Saturday, February 24, 2007

Pareidolia: part n + 4

Mary's back. And this time she's got a sweet tooth. Now, she's appeared on a cookie sheet in Houston.

I think the best line from the article is this, "'I started looking at it, and started looking at it, until I realized it was the Virgin,' [Rodriguez] said."

So apparently it wasn't strikingly obvious. She had to sit there and convince herself she was actually seeing something.

To me, it looks like a rather cartoonish plunger.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The perfect shirt for Creationists

My favourite webcomic is offering a new t-shirt.

Looks like just the thing for the creationists given that their entire characterization of evolution is a cartoon.

Monday, February 19, 2007

300th Post - With Pictures

I've been taking a break from posting recently for a few reasons. The first is because I figured I should do something special for my 300th post. I wasn't paying attention when my 100th and 200th came and went, so I suppose now's the time.

The other is that I've just been busy this semester, and when I'm not, I've been more inclined to let my brain turn into a puddle for those scant hours as opposed to doing anything even remotely intellectual.

Regardless, I figured posting pictures would be fun. Originally, I'd intended to post some of my favourite astrophotographs and explain a bit about what was behind them, but that's way too much like class work. So I decided against that.

But pictures did sound like a nice idea. I like pictures. So I figured I'd post a few of my own. Tonight was the first clear night we've had in awhile, and as luck would have it, a beautiful crescent moon and Venus were hovering over the horizon just after sunset. So I ran out with my camera and took a few pictures. Three of them turned out pretty nicely.

Here's Venus and the moon setting over the dorms at the top of Daisy hill. I love all the colors in this one. It just works so nicely that KU has a gorgeous campus.

You might have to blow this one up to see it, but there's my favourite constellation of Orion. The bright star in the tree to the lower left is Sirius. It's not the best picture of Orion I've taken (this is), but for a cheap digital camera with no manual settings, it's not bad.

And what would KU be without the Jayhawk. Here's the one in front of the Lied Center checking out the view. It looks like he's balancing Venus on his head.

Overall, it was a nice night to run around and snap a few pictures. Much better than Monday night of last week which looked like this:

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Darwin Day!

What a horrible day to have a celebration of knowledge here in Kansas. It's cloudly, drizzly, and rather cold. But at least temperatures are above freezing for a change.

Meanwhile, the events are still being held across the globe tonight. Here at KU, KUSFS is helping to host the event including a showing of "Flock of Dodos". I'm still debating whether or not I feel like walking across the campus in this weather when I have two upcoming tests this week.

But as is usual, creationists completely miss the point of the event. They claim that it's an atheist celebration akin to worship. Yet, as always, the creationists conveniently overlook the fact that theists of all stripes celebrate this holiday as well, and one of the major places Darwin's legacy is being celebrated is in the churches!

Yesterday, on Evolution Sunday, over 600 churches (mostly in the US but some elsewhere) reminded us that it's not just atheists that support good science. So kudos to those Churches and all other theists that are stepping up to counter the shrill voices of the seriously deluded.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Comic trouble in Norway

It seems that a comic strip entitled M is causing a stir in Norway.

Translation of article:
Elisabeth Riiber from Selbu files lawsuit against newspaper for blasphemy, after two strips from the comic 'M'.

It's especially the two strips from monday and tuesday this week that Riiber is reacting to. "On monday especially I think there was a grotesque episode that mocks and makes fun of Christ," says Riiber to Nea Radio. She further threatens to end her subscription unless Adressa stops the comic, which is made by local resident Mads Eriksen. Riiber is of the opinion that it's ok to make jokes about the church, priests and christianity. The reaction comes strongly, however, when the cartoonist mocks the main person of the christian world.

"This has nothing to do with freedom of speech. You can't use Jesus Christ as an advertising board," says Riiber to The 94 year old woman became so angry when she read the comics in Adressa monday and tuesday, that she filed against Adressa for blasphemy. [Norway has a sleeping blasphemy law.] "Do you see this as a parallel to the Muhammed drawings?" "This isn't just a parallel, but much worse. Christianity has many prophets, but we have only one Jesus Christ. He's much more than a prophet, he's the main actor," says Riiber. She's a former vicar's wife in Selbu and has been working with visitation service in the commune for many years. "Although I am 94 years old, I still have thoughts in my head. I became so angry when I saw this, and thought that this comic shall not continue without my protest. But I don't mean to create any circus with this. But I thought Adressa was a too serious newspaper to use a comic like that."

