In constant search of excellence

T.S. Eliot translated into lolcat! Here: Wasteland


Excitement and joy!

The first image of the previously unphotographed and unseen hemisphere of Mercury is released!!! In the upper right, Caloris Basin, only part of which was observed by Mariner 10 over 30 years ago.

For more info, go to MESSENGER images page.


42 minutes left

MESSENGER approaching Mercury! About 40 minutes till closest approach.

See the whole series of this, the first flyby of three.


No fun for us

The chance of the rock WD5 impacting Mars on Jan 30 has gone down to 1 in 10000, sadly. This animation shows the decrease in uncertainty considering its trajectory (image from Planetary Society):

the idiocy never stops

I may be somewhat late in finding this out, but I suppose better that than after the fact.

Colorado, this year, is trying to put on the ballot a state constitutional amendment stating that a fertilized egg is legally a person. "Voters would decide if a fertilized egg is entitled to the Colorado constitutional protections of inalienable rights, equality of justice and due process of law."

Apparently one does not need any differentiated organs at all, much less a brain, to be considered a person. That certainly plays in the hands of the majority of this amendment's supporters, who cannot be distinguished from tree-stumps in most cases. Yes, this should go a long way towards recognition of their civil rights. Tree stumps and sea cucumbers of the world unite! Your lack of capacity for cognitive function does not mean you can be denied full human rights!

This is so fascinating: would menstruation then be considered negligent homicide? Or involuntary manslaughter (since obviously this amendment has little to do with women's rights)? What about all those frozen embryos? Wow...

??????? Words fail, as often when dealing with brainlessness of this magnitude. Even if, as is likely, the amendment sinks without a trace, the willingness of our legal system to allow such a ridiculous travesty of democratic process to proceed does not bode well for the future of liberty in this republic.



slowly losing Florida part 2

Taylor county, Florida, refuses to accept the teaching of evolution in schools! The link is to a pdf of the Nov 20th meeting. They are—get this!—opposed to "teaching evolution as a fact". It probably is one of the most idiotic statements that could be made by anyone; soon they'll be voting on changing the value of pi to 3, and, I am sure, on even more idiotic measures.

Among the gems in that product of arrogant ignorance is this statement: "we are requesting that the State Board of Education direct the Florida Department of Education to revise/edit the new Sunshine State Standards for Science so that evolution is presented as one of several theories as to how the universe was formed". The morons not only have no clue about scientific method and biology, but they seem to be conflating the Big Bang theory with that of evolution. And then, people like them have the nerve to state, when speaking of atheists, "Because their arguments are really quite lightweight intellectually, they resort to nastiness.".

No, we resort to nastiness because your idiocy is so overwhelming that we are at a loss for words. Not that logic and rationality would make an impact on your tiny benighted rudimentary brains even if we regained our power of speech. Sheesh.

more laughter in the dark dept

Of course, this is a classic Onion and bloody hilarious, and, naturally, frightening at the same time:

Bush Begins Preparations For Nations Final Year

The Onion

Bush Begins Preparations For Nation's Final Year

WASHINGTON-The president assured citizens he would do everything possible over next few months to promote a smooth transition into utter oblivion.


A simple solution?

"Pope Benedict XVI has instructed Roman Catholics to pray "in perpetuity" to cleanse the Church of paedophile clergy. All dioceses, parishes, monasteries, convents and seminaries will be expected to organise continuous daily prayers to express penitence and to purify the clergy."

Now that is a cheap and easy way of doing it, and, most likely will be endorsed by the paedophiles themselves. I suppose it fits within Christian ontology, but, for my money, more efficient, even though naturalistic, ways of solving the problem can be imagined.

How stupid can people get?

a very special Mercury conjunction

on January 14th, MESSENGER, the NASA Mercury probe, will make its first closest approach to Mercury; the last time anything constructed by humans was anywhere near that planet was in March 1975, when Mariner 10 made its final flyby.

But MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging) is so much cooler! Of course, the technology now was probably little dreamed of more than 30 years ago, but MESSENGER will also, after a series of three flybys, will enter, on October 18 2001, into orbit around Mercury! Keep your eyes on the news; the official MESSENGER site is excellent; make sure you check it out.

