Sunday, November 25, 2012

I Was Wrong

I was wrong, it isn't women that I miss while in Africa, on the EG compound, it is just youth and genuine laughter.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Crowd Full of Cowards!

The original article can be found here:

Not a day goes by when I get a message from a conservative telling me that I must vote for Mitt Romney, not just because a vote for Gary Johnson (or anyone other than Romney or Obama) would be a wasted vote, but that we must vote for the one guy who has a shot of defeating Obama to save our country. That we absolutely cannot vote for anyone other than Romney, because if Obama gets another four years this country will no longer exist. There’s a reason for this.
They’re cowards.
Hard hitting? Yes.
True? Fuck Yes!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How About the Physics of Sex?

Physics and sex - of all the things that make life awesome, they might be my favorite.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pre-RNC in Downtown Tampa

I don't have a ton of time to post this morning, as I'm about to walk out the door for my Level 1 Krav Maga test (nothing like 4 hours of getting your ass kicked to start a weekend). But I wanted to get some pictures put up real quick that I grabbed Friday afternoon, in downtown Tampa. These were taken about 72 hours before the start of the Republican National Convention (and the arrival of most of the protesters).

Hillsborough county courthouse normally has an all glass front but not during the RNC 2012 convention. I would say that this is due to the impending hurricane, but the same treatment was given to only a handful of other government buildings in downtown.

First roadside barricades I came across were at Madison and Twiggs, probably about 1/4 mile from the actual convention.
Some more barricades as you head down Twiggs. These ones are specifically designed to allow the police to stand above the protesters on the other side of them.

No actual officers in sight. I saw this numerous times in the area. Where vehicles had been staged but there was no sign of actual officers nearby.

This was an odd one. Lone security officer standing outside of a boarded up business. The individual talking to her just happened to walk up as I was about to take the pic. Also, immediately after I took this picture, as I was crossing the road, 3 other security personnel stepped out of the building.

Wells Fargo bank. While there is a large number of banks represented in downtown Tampa, this was the only one I saw which had found it necessary to place barricades in front of their entrance.
This was one of many seemingly odd fence placements that I saw in downtown. This here is a park not actually attached to the forum or any hotes (to the best of my knowledge) and yet it is fenced off for some reason (perhaps to keep Occupy from taking over the park)?
The front of the convention center. Nothing too special going on here. You will notice that the fences here are far less "menacing" than those throughout the rest of town. My guess is that the other fences make a less positive PR image.
Most interesting thing I saw the entire time I was downtown. These two SUVs are unmarked police/security vehicles. Moments before I took this picture they had been staying still, with internal lights flashing. As soon as I pulled out my phone to take the shot, the lights went out and they drove away. I walked a maybe 15 to 20 feet down the road and immediately 2 identical SUVs came up to take their place, with lights on.  I went to pull out my phone to take a picture of those two and the exactly the same thing happened again. Lights off and they drove away.  All that seemed odd, but it got really weird when, after I had walked a bit further down the road two more SUVs came up and again parked in this space (to the convention center)
Is the Tampa Municipal building a target for some reason? One would think so from this looks of things.

5/3 Bank. I took this picture to contrast it against Wells Fargo. This is actually a few blocks closer to the convention center than the Wells Fargo bank, and yet no barricades of any kind to be found (and not protective sheeting for the windows).

Overall, it felt as thought there was a much, much higher security effort to the North of the convention center than to the South or East. When I left I drove past Channel Side (east of the convention center) and there was very little visible difference from usual, with one exception. I was passed by a "police convoy" consisting of 3 SUVs and 2 dually trucks (why the Tampa police need dually trucks, especially for the RNC is beyond me) which were heading towards the convention center as I was leaving.
 Update: Ended up not having enough time to finish it before Krav Maga, hence why this is being posted on Sunday morning instead.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Conservapedia: Guaranteed to be 99% Bullshit

Today I want to write about a little gem-of-ignorance over at I was introduced to today.

Even their logo is ridiculous

If you've never heard of Conservapedia before, they are a fundamentalist run, Christian-right biased, version of Wikipedia. Anti-intellectual would also be a fair label to attach to their website. As should be obvious from that description - I'm not a fan of their site. In any number of ways, they are the antithesis to many of the very values that I hold in high regard. Hence my surprise when my opinion of conservapedia was lowered even further.