"I think we should be able to stretch freedom of speech at least this far. If you read the strips properly, you'll see that Mads Eriksen is confronting the power of advertising. He puts things pointedly to get his message across, not to insult anyone," says Sigrun Berge Engen, culture editor of Adressa.

"Do you understand that some people may perceive this as offending?" "Yes, I can understand that. But we need space for artistic freedom. Especially for local cartoonists," opines Berge Engen. "This is nothing to get excited about."

According to sheriff John Paulsby in Selbu and Tydal, Elisabeth Riiber compared the M strips to the Muhammed drawings, and thinks she has good reason to react. "We have received the [file, lawsuit], and sent it to a jurist, suggesting to dismiss the case," says Paulsby. He agrees that this is no laughing matter, but doesn't think that the strips break any laws.

Mads Eriksen reacts with raw laughter when we bring him news of the lawsuit. After he regains control, he describes the situation as absurd. "I find it completely absurd that a 2000 year old fairy tale should dictate my cartoons. I have no respect for her invisible playmate," says Mads Eriksen to, and adds that he has never before witnessed anything like this.

"You have no plans to accommodate her wishes?"

"No, in no way."
So what are the strips?

Translation of strips:
Jesus: Hi guys - Jesus Christ here, son of god, but also the cheery carpenter from Galilee!
Jesus: In my work as Messiah, it's important to have good tools ... which is why I only buy tools from "Onan's bazaar and ironware"!
God: Ahem ... Didn't you visit "Yehud's carpentry shed and used camels" the other day?
Jesus: Daaaad!
God: The holy spirit wants to know why you're hanging around Gethsemane late at night with those hoodlums - and what is the deal with all that foot-washing?

Jesus: When you're hanging out all day, sun and wind will dry out your skin and make it lifeless and matte ...
Jesus: That's why I use: "Pilate's Crucifiction cream for manly men"!
Jesus: A unique formula with myrrh and philistine foreskins makes the skin soft and smooth, and the patented ... Ack!
Jesus: Ack!
Jesus: Nose itching! Ack! Ack!
Jesus: Ack!
Roman offier: Cut! Cut!
It seems to me that Ms. Riiber has completely missed the point of the comics. The comic artist isn't the one using Jesus to peddle his wares. Instead, what he seems to be parodying is how others do this.

But apparently pointing out such things is considered worse than drawing satirical images of Mohammed.

Eriksen has another strip that I think is particularly amusing though:

Mormon: Hi there! Can I tell you about Jeesus?
Man: Huh? You're christian?
Mormon: Yes?
Man: Why?
Mormon: Because ... the bible says that
Man: That's just a moldy and old fairy tale book!
Mormon: It is?
Man: Sure is!
Man: Now come inside and grab a beer! We're watching "Wrath of Khan".
Mormon: But-
Man: No "but"!
Mormon: Uhhhh
Man: Meet Job and Isaak. They're mormons.
Ex-Mormon-1: We were mormons!
Ex-Mormon-2: Now we're trekkies!
Great. Trading fairly tales for technobabble. At least it's one step in the right direction.

Found via livejournal atheism group.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Meteor in the Show me State?

According to news reports, an exceptional meteor was spotted breaking up over my hometown of St. Louis this past Sunday. Some reports have claimed that impacts were witnessed, and some suspicious debree has apparently been found, but as of yet, I've yet to hear any confirmations that there are indeed, any extraterrestrial rocks.

Meteors, especially bright ones like this are one of my favourite astronomical events because, unlike so many other things, they're dynamic. Here one second, gone the next. Many other things considered "quick" in an astronomical time scales, like supernovae, still take days and changes can rarely be percieved from moment to moment.

I wish I could have seen this meteor. One of the first thigns that really turned me on to astronomy was a meteor I saw while riding my bike with a friend in 6th grade. It was very bright and lasted a long time for a meteor.

But perhaps the best one I've ever observed was at my previous school at their observatory for a star party with the Ozarks Amateur Astronomer's Club. This meteor was bright enough to cast shadows as it left a long smoke trail and hissed across the sky.

