Posts Tagged ‘science’

Watching Yourself Sleep!

September 29, 2012

It is just so very VERY strange watching yourself sleep.  Watching yourself helpless and unconscious.  It’s one of those things that you only usually sleep with people you really trust (with or without sex), and so I was really surprised to get a v. similar response to watching myself sleep as watching someone who trusts you enough to sleep with you, sleep (an emotionally bonding experience!!!).  I know that sounds WTF!!! narcissistic, but I don’t think it is…. I’m guessing its more of that there are no biological mechanisms to determine how to respond to yourself when you are unconscious: this isn’t like seeing your reflection or similar!

However the other reason I was doing this is I was testing audio setup.  Now I’m still a *NOOB* at this sort of thing, so your feedback would be appreciated.



The Price of saying ‘Good-bye’

September 16, 2012

So I was listening to my ipod the other day, and bugger me a track comes on that I’ve not heard for a long time .  It was the track that I was playing on ‘the long drive’ across Wyoming.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was probably on a day or so away from dying.

I’d arrived near Laramie in the summer of 2007 after driving some 2000 miles from upstate NY and I had an ‘upset stomach’.  I figured it was food poisoning or something and drove up into the Snowies, west of Laramie.  The evening and night was all alone in a car park, with a fever, and what I would call ‘low level hallucinations’, in that when I closed my eyes I would see vivid colors that would take the shape of familiar objects and do really surreal things.

The next day I really wasn’t feeling any better, and certainly not well enough to do anything, and so I limped Westwards.  By this time I was getting worried.  If it was food poisoning, it should be getting better by now, and if anything it was getting worse.  I picked up the interstate I80 and headed West.  It was late afternoon by the time I got to Rawlins, and I was weighing in the balance if I should head to a hospital.  In the end I decided I would head onto Rock Springs and if I was not getting better by then I would go looking for medical help.  That drive turned out to be particularly tormentful, with the pain getting progressively worse and in the failing light.  To make things worse, it turned out the GPS was out of date, and inside my head there was a wail of despair that went off as the GPS announced ‘now arriving at destination (hospital) on right’, when it was clear there was no hospital here.  Thankfully Rock Springs was a fairly small place and a little further up the road I found a Hospital sign.  It was only on getting out of the car I realized something was really really wrong.  All the time I had been in the car, all I had to do was essentially set the cruise control and keep the car on the road.  On getting out of the car, I found the movement so painful that I could barely walk.

The tormentful drive across wyoming. Incidentally, a couple of years later I returned along exactly these roads to fly my plane in the snowies. It was really a very traumatic experience as i had so many painful memories of this road. Had a similar experience when I broke my wrist coming off a pedal bike. About a year later I cycled up to the same junction and was again stunned at the power of the involuntary physiological response.

The fever made my stay in the waiting room a really quite surreal experience.  While they were checking my insurance details I sat very still, and very quietly in an almost transidental calm, like I was only watching my life.  The thing that really sticks with me from that waiting room were the parents opposite me, getting progressively more frantic as they went from credit card to credit card trying to get something that would pay for their childrens treatment. It was an unpleasantly disturbing sight seen through the eyes of one whose my mind wasnt quite right and who, by now was dealing with the unconformable realization that there was something very wrong with him.

When a doctor finally took a look at me, it took him minutes to come to the conclusions ‘appendicitis’.  They took blood, and at some did some form of imaging that required a tube to be shoved up my ass and significant amounts of dye to be injected.  I was assured this would be quite painful, although to be honest at this point I was in so much pain, and in such a dazed state that I just didn’t care. Not even a little!

All this confirmed what they had suspected all along, and that they would operate in the morning (less than 12 hrs after arriving).

Now I knew the risk of death in the operation was small, and the chances of death if they did not operate were all but certain, but nonetheless, when they came to put me out for the operation, that this might be the final curtain call.  Complications as unpredictable as they are, it turned out, my appendix was actually fairly far gone and gangrenous and as a consequence my appendix scar is longer than most!

So these were the memories that came flooding back when I heard this track, and then I remembered something else.

-I had chose not to contact my parents, and the uncomfortable things I had weighted in coming to that decision.

I knew that the chances of death were small but real, and in that case, all my parents would ever know of this is that their son had died of complications in Wyoming.

-So how could I not tell them I hear you ask?

Well, I also knew the operation was something I had no control over, and nor would they.  That is that if I told them I knew they would worry terribly, my mother especially as they could do nothing other than powerless wait on the other side of the world to hear if their son was going to live or die.

… and there, as I stood waiting for a bus, listening to my ipod, it suddenly dawned on me that this was the price of saying good-bye to your loved ones.