How they managed to accomplish such a feat was through the truly stunning piece of anti-intellectual garbage (even by their standards) that is their page on E=mc². I don't recommend actually visiting the page, so as to spare your brain from the trauma that it would have to endure. I have copied the first paragraph here (it does a pretty good job of outlining the rest of the page's "information"):
E=mc² is Einstein's famous formula which asserts that the energy (E) which makes up the matter in any body is equal to the square of the speed of light () times the mass (m) of that body.[1] It is a meaningless, almost nonsensical, statement that purports to relate all matter to light. In fact, no theory has successfully unified the laws governing mass (i.e.gravity) with the laws governing light (i.e.electromagnetism), and numerous attempts to derive E=mc² in general from first principles have failed. Political pressure, however, has since made it impossible for anyone pursuing an academic career in science to even question the validity of this nonsensical equation. Simply put, E=mc² is liberal claptrap.  

For anyone who has even the most basic understanding of the statement  E=mc² and physics, it should be plainly obvious that the above statement is almost pure fiction. The only points in it which aren't the apparent result of some fundy's wet dream are:

E=mc² is Einstein's famous formula which asserts that the energy (E) which makes up the matter in any body is equal to the square of the speed of light () times the mass (m) of that body.[1] It is a meaningless, almost nonsensical, statement that purports to relate all matter to light. In fact, no theory has successfully unified the laws governing mass (i.e.gravity) with the laws governing light (i.e.electromagnetism), and numerous attempts to derive E=mc² in general from first principles have failed. Political pressure, however, has since made it impossible for anyone pursuing an academic career in science to even question the validity of this nonsensical equation. Simply put, E=mc² is liberal claptrap.
Or, cleaned up:
E=mc²... asserts that the energy (E)... is equal to the square of the speed of light () times the mass (m) of that body.
Lets look at the original statement's falsities, piece-by-piece; Because that is really just too much garbage to handle all at once.

Einstein's Famous Formula?

Einstein's famous formula
While it is common to hear people refer to it as his, Einstein was not the first to publish the equation E=mc². This is something which takes all of about five seconds worth of research to find out and is a sign as to how much effort the ideologues at conservapedia actually put into checking pesky things like "facts".

Einstein is certainly responsible for much of the work behind the current understanding of  E=mc², which he called mass-energy equivalence and outlined in his 1905 paper Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?. He was hardly the first scientist to propose such a relationship though and is not the only one to contribute to its modern understanding:
Contributors to Equation  E=mc²
Before Einstein, among other physicists, Isaac Newton, English S. T. Preston in 1875, French Poincaré in 1900, Italian De Pretto in 1903, German F. Hasenöhrl made significant contributions in speculations and derivations of  E=mc². After Einstein Planck has also derived  E=mc²  independently. J J Thomson in 1888 is also believed to have anticipated  E=mc²  from Maxwell’s equations.

In total, finding that information probably took all of about 30 seconds. It is readily available and there is no way that someone searching for information on E=mc² wouldn't come across it. The only sensible explanation for conservapedia getting it wrong is that they are a) either too lazy to bother with basic research before writing or b) are purposefully misleading their audience in order to push their ideological viewpoint - I'll let you decide which it actually is.

Energy Makes Up the Matter in Any Body?

energy (E) which makes up the matter in any body 

Stanford University has published a great piece titled The Equivalence of Mass and Energy, I'll let it do the heavy lifting here: 
Although it is far less common today, one still sometimes hears of Einstein's equation entailing that matter can be converted into energy. Strictly speaking, this constitutes an elementary category mistake. In relativistic physics, as in classical physics, mass and energy are both regarded as properties of physical systems or properties of the constituents of physical systems. ... we can assert that whatever sense of “conversion” seems compelling between mass and energy, it will have to be a “conversion” between mass and energy, and not between matter and energy.
As the author, Francisco Fernflores, implies - it could be that this is an honest mistake on the part of conservapedia - but, based on the wealth of dishonest material which they publish with such seemingly little regard for accuracy, I doubt it.

It Relates All Matter to Light

It is a meaningless, almost nonsensical, statement that purports to relate all matter to light.
First: It is a mathematically derived equation, so by its very nature it has meaning.
Second: It is a mathematically derived equation, which makes complete logical sense. A simple explanation of where the equation comes from, in this case using Einstein's method, can be achieved in about two minutes and eleven seconds: 

Third: Neither "matter" nor "light" are the focus of the equation Energy equals Mass times the Speed of Light squared. What the equation does do is relate the relativistic mass of an object to the speed of light. While swapping out matter for mass and light for speed-of-light may not seem like much of a difference, it fundamentally misrepresents the relationships which exist within this equation.

