Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Another Spooky Nebula !

Credit: Adam Block, NOAO, AURA, NSF
Explanation: The dark nebula SH2-136 appears to be celebrating Halloween all of the time. The complex process of star formation create dust clouds of many shapes and sizes -- it is (this link is cool!) human perception that might identify a ghoulish creature, on the right of the above image, chasing humans. Halloween's modern celebration retains historic roots in dressing to scare away the spirits of the dead. Since the fifth century BC, Halloween has been celebrated as a cross-quarter day, a day halfway between an equinox (equal day / equal night) and a solstice (minimum day / maximum night in the northern hemisphere). With our modern calendar, however, the real cross-quarter day will occur next week. Another cross-quarter day is Groundhog Day and Walpurgis Night.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Witch Head Nebula

I posted this back in June but thought I would bring it forward since it's so fitting for Halloween:

Credit: G. Greaney

Explanation: Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble ... Maybe Macbeth should have consulted the Witch Head Nebula. This suggestively shaped reflection nebula is associated with the bright star Rigel in the constellation Orion. More formally known as IC 2118, the Witch Head Nebula glows primarily by light reflected from Rigel. Rigel is located about one photo-width off the image to the right. Fine dust in the nebula reflects the light. The blue color is caused not only by Rigel's blue color but because the dust grains reflect blue light more efficiently than red. The same physical process causes Earth's daytime sky to appear blue, although the scatterers here are molecules of nitrogen and oxygen. The nebula lies about 1000 light-years away.

Boston Legal's smackdown on religion

Thanks to Bligbi for pointing us to this:

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Is Europe's traditionally secular liberalism threatened?

While we are here in the U.S.A. trying to hold back the Xian right on issues concerning separation of church and state, Intelligent Design being taught in public school science classes, women's right to choose, etc., we may be overlooking the growth of another rapidly growing religious group whose numbers are becoming significant enough to sway the outcomes of the above-mentioned issues. Some might call me an "alarmist", but I see that our challenges as atheists are only going to get larger, and maybe sooner than we think.

This may not be of immediate concern for Americans, but it is for the atheists and mainstream religious in Europe. Statistics show that birthrates among Europeans are in decline (along with meager economic growth) while there has been a steady flow of Muslim immigrants who settle in countries all over Europe, produce large numbers of children (who are then natural born Europeans), and are being raised to perpetuate the Muslim faith AND whose votes have a strong influence in the outcome of elections.

Omer Taspinar of Global Politics writes in his essay Europe's Muslim Street: "Islam may still be a faraway religion for millions of Americans. But for Europeans it is local politics. The 15 million Muslims of the European Union (EU)—up to three times as many as live in the United States—are becoming a more powerful political force than the fabled Arab street. Europe’s Muslims hail from different countries and display diverse religious tendencies, but the common denominator that links them to the Muslim world is their sympathy for Palestine and Palestinians. And unlike most of their Arab brethren, growing numbers of Europe’s Muslims can vote in elections that count."

From BBC News:Islam is widely considered Europe’s fastest growing religion, with immigration and above average birth rates leading to a rapid increase in the Muslim population.

The exact number of Muslims is difficult to establish however, as census figures are often questioned and many countries choose not to compile such information anyway.

Quote from: HARUN YAHYA : The Most Rapidly Expanding
Religion in Europe

When all the facts are brought together, they reveal that there is a strong movement toward Islam in many countries, and that Islam is increasingly becoming the most important topic of world interest. These developments indicate that the world is moving toward a totally new era, one in which, God willing, Islam will gain in importance and the Qur'an's moral teachings will spread like a rising tide. It is important to realize that this highly significant development was announced in the Qur'an 14 centuries ago:

They desire to extinguish God's Light with their mouths. But God refuses to do other than perfect His Light, even though the unbelievers detest it. It is He Who sent His Messenger with guidance and the True Religion to exalt it over every other religion, even though the idolaters detest it. (Qur'an, 9:32-33)

Should American Atheists and Secularists be concerned?
LINK: U.S. Muslims moving into prime-time politics

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Excellent article.
(It's a long read but well worth the time.)

from SPIEGEL ONLINE International:

Researchers Crusade against American Fundamentalists

By Jörg Blech

In the United States, atheists are becoming an ostracized minority. But now evolutionary biologists are trying to turn the tables: According to their argument, religion is the source of evil. Morals and selflessness are not God-given - they are the result of evolution.

