Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Comet Hyakutake Passes the Earth

Explanation: In 1996, an unexpectedly bright comet passed by planet Earth. Discovered less than two months before, Comet C/1996 B2 Hyakutake came within only 1/10th of the Earth-Sun distance from the Earth in late March. At that time, Comet Hyakutake, dubbed the Great Comet of 1996, became the brightest comet to grace the skies of Earth in 20 years. During its previous visit, Comet Hyakutake may well have been seen by the stone age Magdalenian culture, who 17,000 years ago were possibly among the first humans to live in tents as well as caves. Pictured above near closest approach as it appeared on 1996 March 26, the long ion and dust tails of Comet Hyakutake are visible flowing off to the left in front of a distant star field that includes both the Big and Little Dippers. On the far left, the blue ion tail appears to have recently undergone a magnetic disconnection event. On the far right, the comet's green-tinted coma obscures a dense nucleus of melting dirty ice estimated to be about 5 kilometers across. A few months later, Comet Hyakutake began its long trek back to the outer Solar System. Because of being gravitationally deflected by massive planets, Comet Hyakutake is not expected back for about 100,000 years.

Mojave Desert Fireball

Explanation: Monstrously bright, this fireball meteor lit up the Mojave Desert sky Monday morning, part of this year's impressive Geminid meteor shower. Seen toward the southwest over rock formations near Victorville, California, a more familiar celestial background was momentarily washed out by the meteor's flash. The background includes bright star Sirius at the left, and Aldebaran and the Pleaides star cluster at the right side of the image. The meteor itself blazes through the constellation Orion. Its greenish trail begins just left of a yellow-tinted Betelgeuse and points back to the shower's radiant in Gemini, just off the top of the frame. A rewarding catch for photographer Wally Pacholka, the spectacular image is one of over 1500 frames that he reports captured 48, mostly faint, Geminid meteors.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stars Over Easter Island

click on image to enlargeCredit & Copyright: St├ęphane Guisard (Los Cielos de Chile), TWAN

Explanation: Why were the statues on Easter Island built? No one is sure. What is sure is that over 800 large stone statues exist there. The Easter Island statues, stand, on the average, over twice as tall as a person and have over 200 times as much mass. Few specifics are known about the history or meaning of the unusual statues, but many believe that they were created about 500 years ago in the images of local leaders of a lost civilization. Pictured above, a large stone statue appears to ponder the distant Large Magellanic Cloud before a cloudy sky that features the bright stars Canopus and Sirius.

Mystery spiral lights over Norway is failed Russian missile launch -- pretty though!

Interesting how some people want to see the supernatural or superstitious in unusual phenomena instead of seeking answers to the question of "what was that?" This shows human's immediate reaction to make up their own answers about how things came to be instead of seeking true answers based on evidence. And if no explanation was immediately given that this was a failed Russian missile launch, you can bet that god believers of all varieties would be saying that it was the return of their messiah, or some kind of sign from one of their gods, etc.

Atheists at Christmas

An article on atheists at Christmastime? Things are really beginning to change for us. People are finally starting to recognize that we atheists exist!

This story from Minneapolis was posted at Yahoo News via the Associated Press:

Atheists at Christmas: Eat, drink and be wary

MINNEAPOLIS – Angie O’Neill recently moved into a new apartment complex for seniors and she’s trying to make new friends. But Christmas is a tough time of year for an atheist.

“All the planned activities at this time of year revolve around the church,” said O’Neill, a retiree and an atheist for decades.

O’Neill sought an escape this week, joining a group of her fellow nonbelievers for a weekly “Atheist Happy Hour” at a suburban Mexican restaurant. The group, Atheists for Human Rights, is active year-round but takes it up a notch this time of year with a Winter Solstice party, a charity drive and good attendance for the weekly gathering at Ol’ Mexico.

For one thing, it’s a chance to share coping techniques during this most religious time of year. They range from the simple, like warning about certain stores that blare religious Christmas songs, to tougher tasks like how to avoid certain topics with certain family members. These atheists describe adjusting some customs to make them their own, like Nancy Ruhland, a pharmacist who sends out Christmas cards to friends and loved ones — but makes sure to find ones without a Christian message or subtext.

Even as they chafe at the omnipresence of Christmas, many of the atheists here are quick to stress their belief in the pagan roots of a yearly celebration near the winter solstice. Before Christianity and other organized religions, many cultures would mark the point where days started getting longer again with a “festival of light” that included parties, gift exchanges, even placing trees in homes. Some of those rituals were religious, but usually in a polytheistic way.