It also prompted me down the rather uncomfortable line of thought of what sort of risk of death would you need before the balance was tipped from ‘the probability is small, and the matter is out of everyones hands, so I will spare my parents the emotional grief’ to ‘the probability is high, and even though it’s out of everyones hands, I want to talk to my loved ones for maybe the last time.  What would be the tipping point? 10 %? 30 %? 90%?

I’m curious as to your thoughts on this.  What would you have done?

-You are on the other side of the world and with a risk of death, maybe big, maybe small.  Would you spare your loved ones the anguish? Or does the necessity for the closure of talking to your loved ones, maybe for the last time win out?

On the Failure of Atheist Organizations and Choosing Life!

September 1, 2012

Y’know I kinda knew it all along that feminism was the third rails here.  You can even see it in the very first video I put up on this subject, that I knew this was going to end ugly (“tactically dumb” I think were the words I used).  I really didn’t have a ‘dog in this fight’ beyond the fact that having all these professional victims trying to pass off the most mild transgressions as systematic and pervasive misogyny in the secular community, really did make the group that took this seriously looks like a bunch of jokers, and then to have ‘leaders’ of the community take an accommodationist stance to such professional victim-hood really doesn’t inspire one with much faith that these are dynamic organization capable of prioritizing and focusing on important goals to achieve results.

Having said that, I don’t really feel too badly about how this all came out.  I certainly learned a lot on the journey about the nature of this community, and why so much (although notably not all) of it is operationally ineffective.

In the current case the problem seems to be quite simple, that a group, notable centered around Freethoughtblogs and Skepchick have mistaken (initially arguably accidentally, but later apparently willfully) the odd troll as ‘evidence’ that the community is ridden with misogynists etc.  Indeed now it seems that folks from these forums almost relish the trolling, as they can then use it to ‘score some online pity’.  This path of ‘embracing victim-hood’ is not healthy for them or the community and ends in this hypersentivity to criticism that really doesn’t do anyone any good (‘use the block and ban functions’ urges Rebecca Watson in 100% VFX terms, and we all know how well that worked out for him!).  For instance they see the word “bitch is a gendered insult that demeans ALL women” (a point which Rebecca Watson of Skepchick assures us is so uncontroversial that almost everyone ‘gets’ it), but will have no problem in using the words “don’t be a dick” in their guidelines for their new ‘Atheism Plus’ forum (whose rules prohibit degrading people using sexual slurs).

Yes, ‘Bitch is a gendered insult to all women’ but in the utterly consistent Utopian world of AtheismPlus, ‘dick’ (mentioned only one line earlier in the forum rules!) does not count as the hate speech of a gender slur.

When such casual and common use of language becomes a matter of heated debate, arguably you have already been rendered operationally impotent by your political correctness.  Take another example.  The founder of atheism plus is quite candid about being ‘banned’ from the internet by her boyfriend, while doubtless if I had similarly imposed such restrictions on my girlfriend I would have been labeled a misogynist intent on subjugating women (“WHY NOT JUST TELL HER TO GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN!” etc) and she a propagator of destructive submissive female stereotypes, a gender traitor and therefore a rape culture enabler etc etc.  This is the disproportionate destination you arrive at when you are so sensitive to criticism: seeing the most banal activities that you engage in everyday as fine and healthy but as evidence of horrible sexism endemic in society when anyone else does it.  It also seems to have enabled a formidable cognitive dissonance in these folks.  For example many of these people consider “you’re only a feminist because you are old fat and ugly” as some great evil that should get you pilloried, but have no problem in thinking that saying “you’re only a misogynist because your privilege as a member of the patriarchy means you don’t ‘get it’ ” is some great argument winner.  In both cases the statement may well be perfectly accurate, but even if they were, the arguments constitute little more than personal mudslinging, while the more virtuous path would have been to actually address the argument, not the person.  Yet the latter example here is typically considered by such folks to be an argument winner, but the former beyond the pale as an ad hominem.  The cognitive dissonance is formidable.

However, going back to the original problem though, personally I wouldn’t give such trolls the time of day.  Example in question, coughlan616 in a recent exchange (over a month ago at the time of writing) ended up suggesting that he had performed needless sexual exchanges with my mother.

Inject yourself into the free speech arena? Better be ready for the slings and arrows! However that does not mean those who have not injected themselves into that arena are ‘fair game’.  For those with an interest, this was the full exchange.

Did I go ballistic at this and get a load of ‘secular leaders’ to write letters of support saying that this sort of hate should not be tolerated?

