Friday, June 30, 2006

When Galaxies Collide

The Antennae
Credit & Copyright: Daniel Verschatse (Antilhue Observatory)

Explanation: Some 60 million light-years away in the southerly constellation Corvus, two large galaxies have collided. But stars in the two galaxies - NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 - don't collide in the course of the ponderous, billion year or so long event. Instead, their large clouds of molecular gas and dust do, triggering furious episodes of star formation. Spanning about 500 thousand light-years, this stunning view reveals new star clusters and matter flung far from the scene of the accident by gravitational tidal forces. Of course, the visual appearance of the far-flung arcing structures gives the galaxy pair their popular name - The Antennae. Recorded in this deep image of the region at the tip of the upper arc is a tidal dwarf galaxy NGC 4028S, formed in the cosmic debris.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Operation removes lightbulb from inmate's anus

I'm sorry, I don't mean to laugh at someone else's suffering, but this is one of the funniest stories I have heard in awhile.

Allah/Gawd allows the most bizarre things to happen to people and then when doctors fix the problem the person it happens to says "Praise Allah/Gawd that he relieved my suffereing." What an insane world we live in. Doctors don't believe his claim that he was drugged and comatose when the bulb was inserted...if it wasn't that...well...ummmm. I don't want to think about it.

MULTAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - Fateh Mohammad, a prison inmate in Pakistan, says he woke up last weekend with a glass lightbulb in his anus.

Wednesday night, doctors brought Mohammad's misery to an end after a one-and-a-half hour operation to remove the object.

"Thanks Allah, now I feel comfort. Today, I had my breakfast. I was just drinking water, nothing else," Mohammad, a grey-beared man in his mid-40s, told Reuters from a hospital bed in the southern central city of Multan.

"We had to take it out intact," said Dr. Farrukh Aftab at Nishtar Hospital. "Had it been broken inside, it would be a very very complicated situation."

Mohammad, who is serving a four-year sentence for making liquor, prohibited for Muslims, said he was shocked when he was first told the cause of his discomfort. He swears he didn't know the bulb was there.

Yeah, right.

"When I woke up I felt a pain in my lower abdomen, but later in hospital, they told me this," Mohammad said.

"I don't know who did this to me. Police or other prisoners."


The doctor treating Mohammad said he'd never encountered anything like it before, and doubted the felon's story that someone had drugged him and inserted the bulb while he was comatose.


This You Tube is worth a few minutes of your time to watch. I have to agree with Dan Barker who said, this video was “very creative and powerful” and indeed “makes a GREAT point!”

James Randi said it was “very cool!”

Michael Shermer said it was “very impressive.”

The music is called “Is This The Real Thing” by DJ Madson. It is from the movie “The God Who Wasn’t There”.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Stephen Colbert on Class Warfare

Stephen Colbert talks about the minimum wage his in "the word" segment.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Rare "Rainbow" Spotted Over Idaho

It looks like a rainbow that's been set on fire, but this phenomenon is as cold as ice. Known in the weather world as a circumhorizontal arc, this rare sight was caught on film on June 3 as it hung over northern Idaho near the Washington State border.

The arc isn't a rainbow in the traditional sense—it is caused by light passing through wispy, high-altitude cirrus clouds. The sight occurs only when the sun is very high in the sky (more than 58° above the horizon). What's more, the hexagonal ice crystals that make up cirrus clouds must be shaped like thick plates with their faces parallel to the ground.

When light enters through a vertical side face of such an ice crystal and leaves from the bottom face, it refracts, or bends, in the same way that light passes through a prism. If a cirrus's crystals are aligned just right, the whole cloud lights up in a spectrum of colors.

This particular arc spanned several hundred square miles of sky and lasted for about an hour, according to the London Daily Mail.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Minimum wage hike defeat

Most of us have started out earning minimum wage and worked our way up. When I started working in 1972, the minimum wage was around $2. 10 an hour. In 34 years, with costs of everything soaring, and wages struggling to keep up with inflation, the current minimum wage is only at $5.15 an hour when a loaf of bread costs $3. An 8-hour paycheck won't even fill up an average-sized car. Most of these jobs do not offer health care, and even if they did, minimum wage employees cannot afford it.

