Archive for November, 2011

Curiosity off to Mars

Every once in a while I like to get my mind off religious idiots and terrestrial oppression.  It’s nice to take a break from bullshit and think about important mind blowing stuff.  NASA has just launched Curiosity.  “The mission will pioneer precision landing technology and a sky-crane touchdown to place Curiosity near the foot of a mountain inside Gale Crater on Aug. 6, 2012. During a nearly two-year prime mission after landing, the rover will investigate whether the region has ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life.”

Curiosity, the Mars rover.  This thing is big.  A lot to land on another planet.This is what Curiosity will be doing on Mars in August of 2012.  Incredible.

Okay, think about that for a minute.  Mars is a long way away.  It’s moving.  So are we.  And there are some human beings with the mathematical acumen to softly touch down on that planet more than nine months from now.  Unmanned.  No pilot guiding the landing.  Everything pre-planned and controlled right from planet earth.  If that doesn’t give you respect for science and technology, you’re in the wrong species.

I’m humbled by this achievement.  Normally I think of myself as a fairly smart person, but this goes beyond anything I could even imagine.  It really is rocket science.

So in August, if things go as planned, we will have a remote controlled car rolling around on Mars, drilling into the soil and analyzing samples.  I remember when Sputnik got the attention of the media, and shook America out of its science complacency.  To think that just a little over half a century has passed and we have our toys on Mars… the mind boggles.  I think I shall rejoice.  This is the best time to be alive in the history of humanity, and we’re here to witness it.

I have my fingers crossed.  Can’t wait to see the results.

Hey, a “sky crane” touch down?  What does that look like?  Something like this:  Curiosity will have a "sky crane touchdown"  Wow.


Just wow.  We’re living in science fiction.

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Can’t we kill that snake oil salesman once and for all?

This article annoys me.  In fact, it infuriates me.  The BBC Documentary team, Horizons, accepted James Randi’s million dollar challenge to homeopathy in hopes of walking away with all that cash.  They hired the top scientists they could find to test homeopathy.  The test was overseen and verified by representatives of the Royal Society.  How much more valid can a test get?  And the results:  Homeopathy Doesn’t Fucking Work.

Is homeopathy a con?  You think this is a valid question?That’s it.  End of story.  What we all knew was true is now proven true.  Just total bullshit with absolutely no way in the world it COULD be true.  First of all, the principle of “like cures like” was a good guess for its day, but is just stupid now.  And more importantly, diluting a drug does NOT make it stronger, especially when you dilute it to the point where there is nothing, not one single fucking molecule,  in a volume of water the size of the orbit of Pluto.

So that’s the story, and that should have been the headline.  But it wasn’t.  The headline reads:  ‘Proof’ that homeopathy doesn’t work.

Notice the single quotes on “proof”.  Like we still have our doubts.  Like there could be something that invalidates even this test.

And then the article goes on to rave about the benefits of homeopathy, giving line after line to anecdotal evidence of its efficacy:

“But there is a huge amount of anecdotal evidence that says it does work. Louise Hamilton a 29-year-old human resources officer from Clapham, has endometriosis. She has endured 15 years of crippling pain and has had three operations and hormone treatment to alleviate her suffering without success. Eventually the pain got so bad she could not walk.

She says, “All I could do was lie on my left side – I could only work for three hours a day.”

For the past 18 months she has had homeopathic treatment and is now free of pain. “I’m convinced it works. I suffered for 15 years and now I feel so good I’ve not had to see my homeopath since last May.”

The article also describes in uncritical terms a totally discredited researcher:  “Professor Madeleine Ennis, an expert in pharmacology at Queen’s University Belfast, became embroiled in the homeopathy debate after she performed a laboratory test where histamine – a natural hormone – was diluted to homeopathic levels and the solution added to a blood cell to see if it “activated” the corpuscle in the way histamine normally would. The results were mystifying. The diluted solution could not have had a single molecule of histamine in it, yet it still had an effect on the cells. Professor Ennis repeated the test and got the same result. She stands by her method, but cannot explain why it worked.”

Your choice, big pharma or big placebo.That’s just a sample of the pro-homeopathy hype in this article.  What about the real news.  Here it comes:  “The Horizon scientists repeated Professor Ennis’s experiments under strictly controlled conditions. For homeopaths, it was a crushing defeat. The experiment revealed that homeopathy has no physiological effect on the body. James Randi got to keep his $1 million and the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on homeopathic remedies will be left wondering if it’s they who are out of pocket”

This is immediately followed by a statement by the Homeopathy Association, given credibility because they have 2,000 quacking members: “Our results come from treating human beings and animals,” says the society’s director of politics Melanie Oxley. “There have even been experiments involving plant cells which showed an effect. We need to invest more in homeopathy research because we do see an effect on living systems.”

