Saturday, June 30, 2007

Don't miss the Venus-Saturn conjunction on June 30th and July 1st!

"On Saturday and Sunday evenings, June 30th and July 1st, for observers all around the world, Venus and Saturn will be within 50' of each other. That means that they will fit together comfortably in the field of view of most telescopes at 50x — ample magnification to show both Saturn's magnificent rings and Venus's crescent phase.

"Venus is the brightest celestial object besides the Sun and Moon, making this pairing exceptionally simple to locate. Both planets should be easy to see fairly high in the western sky a half hour after sunset. Even if you don't own a telescope, you'll get spectacular views through binoculars or with your unaided eyes.

"Through a telescope, the planets will probably look best within an hour after sunset."

Oldest human fossil remain ever discovered in western Europe

Very interesting news item today from Yahoo News:

Million-year-old human tooth found in Spain

Fri Jun 29, 3:22 PM ET

MADRID (AFP) - Spanish researchers on Friday said they had unearthed a human tooth more than one million years old, which they estimated to be the oldest human fossil remain ever discovered in western Europe.

Jose Maria Bermudez de Castro, co-director of research at the Atapuerca site said the molar, discovered on Wednesday in the Atapuerca Sierra in the northern province of Burgos, could be as much as 1.2 million years old.

"The tooth represents the oldest human fossil remain of western Europe. Now we finally have the anatomical evidence of the hominids that fabricated tools more than one million years ago," the Atapuerca Foundation said in a statement.


Friday, June 29, 2007

Christopher Hitchens and Al Sharpton on Hardball

Did any of you happen to catch yesterday’s Hardball with yet another debate between atheist Bush lover Christopher Hitchens and big-mouthed Al Sharpton? If not, below are three YouTube videos of the entire program.

I forced myself to sit and watch the entire thing and just took an extra blood pressure pill afterwards. Sharpton has serious diarrhea of the mouth. Hitchens, while I may not agree with him on his political stance, could at least express his point in an intelligent manner, whereas Mr. Media-Attention-Whore-Loud-Mouth barely let Hitchens have a word in edgewise much of the time. I particularly didn’t like Chris Matthews’ sarcastic comments aimed at Hitchens at the close of the program (not on the YouTube video, but I am trying to find it somewhere.)

Overall, for me, it was an extreme overdose of religion/anti-religion dialogue and anti-war from the religious side, and right-wing politics and pro-war comments coming from the atheist side… very weird interview.

Part 1

6/28/07 Christopher Hitchens and Al Sharpton Hardball pt2

6/28/07 Christopher Hitchens and Al Sharpton Hardball pt3.

"Yawn" is right . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tagged again . . .

This time been tagged by The Honest Doubter to write eight random facts about myself or habits I have. So, after a little bit of thinking over what I wanted to list, here goes:

First, as instructed, the rules:

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

Now the facts about me:

1. I have a book obsession and keep buying them even though I have dozens waiting to be read.
2. I love to color in coloring books with crayons. (It's quite therapeutic.)
3. My favorite color is blue, like in my flashing Stardust icon.
4. I sleep in a waterbed, like the kind from the 60s & 70s.
5. I think that people can accomplish whatever they put their mind to if they are willing to put forth the necessary effort.
6. I have more than 60 international penfriends from 25 different countries.
7. I will be married for 32 years this August to my high school sweetheart. We were children when we married. ;-)
8. Eight is my favorite number.

And the eight folks I now tag are:

Danica at Dirty Dishes
Uma at Diary of a Laidback Rebel
KA at bibliography
Mikayla at bits of starstuff
Michael at Silly Humans
Naomi at Blue.Coffee
Andrea at andrea after hours
Toni at My Crap

1908 Tunguska Meteor Mystery


One year from now, 30 June 2008, will be the 100th anniversary of one of the most mysterious catastrophes: the explosion of a body from space near the Podkamennaya (or Stony) Tunguska River in Siberia. There can scarcely have been another event in the past century to compare with it. The total power of the explosion exceeded the combined power of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki more than 2,000 times over! Apart from that, the Tunguska explosion caused:
• an anomalous glow in the sky that was observed as late as 10 days afterwards, and the intense appearance of silvery clouds;

• massive radiation of light and heat;

• disruption of the normal functioning of meteorological instruments and the appearance of surface earth tremors;