“What we’re celebrating this year is the promise of the sun returning. That’s S-U-N, not S-O-N,” said Bill Weir, a retired marketing executive from Plymouth.

“Then the Christians stole it,” added Marie Alena Castle of Minneapolis, the 82-year-old founder of Atheists for Human Rights and an atheist activist for two decades.

While I have not been a fan of joining any support groups for atheists, or atheist “churches” or any of that kind of stuff, on the other hand it is a good sign that atheists are coming together instead of keeping to themselves and silently enduring these holidays that have been hijacked by Christian Mythology.

Obama defends U.S. wars as he accepts Nobel prize for peace

Just wondering what you all think about this.

Obama defends US wars as he accepts peace prize

Just nine days after ordering 30,000 more U.S. troops into battle in Afghanistan, Obama delivered a Nobel acceptance speech that he saw as a treatise on war’s use and prevention. He crafted much of the address himself and the scholarly remarks — at about 4,000 words — were nearly twice as long as his inaugural address.

In them, Obama refused to renounce war for his nation or under his leadership, saying defiantly that “I face the world as it is” and that he is obliged to protect and defend the United States.

“A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida’s leaders to lay down their arms,” Obama said. “To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism, it is a recognition of history.”

The president laid out the circumstances where war is justified — in self-defense, to come to the aid of an invaded nation and on humanitarian grounds, such as when civilians are slaughtered by their own government or a civil war threatens to engulf an entire region.

“The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it,” he said.

His winning the peace prize while at the same time ordering more troops to Afghanistan has riled anti-war activists:

The president’s motorcade arrived at Oslo’s high-rise government complex for Obama’s meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg as a few dozen anti-war protesters gathered behind wire fences nearby. Dressed in black hoods and waving banners, the demonstrators banged drums and chanted anti-war slogans. “The Afghan people are paying the price,” some shouted.

Greenpeace and anti-war activists planned larger demonstrations later that were expected to draw several thousand people. Protesters have plastered posters around the city, featuring an Obama campaign poster altered with skepticism to say, “Change?”

The debate at home over his Afghanistan decision also followed the president here. He told reporters that that the July 2011 date he set for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan to begin will not slip — but that the pace of the full drawdown will be gradual and conditions-based.

I don’t like to see more of our young men go to war. But at the same time we must not sit back and let terrorists build their forces and plot and plan to murder mass numbers of innocent people either. War is sometimes necessary for peace.

Friday, December 04, 2009

All-Sky Milky Way Panorama

Credit & Copyright: Axel Mellinger (Central Mich. U)

Explanation: If you could go far away from the Earth and look around the entire sky -- what would you see? Such was the goal of the All-Sky Milky Way Panorama 2.0 project of Axel Mellinger. Presented above is the result: a digital compilation of over 3,000 images comprising the highest resolution digital panorama of the entire night sky yet created. An interactive zoom version, featuring over 500 million pixels, can be found here. Every fixed astronomical object visible to the unaided eye has been imaged, including every constellation, every nebula, and every star cluster. Moreover, millions of individual stars are also visible, all in our Milky Way Galaxy, and many a thousand times fainter than a human can see. Dark filaments of dust lace the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy, visible across the image center. The satellite galaxies Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are visible on the lower right. This was not the first time Dr. Mellinger has embarked on such a project: the results of his first All-Sky Milky Way Panorama Project, taken using photographic film, are visible here.

M78 Wide Field

Credit & Copyright: Thomas V. Davis (tvdavisastropix.com)

Explanation: Interstellar dust clouds and glowing nebulae abound in the fertile constellation of Orion. One of the brightest, M78, is centered in this colorful, wide field view, covering an area north of Orion's belt. At a distance of about 1,500 light-years, the bluish reflection nebula is around 5 light-years across. Its tint is due to dust preferentially reflecting the blue light of hot, young stars. Reflection nebula NGC 2071 is just to the left of M78. To the right of M78 and much more compact in appearance, the intriguing McNeil's Nebula is a recently recognized variable nebula associated with the formation of a sun-like star. The remarkably deep exposure also brings out the region's faint but pervasive reddish glow of atomic hydrogen gas

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Movement to Ban Divorce in California?

Many Bible literalists aren’t so keen on banning divorce as they are in favor of banning gay marriage. However, it appears that many devout Christians both Protestant and Catholic DO want divorce banned, so John Marcotte’s satirical efforts to make a statement about Proposition 8 and the gay marriage ban in California may backfire in a big way.