This is cool science, indeed.


Mars impact becomes more probable

The chances of the asteroid WD5 missing Mars and depriving us of a great show have been downgraded to 27 out of 28. Keep your finger crossed, as the orbit is calculated to better precision.


You know where my sympathies lie...

Another excellently hilarious quote from a bogus discipline:

“Either homeopathy works or controlled trials don’t!”

—Scottish homeopath David Reilly at the 2001 Harvard Medical School Complementary and Integrative Medicine Conference.

New Blog

A wonderful new Science Blog: A Good Poop. Yeah, check it out...don't be scared...

important issues

Presidential candidates (and, as of yesterday, several ex-candidates), on some important scientific issues here. The three questions asked specifically were related to stem cell research, global warning and the teaching of creationism in schools, and it is more significant to note those candidates that did NOT respond than those that did. In any case, looking at the candidate's campaign pages simply confirms for me that the Republican party has been taken over by theocratic authoritarian troglodytes. I can live with the Democrats, however, at least on the issues that involve some degree of empiricism.

Should we give up on Florida?

I mean, some people thought so back in 2000, but I wasn't one of them. However, they are currently

still debating
whether to teach
in high schools.

I sort of thought that they did already; forgive me for my ignorance, but isn't it, like, 2008? Apparently, the state of Florida is only now discussing whether to stay in Dark Ages for another…what…several hundred years, and a lot of its residents SUPPORT THE IDEA. The sheer idiocy of this is overwhelming. I must say though, that the funniest bits in the above links are—naturally—in the comment sections. That's where sheer imbecility lurks…

so you think you know HTML?

A wonderfully hilarious place, The HTML Hell Page. Yes, I am guilty of several of the transgressions listed therein, but not too many, and I insist that I was an early adopter of the hatred and disgust for several other idiocies described there. Plus, a lot of this sage advice does not really apply to a free blog site, on which you are stuck with pre-designed templates and weird advertising blurbs beyond your control. Anyway, chock full of lovely rants and design tips for anyone trying to make the world notice.


everyone should visit

Scroll down...in the sidebar entitled "my faraway home" there is a new ani-banner (in Russian): check it out; it'll take you to a massive collection of photo-galleries from my hometown, St Petersburg (Leningrad): the most beautiful city on the planet...



Russia letting it slip

An absolutely horrible article pushing creationism has been published by Pravda, of all sources. The english version is rather hilarious, repeating most of the usual creationist canards. Total garbage, needless to say, and yet another indication that Pravda's editorial policies have not changed much since the halcyon Communist days: an old Soviet joke said "There is no truth ("pravda" in Russian) in Pravda; there are no news ("izvestiya" in Russian) in Izvestiya (another major Soviet paper). It was true then, it still seems to be true now.


It passed (about 20 minutes ago) and everything still seems to be the same. But now we are receding from the Sun at about 5 km/sec, although paradoxically (for the Northern Hemisphere anyway, and not really in any case) the weather in Portland is looking up.

some important definitions

After participating in some--mostly hilarious--exchanges in MySpace fora, I realized that certain terms are not used by many participants in a standard way (especially by those of newage or religious varieties, although some atheists and scientists have also been guilty of such transgressions). Allow me to propose some much needed redefinitions that would surely go a long way towards resolving all the confusion and bitterness due to misunderstandings.

a.close-minded: somebody who refuses to accept the correctness of my beliefs.

b.arrogant: somebody who presumes to question my beliefs.

c.truth-seeker: somebody who has found it already and is now only accepting further confirmations of their rightness; myself, certainly; others, not so likely.

d.scientism: usage of science to question my particular cherished dogma.

e.reasonable: somebody comfortable with my ontology and metaphysics, somebody that will gladly accept that black is white, if I say so.

I am sure there are several more, including the antonyms to the above definitions, but I hope this will be of some help...


pretty pictures

Cassini team had a vote for the best Saturn image of 2007. Oooh! Awesome!...get yer desktop backrounds straight from the source! The winner was, of course, this:

The rest of the results are here