Sunday, October 7, 2012

2013: A Great Year for Comet Viewing

2013 is shaping up to be a banner year for stargazers wanting to get an up close and personal view of comets.

First up in March, we will be treated by a view of Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4), named for the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, the telescope which first spotted it back in June of last year. It is expected to have a peak magnitude somewhere in the range from +1 to -1.

But that is just the warm-up act. The real show will be in December, when Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) puts in its appearance. Discovered just last month by Vitali Nevski and Aryom Novichonok, participants in the International Scientific Optical Network. This newcomer is thought to be fresh from the Oort cloud. Having never made a close approach to the Sun, it should put on a particularly bright show as its outer shell vaporizes and forms a tail. Some estimates optimistically predict that it might shine as brightly as the full Moon!

For more information on Comet Pan-STARRS:

For more information on Comet ISON:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Feynman Interviews

The late Richard Feynman has long been a hero of mine, not only for his contributions to his field (his path integral approach to quantum electrodynamics revolutionized modern physics), but also for his skill at communicating advanced concepts in simple terms, his love for tackling problems for the simple joy of finding the answers, and for his general zest for life.

The Niels Bohr Library & Archives with the Center for History of Physics has posted the transcripts of a series of interviews conducted with Feynman in 1966. These rambling interviews touch upon all aspects his life (at least up to that point in his life - there was much more afterwards), and are a fascinating read. Many of the anecdotes presented should be familiar to readers of the many books about Feynman's life, but it is particularly nice to have them presented in the man's own words.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Centenary of the Sinking of RMS Titanic

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic, pride of the White Star Line, departed Southampton, England, bound for the City of New York. As all the world knows, she never arrived at her destination. At 11:40 P.M. (ship's time, three hours behind GMT) on the evening of April 14, 1912, lookout Frederick Fleet called out "Iceberg right ahead." Less than a minute later, as the crew scrambled to alter course, the infamous collision took place. At 2:20 A.M. the next morning, the lumbering hulk of the Titanic slipped beneath the waters of the North Atlantic, claiming the lives of an estimated 1,514 individuals. Over a thousand of those were still aboard when she went down. The remainder succumbed to hypothermia in the frigid waters. There were only 710 survivors in all.

It is no understatement that the sinking of the Titanic marked something of an end to an age of innocence. Coming at the end of the Second Industrial Revolution, the launch of the Titanic carried with it an air of hubris, a seemingly unbreakable faith in mankind's mastery over Nature via steel and steam. The technology of Industry reigned supreme. Until Titanic. And it is no small irony that among those who lost their lives in the disaster were among the leading industrial magnates of the era, including Jacob Astor IV and Benjamin Guggenheim (a fact which tends to overshadow the deaths of throngs of poor and working class passengers trapped below decks in steerage). That night, the human race was given a lesson in humility.

To be fair, neither White Star nor the ship's builders claimed the ship to be unsinkable. That label was applied by the press (and largely after the sinking). But neither the line nor the builders really made an effort to disabuse the public of the notion that the Titanic was unsinkable. After all, it was great advertising. And, to exacerbate the situation, Titanic carried only a third of the lifeboats needed to accommodate her maximum crew and passenger complement, and the crew was inadequately trained in emergency procedures. Coupled with the skipper, Edward Smith, driving her forward at full speed that night, despite having received wireless warnings of icebergs in the vicinity, the end result was almost inevitable.

In retrospect, it was simple for maritime engineers to spot the design flaw which permitted Titanic's unthinkable fate. The superstructure of the ship was divided into sixteen "watertight" compartments. However, these compartments were not sealed at the top. The collision opened five of these compartments to the sea. As they filled, the bow was lowered by the weight of the seawater being taken aboard, until that seawater was able to start spilling over into each adjacent compartment, setting up a chain reaction of flooding compartments which eventually doomed the vessel. Eventually, the sinking bow lifted the stern out of the water, which resulted in the stern section breaking off under its own weight, accelerating the sinking of the behemoth.