Did I campaign for a code of conduct for the atheist community etc?

Did I demand that anyone who opposed my proposed changes be driven out as C.H.U.D.s, as rejecting my proposals clearly meant that they endorsed Coughlan’s views?

Did I sit there crying at how unsafe this made me feel until someone paid attention?

No! I just ignored him.  If he wants to use his freedom of speech in the open arena to be a dick, that’s his affair. However there are of course some limits, and arguably coughlan crossed those in this case. Not by insulting me, as I’ve CHOSEN to inject myself into the public domain, and in such a free speech arena you have to suffer the slings and arrows of that arena.  This is not true however of my mother (see ‘YOUR MOTHERS A WHORE.. and other stuff‘.  She did not inject herself into the public arena, and is not therefore fair game.  Nor is impersonation, and various other elements such as slander and liable etc, but outside that, everything else, within a VERY broad remit is pretty much fair game.

This is in stark contrast to the way in which the ‘atheism plus’ people apparently think things should go, where one of them says that saying something that hurts someones feelings should be regarded in the same fashion as physical assault.

This is simply bullshit, and it is a damning indictment of everyone in that room that not one of them, not PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson or Jen McCreight actually stood up or questioned this proposition that would involve no less than the abolishment of the first amendment.

AtheismPlus, as defended by PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson, Jen McCreight and other is about as popular with their own base (freethinkers?) as venomfangxs arguments are with his audience!  A religious man would say ‘God is trying to tell you something there!’

Indeed the mere fact that even with their ‘home audience’ (secularists and rationalist?) they can only get a video rating comparable to that of venomfangx should be giving them a warning that a lot of people actually have issues with what they are saying.  I mean did they not think this through merely on personal-gain-logistical-grounds?  That if just one person finds their comments hurtful, then they will be prohibited from talking about it on freethoughtblogs and skepchick or get prosecuted for ‘assault’.

However, I’ve become increasingly of the opinion that these people are functionally incompetent, to the point where ‘being drummed out of such a community’ is not actually a punishment but a welcome and valuable gift.

My opinions of this were further backed up by checking out the google ‘web interest’ stats on this which show that I actually have a sizably bigger footprint that freethoughtblogs (both comfortably unique search terms).  Not bad seeing as I’m only one guy and pretty much only work on this half time!

So according to Google Insight, ‘Thunderf00t’ has about twice the web interest of Freethoughtblogs. I’m not a big player in the grand scheme of things.  -Freethoughtblogs CLEARLY make a disproportionate amount of noise for their size.

So yup, I figure I’m pretty much done with these hapless noise makers.

Done with those folks who think patronizing ad hominem/ ’emperors new clothes’ style arguments like “you just don’t ‘get it’ ” is some great cerebral, thoughtful and persuasive argument.

-I’m looking ahead and choosing life!! (que upbeat music)

I’m getting back to making videos that can appeal to everyone, not just some petty drama of just how incompetent certain fractions of the secular community are.

There are bigger fish to fry!

Eric Hovind Confesses to being an Atheist!!!!

April 5, 2012

I greeted the materialization of pre-suppositional apologetics with glee. Creationists might as well have shouted it from the roof tops that they have been routed on every argument they have put forward to date, and so they are now reduced to this grotesquely unconvincing and childish argument that if they start with the presumption that god exists, then god exists.

Yup, pre-suppositional apologetics is an ‘argument’ that whatever you suppose exists, exists! I mean damn, it’s not like we can test those suppositions for validity against anything, like their value in reality or some shit.

So I had this PAINFUL discussion with Eric Hovind, in which I told him I assumed the universe exists. Why assume this? well how would you distinguish a ‘matrix style reality’ from reality? Well Eric, how would you?

After you have assumed the universe to exist, you then need to assume that you can create models about it, and that models with predictive capability are better than those that are not. These are self selecting criteria for beings that want to survive in such a universe, that is organisms that don’t assume they can learn something about the universe don’t survive long in an environment with those that do! (Yup, evolution FTW!)

One of the first models you establish is logic, and the utility of boolean operators like ‘true’ and ‘false’. These are all things Eric MUST have done to even pose his ‘killer’ question ‘is there such a thing as absolute truth?’

Merely asking the question implies a model forming approach to reality (implicit assumption), and indeed the very inclusion of the word true means that he has accepted models such as logic are an adequate way of describing the universe.

I guess it’s to be expected of the dogmatic that they will behave dogmatically, but Eric simply couldn’t handle the fact that this is how his brain worked, and how he models reality and thus his response to everything became ‘but you can’t be sure about it’, even after this has been explained to him a dozen time. In the end he made it up to FORTY EIGHT TIMES. Compulsive obsessives, this man is your GOD!

