Wednesday, May 27, 2009

IC 4592: A Blue Horsehead

click on image to enlargeCredit & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo

Explanation: This complex of beautiful, dusty reflection nebulae lies in the constellation Scorpius along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. Its overall outline suggests a horsehead in profile, though it covers a much larger region than the better known Horsehead Nebula of Orion. The star near the eye of the horse and the center of the 5 degree wide field, is embedded in blue reflection nebula IC 4592 over 400 light-years away. At that distance, the view spans nearly 40 light-years. The horse's gaze seems fixed on Beta Scorpii, also named Graffias, the bright star at the lower left. Toward the top right, near the horse's ear, is another striking bluish reflection nebula, IC 4601. The characteristic blue hue of reflection nebulae is caused by the tendency of interstellar dust to more strongly scatter blue starlight.

Carina Nebula Panorama from Hubble

click on image to enlargeCredit: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (U. California, Berkeley) et al., and The Hubble Heritage TeamSTScI/AURA) (

Explanation: In one of the brightest parts of Milky Way lies a nebula where some of the oddest things occur. NGC 3372, known as the Great Nebula in Carina, is home to massive stars and changing nebulas. Eta Carinae, the most energetic star in the nebula, was one of the brightest stars in the sky in the 1830s, but then faded dramatically. The Keyhole Nebula, visible left of center, houses several of the most massive stars known and has also changed its appearance. The entire Carina Nebula spans over 300 light years and lies about 7,500 light-years away in the constellation of Carina. Pictured above is the most detailed image of the Carina Nebula ever taken. The controlled color image is a composite of 48 high-resolution frames taken by the Hubble Space Telescope two years ago. Wide-field annotated and zoomable image versions are also available.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Children accused of witchcraft, in the name of Jesus

Thanks once again to ChuckA for providing the link and information about a heartbreaking story that was on ABC’s Nightline last night that we should all be aware of. This is the kind of horror we get when missionaries go spreading their superstition around the world. Other cultures incorporate their superstition with the new religious superstition and then someone suffers because of it...this time innocent kids. I didn’t get to see the program, but you can watch via the video links and read the full story at the Nightline website: Child Witches: Accused in the Name of Jesus

In a dirt-floored, back-alley church, 8-year-old Bobby and his 6-year-old brother Henock were made to kneel before a pastor wearing a white, flowing robe adorned with pictures of Jesus.

Looming over the boys, Pastor Moise Tshombe went into a trance, during which he claimed the Holy Spirit took over and the voice of God spoke through him. “I see that witchcraft is in these two,” Tshombe said. “The threats inside of them are very strong.”

These young brothers were the latest victims in an epidemic of accusations of child witchcraft here in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is raging in the name of Jesus. It continues seemingly unabated despite flags raised by organizations such as the United Nations, Save the Children and Human Rights Watch.

In the video the reporter asks the stepmother of two small boys if she really believes the children are witches, and she said yes, and she goes on to explain that the boys have been “stealing their stepsister’s blood to use to fly at night”!

The pastors pick out which kids they “sense” are witches and the parents believe them and pay lots of money for dangerous exorcisms. In the video clip we can see pastors flinging terrified children around by their arms and throwing them around like little dolls. “Kids are beaten, burned, starved and even killed, sometimes by their own families”, says the reporter. Children who are accused of witchcraft are sometimes abandoned by their families. It’s good to see that reporters are finally exposing these atrocities and human rights organizations are setting up ways to try to help these children.

Click here to learn how to help children in the Congo.

Here is another video concerning children being accused of being witches in the Congo:

Pope on Facebook to "woo young believers"

Now this is frightening. The Vatican is now stalking young people on Facebook. Is no place “sacred”? Must these religious predators infiltrate everything we do? Also, as someone else pointed out at another blog, isn't Facebook supposed to have security to keep pedophiles and those who harbor pedophiles away from children?