• a tremendous sound wave that travelled twice around the globe;

• the felling of trees over an enormous area of over 2,000 square kilometres;

• weak traces of radioactivity, detected in tree samples and the polar ice layers dating from 1908;
• anomalous properties of the soil and minerals in the area of the Tunguska explosion;

• the unusually rapid growth of vegetation at the epicentre of the Tunguska explosion;

• cooling of the Earth's climate in the following few years.
For decades, folklore spread about mysterious space aliens landing to be the source of a great fireball which exploded over remote Russian forests in Siberia almost a century ago. However, scientists now think that the object was a meteor and may have found some very substantial evidence.

Dave Mosher Staff Writer Tue Jun 26, 6:46 AM ET

In late June of 1908, a fireball exploded above the remote Russian forests of Tunguska, Siberia, flattening more than 800 square miles of trees. Researchers think a meteor was responsible for the devastation, but neither its fragments nor any impact craters have been discovered.

Astronomers have been left to guess whether the object was an asteroid or a comet, and figuring out what it was would allow better modeling of potential future calamities.

Italian researchers now think they've found a smoking gun: The 164-foot-deep Lake Cheko, located just 5 miles northwest of the epicenter of destruction.

"When we looked at the bottom of the lake, we measured seismic waves reflecting off of something," said Giuseppe Longo, a physicist at the University of Bologna in Italy and co-author of the study. "Nobody has found this before. We can only explain that and the shape of the lake as a low-velocity impact crater."

Should the team turn up conclusive evidence of an asteroid or comet on a later expedition, when they obtain a deeper core sample beneath the lake, remaining mysteries surrounding the Tunguska event may be solved.

The findings are detailed in this month's online version of the journal Terra Nova.

Submerged evidence

During a 1999 expedition, Longo's team didn't plan to investigate Lake Cheko as an impact crater, but rather to look for meteoroid dust in its submerged sediments. While sonar-scanning the lake's topography, they were struck by its cone-like features.

"Expeditions in the 1960s concluded the lake was not an impact crater, but their technologies were limited," Longo said. With the advent of better sonar and computer technologies, he explained, the lake took shape.

Going a step further, Longo's team dove to the bottom and took 6-foot core samples, revealing fresh mud-like sediment on top of "chaotic deposits" beneath. Still, Longo explained the samples are inconclusive of a meteorite impact.

"To really find out if this is an impact crater," Long said, "we need a core sample 10 meters (33 feet) into the bottom" in order to investigate a spot where the team detected a "reflecting" anomaly with their seismic instruments. They think this could be where the ground was compacted by an impact or where part of the meteorite itself lays: The object, if found, could be more than 30 feet in diameter and weigh almost 1,700 tons-the weight of about 42 fully-loaded semi-trailers.

Caution for now

From a UFO crash to a wandering black hole, wild (and wildly unsupported) explanations for the Tunguska event have been proposed. Alan Harris, a planetary scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said the proposal by Longo's team isn't one of them.

"I was impressed by their work and I don't think it's something you can wave off," said Harris, who was not involved in the research.

Longo and his team "are among the recognized authorities on Tunguska" in the world, Harris told "It would be thrilling to dig up chunks of the meteor body, if they can manage to. It would lay the question to rest whether or not Tunguska was a comet or asteroid."

Some researchers, however, are less confident in the team's conclusions.

"We know from the entry physics that the largest and most energetic objects penetrate deepest," said David Morrison, an astronomer with NASA's Ames Research Center. That only a fragment of the main explosion reached the ground and made a relatively small crater, without creating a larger main crater, seems contradictory to Morrison.

Harris agreed that physics could work against Longo's explanation, but did note that similar events-with impact craters-have been documented all over the world.

"In 1947, the Russian Sikhote-Alin meteorite created 100 small craters. Some were 20 meters (66 feet) across," Harris said. A site in Poland also exists, he explained, where a large meteor exploded and created a series of small lakes. "If the fragment was traveling slowly enough, there's actually a good chance (Longo's team) will unearth some meteorite material," Harris said.