When Richard Dawkins, a zoologist at Oxford University, steps up to the altar he seems visibly pleased to see the pews in the church fully occupied. In the best Queen's English, he reads from his book: "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

At first his words are greeted with laughter, and then with resounding applause from his audience of 600. Despite the venue, the spectacle that took place last Thursday in the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts was in fact the opposite of a religious service. Indeed, if the man delivering the sermon had his way, he would in fact be jettisoning religious faith altogether.

Richard Dawkins is a passionate believer in the theory of evolution, and he has written countless books in which he explains it to his millions of readers. Now, at the age of 65, Professor Dawkins is presenting his legacy to society in his latest book, titled "The God Delusion."

With the zeal of a scientist, Dawkins explains why "there almost certainly is no god" and calls upon the faithful to renounce their faith. "You can be an atheist," he tells his audience, "who is happy, balanced, moral and intellectually fulfilled."


What about the mainstream?

CNN on Michael J. Fox being attacked by Rush Limbaugh

It's amazing how heartless some people can be. Parkinson's is an awful disease and maybe it would take Mr. Limbaugh to get some terminal illness to make him a bit more compassionate and to think before he opens his big fat idiot mouth.

Stem cell research is a particularly important issue for me and my family since my brother-in-law died of ALS at the young age of 35. It’s a horrible disease which causes a wasting away of the body while the mind stays intact. Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.), the influential senior statesman of Missouri politics and a leader in the fight for stem cell research also knows how important this research is. Danforth’s brother, Donald, died of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2001.

“When you see somebody you love suffer and die from one of these diseases, and medical researchers say this could be the key to finding the cure, then you want the researchers to go forward so other people won’t go through the same experience,” Danforth said.

LINK: Election battle on stem cells heats up in Missouri

It makes me so angry that people are actually PRAYING for this research to be prevented. How can these people say they are for the sanctity of human life, when they are willing to throw away TWO lives when the one that would only be thrown away could help the already living?

YOUTUBE: What if you had to think about every little thing you did?

Another YouTube - This one is in Spanish but you can see from the Parkinson's sufferers in the video that Micheal J Fox is NOT "exaggerating his shaking" as Limbaugh so heartlessly accused. It's really what happens as the disease progresses.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Intelligent Designer?

Three engineering students were gathered together discussing the possible designers of the human body.

One said, "It was a mechanical engineer. Just look at all the joints."

Another said, "No, it was an electrical engineer. The nervous system
has many thousands of electrical connections."

The last said, "Actually it was a civil engineer. Who else would run a
toxic waste pipeline through a recreational area?
Tracy P. Hamilto

Poem by Edwin Kagin,
Director for American Atheists, Kentucky

Dear Intelligent Designer,

Creator God of Everything, I hope Thee wilt not decline
To answer me my questionings of Intelligent Design.

I know that every living thing came from Thy mighty mind
That Thou created perfectly every life form that we find.

Some pious people tell me they have, through Thee, resolved
That Eden spawned all living things and that life has not evolved.

That each kind of Thy created works Thou did to finest form refine,
And human perfection clearly shows the intelligence of Thy design.

Creator God, please do explain the truths of I.D. to me
And why some flaw-free eyes Thou made need glass to clearly see.

Tell me God of Everything, for I know Thou cannot lie,
Why every perfect thing Thou made must one day age and die.

And why are joints, and backs, and bones subject to ruin and pain?
Why must heads ache, and kidneys leak, and blood vessels burst from

Why do we jettison out our waste so near the port of birth?
Why should any of Thy organs quit?
Were we designed just for Thy mirth?

Barely can we walk upright; most teeth will rot or fail.
And what does our appendix do? Did once we have a tail?

Why do some bodies attack themselves,
when from disease we might be free?

Tell me truly, God of Truth, were all our afflictions made by Thee?

Why does Intelligent Design make so many people fat?
Why have we not the grace or ease designed into the cat?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Weird Al Yankovic - Amish Paradise

I love Weird Al. This video brings to light that the "Amish Paradise" isn't such a paradise I would want to live in! No thanks! (In the scene where Al is sawing wood, notice the Amish guy playing golf in the background. Damn slackers are everywhere! LOL!)

