Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Craig Ferguson- Why Everything Sucks

Craig Ferguson, The only reason anyone should ever watch network television- EVER.


Astronomers Believed to Have Found First Rogue planet

Posted by YouTube user: VideoFromSpace

In case you're completely unfamiliar:

Rouge (nomadic/orphan/ETC) planets are, well, exactly what they sound like- planetary bodies which are not gravitationally bound to a parent star or system; instead revolving around galaxies themselves. These objects are believed to occur as a result of their having either been ejected from a parent system, or developing as a type of sub brown dwarf (objects that never quite attained enough mass to achieve fusion and become a star) that was never actually bound to any other object in the first place. Last week, a team of astrophysicists from the University of Montreal, reported the discovery of what they believe to be the first direct observation of such a planet.

The object in question; Planet "CFBDSIR2149" - which isn't even the entire designation for the object BTW- was found amongst a group of  relatively young stars (around 50-120 million years old) which make up a formation called the AB Doradus Moving group. The apparent planet's "close" proximity to our own, around 75 light years from Earth, and the fact that there isn't a nearby parent star obstructing our view with it's own intense glow, means researchers have actually been able to do a detailed analysis of the object's atmosphere.

Actual image of newly found rogue planet CFBDSIR2149.
Image Credit: CFHT/P. Delorme
Using infrared imaging collected from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT.), researchers have determined  CFBDSIR2149 to be a gas giant with a mass 4 to 7 times that of Jupiter, and an average temperature of around 450 degrees Celsius (850 degrees Fahrenheit).

This isn't actually the first potential rogue planet ever to have been discovered. And there is always a chance that further observation could contradict these initial findings, given that this is the closest and least obstructed candidate yet known. But it seems likely at this stage that CFBDSIR2149, will end up as our first confirmed observation of an unbound planetary mass. 

Oh, and in case you were wondering. Yes, people have already started asking the "Nibiru" question. Is Ancient Astronauts still a thing? And are they currently filming? If so, $20 says they're the first to work this angle into their...um, "theories".


SOURCE: UdeMNouvelles, SLATE/BadAstronomy

GTA V: Official Trailer #2

Posted by YouTube user: RockstarGames

It would still be nice to see some actual game play but, since It's not actually scheduled till spring of next year, I suppose I can wait. Regardless, WANT THIS TO BE A THING I CAN HAVE NOW.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Favorite Show EP04: Worst Sock Monkey EVER!

After all the religion and politics on last week's episode, I thought we could use a bit of a palate cleansing this week. Which, depending on your perspective, may not have been as good an idea as I thought, given the amount of scatological content in this week's episode. But I enjoy it. The episode, I mean. I enjoy the episode, not the scat.

In This week's episode: Skyfall- World War Z- and Jurassic Park 3D- A New Zealand scientists denied permission to use the word Hobbit in the title of his lecture on Hobbits ( Homo floresiensis) - a South African man skydives naked for Rhinos- A woman  turns to Craig's List seeking a sexual rendezvous with a dog- While another poster just wants to know, Who does THAT, to a sock in K-mart?- A widower fulfills his wife's last request- Australian Priests ATTACK- a teacher accidentally shares topless photos with her students- and Illiterate Ethiopian children learn to hack android-

Our Favorite things for the week: Tara talks about Tom's Basement, an alleged lost episode of the Tom and Jerry cartoon,  involving murder, torture, and piles of decaying bodies. While I recommend the band, Abnormality.

Posted by YouTube user: AbnormalityOfficial


Scientist Denied Use of "Hobbit" In Title of Lecture on Hobbits (Homo Floresiensis)

Homo Floresiensis, by Peter Schouten 

Dr Brent Alloway, associate professor at New Zealand's Victoria University, has apparently been denied permission to use the word "hobbit" in the title of an upcoming FREE lecture he plans to give on  Homo floresiensis. Homo floresiensis, being a species of 3 foot tall hominin, the remains of which were first found in 2003, in a cave on the Isle of Flores in Indonesia, where the species is believed to have lived in isolation until as recently as 18,000 years ago. Not surprisingly, Homo floresiensis' small size, has earned the species the nickname "Hobbits"  