The effort is meant to be a satirical statement after California voters outlawed gay marriage in 2008, largely on the argument that a ban is needed to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage.

However, it seems as if the movement has gone past the joke phase and many people are seriously supporting this proposal.

“Since California has decided to protect traditional marriage, I think it would be hypocritical of us not to sacrifice some of our own rights to protect traditional marriage even more,” the 38-year-old married father of two said.

Marcotte said he has collected dozens of signatures, including one from his wife of seven years. The initiative’s Facebook fans have swelled to more than 11,000. Volunteers that include gay activists and members of a local comedy troupe have signed on to help.

Marcotte is looking into whether he can gather signatures online, as proponents are doing for another proposed 2010 initiative to repeal the gay marriage ban. But the odds are stacked against a campaign funded primarily by the sale of $12 T-shirts featuring bride and groom stick figures chained at the wrists.

Marcotte needs 694,354 valid signatures by March 22, a high hurdle in a state where the typical petition drive costs millions of dollars. Even if his proposed constitutional amendment made next year’s ballot, it’s not clear how voters would react.

Nationwide, about half of all marriages end in divorce.

2010 California Marriage Protection Act: http://www.rescuemarriage.org

One commenter, Jenn has expressed my same thoughts about this movement:

I read about this site in a story that referred to it as SATIRE. A response to the prop 8 debacle last year. When i first read about it I thought it was hilarious and that i would have to back it just to go along with the joke. However, the more comments I read the more I believe it may have moved past the joke phase. Unless the vast majority of the comments and discussions on this site are osted as sarcasm, jokes, satire, or any other statement supposed to show the hypocrosy and blind sheep-like mentality of the supporters of prop 8, the joke has fizzled.

As another person has commented, strong Christians will not see this as funny and vote for it. The joke may backfire in a bad way for the citizens of California.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

150th Anniversary of Publication of Darwin's "Origin of Species"

CNN’s Connecter of the Day: Richard Dawkins (11-24-09)

“Speaking to CNN on the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s seminal work “On the Origin of Species,” Dawkins said the evidence to support the theory that life on earth came about through natural selection, and not design by God, was “now massively buttressed by molecular evidence.”

And referring to U.S.-based evangelist Ray Comfort, who argues that the universe and life is the result of an intelligent creator, Dawkins said: “There is no refutation of Darwinian evolution in existence. If a refutation ever were to come about, it would come from a scientist, and not an idiot.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Crescent Earth from the Departing Rosetta Spacecraft

Credit & Copyright: ESA (MPS for OSIRIS Team), MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Explanation: Goodbye Earth. Earlier this month, ESA's interplanetary Rosetta spacecraft zoomed past the Earth on its way back across the Solar System. Pictured above, Earth showed a bright crescent phase featuring the South Pole to the passing rocket ship. Launched from Earth in 2004, Rosetta used the gravity of the Earth to help propel it out past Mars and toward a 2014 rendezvous with Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Last year, the robot spacecraft passed asteroid 2867 Steins, and next year it is scheduled to pass enigmatic asteroid 21 Lutetia. If all goes well, Rosetta will release a probe that will land on the 15-km diameter comet in 2014.

Great Observatories Explore Galactic Center

Credit: NASA, ESA, SSC, CXC, and STScI

Explanation: Where can a telescope take you? Four hundred years ago, a telescope took Galileo to the Moon to discover craters, to Saturn to discover rings, to Jupiter to discover moons, to Venus to discover phases, and to the Sun to discover spots. Today, in celebration of Galileo's telescopic achievements and as part of the International Year of Astronomy, NASA has used its entire fleet of Great Observatories, and the Internet, to bring the center of our Galaxy to you. Pictured above, in greater detail and in more colors than ever seen before, are the combined images of the Hubble Space Telescope in near-infrared light, the Spitzer Space Telescope in infrared light, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory in X-ray light. A menagerie of vast star fields is visible, along with dense star clusters, long filaments of gas and dust, expanding supernova remnants, and the energetic surroundings of what likely is our Galaxy's central black hole. Many of these features are labeled on a complementary annotated image. Of course, a telescope's magnification and light-gathering ability create only an image of what a human could see if visiting these places. To actually go requires rockets.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dangerous "fellow citizens"? YIKES???

(Chuck, I hope you don’t mind me using the title of your email for my blog post.)