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – You won’t get an email saying Pope Benedict added you as a friend and you can’t “poke” him or write on his wall, but the Vatican is still keen to use the networking site Facebook to woo young people back to church.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Odd News

This is absolutely gross! The things people will do for attention!

Boy attempts to beat record with 43 snails on his face


SALT LAKE CITY – Never mind the ick factor, a Utah boy is trying to get into the record books by covering his face with live snails. Eleven-year-old Fin Keheler, from Sandy, allowed 43 of the slimy mollusks to be put on his face Saturday. He wants the Guinness World Records to verify his effort.

The Guinness web site says the record set in 2007 for snails on the face for 10 seconds is eight. The boy says he has since learned the record was 36.

Fin made three attempts on Saturday. Sitting back in a reclining chair, snails gathered from neighbors' gardens were carefully placed on his face. Those that remained for at least 10 seconds were counted.

His family is sending witness statements, video and media coverage to Guinness this week.

Same on Catholic Church once again

Where is the outrage from the Catholic Church about this? The victims will probably get another lameass and meaningless apology from Pope Ratzi, like that is supposed to magically make things okay.

(H/T to ChuckA)

Catholic Church shamed by Irish abuse report

DUBLIN – After a nine-year investigation, a commission published a damning report Wednesday on decades of rapes, humiliation and beatings at Catholic Church-run reform schools for Ireland’s castaway children.

The 2,600-page report painted the most detailed and damning portrait yet of church-administered abuse in a country grown weary of revelations about child molestation by priests.

The investigation of the tax-supported schools uncovered previously secret Vatican records that demonstrated church knowledge of pedophiles in their ranks all the way back to the 1930s.

Wednesday’s five-volume report on the probe — which was resisted by Catholic religious orders — concluded that church officials shielded their orders’ pedophiles from arrest amid a culture of self-serving secrecy.

“A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from,” Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse concluded.

Victims of the abuse, who are now in their 50s to 80s, lobbied long and hard for an official investigation. They say that for all its incredible detail, the report doesn’t nail down what really matters — the names of their abusers.

The entire horrible story can be found here.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Extraordinary find is "missing link" in human evolution

This is fascinating. Fundies want to know where the missing links are, well here is the evidence. Of course they will probably say it’s a trick planted by Satan. :roll::roll:

Perfectly preserved fossil Ida, unveiled in New York today, provides unprecedented insight into our ancestry

Scientists have discovered an exquisitely preserved ancient primate fossil that they believe forms a crucial “missing link” between our own evolutionary branch of life and the rest of the animal kingdom.

The 47m-year-old primate – named Ida – has been hailed as the fossil equivalent of a “Rosetta Stone” for understanding the critical early stages of primate evolution.

Video link

"Demonizing for dollars"

President Obama is expected to name Souter’s replacement soon, and the Religious Right are already preparing negative attacks against anyone and everyone Obama may be considering. In the process, far-right-leaning organizations are hoping to bring in millions of dollars in donations for television, radio and Internet advertisements that might reunite conservatives in a confirmation battle. As Rob Boston states, “One thing Religious Right leaders do best is fling mud.”

However, despite all the negativity and poo-flinging, Obama’s choice will prevail the long, hard way:

We already know how this will end. Most likely, Obama’s court nominee will win Senate approval. Viguerie and company are determined to make the nation endure a summer of slime attacks to get there.

I have to wonder if Viguerie and his ilk even care that Obama is likely to emerge victorious. After all, they get paid either way.

It’s all about the money.

Monday, May 18, 2009

News Update - Wisc. mother knew her daughter was gravely ill

Here is an update on the trial of a Wisconsin mother who is charged with second-degree reckless homicide in the March 23, 2008, death of her daughter Madeline.

Madeline didn’t have to die. She was a victim of negligence based on the beliefs of her devoutly religious mother. A sister-in-law testified that Madeline’s mother did know how gravely ill her daughter was the day before she died, yet the mother chose to walk in circles around her bed while repeating magical incantations to a non-existent god.