In other words, real scientist who do real tests can be ignored.  No matter what the scientists say, and no matter how rigorous the tests, they still haven’t proven a fucking thing, folks.

And you just know that Pat Hagan, who wrote this crap for the Evening Standard, is a big fan of homeopathy and thinks scientists can’t tell us diddly squat.  Or is this just  “balanced journalism”?  Equal time for the tinfoil hat people.

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Answering Greta’s Question

On the freethoughts blog site I stumbled into the “how did you become an atheist” poll.  Here’s what I posted:

Ah, camp.  I really did enjoy it, including the religious indoctrination.I’m not quite sure when I lost my faith.  Not sure I ever really had any faith.  When I was eight years old I was sent to an Anglican summer camp where we did all kinds of fun things like make whistles out of willow twigs and put together leather wallets.  And every morning we were required to  attend chapel where we heard lectures about the history of the church. I didn’t mind attending chapel.  There were very cute mice that ran along the rafters and ducked in and out of the old pump organ, and the priest was quite interesting.

I was quite taken by the theater of it all, and after the summer told my mom I’d like to be confirmed.  She got in touch with the bishop, who said I was too young.  They didn’t confirm children until the age of twelve or thirteen, when presumably a child has learned to consider things as an adult.  This surprises me to this day.  They actually wanted me to be conscious of the decision I would be making.

By the time I was thirteen, I was a solid atheist.  I don’t know what changed me.  I don’t remember any event. Probably just the accumulation of goofy stories and implausible assumptions was what did it. By then I was sure that Jesus Christ had all the reality of Santa Claus.  It may have taken a year or two more before I dropped all belief in the sky faerie and the value of prayer.  But nothing they were telling me in church made any sense at all.  It just sounded stupid.

Camp chapel every morning.  The mice made it cozy.Some years later I caught myself watching a native American Indian ceremony with great reverence, until I realized that it was just a different brand of silly nonsense.  Why was I giving it reverence when I gave no respect to my own culture’s nonsense?  Since by that time Christianity was beyond belief, I had no choice but to scorn the Indian beliefs as well.  And that’s been the story with everything I’ve encountered since, from Sufism to the many varieties of woo.

Needless to say, mom was not happy.  She rather resented the bishop missing his chance to grab me.

After posting this, I noticed that the poll originated with Greta Christina, and thought I’d go and see what others had said.  That was interesting.  I highly recommend you follow the link.  I think I imagine that my feelings and experiences are unique, but it’s an eye opener to read the story of so many people who left religion just as I did, because it didn’t make any sense to them.  Some took longer, and some took a more circuitous and painful path.  But we all share the same destination.  For me this is like finally finding my people, my family.  These people are thoughtful.  They have examined the questions, and come to the same conclusions that I have.  They are a breath of fresh air in this “demon haunted world”.

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Personhood for my Jism

Ya gotta love Monty Python.  Who else could give us a slong like this one, with full chorus line.In light of Mississippi’s current attempt to declare a fertilized egg “a person” under the law, with all the rights and privileges of “personhood” I think we should go one step further.  Surely a sperm is half a person.  Surely anybody who wastes or destroys a sperm cell should be subjected to the full force of the law.  Anybody who tries to prevent a sperm from achieving its destiny is at least half a murderer.  Now, let’s all join together and sing Every Sperm is Sacred.  It’s a great hymn.

There are Jews in the world.
There are Buddhists.
There are Hindus and Mormons, and then
There are those that follow Mohammed, but
I’ve never been one of them.

I’m a Roman Catholic,
And have been since before I was born,
And the one thing they say about Catholics is:
They’ll take you as soon as you’re warm.

You don’t have to be a six-footer.
You don’t have to have a great brain.
You don’t have to have any clothes on. You’re
A Catholic the moment Dad came,


Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.

Let the heathen spill theirs
On the dusty ground.
God shall make them pay for
Each sperm that can’t be found.

Every sperm is wanted.
Every sperm is good.
Every sperm is needed
In your neighbourhood.

Hindu, Taoist, Mormon,
Spill theirs just anywhere,
But God loves those who treat their
Semen with more care.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,…
…God get quite irate.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is good.
Every sperm is needed…
…In your neighbourhood!

Every sperm is useful.
Every sperm is fine.
God needs everybody’s.
And mine!
And mine!

Let the Pagan spill theirs
O’er mountain, hill, and plain.
God shall strike them down for
Each sperm that’s spilt in vain.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is good.
Every sperm is needed
In your neighbourhood.

Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite iraaaaaate!

It really would be worth it for you to track down the video that goes with this song. I’m sure you can do it.  Just do a search on YouTube.  If you’ve never seen it, the song and dance routine is sarcastic and hilarious.  Ranks as one of the best of Monty Python, right up there with The Universe and The Penis Song.

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