30
Jun
11

Google+

It’s everything Facebook should be…
If any fellow blag writers would like invites when they open up, send me a message; I’ll need your email address.

27
Jun
11

Agnosticism and Atheism

I find labels often misleading, simply because people try to define a word in the manner in which it pertains to them. This is a bit of egocentrism, I think. Agnostics, for example, will generally say that atheists “believe no god exists.” Atheists think of agnostics as “not reaching a conclusion,” I think this too is a bit absurd. I would venture to say that most atheists are philosophically agnostic while most agnostics are practically atheistic. The reason for this is that these two terms are not mutually exclusive as many have supposed. While I concede the agnostic point that any ultimate claim regarding god(s) is unknowable, I would also claim that everyone claiming such entities do exist is quite probably wrong. Practically speaking, however, atheism is the default position when left with the shrinking gaps for a potential deity to hide in, and none have, as yet, turned up. Concluding “well, we can never know” is missing the point entirely.

It used to be said that we would never be able to know what someone else was thinking. Thanks to recent advances in neuroimaging, we’re getting pretty close to this, going so far as to recognize patters for thoughts of actions, movements, and behaviors before the (in these cases, monkeys) do them. Predictive models of human behaviors and analytics are being used to predict (by Google and Facebook) what items or advertisers you would be most interested in based upon a given searches and patterns and personal information; the one Google uses is actually quite good with a >80% accuracy rate–go on, search for something you are genuinely interested in buying and look at the ads. Facebook is also fairly decent with their ads, too (my girlfriend is also convinced they often know what she’s thinking).

Should one, therefor, remain agnostic about what someone else is thinking? Of course, this technology is not (nor will be in the foreseeable future) available in a pocket-sized scanner. Does this mean we can never know it? Absolutely not; it is certainly knowable. Every nook and cranny in which a god or gods may dwell (and make any bit of a difference in our lives) is similarly knowable, however difficult this may be. Either a supernatural being has or is influencing the physical universe or isn’t. Either way, we can, as Darth Vader once said “detect a disturbance in the force.” The “force” in this case, being a euphemism for everything that exists. Along the same line, if it isn’t influencing anything, who cares? This would mean a soul doesn’t influence our behavior, a god can’t give us anything special,  and (most importantly) no supernatural thing can be blamed or given credit for anything that happens.

13
May
11

Chapter 1-5 notes

Fair warning, these are just my notes from The Divinity of Doubt and aren’t really meant for public consumption, but feel free to read and comment.

Continue reading ‘Chapter 1-5 notes’

13
May
11

A New X-Prize?

For…a medical tricorder?

11
May
11

Dissection of a book

Vincent Buliosi has a book out called “Divinity of doubt.” This will be a masochistic read for me, since, thus far, he has resorted to the first cause, and “no transitional forms,” and “personal incredulity” arguments. I just finished chapter 5, and thus far am thoroughly impressed by his ability to write about that which he doesn’t understand.

I will start with saying that I had to stop reading when I didn’t have a place to write notes. It is really that bad. He isn’t a bad writer, just thoroughly unfamiliar with science and technology, often starting with false premises relating to technology and not-even-wrong ideas about science and running with them.

These include:
Computers
Memory (computer and neurological)
Spacetime
Fossilization
Self awareness in animals
Animal ingenuity
Animal cultural learning
The nature of domestic animals
The rate of evolution
Causality
And many others.

I will finish reading, I shall cover them in turn. Most of my readers will likely know more on some of these subjects than I do, so feel free to chime in.

03
May
11

Some things I’d like

This plane  nevermind
This transmitter   nevermind
My Amazon wish list has the rest.

19
Mar
11

Chemicals

Love, laughter, learning, being lazy
The illusion of a duality
With only a bit of chemistry
We see ourselves through other’s eyes
Pretending we are a mystery.