On the other hand, small business owners are also burdened with rising costs, and having to raise employees wages by $2 can cause a bigger strain for struggling businesses. But $5.15 an hour in today's world is a joke.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Pastor "hijacks" wedding ceremony

My husband and I went to the wedding of our friends' son yesterday. It was an outdoor wedding at a nearby country club. The weather was perfect -- 70s, blue skies, a nice breeze. Everyone was happy and excited to be there and see friends we haven't seen in awhile. The service began with the bridesmaids walking up the path in their matching pink gowns. The flower girl was as cute as a button. The bride was gorgeous, and everyone got teary-eyed as her father escorted her to the gazebo and then gave her away in traditional fashion.

Then comes the pastor. From that point, what was supposed to be a wedding ceremony turned into a service for Jeebus and Gawd. The first words out of his mouth were, "Thank gawd for this gorgeous day he made especially for this day." What if it had rained? Would gawd just have been in a bad mood that day? We have been to other weddings where there have been downpours. Does that mean gawd didn't like those people as much even though they were believers in him? He went on to thank gawd for the friends who came together, thank gawd for this, gawd, gawd gawd!

Then he asked the parents of the bride and groom to come forward. He asked them to pledge their support of their children in their married life with the "help of gawd". Now, do parents who have been loving and supportive of their children their whole lives NEED to vow to an invisible sky daddy that they will continue to love and support their children in marriage? I, as an atheist, love and support my children and will till the day I die, WITHOUT invoking the help of gods, goddesses, satan, or any imaginary supernatural beings. I would support my children and family BEFORE any gods, even if they did exist.

The service moved on and turned even more into a worship service. There was scripture reading and prayer to the great sky daddy. Then MORE gawd preaching. The pastor droned on, telling the couple about loving each other "just as Jeebus loved the church". And he said that marriage can only be held together by gawd and prayer. (This is where my eyes were rolling and could not help myself. My husband was squirming in his seat.) More scripture reading. Towards the end of the "sermon" he asked everyone if they would promise to pray for the couple and support them in their married life. Most of the people robotically and in unison chanted "we do" and some added "with gawds help" (does that mean these "friends" and family who were brought together "by gawd" were reluctant on their own accord to wish them well?)

The usual xian pronouncement was made: "What gawd has joined together, let no man put asunder." If you need a gawd to hold your marriage together, then it is kind of weak from the very start, isn't it? Also, I have seen so many times that "gawd's glue" doesn't hold very well...almost all the married xian friends we have are now divorced, remarried or "living in sin" or looking for someone new. What really gets me is when these divorced xian people remarry and say the same exact religious vows "before gawd" a second, third or even fourth time!

We were just at a wedding a few weeks ago of a young couple where these same exact words were spoken. At the reception, there was a lengthy gawd prayer read that was framed for the bride and groom to hang in their new home. Less than a month later, they are having their marriage annulled despite the bride being pregnant with their child. Again, so much for gawd's glue!

Let's hope the couple who were married yesterday look beyond superstition and to EACH OTHER and remember their committment THEY made to each other. If they continue to love one another, respect one another, with the help of true friends and their loving families they will have a long and happy marriage.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Friday, June 23, 2006

Plutos moons named Nix and Hydra

The names Nix and Hydra have been approved for the two small satellites of Pluto discovered in May 2005. The International Astronomical Union (IAU), the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies, approved the names this week.

East of Antares

Credit & Copyright: Johannes Schedler (Panther Observatory)

Explanation: East of Antares, dark markings seem to sprawl through the crowded star fields toward the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Cataloged in the early 20th century by astronomer E. E. Barnard, the obscuring interstellar dust clouds include B72, B77, B78, and B59, seen in silhouette against the starry background. Here, their combined shape suggests smoke rising from a pipe, and so the dark nebula's popular name is the Pipe Nebula. This gorgeous and expansive view was recorded in very dark skies over Hakos, Namibia. It covers a full 10 by 7 degree field in the pronounceable constellation Ophiuchus.