Furthermore, metallurgical analysis of the iron rivets retrieved from the wreckage suggests that they were manufactured with an unacceptably high slag content, rendering them more brittle than they should have been. Had stronger rivets been used in the construction, damage from the collision might have more localized, potentially to the point of only four of the watertight compartments being exposed to the sea, a condition which she could have conceivably survived. (Of course, this is pure speculation. It is difficult to say with certainty, as the portion of the hull which came into contact with the iceberg is buried under the silt of the sea floor, rendering direct examination of the damage impossible at this time.)

As with most catastrophic engineering disasters, error compounded error, setting up a cascade of failures. And, sadly, the elimination of any one of those errors could have made a tremendous difference in the outcome. But hindsight cannot save those already lost.

For more info:

Friday, March 30, 2012

Film Review: "John Carter"

Long a fan of the pulp fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs, perhaps best known as the creator of Tarzan, I had eagerly awaited the release of Disney's production of John Carter, based upon Burroughs' first Barsoom (Mars) novel, A Princess of Mars. Well, except for the Disney part. I must admit that Disney's involvement had me a little apprehensive. Clearly, the film wouldn't be a Frazetta painting brought to life. Oh well. But the fact remains that a novel which had served as a childhood inspiration for some of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers of the 20th century, not to mention several generations of fans, was being brought to the big screen, and that is reason enough for excitement.

Despite the film's weak box office performance (the word "flop" is being routinely bandied about) and the less than impressive trailers, I was pleasantly surprised. John Carter is a fun film, quite effectively capturing the adventure and spirit of the original pulp novel. Certainly, the characters were somewhat two-dimensional, but that is not surprising considering the source material. It was a pulp novel, after all. If anything, the writers for the film managed, to their credit, to give the female lead, Dejah Thoris (ably portrayed by Lynn Collins), somewhat more depth than the original, making her more independent and resourceful than the stereotypical damsal in distress that she was in the books (and thus more palatable for modern audiences). The John Carter character himself is also given some more depth, at least in terms of exhibiting character growth as the film progresses. The Carter of the book is unchanging, constantly honor-bound to fight against injustice. The Carter of the film, played by Taylor Kitsch, has a few personal demons to confront, and by and large is only interested in getting home until later in the story, when he realizes, motivated both by love and a sense of honor, that he must do the right thing.  Sadly, that love aspect, the kindling of feelings between Carter and Dejah Thoris, isn't well explored, and is rolled out in the story in a somewhat perfunctory and pro forma fashion, as are many of the aforementioned improvements in Carter's character.

Overall, the film remains astonishingly faithful to the book, although there are some major differences, and I can quite readily see why most of those changes were made. For starters, the film transforms the Therns from the book The Gods of Mars into beings who turn out to be an advanced alien race not indigenous to Barsoom. Travelling from world to world, the Therns manipulate the historical development of the civilizations they encounter (including, it would seem, that of Earth), seemingly feeding upon the chaos they introduce.  This change allows the filmmakers to not only introduce a stronger overall story arc to the film, but also allow them to correct one of the weakest aspects of the book: how John Carter got to Barsoom.

In the book, Carter travelled to Barsoom by means of, well, essentially wishing himself there. The best way to describe the process would be astral projection, but with the added benefit of actually having a material body at the other end of the journey. This rather unsatisfactory explanation is replaced in the film with a bit of advanced Thern technology, consisting of what is basically a transporter which constructs a copy of the body at the destination, leaving the true body in a state resembling death.

Another major change is the transformation of the city of Zodanga into a moving city, striding across the Martian landscape and consuming resources as it goes. Whether the purpose of this change was to simply introduce a bit of visual spectacle or to make the Zodangans seem a bit more nefarious is unclear, but perhaps it was a bit of both.

Whatever the motivations, the filmakers did an effective job of bringing to life the Barsoom of Burroughs' imagination, which in turn reflects the Mars imagined by Percival Lowell. And it looks like a fascinating place to visit, provided that one stays on the good side of the Tharks.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The 411 on the PPACA

As the Supreme Court tussles over the constitutionality of provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (frequently tagged with the derisive and misleading label "ObamaCare"), my friend Dr. Margo Bergman (who holds a PhD in Economics and a Master of Public Health in Public Health Genetics) over at the StayAtHomeEconomist blog has been writing a series of articles going over what is actually in the law. This is a pretty handy thing, considering how grossly ill-informed most people seem to be about the topic. (Hint: There are no "death panels" in it.)

