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  03:30:37 am, by Nimble   , 758 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Politics, Religion

Musings On The Far-Right-Wing/Fundamentalist Connection

A thought struck me when deep in good conversation with a friend of mine the other day that the seemingly strong association between right wing philosophy and fundamentalist Christianity is one of a particular match-up with philosophy.

This is partly conjecture on my part, but I'm willing to predict that there's a kernel of truth...

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  07:29:39 pm, by Nimble   , 171 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Science

Sloan Digital Sky Survey Queries?

I had no idea that the data in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey was open to the public, but it is, and you can put your astronomy and database smarts together to help them find things, as well.

Because of the way their program has been put together, it's great at finding many kinds of objects, but sometimes does not recognize larger objects properly. So they are asking for help in finding HII regions, regions filled with ionized hydrogen.

There's a tutorial on how to put together database queries for the data, here's the SQL query tool, and the schema browser lets you look at the table structure, which has tables for ROSAT information, measured spectra, etc.

There's also a sky navigation tool that you can explore the sky with, and where you can input some of the coordinates from your queries to try a visual identification.

I'm impressed with the accessibility of the tools.

If my brain were less addled, I could certainly help them out in their HII quest :)

  03:56:36 am, by Nimble   , 380 words  
Categories: Announcements [A], Programming

Amiga OS 4.0

It's being reviewed on Ars Technica, and it's out in a final release version.

I find that spectacularly odd. I owned an Amiga; it took me through university, got me onto the Internet before most folks did, including the world wide web, and let me work with graphics, doing cataract surgery animation for Gimbel Eye Center back in the day, putting together park path guides, and making drilling and gas animation. It took years upon years for an almost-equally-passable paint program to show up on PCs.

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  03:25:59 am, by Nimble   , 3641 words  
Categories: Thoughts, People, Religion

Possum # 1 Versus Minister

There has been an interesting little saga going on over at Atheist in a Mini-van, regarding an incident where one of the bloggers' two young ones (Possum # 1) write a surprisingly eloquent essay in respond to a 'surprise essay' (much like a surprise quiz).

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  10:55:48 pm, by Nimble   , 114 words  
Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Science


I just encountered this little gem of a quote in the book, The New Physics : For The 21st Century on page 185:

The word laser is an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, (Actually, most lasers are not operated as amplifiers with an input and output beam but as stand-alone oscillators; however, the acronym with "o" instead of "a" has less appeal!)

Fortunately for us, the cool, destructive applications involve amplification, or else we would be perhaps agog at the use of loser beams in the 22nd century.

They'd probably figure out a way around that, though, perhaps by switching the "L" of light with... "P" for photons?

POSER beams! Even better!


  12:06:24 am, by Nimble   , 199 words  
Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Science

Proteins to Music

Now this is an unusual site.

Not only is it chock-full of information about genetics, but they've picked a rather unusual means to present protein sequences to music.

Every three DNA 'letters' codes for a particular amino acid, so they have put together music such that each triplet of DNA letters plays as three notes while a foreground note plays a note, which is higher the more hydrophilic ("water-loving") the corresponding amino acid is.

To top it off, they also add some instrument changes, depending on whether the amino acids code for common structure in proteins, like the alpha helix, played by a flute (which so rarely sounds like a flute on sound cards).

They make small variations on the theme for some of the other "songs". Representing a bit of protein with spots that bind calcium, the parts that correspond to the calcium-binding will play vibraphone in the background.

There's a spot where they try to represent all the of the varieties of beta globin between species. It's impressive how very un-different human beta globin (part of hemoglobin in blood) is from tree shrews... and how little even those differences matter to their functionality in carrying oxygen around.


  12:56:07 am, by Nimble   , 223 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Religion, Science

Billions Of Gaps!

Pat over at Red State Rabble just had to find something else someone said to make my blood boil!

The joke that we have been making for the past many years is that every time we discover a fossil that fills in a missing link, we've just created two missing links. At least, it just never seemed to matter how many we found, we were always challenged to explain a different gap.

I never expected such an asinine concept to blossom in book form, though admittedly, I am just going by the summary here on their site:

In the book Simmons shows that as modern science has progressed from the visible to the invisible (microscopic, submicroscopic, genetic, biochemical and genetic) the numbers of missing links have skyrocketed. Every "link" discovered brings many more questions (missing links) than answers.

To celebrate this manifestation of hallucination-made-print, I hereby present the following graphic, graphs according to creationists:

Creationist Graphs

I'm sure there are some that go this far with God of the gaps, but I'm not sure where they are.

'Inferences are harder to draw when you fill in more data points' seems to be the implication of so many of the missing link arguments I have ever heard. It's as if pictures sent via noisy faxes are somehow worse than pictures represented by constellations in the sky.


  08:54:39 pm, by Nimble   , 2192 words  
Categories: Thoughts, People, Religion, Science

Liddle Stirs It Up

I must admit, after seeing the sort of commentary and reaction she generated with her extremely well-spoken remarks about evolutionary theory, Elizabeth Liddle has earned herself a new fan. Well, there's actually a line-up of fans now; I might just be able to make out the front of the queue.

Essentially, she took the words of William Dembski, a pioneer of the scientifically vacuous 'Intelligent Design' movement, at face value, and used his operational definition of intelligence to show that the random mutation plus natural selection process is intelligent, according to that very definition.