“She was afraid,” the sister-in-law said. “She ran upstairs to Kara (Madeline’s nickname) and felt her and was relieved to feel warmth in her arm. Then she said they started praying and praying and praying and didn’t stop praying until supper time.”

Prosecutors contend any reasonable parent would have known something was wrong and Leilani Neumann, who believes healing comes from God, recklessly killed her daughter by praying instead of rushing her to a doctor as the girl became so weak she couldn’t walk or talk. The defense says the family hadn’t known the girl was dying.

How can you not know that your child is dying? It’s obvious, isn’t it? And it had to be obvious to the mother to make her pray so desperately.

Susan Neumann testified that she no longer had a relationship with her brother, Dale Neumann, who is Madeline’s father. She said she contacted police about two weeks after the girl’s death fearful for her brother’s other three children and worried that there could be “mass suicide” in the family.

Under cross-examination, the witness was asked whether God told her to go to the police.

She said she prayed about it but “felt in my heart” it was the right thing to do and maybe God answered her prayers.

The sis-in-law is as whacky as the mother is. They still don’t realize that their god IS NOT THERE (or even consider that if there was a god that he might WANT them to take Madeline TO A DOCTOR).

In addition, if this god didn’t come down to save Madeline, why the hell does this woman still think that God answered her prayer in going to the police? Apparently she is too deluded to ask herself why she didn’t “feel it in her heart” to call DCFS or other authorities BEFORE her niece died. This story really pisses me off because it’s the senseless death of a child.

And has this whole entire nightmare gotten through to the mother about the pointless non-power of prayer? Not at all . . .

Before testimony began Monday, Leilani Neumann read from her Bible and circled the defense and prosecution tables several times in prayer.

Pentagon reports no longer quote Bible

I didn’t know that they did in the first place, did any of you? The longer Obama is in office, the more we realize just how entrenched the Religious Right were becoming via the Bush years.

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon said Monday it no longer includes a Bible quote on the cover page of daily intelligence briefings it sends to the White House as was practice during the Bush administration.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said he did not know how long the Worldwide Intelligence Update cover sheets quoted from the Bible. Air Force Maj. Gen. Glen Shaffer, who was responsible for including them, retired in August 2003, according to his biography.

For a period in 2003, at least, the daily reports prepared for President George W. Bush carried quotes from the books of Psalms and Ephesians and the epistles of Peter. At the time, the reports focused largely on the war in Iraq.

The Bible quotes apparently aimed to support Bush at a time when soldiers’ deaths in Iraq were on the rise, according to the June issue of GQ magazine. But they offended at least one Muslim analyst at the Pentagon and worried other employees that the passages were inappropriate.

On Thursday, April 10, 2003, for example, the report quoted the book of Psalms — “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him. … To deliver their soul from death.” — and featured pictures of the statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled down and celebrating crowds in Baghdad.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand,” read the cover quote two weeks earlier, on March 31, above a picture of a U.S. tank driving through the desert, according to the magazine, which obtained copies of the documents.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, on Monday said U.S. soldiers “are not Christian crusaders, and they ought not be depicted as such.”

“Depicting the Iraq conflict as some sort of holy war is completely outrageous,” Lynn said in a statement. “It’s contrary to the constitutional separation of religion and government, and it’s tremendously damaging to America’s reputation in the world.” [My emphasis]

About the Muslim analyst who was offended, I find that ironic since his “holy book” contains the same evil crap and is used to justify murdering via suicide bombs on nearly a daily basis.

Friday, May 15, 2009

FamilyGuy - Fetching a cross

As most of you know, the dog Brian on Family Guy is an atheist. This whole episode is about the family trying to get him to believe. The show illustrates how lame the reasons are that religious believe why we should believe in a god. Sometimes they can't come up with a good reason at all except that "you should because I do." Anyway, this clip is pretty funny.

