Sunday, April 30, 2006
Explanation: Jewels don't shine this bright -- only stars do. Like gems in a jewel box, though, the stars of open cluster NGC 290 glitter in a beautiful display of brightness and color. The photogenic cluster, pictured above, was captured recently by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Open clusters of stars are younger, contain few stars, and contain a much higher fraction of blue stars than do globular clusters of stars. NGC 290 lies about 200,000 light-years distant in a neighboring galaxy called the Small Cloud of Magellan (SMC). The open cluster contains hundreds of stars and spans about 65 light years across. NGC 290 and other open clusters are good laboratories for studying how stars of different masses evolve, since all the open cluster's stars were born at about the same time.
What do you think? Is this just media hype started by Sony and movie promoters or do Xians really have their panties in a knot about this?
SYDNEY, Australia - An Australian church group has launched a Web site and a series of cinema advertisements challenging theories in the blockbuster book "The Da Vinci Code" to coincide with the release of the movie version.
The $38,000 campaign by Anglican Sydney Media urges viewers of the film and readers of Dan Brown's novel to seek the truth about Jesus Christ.
"Our concern is that 'The Da Vinci Code' will mislead people about the truth," said Bishop Robert Forsyth, the chairman of the group, which promotes the Sydney diocese of the Anglican church in the media.
"We are not afraid of the film. We are not seeking to discourage people from seeing it," he said Sunday. "But we are well aware of the power popular films have in filling the information void about Jesus."
Among other disputed claims, "The Da Vinci Code" contends that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had descendants.The film version of "The Da Vinci Code," starring Tom Hanks, is due to open worldwide May 17-19.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Explanation: Blown by the wind from a star, this tantalizing, ghostly apparition is cataloged as NGC 7635, but known simply as The Bubble Nebula. Astronomer Ken Crawford's striking view combines a long exposure through a hydrogen alpha filter with color images to reveal the intricate details of this cosmic bubble and its environment. Although it looks delicate, the 10 light-year diameter bubble offers evidence of violent processes at work. Seen here above and left of the Bubble's center is a bright hot star embedded in telltale blue hues characteristic of dust reflected starlight. A fierce stellar wind and intense radiation from the star, which likely has a mass 10 to 20 times that of the Sun, has blasted out the structure of glowing gas against denser material in a surrounding molecular cloud. The intriguing Bubble Nebula lies a mere 11,000 light-years away toward the boastful constellation Cassiopeia.
On this date in 1822, Ulysses S. Grant, 18th president of the United States, was born in Ohio. The Union victory at the end of the Civil War was credited to Grant, who became General of the Army. Grant was U.S. president from 1869 to 1877. He was a favorite of irreverent author Mark Twain, who gave the keynote at a toast for Grant at the Palmer House in Chicago in 1879, as part of an illustrious line-up of speakers that included agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll. Twain was entrusted to publish Grant's Memoirs. Grant was not a member of any church, and was never baptized. After receiving eight demerits as a cadet at West Point for failure to attend chapel, he protested in a letter that it was "not republican" to be forced to go to church (Brown's Life of Grant, p. 329, cited by Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents). Grant was on record in favor of taxation of church property. In an annual address to Congress in 1875, he warned of "the importance of correcting an evil that if permitted to continue, will probably lead to great trouble in our land . . . It is the acquisition of vast amounts of untaxed Church property. . . I would suggest the taxation of all property equally." D. 1885.
FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
News of the Grilled Cheese Virgin Mary a couple years ago spurred Fred Whan of Ontario, Canada, to dig into his freezer for what some may believe to be a heavenly work of cod — a burned fish stick resembling Jesus.
The 40-year-old man says he was cooking dinner for his kids and other children he was baby-sitting when the blessed event occurred. "No one wanted them because they were burned," he said. "So I thought I'd better give them to the dogs."
LiveScience Staff Writer
Scientists have recently identified two new species of frogs in the Lao People's Democratic Republic.