The Antennae Galaxies in Collision

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team B. Whitmore (Space Telescope Science Institute) et al.
Explanation: Two galaxies are squaring off in Corvus and here are the latest pictures. When two galaxies collide, however, the stars that compose them usually do not. This is because galaxies are mostly empty space and, however bright, stars only take up only a small amount of that space. During the slow, hundred million year collision, however, one galaxy can rip the other apart gravitationally, and dust and gas common to both galaxies does collide. In the above clash of the titans, dark dust pillars mark massive molecular clouds are being compressed during the galactic encounter, causing the rapid birth of millions of stars, some of which are gravitationally bound together in massive star clusters.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

"A Visit To Hellhouse"

A hell house, also commonly known as a judgment house, is a haunted house-style attraction typically run by fundamentalist Xian churches or parachurch groups, but now has found its way to theaters across the nation and around the world. These attractions are meant to depict the divine judgements that await "unrepentant sinners" and the torments of the damned in Hell. (Basically trying to scare the bejeebus into the heathen, but ends up only making them laugh hysterically.) Hell houses are typically operated in the days preceding Halloween.
Click on image to enlarge
From Gothamist - Nearly all productions of “Hell House” are based on a single script sold by Pastor Keenan Roberts, co-founder of The New Destiny Christian Center in Colorado. “Hell House” visitors are escorted through a series of graphic scenes which illustrate the agonizing results of such sinful behavior as gay marriage, abortion, and dancing at raves.

The intent, according to Pastor Keenan’s website, is “to shake your city with the most in-your-face, high-flyin', no denyin', death-defyin', Satan-be-cryin', keep-ya-from-fryin', theatrical stylin', no holds barred, cutting-edge evangelism tool of the new millennium!”

At the end of the production Gawd attempts to lead the audience in a group prayer committing their lives to Jeebus. As one commenter stated “The whole idea is simply to break down their viewers’ resistance with shocking images, setting them up for the big pitch: “Hey kid, be a shame if any of that happened to you wouldn’t it? Well, our man Jesus, he can make sure it doesn’t, know what I mean?”

I think it’s hilarious how “a Los Angeles production of “Hell House” enlisted Andy Richter (as Jesus) and Bill Maher (as Satan) to lampoon Pastor Keenan’s script.”

Additions: A Hell House YouTube promo


Lame Hell House Commercial

Adopted child or trendy accessory?

I wonder if rich celebrities like Madonna and Angelina Jolie have to go through the strict, tedious, frustrating and sometimes agonizing scrutiny that my brother and his wife had to when they spent over a year going through the process of adopting their child from Guatemala? Or is it more like a shopping for shoes for the superstars? If millionaire stars really want to help, one million of their dollars could help many children and their whole families instead of just exploiting one child for publicity.

Mudslinging 2006

One of my favorite authors, Doris Lessing

On Religion: “You'd never believe, when I was young, we genuinely believed religious wars were over. We'd say, at least it's impossible to have a religious war now. Can you believe that? . . . I'm so afraid of religion. Its capacity for murder is terrifying.”
-- Doris Lessing interview by Harvey Blume, Boston Book Review

On Feminism: "What the feminists want of me is something they haven't examined because it comes from religion. They want me to bear witness. What they would really like me to say is, 'Ha, sisters, I stand with you side by side in your struggle toward the golden dawn where all those beastly men are no more.' Do they really want people to make oversimplified statements about men and women? In fact, they do. I've come with great regret to this conclusion." The New York Times, 25 July 1982

I did my Masters thesis on Doris Lessing, and she has led quite an interesting and unusual life, and I highly recommend reading her African Stories as well as her science fiction novels. My personal favorite is Mara and Dann.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Orion: The Big Picture

Credit & Copyright: J. C. Casado

Explanation: Orion is big. Some of the stars that form the constellation of Orion are part of a giant gas cloud complex that stretches over 100 light years and appears more than 50 times the diameter of the Moon. Components of this cloud include the Horsehead Nebula, the Orion Nebula, the Trapezium open cluster, and small disks containing stellar systems which are just forming. At 1500 light years, Orion is the closest star forming region to Earth. Close inspection of the photo's center should reveal the three stars which form the belt of Orion.