Longo's team plans to return to Lake Cheko next summer, close to the 100th anniversary of the Tunguska Event. "This is important work because we can make better conclusions about how cosmic bodies impact the Earth, and what they're made of," Longo said. "And it could help us find ways to protect our planet from future impacts of this kind."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Banana trees and space aliens

I read some strange stuff in the Odd News section of Yahoo sometimes, and I found this story to be quite strange and amusing. It also shows that even in our age of technology, superstition still prevails.

Buried 'aliens' are really tree trunks
Tue Jun 26, 7:40 AM ET

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysians in a northern village were alarmed by rumors that space aliens had been laid to rest in their neighborhood cemetery, but authorities learned the graves had merely been filled with banana tree trunks for a superstitious ritual, police said Tuesday.

Residents feared a local witch doctor had instructed grave diggers to bury extraterrestrials in the rural district of Pasir Mas on Sunday, causing police to detain the man for investigation, said district police chief Haliludin Rahim.

The man was freed after he explained that banana tree trunks, not aliens, had been buried in a ceremony for "medicinal purposes," Haliludin told The Associated Press.

The New Straits Times newspaper said the rumor started because of a misunderstanding after some of the grave diggers claimed to other people that they had been told they were burying aliens.

Witch doctors and spiritual healers are common in rural parts of Malaysia where superstitious beliefs have long been entrenched.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

As a public service . . .

On a serious note, there are NO justifications for suicide bombings. NONE. NEVER.

Pixel addiction epidemic

It's not only kids who are affected by pixel addiction. It also affects adults in large numbers, whether it be video games, surfing the internet, YouTube addiction, blogging (heh-heh), or watching television.

Back to kids and computer games, neighborhoods used to be noisy in the summer months with kids running around playing outdoor games and sports, but now all we can hear are birds singing, cicadas whirring, random dogs barking, an occasional plane going overhead and the hum of air conditioners and pool pumps running keeping non-used swimming pools clean. But the sound of laughing or screaming children is rarely heard anymore.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Does it really matter?

From an atheist/agnostic perspective, this story is quite amusing. Most religious folks don't realize or care to think about how many "ordained" doubting or unbelieving priests/ministers/pastors are out there pretending to believe in the existence of God so they can have a job and get paid and a place to live. I am not saying they are all like that, but few believers questions one way or the other. And there is no way of truly knowing for certain . . . believers just take the "man/woman of God's" word on "faith".

If a God does exist, would he/she/it consider Baptism, marriage, or any other sacred rite invalid if the person performing such ceremonies were indeed a fake church official?

Fake priest arrested baptising baby

LISBON (Reuters) - A man pretending to be a priest was arrested by police as he prepared to baptise a baby in a small town in the north of Portugal.

"When the man said 'in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit' police came in and grabbed him," a member of the church was quoted by local daily Jornal de Noticias as saying.

A spokeswoman for the Portuguese police said the 34-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of impersonating a priest and had several similar arrest warrants to his name.

"We had to interrupt the religious ceremony to identify the suspect," said spokeswoman Amelia Moutinho, adding that the public prosecutor would now investigate the case.

The baby was later baptised by a real priest, the local daily said. The man was arrested on June 16.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Stars and the Solstice Sun

Click on image to enlargeComposite Credit & Copyright: Jerry Lodriguss (Catching the Light)

Explanation: If you could turn off the atmosphere's ability to scatter overwhelming sunlight, today's daytime sky might look something like this ... with the Sun surrounded by the stars of the constellations Taurus and Gemini. Of course, today is the Solstice. Traveling along the ecliptic plane, the Sun is at its northernmost position in planet Earth's sky, marking the astronomical beginning of summer in the north. Accurate for the exact time of today's Solstice, this composite image also shows the Sun at the proper scale (about the angular size of the Full Moon). Open star cluster M35 is to the Sun's left, and the other two bright stars in view are Mu and Eta Geminorum. Digitally superimposed on a nighttime image of the stars, the Sun itself is a composite of a picture taken through a solar filter and a series of images of the solar corona recorded during the solar eclipse of February 26, 1998 by Andreas Gada.

How suddenly things can change

This will scare the crap out of any kid that has been told if they aren't good the boogeyman will come up out of the ground and pull them under! A whole lake has disappeared in Chile. . .here one month, gone the next! While we may marvel at the spendor of a gorgeous summer sunset, natural events such as this show us just how vulnerable we really are in this random world and universe.