The announcement comes on the heels of several recent discoveries that have showcased this Southeast Asian country as a treasure spot for wildlife.
In recent years, Lao PDR, a landlocked country bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, has introduced the Laotian rock rat, the only living member of an ancient mammal family, the Annamite striped rabbit, and the saola, a type of forest antelope, to the world.
Six new frog species have been found in the past two years. The latest two, named Rana vitrea and Rana compotrix, were described in the recent issue of Copeia, the journal of the American Society of Herpetologists and Ichthyologists.
Not much is known about the frogs, except how their form and structure is different from similar species and where they can be found.
"Now that these species have been documented we can go back and start to learn something about their biology," said Bryan Stuart of the Field Museum, a co-author of the study.
Laos has a high level of biodiversity and contains some of the most significant forest areas in Southeast Asia. But with an estimated 55 percent loss of forest cover and over-exploitation of species, much of its wildlife is threatened.
Most recently, a species of salamander discovered by Stuart in Laos found its way to the Japanese pet trade earlier this year. Conservationists hope to survey this species, get the extent of its range and find government support for its protection.
LONDON (Reuters) - European starlings are not just exceptional songbirds and mimics they also recognize a grammar in their songs in a way that was thought to be unique to humans.
Scientists in the United States have discovered that the birds can be taught to identify different patterns of organizing sounds used to communicate.
"We show that European starlings accurately recognize acoustic patterns defined by a recursive, self-embedding, context-free grammar," said Timothy Gentner of the University of California San Diego (UCSD), in the journal Nature.
Recursive grammar, in which words and clauses are inserted into sentences to create new meaning, is found in all human languages. It was considered a type of linguistic boundary that separated humans from other creatures.
"Now we find that we have been joined on this side of the boundary by the starling. It should no longer be considered an insult to be called a bird-brain," said Daniel Margoliash of the University of Chicago, a co-author of the study.
While humans change a sentence from "the bird sang" to "the bird the cat chased sang" by inserting words, starlings combine chirps, warbles, trills, whistles and rattling sounds.
The scientists discovered their ability by recording eight different starling sounds and combining them to make 16 artificial songs, some more complex than others, which had different grammars or patterning rules.
After teaching the birds to recognize the different sets of songs, nine out of 11 birds could distinguish the patterns and grammatical rules.
"These birds are a lot smarter than you might think," said Margoliash. "They have innate abilities. They solve interesting problems and learn difficult tasks."
The Transition Region and Coronal Explorer is a NASA Small Explorer (SMEX) mission to image the solar corona and transition region at high angular and temporal resolution.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Evolution has shaped our visual system to be good at seeing the structures we commonly encounter in nature
Letters in All Writing Systems Traced Back to Nature
Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Managing Editor
The shapes of letters in all languages are derived from common forms in nature, according to a new hypothesis.
The idea, in some ways seemingly obvious and innately human, arose however from a study of how robots see the world.
Robots employ object recognition technology to navigate a room by recognizing contours. A corner is seen as a "Y," for example, and a wall is recognized by the L-shape it makes where it meets the floor.
"It struck me that these junctions are typically named with letters, such as 'L,' 'T,' 'Y,' 'K,' and 'X,' and that it may not be a coincidence that the shapes of these letters look like the things they really are in nature," said Mark Changizi, a theoretical neurobiologist at the California Institute of Technology.
Changizi and his colleagues think letters and symbols in Chinese, Latin, Persian, and all 97 of the other writing systems that have been used through the ages have shapes that humans are good at seeing.
"Evolution has shaped our visual system to be good at seeing the structures we commonly encounter in nature, and culture has apparently selected our writing systems and visual signs to have these same shapes," Changizi said.
The idea is put forth in The American Naturalist magazine.
Changizi notes that a basic shape such as "L" can be easily bent to form a "V." He found 36 shapes that require just two or three contours, and he then correlated these shapes to common scenes in nature and in ancient architecture.