It's a long read of the saga over at Panda's Thumb.

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  01:12:16 pm, by Nimble   , 632 words  
Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Ethics, People

International Breast Milk Project

Perusing the surprisingly interesting Freakonomics blog (I reviewed his book here), I came across his entry on the International Breast Milk Project, started by Jill Youse, who was producing way more breast milk than her baby could ever drink. With the charity so far, they have sent two cases of breast milk to Durban in South Africa, which has been ravaged pretty nastily by AIDS and is probably set to suffer even more from it through AIDS denialism.

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  02:04:29 am, by Nimble   , 313 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Science

Quasars Are The Same All The Way Back

You might have to be pretty darned science nerdy to sit and watch the entire presentation by Michael Strauss like I did.

These are some fairly serious results back from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

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  08:41:01 pm, by Nimble   , 374 words  
Categories: Announcements [A]

Rest In Peace, Amestris

I regret to announce that our female button quail, Amestris, has passed away:

Button quails

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  07:45:56 pm, by Nimble   , 307 words  
Categories: Distractions, Games

Netstorm Lives!


Looking through my shelf of game titles, I found a game that I remember having immense troubles with on a particular level. That game was Netstorm.

It's a quirky title - a meld of RTS and puzzle game. You have a priest who can build workshops and make energy sources, and you can build generators, shielding towers, and weapons, harvesting storm crystals with the ultimate goal of paralyzing the enemy priest, fetching him, and sacrificing him on a storm altar to win the round and new technology.

Your temple lets you build bridge segments. The bridge segments have to "dry out" to be of good quality. If you use them too quickly, any nearby explosions will cause your bridge and anything connected to it to fall into the abyss. There is a Tetris-esque component to this part of the game, especially if you're trying to hook the bridges up to other islands or storm geysers, and you have to leave yourself enough side bridges so that you can hook generators and weapons to it.

The strategy is interesting in that there are multiple specialized elements in addition to the non-specialized "sun" element which lend some strategy. Ice towers are not very strong, but they re-form. Thunder cannons are extremely powerful, but they can only face in one direction. Sun disc throwers are very weak, but can kill whirligigs in flight and can attack at any angle.

Since Activision abandoned the game in 2002 (shutting down all servers), Netstorm HQ has stepped up to the plate. Best of all (save for the fact that others have had to step in to support it), it has become abandonware, and you can download the game from there (minus the music that came on the original CD, I believe).

I bet I will get stuck again on that same darned level, though. Grrr.


  10:23:06 pm, by Nimble   , 572 words  
Categories: Reviews, Games

Spellforce 2

Spellforce 2 is the sequel to the Spellforce game that I quite enjoyed.

For those of you who have never played Spellforce games before, they are a combination of a party-based adventure game like Baldur's Gate, and a resource-and-building RTS game like Starcraft. You have a party that you can outfit with new equipment, select their skills, etc.

The story is set past the era of the rune warriors, and the RTS aspect of the game feels a lot more "ordinary" than in the original (conjuring beings out of monuments was a favourite aspect of mine in the original). It's a fairly epic story, although confusing at times.

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  11:34:58 pm, by Nimble   , 121 words  
Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Religion, Science

Identify the Creationist Quiz


Admittedly, this is a little harder than your average quiz on identifying various kinds of creationists, with the addition of odder categories like Omphalos Creationist and Vedic Creationist, but it pays to know your creationists.

What would this be?

For Teilhard de Chardin, the acceptance of the factual reality of darwins theory does not require a rejection of Christianity. All of evolution, he thought, is moving towards a point of convergence called the Omega Point: a condition of synthesis that is at once the logical outcome of natural evolutionary processes and a state of consummate union with the divine

I'll help you cheat on the first answer, since it doesn't fit all that well with the others: it's a Theistic Evolutionist.


  09:16:58 pm, by Nimble   , 293 words  
Categories: Distractions

Simple English Wikipedia


If you go to the main Wikipedia page, you will get a multitude of options of languages. One "language" that caught a coworker's eye was "Simple English". The guidelines are to use simple words, keeping low literacy and foreign speakers in mind, using Basic English where possible (the BE 850 list, or the BE 1500 list), in addition to other terms that can be linked to other pages. Of course, that can sometimes be difficult. Many of the pages have a caveat that "somebody doesn't think this is simple English".

Contrast the first part of the Simple English entry on Nuclear Fission...

Nuclear fission is something that happens with atoms and gives off a lot of energy, and is used in nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors. This process was discovered in December 1938 by the German nuclear chemist Otto Hahn and his assistant Fritz Strassmann in Berlin.

...with the regular one...

Nuclear fission—also known as atomic fission—is a process in nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry in which the nucleus of an atom splits into two or more smaller nuclei as fission products, and usually some by-product particles. Hence, fission is a form of elemental transmutation. The by-products include free neutrons, photons usually in the form gamma rays, and other nuclear fragments such as beta particles and alpha particles. Fission of heavy elements is an exothermic reaction and can release substantial amounts of useful energy both as gamma rays and as kinetic energy of the fragments (heating the bulk material where fission takes place).

The Simple English version is definitely lacking in a lot of entries. If you have patience, can keep to BE 1500, and want to make your mark on Wikipedia, this might be a way to cut your teeth on the Wikipedia project.

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