Missing: Large lake in southern Chile

Wed Jun 20, 6:44 PM ET

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - A lake in southern Chile has mysteriously disappeared, prompting speculation the ground has simply opened up and swallowed it whole.

The lake was situated in the Magallanes region in Patagonia and was fed by water, mostly from melting glaciers.

It had a surface area of between 4 and 5 hectares (10-12 acres) -- about the size of 10 soccer pitches.

"In March we patrolled the area and everything was normal ... we went again in May and to our surprise we found the lake had completely disappeared," said Juan Jose Romero, regional director of Chile's National Forestry Corporation CONAF.

"The only things left were chunks of ice on the dry lake-bed and an enormous fissure," he told Reuters.

CONAF is investigating the disappearance.

One theory is that the area was hit by an earth tremor that opened a crack in the ground which acted like a drain.

Southern Chile has been shaken by thousands of minor earth tremors this year.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Outsourcing customer service

Click on cartoon to enlarge
Does this piss you off as much as it does me? It seems that when I need to call a company for customer service about even the smallest question anymore, I either get the automated bullcrap, or I am talking to someone in a far-off land who can hardly speak or understand English. This is even more frustrating when the problem is a bit bigger and urgent. For instance, not too long ago I had a problem with a credit card company.

I wrote one of those checks to pay off the balance of another card. It was a few dollars over my limit (so they said, but wasn't true), and so they declined it. Then the other credit card company I wrote the check to charged me a bounced check fee AND a late fee for not making a payment on time...the check was put through AGAIN by the first credit card company and once again was bounced and another fee was added...each credit card company charging me a fee...playing ping-pong with the check, and me not being able to get
ahold of a PERSON. Finally, I did speak to someone and that person had a serious accent, then was put on hold, another person with a little better clarity, however still difficult to understand. Then I was told to call the other credit card company.

Each time I asked who I was talking to and was given, most likely, fictitious first names. When I called back and asked for one of those specific names, I was told that person didn't work there, that they have many "service centers" scattered all over the country and the world so chances on talking to the same person are like winning the
freakin' triple million dollar lottery. We finally wrote a letter, sent it to the corporate Appeals Department, and we got a letter back from a person with a big-ass long, long name. There was also, hallelujah, a phone number! My husband called and asked for Mr. Jambalihoiuhoegnuha, and was told..."oh, you can't talk to him...his office is in India." The letter was from INDIA,postmarked USA? Preprinted in advance? Unfuckinbelievable.

We ended up paying all late fees, canceling that credit card and writing a futile letter telling them to stick their cards &*^%$$#&. We are the ones who are always screwed while corporations laugh, laugh, laugh and count the money they steal from us. And what can we do about it?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Space Station and Shuttle Visible Together in Night Sky

Newsblurb: All of you amateur astronomers here might want to drag out those telescopes and binoculars tonight and tomorrow night.


Joe Rao Skywatching Columnist
Mon Jun 18, 4:00 PM ET

With the Space Shuttle Atlantis scheduled to undock from the International Space Station, on Tuesday, skywatchers across much of the United States and southern Canada are in for a real treat on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

Should weather conditions permit to offer clear skies, there will be a few opportunities to see both the Atlantis orbiter and the ISS flying across the sky from many locations.

The sight should easily be visible to anyone, even from brightly-lit cities.

The appearance of either the Space Shuttle or the Space Station moving across the sky is not in itself unusual. On any clear evening within a couple of hours of local sunset and with no optical aid, you can usually spot several orbiting Earth satellites creeping across the sky like moving stars. Satellites become visible only when they are in sunlight and the observer is in deep twilight or darkness. This usually means shortly after dusk or before dawn.

What makes the prospective upcoming passages so interesting is that you'll be able to see the two largest orbiting space vehicles in the sky at the same time.

What to expect

Both vehicles will be traveling across North America on northwest-to-southeast trajectories.

Appearing as a pair of very "bright 'stars," the ISS should appear as the somewhat brighter object and will appear to be trailing Shuttle Atlantis as they move across the sky. A large telescope would be needed to make out details of the sprawling station. Traveling in their respective orbits at approximately 18,000 mph (29,000 kilometers per hour), both should be visible from about one to four minutes (depending on the particular viewing pass) as they glide with a steady speed across the sky.

