Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pope praises Galileo's astronomy


Pope Benedict XVI has paid tribute to 17th-Century astronomer Galileo Galilei, whose scientific theories once drew the wrath of the Catholic Church.  BBC NEWS

It has been nearly 400 years since the papal trial in which he was found vehemently suspect of heresy for his teaching of the heliocentric theory.  Galileo was then placed under house arrest and his movements restricted by Pope Urban VIII.

I am delighted that the current pope has seen fit to acknowledge the truth of Galileo’s observations and his accounts thereof.  But I can only wonder how many more years it will require for the Catholic Church and the other religions of the world to acknowledge that God is a myth.

"There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell."
"There is only our natural world."
"Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."
Freedom From Religion Foundation

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human motivation, characteristics, or behavior to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena.

In my mind this is a form of insanity in the modern world and a total denial of all the knowledge that homo sapiens have acquired in the past 30,000 or so years. I can accept that poets and writers use the concept for the entertainment of their reader, but the reader, except for a rare few, rarely goes away believing that rocks can think a believer.

I say rarely, because I just received my current AARP Magazine where I found this letter to the magazine.

Sinking Ship

I was on the National Geographic Endeavour, one of the two ships that steamed to the rescue of the sinking M.S. Explorer [“Mayday in the Antarctic”]. Our captain remarked that the Explorer, nearing its final voyage, may have chosen to remain in those waters, and selected that moment, when its passengers could be rescued, to end its historic life. To those of us who witnesses this event, this actually seemed possible.  John Curtis, Heath Texas

This one stopped me in my tracks because it is pure Cro-Magnon insanity:

  • That the captain of a scientific research vessel, someone that should have both knowledge of and respect for science rather than some strange mysticism, ascribed multiple human traits to an object.
    • He said that the ship made an intellectual choice to sink rather than complete its voyage.
    • He implied that the ship felt compassion towards its passengers and made a deliberate choice to sink where they could be saved.
  • That someone, anyone, that heard those remarks would go away believing this strange mysticism, and repeat it and their belief in it, especially in a magazine that prides itself on providing their members with the facts and rational thinking they need to understand and deal with our modern society.
  • That the editors of AARP Magazine, from the hundreds of letters they receive from their readers, many of them probably filled with facts and rational thinking, selected that letter to print and promulgate this strange mysticism.

To me, a science oriented atheist, this is how religion got started. Humans, unable to understand the world around them, used anthropomorphic concepts to explain their world. Gradually they expanded their explanation to mysticism and gods of many kinds.  Then when some humans realized that they could profit from the Cro-Magnon beliefs of their fellow humans, priests were born and modern humans have been plagued ever since.

Perhaps, for the Cro-Magnons still among us, the captain of the National Geographic Endeavour just became a priest of a new religion, Mr. Curtis his first apostle, and the letter to AARP will become their first epistle.

I really don’t mean to denigrate the Cro-Magnons of thousands of years ago, just those among us that have never evolved any further.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

X-rays detected from Scotch tape


Just two weeks after a Nobel Prize highlighted theoretical work on subatomic particles, physicists are announcing a startling discovery about a much more familiar form of matter: Scotch tape. It turns out that if you peel the popular adhesive tape off its roll in a vacuum chamber, it emits X-rays. The researchers even made an X-ray image of one of their fingers.    Yahoo! News


I love this story. By itself it answers the myriad of questions, the cartoons, the snide letters-to-the-editor, and associated rants from all those whose knowledge of science is limited to how to dial a telephone. “Why”, they will ask about a particular research project, does the government fund such stupidity (their words).            

And for the answer we can now refer them to this article. Someone, not a researcher, must have criticized the researchers for even considering such an experiment. “A waste of funds” or some other snide comment. The truth they needed to be told, is that knowledge and the discovery of new information is never a waste.  All those that rail against scientific research, and especially research that on the surface appears meaningless need to understand this truth.

Today, the knowledge gained from this experiment may seem of little use. But other researchers will extend and amplify this knowledge and one day there will be a significant benefit that will be derived from it. It may not even be in the areas highlighted by the article but in an entirely different and unpredicted area. That is what science and research are all about and I believe this is a great example.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

What will the Scientific Community do?

CHICAGO, June 28 (UPI) -- The Field Museum in Chicago said a massive study of bird genetics has completely redrawn the avian evolutionary tree.

"The results of the study are so broad that the scientific names of dozens of birds will have to be changed, and biology textbooks and bird watchers' field guides will have to be revised," The Field Museum said Thursday in a release.

An international research team spent more than five years examining DNA from all major living groups of birds. The findings are published in the journal Science.

The study found that colorful hummingbirds evolved from drab nocturnal nightjars, falcons are not closely related to hawks and eagles and tropicbirds are not closely related to pelicans and other water birds.

"Our study and the remarkable new understanding of the evolutionary relationships of birds that it affords was possible only because of the technological advances of the last few years that have enabled us to sample larger portions of genomes," said Shannon Hackett, associate curator of birds at The Field Museum. DNA study shakes up bird family tree -

What they will do is what separates science from religion. The scientific community will completely rewrite all of the material and scientists will completely revise their thinking and their teaching to agree with this new and remarkable data. Oh, there will be individual scientists that will refuse to let go of the traditional dogma, but the bulk of scientific community will change almost overnight.