Housing prices

click on image to enlargeMy husband and I have been looking at new homes recently, and this is pretty accurate of what $249,000 will get you in most Chicago suburbs.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Colbert hits Fox claim that Gay Marriage leads to Animal Marriage

You Tube: Colbert noticed that a Fox pundit recently suggested that supporters of Gay Marriage are also responsible for people who marry animals. Snakes were the example the Fox pundit gave. (The story Colbert refers to about the woman marrying a snake is true and can be found HERE.) This guy is so hilarious!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Should respect for religious customs have limits?

Here is another issue that I ran across while reading Yahoo’s opinion column that concerns giving religious folks an inch and them taking a mile. While I believe in freedom of religion and the first Amendment, I feel like some of these demands are going a bit too far.

Should we put a limit on religious customs?

Whole article from USA Today - 6/13/2006

Muslim women in the USA have been asking the public to accommodate their religious beliefs about modesty, a trend that some Muslims worry will provoke a backlash.

In some recent examples:

• In Lincoln Park, Mich., Fitness USA relented when Muslim women demanded that the gym wall off a co-ed aerobic center from their women-only section because men could see them working out.

• In Bridgeview, Ill., a Muslim school says it wants its girls’ basketball team to play road games against non-Muslim schools provided the public schools ban men and teenage boys from the game.

• In North Seattle, Wash., a public pool set up a swim time for Muslim women in which men, even male lifeguards, are banned.

Seems like we now we are not only going to have legal battles with fundie xians, but now are up against fundie Muslims, as well.

In all of the examples, businesses and public facilities were asked to accommodate followers of one interpretation of Islamic law that says the sexes must be separate if women are not covered with headscarves and modest clothing.

“You’re not going to make your American, Christian and Jewish friends to feel comfortable … which in the end could create a dislike for Muslims that is unnatural.”

But other Muslims see the trend as an issue of civil rights.

Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of Muslim Public Affairs Council, says the right to petition for special accommodation based on religious beliefs is protected by the First Amendment.

But in these cases, as I see it, this is forcing people to cater to their religious beliefs in a public domain, which violates the rights of others.

“Whether a woman wants to cover her hair or not is her personal choice,” he says. “As long as it’s not imposed on the rest of society then I don’t see any problem.”

Walid Phares, a professor of Middle East studies at Florida Atlantic University, sees it as an early sign in the USA of a global Islamic movement to pressure Western society into abiding by Islamic laws.

“These demands exist because there is an ideology of a militant movement to slowly but surely demand more,” Phares says. “They will be building on it.”

But Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic studies at Duke University, says the requests are attempts to integrate with U.S. culture. They show “that America can become their home,” he says.

What do you think about this?


Hard-liners won battle for Bridgeview mosque

disturbing details about the Bridgeview mosque

Villagers Worship Monkey Man

The weirdness in this world is endless:

Thousands of people are flocking to an impoverished Indian village in eastern West Bengal state to worship a man they believe possesses divine powers because he climbs up trees in seconds, gobbles up bananas and has a "tail."

Devotees say 27-year-old villager Chandre Oraon is an incarnation of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman -- worshipped by millions as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion.

"He climbs up trees, behaves like a monkey and is a strict vegetarian, but he is no god and his condition is just a congenital defect," says Bhushan Chakraborty, the local medical officer.

Tucked away in a hamlet in Banarhat, over 400 miles north of Kolkata, the state capital, devotees wait for hours to see or touch Oraon's 13-inch tail, believing that it has healing powers.

Doctors said the "tail" -- made up of some flesh but mostly of dark hair -- was simply a rare physical attribute.

"It is a congenital anomaly, but very rarely do we find such cases," B. Ramana, a Kolkata-based surgeon, told Reuters.


Sunrise Solstice at Stonehenge

Credit & Copyright: Pete Strasser (Tuscon, Arizona, USA)
Explanation: Today the Sun reaches its northernmost point in the planet Earth's sky. Called a solstice, the date traditionally marks a change of seasons -- from spring to summer in Earth's Northern Hemisphere and from fall to winter in Earth's Southern Hemisphere. Pictured above is the 2005 Summer Solstice celebration at Stonehenge in England. The event was rare because Stonehenge was not always open to the public, and because recent summer solstices there had been annoyingly cloudy. In 2005, however, thousands of people gathered at sunrise to see the sun rise through the 4,000 year old solar monument. Due to the precession of the Earth's orbital axis over the millennia, the Sun no longer rises over Stonehenge in an astronomically significant way, although the photographer was able to find a good spot where the rising Sun appeared over one of Stonehenge's massive standing stones.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Superstitious craziness is endless!

link: Wigs pose dilemma for religious Jewish women

By Megan Goldin Wed Jun 7, 12:38 PM ET
TEL AVIV (Reuters) -

To wear them or not to wear them?