The "Drivers' Ten Commandments,"

With the increase of road rage and traffic accidents and other forms of traffic-related violence, here is some very excellent advice from the Vatican for ALL people who drive a vehicle. Many people really do need to "get a grip" and stay cool when they are behind the wheel. Here is the list:

1. You shall not kill.

2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.

5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

7. Support the families of accident victims.

8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

10. Feel responsible toward others.

Monday, June 18, 2007

When can we hear discussion on the real issues?

The Planetary Nebula Show

Courtesy Adam Block (KPNO Visitor Program), NOAO, NSF

Explanation: What do the Owl, the Cat's Eye, the Ghost of Jupiter, and Saturn have in common? They're all planetary nebulae of course, glowing gaseous shrouds shed by dying sun-like stars as they run out of nuclear fuel. Beautiful to look at, the symmetric, planet-like shapes of these cosmic clouds, typically 1,000 times the size of our solar system, evoke their popular names. Flipping through digital pictures made by participants in the Kitt Peak National Observatory Visitor Center's Advanced Observing Program, astronomer Adam Block created this delightful animation. Ten different planetary nebula images are presented, each registered on the central star. In order, their catalog designations are NGC 1535, NGC 3242 (Ghost of Jupiter), NGC 6543 (Cat's Eye), NGC 7009 (Saturn Nebula), NGC 2438, NGC 6772, Abell 39, NGC 7139, NGC 6781, and M97 (Owl Nebula). This glorious final phase in the life of a star lasts only about 10,000 years.

Mess o'Potamia

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Mars Had Large Oceans

Evidence has been produced in recent times that suggests life once existed on Mars, possibly billions of years ago. Planetary probes show us that the Red Planet may have had oceans and flowing water. The photo at the left is an image from Mars, sent back via the Mars rover which shows what is very similar to our ocean floor without water.

As scientists learn more and more about the surface of the Red Planet, the more similarities they are recognizing, doing away with the old-fashioned imaginings of Martian men with big heads with produding antenna, to considering the possiblity that life there could have been very much like life on Earth. If Mars was once a warmer, wetter planet, what caused the change? Is a human mission to Mars a worthwhile undertaking?

Mystery Solved
Dave Mosher Wed Jun 13, 1:45 PM ET
Since 1991, planetary scientists have floated the idea that Mars once harbored vast oceans that covered roughly one-third of the planet. Two long shore-like lips of rock in the planet's northern hemisphere were thought to be the best evidence, but experts argued that they were too "hilly" to describe the smooth edges of ancient oceans. Since 1991, planetary scientists have floated the idea that Mars once harbored vast oceans that covered roughly one-third of the planet. Two long shore-like lips of rock in the planet's northern hemisphere were thought to be the best evidence, but experts argued that they were too "hilly" to describe the smooth edges of ancient oceans.

The view just changed dramatically with a surprisingly simple breakthrough.

The once-flat shorelines were disfigured by a massive toppling over of the planet, scientists announced today. The warping of the Martian rock has hidden clear evidence of the oceans, which in any case have been gone for at least 2 billion years.

"This really confirms that there was an ocean on Mars," said Mark Richards, a planetary scientist at the University of California at Berkeley and co-author of the study, which is detailed in the June 14 issue of the journal Nature.

Twin shores

Two major shorelines exist on Mars, each thousands of miles long--one remaining from the older Arabia Ocean, and another from the younger Deuteronilus Ocean, said study co-author Taylor Perron of UC Berkeley.

"The Arabia would have contained two to three times the volume of water than in the ice that covers Antarctica," Perron told

Somewhere along the way to toppling over 50 degrees to the north, Mars probably lost some of its water, leaving the Deuteronilus Ocean's shoreline exposed. "The volume of water was too large to simply evaporate into space, so we think there is still some subterranean reservoirs on Mars," Perron said.

The remaining sea would have been located in the same lowland plain as the Arabia Ocean, but almost 40 degrees to the north.

Unstable spin

As a planet spins, the heaviest things tend to shift towards the equator, where they are most stable. Earth, too, has a bulge at its equator. The volcanic Tharsis region of Mars, a vast raised area along Mars' equator, is evidence for how this works.

"This is the reason why this discovery packs extra punch," Perron said. More than a billion years ago, he explained, something happened in the way mass was distributed on Mars to cause the imbalanced portion to shift toward the equator-and allow the vast shores of the Martian oceans to warp.