On the other hand we have seen no religion do that in spite of the overwhelming evidence that human DNA and animal DNA are identical in some areas. The major religions still contend that humans were created by their god in the image of that god. Oh, there are individual religious “leaders” that have let go of some of the traditional dogma, but the massive bulk of the religious community steadfastly clings to archaic and superstitious drivel from the dark ages.


Allow me to refer you to a wonderful example of this. Please see the post by biologist P Z Myers, and the comment too, at:

Friday, April 25, 2008

Reaching the Stars

Humans need to realize that for the foreseeable future we are stuck on our planet and we can not soon leave it.  A better way to recognize this is to look at the numbers.

The stars that are nearest to our sun are about 4.4 light years away from us.  That is over 25 trillion miles away.

Traveling at a million miles an hour that would take almost 26 million years for a group of human colonists to get there.  To get there in just one thousand years would require an average speed of 26 billion miles an hour.   To protect the human inhabitants, the colony ship would have to speed up and then slow down in an orderly fashion.  Consequently the maximum speed the ship reached would have to be far greater.  Needless to say, we have not yet achieved the million mile an hour speed.

Another issue is that, even if the colony ship could attain the necessary speed, one thousand years is around 35 to 40 generations of humans living and dying aboard our spacecraft.   Assuming that the colony ship would be equipped to support these generations of humans, think of all that has occurred here on Earth in the last thousand years and you can well imagine that the social problems those colonists would face.

Even more of an issue is that only 3 stars are even as close as 4.4 light years from us.  None of these seem to have habitable planets.  Even if we expand out to 25 light years from Earth, perhaps only a dozen star systems may possibly be capable of hosting Earth type planets in stable orbits within their habitable zones.  This means that there still may be no habitable planets within 25 light years of Earth.

I am not optimistic that humans will soon colonize our galaxy. The massive technological, social and political issues with exploration and colonization that confront us are beyond daunting.  However, I envision that our robotic surrogates can and will do our exploring for us.

I suggest that we humans must develop machines that will venture beyond our solar system and travel out into the galaxy. These machines would be self-sustaining, capable of self repair and self replication. When each machine locates an appropriate object - planet, moon, asteroid, etc -  it would be capable of safely landing on the object and then it  would proceed to mine the object for materials to replenish and repair itself and construct clones of itself. Each clone would be launched in into a different part of the galaxy where it would repeat the process of exploration and cloning.

All of these machines would have the capability of maintaining contact with each other and humans here on earth. They would collect and transmit data about their journey and a huge database of information would be amassed for our use. At the same time a huge network surrounding our solar system would develop and expand.

Then many millennia from now perhaps humans will have solved all of our technological, social and political problems and be well prepared to venture out into space. The information gathered by these explorer robots would be invaluable to determining destinations for our colonists and provide a communication network for them and their descendants.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Expanding Universe: A Theory

Dark Energy and Dark Matter

The universe is a violent place and energy abounds in it. Huge amounts of matter are continuously expelled from stars and other objects. Massive solar flares add to the great volumes of matter hurling out into space in the form of solar winds. Super Novas, gamma ray bursts, pulsars, and black holes generate enormous amounts of matter and energy and that energy radiates out from each and every galaxy in the universe; this is the intergalactic wind. In the vast regions between galaxies the intergalactic wind flows unimpeded toward the next galaxy with constant and great amount of force.

Consequently when the intergalactic wind encounters another galaxy it exerts pressure on that galaxy. From all parts of the universe each galaxy is receiving pressure from the intergalactic winds pummeling it. Were the universe somehow bounded or if there were an endless array of galaxies everywhere in an unbounded universe, the pressure of the intergalactic wind would have little or no impact on any galaxy. It would all balance out.

However the universe is not bounded and out there somewhere, in a place we are poised on finding, there are no more galaxies. At some point we will find galaxies that beyond which there is simply nothing.

These outermost galaxies at the edge of the universe receive the constant pressure of the intergalactic wind exerted only on one side. There is no pressure being exerted on the opposite side of these galaxies. Over time then, gradually each of these outermost galaxies will slowly be moved by the wind out into the vast nothingness that borders them.

In this manner, the extent of the entire universe expands. Further, toward the center of the universe, there is a lighter pressure of the intergalactic wind coming from the edge of the universe with its lesser concentration of galaxies. Thus all of the interior galaxies of the universe will slowly migrate outward in the direction of the lesser pressure. Hence the space between all galaxies expands.

As each galaxy moves a greater distance from its neighbors there is a lessening in the gravitational attraction between galaxies. Because of this reduction in the gravitational attraction felt by adjacent galaxies and because no new matter is being created in the universe, the expansion between galaxies will accelerate as the physical size of the populated universe expands and occupies more and more of the emptiness around it.

However, stars within a galaxy as well as local groups of galaxies that are bound by their mutual gravitation will not expand. They will continue to remain much the same size as we find them today.

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