Kenyan Creationism

We've already heard that creationists in Kenya are trying to hide the evidence of fossils but pressuring Kenya's natural history museum to push the fossils into the back room and present evolution as one among many theories. However, it seems that these creationists can't even get their creation myth right.

According to CNN, "Bishop Adoyo believes the world was created 12,000 years ago, with man appearing 6,000 years later. He says each biblical day was equivalent to 1,000 Earth years."

So apparently he doesn't take Genesis literally on units of time, but he'll take it literally in regards to God poofing man into existance. Looks like yet another case of cherry picking. And it doesn't even fit with the typical young earth creationist model.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Stellar Evolution redux

It looks like FTK has responded to my post on Stellar Evolution.

And surprise, surprise; She didn't like it.

So let's address her points.
You need to read more carefully. I am quite sure that Brown knew about the form of energy loss you are talking about [mass outflows from newly forming stars] when you were still in diapers. The trouble is that energy loss from existing stars does not form new stars.
Mass outflows have been known for a very long time. However, I never claimed that jets and other forms of matter removal from already formed stars would hint at the formation of new stars. What I stated is that Brown's claim is that to form new stars, we need to rid the collapsing cloud of excess energy. One way to do this is through mass outflow. We see just such mass outflows in regions where we expect to see newly forming stars. Thus, the problem of energy loss is greatly accounted for.

Now, if FTK would like to offer a reason beyond Brown's "just-so" story that energy loss can't happen, I'd be quite happy to hear it. But instead, Brown, in his endnotes section has quotes that are more than two decades old; Sufficiently old that many of the recent advances in the study of stellar formation had occured. Since the publication of the 1986 text he cites, we have observed mass outflows. The field looks to be a very fertile one as a quick search of the Astrophysical Data System reveals.

Her next criticism is that I took exception to a part of Brown's writings that made absolutely no sense. The part in question:
If [O class] stars evolved, they should show easily measurable characteristics such as extremely high rates of rotation and enormous magnetic fields.
I suggested that this made no sense, and for the sake of space, didn't bother to quote the rest of the paragraph which offered a rather lame explanation claiming that massive O-class stars should have high rotation rates as well as massive magnetic fields, yet offers no justification for this. Stars, as they collapse should "spin-up" but mass outflows and jets, addressed already account for this excess angular momentum.

FTK then objects to my mentioning of protostellar disks, which look to be collapsing, as indicators of new star formation. The claim, taken from Brown, is that we should be able to see new stars "turning on" when we compare photographic plates taken decades ago to images taken today. For all her complaining about my lack of reading, it seems she managed to skip an entire paragraph in which I addressed this issue:
Stars form inside nebulae, enshrouded in dust and gas. Thus, the process is somewhat hidden from us. The process also takes a much longer time than the death of a star. As such, it's difficult to define a time when a star is "born". We've seen things that are forming into stars. We've seen stars that are formed. We've seen fuzzy things that are somewhere inbetween. But the birth of a star is not like flicking on a light switch. Furthermore, when the process is complete, there's not as much of a mess left behind. The excess gas is not being superheated by shock waves and glowing brightly for us to easily identify newly formed stars.
She then goes on to say:
Granted, there are some "theories" and animations floating around out there as to how this might have occurred, but certainly they are ~speculative~. Give me some solid evidence.
*Sigh* When will creationists stop abusing the word theory?

As far as evidence, talks like this one show that new telescopes are able to detect the faint dust shells around stars, which is entirely consistent with what the theories of stellar formation predict. Prediction with observed evidence, right there.

Undoubtedly, there is still much work that needs to be done in this area. There's already many tantalizing clues such as the one Mollishka pointed out: That newly formed stars appear in rings. Does this factor in, and if so, how? Scientists aren't saying yet. But to claim that just because scientists don't have every answer premade for you that the entire theory must be wrong as Brown and FTK claim, is a complete disregard for how science works.

Her next nitpick is in regards to my analysis of the sources. For the section on massive stars near the center of the galaxy, there are four citations. The first two are from 2003, which is quite recent. I addressed the first, stating that Brown quotes the intro, and subsequently ignores the explanations put forth there after. I didn't check the second, but suspected the same situation. Since I was writing my response at nearly 3 in the morning, I didn't bother to look for the full text of the second article to confirm this but have done so now (it can be found here). Again, the article mentions several explanations, all of which Brown overlooks, trying to pretend that scientists are completely clueless so he can pretend it's impossible.