Here is what is up so far. I'll add links to additional postings as they appear.
  1. Getting to Know the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
  2. Health Care in America – a brief tutorial
  3. Section 1001
  4. Section 1001 – continued!
  5. From my cold, dead, but presumably healthy (except the dead part), hands
  6. Sec 1001 – the final push
  7. A Three-fer for you!
  8. And we move faster, faster through time and space, well, just the PPACA, really
  9. Sorry for the hiatus – teething baby!
  10. Moving into the future
  11. Special Rules – oh boy
  12. In need of health care myself
  13. Consumer Choice
  14. Remember the Tooth!
  15. Back in the Saddle
  16. Back to Work
  17. More Fun with Reinsurance
  18. Risk, Risk, Risk
  19. Affordable Coverage Choices for All Americans
  20. Cost-Sharing!
  21. A little departure
  22. Can I, Can I?
  23. Finishing up Eligibility
  24. And now, Small Business!
  25. Best laid plans
  26. The day after blues
  27. And a few addemdums, ipso facto…

Friday, March 16, 2012

Legislating Lies

This article in the Texas Observer has been making the rounds of late, highlighting one family's pain in the wake of Texas' controversial ultrasound law. It is a heart-wrenching story, but one part in particular jumped out at me:
"When the description was finally over, the doctor held up a script and said he was legally obliged to read me information provided by the state. It was about the health dangers of having an abortion, the risks of infection or hemorrhage, the potential for infertility and my increased chance of getting breast cancer."
I had to go back and re-read that just to make sure I had read it correctly. Sure enough, it said "increased chance of getting breast cancer."

"Well, that can't be right," I thought. So I took a look at the actual legislation. Sure enough, there it was in the Health and Safety Code, Title 2, Subtitle H, Chapter 171, Section 012:
Sec. 171.012.  VOLUNTARY AND INFORMED CONSENT. (a)  Consent to an abortion is voluntary and informed only if:
(1)  the physician who is to perform the abortion informs the pregnant woman on whom the abortion is to be performed of:
(iii)  the possibility of increased risk of breast cancer following an induced abortion and the natural protective effect of a completed pregnancy in avoiding breast cancer;
The thing is, that this is completely false. There is no medical evidence of an increased risk of breast cancer following an induced abortion. The following is from the National Cancer Institute's Fact Sheet "Reproductive History and Breast Cancer Risk" and hints at the origins of the abortion-breast cancer myth (emphasis added by me and citations re-numbered):
Is abortion linked to breast cancer risk? A few retrospective (case-control) studies reported in the mid-1990s suggested that induced abortion (the deliberate ending of a pregnancy) was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. However, these studies had important design limitations that could have affected the results. A key limitation was their reliance on self-reporting of medical history information by the study participants, which can introduce biasProspective studies, which are more rigorous in design and unaffected by such bias, have consistently shown no association between induced abortion and breast cancer risk (1–6). Moreover, in 2009, the Committee on Gynecologic Practice of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists concluded that “more rigorous recent studies demonstrate no causal relationship between induced abortion and a subsequent increase in breast cancer risk” (7). Major findings from these recent studies include the following:
  • Women who have had an induced abortion have the same risk of breast cancer as other women. 
  • Women who have had a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) have the same risk of breast cancer as other women.
  • Cancers other than breast cancer also appear to be unrelated to a history of induced or spontaneous abortion.
The citations are for the following articles:
  1. Reeves GK, Kan SW, Key T, et al. Breast cancer risk in relation to abortion: results from the EPIC study. International Journal of Cancer 2006; 119(7):1741–1745. [PubMed Abstract]
  2. Michels KB, Xue F, Colditz GA, Willett WC. Induced and spontaneous abortion and incidence of breast cancer among young women: a prospective cohort study. Archives of Internal Medicine 2007; 167(8):814–820. [PubMed Abstract]
  3. Beral V, Bull D, Doll R, Peto R, Reeves G. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Breast cancer and abortion: collaborative reanalysis of data from 53 epidemiological studies, including 83,000 women with breast cancer from 16 countries. Lancet 2004; 363(9414):1007–1016. [PubMed Abstract]
  4. Henderson KD, Sullivan-Halley J, Reynolds P, et al. Incomplete pregnancy is not associated with breast cancer risk: the California Teachers Study. Contraception 2008; 77(6):391–396. [PubMed Abstract]
  5. Lash TL, Fink AK. Null association between pregnancy termination and breast cancer in a registry-based study of parous women. International Journal of Cancer 2004; 110(3):443–448. [PubMed Abstract]
  6. Rosenblatt KA, Gao DL, Ray RM, et al. Induced abortions and the risk of all cancers combined and site-specific cancers in Shanghai. Cancer Causes and Control 2006; 17(10):1275–1280. [PubMed Abstract]
  7. Committee on Gynecologic Practice. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 434: induced abortion and breast cancer risk. Obstetrics and Gynecology 2009; 113(6):1417–1418. [PubMed Abstract]
Then there is this. In Summary Report: Early Reproductive Events Workshop - National Cancer Institute under the section "Epidemiologic Findings":
  • Induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk. (1)
  • Recognized spontaneous abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk. (1)
The "(1)" at the end of each item is a rating of the strength of the evidence, with 1 meaning "Well-established." This is the highest rating.  And it isn't just the National Cancer Institute that maintains this position based upon the evidence:
Need I go on? Certainly, there are (usually) health benefits to carrying a pregnancy to full term, but the consensus of the medical community is that there is no link between abortion and an increased risk of breast (or any other) cancer. Yet, the Texas State Legislature has seen fit to require physicians to tell their patients that there is. In short, the law requires doctors to lie.