One Voice

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Invisibility cloak a possible reality?

If it becomes a reality, I want one of these:
A cloaking device.

I posted about this several months ago and am excited to see that scientists are seriously pursuing this! Of course, it could be a good thing, or a bad thing depending on who has one, and what it is used for. In the Star Trek television series fans can see what the good guys do with it, and what the bad guys like the Klingon's use it for. Too bad we have to worry about that shit in light of something truly remarkable. Edit: Tommy reminded me that the cloaking devices were first introduced and used by the Romulans (in the Original Series episode "Balance of Terror".) The device was next seen in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock being used by Klingons.

Cloaking device works, sort of, scientists say

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. and British scientists said on Thursday they had found a way to hide an object from microwave radiation in a first step towards making a what they hope will be an invisibility cloak.

Such a device could be used to elude radar, but the researchers, like many scientists, are not working with any particular goal in mind but hope its uses will become apparent later."It's not quite Harry Potter, ," said David Smith of Duke University in North Carolina, referring to the child's fictional character who can conceal himself in a magical cloak.

"It's not exactly perfect -- we can do better -- but it demonstrates the mechanism, the way the waves swirl around the centre region where you want to conceal things," he said.

The cloaking device relies on new, laboratory-made materials called metamaterials, which can decrease both the scattering caused by a solid object and the shadow it casts.

Every solid object scatters radiation that hits it, from microwaves through to visible light. It is this scattering that allows objects to be seen, whether with the eye or using radar or ultrasound.

In this case the cloak is quite thick, Smith said -- twice as big as the 6-inch (15 cm) copper tube it obscures. The materials are arranged in concentric rings.

In May the same team of researchers reported on their theory, and it took them just a few months to demonstrate it. The key is the metamaterials, which resemble a circuit board, Smith said.

"The material ends up being very complicated and not something you can make using materials that are lying around, like plastics or ceramics," Smith said in a telephone interview.

Their device is small, with an outer diameter of about 12 inches (30 cm).

The first cloak was a two-dimensional version and researchers have already started work on a three-dimensional version. They also want to broaden the range of wavelengths that it can block, although making something invisible to the human eye would present a much greater challenge.

"It is very unlikely that we could do it with this technology in the visible (spectrum)," Smith said. It would have to be scaled down to nanotechnology levels, but the metals involved behave differently on that scale, he said.

Microwave cloaks might be useful for eluding radar, said Costas Soukoulis, a theorist the U.S Department of Energy 's Ames Laboratory in Iowa. "This is very, very important that experiments have produced what theorists had predicted," Soukoulis told Science, which published the findings.

The researchers are funded by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA and the design is based on a theory proposed by Sir John Pendry of Imperial College London. The metamaterials bend the electromagnetic waves, in this case microwaves.

"The waves' movement is similar to river water flowing around a smooth rock," said David Schurig, also of Duke.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Muslim Rave Party

TBN - Circus or Church?

This goes along well with my last post, Religion is Big Business. Many people like the circus and shell out their money for freaky fake sideshow acts without blinking an eye.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Religion is Big Business

Why does religion survive in these modern times of high technology, science and reason? Because Religion is tax exempt BIG BUSINESS and those churches who know how to market make the most profits and prophets.

I have always said, even when I was a xian, that religion was big business. While most pastors, ministers, and priests are looking for a comfortable salary and benefits, some people, like those who head big churches and megachurches, televangelists and the like are always looking for a way to get rich, to gain and hold power.

Here is an article from the website True truths: Helping people find the truth about religion.


1. Find an existing demand and/or create a demand
Bingo! Religion gets an A+ for this one. First of all, many people seem to have an internal need for believing in some sort of supernatural, all knowing, all-powerful being. I don't know if people are born with this need or if it just becomes part of them from their life experiences, but regardless of how the need got there, it's there. That’s the existing demand. But where religion has really succeeded is the corollary – creating a demand. Look what they’ve done. They’ve taken old writings, written some new ones, and have crafted a compilation of “inspired” writings - the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita, and many others. In these books people are told how they should act, how they should believe, and what they should do with their money and belongings. In Christianity, they have created a scenario where the demand for the product - forgiveness, eternal salvation, and the love of God - is both an internal demand and an externally created demand.