So this isn't a particularly big deal, and it's not as if the rulers of middle Earth called in the lawyers on the guy or anything. And to be fair, the Tolkien estate says it was not approached concerning Alloway's lecture. But, c'mon. There isn't a single person in the Middle Earth camp that thought, "Hey, someone wants to use our movie to promote actual science. SURE! Why not?" I mean, it seems to me that there's a fairly heavy overlap between LOTR fans, and the kind of people who might get excited to check out a scientific Lecture. And since New Zealand is practically turning itself into a living Hobbit theme park; what with putting Gandalf and friends on it's legal currency, and planning to rename the capital of Wellington "The Middle of Middle-earth" for three weeks before and after the premiere of the next Hobbit movie. So why not let the man use the damn word to promote his lecture? I mean, it is a word in the oxford English dictionary. Plus, the lecture in question is free. So why does it matter?

Also, I hate Hobbit movies. Which isn't really relevant to the story, I just wanted you to know.
That is all.


SOURCE: the guardian 
IMAGE CREDIT: Homo Floresiensis-Peter Schouten-
Hobbit Feet Slippers- Think Geek 

Friday, November 16, 2012

On The Origin of Species, As Read by Richard Dawkins

Posted by YouTube user: 957Chatterton

Now seems as good a time as any to share this.


 VIA: Left Hemispheres

Hitler and Darwinism, Materialism Vs Atheism, and No True Scotsman

Last night I received a comment on a post I wrote in 2010 "The Pope Says I'm a Nazi (t-shirt available soon)" I was planning to just reply in the comments and move on but, well... There's just too much to deal with, and the claim that Darwin was somehow responsible for Hitler, is one I have yet to deal with here anyway. So I responded briefly to direct the commenter to this entry, where I could address his comment in full without trying to force a small essay into the comment section. So, pop over and read the original entry for context ( Don't worry, it's short) and then read on if you like.

"Ratzinger's statement you quoted is indeed full of incorrect ideas, but not completely. There were indeed many pastors, christians etc. who did speak out against the Nazis (and protected Jews) and that did indeed pay for it with their lives. The church of Rome did nothing but help Hitler most of the time. Roman Catholicism is a false Christianity. According to Nuremberg trials evidence, the Nazis next target after the Jews was the Christian church. The truth is that Nazism was founded in Darwinism - which in turn was founded on materialism (atheism) - and which led to their mission of eliminating the "inferior races" in order to better build the "master race", all by helping evolution along by artificial selection."

I wrote this quite some time ago when I was less careful about my wording, since no one was really reading anyway. So, I agree that my statement that EVERYTHING he said was wrong, was too general. There were of course pastors, ETC., who did oppose Hitler, protected Jews, and died because of it. And though the claim that Hitler intended to attack the christian church is speculative, it seems reasonable to think that Hitler would have targeted outside religions, as he would likely have viewed their position of power and influence in the world as a threat to his own. However, none of that changes the purpose of Ratzinger's statement or my objection to it, as the statement in question was meant to deliberately misrepresent- A) atheism as evil and destructive- B) Hitler's actions as the ultimate example of said evil and destruction- and C) The catholic church, and by proxy religious faith, as the noble savior of mankind. None of which is supported by the facts of reality.

As for the rest of  your comment.

First- materialism is not atheism. There are plenty of materialists who also choose to maintain a belief in god, as Christians are often delighted to point out. There are plenty of otherwise empirically minded scientists in the world who also believe in god; though they are certainly the minority

Second- Your claim that roman catholicism is "false christianity", is problematic. Though you weren't specific as to why you believe it "false". All (or at least all 3 Abrahamic) religious faiths, are ambiguous belief systems. Meaning- because they reject "materialism", the god on which they are based has not -or cannot be- directly observed, verified, quantified, or defined by any empirical means. And because their exact historical origins are also confused and obscured, and their doctrines treated as interpretive, you have no meaningful way (historically or philosophically) by which to assert your definition of "true" christianity, over anyone else's.