Theory of Everything

In fact, no theory has successfully unified the laws governing mass (i.e.gravity) with the laws governing light (i.e.electromagnetism)...
I'm  not sure why the idiots over at conservapedia didn't use the words "general relativity" and "quantum mechanics" here. Perhaps such phrases are beyond the grasp of their normal audience. Regardless, the words that they use result in yet another false statement. 

While there is not yet an experimentally verified theory relating General Theory of Relativity and Quantum  Theory, each of these theories does successfully predict the behavior of light and mass, within their areas of application. Also, there is no singular set of "laws governing mass" or "laws governing light", in the case of 

E=mc², m is referring to relativistic mass.

True, sort of

...numerous attempts to derive E=mc² in general from first principles have failed.
In physics, first principles refers to established, basic laws of physics. This statement is actually true but what it implies is not. Often within physics, assumptions are made about different aspects of reality in order to develop valid proofs and theories. E=mc² is not unique in this way, despite what the above statement would lead someone to believe. The reason that these assumptions are accepted is because they result in proofs and theories which accurately predict experimental data, such as in the case of E=mc². Some of these fundamental assumptions can be found here. 

Crap Cherry on a Crap Sundae

 Political pressure, however, has since made it impossible for anyone pursuing an academic career in science to even question the validity of this nonsensical equation. Simply put, E=mc² is liberal claptrap.
This here is the least surprising of all the statements within this opening paragraph. It is an example of the typical reasons that I have nothing but disdain for conservapedia, its authors, and those who believe it is a valid source of information. It is the typical kind of anti-intellectual, science-is-a-liberal-conspiracy bullshit that politically motivated assholes love to spew all over the place, just hoping some of it will stick.  

Typically, this type of attack is targeted towards that Theory of Evolution or Theory of the Big Bang, where it is ultimately just as ridiculous and unfounded. Disproving the major theories is where the "money" is in science. There is no faster way in the Universe for a scientist to ensure herself unlimited grant money and a permanent place in history then by disproving one of these core theories.

As it turns out though, this is a particularly bad time to be making a claim that it is impossible to question the validity of E=mc², or Einstein in general, since the majority of the scientific community was doing just that only a matter of months ago, Has a Speeding Neutrino Really Overturned Einstein? 

Conservapedia: Zero Minus 1?

Like I said at the start of this, I wasn't a fan of conservapedia before today and I'm certainly not one now. That said, it isn't every day that an organization for which I had zero respect for in the first place, is actually able to lower my estimation of them either further. Maybe there's a scientific hypothesis in all of this somewhere: 

C=(PI)S² also known as Conservapedia equals the quantity Political Ideology times Stupid Squared.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Magic Underwear and Evil Condoms

These pretty well sum up my feelings towards Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Curiosity has Landed!

For over four thousand years of recorded history humans have stared at a distant red dot in the night skies; We have wondered what it might be and what it could tell us of our lives here on Earth.

Starting today, a car sized, one tonne, engineering marvel will enable us to explore Mars in ways that were never before possible. We will learn more about the composition of the Red-planet, in the next two years, than in all previous human history combined; All of which is the result of astounding scientific ingenuity and engineering genius. The Curiosity rover required 10 years of direct work and 3.4 million years of accumulated scientific knowledge to become reality. It traveled a total of 352 million miles, in eight months, and landed completely autonomously - with its final landing stages requiring it be lowered to the surface of Mars by a sky-crane!

This morning I find myself filled with absolute wonder about the world and Universe - I want to know what we will learn tomorrow and to see humans push even further past our current limits of understanding. Will we some day be seeing, not a rover, but a manned mission being lowered onto the Martian surface? Will Curiosity lead to new clues as to how life arose here on Earth? What implications will the scientific discoveries of Curiosity have on daily life here on Earth? I don't know the answer to any of these questions yet but I can not wait to find out!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

10 Questions The Stupid Atheists Can't Answer

We've all probably seen some variation of this graphic before:

Personally, I've seen many different versions of it, containing a varying numbers of questions, always with the overall purpose being to provide evidence for the existence of God.