"So the figures we use in symbolic systems and writing systems seem to be selected because they are easy to see rather than easy to write," he concludes. "They're for the eye."
Even graphic art that is not necessarily alphabet-based conforms to the idea.
"Company logos, for example, are meant to be recognized, and we found that logos have a high correlation," Changizi said. "Shorthand systems, which are meant to give a note-taker speed at the expense of a commonly recognizable system of symbols, do not."
Monday, April 24, 2006
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A controversial television seance airing on Monday will claim it has reached the spirit of John Lennon, but viewers will have to pay $9.95 to find out what the peace-loving Beatle has to say.
The special, being carried on pay-TV service In Demand, was organized by the producers of a 2003 attempt to channel the late Princess Diana. That show failed to find Diana and received reviews that could have sunk the Titanic but it is estimated to have grossed close to $8 million. (ching ching!)
Sight unseen, the Lennon effort has been attacked by the late Beatle's friends and fans as a tasteless effort to profit from his assassination 25 years ago. But producers say they are hoping to lure an audience that now loves such prime-time network TV shows as "Ghost Whisperer" and "Medium."
The program features what is described as an Electronic Voice Phenomenon, or EVP, that a psychic on the show claims is the disembodied voice of Lennon speaking at a seance in one of his favorite New York restaurants, La Fortuna.
EVP is based on a belief that spirit voices communicate through radio and TV broadcast signals.
On the television show, filming at La Fortuna suddenly stops and a narrator says something odd has happened. They then claim that a mysterious voice can be heard on the voice feed of one of the psychics.
The producers then call in "EVP specialist" Sandra Belanger to examine the voice and she proclaims it the real deal.
"That's very consistent with a Class A EVP," she said, regarding the level and clarity of the voice. She also says the voice sounds like how Lennon would have talked.
Reuters was given a preview of the program, "The Spirit of John Lennon," on condition that it not reveal what the "voice" said during the taped seance.
Producer Paul Sharratt, who heads Starcast Productions and who calls himself a skeptic, said hearing the voice has made him a believer.
"The Spirit of John Lennon" is being done without the knowledge or consent of Lennon's estate or his widow Yoko Ono, who declined comment. Her longtime friend and spokesman Elliot Mintz has called the entire exercise "tacky, exploitative and far removed" from the icon's way of life.
"A pay-per-view seance was never his style," said Mintz.
MORE OOGIE-BOOGINESS! Researchers Probe Ghost Sightings on Ship
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Explanation: Shiny NGC 253, sometimes called the Silver Dollar Galaxy, is one of the brightest spiral galaxies visible - and also one of the dustiest. First swept up in 1783 by mathematician and astronomer Caroline Herschel, the dusty island universe lies a mere 10 million light-years away in the southern constellation Sculptor. About 70 thousand light-years across, NGC 253 is the largest member of the Sculptor Group of Galaxies, the nearest to our own Local Group of Galaxies. In addition to its spiral dust lanes, striking tendrils of dust seem to be rising from the galactic disk in this gorgeous view. The high dust content accompanies frantic star formation, giving NGC 253 the designation of a starburst galaxy. NGC 253 is also known to be a strong source of high-energy x-rays and gamma rays, likely due to massive black holes near the galaxy's center.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
What better way to test your reaction time than shooting tranquilizer darts at the random sheep that run past you? Enjoy this fun little test of speed.
Life is sacred? Who said so, God? Hey, if you read history you'll realize that God is one of the leading causes of death...has been for thousands of years. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, all taking turns killing each other because God told them it was a good idea.
Instead of school busing and prayer in schools, which are both controversial, why not a joint solution? Prayer in buses. Just drive these kids around all day and let them pray their fuckn' empty little heads off.