That is the question for ultra-Orthodox Jewish women caught in a dilemma after the wigs that many of them wear to cover their hair under religious modesty regulations were found by rabbinical sages to violate Jewish law.

"It was a big scandal because they found out that the hair that was collected in India was used in rituals for idol worship," said Amir Zahavi, the manager of a wig factory on the edge of Tel Aviv.

Hindu rituals, such as those performed in the temples, are considered sacrilegious under strictly monotheistic Jewish law.

The hair used in such practices certainly can't be used to make wigs that ultra-Orthodox women wear under religious edicts that require all married Jewish women to cover their hair in public or when in the presence of men other than their husbands.

The problem arose about two years ago when Israeli rabbis discovered that hair cut from the heads of Hindu worshipers at Indian temples was being used to manufacture wigs worn by religious Jews.

The discovery about hair used in Hindu rituals caused pandemonium. Rabbinical experts went from wig factory to wig factory in Israel and abroad to ensure that wigs for the ultra-Orthodox market did not include hair from India.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Westmoreland co-sponsors bill on the Ten Commandments and can't even name them

I posted this originally at GifS, and after I did so, Lya Kahlo also mentioned it in a comment here, so I decided to post the video link here on my own blog, as well.

Many of you probably watch Colbert and have seen this already, but it is funny enough for a replay. For those who haven't seen it, Colbert interviewed Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland and I guess he never heard of The Colbert Report before. He will now.

I bet none of these idiots who are pushing for the public display of the ten commandments can name even half of them. (Just like most xians don't even know their own babble, yet want to tell us about gawd's word.)

Only on the Colbert Report

Here's the video straight from YouTube:

(rough transcript)

Colbert: You have not introduced a single piece of legislation since you entered Congress.

Westmoreland: That's correct.

Colbert: This has been called a do nothing Congress. Is it safe to say you're the do nothingest?

Westmoreland: I, I, ..Well there's one other do nothiner. I don't know who that is, but they're a Democrat.

Colbert: What can we get rid of to balance the budget?

Westmoreland: The Dept. of Education.

Colbert: What are the Ten Commandments?

Westmoreland: You mean all of them?--Um... Don't murder. Don't lie. Don't steal Um... I can't name them all. emailer Ruth asks: Does this guy deserve a $3,300 pay raise?

The guy co-sponsors a bill about the Ten Commandments and doesn't even know them. Priceless.

Author Joyce Carol Oates

“I'm not a person who feels very friendly toward organized religion. I think people have been brainwashed through the centuries. The churches, particularly the Catholic Church, are patriarchal organizations that have been invested with power for the sake of the people in power, who happen to be men. It breeds corruption. I found going to church every Sunday and on holy days an exercise in extreme boredom. . . .

(Just thinking about sitting in a church service makes me incredibly sleepy feeling.)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Fallen Angels, Demons and the Boogeyman

When I was a kid and misbehaved, my father told me that the boogeyman was going to come up from under the ground somewhere and steal me away to wherever this mystical demon took bad kids who disobeyed their parents. I was a neurotic child, constantly paranoid that an arm would come up out of our lawn and pull me under. While I slept I kept the covers over my head in the dark, afraid that something would reach up from under or behind the bed to get me. I believed creatures like the boogeyman existed because I learned about demons and devils in Sunday school, and my Sunday school teachers and pastors said they were real – these creatures of the night that came to take bad people to hell, or to torment their souls while on earth. This was pure and simple CONTROL BY FEAR.