2. Be one of the major suppliers of a product in demand
Microsoft is a great example of becoming a major - almost the exclusive - supplier of a product in demand. For all practical purposes, Microsoft is the only supplier of operating systems for personal computers. Religion has also done a good job here. A large percentage of people in the world are believers in some faith, and for many their religion is the exclusive supplier for their faith-based demand. To be sure, there are some atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers, but there certainly is a large market of ‘believers’. What religions must do is figure out how to attract a sufficient portion of the ‘believers’ to support their cause. Almost every religion will try to convince its followers and the masses that its religion is the one and only true religion, that only by believing in their god, and practicing their faith, can one be saved. One example in religion is Christianity’s claim that only by accepting Jesus Christ as their savior can people be saved. If in fact this is true, then Christianity is the exclusive supplier for those who want to go to heaven and escape the fiery flames of hell. Other religions make the same claim.

3. Convince people they need your product – something good will happen if they have it
Obviously, religion has done a great job here as well. Many people believe that they need religion, they need to be saved, they need forgiveness, they need the guidance of their religious faith and leaders, and they need eternal salvation. Many are convinced if they get baptized, if they go to church, if they follow the teachings of the Bible, and if they tithe to their church, they will receive forgiveness from God and entry into the gates of heaven where they will enjoy eternal bliss with other believers.

4. Convince people that if they do not have your product that something bad will happen
This is the opposite of number 3. If you do not have the product - in this case Christianity and all that goes with it - you will go to hell and burn for eternity. God also may make you suffer or do bad things to you while you are here on earth. Christianity’s done a great job here - either you believe as they tell you, or you will burn in hell forever - not a pleasant thought.

Other section titles are:

5. Insure a healthy profit margin - revenue exceeds expenses

6. Create a product that produces a continuous stream of profits with numerous repeat customers

7. Have a marketing plan to increase sales

8. Employ an effective sales force that is efficient and has responses prepared for anticipated objections

9. Limit overhead costs
The church can limit costs tremendously because they are not taxed on revenues and because many staff volunteer their time and talents to the church. Not many businesses can be run as inexpensively as the church.

10. Build an infrastructure that will continue the business far into the future

11. Have powerful, persuasive, enthusiastic, credible, dynamic leadership
As in business, most, if not all, successful religions and individual churches have great leaders. Whether it is Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Billy Graham, or the local priest or preacher, a dynamic personality is required to build and sustain a successful church. Just as a successful business must have a dynamic CEO, a church must have dynamic leaders.

As Bolder Landry of Truth Seekers states:

Your property taxes go up each year because church property is tax-free. Will our national leaders do something about this? No! will believers stop giving money to priests? No! How about revolutionary expropriation? Yes, this is possible but not until sleepy Americans are educated enough to shake off their shackles of superstition.

Church financial power has become an economic colossus at our expense. The only way to destroy this inequity is to attack and expose it.

Neocon Wasp Woman!

Stonehenge makes list in new seven wonders vote

LONDON (Reuters)

Only one of the ancient wonders of the world still survives -- now history lovers are being invited to choose a new list of seven.

Among 21 locations shortlisted for the worldwide vote is Stonehenge, the only British landmark selected.

The 5,000-year-old stones on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, will be up against sites including the Acropolis in Athens; the Statue of Liberty in New York; and the last remaining original wonder, the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo.

An original list of nearly 200 sites nominated by the public was narrowed to 21 by the organizers and experts, including the former director general of Unesco Professor Federico Mayor.

The vote is organized by a non-profit Swiss foundation called New7Wonders which specializes in the preservation, restoration and promotion of monuments, and the results will be announced on July 7, 2007, in Lisbon.

About 20 million votes have already been lodged, including many from India, for the Taj Mahal; China, for the Great Wall and from Peru for Machu Picchu, the fortress city of the Incas.

The other original seven wonders of the ancient world were the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; the Statue of Zeus at Olympia; the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus; the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus; the Colossus of Rhodes and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Tia Viering, spokeswoman for New7Wonders, said: "Apart from the Pyramids, the seven ancient wonders of the world no longer exist."

The only criteria for the new list is that the landmarks were built or discovered before 2000.

"People of England, it is now your turn to be heard," added Viering. Support Stonehenge to become one of the New Seven Wonders of the World."

Votes can be made online, at www.new7wonders.com.