I've begun worshipping the Sun for a number of reasons. First of all, unlike some other gods I could mention, I can see the Sun. It's there for me every day. And the things it brings me are quite apparent all the time: heat, light, food, a lovely day. There's no mystery, no one asks for money, I don't have to dress up, and there's no boring pageantry. And interestingly enough, I have found that the prayers I offer to the sun and the prayers I formerly offered to God are all answered at about the same 50-percent rate.
Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Wed Apr 19, 6:56 AM ET
Oliver Wendell Holmes: "If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought - not free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought that we hate."
Karen Murdock is an adjunct professor of geography and earth science at Century College, a two-year community college in White Bear Lake, Minn.
She often posts news articles and blank comment sheets on a faculty bulletin board that she says she hopes students read and argue about - and thereby think beyond White Bear Lake into the world.
In February, she posted an array of the inflammatory cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that offended not only Muslim students but also college administrators. Murdock's exercise of free speech was eventually silenced, yet her cause echoes well beyond White Bear Lake.
While the most embattled cartoons in the history of that genre have receded from the front pages, the fallout lives on. Just last week, the animated and often-controversial South Park television show took on the issue and was rebuffed when its creators tried to depict the prophet in a scene.
Instead, a black screen appeared with the words, "Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network."
It's more of the same in academia. New York University, for example, states that it is "committed to maintaining an environment where open, vigorous debate and speech can occur." But late last month, the Objectivist Club, a student group that supports the philosophy of Ayn Rand, discovered that the NYU policy is more situational than firm.
The club wanted to have a panel discussion, "Free Speech and the Danish Cartoons," but after protests from Muslim groups, the NYU administration insisted that the controversy could be discussed without showing the cartoons. When the club disagreed, NYU then imposed such limiting conditions on the club - including who could attend the discussion - that the club finally "chose" not to show them. ("Chose" is the administration's interpretation of the decision.)
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Juan Pastrano, of Prairie Lea, Texas, said he was cooking his mother breakfast on Sunday when he looked close and saw what looks like the face of Jesus etched in his frying pan.There's no word yet on if the family plans to sell the pan. But if they do, it could really bring in the bacon.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Cultural traditions and mythologies can be very beautiful and interesting. Pictured above, a worshipper made up as a general from Chinese mythology joins the annual celebration of Baosheng Cultural Festival, Tuesday, April 11, 2006, in Taipei, Taiwan. The festival takes place from March 15 to May 2 according to the lunar calendar. The large-scale activity integrates traditional ceremonies, literature and history study, folk skills and art cultural. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Explanation: How can gas float above the Sun? Twisted magnetic fields arching from the solar surface can trap ionized gas, suspending it in huge looping structures. These majestic plasma arches are seen as prominences above the solar limb. In September 1999, this dramatic and detailed image was recorded by the EIT experiment on board the space-based SOHO observatory in the light emitted by ionized Helium. It shows hot plasma escaping into space as a fiery prominence breaks free from magnetic confinement a hundred thousand kilometers above the Sun. These awesome events bear watching as they can affect communications and power systems over 100 million kilometers away on Planet Earth.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Donna Lee kept the image of Jesus frozen in a plastic bag since finding it She first noticed it while cooking pierogi's. "The last one I flipped over was Jesus, so I flipped the spatula, and my husband goes, 'What? There's Jesus!' and he goes, 'Oh my God!'" said Donna. Her husband agreed, saying, "There's a face on our pierogi and we choose to believe on Easter it's Jesus."The key word here is CHOOSE. Choose your delusion.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Ken Than - Staff Writer
SPACE.com Tue Apr 11, 9:03 AM ET
For the ancient Greeks, the heavens were populated by stick-figured gods, animals and creatures of myth. An active imagination and a human knack for seeking patterns where none existed led them to group pinpricks of light into sword-wielding hunters, menacing lions and centaur archers, among other things.
Imagine what they might have seen if they'd had telescopes.
