Sunday, February 27, 2011

Phronima, makes a morbid nursery

Phronima or as her friends call her, the Pram Bug, is a highly specialized amphipod that has taken the motto "waste not, want not" to heart. But before I get to that, let me introduce you to this all to often overlooked crustacean.

The many eyes of Phronima.
Phronima is a genus of very specialized amphipods. Each comes equipped with four eyes. This has nothing to do with myopia but an adaptation where two of its eyes are constantly fixed in an upward gaze while the other two eyes are focused on the world ahead or the task at hand. Its two stargazers are, what at first inspection, appear to be some sort of crest upon the amphipods head. The other two eyes are forward facing and on movable stalks for better seeing in many directions.


If you happen to have a submersible, you would find these critters throughout the pelagic zone (essentially every part of the deep ocean other then the ocean bottom). In this state your average Phronima would look something like this:

Did I forget to mention that they are almost entirely transparent?


Your typical solitary variety of salp.
But remember that thing I stated about "waste not, want not"? Well now is when I get to tell you about that as well as a harrowing story of a single mother gaining and maintaining a home for her precious children. Enter the pregnant mother, desperate for a home, unfortunately it is the middle of the ocean so rental property is a bit hard to come by. But this does not dissuade her, for she knows something better then real estate tips. She knows how to find salps. For those who have not heard of these members of the oceanic plankton, sapls are mobile tunicates, Sea Squirts that couldn't stand becoming a sessile brainless filter feeder so instead settled for being a free-swimming brainless filter feeder.

But as we said, our mother Phronima is in desperate need of a home and when that delicate little salp comes along it is the very solution to all her problems.  The only thing stopping Phronima from moving into this nice cylinder of tunican is all these messy internals.  But being pregnant, Phronima could do with a bit of a meal, so she begins eating the insides out of the hapless salp (it is almost a pun yet far enough to be safe, amazing).   Once all that messy internal tissue is done away with, Phronima can get around to her main goal of raising her family.  So she lays her eggs along the inside of the hollowed out salp and continues to swim along with it so that it will get plenty of fresh water and nutrients flowing by.  This leaves our once homeless mother with not only a chic new house but the foundings of a whole new brood, a brood that will continue on  living the double lives of the female Phronima, part free living, part necro-parasitic, as Michael Bok described it. Michael, on his own blog, also shows how this endearing little creature may have been the inspiration for the Alien Queen from the film Aliens.

As cozy as one could be in a corpse.

------------------------------------------
References:
Photo, Phronima eyes: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Mike Land
Photo, Corpse home.
Arthropoda
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Possible New Title

I have been wondering, is it possible that my blog's title is steering away potential viewers. I know that both the Gothic and Atheistic sub-cultures have their own views but what about those outside of that? Could it be that the juxtaposition of two 'scary' words has driven off potential followers? Or could it be the inverse. Could it be my holding to my liking while being sure to write while being sure to have high standards for what it is I post.

Does the title give a bad image to those who come across it? Do they see the research pieces and think them second rate solely on the basis of nomenclature? Or does my title give a bit of unexpected credulity?

I have placed a poll in the side-bar; please, tell me what you think, one way or another. And if you happen to have a replacement title that you believe would be more fitting, write it down in the comments, I'm always open for suggestions. While I'm sure this won't be necessary, please frame your rationale as to whether I should change the title in a manner that is logically consistent. If it is purely aesthetics or a more visceral thing.

UPDATE:

Well the poll has closed and despite not many votes at all, it was for keeping the current title. Also, the amazing Misa was kind enough to create a new banner for me, one that uses a higher quality image and should rectify the issues of readability. So thank you Misa, you have done a wonderful job.
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Lasiorhynchus barbicornis, the Giraffe Weevil

The Cotton, it is mine, all mine!
I'm not sure where in my ramblings that I came across this critter, but I couldn't hep but write something up on it. I live in an area that grows large amounts of cotton.  As a side effect of its mass distribution across our country, there has been an increase in Cotton Weevils. Interesting enough, when the local god fearing farmer's profits were threatened by this pest, they turned to scientists. Since having someone who actually knows what they are doing tends to help, it is one areas where religious individuals don't mind budding up with those scary evolutionary biologists. The program enacted in Oklahoma has effectively eradicated the Cotton Boll Weevil from many eastern counties and is categorized as a suppressed species statewide.

Potential hypocrisy in farmers aside, I recently came across a species of weevil that would give most of them a heart attack (the ones who are not done in by the local cuisine of 'chicken fried steak', and yes, they serve that in schools, fear for our future).

He's a god you know, not that he's pretentious just the Maori realized this little Coleopteran was quite the same shape as a newly made canoe, known as a Waka, so this little guy got deified.   

But anyway, back to the subject at hand, New Zealand, far to often it is overlooked in lieu of their local island/continent neighbor, Australia, but don't ask me to take sides, there are enough odd animals for the two of you to divvy up amongst yourselves.

Female Giraffe Weevil
Anyway, the species Lasiorhynchus barbicornis is one of many weevil species on the Islands. But the Giraffe Weevil, as it is commonly called, is not exactly your ordinary weevil. It is the longest beetle on the islands at 80 mm and the longest weevil species. They also poses a high level of sexual dimorphism. While the antennae of the male are at the end of its snout, they are half-way up the snout of the female. She also lacks the overt protrusion that is found in the males. Instead, her smaller and thicker proboscis is used to drill through the dried wood of Karaka, Houhere, and Pigeonwood where she will be able to lay her eggs, which after hatching will be able to drill further still into the wood.  Most of their lives will be in larval format, in fact once they make the conversion over to adult, an individual generally has around two weeks to take in the wide world, eat, reproduce and emasculate any overly self-conscious males nearby. 
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Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Sound Of Freethinking: #10 Deliverance

The song Deliverance by :Wumpscut: is a song that speaks of the concept of the interaction between a supposed god and man in a way that I imagine many atheists have argued at one point or another; as well as being something many believers have may have felt throughout the years. While the lyrics are not overly diverse (which is not uncommon in this style of electro-industrial) they do bring up a few very good points.

With the line "As long as he will feed us" speaks of how so many religious individuals are 'fair weather' believers. That when things are going well they are sure to thank their deity, but when things go bad they don't pray harder but start to lose faith. Though this isn't a losing of faith based on reason, but convenience. For when the situation is dire, it makes far more sense to many individuals to take care of what is needed first and then worry about religion.

In another line one of the many fears of the believer is stated, "but we're not sure if he does really need us". The realization that their deity does not need them at all and anything they accomplish will only be lesser in comparison. Knowing this, and the hours people may spend praying or worshiping in and out of church may very well build to a point where they are forced to ask "what do you want from me?". To find that the answer could very well be nothing at all is more than many can bare.

The central message of this song is one of wondering why a deity would not be able to deliver its believers from the worst of this existence. It surly cannot be that such a deity does not have the power to do so, otherwise it would not be considered a deity. But if it does not simply because it chooses not to, then why should one worship such a being?