We see others and ascribe animalistic motives
From their actions to votives
No explanation illusive
But to see ourselves this way
Can only be retrospective

Unless we understand
That the movement of our hand
Is really just as grand
A feat of complex chemistry
As emotions which trigger the lacrimal gland

If only the children
Knew their sugar plum vision
Was simply a derision
Of molecules dancing
Into a Brownian collision

And the complex natures
Of the nervous systems’ features
Leads many ignorant preachers
To say “here lies God and free will”
Ignoring homology with other creatures

It is not in our emotions
That we find our devotions
But in the commotions
Between neurons and cells
Where we truly discover ourselves

“Our emotions are chemical”
Is not a means to belittle
But expresses the physical
Reality of the brain
Because it isn’t mystical

Note: written in haste and delirium after an alarm was set for midnight…

15
Mar
11

Japan’s Nuclear Problems, then Energy Production

Nuclear energy is dangerous. I’m not going to downplay the dangers of harnessing a highly controlled fission bomb that is hovering just above criticality and requires water to be constantly flowing to keep it cool. I just have a few points that need to be made:

  1. The earthquake didn’t damage the Fukushima facility, it was the tsunami; such inundation was beyond the design specifications of these reactors, although should have been taken into account when it was built that close to the ocean in an earthquake prone region.
  2. The problem wasn’t that the reactor was damaged, but that the generators which provided the electricity to maintain reactor controls were damaged. This resulted in damage to the reactor while controls were offline. Such is the problem with the 30+ year old boiling water reactors; no passive or inherent safety systems.
  3. The most recent completed reactor (Fukushima I-3) went critical in 1979, the first was in 1970, the first and second reactors should have been in the decommissioning cycle already. All reactors built before 1980 should be being decommissioned in the next few years.

Do these points mean nuclear power is a bad idea? Of course not, power companies are so far behind the research and technology curves within their own field, I’m starting to think they really don’t want to maximize their profits and instead only want to limit day-to-day cost; is it a requirement to operate a major energy company (or most medium-large companies, in my experience) for one to be short-sighted? The three most cost effective greenhouse gas free sources of energy are, in order: hydroelectric, wind-inshore, geothermal, advanced nuclear. The cost per megawatt, of course, varies with region, in some cases, a nuclear reactor would be cheaper than a hydroelectric facility. Wind may be more expensive than geothermal or nuclear. It depends on the region, but all are universally cheaper than advanced coal facilities or conventional combustion turbines; why build them? Photovoltaics are useful for individuals with expendable income and the desire to decrease on-grid dependency, but cost several times that of wind, hydroelectric, or geothermal when calculating the cost per kW-h over the lifespan of the equipment. The future of energy SHOULD be in hydroelectric (well designed), geothermal, and nuclear (wind and solar have their own issues).

Natural gas is the most cost-efficient greenhouse gas producing source of energy with conventional coal without any CCS or any scrubbers (the nastiest and cheapest coal plants out there) still being more expensive than advanced natural gas systems.

In short, if an energy company is building a new plant that is not advanced natural gas, hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, or nuclear, they are being stupid fiscally.

01
Mar
11

Welcome to the internet

For those of you new to the 14th 20th 21st century, such as the Phelps crew, I would like to welcome you to the internet, where claiming a group of hackers attacked your website then challenging them to do it again is generally pretty stupid. Apparently the Phelps cultists didn’t realize this and felt the urge to publicly slam and challenge Anonymous (the hacktivist group) for shutting down their websites and claiming they couldn’t “stop god’s message,” in response, Anonymous posted a message, which was fairly nice.

Continue reading ‘Welcome to the internet’

01
Mar
11

Alligators get sick, too!

I was having a discussion recently (as in last night) about alligators and pathogens, and that reminded me of Mycoplasma alligatoris and Sebekia. These are two of the many types of parasitic organisms that can and do infect alligators. For all the news in the past few years covering the “amazing immune system of alligators,” you’d think these would get a bit more press coverage, particularly M. alligatoris since it is known to have caused numerous deaths at alligator farms (Sebekia could, in principle, but large outbreaks have not been observed). Other parasites in the wild include Beauveria bassiana and several species of trematodes and nematodes. M. alligatoris is the one that most affects high population densities (as seen on alligator farms or in some wildlife refuges).




Join the best atheist themed blogroll!

RSS Adventures in Ethics and Science

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Blag Hag

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS denialism blog

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS ERV

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Greg Laden’s Blog

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Laelaps

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Lawful Good Wonk

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Pharyngula

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Tetrapod Zoology

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS White Coat underground

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Older stuff

wordpress stats