Yes, abortion is a divisive and controversial issue. And let us put aside for a moment the other atrocious aspects of this legislation. It is one thing for politicians to lie. They do so on a regular basis. But requiring others to do so? Has furthering a political agenda grown so important that it has come to this?

Way to stay classy, Texas Legislature.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Murder of Giordano Bruno

On this day (February 17) in 1600, Giordano Bruno, a mathematician, philosopher, astronomer, and Dominican friar, having been found guilty of heresy by the Inquisition, was stripped naked and driven through the streets of Rome, then tied to a stake in the Campo de’ Fiori and burned to death.  What was his horrible crime? He put forth the conjecture that other stars were suns like our own, and that they could each have planets like our own, and that those planets (gasp) have life. Such is life in a world without separation of Church and State.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

For more information about this fascinating individual, see the following:

Executing someone for heresy is and always has been an act of murder, pure and simple. There is no legitimate justification for it.

When I first started writing this post, it at this point transformed into a diatribe against modern threats to separation of Church and State, and those such as Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and faux-historian David Barton who keep endeavoring to return us to the bad-old-days of theocracy, culminating with the surreal spectacle of House hearings this week on the topic of birth control in which no women were included among the witnesses, a disgraceful display of the reproductive rights of women being trampled by religious orthodoxy. However, the more I wrote, the more angry I grew. I suppose that, for now, I should just leave it at that....

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How Knotty

While doing the pirate thing, it was inevitable that I would get into studying knots, not that I ever mastered them (although I am justifiably proud of the knot-work I did on the Pride O' Bedlam's flagpole). So I was quite pleased to see this little video crop up today on my Facebook feed....

This video quite naturally lead me to the contributor's YouTube Channel, "Tying It All Together", and his website, Knots galore!

UPDATE: (March 22) And this.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Comments on "Sh#t Christians Say to Atheists"

There has been an Internet meme circulating of late, the posting of videos entitled "Sh#t ____ Say to ___", illustrating preposterous things commonly said by the members of the social subset in question. One that caught my eye recently was this one, made with tongue-in-cheek delivery by atheist activist Ashley Paramore of the Secular Student Alliance:

 Yeah, it sounds about right. Well done, Ashley. I've heard quite a few of these myself. Here are my responses. (Not to Ashley, of course. She's sharp, and already knows all of this stuff.)

"But you're so nice."

Why thank you. I'm sure you are nice as well. But whether someone is nice or not has absolutely nothing to do with their religious beliefs. There are nice atheists, and there are atheists who are jerks, just as there are nice Christians/Jews/Buddhists/Muslims/etc., and there there are Christians/Jews/Buddhists/Muslims/etc. who are complete jerks. People are people. Some are bad. Some are good. And there is generally no correlation between that and their religious status. I have lots of friends who are atheists, and they are all nice people.