Many xians believe in the existence of demons and the devil as much as they believe in their god. Carl Sagan, in his book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark explains how superstitious humans believe in demons as much as they do their gods:

In Genesis we read of angels who couple with “the daughters of men.” The culture myths of ancient Greece and Rome told of gods appearing to women as bulls or swans or showers of gold and impregnating them. In one early Christian tradition, philosophy derived not of human ingenuity but our of demonic pillow talk – the fallen angels betraying secrets of Heaven to their human consorts. Accounts with similar elements appear in cultures around the world. Parallels to incubi include the Arabian djinn, Greek satyrs, Hindu bhuts, Samoan hotua poro, Celtic dusii, and many others. In an epoch of demon hysteria, it was easy enough to demonize those we feared or hated. So, Merlin was said to have been fathered by an incubus. So were Plato, Alexander the Great, Augustus, and Martin Luther. Occasionally, an entire people were accused by their enemies of having been sired by demons.

So, where did these demons come from? Xians believe their god made everything in the universe. Does this mean that this god made demons? Some people think so. Sagan points out that “in the Talmudic tradition the archetypical succubus was Lilith, whom God made from the dust along with Adam. She was expelled from Eden for insubordination – not to God, but to Adam. Ever since, she spends her nights seducing Adam’s descendents.”

If demons are fallen angels, then why did this god make faulty angels? If he had angels for company in heaven, then why did this god need to create faulty humans? Or is this god just incapable of perfection? Or does he create imperfectly on purpose? Of course, when thinking reasonably, demons are nothing more than figments of human imagination reflecting our own inner fears.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Leno to Host Carlin, Coulter on Wednesday, June 14

This should prove to be interesting. I would not tune in for Mann Coulter alone, but would for George Carlin. I am sure it will be amusing to see what Carlin has to say to her.

Tuesday June 13 3:44 AM ET
"Tonight" host Jay Leno might want to consider wearing referee stripes on Wednesday's show when Ann Coulter and George Carlin are his guests.

Coulter, the acid-tongued conservative with a new book out, and Carlin, the quick-witted, antiestablishment comedian who's in the voice cast for the new animated film "Cars," were booked at separate times for the NBC late-nighter, a spokeswoman said Monday.

More . . .

Has anyone ever seen one of these?

Driving Toward a Sun Halo
Credit & Copyright: Lauri Turtiainen

Explanation: What's happened to the Sun? Sometimes it looks like the Sun is being viewed through a large lens. In the above case, however, there are actually millions of lenses: ice crystals. As water freezes in the upper atmosphere, small, flat, six-sided, ice crystals might be formed. As these crystals flutter to the ground, much time is spent with their faces flat, parallel to the ground. An observer may pass through the same plane as many of the falling ice crystals near sunrise or sunset. During this alignment, each crystal can act like a miniature lens, refracting sunlight into our view and creating phenomena like parhelia, the technical term for sundogs. The above image was taken during early 2006 February near Helsinki, Finland with a quickly deployed cellular camera phone. Visible in the image center is the Sun, while two bright sundogs glow prominently from both the left and the right. Also visible is the 22 degree halo also created by sunlight reflecting off of atmospheric ice crystals.

Monday, June 12, 2006

More ridiculous religious suppression of joy

Now this is asking a lot. How can you just blankly watch a sporting event without any kind of expression? I don’t care how “holy” a man is, he cannot sit and watch World Cup Soccer or any championship series and not exhibit some kind of emotion! These monks will be screaming and shouting and cheering in the confines of their own minds.

You can watch it, but you can't like it...

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Phnom Penh patriarch Non Nget has told Cambodia's 40,000 Buddhist monks to remain passive while watching World Cup soccer games or be defrocked.

Non Nget said Monday monks should not watch the games in public, cheer or bet on matches as such actions were against Buddhism.

"It is very difficult to ban them because new technology means the games can be aired live and seen everywhere," he said. "They may watch, but must be calm."

"But if they make noise or cheer as they watch, they will lose their monkhoods," Non Nget told Reuters.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Why is this galaxy so thin?