"We found evidence of the path the shift would have to have occurred, and it matches with the deformation of the shorelines," Perron said.

Elastic surface

Near the equator, the surface of a planet stays in a relatively flattened bulge under the pressure of centripetal forces. But outside of the equator, the rock behaves elastically and often bunches up, like the surface of a deflating balloon. Perron and his team reasoned that the oceanic shorelines were once near the equator, but warped into hilly up-and-down elevations of rock as they move towards the north with the tilting planet.

"On planets like Mars and Earth that have an outer shell ... that behaves elastically, the solid surface will deform," Richards said.

By calculating the deformation, which occurs in a predictable way, the planetary research team found the ridges had to have once been flat, like ocean shorelines.

"This is a beautiful result that Taylor [Perron] got," Richards said. "The mere fact that you can explain a good fraction of the information about the shorelines with such a simple model is just amazing. It's something I never would have guessed at the outset."

Perron and his colleagues aren't certain what caused the toppling of the planet, but they think forces beneath the surface are to blame. "There could have been a massive change in the distribution of mantle," Perron said, "which would have caused the planet to shift into its current position."

Saturday cartoon

Good news - "That's a tough little girl, I tell you"

The little girl in the pink outfit pictured in this image is 5-year-old Hannah Klamecki, with her father Pastor Michael Klamecki and a little neighbor friend. Hannah was out on the Kankakee River with her grandfather, swimming, when something went wrong and the grandfather drowned and Hannah had to fend for herself in the murky waters of the Kankakee. Fortunately, Hannah had on arm floats that small children wear, and this kept her from the same fate as her grandfather.


It's a wonderful relief that Hannah was found alive, walking out from the woods with no more than a few scratches and bruises after two days gone missing. It was indeed a time to rejoice and be happy she is alive and well. Unfortunately, this isn't the case very often and children's dead and bloated bodies are pulled from the waters much to the terrible grief of the parents, loved ones and friends who loved them.

An excerpt from the news article contains typical reponses to situations when things turn out well.

Tricia Little, a close family friend of Hannah's parents, said David Klamecki taught the girl and her two younger sisters about the outdoors. She credits that instruction — and God — with Hannah's survival.

Hannah's father, Mike Klamecki, is senior pastor at New Hope Community Church in Villa Park. Little's husband, Brian, said parishioners have been "praying for his whole family."

"Obviously, we're giving all the glory to God on this one," Brian Little said.

My question is this: Who would have gotten credit if the story had not ended so happily? Who gets credit for the dead grandpa? Who gets credit for the little ones who are found brutally murdered after family and friends prayed their hearts out for them to be found?

Sheriff's Chief Deputy Ken McCabe said "That's a tough little girl, I tell you". This is why Hannah survived. She had arm floats on in order to keep from drowning. She must have been a decent swimmer for a five-year-old to be allowed to swim in a dangerous river. She was found in a reasonable amount of time where she was only a bit dehydrated, and tired. We don't even want to contemplate what would have happened if she hadn't been found in the short time she had been missing.

I read another story recently where people were reuinted with their kidnapped daughter and refreshingly they expressed extreme elation that their daughter was safe and together with them once more without giving credit to her "specialness" in the eyes of any supreme being. They gave thanks to the Sheriff's department and all those who did the work to find her. Lucky they found a live child . . . it's a relief when things turn out well.

However, for another teenager in the news recently, things ended horribly with the girl being found murdered. She was a gorgeous teenager who simply went shopping at a Target store, was shoved into a car by a man she didn't know, taken off to some secluded place and murdered. How do people think one life is more "special" than another. How do people rationalize that a god is picking and choosing which innocent and scared child to save from a horrible fate?

Thursday, June 14, 2007


NASA - Huygens Probe Lands on Saturn's Moon, Titan

H/T to Jeff for pointing this out to me.

Bill Schorr

The debates and political campaigning thus far have been like watching Hanna Barbera cartoons.
This is going to be a very long year and a half.

Amaze your friends!