This video is only the song as there, sadly, is not a video available, so instead it shows the image from the cover of the album it was taken from Wreath Of Barbs.



Being caught in a hopeless mess
We're searching for the final solution
For our fate our hopeless mess
Deriding laughter is your contribution

Caught up our mess
Search out solute
Our fate hopeless
Deride tribute
Caught up our mess
Search out solute

Why don't you deliver us from pain and evil
We stand in a quiver of our god and we will
Follow his will as long as he, he will feed us
But we're not sure if he does really need us

Being caught in a hopeless mess
We're searching for the final solution
For our fate our hopeless mess
Deriding laughter is your contribution

Caught up our mess
Search out solute
Our fate hopeless
Deride tribute

Why don't you deliver us from pain and evil
We stand in a quiver of our god and we will

We pray for deliverance for all our souls

Why don't you deliver us from pain and evil
We stand in a quiver of our god and we will
Follow his will as long as he will feed us
But we're not sure if he does really need us
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Friday, February 25, 2011

NASA kills God.

Finally, after over half a century of work, NASA has completed its primary mission to locate and assassinate God. Founded in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, NASA was given the mighty task of eliminating the greatest threat humanity has ever faced, God.

NASA Director Charles Bolden had this to say about this momentous occasion:

"I am ecstatic to tell you all today that we have beheld the awesome visage of the supreme architect of the cosmos, and we have murdered Him, there have been innumerable setbacks, missteps, and hardships over the past 50 years, but we always stayed true to our ultimate goal and we never gave up."

"We finally got the son of a bitch! He's dead! God is dead!"

After being lured to the moon and after a long chase over the Lunar terrain which eventually led to the injuring of two astronauts (who are expected to recover), God was subdued by the victorious team of seven. Captain Trevor Sullivan, the leader of the mission to capture God was given the supreme honor of dealing the death blow from within the lunar module. Despite God's legendary power and immortality, it only took one well placed bullet to bring the deity down for good. Afterward Captain Trevor Sullivan had this to say:

"He was damn fast. And strong—as strong as anyone I've ever engaged, He fought like a wild animal, and the fact that He's omnipotent really worked against us. But we know a few tricks ourselves, and after all was said and done, we took Him down for good.

Gotta give Him credit, though, God was defiant right up until the end. Scrappy bastard spit right in my face just before I pulled the trigger."

It is hoped that now that humanities prime natural enemy has been disposed of, our species will be able to flourish in an unrestricted manner, a way we never have been allowed to do so before.

-------------------------------------------
References:
America's Finest News Source.
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gadhafi thinks he will die a martyr

Moammar Gadhafi, Libya's brutal dictator for 42 years, scares me. Is it because he is a vile, totalitarian, massacring bastard? Well yes, that is slightly on the distressing side (unless there is an upside to ruthlessly oppressing and slaughtering your own people that I am unaware of). But what makes him even more terrifying is the guy is bat-shit insane. Now when I say that, I don't mean the level of guano one might find in an attic, no, that is absolutely tame compared to Gadhafi, I'm talking Gomantong Cave levels of crazy.

Image from a recent MRI of Gadhafi's head


A prime example of this truly epic level of lunacy can be found in a speech he recently gave. He gave it from the remains of his former Tripoli residence that has been left in ruin after being bombed by the US in the 1980's. He decided to leave it in shambles as an act of defiance (because nothing says defiance like having a decrepit building that shows what happens when you piss off the wrong people). To make the scene more ludicrous, after the event that destroyed his former residence, he erected a monument of a fist crushing a US fighter. The setting alone warrants at least a 5 on the crazy scale. But Gadhafi is just getting started.

He comes out on the podium in flowing robes and a matching turban (how stylish!) and just because he likes to accessorize, added in reflective glasses (the international sign of douchebags and crazies alike, two groups he is a proud members of) to his lovely ensemble. But it is when he opens his mouth that the crazy goes from pathetic in a humorous way to full out tranquilizer and straight-jacket insanity.

For the most part he is shouting and pounding away at his podium but then, part way through he exchanges his reflective glasses for reading glasses so that he can begin to calmly read out of a book of law. He doesn't even slowly transition from raving madman to calm politician, he just switches suddenly. But apparently he soon gets bored of the lack of shouted ravings and starts to lose his train of thought and sits there for a moment looking confused as if he forgot where he was and what he was doing there. But this doesn't last long as he soon picks back up with the shouting until he begins to lose his voice. That is when you know you are devoted to your nuttery, when your own body can no longer tolerate it and starts to give out.

What he says is just as insane as how and where he says it. You have to at least admire his commitment. He is damned determined not to leave the podium till he reaches that coveted 10 on the crazy scale (more commonly known as raving doomsday hobo level). Apparently he has been listening to his own rhetoric and state controlled media for far too long as he states:

"You men and women who love Gadhafi ... get out of your homes and fill the streets, leave your homes and attack them [the protesters] in their lairs."

Wait, the protesters have lairs now? The irony of this being said by someone who outdoes most comic book villains in pure evil is simply astounding. Especially when it is being said in front of his own dilapidated lair (complete with loony statue and everything). He then goes on to state:

"Libya wants glory, Libya wants to be at the pinnacle, at the pinnacle of the world, I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents. ... I will die as a martyr at the end"

He then vows to fight:

"to my last drop of blood."

A martyr, really? After slaughtering so many, after hiring mercenaries and having your own military turn anti-aircraft guns on civilians, after ordering the remaining militia to shoot anyone on sight (going so far as to having his men fire on ambulances), you have the audacity to claim you will be a martyr? If I could spit on you right now, I wouldn't, as you are not even deserving of my saliva you wretched fuck.

Though, after calming myself and thinking for a moment, perhaps he isn't far off, in the literal sense at least. While martyrdom is often seen as a sacrifice for a cause or belief, the word in its purest context can be applied to anyone who dies for a cause. But if you go that far, then Mussolini could also be argued as one so perhaps he is in good company.

As a final note, I would like to say that against such horrific evil, what the Libyan people have accomplished thus far and will certainly accomplish in the near future is worthy of nothing but respect. Even as their own lives are at stake, they work together to set up temporary government bodies, defense and police forces, medical services and every other necessity for a community. And it has all been done by people working together, for the good of the many. They have made sure to defend all who wish to join them, even those who were formerly supporters of Gadhafi. They have made sure not to damage their countries infrastructure for they know it is vital to their survival both as a future country and to their own freedom and well being. They join the ranks of so many others in recent times in their region of the world who have stood together for the good of themselves and their children's futures. They unite under a desire for peace and prosperity and while they may have to take up arms for a time to do so, they do it only for the greater good and not for power or revenge.

-------------------------------------------
References:

Maggie Michael and Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press
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The Girl & The Robot - The Beauty of Decay



I am always looking for new music (as I am a self admitted music whore) and a while back I came across information about a new group by the name of The Girl & The Robot. What made me especially interested to hear this new project was upon finding out that it involved the singer and musician who goes by the name of "Plastique". For those who are not familiar with that name, she is part of the excellent group Welle:Erdball. What, that doesn't help things? Shame on you, Welle:Erdball is an amazing synth group who was also one of the pioneers of Bitpop. With The Girl & The Robot, Plastique teams up with instrumentalist Deadbeat (of Second Unit, which I shall have to look into after seeing his impressive musical talent).

After locating a copy of The Girl & The Robot's debut album The Beauty of Decay, I was anything but disappointed. From the very first song, Whole, I was hooked. Now it is not often that I find an album that I am willing to recommend after a single listen. Usually it takes at least two before I believe it is even proper to comment on an album. But even as I was listening to it for the first time I found myself raving about it, and the album wasn't even finished yet! The songs are catchy without resorting to any cliche tactics but through honestly great music, wonderful lyrics and beautiful vocals. This album has quickly become one of my most played and most enjoyed.

They have a sound that is very much their own, it can be described as an almost minimalistic Electro-Pop with hints of New Wave and Synth thrown in for good measure. But these are only crude attempts at pigeon holing their sound for descriptions sake, they truly deserve a listen before one can appreciate their sound. When describing them to others, the best way I have been able to do so was as "dreamy-energetic". Certain songs are more on the dreamy side then the energetic, but even these make one want to at move with the music. In fact I find myself unable to sit still at any point in this album, even if it is just to sway to the softer moments. Throughout this album they invoke an retro sound, but one that also sounds modern. This trait gives The Girl & The Robot the kind of sound that would make them sound at equally at home alongside 80's New Wave as well as modern Electro.

One thing all the songs on this album has in common besides being amazing music is that they are all emotionally aware. The music, the vocals, they lyrics, all of it fits perfectly with the intended emotion without coming across as haughty or overbearing. You are truly able to feel what these artists wished to convey with their music.

In the formation of The Girl & The Robot it seems that Plastique and Deadbeat have found the perfect match for one another. With Deadbeat's instrumental prowess and Plastique's absolutely gorgeous voice, they have weaved an album that could easily become the modern gold-standard for their genres.

This album was released in March of 2010, so this review is a bit late. This is partially because I was a bit late in acquiring a copy (probably around December of 2010) as well as the fact that I have only recently started to write reviews over various sources of media. But my love for this album compelled me to write a review none the less.
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Monday, February 21, 2011

A question for literal bible believers...

While I am sure this question is no where near original, I was reading the comments on a post at Pharyngula about a pastor in Colorado Springs who has decided it would be a good idea to hop into a helicopter to pray for the city from the air, and a thought popped into my mind. For those who happen to believe the bible is the literal truth (of which I know far too many), what is your take on the story of the Tower of Babel when you happen to live in a world where humans daily go far higher then such a Ziggurat could ever have hoped to have been built.

One would think such people would be against things such as skyscrapers, air travel and the International Space Station. Because unless there is an international conspiracy, such places are not plagued by random changes in language. Has God mellowed out since then? Did he finally realize that "Oh shit, I made this planet to be part of a vast universe and not some isolated plane of existence stuck under a literal heaven!"?

Now I know some will argue that it was the fact that the builders of the Tower of Babel did so with the intent of reaching heaven, so unless the builders of modern towers or aviators had the intent of reaching heaven, God wouldn't really care. But if this is the case then you are just setting yourself up for a laughable caricature of a god. Did God, at that time, think man would succeed, was he scared of having his sky party crashed by a bunch of sinful humans? Or, as the original argument goes, was it because of their hubris in thinking they could reach heaven. If this is true then it would mean any time humanity has thought to achieve something above their 'station', God would get a bit pissy. Every time humanity has done something that violates something in the bible, man would have some X-Files level shit happen.

Granted many of these 'true believers' already see humanity as degenerate to begin with, but to such people I say this "if you believe this is so, that all the advancements humanity has made in recent years, especially through secular means, then why not give up all modern technology, medicine, easier lives and your longer lifespans. If you are not willing to do so then your belief is little more then hollow remnants that mean nothing more then as a crutch for your personal fears and ignorance".
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I finally gain a little Common Sense

After years of having it on my to do list, I finally got around to reading Thomas Paine's Common Sense (and yes, I do know how groan inducing the title is, but I could not help myself). The reason for the long delay in doing so was partly my not coming across a copy for quite a while and when I did finally locate one, I had a few other things already in line to read.

I do find it odd that, throughout the years of American history courses I have taken, this has never been required reading. From all those years the only way it was ever mentioned was as an important pamphlet that argued for the American Revolution. No parts were ever shown from it, just that mention. I find that rather sad when you consider how much of an influence it really had in helping to sway the minds of so many towards the American cause, both foreign and domestic. It is made worse after one has actually read it as it helps to lay a better understanding of the situation then I have ever gained from any history course. One cannot help but see both the events and the timing of them (for which Paine argues considerably) as inevitable. As he states, any earlier and the colonies would not have had a sufficiently strong internal support system. Had it been any later, the few military minds left over from the French-Indian War would have died leaving the country without any war time knowledge.

Now I can see some possibly being put off by what they may see as religious connotations within this pamphlet. It is true there are myriad references to the bible and God, but these are not arguments for or against such things (as Paine notes). They are, instead, relics of the time and imagery of convenience. The first being due to the fact that even for non-believers of the Western world (Paine was a deist), the bible was still seen as a historical text. Yes, many discounted the religious aspect and instead payed attention to its genealogies and accounts of empires long since lost to time (for those that actually existed that is). One must also remember that an alternative was not available so even those who doubted its full historical and religious accuracy, were left with no other real alternative to go by. So it is no real surprise that he would reference the Christian bible.

This context is taken further when combined with the imagery Paine uses. This has specifically to do with the audience he intended this pamphlet for. He used a writing style, that while elegant and rich in thought, was of a form that would be accessible to all, from the common man to the elite. He knew that essentially all those who would read it would have one form of education in common, a religious one. He also knew that such arguments would appeal to those from all walks of life. But even more so, he knew that such writing would spur in his audience even more of a passion to see his point of view. Granted, as the title states, he intended what he wrote to be common sense, but he also knew that common sense was not always as common as it should be. He also recognized that using any way one might to go about livening things up to sway those who were still undecided about the matter could only help his argument and the cause.

The copy I purchased also has an added bonus of containing his response to a piece published by certain members of the Quaker community (The ancient testimony and principles of the people called Quakers renewed, with respect to the King and Government, and touching the commotions now prevailing in these and other parts of America addressed to the people in general...apparently short titles was not this particular authors forte). In the piece Paine addresses, the Quaker authors argue that the American people should not rise to arms due to certain biblical passages that stated that those in power are allowed to be so by God and that it is the people's responsibility to obey that authority as well as a passage from Proverbs that states "When a man's way pleases the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him".

Quite obviously, Paine was not pleased with such statements and his reasoning included the fact that every single ruler throughout history has gained power by the acts of people, often at the edge of a sword. If this were true, then how can it be the Lord's will for people to follow their current leader? For if this were true (in a religious sense of course), then any attempt to remove or replace said ruler would be stopped by their god. But since this has never occurred, then, based on their own logic, such actions must be the very will of their god to begin with. He further demolishes other parts of their argument by stating that they do not wish to depose a ruler, nor do they wish to establish a new monarch but be removed from the entire process. Not to mention that what they would be doing would be an act of defense, not offense, for it was the British who were seen to have started the whole affair through their neglect of the will of the American people.

He states that he has nothing against the Quakers at all, and is sure to make a defense of them so that none would take his words as a reason to mistreat the group as a whole or for anyone to consider removing any of their civil or religious freedoms. His argument came down to that those who wrote this piece were not acting according to their own doctrine, therefor their entire argument was invalid and and insult to Quaker society as a whole. He closes his letter with two lines that I believe should be more widely known and espoused, especially in light of certain religious groups active today. The first being:

Because it tends to the decrease and reproach of all religion whatever, and is of the utmost danger to society, to make it a party in political disputes.

The second (and my personal favorite) being the final line of his letter:

...but that the example which ye have unwisely set, of mingling religion with politics, may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of America.
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Game Music Remixes

When I was younger I would spend hours in front of my television with a small rectangular controller (that was thankfully quite resistant to throwing) in hand and escape from the horrors of reality into the world of games. Even with the joys of having to blow on the cartridge and finding just that perfect way to insert a game so that it would play 'this time', I often look back on what is now an ancient piece of nostalgia that is the NES as some of the few positive memories of childhood (or the least trauma inducing at any rate). So many of those 8-bit songs would get stuck in my head and despite my parents thinking they were some of the most annoying sounds on Earth, I had always thought they had potential for greatness.

Over the years I have indulged myself in various forms of gaming, be it on the original consoles or on emulators to relive the games of my youth or titles I had never had a chance to get my hands on. It has always been an escape for me, a separate world to explore and become a part of that isn't constrained by the problems of the real world. Throughout this entire time, the music has always been a major draw for me. The music of a game can make or break a scene. It can transform and eerie landscape into a truly alien and desolate world. A well placed piece can induce your panic as you run against a timer or fight a particularly difficult opponent. It can even bring up the strongest emotions as a character in a story we have grown to love dies or is betrayed.

With so many who have grown up with these games filled with now iconic characters and gripping stories it is not surprising that a loyal fan base has developed around the music of this art form (I do not care what some haughty critics think, games can be and are an art form). Many of these followers have taken the next step, they have gone back and created updated tracks and remixes of the very songs that have become a part of so many's fond memories.

These remixes range from simple updates of songs that were limited by early processors to a full re-imagining of the score. Be it in a pulsing electro, a sweeping orchestral, a thrashing metal track, a smooth jazz piece or anything else the musician can imagine. A whole sub-culture of dedicated remixers and artists have grown around their mutual love for the songs of games both old and new. By far the most prominent of these is OCRemix. Here you can find hundreds if not thousands of remixed songs, full albums dedicated to a game or theme, the original chip sounds from even the oldest of games, workshops on how to remix or improve your skills, forums and everything else a well established community of like minded people could hope to find.

Some of the tracks I have found by such remixers have blown me away. They were familiar and faithful to the original soul of the piece while also breaking new ground and pushing it in ways I could never have imagined. Do not think these are mere tinkerers or social pariahs as many of these are serious musicians who share a passion for the music that has been so much a part of their lives.

I hope to, over time, begin to post some of my personal favorites or new discoveries. For now I would like to introduce you to a few I believe any lover of music, even those not familiar with the original pieces, will enjoy.

First, a remix of the Maridia 1 region of Super Metroid, entitled Kindred. It was done as a collaboration between remixers Pixietricks and Zircon. A slower piece that is perfectly fitting for the source material with added lyrics quite suited for the mysterious Samus Aran. For those interested, it can be found here (track #28 of a two disk album created as a get well gift for an ailing remixer and friend, the whole album is well worth the free download).



Next is a track from the legendary PC open world adventure Deus Ex. Entitled Siren Synapse, it was done as a collaboration between the remixer Big Giant Circles and Alexander Brandon, the composer for the score to the original game. It is a fusion of the music for many of the areas of the game giving a sense of wandering through a futuristic metropolis. More information as well as a download may be found here.



Finally, here is a track from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past entitled Dark World Ballad. Done by Cliff Hooper & Effinjerk, they have come together to create a simple but absolutely beautiful acoustic guitar and piano jazz piece. While the theme is certainly recognizable, it has been taken in an entirely new direction and it works wonderfully. I have a weak spot for jazz as it is so I could not help but include this. The download and further information may be found here.

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Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science, and Fake History



In Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science, and Fake History, Damian Thompson takes us through a quick trip through all the things around us that make people like me irritable. From Creationists trying to push their way into science classrooms to 9/11 "Truthers" and every ire inducing bit of idiocy in between.

While reading this book I found myself frequently shouting things like 'idiots', 'science doesn't work that way', 'my species is doomed' and other such inspiring lines. This is not because what Damian Thompson has written is absurd or wrong. No, it is because he has collected so many sources of disinformation together to be put on display. It is almost like a natural history of so many stupidly wrong and stubbornly pernicious ideas.

If you have ever wondered how that blunt force head trauma of a book The Secret ever got to be so popular or how rampant Islamic Creationism is and just how it is affecting the world, then you have found your one stop source of willful ignorance. While many of the topics may be familiar to those who are more familiar with the ways of the gullible masses, it is still nice to be able to see how such masses of ignorance could form.

Thankfully Damian Thompson has quite the sharp wit and has no qualms about using it on his chosen subjects. As this gives the reader that sense of not being alone in the vortex of idiocy that is our modern world. And with all the stupid he guides you through, you are going to need it.
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A psychic proves his talent.

I came across this via Pharyngula and couldn't help but steal...eh...I mean share it.


Such amazing psychic powers, no?
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Carl Zimmer tweets my book review

Well I certainly feel a bit honored. Carl Zimmer, the writer of the book I just reviewed, Parasite Rex posted a link to my review on his twitter account. He included this line from my review:
"Parasite Rex was a book that made me glad for once that I'm an insomniac"
This led to my review being mentioned by a few other members of the site and my receiving the most hits in a single day I have yet to get as well as that post gaining the most views of any post I have made to date. So I would like to thank Carl Zimmer and the other tweeters for the attention, it means quite a bit to me both personally and as a writer.
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures


I had been looking forward to reading through this book as soon as I had acquired it. While I had just read a book by this author, Carl Zimmer, I went ahead anyway and selected it from my collection (AKA: the towering pile of books were my body will one day be found, crushed). I have to admit that I have a bit of a fascination with the concept of a parasite. An organism that has adapted itself to live off of or within another organism. Such specialized examples of evolution have always caught my attention.

In this book Carl Zimmer reveals a truth about life that is often overlooked or perhaps purposely ignored. The fact that the number of parasite species are not some minority of organisms but in fact makes up the majority of species. For those of us living in the developed world, parasites have been moved to an oddity of underdeveloped regions. But humanities evolution has been shaped by parasites. Not just humanity but so much of the courses of evolution have been affected by parasites. Carl Zimmer even puts forth a recent argument that has developed that has parasites being the reason life evolved sex. Another shows that the various displays found in nature for attracting mates, such as the peacock's tail feathers or the dewlap of many lizards, are in fact displays to show that they are the most resistant to parasites (how else could they expend their energy this way when it would otherwise be siphoned off?). Suddenly all of evolution starts to show the signs of parasitic influence.

Parasites have found their way into every life form for so long that not having parasites is actually something out of the ordinary. In fact without parasites to keep in check, the human immune system that evolved alongside countless invaders can even go into overdrive in their absence. Such reactions display as allergies, colitis, and Crohn's disease.

Not only are parasites an accepted part of life for, well, the rest of life as a whole, it is a crucial one. When an ecosystem is unhealthy, it is the parasites that are affected first as they are the de facto top predator and thus they are hit the hardest when an ecological web is disturbed. Researchers are now starting to use the number of parasites as a sign of the health of an ecosystem, as if they are thriving then all the other strands must be in order. In many places the parasites act as a regulating system so that no one species ever becomes so successful that it pushes the ecosystem out of balance.

In all, Parasite Rex was a book that made me glad for once that I'm an insomniac as I was not willing to stop reading even if sleep is something humans are supposed to require. The way it has expanded my understanding of the intricate interactions of life on this planet is something that shall forever shape my view. It is like having a key piece of the puzzle put into place that you did not even know was missing.
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Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Sound of Freethinking #9: Parasite God

This song comes from the album "The Smell of Rain", in which Mortiis sings from the perspective of a disillusioned deity. A deity that sees humanities devotion to ancient religions as a failing. This deity is a non-intercessory one and can only lament so many wasting their lives. While this may seem to be something that would be filled with deistic overtones, the deity Mortiis sings as is only a tool he employs. He very much incorporates human emotions into his deity so that it will act as a better reflecting piece. This deity is not his views on such things at all, but a convenient allegorical concept.

This song, Parasite God, questions why humans would want to worship a deity that supposedly did so much harm to humanity throughout its existence. Why would anyone love and worship a deity that, essentially, is a parasite feeding off of humanity. Needing our sacrifices and obedience, such a god would never be worthy of any life let alone the countless masses who follow such a vile concept.

Mortiis' deity even goes so far to wish he was the kind of god that they were worshiping so that he can finally show all those 'true believers' what they have twisted themselves into. Perhaps then they would finally understand their hypocrisy, their fear-worship and every other aspect of the Abrahamic god.

The line "They love their Parasite God - Yet they crucify me." is an obvious reference to the duel nature of the god of Christianity. The wrathful bringer of death that is the Old Testament god and the kinder, even innocent at times, words of Jesus. In this song, Mortiis' deity takes the place of Jesus, thus being able to bring the concept to modern times. The idea that anyone who worships such a violent god will never tolerate the words of an innocent. It further suggests that the more peaceful message of Jesus has entirely been lost. Even though they claim to follow it, those who believe have learned nothing and will go about harming an innocent once again.

This very much reflects how believers of many faiths talk of a message of acceptance and unity but then turn around and condemn those they might disagree with. A condemnation that goes so far as to harm or even extinguish the lives of others.




We are floating - Above the mountains.
Watching all the tiny people.
How they waste themselves away.
Obey themselves away.

How willingly - They lay their love.
How willingly - They sacrifice themselves,
To the locust master - to the one that drowned the world.

They love their Parasite God - Yet they crucify me.

How willingly - They lay their love.
How willingly - They sacrifice themselves,
To the bringer of hunger - To the one that drowned the world.

They love their Parasite God - Yet they crucify me.

I want to be your Parasite God.
So I can show you who you really are.
I want to be your Parasite God.
So I can show you who you really are.

They love their Parasite God - Yet they crucify me.
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Well that didn't take long...

Despite his claims earlier in the day that he would remain in power, President Mubarak of Egypt has just stepped down and handed over power to the military. Mubarak himself did not address the people, but instead had his VP Omar Suleiman announce the word. He stated:

"In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as President of the Republic. He has mandated the Armed Forces Supreme Council to run the state. God is our protector and succor."

The reaction was immediate with Tahrir Square breaking out into celebration. Peaceful protest has once again caused a regime change in the region. The military has already made a statement declaring that they wish for a transition government to be formed quickly according to the protesters original demands and that they do not wish to retain power. This was a prime concern when it was originally stated that the military would step in, but thus far these fears seem unfounded. With so many of the military's ranks in support of the protests it would have been unwise for the military heads to have made any other decision as the internal unrest it would create could very easily destabilize the military.

So here is to the Egyptian people, may you enjoy your well earned celebration and make the most of your new start.

-------------------------------------
References:
Yahoo News
NewsnetScotland.com
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Friday, February 11, 2011

Mubarak refuses to step down

Despite President Mubarak's claims earlier today that he would step down after the military declared that they were siding with the protesters, things changed after he gave what was expected to be his resignation speech earlier tonight.

When General Hassan Ruwaini told the Egyptian people today that "All your demands will be met today", what was once just protest became celebration. With the backing of the military it was thought that the people finally had their voices heard.

A crowd numbering in the thousands gathered in Tahrir Square to await the president's resignation, however when it came time for Mubarak to address the Egyptian people, instead of announcing his resignation as most believed he would, he stated that he would remain in power as "the president of the republic". He went on further to state that he was:

"adamant to continue to shoulder my responsibility to protect the constitution and safeguard the interests of the people."

Upon hearing Mubarak's claims to remain in power, the crowd went silent. But soon a chant of "Erhal! Erhal!" ("Leave! Leave!") with many taking off and holding their shoes up in a classic sign of protest in the region. Yet despite hearing such enraging news, the protesters remained true to their statements of non-violence. Even with the size of the protesting crowd as the working class joining in on the strikes and protests, even with the transportation system's workers strike leaving the area in disarray, the protesters have not become violent. Even despite protesters continuing to be abducted and a death tole above 300, they remain true to their goal of peaceful protest to establish a new democratic Egypt.

Mubarak has stated that he will transfer some power over to his VP Omar Suleiman, but that he will remain the head of the government. The government later declared that it will form a fact-finding committee to look into the "unfortunate events" behind the protester casualties on February 2nd. The state prosecutor has also launched a corruption investigation against three former government ministers and a parliament member in an attempt to assuage the protesters. Thus far none of these statements have been seen as acceptable by the Egyptian people.

------------------------------------
References:
ABC News
Huffington Post
Los Angeles Times
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tremoctopus, The Blanket Octopus

Recently Pharyngula had a link to a rather interesting video of a rarely seen octopodian, the Blanket Octopus. However, neither the video nor Pharyngula went into detail about this unusual mollusk so I thought I would take the time to write a bit more about it.

Blanket Octopus is the common name for the four known species of cephalapod within the genus Tremoctopus. All are pelagic (open ocean) species found in sub-tropical and tropical oceans. They get their name for the defensive display of the females. Upon being startled, the female will unfurl a long draping membrane that connects the larger arms. This drastically increases the size of the animal and along with its bright colors, is often enough to dissuade many would be predators.

A female blanket octopus with her arms curled into her mantle.


Ostentatious is a word the Blanket Octopus is not familiar with


Another feature of note in this genus is the high degree of sexual dimorphism. The males never develop the elaborate display of the females nor do they achieve their size. Females commonly attain the length of 2 meters where as the males are only a few centimeters at most. The males can only mate once, where upon they detach a specialized arm known as the hectocotylus which then crawls into the females mantle to fertilize her eggs. Upon delivering the hectocotylus, the male swims away to die. The female is then left to carry her 100,000 eggs at the base of her dorsal arms where they remain until hatching.

Only discovered in 2003, the male Blanket Octopus is up to 100 times smaller then the female.


Another interesting defensive behavior has been seen in both males and juvenile females. They are often seen drifting with Portuguese Man o' Wars for protection. When threatened, they will often start tearing apart the jelly leaving a cloud of armed tentacles in its wake. Occasionally they will go so far as wielding broken tentacles as defensive armaments. The octopus is never harmed as they are utterly immune to the Man o' Wars venom.
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Data from Kepler

Recently, NASA has released the results from the Kepler Telescope. The Kepler Telescope was designed to continuously monitor 145,000 main sequence stars looking for the signs of planets occulting (passing in front of) them. Two months into its three and a half year mission, Kepler has already discovered far more planets than was ever anticipated.

Before Kepler, astronomers had found a little more than 500 exoplanets. Thus far, Kepler has found 1,235 candidates, more then double the amount humanity has ever found. These need to be individually confirmed, which is a slow process. Out of those 1,235, 15 have been confirmed as planets. It will take quite a bit of time to cross check the remaining 1,220 candidates, but the current findings have left researchers quite excited.

Before Kepler came online, only massive planets many times the size of Jupiter could be detected, and these were often only found because their orbit was very close to their star causing a noticeable wobble. Recently occulting techniques have been employed to detect planets, but the going was quite slow. But with Kepler's more refined telescope, it is able to detect much smaller plants passing in front of the stars. Among the many candidates found, 68 of them are believed to be Earth sized. With an extended estimate based on the current data, this places Earth like planets being found around 6% of stars. Even more intriguing is that 54 of the candidates were found to have an orbit within their stars habitable zone, the region around a star where liquid water is able to form.

There was much hope that some planets would be found that are both Earth like in size (125% the mass of Earth or less) and within the habitable zone. Kepler did find such candidates, 5 of them in fact. From these numbers, the Senior Astronomer for the SETI Institute, Seth Shostack, estimated this:

"Within a thousand light-years of Earth" there are "at least 30,000 of these habitable worlds."

This already shows that our galaxy has far more planets then was was suspected. It also shows that our galaxy may very well be filled with planets that life could develop on.

-----------------------
References
Kepler homepage
Seth Shostack, A Bucket Full of Worlds
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tardigrade, the water bear

Tardigrades are a group of animals that most of humanity has completely overlooked. It is not because of their prevalence, as these critters are all over the globe. In fact take a step outside and you are almost sure to find them, if you have the right equipment. The problem with finding them is their size. The largest is only 1.5 mm in length while the larvae can be smaller then 0.05 mm.

This phylum of animal that I happen to love, despite being relatively unknown, is more commonly refereed to as Water Bears or Moss Piglets. In their own way, they are just as adorable as their namesake.


It just looks so hugable.


All Tardigrades have a few key features in common throughout the entire phylum. They all have eight stubby little legs, each having four to eight tiny claws. They consist of four segments and a head. Their bodies are covered by a cuticle of chitin which it molts occasionally. To feed, they project a stylet into the cell of the organism it intends to feed off of and simply slurps up the contents. They primarily feed on moss and algae but a few species have been known to prey on other invertebrates. The adults are eutelic, meaning they have a fixed number of cells that they can posses. The largest having around 40,000 cells. Due to their small size, they do not require a respiratory system and instead rely on cellular diffusion for their needed gas exchange.

Despite having a name that means 'slow walker', these tiny creatures have found there way to nearly every environment we can think to look for them. They have been found in the Himalayas at 6,000 meters (20,000 ft) and in the deep oceans at 4,000 meters (13,000 ft). What is also astonishing is their numbers. In a single liter of sediment water, around 25,000 Tardigrades may be found.

They also posses a level of survivability that is beyond absurd. They are so hardy that researchers sometimes have difficulties finding environments that will harm them. When an environment starts to become too hostile for them, they enter a state known as cryptobiosis. This is essentially a freeze-dried state that allows them to endure just about anything. The do this by producing trechalose, a non-reducing sugar that replaces water and protects its tissue. This substance, after being noted in Tardigrades, has been used in various dry vaccines.

As I mentioned, while Tardigrades are in their cryptobiotic state, they are rather impervious. In this state they have survived exposure to near absolute zero temperatures. They were exposed to -273 C (459 F) and were still able to be revived (absolute zero is -273.15 C). Next came extreme heat with survivability up to 151 C (304 F). They are even resilient to pressure, surviving up to 6,000 atm, which is six times the pressure found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Wondering what to try next, researchers tried radiation. The median survivability limit was 5,000 Gy for gamma-rays and 6,200 Gy for heavy ions. To put this in perspective, 5-10 Gy is enough to kill your average healthy adult human. Going for what can only be considered the "Why the hell not" award, Tardigrades were exposed to the vacuum of space on the FOTON-M3 mission for ten days. Upon retrieving the experiment, they found the little critters hadn't really noticed as they had laid and hatched eggs during that time as if life were simply normal.

Thankfully, of the 1,000 known species, there has yet to be a case of a parasitic or otherwise harmful Tardigrade. After learning that they are a step away from invincibility, this is quite a good thing.

---------------------------------------
References
http://www.tardigrada.net/tardigrades.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tardigrade
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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Glyptapanteles, a parasitoid wasp

Glyptapanteles is a genus of wasp that makes my argument as an atheist just a little bit easier. The reason I say this is because there is no way a benevolent deity could create something like this. Glyptapanteles is what is known as a parasitoid wasp. A parasitoid wasp is any wasp that employs parasitic behavior at one point in its life cycle. There are quite a few examples of these in nature, but Glyptapanteles has to be the most disturbing.

When a fertile Glyptapanteles wasp is about to lay her eggs, she seeks out a caterpillar. While it is unknown if the wasp can parasitize any species, it is know to seek out at least three specific species: Lymantria dispar, the Gypsy Moth; Chrysodeixis chalcites, the Golden Twin Spot Tomato Looper; and Thyrinteina leucocerae, the Geometrid Moth. Upon finding one of these caterpillars, she stings it, injecting a paralyzing venom to keep her subject still. This is key as the wasp will then stab the caterpillar with her ovipositor and then proceeds to lay up to 80 eggs inside the caterpillar's body. Once this is finished, the wasp simply flies off leaving the caterpillar to slowly recover.

For a while the caterpillar goes back to its life of constant eating, probably wishing the previous events were just a horrible nightmare or a case of sleep paralysis. Unfortunately for our surprisingly self aware caterpillar, it did really occur and those eggs soon hatch and the larvae begin gorging on the insides of their warm squishy home. They don't go so far as to kill the caterpillar as they have need of it for later.

Eventually the larvae are are ready to pupate, but they must first exit their home/buffet. So they begin the process of eating their way out of the now somewhat hollowed caterpillar. They then spin their cocoons nearby. If evolution were merciful, the caterpillar would now be able to know the sweet embrace of death. Instead, the caterpillar actually heals its wounds and remains alive, though it is left in a somewhat altered state. It loses all interest in eating and instead focuses on the cocoons, spinning extra protective webbing around them and even charging and attacking any insect that gets to close. Why would it protect its former tormentors? The reason wasn't certain for quite a while until it was noted that some of the larvae don't leave their host. These larvae instead sacrifice themselves for the good of the many by taking control of the behavior of the caterpillar.



I'm sure you never thought you could say that you have seen a zombie caterpillar, did you?


Eventually, adult wasps emerge from their chrysalides and fly off. The caterpillar turned zombie guard dog is left to slowly starve, still watching over the empty shells.
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Macropinna microstoma the Barrel-Eyed Fish

Macropinna microstoma is a species of fish that shows that the evolutionary process really does not care as long as you have a survivable species. While most of its body is normal, its head looks like it should have been part of a submersible. You see, the Barrel-Eye, as it is commonly known, has decided that having eyes on the outside of its head was just some passing trend. Instead, it prefers to keep them inside the confines of its transparent head for safe keeping.


This fish laughs in the face of conformity.


Bizarre little critter, isn't it? Now that image needs a bit of explaining as the normal features one would expect just aren't right on this thing. Those two things up front that look like a cartoonists representation of eyes are in fact its nares. Nares are the olfactory structures of fish. These sensing organs are usually not quite this noticeable on your average fish, but the Barrel-Eye has a particularly developed set. The fact that they are facing forward on a transparent dome only makes them more conspicuous.

The real eyes are the two bubble looking structures inside the head. Those bubbles are actually massive lenses used by the fish to focus the dim light better. They get their name for the fact that the entire eye is cylindrical like a barrel. They tend to stay mostly motionless in the water column (which explains the large fins) with its eyes facing upward hoping to spot the silhouette of passing prey items. Also of note is the fact of the green pigment in the eyes. It is hypothesized that this is designed to filter out the last bits of natural sunlight that reaches the fish (as green light penetrates the deepest) so that it can focus on the bio-luminescence of its intended meal. The eyes get even stranger when you realize they can rotate to face forward.


Never has the simple turning of the eyes looked so strange.


So why does this fish have its eyes encased in that fluid filled head of its? The best guess comes from the prey items of this fish. Stomach contents show that it preys on sea jellies frequently. Having its eyes enclosed would allow them to be out of the reach of the cnidocytes (stinging cells) on the jellies tentacles. Another hypothesis is that the Barrel-Eye actually steals prey caught by siphonophores. Siphonophores being a colonial species of Cnidarian (the phylum all sea jellies, anemones, corals and hydras belong to) that looks like a long rope with tentacles along the length in clusters for catching prey.


The siphonophore Praya dubia, which may be one of the longest organisms with a length recoded to over 40 meters (131 feet)


Siphonophores are one of the more efficient hunters of the deep oceans, so feeding off of their catches would be a great strategy for a fish to develop. Even better, most siphonophores use bio-luminescence to attract prey, the green tinted lenses mentioned earlier would be especially helpful in picking this out.

The Barrel eye has been noted to live at the depths of 600 meters (2,000 ft) to 800 meters (2,600 ft), so unless you have access to a deep water submersible, there is little chance of encountering this critter on your next dive. Once again proving that the deep ocean gets to have all the crazy creatures.
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I've been thinking...

After taking some time to think, I have realized that I have been holding myself back as a writer. I have only been writing on recent events with the occasional post on my personal thoughts on things. I have done this for varying reasons, but it is something I need to change.

There are so many topics I find interesting that I simply haven't written about because it was something I already knew and therefore thought others would not find interesting. The problem with this is I've been generally compared to a human encyclopedia (in fact, that is where the name Cyc came from, my friends eventually found it was easier to ask me then wait to Google something and if I was ever wrong I would always come back to inform them of the mistake), thus much of what I considered 'just another fact' turns out to be something others would consider quite interesting.

So starting with my next post, I am going to start writing about far more concepts, ideas, facts, organisms and anything else that comes to mind. It is my hope that this will improve my writing ability as well as bring in more readers. While it is simply happenstance, the start of my less restricted writing style will start with my hundredth post. Lets hope this chance leads to another hundred.
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Friday, February 4, 2011

Please Help

I really do not like asking this, but I have no other choice. I am in desperate need of money, bills have been piling up. I know the economy is bad and everyone is hurting to some extent. But if there is anyway someone would be willing to donate some money, it would help immensely. My poor health has not helped the situation either. I have a chronic pain disorder which puts me in constant pain. Unfortunately I live in an area where getting treated for chronic pain is seen as the same as a drug seeker. So if anyone would be willing to lend some aid, I would be most appreciative.

I wish I could turn to my family, but they have effectively disowned me. Not that this is entirely a bad thing to begin with, as my family is a bit on the crazy side. In fact, as one person put it, I shouldn't be alive with all the things I went through. But I won't bore you with the details.

It is especially hard being a non-believer living in rural Oklahoma, where religion is an assumed thing. I have had friendships destroyed over the fact that I would not convert. This is also one of the factors leading to my family disavowing me.

I do have one bright spot in my life, this is my love. Unfortunately she lives in England. We have plans for me to move over there this year, but with all these bills piling up, I'm unsure as to when or if that is going to happen. We found each other through random happenstance. She was feeling wounded and I offered her what aid I could. Together we have overcome a great deal of hardship. In fact I sometimes wonder if I would be alive today if not for her.

I don't speak of my personal life much on this blog. This is partly because of not wanting to bore the readers with the details and partly out of fear. If I were to tell all about what has happened in my life and my family found out, they would be after me rather quickly. I plan on one day speaking out about my life, so that others who are in my situation might gain some hope. But at the moment, if I were to, I fear my family would strike back. I only recently was able to get away from them in the first place, I do not wish to go back to that.

I have aquired a donate button through Paypal, for anyone who wishes to be of aid. If you would rather do so via mail, my address is PO Box 185, Altus, OK 73522. To all those who have even read this, thank you.





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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Carl Sagan vs. astrology


If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.


I just found this amazing thing and I just had to say something about it. The blog Ninjerktsu is done by a storyboard artist at Dreamworks. Well he decided to make something a bit different and in this instance, it pits Carl Sagan against the starship astrology. This is utter genius and is true to someone I consider my personal hero. It really is perfect...and damn do I miss Sagan...
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Problem of omniscience

Omniscience, one of the qualities most agree on is required to be a deity, yet it also has the unpleasant side affect of making said deity an untenable concept. This one trait unravels any religion right away.

A good start would be to look at the book of Genesis, as this way I can go ahead and topple the foundation of the Abrahamic religions. God created a paradise for Adam and Eve. But as we all know, Eve took fruit from the tree of knowledge and shared it with Adam. What I'm interested in is the next bit.

Genesis 3:8
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to man, "Where are you?"

Wait, "Where are you?" did god just loose his omniscience? I actually envision this quite like our ancient brethren probably once saw it, a giant man walking through the garden to make sure everything was alright, the only way humanity knew how, by looking.

But the bronze age ruminations of how the 'beginning' occurred aside, there is still a very big problem with omniscience. When god supposedly created Adam in the garden, god was also knowledgeable about his future acts. Where in lies the quandary, why would god create a being in its own image and then see it do the one thing you told him not to do. With omniscience, god would have been able to see the result of any and all actions and the paths they lead out. This means god willingly created a being to go against gods own will. Adam didn't really have a choice in this as god being all omniscient, foresees the fall of man and allows it to happen.

Why would an all knowing deity create something that is going to fall? There is no logical way for an omniscient being to create something and not know the path it will follow. Some say god gave us free will. But to be omniscient god would have to know all possible paths and the likelihood of those paths occurring. Which, from the persons perspective, seems like free will, but to the omniscient being, it is all just moving along a play that was set at the moment of creation.

Take things a step further and add in the key part of Christianity. God must have planned this move from the beginning, meaning man was destined to fall and all those years or torment were not because god was angry, but god just planned it that way. This is where things get messy. You have the Trinitarians who hold that Jesus was an aspect of god. In this case, you have god, sacrificing himself to himself for something he had created to act out in a way that made man fallible.

But if you are Non-Trinitarian then Jesus was a very specific sacrifice for humanities' sins. In this case Christ was supposed to be part deity, thus making his sacrifice to be the final human sacrifice to god. Instead of being there on the cross, god is represented by this human deity hybrid? Was This really the best way to close the Adam loop hole? Omniscience finds itself unable to cope with this.

The difference is minor between Trinitarian and Non-Trinitarian, yet the conclusion is still the same, Omniscience does not work.

But what about Islam? Wouldn't god have seen the split between Shia and Sunni Islam? Would not god, or Allah if you prefer, foresee the split where one group tries to make Abu Bakr as the proper Caliph and the other sees Ali as the continuation of the family and therefor the rightful descendant of the Prophet. With gods Omniscience god would have foreseen the split and therefor made things clearer as to who would rule.

Omniscience is a deities worst enemy, unless of course that deity is more of a dick than anything. If god was just going for the most screwed up way to trash its creation, then yes, it would make sense...in a terrifying sort of way.
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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wildly stupid state bills

Here is a video clip by The Young Turks on a short list of recent insane bills introduced by Republicans in various states. For those of you who do not already follow The Young Turks, they are a recent news group who has spent a lot of time focusing on shining a light on all the idiocies of Right-Wingers, though they also do not hold back if anyone else makes a politically bad move. They have a wonderful wit combined with great fact checking making them a recent favorite of mine.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The next generation material for electronic chips

For quite a while there has been an ongoing debate over what material will be used to replace silicon for the demands of smaller and more efficient chips. Graphene, a single atom thick sheet of honeycombed carbon, was thought to be the most likely candidate for the longest time despite having to get over the Band Gap issue.

For those of you not caught up on your solid state physics, band gap refers to the distance between the valance band and the conduction band of a substance. These gaps allow for an electron to pass over, the larger the gap, the more energy required to pass the electron. With Graphene, you have a single planar sheet with all the valance states tied up, which is why it and the other fullerenes are so strong. Now there have been various experiments and hypothesis of how to get around this problem. But As of now, they have been made rather mute.

The reason for this is someone got around to testing a substance we have had laying around for a while to see if it would make a good semiconductor. What they found was molybdenite. Molybdenite is currently used as both a lubricant and in the manufacturing of certain steel alloys. It is rather abundant in nature and other then that, not much attention was payed to it. But a Swiss laboratory gave it a second look only to find that it would make a wonderful semiconductor.

Not only can it be formed into incredibly thin sheets, but the ever important band gap is far more efficient then with current silicon chips. How much more? In a standby state it consumes 100,000 times less energy then current silicon chips. Quite obviously laboratories all over are wondering what they can do with such a replacement material. This will allow for smaller and far more efficient chips then ever before, which will further lower the price of electronics while making them more powerful. It is an all around win. And be honest, until now you always thought Molybdenum was a silly name for an element.

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References:

B. Radisavljevic, A. Radenovic, J. Brivio, V. Giacometti, A. Kis. Single-layer MoS2 transistors. Nature
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Rep. Chris Smith wants to redefine rape

This is just vile. New Jersey Representative Chris Smith introduced a bill last week that would redefine rape and how it applies to government payed abortions. Previously, in cases of statutory rape, incest, and rape were all covered under a government plan for abortion. Along side this was the allowance for when the mother's life is endangered. But all of this may change.

The US House, through a majority vote, has passed a bill that would change it so that these paid abortions can only happen in the case of 'forcible' rape. What forcible rape exactly is, he doesn't say. The bill goes further to state that any money set aside in a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) must also be used with the new guidelines. This sets up a situations where a family won't be able to access their own money they set aside because their daughter's rape wasn't classified as 'forcible'. There has been added to the bill the inclusion of incest, but only if the person is under the age of 18. It also explicitly states that cases of drug or alcohol induced 'date rape' will no longer be covered.

I cannot properly say how disgusted I am right now. I really thought I had seen the lowest Republicans were willing to go, but this? Granted this bill still has to go through the Senate and if it were to pass that (lets hope not) it will certainly be vetoed by President Obama. But the very fact that it was brought up in the first place is horrid enough, add in the fact that it got a majority vote from the house (this is what happens when you let Republicans take hold) and you see quite a few hands that are covered in more filth then one cares to imagine.
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