The 21 finalists for the New Seven Wonders of the World, alphabetically:


1 Acropolis, Athens, Greece

2 Alhambra, Granada, Spain

3 Angkor Wat temple, Cambodia

4 Chichen Itza Aztec site, Yucatan, Mexico

5 Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

6 Colosseum, Rome

7 Easter Island Statues, Chile

8 Eiffel Tower, Paris

9 Great Wall, China

10 Hagia Sophia church, Istanbul, Turkey

11 Kyomizu Temple, Kyoto, Japan

12 Kremlin/St.Basil's, Moscow

13 Machu Picchu, Peru

14 Neuschwanstein Castle, Fussen, Germany

15 Petra ancient city, Jordan

16 Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

17 Statue of Liberty, New York

18 Stonehenge, Amesbury, United Kingdom

19 Sydney Opera House, Australia

20 Taj Mahal, Agra, India

21 Timbuktu city, Mali

Monday, October 16, 2006

In the Shadow of Saturn

Explanation: In the shadow of Saturn, unexpected wonders appear. The robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn recently drifted in giant planet's shadow for about 12 hours and looked back toward the eclipsed Sun. Cassini saw a view unlike any other. First, the night side of Saturn is seen to be partly lit by light reflected from its own majestic ring system. Next, the rings themselves appear dark when silhouetted against Saturn, but quite bright when viewed away from Saturn and slightly scattering sunlight, in the above exaggerated color image. Saturn's rings light up so much that new rings were discovered, although they are hard to see in the above image. Visible in spectacular detail, however, is Saturn's E ring, the ring created by the newly discovered ice-fountains of the moon Enceladus, and the outermost ring visible above. Far in the distance, visible on the image left just above the bright main rings, is the almost ignorable pale blue dot of Earth.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Big Brother arrives in Chi-Town

How about cops stop eating donuts, parking and sleeping under via ducts during their shifts instead of making rounds, and not taking a couple of hours to show up when called ? Cameras do no good except maybe if they have plans to sell the videos to the COPS show for more revenue for their retirement funds? So far, all the cameras have proven good for is to catch people who run stop signs who are mailed tickets for the offense. By the time the tapes are viewed, attackers, vandals, rapists, robbers, murderers and thieves are well out of state or in hiding.

Cell Phone Elbow

I am afflicted with this.
I also have this funny ringing sound in my ears.
I am also training myself to shut the damn thing off during certain hours.

Haunted House of Representatives

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ramen, Julia Sweeney!

“It took me years, but letting go of religion has been the most profound wake up of my life. I feel I now look at the world not as a child, but as an adult. I see what's bad and it's really bad. But I also see what is beautiful, what is wonderful. And I feel so deeply appreciative that I am alive. How dare the religious use the term 'born again.' That truly describes freethinkers who've thrown off the shackles of religion so much better!”

-- Quote submitted by Julia Sweeney. For more about Julia Sweeney, go to "Freethought Comedienne of the Year"

Inspirational Atheist

“. . . family, friends and well-wishers from around the world assured me that prayers and my faith in God would comfort me. I tried to pray but I didn't feel any better, nor did I make any kind of connection with God.”

-- Actor Christopher Reeve, who died on Oct. 10, 2004, at age 52, writing about his paralysis and lack of religious faith in Nothing Is Impossible: Reflections On a New Life (2002)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Markarian's Chain of Galaxies

Credit & Copyright: The Palomar-Quest Survey Team, CalTech

Across the heart of the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies lies a striking string of galaxies known as Markarian's Chain. The chain, pictured above, is highlighted on the lower right with two large but featureless lenticular galaxies, M84 and M86, and connects through several large spiral to the upper left, including M88. The home Virgo Cluster is the nearest cluster of galaxies, contains over 2,000 galaxies, and has a noticeable gravitational pull on the galaxies of the Local Group of Galaxies surrounding our Milky Way Galaxy. The center of the Virgo Cluster is located about 70 million light years away toward the constellation of Virgo. At least seven galaxies in the chain appear to move coherently, although others appear to be superposed by chance. The above image is just a small part of a mosaic dubbed the Big Picture taken by the Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory, in California, USA. A mural of the Big Picture will be displayed at the newly renovated Griffith Observatory near Los Angeles, California.