Edge-On Galaxy NGC 5866
Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); Acknowledgment: W. Keel (U. Alabama)

Explanation: Many disk galaxies are actually just as thin as NGC 5866, pictured above, but are not seen edge-on from our vantage point. One galaxy that is situated edge-on is our own Milky Way Galaxy. Classified as a lenticular galaxy, NGC 5866 has numerous and complex dust lanes appearing dark and red, while many of the bright stars in the disk give it a more blue underlying hue. The blue disk of young stars can be seen extending past the dust in the extremely thin galactic plane, while the bulge in the disk center appears tinged more orange from the older and redder stars that likely exist there. Although similar in mass to our Milky Way Galaxy, light takes about 60,000 light years to cross NGC 5866, about 30 percent less than light takes to cross our own Galaxy. In general, many disk galaxies are very thin because the gas that formed them collided with itself as it rotated about the gravitational center. Galaxy NGC 5866 lies about 44 million light years distant toward the constellation of the Dragon (Draco).

Butt kissing

Atheist Rises Above Creeds

Atheism rises above creeds and puts Humanity upon one plane.
There can be no 'chosen people' in the Atheist philosophy.
There are no bended knees in Atheism;
No supplications, no prayers;
No sacrificial redemptions;
No 'divine' revelations;
No washing in the blood of the lamb;
No crusades, no massacres, no holy wars;
No heaven, no hell, no purgatory;
No silly rewards and no vindictive punishments;
No christs, and no saviors;
No devils, no ghosts and no gods.
-- Joseph Lewis, "Atheist Rises Above Creeds," part of an address on atheism delivered at a symposium at Community Church, New York City, April 20, 1930. Atheism and Other Addresses by Joseph Lewis (1941)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Some entries from The Devil's Dictionary , Ambrose Bierce,(1906)

Christian, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ insofar as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.

Evangelist, n. A bearer of good tidings, particularly (in a religious sense) such as assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of our neighbors.

Faith, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.

Infidel, n. In New York, one who does not believe in the Christian religion; in Constantinople, one who does.

Pray. v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy.

Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

Reverence, n. The spiritual attitude of a man to a god and a dog to a man.

Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

What next, a proposal to ban divorce?

Alien in Duck X-ray Fetches $9,600 on e-Bay

I am really going to start looking extra close at everything if money can be made this easily.

A local bird rescue group will be $9,600 richer thanks to an unlucky duck and an unusual X-ray.

The International Bird Rescue Research Center auctioned off an X-ray that appears to show an alien inside an injured mallard duck. The auction ended Sunday with a top bid of $9,600.

The mallard was taken in to the center in Cordelia with a broken wing. But when the center's assistant manager, Marie Travers, radiographed the bird, the X-ray came back with more than just broken bones.

"I saw a face. The stereotypical alien head ... with big eyes," Travers said.

Travers wasn't the only one who saw the large bulbous eye sockets and odd alien grimace on the head clearly seen tucked away in the duck's stomach.

"It clearly stood out," said center director Jay Holcomb. "We were looking at the broken wing, but the face is all we could look at."

Most assumed the bird had inadvertently eaten a toy alien or gobbled up something that closely resembled an otherworldly visitor. But after the duck succumbed to his injuries, a necropsy turned up even more suprises in the mallard's innards.

"Just corn, corn and grit," Travers said.

"No alien heads," Holcomb added.

While the investigation turned up no evidence of extraterrestrial intervention, Holcomb hoped the undeniably odd X-ray could help raise some cash from an online curiosity connoisseur.

"The poor bird didn't make it, but if we can raise money to take care of other birds, that's great," Holcomb said.

Holcomb said around Cordelia, a place where unusual crop circles back in 2003 were just one example of the area's proclivity for the otherworldly, the alien head may be more than just a X-ray anomaly.

"Cordelia's a hot bed of alien activity," Holcomb explained. "We've seen the crop circles, so it stands to reason we'd see an alien face staring out of a duck."