"So why do you hate God?"

I don't hate God. I just don't think God exists. Why would I hate an entity which doesn't exist. Do you hate Athena? Do you hate the Tooth Fairy?

"So you worship the Devil then?"

No, that would be Satanism. Atheism and Satanism are mutually exclusive. Atheists reject all superstitious beliefs, including beliefs in gods, devils, angels, and demons. It would make no sense to worship an entity which does not exist. Worshiping Satan makes no more sense to me than worshiping God. Or Odin. Or Hathor. Or door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen (who at least have the virtue of existing).

"You don't. But you believe in Satan? No?"

I just explained that.

"Look, I understand that you are just going through a phase, and that deep down you really do believe."

For some people, that might very well be true. I can't speak for them, though. For me, it is most certainly not a phase. I've been a non-believer for over two decades, now.

"But you still believe in Jesus, right?"

There may or may not have been an historical figure upon whom the Jesus of the Bible was based. Sadly, there is no historical evidence of this beyond the fact that Christianity got started in the first place. There are no contemporaneous accounts by anyone who met him or witnessed events associated with his life. In fact, that are no contemporaneous accounts by scholars living in the region that even mention him at all.

If he existed, and if the Gospels are even halfway right in how they depict him (keeping in mind that the oldest of the Gospels, Mark, was written no earlier than 70 AD), then I'm sure he was a nice guy with some great ideas about how people should treat one another. You know, loving one another, helping the poor, all of that good stuff.  I can get on board with that. (Of course, it depends on which Gospel you read. Each one depicts a Jesus with an entirely different personality. It really is interesting to read the Gospels in the order they were thought to be written and see how the personality depicted changes, as well as seeing the way in which each version of the story embellishes upon the previous version.)

But all of the supernatural trappings? Virgin birth? Healings? The Feeding of the Multitude? Resurrection? I don't buy it. Neither did Thomas Jefferson.

By the way, Jeshua (‏יֵשׁ֡וּעַ‎), (the original Aramaic version of the name "Jesus") was a very common name in 1st century Judea. It wouldn't surprise me at all if there were more than one itinerant Rabbi going around by that name.

"Come on, you were never really a true believer."

Ah, the old "no true Scotsman" argument. It is a logical fallacy. And completely irrelevant to the issue at hand.

"Look, I know you think you've been saved, but you really just need to go to a saved church. Come on."

My issues with religion go beyond the dogma and practices of any one denomination. I'll pass on the brainwashing/indoctrination session, thank you very much. Been there. Done that.

"But how can you even love if you don't believe in a god?"

"But how can you even breath if you don't believe in little angels working your lungs like a bellows?" Or, how about this one? "How can you even walk if you don't believe that the Earth is sitting on the back of a giant elephant?" Yeah, those questions make about as much sense.

We are hard-wired by evolution to love. It helps us get along, and it helps perpetuate the species. The capacity for love has no connection to religious belief.

"Wow. Your life must be bleak and meaningless." 

Why? I create my own meaning, rather than waiting to have it handed down to me by some Cosmic Overseer. And I see beauty in life, and in the wonders of the Cosmos.

"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"
Douglas Adams

"The Cosmos is all that there is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us—there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries."
 Carl Sagan, "Cosmos"

"So what exactly do you believe in, then?"

I believe in reason. It works, and has a better track record than any other worldview in terms of gaining an understanding of, well, everything.

"But, no, you see, this is exactly what you don't understand. It's that it takes MORE faith NOT to believe in God."

This argument is the biggest load I've tripe I have ever encountered, and holding such a bizarre position requires completely ignoring the definition of the word "faith." Not believing requires no faith at all. My disbelief is rooted in a complete and utter lack of evidence for the failed God Hypothesis. Faith doesn't come into play here in any way. The very concept of faith is abhorrent to me, since faith, by definition, is the abandonment of reason.

You might perhaps counter here that I said earlier that I believe in reason. Isn't that a contradiction?

No, it isn't. I believe in reason, but that belief is not based on faith. It is based upon experience, upon a Bayesian confidence inspired by past performance. I can observe reason working, and working well. Faith? Not so much.