While my friend, who posted it on my Facebook page, meant it as a joke (one which I definitely laughed at), the actual points that it contains are all representative of real questions I've had Theists ask me. Since I'm 99.999% sure that the same questions will be asked of me again at some point; I figured why not just write down the answers instead of restating them time-and-time again?

So here goes, very quick answers to the above questions:

Monkey: Because we didn't come from monkeys, and certainly not modern monkeys. We share a common ancestor with modern chimpanzees and bonobos. This common ancestor, to the best of our scientific knowledge, has been extinct for approximately 5 to 7 million years. While that common ancestor no longer exists, it did result in divergent evolutionary paths; which is why humans and chimpanzees exist within the same taxonomic tribe (biological grouping between family and genus) but are of different genus. 

Mountain: Yes, although it happens on such a slow scale that seeing more than a few inches take place over a single person's life time is highly unlikely. Luckily the earth has been around for about 4.6 billion years, so there was plenty of time for it to take place. Also, we know that mountains do form over millions and billions of years, based on "mountains" of scientific evidence which all point to the same conclusion.

Cat-o-shark: There is no evidence to support species-to-species transitional forms. Belief in such a thing shows a complete lack of understanding of modern evolutionary theory (or even basic Darwinian evolutionary theory).

Peanut Butter Life: the truly spontaneous appearance of life, regardless of conditions, is something theists may believe in but there is absolutely no scientific evidence for it. Most modern scientific hypothesis and theories lay out a requirement of very specific conditions, which can no longer be found on earth, as being necessary for the appearance of a living organism. As a side note, there are multiple reasons why peanut butter can last, without refrigeration, for about a year. Two of the main ones are, extremely low moisture content (around 2%) and very high oil content.

Calendar vs Geological Age: The year, 2012, is actually the year 2012 CE (or AD according to some Christians). CE refers to the "Common Era". The Gregorian calendar (which is the calendar used by the majority of western society) beaks the recording of time into two halves, CE (Christian AD) and BCE (Christian BC). The point at which these two halves meet can be imagined as a "zero" point on a timeline. Both CE and BCE continue indefinitely in either direction, increasing as they move further from the "zero" point. So, while we are only at 2012 to the CE side of the zero point, the earth's geological age actually extends out past 4 billion on the BCE side of the zero point.

Making Man out of Dirt: It might happen but the odds are so exceptionally small that you are far more likely to be struck by lighting, bitten by a shark, and hit by a meteorite at the same. However, even if it did occur, there is no scientific evidence that links modern humans as having come from a pile of sand. Evolutionary theory on the other hand, does an outstanding job of explaining how modern humans came to be and is supported by huge sums of scientific evidence.

Banana-to-Hand Ratio: While the common, super market banana certainly has an intelligent designer, it isn't a mythical being at all. The "common" banana has been selectively bred by humans through artificial selection. Wild bananas look drastically different and lack many of the "perfect" qualities that the banana found in a super market possess.

Big Bang: Nothing about the "big bang" cosmological model claims that the universe arose from nothing. Again, belief that it does shows a basic misunderstanding of modern science.

Grass-o-Minnow: See "Cat-o-Shark" above.

Monkey-Mom: See "Monkey" above.

As a side note, these explanations are all relatively brief and, if holes can be found in them, it shouldn't be too surprising. Each of these answers could easily be expanded to take up several pages of explanation and entire books are dedicated to a few of them. That being said, they should be fairly sufficient as quick answers to relatively simple and uninformed questions.

As always, feel free to post any comments or questions you have below; especially if you found a mistake in one of my answers up above.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Atheism: Some Common Misconceptions

I've posted this before (or at least something similar) but it seems that there is a need for it again, based on comments and messages I have received from people over the last 24 hours or so. Below are responses to various ideas and beliefs I seem to continually have sent my way in response to either being an Atheist or commenting on something posted by a Theist.

  • Beyond the belief that deity(s) do not exist, Atheists do not share a common set of beliefs. Just as with every other group, Atheists have wide ranging views spanning the political, ideological, and philosophical spectrum. 
    Yes, I know that they aren't all Atheists.

  • As an Atheist, I am more than happy to reconsider my current views of deities if I am presented with new evidence contrary to my current understanding. However, an extraordinary claim (of which the existence of a deity is one) requires extraordinary evidence. For example, if you claim that there is a dragon living in your garage, then you had better come to me with better evidence than a charred marshmallow you swear his breath toasted for you last night.