Finally- The claim that Hitler was influenced by Darwin or Darwinism, is old, tired, and nonsense.  Darwin's books were banned (as were atheist/freethought groups) by the Nazi regime, because Hitler rejected the idea that Aryans could have evolved from "lower orders" of animals; an interpretation BTW, which is identical to the modern creationist position on evolution. Though Hitler did make statements in Mein Kampf resembling the concepts of natural selection, the views he expresses most closely resemble ideas expressed within social Darwinism;[2] which was created by a British Philosopher and "agnostic realist" named Herbert Spencer;[2] not Charles Darwin. More importantly, there are NO examples of Hitler directly citing Darwin, Darwinism, ETC. as the inspiration for his deeds. So any such links can only be implied through personal interpretation.

When it comes to Christianity, on the other hand. Hitlers writings and speeches are littered with Christ-based justifications for his actions. Such as:

"My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people. And when I look on my people I see them work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only for their wages wretchedness and misery. When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people are plundered and exposed.”

    [Adolf Hitler, speech in Munich on April 12, 1922, countering a political opponent, Count Lerchenfeld, who opposed antisemitism on his personal Christian feelings. Published in "My New Order"]

Which is just one of MANY examples.

Of course, this does not prove that Hitler did what he did because god told him to, therefore- all religion is evil. In the same way "This idea sounds like natural selection" or " Darwin influenced Spencer" , doesn't prove that Darwin inspired Hitler. But what it does do, is provide a material link between Hitler's stated philosophy, and his stated interpretation of "god's will" and christianity; which, weather you agree with it or not- you have no viable means of disputing. There is no such fact-based historical link between Darwinism/atheism, and Hitler's actions or motivations.



Nerdist: Star Talk Radio with Neil deGrasse Tyson: The Science of The Mind

Posted by YouTube user: Nerdist

Oh look, this week Neil's talking about Brain Science. I totally knew that was going to happen.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Favorite SHow EP03: Mr. Smith Steals A Yeti Hand

Today's episode of My Favorite Show,  is the last of the episodes we previously recorded. So some of the stories on today's episode are admittedly a bit out date at this point, but we liked it. And it is the first episode where we, in particular I -really start to rail against politics and religion. Which is gonna be a thing that happens on this show, given how much I hate politics, and the fact that we're both godless heathens. So please check out today's episode, share if you enjoy, and we'll be back with newer content next week.

In today's episode, "Mr. Smith Steals A Yeti Hand":  Young girl mistaken for a skunk, shot at Halloween party- a woman questions the logic of placing deer crossings in high traffic areas- Home schooler fears homosexuality may lead to a duck uprising- Rep Paul Broun (who thinks science is from hell) vs Darwin- Charlie Fuqua wants the death penalty for unruly kids, even though he writes like one- Bigfoot attacks an RV - The catholic church has a new saint - I defame Mother Teresa and the Church -Jimmy Stewart Steals a Yeti hand -IOS Games: Tentacles Enter the Dolphin, Plague Inc - and  Bees making technicolor honey.

Tara's favorite thing for the week, is the VERY dark, weird, and vulgar (You've been warned) South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord.

Posted by YouTube user: osalvationcine
My favorite thing for the week:

The Nerdist Podcast Episode #267 with Tom Hank

For More Brain Related Fun, Check Out: Test Your Brain

Continuing with the brain science tangent I started previously; while I was searching for the McGurk effect video, I stumbled upon a show from the National Geographic channel called  "Test Your Brain". This made me happy for several reasons.

First, it restores a tiny bit of the respect I lost for National Geographic, after they launched their own Monster Quest-like paranormal show called Chasing UFO's, earlier this year. Although, it looks as though Test Your Brain may only have aired on the UK version of the channel. It's hard to tell, since the American Nat Geo Channel page is crap, and doesn't even list shows I know are on the damn channel in it's list of shows. Second, as you may have noticed, I kind of have a thing for the brain. Ya know, in a science-y kind of way. It's not like a sex thing... Although... No, definitely not a sex thing.

Point is, I think it's a well produced, entertaining, and even interactive show, that, if nothing else does a really good job of demonstrating and explaining the vast majority of the phenomena it discusses. Although, they do use a bit of hypnosis in one episode, which I think they could have spent a bit more time explaining. There are currently 3 full episodes up on YouTube; Pay Attention, Perception, and Memory- though I suspect Nation Geographic will remedy this soon enough. So if you're interested, go watch.