The third one is the only of the four that I called "horribly outdated". The date is not listed in this section, nor a title, journal, or any other information aside from the author (Ibid) and a page. Thus, I can't recall where I found the publication date for this source and until I can track it down again, I will retract my claim that it is outdated.

In regards to the last point, as I stated in my previous post, the author deliberately misinterprets what the author is stating. Yet despite the quote mining as demonstrated by Brown's blatant ignoring of the main thrust of nearly every article, FTK still finds it "quite convincing." Again, it's quite sad that she finds flawed arguments that basically state "we haven't figured it out, thus we can't figure it out thus the whole thing is wrong" to be convincing in any regard.

Another claim that I addressed of Brown's is that globular clusters could not form because the first stars would blow out the gas and dust necessary to make the rest. I pointed out that, despite the claim, we see new clusters in the process of forming and listed several. They form from interstellar clouds. If Brown was right, we shouldn't see them forming, yet we do. Thus, his claim that the first stars should prevent the rest from forming is directly contradicted by many clusters such as the ones I listed.

Her response?
Brown is talking about globular clusters, not interstellar clouds.
What Brown is talking about is the formation of globular clusters. This means interstellar clouds. Thus, yes, he is talking about these clouds and my mentioning of them is completely topical.

She then goes on to point out that globular clusters are much smaller in diameter than clouds. Again, FTK fails at reading. I already accounted for this, by pointing to tidal stripping. Pity she missed it.

So what does she do next? Another favourite creationist trick: Move the goalpost.

If you can't win on one claim, throw another at your opponent and hope they don't have time to react. Funny that this is the same trick we see other pseudo-scientists like Hoagland using...

From there, FTK goes on to make some more general points. In response to my introduction to the section in which I analyzed the sources Brown used, in which I quoted Forrest showing that Creationists are fond of outdated sources, FTK replies with a non-sequitor whining about how much she hates Forrest. She then disagrees that creationists like their antiquidated sources. However, let's take a look again at the sources. I broke them into 4 categories.
Old (greater than or equal to 20 years old): 3
Middle (between 19 and 7 years old): 3
New (7 or less years): 8
Unknown (No date listed): 1

If we take the ratio of new to old sources as Forrest did, this gives us a ratio of 2.6 almost that of reputable journal article. But if we discount any sources that are nothing more than quote mined material (ie, all the articles in which Brown pulls out a quote and then ignores the possible explanations), then the ratio falls to less than one, bringing it in line with other creationist material.

There must be some problem with FTK's counting method since she found 39 citations within 7 years. Given that the article she asked me to review didn't have that many, I suspect she's changing the rules.

So having ignored all these faults, FTK goes on to attack my credentials stating,
Five years isn’t jack squat in comparison to the credentials of Walt Brown. Besides those credentials, he has researched these issues for over 25 years.
After 25 years, I'd expect Brown to have a little more understanding of the literature. I'd expect Brown to understand that having not figured out every last detail does not invalidate a theory. I'd expect Brown to do better than selectively quoting and dishonestly pretending that there are no possible explanations. I'd expect Brown not to deliberately ignore new sources that invalidate his claims.

Yet he fails to do any of this. So while he certainly has impressive credentials, they don't count for much in the face of such massive intellectual dishonesty.

Lastly, after completely skipping over arguments, missing the point of others, moving the goalpost, engaging in ad hominems, what's left for FTK?

She moves the goalpost again. Her final claim is that I have no place to talk unless I've read the entire book.

Sorry. I'm not playing her silly game. FTK asked me to look at one article. I did. I read the article. I checked the sources. I looked for the originals where available. I too spent several hours doing so. And I found it pathetic.

I have no need to read the whole book to realize the flaws in these specific arguments. Nor do I have the time. Unlike FTK, I don't have kids to take up my slack or do my homework while I pull on threads of authors that I've already found to be intellectually bankrupt.

Updated to reflect user comments on sources

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Office of Inspector General taking science muffling seriously

According to Space Ref The Office of the Inspector General is finally looking into the increasing allegations of censorship of global warming within NASA.

That's encouraging.