Chuck A emailed this to me this morning. The links he provides are about “certain extreme wackos’ whose intentions are to work toward gaining enough power to rewrite the US Constitution.”

Chuck’s companion made the comment below at Austin Cline’s website in response to an article Cline has posted about this subject. And check out the link that she has provided in her comment.

Sojourner says: Here’s a group of fundies that have an opposite viewpoint. They think the constitution is a satanic document and want to rescind anything and everything in it that they have decided is not based in the commandments or the bible, period.

This group of nutcases is really frightening and truly deranged and delusional. They feel they are doing “God’s” work if they somehow manage to gain control.

Here’s an excerpt of one of my own comments that might be interesting to some here:

These people would stop at nothing if they could get away with it. They are seriously demented and frightening.

It’s very difficult to even read the page, but struggle through it, these people are the enemy within.

That is why we must prevail against those who want to destroy our country for their good and for their god.

These people are not some exotic citizens of a strange country. These are American Christians, whose very rights came from the same constitution they would destroy. I keep hoping this site is actually the rule of Poe’s law, but I don’t think it is. I think it’s all too real and disturbing. I suggest you read and make up your own mind.

This is the link:http://www.tencommandments.org/tysk.html

A quote taken from Society for the Practical Establishment and Perpetuation of the TEN COMMANDMENTS
(Robert T. Lee)

Better is a dictator who rules every aspect of the lives of the people with true justice and righteousness, than a democracy wherein the people indulge in the evil and idolatrous freedom they desire.

As Chuck’s friend suggests, struggle through this lunatic's page. I have experienced others like him on several other sites on the internet and wonder just how many there are like Robert T.Lee in our country. Are they a real threat?

Nobel winner slams Bible as ‘handbook of bad morals’

We already knew the Bible is definitely not a very good guidebook for morals. The god of the Old Testament behaves totally opposite of human moral standards. He is jealous, murders infants, commits genocide, tortures and tests his creatures in cruel ways. One of the best examples of how awful this god of the Christian mythology is is when he makes a bet with Satan that he could torture the hell out of Job and he will remain faithful no matter what happened to him. Christians believe that this god is omniscient, all-knowing and knows the past, present and future. So why the need to test his creations and put them through unnecessary pain and heartache? Christians will answer "well we don't know or understand God's ways" but then on the other hand they continually claim that this god loves us and is merciful, kind, loving, and whatever else they want to believe about this imaginary being. Parents prohibit children from reading books with violence, sex, incest, murder, etc. but they will buy their kids a Bible and even encourage them to read it! All packaged in pretty little covers with pictures of doe-eyed Precious Moments people on the front. More and more of us are no longer afraid to speak up and state what we really think about this cherished book that contains as gruesome and grotesque stories as any other mythology, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and most of the rest. Author Jose Saramago is the lastest critic of the Bible.

Nobel winner slams Bible as ‘handbook of bad morals’

LISBON (AFP) – A row broke out in Portugal on Monday after a Nobel Prize-winning author denounced the Bible as a “handbook of bad morals”.

Speaking at the launch of his new book “Cain”, Jose Saramago, who won the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature, said society would probably be better off without the Bible.

Roman Catholic Church leaders accused the 86-year-old of a publicity stunt.

Anyone who is familiar with Jose Saramago’s works knows that this is not a publicity stunt on the part of this author. Saramago writes allegorical novels which present subversive perspectives on historic events, emphasizing the human factor. He is a proclaimed atheist as well as admitting himself to be a “pessimist”. You can read more about him at Wiki.

The news article goes on to say:

The book is an ironic retelling of the Biblical story of Cain, Adam and Eve’s son who killed his younger brother Abel.

At the launch event in the northern Portuguese town of Penafiel on Sunday, Saramago said he did not think the book would offend Catholics “because they do not read the Bible”.

“The Bible is a manual of bad morals (which) has a powerful influence on our culture and even our way of life. Without the Bible, we would be different, and probably better people,” he was quoted as saying by the news agency Lusa.

Saramago attacked “a cruel, jealous and unbearable God (who) exists only in our heads” and said he did not think his book would cause problems for the Catholic Church “because Catholics do not read the Bible.

Good burn — Catholics don’t read the Bible! And if Catholics and other Christians do read the Bible they read bits here and there and they all interpret those bits any way they want to.

“It might offend Jews, but that doesn’t really matter to me,” he added.

And we’ve heard this following comment many, many times from the believers who cling to this terrible book:

“Saramago does not know the Bible,” the rabbi said, “he has only superficial understanding of it.”

The god of the Bible is a not a good example of moral character.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pleiades and Stardust

Credit & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo (Deep Sky Colors)

Explanation: Have you ever seen the Pleiades star cluster? Perhaps the most famous star cluster on the sky, the Pleiades can be seen without binoculars from even the depths of a light-polluted city. Also known as the Seven Sisters and M45, the Pleiades is one of the brightest and closest open clusters. Hurtling through a cosmic dust cloud a mere 400 light-years away, the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster is well-known for its striking blue reflection nebulae. This remarkable wide-field (3 degree) image of the region shows the famous star cluster near the center, while highlighting lesser known dusty reflection nebulas nearby, across an area that would span over 20 light-years. In this case, the sister stars and cosmic dust clouds are not related, they just happen to be passing through the same region of space.

Fireball Meteor Over Groningen

Explanation: The brilliant fireball meteor captured in this snapshot was a startling visitor to Tuesday evening's twilight skies over the city of Groningen. In fact, sightings of the meteor, as bright as the Full Moon, were widely reported throughout the Netherlands and Germany at approximately 17:00 UT. Accompanied by sonic booms and rumbling sounds, the meteor was seen to break up into bright fragments, eventually leaving a persistent smoke-like trail. Even though there are bright fireball meteors in planet Earth's atmosphere every day, sightings of them are relatively rare because they more often occur over oceans and uninhabited areas.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Keep religious superstition out of health care reform bills

I just read this article which was posted at American Atheists on October 7th.

Atheists Oppose Christian Science “Faith Healing” Provisions in Health Care Reform Bills

“Faith-healing provisions in health care reform bills”? I knew the anti-abortionists were in a tizzy about provisions for abortion coverage, however I had no idea there were provisions to allow reimbursements for magical “medicine”!

An Atheist public policy organization today called for elimination of requirements in Senate legislation which would reimburse faith-based “healers” for their services.

Reimburse for what? If their imaginary friend is doing their healing, shouldn’t their imaginary friend receive imaginary “reimbursement”?

“Any adult in the legislative or executive branch of the federal government, or of any state government, who wants to use unproven, unscientific ‘remedies’ should be free to do so,” said Buckner. “But support for such irrational nonsense violates the separation of religion and government and the canons of good sense. Including faith-healing or other non-medical ‘treatment’ in health care legislation must be rejected.”

Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists, said that Christian Science and other faith-based healers already receive public money, and that the policy is not based on good science.

“We need to spend that money on providing solid, fact-based medicine. Reimbursing the faith-healing industry wastes precious resources, and violates the separation of church and state.”

It’s a damn good thing there are people paying close attention to these sneaky superstitious folks.

Good response by Illini Pundit.com — Voodoo Healthanomics?

Giving any sort of legitimacy to quackery, religious or otherwise, seems inherently dangerous to me. Especially dangerous and indeed often fatal to children of folks who take this stuff too far. While this particular amendment doesn’t seem to change the fact that killing a child with faith based denial of care is still generally illegal, it could encourage more of it and even reward those who attempt it and propagate irrational fears, distrust, or dismissal of proven medical treatments to those who might otherwise not know better. Of course empowering the government to decide what treatments should be covered is bound to cause even more issues along these lines. Will insurance companies or government programs be forced to pay for scientology thetan tests too? How about subluxation tests/treatment in the quackier side of chiropractic care which has roughly the same scientific grounding… i.e. none. Will we end up with a public option for prayer circle coverage too?

This religious nuttery in government and elsewhere is out of control. No wonder this health care reform bill is taking so long to pass! Too much bullshit to weed out!

Crazy Preacher Teacher!

Fundamentalist Christians whatever their denomination do not fail to keep us supplied with a steady stream of material to post about. Here is a story about a crazy fundie teacher at a public school in Arizona who is telling kids things creepy things that the devil tries to do. He also uses his platform for proseltyzing and encouraging the kids to pray, etc.

Teacher accused of telling devil tales could be fired

“Could be fired”? How about should be fired!

Tucson, Arizona | Published: 10.15.2009

A teacher accused of telling his second-grade students frightening tales about the devil is facing dismissal from Miller Elementary School.

Michael P. Corkery came under scrutiny last month when a parent sent a letter to the south-side school saying her child was being taught about Jesus, God and the devil.

The child said Corkery taught the students that the devil rapes little boys and “touches them where they don’t want to be touched,” according to the parent’s letter.

The student went on to say that the class was told not to tell the principal what they were learning because he could get fired and then he would miss them.

That is a tactic an abusive teacher used when I was in the fifth grade, but he didn’t play on our sympathies. He told us if we told the principal or our parents that he would “get us.” Unfortunately, despite complaints from the students and a few parents, this same monster went on to become co-principal of the school! Good thing times have changed and most parents listen to what their children are telling them.

The article goes on to tell more about this lunatic:

Miller Principal Mary Anderson placed Corkery on administrative leave and conducted individual interviews with 22 of the 25 students in the class.

Ten of the students interviewed made statements that were consistent with the allegations in the letter, said a complaint filed with the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board.

One student told Anderson that Corkery discussed the crucifixion of Jesus. Another said Corkery told the students to pray to God before they went to bed for protection of their families, the report said.

One student reported that Corkery told the children that if they lied, the devil would pull their feet while they slept, causing their feet to turn red.

Another said Corkery taught them to “never go on the devil’s side, never be the devil.”
Several students mentioned a devil doll that was kept in the classroom and utilized by Corkery, according to the report.

I hope that this insane man will never be allowed near children again.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Freeflyer

Credit: STS-41B, NASA

Explanation: At about 100 meters from the cargo bay of the space shuttle Challenger, Bruce McCandless II was farther out than anyone had ever been before. Guided by a Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU), astronaut McCandless, pictured above, was floating free in space. McCandless and fellow NASA astronaut Robert Stewart were the first to experience such an "untethered space walk" during Space Shuttle mission 41-B in 1984. The MMU works by shooting jets of nitrogen and has since been used to help deploy and retrieve satellites. With a mass over 140 kilograms, an MMU is heavy on Earth, but, like everything, is weightless when drifting in orbit. The MMU was replaced with the SAFER backpack propulsion unit.

And I thought Sears Tower glass balcony was scary!

Saturn at Equinox

Explanation: How would Saturn look if its ring plane pointed right at the Sun? Before last month, nobody knew. Every 15 years, as seen from Earth, Saturn's rings point toward the Earth and appear to disappear. The disappearing rings are no longer a mystery -- Saturn's rings are known to be so thin and the Earth is so near the Sun that when the rings point toward the Sun, they also point nearly edge-on at the Earth. Fortunately, in this third millennium, humanity is advanced enough to have a spacecraft that can see the rings during equinox from the side. Last month, that Saturn-orbiting spacecraft, Cassini, was able to snap a series of unprecedented pictures of Saturn's rings during equinox. A digital composite of 75 such images is shown above. The rings appear unusually dark, and a very thin ring shadow line can be made out on Saturn's cloud-tops. Objects sticking out of the ring plane are brightly illuminated and cast long shadows. Inspection of these images may help humanity understand the specific sizes of Saturn's ring particles and the general dynamics of orbital motion.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Trespassing Reason

H/T to our friend Christopher

Christopher sent me an email with a link to yet another crazy pastor in our area who, like Pastor Mondo I have written about a few times here, is allowed to write in a special section of the local paper called “The Pastor’s Corner.” (We have not yet heard back from this paper about a Secular Humanist section of the paper and probably never will.)

Christopher writes:

I think Mokena Messenger Meyer beat New Lenox Mondo this month. I read this article and felt I had to respond. This preacher tries to argue against space exploration; very badly. He should have just stuck with the claim that it is a bad return on investment.

Here is the link to Rev. Meyer’s protest against invading what he says is his God’s space:

Man in the trespassing of space

Meyer writes:

“Men who are ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” No matter how much man may explore the heavens above he will not learn to know God. Even the Russian Cosmonauts returned from a space flight some years ago and laughingly declared: “We didn’t see God up there.”

Mr. Meyer, space exploration is not meant to search for any gods. Space exploration is to take a further look into the cosmos to see what’s out there just as humans have explored the parts of planet Earth which were once uninhabited, wild and unknown. Scientists and astronauts don’t go out into the unknown to “know god”.

Interesting that Meyer brings up the quote of the Russian Cosmonauts. No, they did not see God up there. It was a humorous observation, not a conclusion of some hypothesis they were trying to verify. And we can conclude here on Earth from what we have observed, that no god comes, no god exists to take care of his creations here on this planet that too many believe was made specially for humankind.

Meyer asks a question then takes it upon himself to make up an answer for all of us:

So why do men continue to explore the heavens above? Because man is not satisfied with what God has given him. We are always searching, always looking, always seeking, and yet God has stated plainly, “the heavens are mine and I have given you the earth.”

Why do men and women continue to explore the heavens above? Because it is there and we want to know what is out there. Much of the technological advances we have today is because of the Space Program. Microwaves, cell phones, complex and constantly improving ways of communication are all because of scientific exploration into the cosmos.

As for the heavens belonging to a god and the Earth to humans, well you Bible Mr. Meyer was written by ancient humans who were ignorant of the world outside of their own…and even ignorant of the world in which they lived, for that matter. They might have imagined reaching to the heavens and that imagining eventually became reality. Much of what humans have achieved was only once imagined.

Also, if the world was made especially for humankind, it was not made rather crappily with the turbulent weather, unstable ground faults, volcanoes that erupt and spew molten lava down into villages and burying large numbers of homes and even people. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, wild fires, pestilence, disease, drought, tornadoes, microbursts, blizzards, don’t make for a very safe home that a loving creator would make for his creations.

I really like Christopher’s response to Meyer, and I am sure he won’t mind me posting it here:

Christopher writes:

Mr. Meyer

I would like to see the human race continue to discover, understand, and advance the world we live in. It saddens me to know that you cannot take pleasure in the idea of human potential, that you feel our best is following the words of ancient men and their story of a master creator that demands obedience in the name of love. Even worse, you influence people in our community, preaching a faith built on fear, teaching that a quest for learning and understanding is forbidden and punishable.

Of course you are free to believe what you choose and preaching is your job, but you cause significant harm to your friends and family, your community, your country and all of humanity when you attempt to shut people out of the human experience.

We need to encourage thoughtful, meaningful and advancing ideas for the sake of improving our day to day lives, for creating good jobs that stand up to foreign competition and most of all, driving to satisfy our human need to discover.

Mr. Meyer, I’m a weekly reader of this paper and I don’t make it a point to comment on your opinion column. I think your past articles speak to those that share your beliefs and I’m not writing to argue that your should reconsider those beliefs. This article of yours is different. It suggests a position dangerous to our ability to thrive. This article stands in opposition to what most would consider good for our understanding of the world. This article stands to diminish the pioneering of a more diverse community than which you recognize.

In regards to this topic, your god has no title, nor a deed to space, any space except by the claims written in your book. Our world is for all of us to explore and enjoy. Stand aside if you wish. Make a call that government money not be used to fund exploration and discovery. You can suggest leaving it up to the private sector but please do not think all of us want to live in the dark ages.

Well said, Christopher…an excellent and reasonable response. Too bad that Rev. Meyer and most of his followers won’t understand it.

I guess this is better than praying for the demise of liberals…

Adopt-a-Liberal
Liberty Council Prayer-In-Action Program

Since the landmark 2008 general election, there can be no doubt that a very large percentage of our Nation’s leaders have a liberal mindset. The undeniable fact is that the 111th Pelosi-Reid Congress and the Obama Administration demonstrate a far left political philosophy. And since the President nominates federal judges and Justices of the United States Supreme Court, the judicial branch of government could take on a decidedly more liberal bent as the Obama Administration wears on.

Liberty Counsel has therefore named this special new prayer-in-action program Adopt a Liberal. And that’s exactly what we invite you to do — adopt a liberal who is in authority for regular, intense prayer in accord with St. Paul’s admonition to his disciple, Timothy. In fact, we expect that many of our friends and supporters will choose to adopt many liberals as subjects of regular prayer!

What if their god loves liberals, since they are into helping the poor and sick, feeding the masses, saving the environment, and all that “evil” stuff like that?

And if you don’t have high blood pressurecheck this out:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Religious idiocy abounds

Pastor Manning: Obama is the Antichrist

Pastor Manning calls those whites that voted for Obama are racist. He also refers to Obama as the Antichrist of the Bible.

jeba8888 sums it up: “Pastor Manning….You are an idiot…..You’re just another dumbass with no credentials mouthing off… I am sure you will find your share of cattle who will follow your insane messages”

Unfortunately, what jeba8888 says is true…the world is full of unthinking, human cattle.

Here is Frank Shaeffer speaking out against this sort of thinking on the Rachel Maddow Show. Surprisingly, Frank Shaeffer is a god believing Baptist who condemns the extremism of many of this fellow believers. Listening to him in this video, you might get the impression that he really is an atheist in disguise. I am sure he is being accused of this by the Christian fundamentalist extremists he is condemning.

Here’s the video


"Engaging with Iran is like having sex with someone who hates you" ~ Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens in his recent article in Slate online.

“Living in the Islamic Republic,” wrote Azar Nafisi in her book Reading Lolita in Tehran in 2003, “is like having sex with a man you loathe.” This verdict has gathered extra force and pungency as the succeeding years have elapsed and as more women have been stoned, hanged, beaten, raped, and silenced. Lately has come the news that Iranian men in prison are being raped, too, for trying to exercise their right to vote. And now the U.S. government has come to a point where it must ask itself: What is it like to enter negotiations with a man who loathes you and who every Friday holds public prayers that call for your death?

Last Friday brought the news that the Obama administration had accepted an offer from Tehran, delivered the preceding Wednesday, for the holding of what the New York Times called “unconditional talks.” It was further reported that the administration had spent “less than 48 hours” deliberating whether to respond to the invitation, which yields the interesting if minor detail that this must have been the most significant decision taken by Obama’s people on or about the eighth anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11.

Hitchens goes on to state his concerns about Iran and its uranium-enrichment program and its theocracy’s hatred of the West.

First, it has become ever clearer that Iran’s uranium-enrichment and centrifuge program has put it within measurable distance of the ability to weaponize its nuclear capacity. Second, it has become obscenely obvious that the theocracy is prepared to govern by force alone and to employ the most appalling measures to remain in power without a mandate.

While Hitchens says he is all for talks without preconditions, he presents these two questions:

Do we seriously expect the Islamic Republic to be negotiating in good faith about its nuclear program?

What do we know about the effect of these proposed talks on the morale and the leadership of the Iranian opposition?

Read on and then share what you think about what Hitchens has to say.

"Culture of Silence" starting to talk

Usually shit rolls downhill, and took awhile to come out but finally cases of sexual abuse by priests in the Pope’s own backyard are now emerging “in a country where reports of clerical sex abuse were virtually unknown a decade ago.”

Italy grapples with priest sex abuse accusations

A yearlong Associated Press tally has documented 73 cases with allegations of sexual abuse by priests against minors over the past decade in Italy, with more than 235 victims. The tally was compiled from local media reports, linked to by Web sites of victims groups and blogs. Almost all the cases have come out in the seven years since the scandal about Roman Catholic priest abuse broke in the United States.

One man’s disturbing personal account:

VERONA, Italy – It happened night after night, the deaf man said, sometimes in the priest’s bedroom, sometimes in the bathroom, even in the confessional.

When he was a young boy at a Catholic-run institute for the deaf, Alessandro Vantini said, priests sodomized him so relentlessly he came to feel “as if I were dead.” This year, he and dozens of other former students did something highly unusual for Italy: They went public with claims they were forced to perform sex acts with priests.

For decades, a culture of silence has surrounded priest abuse in Italy, where surveys show the church is considered one of the country’s most respected institutions. Now, in the Vatican’s backyard, a movement to air and root out abusive priests is slowly and fitfully taking hold.

It’s about time. The Catholic church must be held accountable (any other organization would be shut down for this sort of organized crime). The “culture of silence” must end.

Full sickening story here

H/T to ChuckA once again…

Another mailbag...

Here is a new one…I will let you read this:

Regarding the idea that there are all kinds of religions out there making all kinds of claims and each thinks they are right: This is true. And it is true that it is “all a matter of what people choose to believe”. The important question is, is one’s faith (that is, what they choose to believe) a blind, unreasonable faith, (like atheism, or Muhhamedism, for example) or is it a faith backed up by the evidence? The bible is backed by evidence. It is filled with perfectly fulfilled prophecies. No other book or belief system on the face of the earth is even remotely like the bible. Here’s a prophecy written down 2000 years ago. In 2009, take a look around as this is preparing to be implemented.

Yes, it is a matter of what people choose to believe. And atheism is not a “faith”, and it’s Islam or Muslim, not “Muhhamedism”. And no, the Bible is not backed with “evidence”. It’s fiction backed up with more and more fiction. “Prophecy? What prophecy? There have been many “prophecies” from many religions. And in 2009 it is appalling that there are folks who live by the writings in an ancient mythology book of gruesome fairy tales.

[ed. note: Just to clarify what I mean by "it's a matter of what people choose to believe"...The god believers have a choice about whatever type of god they choose to believe in, according to whatever prejudices, bigotry, desires, and needs they might want to support. Atheism is not a "faith" but a lack of belief in gods and goddesses. Hope that clears that up.]