From horses and insects to space storms that resemble terrestrial tempests, astronomers peering up at the night skies today are doing with nebulas, galaxies and exploding supernovas what the ancient Greeks did with stars.Last week, NASA released new images of NGC 246, whose ominous look has earned it the nickname "Skull Nebula." (pictured above) The image shows what the outer atmosphere of a dying star can do as it travels swiftly through a thick cloud of interstellar gas.
Other well-known and oddly familiar shapes in space include the equine profile of the Horsehead Nebula, located in the Orion Constellation, curvy MyCn18, better known as the "Hourglass Nebula," and the intricate remains of a star explosion seen from Earth in 1054 A.D. and now called the Crab Nebula.
Telescopes equipped with sharp eyes and X-ray vision have picked out twisted clouds of interstellar gas that have been dubbed space tornados, coiled cosmic slinkys and galaxies eerily reminiscent of the burning Eye of Sauron from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
There is also Messier 104, a galaxy that could be mistaken for a Mexican sombrero when viewed edge-on. And two galaxies passing each other in the direction of the constellation Canis Major haunt humanity with the tawny eyes of an owl.Hubble Space Telescope: Greatest Hits
Experts Pick: Top 10 Space Science Photos
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Explanation: During a total solar eclipse, the Sun's extensive outer atmosphere or corona is an awesome and inspirational sight. The subtle shades and shimmering features of the corona that engage the eye span a brightness range of over 10,000 to 1, making them notoriously difficult to capture in a single picture. But this composite of 33 digital images ranging in exposure time from 1/8000 to 1/5 second comes very close to revealing the crown of the Sun in all its glory. The telescopic views were recorded from Side, Turkey during the March 29 solar eclipse, a geocentric celestial event that was widely seen under nearly ideal conditions. The composite also captures a pinkish prominence extending just beyond the upper edge of the eclipsed sun.
In the absense of religion, society would still need some set of guidelines for us all to co-exist peacefully.
Most religions are a contradiction to our society's moral codes. Xianity, in particular, is founded on violence (argument between god and satan, god throws him into a pit and then lets him out to wreak havoc, god wreaks havoc and kills (he especially likes to kill firstborn babies instead of going after who he really has a beef with — like Pharoahs), Jesus comes and preaches that he didn’t come to bring peace, but war (Matthew 5:17 for those who want sources), this god creates himself a son and allows his “son” to be mutilated and ultimately put to death in a most violent way, and in the end, as written in the book of Revelation, there will be a great war between heaven and earth…I could provide many more violent examples but it's all in the Bible, (but most xians skirt around the bad stuff, and take the good stuff. They only want to believe the stuff that suits themselves and what will benefit them...mostly ETERNAL LIFE because they are afraid to die.)
Xianity is a religion based on violence and often used to justify violence. This god was violent BEFORE humans were supposedly created. This god of Xian mythology kills, mutilates, tortures, teases, tests, wants animal sacrifices, wants people to sacrifice their children, he wants people to disown their families for him. Every moral code we hold dear in our society is violated by this god.
Addition: Governments and the people of a society construct laws using COMMON SENSE and take into consideration what will be best for the peaceful function of that particular society which will ensure the health, happiness and liberty overall for each individual as well as the society as a whole.
Friday, April 07, 2006
Explanation: Not all roses are red of course, but they can still be very pretty. Likewise, the beautiful Rosette Nebula and other star forming regions are often shown in astronomical images with a predominately red hue - in part because the dominant emission in the nebula is from hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen's strongest optical emission line, known as H-alpha, is in the red region of the spectrum, but the beauty of an emission nebula need not be appreciated in red light alone. Other atoms in the nebula are also excited by energetic starlight and produce narrow emission lines as well. In this gorgeous view of the Rosette's central regions, narrow band images are combined to show emission from sulfur atoms in red, hydrogen in blue, and oxygen in green. In fact, the scheme of mapping these narrow atomic emission lines into broader colors is adopted in many Hubble images of stellar nurseries. This image spans about 50 light-years in the constellation Monoceros, at the 3,000 light-year estimated distance of the Rosette Nebula.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Chiropractor Claims He Can Go Back in Time
By JOHN McCARTHY, Associated Press Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio - A chiropractor who claims he can treat anyone by reaching back in time to when an injury occurred has attracted the attention of state regulators.