Your Brain is a Liar

Posted by YouTube user: BBC

Your brain lies. Not all the time of course, but more often than most people would probably like to think. I talk about this a little on the last episode of the show and actually mentioned this particular demonstration, though I couldn't remember the name of it at the time. It's called the McGurk effect, and It was first described in 1976 in a paper by Harry McGurk and John MacDonald entitled "Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices". This illusion is a demonstration of one of the many ways in which your perception can be fooled, as your brain attempts to make sense of the visual and auditory stimuli it receives. It's a cool little effect, in which your brain actually changes the sound you hear based on the image it's being paired with. But the McGurk effect is just one of the many ways in which your brain can misrepresent the reality of the world around you, and it isn't even a particularly extreme example at that.

Image: Edward H Adelson
Take the colored squares illusion, which you've probably already seen in one form or another. This illusion is a more extreme example of your brain altering your perception to try and make sense of the reality in front of it. In this example, despite the fact that they look like completely different shades of grey, the A and B squares in the illustration are actually the same color. No, really. If you've never seen it before it's hard to believe. So I encourage you to throw the image into your image editor of choice and compare. It's awesome. Weird, but awesome. This illusion works primarily because of the shading, perspective, and various other perceived visual cues in the image. Your brain interprets these cues and determines the image to be a 3 dimensional one, adjusting the colors accordingly in the process. It's all more technical than that of course, and you can go HERE for a more detailed explanation of this particular illusion. But the important thing to understand about these illusions and others like them, is that they actually demonstrate what are otherwise undetectable flaws in our perception of the world around us.

But for most of us, the most poorly understood yet overly trusted function of the brain, has to be memory. Because as difficult as it may be to either accept for yourself, or to try and convince someone else that our perception of an event or phenomena could be the result of a failure to understand a fundamental flaw or limitation of our brains. The notion that even the most vivid memories in all our heads are not only flawed and contaminated, but in many cases outright false, seems all but impossible. But this too is true, as more and more studies have continued to show.

Memories exist in our brain as a combination of neural connections and chemicals, that I can't pretend to fully understand. But what matters, is that the brain doesn't actually function as hard drive, like most people imagine it to, and memories are not permanent fixtures in the brain as most people perceive them. Memories are malleable, highly susceptible to contamination, and become more distorted and degraded with time, outside influence, and recollection. Which are facts I think more people should be aware of, particularly given the importance still afforded to things like eye witness accounts as evidence in criminal trials. Or, somewhat more trivially, as justification for belief in religious, supernatural, or other unexplainable phenomena.

The point of this particular rambling, is not to impress you with my extensive academic understanding of brain science, particularly since I don't have any. Like most of the things I write about, attempting to better understand how the mind and our ability to perceive reality actually works, is just another in a long list of intellectual  topics, with which I am somewhat obsessed. My goal, was really just to make the point that I think it would do ourselves and the world in general an immeasurable amount of good, if everyone spent just the tiniest bit of their lives at least attempting to better understand how the engine that allows one to perceive and experience the world around us actually functions, rather than blindly following false assumptions. What can I say, I guess I'm just not a fan of blind faith. Who would have guessed?

Also, the brain is interesting, science is cool, and illusions are fun. If not a little nauseating. 

Seriously, don't stare at that thing down there for too long. Which is generally good advice to follow in most situations, BTW.

This Image is NOT animated

Thursday, November 8, 2012

In Other Neil deGrasse Tyson News...

Neil shows up in Action Comics #14, to help superman find Krypton. Which, it turns out,

“is found 27.1 light-years from Earth, in the southern constellation Corvus (The Crow), orbiting  the red dwarf star LHS 2520, which is cooler and smaller than our sun.”

Just in case you’re not sure, comic books aren’t real, so neither is planet Krypton. Though its a safe bet that it will be someday, in name anyway, should we ever actually find a planet orbiting LHS 2520, which is a real life star, located 2.7 years from Earth, ETC, Etc.


VIA:Scientific American

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Nerdist: Star Talk Radio, With Neil deGrasse Tyson

Poste dy Youtube user: Nerdist

Yes, I know, this blog has pretty much just become a Nerdist commercial at this point. But it's awesome. Also, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

That is all.