatening the rest of the class in racially charged language.

She screamed 'I will kill the f*** out of you', and claimed to 'hate' evolution.

Carr told the professor, 'You are f****** sick' and 'You better shut the f*** up before I f****** kill you.'

FAU classroom outburst
FAU classroom outburst
Violence: The encounter turned physical when Carr lashed out at the people trying to calm her down

She then stomped around the classroom and struck a male student in the head, daring him to hit her back.
At that point two members of the university staff intervened, managing to immobilise Carr after she had lashed out at them.

Police arrived at the scene after being called by other students, and took her into a squad car, subduing her with a Taser, according to WSVN.

Carr, 24, has now been expelled from the school and is being held in hospital, according to university authorities.

Professor: Stephen Kajiura was shocked by the violence that kicked off without warning in his classroom
Professor: Stephen Kajiura was shocked by the violence that kicked off without warning in his classroom

Rachel Bustamante, a student who posted video of the incident on the internet, described the outburst as the 'craziest thing I've ever seen'.

Mr Kajiura told the University Press, FAU's student newspaper, that he did not know Carr, but had previously had a civil discussion with her via email.

He described her bizarre behaviour in his class, saying: 'She became increasingly belligerent.
'It was at this point, a highly emotionally charged individual who was no longer capable of responding rationally. She was threatening to kill both me and the students in the class.'

After the outburst, he added, 'Everyone gave up and started texting.'

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2118501/I-kill-f--Students-death-threats-professor-evolution-class.html#ixzz1q6IDXcBF

An Atheist Billboard goes up in Brooklyn

American Atheists have unveiled a billboard directed at Williamsburg, Brooklyn's extremely devout Hasidic Jewish community with the provocative statement, "You know it's a myth. And you have a choice."
Reason TV correspondent Kennedy braved the 'Burg to ask the locals how they feel about atheists prosthelytizing from signs in the sky. Later, Kennedy had a feisty conversation in an active junkyard with American Atheists President Dave Silverman, mere steps away from the controversial billboard.
American Atheists will be holding their Reason Rally (no relation to Reason) on March 24th, 2012 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Mar 9, 2012

Carl Sagan shirts for the Reason Rally.

The Reason rally is coming up and I've been getting a few requests for new designs or modifications to old ones.  I thought I'd post a few of the more popular Carl Sagan themed ones for you all so you can attend the rally in style, and who could be more stylish at a rally for reason than the late Carl Sagan?

Feb 3, 2012

Why Are Atheists So Angry?

Earlier this year, Newsweek religion columnist Marc Gellman confessed that atheists had lately befuddled him: “What I simply do not understand is why they are often so angry,” Gellman lamented. “I just don’t get it.”

Why are atheists so angry? Sam Harris and Dennis Prager inaugurate Jewcy’s “Big Question” series by arguing this very question. In the Big Question, passionate thinkers will debate the weightiest, most contentious issues of the day via e-mail.

Author of the thundering anti-theist polemics The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, Harris may just be the Thomas Paine of an emerging movement to wrench religion out of American life. Prager is a nationally syndicated talk radio host who trumpets the virtues of the Judeo-Christian tradition. For the next four days, each of them will send us one e-mail per day.

From: Sam Harris To: Dennis Prager Subject: Yahweh Belongs on the Scrapheap of Mythology

I’d like to begin this exchange by making the observation that “atheist” is a term that should not even exist. We do not, after all, have a name for a person who does not believe in Zeus or Thor. In fact, we are all “atheists” with respect to Zeus and Thor and the thousands of other dead gods that now lie upon the scrapheap of mythology.

A politician who seriously invokes Poseidon in a campaign speech will have thereby announced the end of his political career. Why is this so? Did someone around the time of Constantine discover that the pagan gods do not actually exist, while the biblical God does? Of course not. There are thousands of gods that were once worshipped with absolute conviction by men and women like ourselves, and yet we all now agree that they are rightly dead. An “atheist” is simply someone who thinks that the God of Abraham should be buried with the rest of these imaginary friends. I am quite sure that we need only use words like “reason,” “common sense,” “evidence,” and “intellectual honesty” to do the job.

So many gods have passed into oblivion, and yet the sky-god of Abraham demands fresh sacrifices. Wars are still waged, crimes committed, and science undone out of deference to an invisible being who is believed to have created the entire cosmos, fine-tuned the constants of nature, blanketed the earth with 20,000 distinct species of grasshopper, and yet still remains so provincial a creature as to concern himself with what consenting adults do for pleasure in the privacy of their bedrooms. Incompatible beliefs about this God long ago shattered our world into separate moral communities—Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc.—and these divisions remain a continuous source of human violence.

And yet, while the religious divisions in our world are self-evident, many people still imagine that religious conflict is always caused by a lack of education, by poverty, or by politics. Yet the September 11th hijackers were college-educated, middle-class, and had no discernible experience of political oppression. They did, however, spend a remarkable amount of time at their local mosques talking about the depravity of infidels and about the pleasures that await martyrs in Paradise.

How many more architects and mechanical engineers must hit the wall at 400 miles an hour before we admit to ourselves that jihadist violence is not merely a matter of education, poverty, or politics? The truth, astonishingly enough, is that in this day and age a person can have sufficient intellectual and material resources to build a nuclear bomb and still believe that he will get 72 virgins in Paradise. Western secularists, liberals, and moderates have been very slow to understand this. The cause of their confusion is simple: They don’t know what it is like to really believe in God.

The United States now stands alone in the developed world as a country that conducts its national discourse under the shadow of religious literalism. Eighty-three percent of the U.S. population believes that Jesus literally rose from the dead; 53% believe that the universe is 6,000 years old. This is embarrassing. Add to this comedy of false certainties the fact that 44% of Americans are confident that Jesus will return to Earth sometime in the next 50 years and you will glimpse the terrible liability of this sort of thinking.

Nearly half of the American population is eagerly anticipating the end of the world. This dewy-eyed nihilism provides absolutely no incentive to build a sustainable civilization. Many of these people are lunatics, but they are not the lunatic fringe. Some of them can actually get Karl Rove on the phone whenever they want.

While Muslim extremists now fly planes into our buildings, saw the heads off journalists and aid-workers, and riot by the tens of thousands over cartoons, several recent polls reveal that atheists are now the most reviled minority in the United States. A majority of Americans say they would refuse to vote for an atheist even if he were a “well-qualified candidate” from their own political party. Atheism, therefore, is a perfect impediment to holding elected office in this country (while being a woman, black, Muslim, Jewish, or gay is not). Most Americans also say that of all the unsavory alternatives on offer, they would be least likely to allow their child to marry an atheist. These declarations of prejudice might be enough to make some atheists angry. But they are not what makes me angry.

As an atheist, I am angry that we live in a society in which the plain truth cannot be spoken without offending 90% of the population. The plain truth is this: There is no good reason to believe in a personal God; there is no good reason to believe that the Bible, the Koran, or any other book was dictated by an omniscient being; we do not, in any important sense, get our morality from religion; the Bible and the Koran are not, even remotely, the best sources of guidance we have for living in the 21st century; and the belief in God and in the divine provenance of scripture is getting a lot of people killed unnecessarily.

Against these plain truths religious people have erected a grotesque edifice of myths, obfuscations, half-truths, and wishful thinking. Perhaps you, Dennis, would now like to bring some of that edifice into view.