Thanks to my friend Chuck A for this one. Great party trick!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Merope Reflection Nebula

Explanation: Reflection nebulas reflect light from a nearby star. Many small carbon grains in the nebula reflect the light. The blue color typical of reflection nebula is caused by blue light being more efficiently scattered by the carbon dust than red light. The brightness of the nebula is determined by the size and density of the reflecting grains, and by the color and brightness of the neighboring star(s). NGC 1435, pictured above, surrounds Merope (23 Tau), one of the brightest stars in the Pleiades (M45). The Pleiades nebulosity is caused by a chance encounter between an open cluster of stars and a molecular cloud.

Blue Lobster

Being different is a good thing.

This lobster is avoiding the cooker because of his uniqueness. "Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that the blue coloring occurs when lobsters produce an excessive amount of protein because of a genetic mutation."

NEW LONDON, Conn. - Call it crustacean discrimination. A lobster caught last weekend by Steve Hatch and his uncle Robert Green was spared from being cooked and ripped apart on a plate because of its color.

The 1 1/2-pound clawed creature is bright blue, the result of an extremely rare genetic mutation.

It turned up Sunday morning in one of Hatch and Green's lobster traps at the mouth of the Thames River.

"I've heard about them but this is the first one I've ever seen," Hatch told The Day of New London newspaper.

Later that afternoon, he put the lobster in a cooler and brought it to the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration, where it will live out its days in an elementary school classroom for children to learn about.

Catherine Ellis, curator of fish and invertebrates at the aquarium, said only one in 3 million lobsters are "true blue," meaning their color is the result of genetics and not the environment.

The one caught Sunday will join two other blue lobsters at the aquarium.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that the blue coloring occurs when lobsters produce an excessive amount of protein because of a genetic mutation.

But if blue lobsters are cooked like their red brethren, they too turn red, Ellis said.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Carl Sagan's Cosmos - Star Stuff

Carl Sagan's description of how we evolved from "Star Stuff" and are on our journey to go back to our origin - in the Stars. From "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage" episode 8, "Journeys in Space and Time".

Carl Sagan - Origins of the Universe Part I & II

Part I

Part II

Carl Sagan - speaks about 4 billion years of evolution

It is appalling that despite all of the centuries of scientific progress, and all of the verifiable evidence produced that such places as Creationist Museums are being built to perpetuate ignorance that threatens scientific knowledge, progress and reason. An understanding and acceptance of the facts of evolution does not threaten personal faith, and most Christians can reconcile evolution and religion together.

Light years ahead of Creationism

Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot

"Inspired by the words of Carl Sagan in 1991, as he presented to the world, the most distant image yet taken of ourselves.( from 4 billion miles )
What ever each of us believes in , this is something we all share, and through sharing ,we might some day learn humility." icecorescientist

Monday, June 11, 2007

The "Lemon Test".

Alton Lemon is an "honorary officer" of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a position reserved for freethinkers who have won Supreme Court cases in favor of the separation of church and state. He received a "Hero of the First Amendment" award at the 2003 FFRF convention (although health problems at the last minute prevented him from accepting it in person). Alton Lemon won the case, Lemon v. Kurtzman, 1971, which successfully challenged a Pennsylvania law, the first such law in the nation providing public tax funds to religious schools for teaching four secular subjects. As a member of the ACLU, Mr. Lemon volunteered to challenge the law, which resulted in a decision that is a watershed for the Establishment Clause, and which historic decision bears his name. The United States Supreme Court unanimously invalidated the parochial aid. In one of the enduring legacies of the Burger Court, it also codified existing precedent on the Establishment Clause into a test--called the "Lemon Test." Despite attacks against it and attempts to modify and chip away at it, the Lemon Test endures.

“If any of the three prongs of the Lemon Test are violated by an act of government, it is unconstitutional:

1) It must have a secular legislative purpose;

2) Its principal or primary effect must neither advance nor inhibit religion;

3) It must not foster excessive entanglement between government and religion.”

-- The Lemon Test, promulgated in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 US 602 (1971)

First Shuttle Mission/Shuttle Systems Test Flight - April 12, 1981

YouTube has almost everything. Here is a bit of NASA history-making. I remember this day and what a big deal it was, and now few pay attention to shuttle launches. NASA plans at least 13 more missions to the space station before retiring the shuttle fleet in 2010. A mission in September 2008 is planned to repair the aging Hubble Space Telescope.

Click this link for the NASA SHUTTLE webpages where you can find information and history about the Space Shuttle program and the future plans for the shuttle program and future space travel.