Bill Maher: Burka Fashion Show

Maher makes a great point with his Fundamentalist Fashion Show.

Owl nebula

click on image to enlargeCredit & Copyright: Keith Quattrocchi

Explanation: The Owl Nebula is perched in the sky about 2,600 light-years away toward the bottom of the Big Dipper's bowl. Also cataloged as M97, the 97th object in Messier's well-known list, its round shape along with the placement of two large, dark "eyes" do suggest the face of a staring owl. One of the fainter objects in Messier's catalog, the Owl Nebula is a planetary nebula, the glowing gaseous envelope shed by a dying sun-like star as it runs out of nuclear fuel. In fact, the Owl Nebula offers an example of the fate of our Sun as it runs out of fuel in another 5 billion years. As we see it, the nebula spans over 2 light-years making it roughly 2,000 times the size of Solar System. Beautiful to look at, this color image shows impressive details within the cosmic owl. The composite includes images made through narrow-band filters for a total of 24 hours of exposure time.

18 Atrocities straight from the Bible

How good people can follow this horrible book is beyond me. It's puzzling how religious Bible believers will try to censor books, movies and every other thing but enthusiastically encourage their young people to read their Bibles. It's full of incest, infanticide, lewd sexual acts, murder on an individual and massive scale. Vengeance, vindictiveness, jealously, spitefulness and out and out despise for his own creations. That is the god of Abraham. He even goes so far as to create a son for himself to be tortured and murdered in the most hideous way and all because he is unhappy with the creations he made.

Most pastors and church leaders quietly ignore these parts in their sermons, lectures and Sunday School lessons (or they try to shrug it off with made-up explanations). The following 18 passages are just a small sampling of the many atrocities and horrors of the Bible. When criticizing fundamentalist Islam and all of the horrific acts "justified" but the Koran, we must stop to consider that this is the same god of the Christians. The same god of the Jews. A god of fundamentalist superstition of the ancient ignorance of people who have never progressed.

From IHC website:
18 Fun Atrocities Straight from the Bible

God as it turns out, ain't such a nice guy after all. Throughout the Bible, he's smiting and burning and killing. He's encouraging rape, murder, mutilation in multiple places like the worst mob boss imaginable. Here's 18 quotes pulled directly from the Bible, mainly the Old Testament, that shows God in not such a positive light.

God burns whiners alive

And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. [Numbers 11:1, King James]
God poisons complainers

And the people spoke against god and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe the worthless foo." Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. [Numbers 21:5-6, New American Standard

Smashing babies on rocks
O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us-- he seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks. [Psalms 137:8-9, New International]
Angel commits mass murder
That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning-- there were all the dead bodies! [2 Kings 19:35, New International]
God commits genocide of babies
At midnight the LORD struck down all the first born in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. [Exodus 12:29, King James]
God causes cannibalism
[God says:] I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another's flesh during the stress of the siege imposed on them by the enemies who seek their lives. [Jeremiah 19:9, New International]
God demands their heads
And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people and hand them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel. [Numbers 25:4, King James]
God commands slaughter and plunder
[Moses says:] And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee: begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land. Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz. And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons and all his people. And we took all his cities at the time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain: Only the cattle we took for a prey unto ourselves, and the spoil of the cities which we took. [Deuteronomy 2:31-35, King James]
God assists slaughter and mutilation
When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaaanites and Perizzites. Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. [Judges 1:4-6, New International]
Gang rape, murder and dismemberment

While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man that owned the house, "Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him."

The owner of the house went outside and said to them, "No, my friends, don't be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don't do this disgraceful thing. Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But to this man, don't do such a disgraceful thing."