Even better, is if I adopt Erics ‘pre-suppositional’ position, that is whatever I presume is true, then I come to the startling knowledge that ERIC HOVIND IS AN ATHEIST.  Indeed if I start with the pre-supposition that Eric has confessed to being an atheist, then you KNOW that Eric Hovind has confessed to being an atheist! I know this is absolutely true because the Ghost that never lies told me it was absolutely true, further this was confirmed by title that is always accurate! hmmmm, yup, that’s Check-mate Eric!

Venus, Jupiter and the Moon, Cosmic Ballet in February and March 2012.

February 21, 2012

For those who have been paying attention to the sky over the past few months, you will have seen Venus crawl out of the evening twilight, and Jupiter sink towards it.  These two VERY naked eye planets (both outshine even the brightest stars) are now only about 15 degrees apart (about the spread of your fingers held out at arms length), with that value set to shrink to about 3 degrees over the next 3 weeks.  Get the popcorn is ‘cos its gonna be a fantastic show!

The ballet is highlighted in the sequence below.

Venus Jupiter conjunction of 2012 (click to enlarge)

A) t= 0.  Jupiter and Venus hang in the evening sky.  Venus, by far the brighter of the two lies below Jupiter, and the pair are separated by about 15 degrees.  For reference, the Moon and Sun are about half a degree in diameter, and your outstretched fingers at arms length are about 15 degrees in angular size.

B) t= 5days.  The moons orbit takes it out of the solar glare and by the 26th it resides between Venus and Jupiter.  This will be a spectacular sight for those who get to see it, with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th brightest objects so close together in the sky.  The angular distance between the two planets has now closed to about 10 degrees.  Most of this apparent motion of Jupiter is due to the Earth moving around the Sun, while with Venus, about half of the apparent motion comes from this planet orbiting the Sun.

C) t~21 days. The Venus, Jupiter conjunction of 2012.  The two most spectacularly bright planets appear at their closest  (~3 degrees).

D) t~33days.  The Moon has now made a complete orbit since it last visited these planets.  When it last did, Jupiter was the higher, and Venus the lower.  The second time the moon visits these planets the order is reversed!  Venus the beguiling bright is now the higher of the two objects!  The objects are again separated by about 10 degrees.

For those who want to see what this looks like in animation form, take a look!  Download the  free solar system visualization software Celestia (

National Center for Science and Education moves to combat Climate Change Denial

January 16, 2012

    You don’t have to think about it long to realize that the future of mankind relies on the effective combating of pseudo-science.

    That is the future of mankind relies on an increase level of knowledge.  When the rate that knowledge is being lost, or polluted by pseudo-science equal that where it is being gained,  to a first degree approximation, equilibrium is reached and mankind stagnates.

    Combating such disinformation will at some point therefore become as important as research.

    Sadly as we get to know more and more, it becomes easier and easier for bullshit merchants posing as scientists to go undetected or unchallenged, and the harder it becomes for Joe Public to distinguish real scientists from increasingly slick impostors.  Arguably there is no field where this is more true than in climate change, where a small and very well funded group of ‘climate change deniers’/ pseudo-scientists seek to dis-inform society about the impact of the anthroporgenic release of carbon dioxide.

    Thankfully, the National Center for Science and Education (The NCSE), who have done such sterling work in keeping creationism out of the class room are now moving to keep such disinformation on climate change from being dissemination in schools.

I dub thee ‘Two Citations Craig’?

January 8, 2012

   It has been marvelously funny reading the comments defending ‘Two Citations’ Craig on my latest vid.  The superficial nature of these comments can maybe best highlighted by this hypothetical.

IF I had put up a video as ‘a professional scientist’ saying how Craig MIGHT be a good philosopher, but is merely a layman when it comes to science, and that as a professional scientist I find his arguments  very unsophisticated and frankly embarrassing. (all in an insipidly smug patronizing tone)

   Who seriously believes that these exact same people would have NOT gone absolutely ballistic highlighting the exact same problems with the vacuous nature of these arguments that I did.  Damn, I’m almost tempted to do it, yknow as one of those ‘Double-Check and Mate, sucker’ type moves.

   Anyways, it clearly got under the skin of these people to have it highlighted that their ‘leading academic’ has a pathetic citaion record. Nothing bites like the truth eh boys!.. Which leads to the obvious question:

Why cold fusion is bullshit

November 21, 2011

So why is cold fusion bullshit?

    Firstly you need to understand the orders of magnitude of energy.  Imagine a kilogram of explosive.  Blow it up and you get a lot of energy.  In fact that energy actually comes in the form of accelerated atoms/ molecular fragments, and the pressure and temperature from these is what causes damage.  Okay, so when you blow up explosive you are releasing chemical bond type energy, and that’s typically in the eV (electron volt) range per nuclei.

     Now imagine a fusion type event.  This typically releases MeV (a million times as much energy) per nuclei.  This is why 10kg warhead, when releasing its energy all at once, can give kilotons of chemical explosive equivalent energy.  Bear in mind that for chemical explosive, you have eV type amounts of energy per nuclei (about the energy of a chemical bond), while with fusion you have a million times that.  So you fragments from fusion type events typically have a million time chemical bond energy, and this is why they are so dangerous.  That can make a mess of your DNA and kill your cells.  The bottom line is it really doesn’t matter if your fusion takes place at room temperature or millions of Kelvin, the products still have CRAZY amounts of energy.

    This is why if you really did have cold fusion on your desktop, you would be a gold plated idiot to be in the room while the reactor was running.  This is apparently what our Italian scientists are doing while running their ‘cold fusion reactor’.  However for some strange reason our Italians don’t find any high energy radiation.  This was also the problem with Pons and Fleischmanns claims of cold fusion.  They were claiming to get enough energy out to boil water.  Hmmm well if they had had that sort of fusion energy flux, everyone in the room would have died from the radiation.

Cold Fusion, normally turns out to be a poorly calibration thermocouple.

     This is where the whole thing goes into the category of bullshit.  Fusion is great ‘cos you generate MeV per reaction.  If you don’t have those high energy particles, then whatever you are doing is not fusion!  Even more perculiar is if you wanted to work out what sort of fusion you had going on, the first thing you would measure would be the energies and fluxes of the radiation coming off the sample.  Not only have our Italians not tried the obvious analysis (well how can they when they have no high energy radiation) but instead they focus on the bloody silly metric of ‘excess energy’.  That is they claim to put X energy in, get Y energy out and ascribe the difference to fusion, even though it’s bloody obviously from the lack of high energy particles that its not fusion.  The nearest analogy I can think of its like lighting a firework, watching it generate more energy than was put in, then concluding that the ‘excess energy’ must have been cold fusion.

The Edge: This time its HARDCORE!

November 1, 2011

   Before next year (2012) is out, I plan to have taken you to the edge of the unknown, and give you vision beyond mere sight.  To guide you up the more accessible foothills of the unknown on a voyage of discovery leading to an intellectual vantage point from which you will understand why, given nothing but natural processes, emergent self replicating life seems inevitable, rather than improbable.

-Damn straight! If you are going to do open n accessible science, make it interesting! Shining the magic light of knowledge on the hidden origin of life seems to be a pretty entertaining place to start 🙂

The first footstep on the journey of discovery

   Further, now that many know my real name, I can openly link up with other high profile groups promoting science education (to be announced) to publish this work in the peer review literature.  And sure, why not, let’s be bold and set a goal of getting this work published in one of the top research journals like Science or Nature.

   How does this work start? Why with a good drink of bacardi of course!

And I can fully assure you that by this time next year, you will see SOO much more than an amber, highly volatile liquid that is well know for its intoxicating properties on many carbon based life forms!


   ….and yeah, if anyone’s got a wizard name for this epic endeavor, I’d love to hear it it the comments section below 🙂

The Solar System in Motion (LIVE) – it’s going to happen

July 25, 2011

For those who didn’t catch it earlier this year, the ‘global planetary timelapse’ project was rejected for youtubes ‘nextup’ program.

However the idea is still a good one, and it’s going to happen!  So behind the scenes I’ve been putting out feelers, and working out how we are going to make this project happen.

As we are unifying several concepts that have never really been put together like this, doubtless there will be a learning curve.  Different guys, with different kit, trying to get a unified data stream.  Hmmm, tricky!

So I’m now heading up to the dark skies round the back of the Sierra Nevada (GREAT SKY FORECAST!)

to see what I can actually do with the kit I have.  We will then put the project together in stages.  I think our first attempt will be to do a time lapse of the moon from both the mainland US and Hawaii.  We will then try to get people involved in Australia and further around the world (indeed if you are in Australia, or further round the world (so to speak), please contact me @, this project Needs You!).  In the first instance it will probably work best with folks who know pretty much what they are doing, but also I would love to put a project like this together with school kids watching the moons of Jupiter, which could be done with almost any telescope that can track.

Anyways Gentlemen, Ladies!  The Mountains and the Dark Skies Await!