Stands to REASON? That's too funny!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Time to Stand Up

“My respect for the Abrahamic religions went up in the smoke and choking dust of September 11th. The last vestige of respect for the taboo disappeared as I watched the 'Day of Prayer' in Washington Cathedral, where people of mutually incompatible faiths united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place: religion. It is time for people of intellect, as opposed to people of faith, to stand up and say 'Enough!' Let our tribute to the dead be a new resolve: to respect people for what they individually think, rather than respect groups for what they were collectively brought up to believe.
-- "Time to Stand Up," written for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Sept. 2001. See Dawkins's Emperor Has No Clothes Award.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Dumbbell Nebula in Hydrogen and Oxygen

Credit & Copyright: George Jacoby (NOAO) et al., WIYN, AURA, NOAO, NSF

Explanation: The first hint of what will become of our Sun was discovered inadvertently in 1764. At that time, Charles Messier was compiling a list of "annoying" diffuse objects not to be confused with "interesting" comets. The 27th object on Messier's list, now known as M27 or the Dumbbell Nebula, is a planetary nebula, the type of nebula our Sun will produce when nuclear fusion stops in its core. M27 is one of the brightest planetary nebulae on the sky, and can be seen in the constellation Vulpecula with binoculars. It takes light about 1000 years to reach us from M27, shown above, digitally sharpened, in three isolated colors emitted by hydrogen and oxygen. Understanding the physics and significance of M27 was well beyond 18th century science. Even today, many things remain mysterious about bipolar planetary nebula like M27, including the physical mechanism that expels a low-mass star's gaseous outer-envelope, leaving an X-ray hot white dwarf.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Woman marries snake in traditional Hindu wedding

This is one of the weirdest stories I have read in awhile. How will this marriage be consummated, you ask ? And do you really want to know?

Charmed woman marries cobra in India

Fri Jun 2, 7:43 AM ET
BHUBANESWAR, India (AFP) - A woman who fell in love with a snake has married the reptile at a traditional Hindu wedding celebrated by 2,000 guests in India's Orissa state, reports said.

Bimbala Das wore a silk saree for the ceremony Wednesday at Atala village near the Orissa state capital Bhubaneswar.

Priests chanted mantras to seal the union, but the snake failed to come out of a nearby ant hill where it lives, the Press Trust of India (PTI) said on Friday.

A brass replica snake stood in for the hesitant groom.

"Though snakes cannot speak nor understand, we communicate in a peculiar way," Das, 30, told the agency.

"Whenever I put milk near the ant hill where the cobra lives, it always comes out to drink.

"I always get to see it every time I go near the ant hill. It has never harmed me," she added.

Villagers welcomed the wedding in the belief it would bring good fortune and laid on a feast for the big day.

Snakes and particularly the King Cobra are venerated in India as religious symbols worn by Lord Shiva, the god of destruction.

Das, from a lower caste, converted to the animal-loving vegetarian Vaishnav sect whose local elders gave her permission to marry the cobra, the world's largest venomous snake that can grow up to five metres.

"I am happy," said her mother Dyuti Bhoi, who has two other daughters and two sons to marry off.

"Bimbala was ill," Bhoi told local OTV channel. "We had no money to treat her. Then she started offering milk to the snake ... she was cured. That made her fall in love."

Das has moved into a hut built close to the ant hill since the wedding.

Earlier this year, a tribal girl was married off to a dog on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. (And I really don't want to know the details about that consummation etiher!)

Friday, June 02, 2006

More Like Larry, Curly and Moe!

The Ultimate Fate of Massive Stars

IC 443: Supernova Remnant and Neutron Star
Credit: Chandra X-ray: NASA/CXC/B.Gaensler et al; ROSAT X-ray: NASA/ROSAT/Asaoka & Aschenbach;
Radio Wide: NRC/DRAO/D.Leahy; Radio Detail: NRAO/VLA; Optical: DSS

Explanation: IC 443 is typical of the aftermath of a stellar explosion, the ultimate fate of massive stars. Seen in this false-color composite image, the supernova remnant is still glowing across the spectrum, from radio (blue) to optical (red) to x-ray (green) energies -- even though light from the stellar explosion that created the expanding cosmic cloud first reached planet Earth thousands of years ago. The odd thing about IC 443 is the apparent motion of its dense neutron star, the collapsed remnant of the stellar core. The close-up inset shows the swept-back wake created as the neutron star hurtles through the hot gas, but that direction is not aligned with the direction toward the apparent center of the remnant. The misalignment suggests that the explosion site was offset from the center or that fast-moving gas in the nebula has influenced the wake. The wide view of IC 443, also known as the Jellyfish nebula, spans about 65 light-years at the supernova remnant's estimated distance of 5,000 light-years.