But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and the raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her "Get up; let's go." But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home. When he reached home, he tooke a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. [Judges 19:22-29, New International]

God gives men boils and tumors on genitals

And they carried the ark of the god of Israel about thither. And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of the LORD was against the city with a very great destruction: and he smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts [i.e., tumors and boils on their genitals] [1 Samuel 5:8-9, King James]

David collects foreskins after killing hundreds of soldiers

David and his men went out and killed two hundred Philistines. He brought their foreskins and presented the full number to the king so that he might become the king's son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michael in marriage. [1 Samuel 18:27, New International]

Amnon rapes his sister then banishes her

Then Amnon said to Tamar, "Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand." And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, "Come to bed with me, my sister."

"Don't, my brother!" she said to him. "Don't force me. Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don't do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you."

But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her. Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said "Get up and get out!" [2 Samuel 13:10-15]

God sends bears to maul 42 youngsters

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!" He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name in the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and maulted forty-two of the youths. [2 Kings 2:23-24, New International]

Infanticide, looting and rape for God

Whoever is captured [in Babylon] will be thrust through; all who are caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives ravished. [Isaiah 13:15-16, New International]

Killing babies, slicing open pregnant women

The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open. [Hosea 13:16, New International]

Jellyfish Nebula

This is a cool nebula. Nebula-watching is sort of like cloud-watching. Human beings see familiar imagery in everything.

click on image to enlargeCredit & Copyright: Gerhard Bachmayer

Explanation: Normally faint and elusive, the Jellyfish Nebula is caught in this alluring wide-field telescopic view. Flanked by two yellow-tinted stars, Mu and Eta Geminorum, at the foot of a celestial twin, the Jellyfish Nebula is the brighter arcing ridge of emission with dangling tentacles right of center. In fact, the cosmic jellyfish is seen to be part of bubble-shaped supernova remnant IC 443, the expanding debris cloud from a massive star that exploded. Light from the explosion first reached planet Earth over 30,000 years ago. Like its cousin in astrophysical waters the Crab Nebula supernova remnant, IC 443 is known to harbor a neutron star, the remnant of the collapsed stellar core. Emission nebula Sharpless 249 fills the field at the upper left. The Jellyfish Nebula is about 5,000 light-years away. At that distance, this image would be almost 200 light-years across.

Irony, Pat Robertson denounces greed

While being a greedy bastard, himself! (Click here for link to humorous Dickipedia article)

While giving a speech on behalf of a local charity in Allentown, Pa., Pat Robertson said:

“the nation’s dire economic circumstances are the inevitable result of years of unfettered greed in government and business and can only be reversed by the earnest action of ‘fired-up’ citizens demanding a return to responsibility.”

Robertson blamed the housing foreclosure crisis, mounting debt, growing unemployment and other woes on our stark departure from America’s roots as a frugal, responsible nation.

“His excoriations of Wall Street greed and government ineptitude,” the newspaper reported, “were greeted by murmurs of ‘amen’ and ‘that’s right’ from some in the audience of perhaps 150 people.”

Ironic considering the things about Robertson’s activities AU’s Joseph L. Conn points out:

Would that be the same Pat Robertson who used his Operation Blessing charity’s airplanes primarily to transport equipment for a Robertson-owned diamond-mining operation in Zaire (now the Republic of the Congo) called African Development Corporation?

Would that be the same Pat Robertson who went on his Christian Broadcasting Network show and asked for donations claiming that the planes were taking a “medical strike force” to towns in Zaire when in fact the planes were being used to ferry mining equipment?

(One pilot told the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot that of the 40 flights he undertook to Zaire, “only one or at most two” were humanitarian in nature. He said the rest were “mining-related.”)

Would that be the same Pat Robertson who entered into a partnership with brutal Liberian dictator Charles Taylor to run a gold-mining operation in that war-torn African nation?

Would that be the same Pat Robertson who tried to become the main Internet provider in communist China (he said he wanted to be the “Yahoo of China”) and tried to open an oil refinery in a poor neighborhood near Los Angeles?

