Friday, December 30, 2011

How sexism hurts skeptical inquiry, and everything else for that matter.

Just the other day, there was an event over on the r/atheism section of the site Reddit that has just been brought to my attention.  It seems that a 15 year old girl posted an image of herself holding the book The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan that her highly religious mother gave her for the holidays.  She had posted it in hopes of an open discussion on the matter of her atheism in a religious family as well as her excitement over receiving such a wonderful and thoughtful gift from a parent that has often disapproved of her daughter's lack of belief.

Instead, she was met with levels of misogyny and sexualized comments that are beyond reprehensible.  Many of these comments were up-rated in excessively large numbers, showing that it was more than just a few idiots vomiting up their own brand of moronic bile.  At the girl's original post, comments of such a horrid nature can be found that I am loath to even repost them.  But I know that I must for the sake of pointing out the scale of the event as I know there will be people who would rather downplay such occurrences as trivial.

Comments such as “Well 15 is legal in many places, including my country, so I’ll only have to deal with abduction charges.” “Relax your anus, it hurts less that way.” “Blood is mother nature’s lubricant.” “Tears, natures lubricant.” “BITE THE PILLOW, IM GOIN’ IN DRY!” were posted.  Not only this, but as I said, they received far more up votes then down votes instead of being pointed out as vile comments they obviously are.  How many you may ask?  The second one on that list received, as of the writing of Rebecca Watson's original article on the event, 1715 up votes and only 648 down votes.  This makes it plainly obvious that they are being viewed by far to many as normal or even funny, instead of as the acts of horrible and hurtful people.

While not everyone who posted responded with such vile comments, the very fact that any occurred should be a source of shame for any decent person.  This is doubly so when it comes from a community that claims to pride itself in rationality and equality.  This is not to say that such traits are not held in high esteem by the skeptical community, but that there is much work that still remains to be done, otherwise this would never have transpired

Such behavior should be vociferously deplored the moment it creeps up.  There should be such a stigma against any such disgusting and clearly idiotic behavior that anyone who holds or exposes such beliefs should be afraid to mention them, or is forced to reevaluate them.  No one should ever have to fear speaking up on the internet because of how they will be treated by clearly damaged people.

Some will claim that to treat such commenters as the backwards and harmful individuals that they are is a violation of their right to free speech.  The fact that such things can be thought without having a melt-down of their irony meters shows a severely deranged and self-entitled mode of thinking.  It is to say that such commenters right to free speech is more important than the free speech of those they are attacking.

And yes, this is an attack and it should not be assumed to be anything less.  It is not playful trolling or harmless joking.  It is stating that someone else is so much less then you as to be unworthy of even the most basic of levels of human dignity and respect.

Not only have they harmed this girl who was only trying to show her own love of rational thinking and a great book, but they have also made what should be a rational and accepting community into the kind of place that has no place for those silly women-folk with their absurd illusion of having worth as something other than an object for a man to use.

Thankfully, many atheist writers have taken a stand against this behavior.  I was introduced to this account by the ever wonderful Greta Christina who goes on to link others who have also written in protest of this occurrence.  Many others have read about these accounts and have taken it upon themselves to speak out against this behavior as well as give their support to this girl on her original post.  I hope that many of those reading will follow the link and offer your own support.

Some may hope that if we ignore such fools they will simply shut up and go away.  I cannot fathom why anyone would think this, especially amongst a community that often does what it can to speak out against the crimes of others in religious and political arenas.

It displays and underlying misogyny that cannot be ignored.  For to do so will only serve to alienate half the human population.  Non-believers (and believers alike) of all forms must stand in unison to put this to a stop.  We should be above this and those that truly are must speak up.  Otherwise the voice of the misogynistic morons will be the only voice budding young female skeptics will hear and be turned away from what, I for one, see as one of the most fulfilling realizations possible.  That the universe can be understood on its own merits and is all the more beautiful for it.  If we do not stand up, then we are only quietly condoning such behavior.  We should be showing such individuals our passion for a rational understanding for the world and nurture their own love for it as well, not letting them suffer at the hands of others.  To do anything less is to deny such individuals humanity and lose a part of ours in the process.
Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Regalecus glesne, the Giant Oarfish

A washed up Giant Oarfish found in 1996 by members of the U.S. Navy.

Regalecus glesne, or more commonly known as the Giant Oarfish or the King Of Herrings, is quite possibly the longest living fish and certainly the longest living bony-fish.  The debate stems from the fact that the first Giant Oarfish to be encountered was a specimen that had washed up in Scotland in 1808.  The individual was recorded to have a length of 56 ft (17 m).  However, other than this single instance, the largest specimen encountered was only 36 ft (11m).  This has led some to claim that the first recording was in error while others do not find it surprising and believe that individuals of 50 ft (15.24 ft) in the wild may not be uncommon.  But until further data can be found, the limit of 36 ft is the most often cited.

This disagreement as to the limit in size for the Giant Oarfish puts it as either the longest fish period or simply the longest bony-fish.  To compare its size, the Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus), generally considered to be the largest living fish, has a maximum recorded size of 41.50 ft (12.65 m).

Despite being an enormous fish and having a range throughout the worlds tropical and temperate oceans, the fish is rarely sighted.  The few times it has been encountered have almost exclusively been when specimens have washed ashore or into shallow water, either dead or dying.  Though a few instances of live individuals being encountered in the wild have occurred.  Though no matter the state of the fish, encounters are sure to grab regional, if not worldwide attention.

A taxidermied Giant Oarfish in the Museum of Natural History of Vienna.
The Giant Oarfish's natural habitat is at a depth of between 600 feet (200 m) and 3,000 feet (1,000 m), though healthy individuals have been occasionally known to rise to the surface for short periods for unknown reasons.  It is during these rare excursions to the oceans surface, or when they have washed ashore or into shallow water, that it is thought that these unusual fish gave rise to the myth of the sea serpent.  While ill, it is not uncommon for individuals to swim with their heads and the crests of their dorsal fins to be sticking out in a way that resembles elaborate spines or horns.  In fact, it is one can still find the occasional old map with images of sea monsters that curiously resemble Oarfish.

It is not hard to see how sightings of this fish could give rise to myths of sea serpents.
The most notable feature of the Giant Oarfish is its long and laterally compressed body.  Despite having an immense length, they have a lateral length of only around and inch or two.  They also have pinkish to crimson red fins.  The most obviously being the body length dorsal fin with its large crests and its long, thin pelvic fins.  In fact, other then these and the small pectoral fins, these fish have lost all of their other fins.  They also have a highly extendable sideways mouth, much like those found in certain flatfish such as flounder.  There body is a brilliantly shiny silver with blue to brown spots and stripes, however these spots and stripes will often fade as the fish grows ill.  However the fish's shiny exterior will remain.  The reason for this shininess is not due to scales, for they utterly lack any.  Instead, they have large amounts of Guanine embedded within their skin (the same molecule that is used in DNA) that gives them their metallic luster.

Like many of the largest organisms in the worlds oceans, all Oarfish and their closely related cousins, the Ribbonfish and the Crestfish, feed on some of the smallest of organisms.  Feeding primarily on the zooplankton where they selectively strain out their preferred foods, such as tiny euphausiids (krill), shrimp and other crustaceans.  They have also been known to occasionally eat smaller squid, fish and sea jellies.  Using their highly extendable mouths, they feed in a fashion similar to many other fish, by extending their mouth and sucking in their prey.  Their food is then ingested whole.

The source of the common names for the Giant Oarfish come from the fact that people once believed the fish swam by undulating its body while using its long pelvic fins to 'row' through the water.  This, however, is simply a myth.  It moves by undulating its long dorsal fin while keeping its body perfectly straight, in what is known as amiiform locomotion.  Its other common name, the King Of Herrings, comes from yet another myth.  This one being traced back to fishermen occasionally seeing the Giant Oarfish around the same time as they were catching Herring and them assuming that the fish was leading the school.  With the rather regal look of the Giant Oarfish, it is not hard to see why this was so.  In fact, this myth gave rise to its genus name, as Regalecus means regal.


In the wild, the fish swim vertacally through the water column, with their tail end facing down and their head pointing straight up.  It is believed this may be so that the fish can spot the silhouettes of its prey against the light from the surface, much like many other species of deep water fish are known to do.


The Giant Oarfish is known to be a migratory species.  Specifically, they are what is known as oceanodromous, meaning that their migrations never take them out of sea water.  They migrate to waters off of Mexico between July and December to spawn, then back to their original locations throughout the worlds oceans.  The fish are strict loners so males and females will release their gametes into the water to be fertilized as part of the plankton.  The eggs are brightly colored and buoyant, floating to the surface where they are fertilized and hatch after about three weeks into a larval form that stays near the surface, feeding upon the zooplankton that they live amongst.  These larva are so morphologically distinct that their identity was long a mystery until more developed specimens were found and the link to adult Oarfish was made.

The larval form of the Giant Oarfish.
A slightly more mature individual.
A healthy Giant Oarfish has been caught on camera at its normal depth only once.  The video was taken by an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) at a depth of 2509 ft (765 m) in the Gulf Of Mexico near a deep-sea oil rig.  I have included the video of this amazing event for your viewing pleasure.

 


The Giant Oarfish is truly a marvelous fish that brings a sense of wonder for scientists and the public alike whenever it is encountered.  It is a prime example of how evolution can take life in truly fantastical directions.
Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

She can dance if she wants to...

I found this over at  Memebase and had to share it (original here).  The text in the original piece is a bit hard to read so I shall reprint it here with the Demotivational poster below it.  The featured article says:

"That's my niece Diane, and she's going to Hell."
Diane is a beautiful girl, I love her like I love my own daughter.  But it breaks my heart knowing she is going to spend eternity in the fiery furnace of Hell.  She'll never know Jesus.  There'll be no second coming.  Just an existance as one of Satan's minions.  Why?
Because she dances.
She could do anything else in the world.  Sing, Pray, Knit, Make hot dishes for families in need.  But she chooses to dance, Reverend Jerry Falwell says dancing leads to premarital sex, drinking, smoking, voting pro-choice and driving foreign cars.  And I always trust Reverend Falwell.
I've tried talking to Diane.  I've asked her to pray with me.  I've even taken her to church.  But she keeps dancing.  I don't think I can save her soul, but I'm sure you know someone who dances and can be saved.  Thomas Road Baptist Church has a free pamphlet on how to spot the warning signs of a dancer, and how you can intervene with the help of Our Lord and Savior.  Please write today.  There are more Dianes in the world who need our prayers.
Mrs. Loyd Douglas, Ned Beauty, Wyoming
Write today for your free pamphlet, You Can Dance Your Way To Hell If You Want.  Together with the help of Our Lord and Savior and Reverend Falwell, we can stop this sinful activity before God sends another plague of Muslim Airline Pilots our way.
A message from your friends at Thomas Road Baptist Church
And below the photo of the dearly departed Reverend:
"Friends, I need your help.  The power of prayer is indeed mighty, but to end this scourge I need more of your prayers.  I need your dollars to continue our crusade to help make America righteous and holy in His light.  I really, really need your dollars today.
-Jerry Falwell
Credit to Bagal_Tree_Socks for the meme.
 For those of you are desperately hoping that this is a joke, that the Thomas Road Baptist Church is fake or a case of a particularly good Poe, I have depressing news for you.  They are not only a real church, but a multi-million dollar mega-church in Lynchburg, Virginia.  Yes, a hate fueled church that can be found in a place called Lynchburg.  Be afraid.  If you still have your doubts, take a look at the relevant Wikipedia page.

Obviously this is a bit old as Jerry Falwell died in 2007, but it has lost none of its insanity in the years since.  I apologize to everyone who's brain I have melted in the process of sharing this.
Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays everyone. I hope everyone enjoys their various winter oriented holiday of choice. Well, for those in the northern hemisphere at least, for those in the southern, have a good seasonally opposite Holiday of choice?  Anyway, enjoy the various forms of merriment!

Cyc
Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A random quote that has nothing to do with the holidays, but enjoy anyway

I just stumbled upon this quote from Mark Twain's Letters from the Earth and I thought I would share it with you.  He really was a brilliantly clever man and far ahead of his time.  I hope everyone has a wonder Holiday.

The priest said, "Imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like him." The man studied his Bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations. He tricked his wife into falling downstairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life; he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all and landed him in the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea; he furnished one daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb, and blind for life; and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him. Then he reported to the priest, who said that that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven. The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way.
Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati

Republicans rush to the aid of the Christmas tradition

There comes a time when abusing the system to pander for votes changes from a bad idea to outright absurd.  A prime example of this comes from Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and 55 co-sponsors who have just brought a resolution onto the House floor that comes to the defense of our precious Christmas traditions. Earlier this month, on December 7th, they introduced H. Res. 489.  I shall let it speak for itself:


Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate Christmas.
Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and
Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment of the Constitution, in prohibiting the establishment of religion, would not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore, be it
    Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
    (1) recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;
    (2) strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and
    (3) expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions by those who celebrate Christmas.

It is certainly good to know that the Republican party thinks that we can waste tax payer money on a resolution that does absolutely nothing about a problem that doesn't exist but we can't spend money on extended medical coverage for veterans or education.
Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati

Discovery of the chib(3p) particle

The Large Hadron Collide (LHC) has proved its value once again.  This time by confirming the existence of an up till now hypothetical particle.  Known as the Chib(3p) particle, it is a boson, the same class of particle the Higgs is in.  Bosons are any particle with an integral spin (0, 1, 2, etc).  The existence of Chib had been expected for quite a while, but the energies required to detect it had yet to be attained.  However thanks to the LHC, teams of physicists working with the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS ) detector were able to do just this.

Unlike the Higgs Boson, the chip particle is not an Elementary Boson, but composed out of other particles, namely a pairing of a Bottom and an antiBottom quark.  Sometimes still refereed to as the Beauty quark (it all depends on where the team you are working with hails from), interactions between this kind of pairing had been beyond the abilities of particle accelerators until now.

For a little more explanation into what this means, let me first explain what a meson is.  A meson is a pairing of a quark and an anti-quark.  While quarks are technically fermions (particles that have fractional spins, such as 1/2, 2/3, etc) and have a mass, when a quark and its anti-quark join up, their spins combine to form an integral spin (1/2 + 1/2 = 1), making them actually a Boson.  As I said, this puts them in a different class from elementery Bosons such as the photon, W and Z Bosons, gluon, and potentially the Higgs and Graviton.  Instead, they are called Composite Bosons, due to their being constructed of multiple parts.  This allows them to have mass and, because of this, does not allow them to have a trait shared by Elementary Bosons such as the ability for multiple to be in the same place at the same time.  Known as the Pauli Exclusion Principle, particles with mass cannot exist in the same place at the same time.  But Bosons do have an effect on the Pauli Exclusion principle, being that, for a short range, particles are attracted to one another if they are of the right type.

To elucidate this, think of a simple atom, say Helium.  A neutral atom of Helium is made of two protons, two neutrons (though this varies in isotopes) and two electrons.  Each Proton is composed of a series of Quarks, namely two Down and an Up Quark (while a Neutron is made up of one Down and two Up Quarks).  These are held together by the exchange of the Elementary Bosons called Gluons, which mediate the Strong Nuclear Force.  At very close distances, the interaction of these Quarks through their Gluons emit short lived Mesons, which, as we said, are Composite Bosons, usually made of an Up and an antiDown Quark (or vice versa) that radiates away and quickly decays.  But before it can decay, it extends the Strong Nuclear Force (mediated by the Gluons) to the nucleaus and holds the protons and neutrons together despite being of the same charge and wanting to be apart (remeber how like charges such as with a magnet repel?).  This is what I was meaning as the short range of the Pauli Exclusion principle where Fermions (in this case, the protons) can be held together.  The Composite Bosons (if you wish to know, the up and antidown pair is known as a Pion) keep them together, elaborating upon the Strong Nuclear Force.

Now that this is in place, we can understand what the Chib particle really is.  It is a Composite Meson that is made up of, and in turn, holds together a Bottom and and antiBottom pair.  Through this process, many ordinary bits of matter get much of their mass.  Their mass is an effect of the Strong Nuclear Force emiting these Mesons and holding things together.  The Higgs field is still needed to determin what that mass will be, but it cannot do it without the Strong Force. 

While this new particle is very short lived, it shows that the underlying physics that we have developed is still displayed in nature which is good news for researchers looking for this Higgs Boson.  It doesn't mean the Higgs does exist, it just means that there is a bit more evidence to suggests that it does based on what we have observed.
Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati

Friday, December 23, 2011

...Eh?

I was just shown this.  I don't think I can do it any credit other than looking at it in a confused manner.  If this was written with sincerity it is the most absurd thing since the Time Cube.  Whoever this person is, they need help, desperate help.  Warning, it will take a while and afterwards you may have little hope left for humanity, read at your own risk.
Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati

Republicans decide to finally grow up, sort of

It seems that the Republican party has finally realized that it cannot get away with having things their way or else throwing a tantrum.  As anyone with a grain of intelligence can tell you, American politics are screwed up, but the GOP has taken things to the next level and beyond in many instances.  The entire concept of the 'Tea Party' and their often racist, homophobic, big business promoting ways that have pushed into popular Republican values has become a joke onto itself.  But their general plan of acting like they are the good guys when in fact they only care about getting paid well finally backfired.

When a bill to renew a cut in payroll taxes by about $20 a week for an average worker making $50,000 a year came to the senate was first stopped, Republicans claimed it was because the only way to do it was not a 2 month renewal, but a full year, Thus tricking the voters into thinking the Democrates were idiots for thinking of this and couldn't be bothered to deal with when real issues were at hand.  But once word of this spread that if this wasn't done now, the payroll tax would be increased in an attempt to find funds for a previous cut in social security tax, Republicans realized that they would receive harsh criticism for their actions and gave in to negotiations.  Instead of looking for money where it could be appropriated more easily and less destructively to the working class, it would have been placed at the foot of middle class taxpayers had things stalled further.

To be fair, many Republicans were fully on board with the tax cut, but the idea that they had to convince so many others that this was the right thing to do and had to be done now is absurd.  It is this part of the Republican party that has made American politics a joke to much of the rest of the world.  Even this side was mostly on board with the idea, but kept wanting to hold out for more breaks for small businesses instead of seeing that the economy was not in a state to allow the American taxpayer to pick up this burden at this time.

I do hope that this will be a step in the right direction and that the Republican party can become a more unified whole, stepping away from the crazy direction that it has been following with increasing intensity in modern years.  It is time for the world to be shown that we Americans should be a leading force in the world not because of our power, but because of our system, that we have the right ideals. Unfortunately actual political work seems to only only become muddled in the bureaucracy far too much as of late.  I believe that such a turn around would be just what many nations need to restore some of their faith in the economic and political strength of the Unites States.
Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A final note on Christopher Hitchens



I had recently stumbled upon this video over at Spanish Inquisitor.  After watching it...and once the numbness finally left my limbs from my proximity to that kind of stupid, I decided to have a go at this.  The individual in the video brings up the idea that, according to his doctrine, Christopher Hitchens is in hell not because of some punishment, but because god loves him ever so much.  For those of you with a low stupidity tolerance, I shall give you a moment before trudging on.

So how does someone love another enough to let them burn eternally?  Well, there really isn't any way that it can make sense, at least not the kind of sense that is seen outside of serial killers and, apparently, Christian talk show hosts.  According to him, Hitchens was in pursuit of damnation his entire life, by not accepting the loving embrace of Jesus (I still cannot write that without getting a bit of a shiver down my spine at the thought of just what that embrace might entail).  So in his infinite and unquestionable wisdom, god gave him just what he had always strived for, an unveiling of the truth and a betterment of humanity...wait, I'm sorry, god was just fresh out of those and instead Hitchens has to settle for an infinite understanding of pain and agony, same thing right?

According to this man and all those countless others who follow such doctrine, god loves everyone and is willing to let everyone have what they desire.  And by that I mean give those who believe in his kid everything they could hope for while torturing the rest.  All the good the man did, all the events he brought to light in his various books and articles, his own moral stance and actions, all cast aside because Hitchens didn't believe in their god (specifically their god's son...who is also god...I hate the trinity), all his life's works condensed into one little nugget that, with the aid of a bit of Magic Jesus Juice, would be light enough to float into heaven. But Hitchens clearly made his choice, so his eloquent and satirically laced nodule would be just a bit too heavy and would sink down into hell (satire being the densest of all writing styles).  Thus, god gives us what we truly desire, isn't it beautiful?

If that seems a bit, well, crazy to you, congratulations, you are not a psychopath!  The attempt at wit at the very end of the video, where the individual states that Hitchens would not want to be given access to heaven is actually correct, but not for the reasons he thinks.  For who in their right mind would want to enter into a heaven that involves spending all your time worshiping a tyrant.  No, Hitchens wouldn't want entry into such a place based on the principles of its ruler, not out of pride as this person, and many others think.  But luckily for him, we live in a universe where things don't work that way.  Instead we have nothing to fear but the people who prop up their ideals upon the very gods they create in an attempt to raise some part of themselves above what they see as the 'enemy'.  This is a sad state of affairs and one I wish was not so, but if anything, Christopher Hitchens taught us to look directly at what is worst about ourselves, he did this in a hope that the rest of humanity might rectify the wrongs of others.  And for that we should thank him, for giving us a chance to look at the darker parts of our selves and figure out how to make things just a bit brighter.

1949 - 2011
Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati

Ayn Rand, it had to be done

While talking with my love, I was inspired to get a bit creative and ended up creating  a new demotivational poster.  So, for everyone who has had to put up with the kind of self idolizing libertarian idiots that so many of us, sadly, have the burden of calling acquaintances, here is a meme you can get behind.

Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati

Sunday, December 18, 2011

CERN announces possible evidence for the Higgs Boson

On Tuesday, December 13th, the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced that two competing teams have possibly detected the hypothetical Higgs Boson, the last of the elementary particles predicted by the Standard Model remaining to be uncovered. The possible new discovery was made at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the largest particle accelerator in existence. With a circumference of 27km (17 miles), the LHC is able to accelerate twin proton beams up to a speed of 99.999 the speed of light, creating an impact energy of 14.7 TeV (Terra Electron Volts). One of the prime reasons for the construction of the LHC was to look for the Higgs Boson, which until the construction of the LHC, had a predicted energy limit above the capability of the largest particle colliders of the time.

The announcement was made based on the works of two competing teams working at two separate detectors located at the LHC. One at the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) and the other at the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), both of which are considered the general purpose detectors of the LHC, with the ATLAS fittingly being the larger of the two. The team at ATLAS found an excess of reactions stemming from the range of 125-6 GeV (Giga Electron Volts) while the CMS team found a similar excess at 124 GeV. When combined with other data from previous experiments, this gives us a certainty of 95% of the Higgs Boson being limited to the range of 115-130 Gev. To give you an example of what these numbers mean, 125 GeV is 133 times the mass of a proton, one of the two particles that make up the nucleus of an atom.

The Higgs Boson itself is far to short lived to be detected directly. Instead, it can be infered based on particles formed from its decay inside the detectors at the LHC. Because of this and the mess of other particles formed during these intense collisions, it takes both large amounts of computing power as well as huge numbers of collisions. In the case of the Higgs, an excess of two muons and two neutrinos, which come from, in turn, two W bosons. Because these kinds of reactions can be formed by random background noise, physicists must be careful to rule out all possible causes before settling upon the Higgs Boson as the source.

A simulated computer model for the reaction caused by a Higgs Boson.



It should be noted that CERN did not confirm that the Higgs Boson had been discovered, but that further evidence must be uncovered before it can be safely said that the Higgs Boson exists. Until then, this new data only makes the existence of the particle much more likely while reducing the energy ranges that are likely to harbor the particle. If the Higgs does exist, it is expected to be confirmed sometime in 2012 if current predictions are accurate.

The importance of the discovery of the Higgs Boson is hard to understate. It has often been referred to as the "God Particle" in the media, much to the chagrin of many physicists. This is due to the book of the same name written by physicist Leon Lederman who has been quoted as stating that the Higgs Boson is:

so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive

As well as jokingly following this with:

the publisher wouldn't let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing.

The Higgs Boson was predicted by three independent groups at nearly the same time in 1964. Eventually the particle was named after one of these individuals who has been given the credit for fleshing out the concept the most, Scottish physicist Peter Higgs. The Higgs Boson is the quanta (smallest unit of energy) for the Higgs Field, which would grant mass to other particles. One of the simplest ways to describe the Higgs Field was written by David J. Miller. He described the process as:

Imagine that a room full of physicists chattering quietly is like space filled with the Higgs field. A well-known scientist walks in, creating a disturbance as he moves across the room and attracting a group of admirers with every step.

This increases his resistance to movement. In other words, he acquires mass, just like a particle moving through the Higgs field. Now imagine if, instead of a well-known scientist entering, somebody started a rumour.

As the rumour spreads throughout the room, it creates the same kind of grouping, but this time it’s the scientists grouping together.

In this analogy, these groups are the Higgs bosons. If we find these groups, we can prove the Higgs field exists and thus explain the origin of mass.

The Higgs Boson also would be responsible for the symmetry breaking of the ElectroWeak Force, which is a combination of the Electromagnetic and Weak Nuclear forces and would explain why the mediating particle of the Electromagnetic (the Photon) is mass-less while the ones for the Weak Nuclear (the W and Z bosons) has a mass. It has also been hypothesized as one possible cause for the Inflationary period of the universe, when the young and hot cosmos expanded in volume by a factor of 10 to the 78th power between the times of 10 to the -36th seconds and either 10 to the -33rd or -32nd seconds. Though the Higgs Boson's part in Inflation is still hotly debated.
Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Disturbing youtube name, disturbing videos. Please report this.


So, I was on youtube, watching The Young Turks and I was watching this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSltPSxD-Bc&feature=autoplay&list=UU1yBKRuGpC1tSM73A0ZjYjQ&lf=plcp&playnext=3
When I came across a comment by someone called beagoodgirl4Daddy.
If you go on their channel, it has nothing but videos of preteens, or even younger, doing 'sexy' things.
Please, please go and report them. I believe in freedom, but that is just absolutely horrible. There's no way that should be on any popular site.
Unless you approve of sexualizing young children, this is sick, wrong and just plain disgusting.

-Misa 
Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mola mola, the Ocean Sunfish

The Ocean Sunfish is a bony fish that has made it its life-long goal to set as many records as possible. It does this while having an appearance that is, in a word, odd. These fish have undergone so many specializations as to set them apart from nearly every other group of extant fish.

The largest species, the Ocean Sunfish Mola mola belongs to the genus Mola of which it shares with only one other living member, The Southern Sunfish Mola ramsayi. In turn, the genus Mola belongs to the family Molidae which contains three genera and five known species. Until more genera were uncovered, the genus Mola did not exist and was instead classified under the same genus that houses the pufferfish, Tetradon. However, with better study of these fish and improved classifications of the related genera and species, they were moved to their own family and genera. Though they are still classifed within the same order as the pufferfish, porcupinefish, boxfish and filefish, the Tetradontiforms.

The Sunfish's relation to the Tetradontiforms has led to an ongoing debate as to the toxicity of these fish. Some claim that the organs contain a low level tetrodotoxin, the same kind of toxin found within certain pufferfish (as well as the Blue-Ringed Octopus and certain newts) and the cause of Fugu poisoning. Despite the claims, there have been no confirmed cases of tetrodotoxin poisoning in any species of sunfish. Which is certainly reassuring for the multiple cultures (primarily Japanese and Thai) that find sunfish flesh to be a delicacy.

Seen next to a diver, the adult Ocean Sunfish's size can truly be appreciated.
These fish have an appearance that makes them seem like they are only half a fish. In a sense, they are as their cauldal fin (the tail fin) has degenerated to a clavus which barely has any use in locomotion, acting more as a stumpy rudder. The dorsal and anal fins have become the prime sources of locomotion, moving side to side to slowly propel the fish through the water with a speed of under 2 mph (3.2 hm/h) and a range of around 16 miles per day (26 km). In fact it is due to this slow speed and large size, combined with their habit to lay on the surface of the water on their side to sunbathe that they have become known as a boating hazard where they have damaged hulls and destroyed engines. But this is essentially the only threat these docile fish pose, with the lone example of direct injury occurring when of boy was injured when an Ocean Sunfish breached (jumped out of the water) and landed on his boat, knocking him into the water.

One of the first record breaking traits to be noted about the Ocean Sunfish is its size. These fish are both the heaviest bony fish as well as the largest ray-finned bony fish. With a weight of up to and sometimes exceeding 2,200 lbs (1,000 kg), these fish are massive. Also, due to their odd appearance, they often have a length equal to their height, often around 11 ft. (3.3 m).

Despite their large size, Ocean Sunfish feed primarily on small organisms.  Their primarily source of nutrition are sea jellies, but they have also been known to feed on small fish, crustaceans, squid and eel grass.  Their teeth have fused into a beak, similar to many other tetradontiforms, but the sunfish's has fused in a way to prevent it from closing its mouth fully.  So instead of biting at its food, it will suck it in where it will blow water back and forth rapidly to tear apart its soft bodied prey.  It will then partially swallow its food and allow its pharyngeal teeth to grind the food down to a more manageable size before swallowing it the rest of the way.  The pharyngeal jaw is a trait held in common by some 30,000 species of fish and is, as the name suggests, teeth or, in some rare cases like Moray Eels, fully mobile jaws used to pull food down the throat.  In the Ocean Sunfish, they are basic teeth in the pharynx that simply grinds bits of food and nothing more.  Due to their nutrient poor diet, the Ocean Sunfish must eat frequently.

Due to the primary prey item of the sunfish being sea jellies, these fish are often found dead after they have tried to eat a plastic bag floating in the water and are unable to swallow it further.  Making pollution, as well as ocean traffic and fishing the primary threats to these fish.  Due to their size, they have few natural predators.  The only ones of note being Sea Lions, Orcas and certain sharks.

One of the other record setting traits of these fish can be found in their rate of reproduction.  The Ocean Sunfish lays more eggs at a time then any other vertebrate.  At a time, a single female sunfish can lay as many as 300,000,000 eggs (yes, that is 300 million).  These eggs are then externally fertilized by a male and then left to drift with the rest of the plankton on the oceans currents.  These eggs are fed on by multiple organisms all along the food chain including fish such as tuna.  It is because of this rather wasteful method of reproduction that such a large number of eggs must be produced to maintain the species population.  Once the eggs have hatched, the tiny fry appear as 1 mm, spiny spheres, betraying their common ancestor with the pufferfish.

A newly hatched sunfish fry.
Another of the record setting traits of the Ocean Sunfish has to do with the size of its spinal cord.  Due to the shortening of the body that has occurred over time, the actual spinal cord only extends about 1mm from the base of the brain.  The rest of the body is connected through the peripheral nervous system.  Thus, the sunfish has the smallest spinal cord of any fish in relation to their body.  They have also lost many of their vertebrae leaving them with the fewest of any fish.  In fact, despite being a bony fish, the sunfish has lost nearly all of its bone, replacing it with cartilage.  This adaptation has allowed the sunfish to grow to such large sizes without causing damage to its skeleton.  Further showing convergent evolutionary traits with the cartilaginous fishes is the development of denticles, sharp, teeth like protrusions of the skin.  These give sharks and rays, as well as the Ocean Sunfish, their sandpaper like texture.  This acts as a kind of body armor as well as decreasing water friction allowing them to move more easily through the water.
Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati

Well this sucks...

As my Misa has recently said, I was denied entry to the UK. After months of work, I get there and based on a technicality, I was turned away without even so much as getting to see my love. Quite obviously, I was more than a bit peeved.

However I am not yet beaten. I am now working on getting a visitor's visa (which, according to the UK Immigration website, I shouldn't even need). I would love to be able to make it over there by Christmas, but I am unsure if that will be possible.

If not, I shall just have to do what I can to get there as soon as I can. I care for her far too much to just let things go at this point.

On other news, I shall do my best to try and update more often, though I cannot guarantee that. It is getting quite cold out and the only way I can reliably get online involves walking to the library for computer use for about an hour or two. But I shall do what I can.
Facebook Digg Stumble Delicious Twitter Reddit Technorati