The Ohio State Chiropractic Board, in a notice of hearing, has accused James Burda of Athens of being "unable to practice chiropractic according to acceptable and prevailing standards of care due to mental illness, specifically, Delusional Disorder, Grandiose Type."
[But it's ok for people to have delusional beliefs in supernatural invisible never-seen deities just like the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians and other ancient cultures did and that is considered perfectly acceptable and healthy!]
Burda denied that he is mentally ill. He said he possesses a skill he discovered by accident while driving six years ago.
[Televangelist faith healers are not being taken off the air for having "delusions of grandeur."]
"My foot hurt and, knowing anatomy, I went ahead and I told it to realign and my pain went away," Burda said Thursday.
Burda calls his treatment "Bahlaqeem."
[But ooogey booogy faith healing is perfectly acceptable.]
"It is a made-up word and, to my knowledge, has no known meaning except for this intended purpose. It does, however, have a soothing vibrational influence and contains the very special number of nine letters," Burda's Web site says.
The board alleges in three counts against Burda that the treatment is unacceptable and constitutes "willful and gross malpractice." Burda has until May 1 to request a hearing. The board can levy penalties ranging from a reprimand to revoking his license to practice, said Kelly Caudill, the board's executive director.
[But doctors who pray over or with their patients are respected.]
Caudill said she could not discuss the board's allegations while the investigation continues and could not comment on whether any of Burda's patients had complained. She said the board began the investigation when it learned of Burda's Web site. Burda said he likely will seek a hearing.
Burda said he charges nothing for his first "visit," usually by phone or Internet, and subsequent treatments are $60.
"All treatments are satisfaction-guaranteed. Treatment is always done before payment is made," Burda said, adding that one patient "just wasn't satisfied, and I tore up her check.
The Web site describes the treatment as "a long-distance healing service (not a product) to help increase the quality of your life that can be performed in the privacy of your home or other personal space. There is no need to come to my office."
[sort of like when televangelists tell you to put your hands on the television set and pray for a meeeracle?]
The treatment is not telepathic because the patient does not have to believe in what he's doing, Burda said. He has treated hundreds of patients and reports nine out of 10 patients are satisfied, he said.
[There sure are a lot of suckers in the world.]
While he knows of no other people who have his particular skill, he said lawmakers and regulators should allow alternative forms of treatment for the patients who seek them.
"People who are in need cannot go to these people because they are not allowed to practice. This is terrible," Burda said.
Couple Says Fish Bone Bears Jesus Image
Couple Says Bone Brought Good Luck
October 27, 2005
LUTHER, Okla. -- An Oklahoma couple who says a fish bone bears the image of Jesus is selling it on eBay.The Newmans said they received the fish bone from a friend 10 years ago, and they've had good luck ever since. Now, they said it's someone else's turn.There is a legend that the type of fish the bone came from, a sailcat, was chosen by Jesus to remind people of what he went through.The skeletal remains are now up for auction on eBay with a starting bid of $29.95.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer
NEW YORK - Scientists have caught a fossil fish in the act of adapting toward a life on land, a discovery that sheds new light one of the greatest transformations in the history of animals.
Scientists have long known that fish evolved into the first creatures on land with four legs and backbones more than 365 million years ago, but they've had precious little fossil evidence to document how it happened.
The new find of several specimens looks more like a land-dweller than the few other fossil fish known from the transitional period, and researchers speculate that it may have taken brief excursions out of the water.
"It sort of blurs the distinction between fish and land-living animals," said one of its discoverers, paleontologist Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago.
Experts said the discovery, with its unusually well-preserved and complete skeletons, reveals significant new information about how the water-to-land evolution took place.Read whole article