Would that be the same Pat Robertson who took a firm that sold home-study Bible courses and converted it into American Benefits Plus, a multi-level marketing scheme that sold coupon books and later moved into vitamins and cosmetics? (Wonder if I can still get “Sea of Galilee” skin care lotion somewhere?) The firm, renamed Kalo-Vita, went belly up in 1995, leaving investors holding the bag. (One 76-year-old retiree told Newsweek she lost $7,000 and had to refinance her home.)

Would that be same Pat Robertson who turned his nonprofit Family Channel into a for-profit enterprise and sold it to that paragon of virtue Rupert Murdoch for just under $2 billion?

Would that be the same Pat Robertson who reported in his book, Shout It From the Housetops, that his mother Gladys once had a vision from God of Robertson receiving packets of cash from heaven?!

The story about his mother’s “vision” goes like this:

“I saw a packet of bank notes floating down out of heaven into your hands,” Mrs. Robertson reportedly told her no-doubt happy son. “I looked closely and saw that they were made up of large denominations. I didn’t know how much money it was, I just knew it was a lot; and it was as if you were kneeling under the open windows of heaven, and God was pouring out his wealth upon you.”

Robertson says he and his mom both cried at the glorious prospect. “Praise the Lord,” he reportedly whispered through his tears.


Funny how Robertson got a "calling" to the ministry after failing the BAR in 1955. That seems to happen to a lot of these pastors. They fail at what they went to school for and decide to just take a nice easy way out, and make a nice comfy life for themselves with their lives all taken care of with the donations of their followers.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

High-risk spacewalks to fix Hubble's broken parts

News like this is not paid attention to, but is more exciting and dramatic than any action flick we might go see . . . because it is for real.

STORY FROM AP: Astronauts step out on 1st spacewalk to fix Hubble

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A pair of spacewalking astronauts stepped outside Thursday to begin demanding repair work on the Hubble Space Telescope, a job made all the more dangerous because of the high, debris-ridden orbit.

John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel emerged from space shuttle Atlantis and quickly got started on their first job, a camera swap. The telescope — the size of a school bus — loomed over them.

"Ah, this is fantastic," Grunsfeld said as he floated out.

"Woo-hoo," Feustel shouted.

It was the first of five high-risk spacewalks to fix Hubble's broken parts, install higher-tech science instruments and make the observatory more powerful than ever.

Atlantis and its crew are traveling in an especially high orbit, 350 miles above Earth, that is littered with pieces of smashed satellites. A 4-inch piece of space junk passed within a couple miles of the shuttle Wednesday night, just hours after the shuttle grabbed Hubble. Even something that small could cause big damage.


35,000-year-old ivory carving found

(AP Photo/Daniel Maurer)

A carved ivory female figurine is presented in Tuebingen, southern Germany, Wednesday, May 13, 2009. The figurine, found in 2008 in a cave in Schelklingen, southern Germany is allegedly the world's oldest reproduction of a human with an estimated age of at least 35,000 years.

Interesting find!

BERLIN – A 35,000-year-old ivory carving of a busty woman found in a German cave was unveiled Wednesday by archaeologists who believe it is the oldest known sculpture of the human form. The carving found in six fragments in Germany's Hohle Fels cave depicts a woman with a swollen belly, wide-set thighs and large, protruding breasts.

"It's very sexually charged," said University of Tuebingen archaeologist Nicholas Conard, whose team discovered the figure in September.

Carbon dating suggests it was carved at least 35,000 years ago, according to the researchers' findings, which are being published Thursday in the scientific journal Nature.

Read the full story HERE.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Go ahead and daydream - exercise that brain!

When I was a kid in school I always got in trouble for staring out the window and daydreaming. I was bored with the repetitiveness of school lessons and doing the same thing over and over again. I loved to draw and write stories and still do. Many of my ideas come from daydreaming, as probably do most ideas of creative people.

Daydreaming can help you with problem-solving, and as the article below points out, our brains are much more active when we daydream than when focusing on routine tasks. Probably why we get sleepy while working. BORING! LOL! I have a hard time focusing on mundane tasks...and my mind wanders just like when I was a little kid.


Got a tough problem to solve? Try daydreaming.

Contrary to the notion that daydreaming is a sign of laziness, letting the mind wander can actually let the parts of the brain associated with problem-solving become active, a new study finds.

Kalina Christoff of the University of British Columbia in Canada and her colleagues placed study participants inside an fMRI scanner, where they performed the simple routine task of pushing a button when numbers appear on a screen. The researchers tracked subjects' attentiveness moment-to-moment through brain scans, subjective reports from subjects and by tracking their performance on the task.

Until now, scientists had thought that the brain's "default network," which is linked to easy, routine mental activity, was the only part of the brain that remains active when the mind wanders. But in the study subjects, the brain's "executive network" - associated with high-level, complex problem-solving - also lit up.

The less subjects were aware that their mind was wandering, the more both networks were activated.

"This study shows our brains are very active when we daydream - much more active than when we focus on routine tasks," Christoff said.

The findings, detailed in the May 11 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that daydreaming is an important cognitive state where we may unconsciously turn our attention from immediate tasks to sort through important problems in our lives.

"When you daydream, you may not be achieving your immediate goal - say reading a book or paying attention in class - but your mind may be taking that time to address more important questions in your life, such as advancing your career or personal relationships," Christoff said.

That's particularly good news, because daydreaming can occupy as much as one third of our waking lives, previous studies have found.

Titan Beyond the Rings

click on image to enlarge
Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, ISS, JPL, ESA, NASA

Explanation: When orbiting Saturn, be sure to watch for breathtaking superpositions of moons and rings. One such picturesque vista was visible recently to the robot Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn. In 2006 April, Cassini captured Saturn's A and F rings stretching in front of cloud-shrouded Titan. Near the rings and appearing just above Titan was Epimetheus, a moon which orbits just outside the F ring. The dark space in the A ring is called the Encke Gap, although several thin knotted ringlets and even the small moon Pan orbit there. Cassini and curious Earthlings await the coming Saturnian equinox this summer when the ring plane will point directly at the Sun. Mysterious spokes and telling shadows are expected to become visible that might give away more clues about the nature of Saturn's ring particles.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Year of the Bible? Sponsored by a SECULAR government?

These folks really want theocratic rule? They just don't give up, and they are not thinking very clearly about what that would mean for religion in general, including their own.

The government, when it gets its hands on our business ruins it.

It’s not enough to have a day of magical incantation, it’s not enough to have their mythology temples, billboards, numerous television programs, etc., etc. Now some god believers of the Religious Right variety want a whole year of trying to force their beliefs on a supposedly free nation.

From Atheist Revolution
Get Ready for Year of the Bible

vjack writes:

Instead of doing actual work for the benefit of all Americans, Republicans in Congress are pandering to Christian extremists with H. Con. Res. 121, a measure to designate 2010 as the “Year of the Bible”. I’ll assume that they are referring to one of the many translations of the Christian bible and are simply too caught up in Christian privilege to say so. In any case, 14 Republicans are pushing the unconstitutional resolution.


Check out some of the comments at

Eric at Standing on the Shoulders of Giant Midgets writes:

Dear Christians: the next time you want to ask what we atheists get so angry about, take a nice long look at incidents of political grandstanding like H. Con. Res. 121. You’ll have politicians wasting everybody’s time on a showy, meaningless, offensive gesture calculated to show off their self-righteousness and religious prejudice and draw irate responses that will allow them to act all faux offended. “Oh,” they can whine, “this is an example of how we Christians are persecuted all the time.”


American Muslims are people of faith underwhelmed by your “Holy Scripture,” and American Jews only believe half of it. There are American Hindus and American Buddhists. Dare we even mention American Wiccans? American Scientologists? And, oh yeah–all the atheists and agnostics.