"So why do you even bother to live?" 

I refer you to my earlier response about life being bleak and meaningless.

"What if you are wrong? Eternity is a really long time, and Hell's hot."

Amazing how people continue to trot out Pascal's Wager, even though that old chestnut has been thoroughly discredited in numerous ways. As for Hell, there is no evidence whatsoever for its existence, nor any evidence that there would be anything of me to go there once I die.

"It's not meant to be taken literally. Have you ever even read the Bible?"

Yes, I have read the Bible. And the more I read it, the more glaring its errors and contradictions appear. (All too frequently, I find that atheists tend to be more familiar with the Bible than most Christians, not so much in terms of being able to quote passages verbatim, which has little bearing on actually understanding the content, but rather knowing of its historical development.)

There are plenty of Christians who do take the Bible literally, and they are some of the scariest people out there. But even taking bits and pieces of it literally is giving it more credit than is due. By and large, it seems to possess about as much historical accuracy as Grimm's Fairy Tales.

"But how can you be a moral person?"

This is based upon the misconception that morality HAS to come from God. Religions teach morals, but morals do not originate with God. They come from human beings, human beings who understand that, in order for people to survive together in a community, each member must follow certain rules for behavior. This is the origin of laws, which are the formalize representations of the rules of morality, originally codified by the State in an archaic era when Church and State were inseparable entities. The power of this arrangement was that if the fear of punishment by the state was inadequate to dissuade misbehavior, the threat of punishment in the afterlife was frequently sufficient to do the job.

But these rules were not handed down by a deity. They were crafted by human beings who recognized that one shouldn't go around killing other people, because they might just as easily go around killing you. They were created by people who wanted to remove doubts about parentage, since inheritance laws were frequently built around paternal bloodlines. They were developed by people who recognized that, in a pre-refrigeration technology desert climate, eating pork and shellfish was quite probably a public health risk.

I don't need God to tell me these things. I know that it is wrong to kill people or to hurt them. My parents taught me that, just as their parents taught them. And it makes sense to follow that rule, because treating other people badly makes it more likely that they will treat me badly, just as treating them well makes it more likely that they will treat me well. The Golden Rule is sufficient as a core for morality, and it need not be handed down from Heaven/Olympus/Valhalla. It makes sense as a basic rule to live by for people living in a society with others, bound together by the Social Contract.

"I mean, if there's no God, there's nobody to tell you that you shouldn't go running around and start killing people, right?"

See my previous response.

Frankly, it scares the willies out of me when I hear Christians say that their faith is the only thing keeping them from going on killing sprees. Such people seriously need psychological help. Their imaginary friend is the only thing keeping them from being a mass murderer? Yikes! Get help! Quickly!

By the way, if morality comes from God, why do atheists make up less than 1% of our prison population, when atheists represent a substantially larger percentage of the overall population?

And don't throw the Nazis in my face. The Nazi party frequently used religion in their propaganda to bring the German people to their way of thinking. The Nazis hated atheists, banning their writings and imprisoning and executing them right alongside Jews, homosexuals, and Communists. As for those Godless Commies, while it is true that Marx was disdainful of religion, and atheism was the official position of the Soviet Union, the evils perpetuated by the Soviet regime were rooted in the cult of personality surrounding Lenin and Stalin (itself a variant of "religion") and the abuse of power inherent in an authoritarian system (just as it is inherent in authoritarian theocracies).

"Well I think you'll change your mind when you have kids of your own."

And why would that be the case? This seems to be a rather bizarre and vacuous argument.

"You're going to go to Hell."

As mentioned earlier, there is no evidence whatsoever for its existence, nor any evidence that there would be anything of me to go there once I die. In the immortal words of Mark Twain:
"I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it." 

"I'll pray for you."

You are at liberty to do so. It literally is the least you could do.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Misleading Newspaper Articles on Climate Stir Firestorm

Astonishingly misleading OpEds published over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal ("No Need to Panic About Global Warming") and Daily Mail ("Forget global warming — it’s Cycle 25 we need to worry about (and if NASA scientists are right the Thames will be freezing over again)") have stirred up a hornets' nest. There is no need for me to dissect the rampant (and long-debunked) misinformation contained in these propaganda pieces. Others have done so quite effectively: