Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Hubble Deep Field: The Most Important Image Ever Taken

One criticism I often hear is that it is extraordinarily arrogant of atheists to not believe in a higher power. To think that humans are the end-all, be-all of the universe. I for one do not think humans are significant at all in the grand scheme of the cosmos. I hope this video helps put things in perspective.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Future's so Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.

You learn something new everyday, and today I learned that something is pulling our galaxy, along with tens of thousands of other galaxies, toward itself at roughly 14 million miles per hour. What that something is, we don't know. We just know it's some type of giant mass named 'The Great Attractor" pulling us towards it. I learned this over the weekend. Astronomers have known it for years, the bastards.

This got me to thinking. At 14 million mph how long until we get there? Given that the Great Attractor is 250 million light years from our Solar System (how is that possible if the universe is only 6000?), we should arrive in, oh, 12.5 billion years or so. Except we won't be around when this happens, and I don't mean just you and I. The Earth won't be around either. In 5 billion years the Sun will become a Red Giant and its radius will be large enough to envelop the Earth.

Do not despair. There is some other cool stuff that will happen way before that. The galaxy known as Andromeda is still on a collision course with the Milky Way. When that happens (only 2.5 billion years from now) the two galaxies are expected to merge and form one larger galaxy. It is possible there will still be humans on Earth to witness this, and there is a small chance that one of Andromeda's planets will have intelligent life willing to sell us oil for cheap.

In the not so distant future, Smith's Cloud is expected to merge with the Milky Way in only 20 to 40 million years at a point in the Perseus Arm. The impact is expected to produce a burst of star formations, which should be pretty neat to see.

Okay, so what are some cool things you can expect to be alive to see? Well, the movie Religulous is out this fall. Watch the trailer at Also, The Dark Knight is out this Friday. That should be pretty cool.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A New Way To Celebrate

I think fireworks are overrated which means I tend to stay indoors on the 4th of July. Actually, as an avid indoorsman, I would stay inside anyway, but the point is if you've seen one fireworks display you've seen them all. That's why I am endorsing switching from fireworks to the hot dog eating contest in Coney Island as our new way of celebrating our independence.

This year American Joey Chestnut won for the second year in a row, defeating Japan's Takeru Kobayashi who had won the contest six straight times prior to last year. The two tied at fifty-nine hot dogs after ten minutes, and then faced off in a five hot dog sudden death. Sudden death. You can't get that with fireworks.

What's more American;trying to see how many dogs you can scarf in ten minutes or setting off fire works? That's an easy one. Even china has fire works diplays, but have they ever had one of their citizens eat over sixty hotdogs in almost the time it will take me to write this post? I don't think so.

So what do you say? How 'bout next year we stay indoors, and instead of lighting off boring old analog fireworks we turn on our digital TVs and root our country on (unless you were for Kobayashi like me) in the Super Bowl of competitive eating. I think the Founding Fathers would have wanted it that way.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Fun With Young Earth Creationists

Well, I didn't mean to post another one of my back and forths from the sj-r website so soon, but that was just the way the cookie crumbled this time. Today I bring you the words of July 3, not the date but the poster. His first post caught my attention:

To Chief Illiniwek: A young earth is quite easy to defend, both Biblically and scientifically. The old age of the earth, according to some, has changed regularly over the course of my 70 years, from a supposed few million years to, now, several billion years. Just don't know where all those years are coming from.

Okay, he wasn't talking to me, but I'm an Internet Loudmouth so I forced my way in to the conversation:

July 3, the earth is 4.5 billion years old, and the universe even older. To say the Earth was created in one week 6,000 years ago means you are wrong by a factor of about one million. It's like believing the grand canyon is the same width as your finger.

Yet you claim you know the Earth is only 6000 because you've spent your life studying one book written by a bunch of people who had never even heard of the scientific method? This is enough to deny an old earth and older universe? If so you must also deny: weak nuclear force, potassium-argon dating, argon-argon dating, carbon-14 dating, rubidium-strontium dating, samarium-neodymium dating, dendrochronology, ice cores, varves (fresh sediment layers), coral layers, thermoluminescence, and even gravity. Yeah, gravity. But why worry? Gravity is just a theory. Right?

I tried to keep it simple. State the facts about the age of the Earth and Universe, give a dramatic example about how far off the young earthers are, and give some examples of some of the ways we can test and confirm the numbers I gave. End of story, or so I thought, but July 3 decided to fight science with pseudo-science!!! He writes:

No doubt the best evidence for a young earth is the Bible - God was the only eye witness to its origin. Beyond that there are many evidences. The presence of measurable Carbon 14 in coal and diamonds - C14 only measures in the thousands of years, not millions. The existence of short term comments, which would have burnt up long ago if the solar system was billions of years old. There is not enough mud on the sea floor, or enough sodium in the ocean for the earth to be billions of years old. The earth's magnetic field is decaying too fast for it to have been decaying at the present rate for billions of years. Radioactive decay rate methods are inconsistent and unreliable, and give long dates only if there is the assumption of long ages.

You've probably guessed my reaction. I curled into the fetal position and wept as my entire world view based on facts and reason had just been shattered with a few keystrokes. But I had to be true to myself, and did something young earth creationists never do: I researched July 3's claims, and when I learned he was just copy and pasting from some creationist website I was able to muster this feeble reply:


I should note that the projected life span of one short-period comet, Halley's comet, is 40,000 years. There is about 150 million years worth of sediment in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where new sea floor is currently being generated. You're right about the sodium, or you would be if you weren't assuming salt cannot be removed from the oceans. Your contention on the Earth's magnetic field ignores the fact that the earth's magnetic polarity has reversed itself on numerous occasions. The consistency and accuracy of radioactive decay has been observed in laboratory studies.

My responses are over simplistic, BUT everything I've mentioned can be backed up by peer-reviewed scientific journals and articles. Every argument you've posed I've seen almost verbatim in creationist literature and on creationist websites. Now let me pose a few more tricky problems young earth creationists must deny: Speed of Light, Cepheid Variable Stars, Cosmic Microwave Background, Trigonometry, Ash Layers Between Sedimentary Layers, Plate Tectonics, Supernova 1987a, Globular Clusters, The Large And Small Magellanic Clouds, and ALL I repeat ALL other galaxies.

July 3 has not responded.

A message to Young Earth Creationists:I don't believe in god (duh). I have no problem with you believing in a god, and I recognize that religion has helped many people transform their lives for the good. But, if you believe god created the Earth why do you ignore it? If he created the mountains and the mountains tell us they are billions of years old why do you deny this in favor of a book written by flawed men, and translated over eighty times from its original language? Look at the world around you. Study it. Learn from it. That's all that the scientists you seek discredit are doing. The realities of evolution and big bang do not rule out the existence of a creator. Nor would proof of a creator be the end of science. Which would you rather listen to: the words of men (bible) or the actual creation of your god? I think that's an easy one.