Tell ya’ what, pals–I give, you win. America is a Christian nation–it’s the official State religion now. So Washington gets to decide what your church is like. There will be statutes defining what a church is and who God is and what the sacraments are and resolving all former disparities in doctrine about the Trinity, the Mother Of God, whether declaration of faith in Christ is sufficient for salvation or it must be joined with works…. No, no–this is what you people wanted, you wanted us to be a Christian nation, so let’s make it official. Religious doctrine will be decided by the Secretary Of The American Faith, who as a cabinet position will be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. Hearings start as soon as Mr. Obama narrows his short list down. All churches shall be Christian churches, Christianity being defined by a bunch of career bureaucrats in D.C.

No, shut up. You won, didn’t you hear me? We’re going to give you exactly what you fucking want and see how long ’til you choke on it.

Who has a stopwatch?


Star Trek 2009 - Four Stars

I was a kid when the first television Star Trek series came out and my brothers and sister and I watched every episode. Then we watched again when it went into syndication. I became a fan also of Next Generation, but couldn't get into Voyager or the one with Scott Bakula after that. But I did like the films with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. Nothing can beat the original cast, and I was very pleased with this new film version because the casting department took such great care to hire actors who could express the same character traits as the originals. We knew who each one was before they even identified themselves.

The CGI is awesome in this film. My favorite scene was when all the Star Fleet ships were in space dock getting ready to head off to most of their fates. I won't give any more away in case some of you haven't seen it yet, but I highly recommend this film to all Trekkies, and those who are interested in sci-fi and Star Trek films. This is one we plan on buying in Blu-Ray for our personal collection.

Forty Thousand Meteor Origins Across the Sky

Earth is basically a sitting duck that has been pretty lucky not to get hit by a huge meteor in millions of years. But how long can our luck hold out? This is just another reason that I support the NASA programs that are designed to figure out solutions as what to do when a big one starts heading too close to home.
Click on image to enlarge

Credit & Copyright: SonotaCo Network, Japan

Explanation: Where do meteors come from? Visible meteors are typically sand-sized grains of ice and rock that once fragmented from comets. Many a meteor shower has been associated with a known comet, although some intriguing orphan showers do remain. Recently, a group of meteor enthusiasts created a network of over 100 video cameras placed at 25 well-separated locations across Japan. This unprecedented network recorded not only 240,000 optically bright meteors over two years, but almost 40,000 meteors seen by more than one station. These multiple-station events were particularly interesting because they enabled the observers to extrapolate meteor trajectories back into the Solar System. The resulting radiant map is shown above, with many well known meteor showers labelled by the first three letters of the home constellation. Besides known meteor showers, eleven new showers were identified by new radiants on the sky from which meteors appear to flow. The meteor sky is ever changing, and it may be possible that new shower radiants will appear in the future. Research like this could also potentially identify previously unknown comets or asteroids that might one day pass close to the Earth.

Freethunk funnies

Thursday, May 07, 2009

More "intelligent" design

Yep, this is a sign of real intelligent creation isn't it? In addition to the two-headed calf in this video, another one was just in the news today. These are just a couple of the thousands upon thousands of deformities of all kinds of species, conjoined twins like these sisters, and these sisters, that arrive in the world each day.

Dear God

This song pretty much sums up many of my problems with god belief. Why would a god who could do all things turn his back on starving, suffering and dying men, women and children . . . and even animals. Why would a god allow war, violence, destruction when he has the power to stop it? Why would a god give people others to love only to have these people eventually grow old and wither away from them causing great grief and heartache (or worse yet, die tragically and young like the woman in Texas who recently died of Swine Flu before even seeing her newborn daughter). Of course, for me the answer is There is No God, God is Imaginary. If there is such a thing as an all-powerful god, and he chooses to do nothing and allows all this crap, what does that say about the character of this god? I think this god idea is just all of human characteristics incorporated into one huge imaginary being.