  • Science can not answer all of life's questions (at least not at this point). However, this isn't evidence for the existence of God or any other deity. The inability to understand something is not a justification to insert God (or any other deity) into the gaps.

  •  Atheists, in general, do not "hate" God and I certainly don't. Besides the notion of hating something I don't believe in being a bit ridiculous, I didn't depart from my Christianity and my former belief in God out of anger. I departed from it based on the accumulation of knowledge about a broad range of subjects and the realization that there is no evidence to justify a belief in God (or any other deity).

  • The Theory of Evolution does not explain either the origin of the Universe or the origin of life. These three items are not tied to one another. While they may share common evidence, each of them exists independent of the others.

  • The Theory of the "Big Bang" does not claim that the Universe arose from nothing. The majority of Atheists do not believe that the Universe arouse from nothing. I am perfectly content in acknowledging that I don't know what existed, if anything, before the Big Bang. Again though, not knowing something is not a justification for inserting a deity into the gap. 
    The Theory of the Big Bang explains the current Universe, not what existed before the Big Bang.

  • Even if the Theory of Evolution, Theory of the Big Bang, and various Theories associated with the origin of life were all disproven tomorrow, this would still not necessarily be evidence for a deity. Our understanding of the world around us is continually changing. Evidence contrary to currently held beliefs requires that those beliefs be adjusted based on the new evidence. Where religion ignores evidence that is contrary to beliefs, science embraces evidence contrary to beliefs and adjusts those beliefs accordingly. 

  • There are a number of logical fallacies associated with the argument that someone should "believe in God just to be on the safe side", commonly known as Pascal's Wager. I'm not going to list them all here but, such an argument is flawed for a great many reasons.

  • The "creation narrative" as laid out in The Book of Genesis is incompatible with all modern scientific understanding of how creation of the universe, solar system, earth, life, and speciation took place. Believing that the story is literally true requires ignoring scientific evidence to the contrary from the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, and many others. 

  • Scientists want to disprove theories, including the Theory of Evolution! The quickest way for a young grad student to become world famous and have unlimited access to grant money, for as long as she lives, would be for them to disprove a theory which is part of major public discourse, such as the Theory of Evolution or the Theory of the Big Bang. Scientists, in general, have far more motivation to prove that the current understanding of something is incorrect then they do to lie about something being correct. Nearly every famous scientist in history is famous for one of two reasons: 1) They discovered something new or 2) They disproved a prior understanding of something. Newton is famous for founding Newtonian Physics; Einstein is famous for disproving Newtonian Physics and giving us General Relativity.

I think that covers the big points that I hear most often. If I missed something or you disagree with something, feel free to let me know by commenting below.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Today's Lesson: Children's socks were created to frustrate parents.

As every adult knows, the laundry dryer eats socks. You put two matching socks in and only one of them comes out. Somewhere in between pushing the start button and the buzzer letting you know that you have clothing to fold, Sock Gnomes open a secret door in the dryer and collect their weekly sock harvest.

As an adult, this is a bit frustrating and usually results in having one extra sock left over after matching all the other socks with their mates. The lonely widow sock is left by itself, waiting for a day when the Sock Gnomes will steal another sock's mate, at which point two widowed socks can become a new pair for a while.

This level of frustration is nothing though compared to the insanity that arises when you toss two small children into the mix. It turns out that the manufacturers of children's socks are secretly in league with the Sock Gnomes to drive parents insane! Children's sock manufacturers actively work so that no two pairs of kids socks look the same and the Sock Gnomes increase the insanity by only trying to collect one of each sock design.

Currently the count is 20 socks (yes, I counted them). Right now there are 20 tiny toddler and first grader socks sitting on the couch, each one of them looking completely different from the other 19!

I know what some of you are thinking, "John, just put two different socks on them and it will be fine. Their shoes will cover them up anyways." Having already made this mistake once, and only once, I caution against it. I wasn't aware but the 2nd Law of Parenting states that for every parent who sees this as a solution, there is an equal and opposite parent who will not. Trust me, it is better for your well being if you simply avoid this path all together.

I intend to solve this problem after work today, new plain white socks for everyone! I'll be sure to let you know how long it takes for the Sock Gnomes and evil Socking Conglomerate to unravel this attempted solution of mine.