Categories: "Science"

A Muslim Prime Minister? So what?

Over on Labourhome one poster attacks Labour MP Shahid Malik for "handing the BNP a massive propaganda victory".  What's the reported mishap?  At a conference back in 2008, Shahid Malik is reported to have said:

"I am confident, as Britain's first Muslim minister, that, in the next thirty years or so, we'll see a prime minister who happens to share my faith."

What's the big deal?  We have a Church of Scotland Prime Minister right now, we've had Church of England Prime Ministers in the past and even in-the-closet Roman Catholics.

The real issue everyone seems to be missing isn't about which supernatural intergalactic dictator somebody subscribes to, but the fact they subscribe to any supernatural intergalactic dictator.  I'd like to think that in 30 years time we would have made some progress and that we wouldn't have people in such important positions believing in such childish fairy tales.

The original poster goes on to ask:

So my question is this - how should Labour respond to Mr. Malik's remarks?

Respond to what?  He's entitled to his opinions, why should the Labour Party do anything about that? 

I do believe he's wrong and that the Christian elite are too well entrenched in this country for us to see a Muslim PM in that sort of time frame, at least not without a serious shift towards a secular state.  I'd like to think the increasing fundamentalism between Christianity, Judaism and Islam will help bolster the secular movement and drive the sensible majority in this country against religion - or irrationality in general, if its the Prince of Wales' bogus detox snake oil or supernatural intergalactic dictators at the end of the day its all the same thing - bullshit, and we should strive against it.

WorldWide Telescope web client now available

The WorldWide Telescope team has released a web client for WorldWide Telescope, written in Silverlight and currently in alpha but from my testing works quite well.

WorldWide Telescope web client

It doesn't support the 3D solar system view yet, but pretty much everything else is in there, including tours. Performance isn't as good compared to the full Windows client which makes use of 3D hardware acceleration. Nevertheless it is pretty useable, and the servers at the moment don't seem to be under as much load as they were when the full client was released last year. As someone who is in the process of making a couple of tours I can't grumble at the increased install base that having a web client will bring.

Check it out at worldwidetelescope.org/webclient.

Questions for "Evolutionists" part 2

I had a comment posted on my original Questions for "Evolutionists" post by someone called Eli, they make some highly effective arguments.

Something that evolutionist can not answer is why are there planets that spin in the opposite direction? Remember now..Conservation of Angular Momentum? Now your answer has to be a fact not a guess.

Ignoring the minor detail that "evolutionists" study biology, not stellar and planetary formation. Young solar systems are chaotic places. There are more forces at work that you haven't taken into account, solar system bodies interact with each other, sometimes extremely violently. A small moon having a retrograde orbit isn't hard to explain, many moons especially irregular ones are captured after their formation, and as such can be orbiting in any direction. Planets revolving different to other planets also isn't hard to explain with large impacts that were common in the early Solar System.

Also I find it interesting they believe in the atom, yet they can't see the atom, but they see its effects. God is the same way.

Except of course we can't put god in a clock so he can tell us the time, caesium atoms work quite well.

Many many evolutionists keep saying "The fossil record proves evolution." Yet those same "scientists" will later say.."Throw out the fossil record it doesn't prove a thing." Which one is it?

Its the one that you didn't just make up.

Sounds like a bunch of confusion to me.

Argument from ignorance, just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it isn't true.

Cosmos view in WorldWide Telescope

A new feature that WorldWide Telescope implemented in a recent release was the Cosmos view.

This takes data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey which is in the process of mapping the distance to a million or so galaxies. You've probably seen images like this one:

Which are taken from the SDSS and similar surveys. Now however you can view the data in 3D in WorldWide Telescope.

No these images don't do it justice. Instead open up WWT go down in the bottom-left corner of WWT and tell it to look at the Solar System, then click View at the top, and check the Cosmos box, if you haven't done this before you'll get a message recommending that you have at least 256MB of video memory else performance will suffer. Once enabled just keep zooming out from the Solar System.

Wizzing around the large scale super-structure of the universe = epic win. The only trouble now is I can't wait until the whole sky is mapped, out to say 10 billion light years, I've got a feeling I'll be waiting a while for that.

Daily Mirror fails big time - Moon hoax nonsense

The Daily Mirror seems to have found out about the Moon hoax nonsense, and of course - are republishing the nonsense, with just some minor token sceptisism thrown in. So let's sort em out, again.

But were the Moon landings really mankind's greatest scientific leap or the most fantastic hoax ever pulled?

Well I wouldn't call it mankind's greatest scientific leap. I'd call it humanity's greatest engineering triumph.

But anyway on with the nonsense:

In 1979, when the first suggestions began to emerge that NASA might have been up to some dirty tricks, six per cent of Americans thought the Moon landing was a hoax. In 1999, the number had risen to 11 per cent.

When they counted again recently, they discovered no fewer than 22 per cent believed that the Apollo 11 Moon landing never happened.

OK, but that's two different polls. One asking if the Moon landings were a hoax, and the later one asking if Apollo 11 landed on the Moon - there could be genuine ignorance about that particular mission - maybe it was one of the orbiters. Either way the figures aren't comparable.

Ever since President John F Kennedy pledged at the start of the 60s that man would travel to the Moon and back within a decade, the Americans were desperate to beat the Russians in the space race.

The Americans had already lost the space race on April 12th 1961. Surely you can only consider something a race if the other side is competing in that race.

That summer of 1969, Moscow was only a month from launching its own manned Moon shot.

False. "Moscow" didn't even have a rocket capable of such a mission, let alone the lander and everything else you need, all of which existed only on paper. Development of a rocket capable didn't even start until 5 years after the Saturn V. The N-1 was designed to launch heavy cargos into Earth orbit, like space stations and large military satellites, sure the N-1 could have been adapted to use for a manned lunar mission, that's certainly what Mishin would have liked but let's face it, after Korolev died in 1966 that was that, Mishin had no chance of getting funding for any serious lunar attempt, Brezhnev just wasn't interested. The N-1 was under-funded and never worked, it was scrapped in the 1970s and development on the Energia superbooster started instead.

The USSR did however launch a series of robotic missions to the Moon, including sample returns and even rovers, perhaps they're getting manned and unmanned mixed up?

Technology then was positively primitive. The computer developed for the Apollo programme had only a tiny fraction of the power in a home PC today. The satnav that guides your car is many times more sophisticated than the machine which, so we are assured, steered a mission 250,000 miles to a few square yards of the Sea of Tranquility and back.

...And you can fly a plane with no windows with a map, watch and a compass, so what? The biggest technological hurdle were the engines, not the onboard calculator.

Even recently, when President George W Bush announced the USA's ambition to return to the Moon, he was told it would take 11 years to put the engineering together.

If NASA had a proper budget they could do it in 10 years, if the United States kept science and engineering education up to a civilised level - and education wasn't bogged down fighting creationism and religious fundamentalism. They could probably do it in 5 years.

How, for example, could an astronaut (below) be walking through a shadow, or have the sun at his back, and yet be brightly lit from the front, showing off all those bits of his spacesuit, especially the Stars and Stripes flag, in technicolour?

Err because the lunar surface reflects light surprisingly.

If you were posing this in a studio, with so-called in-fill lights blazing from every angle, you couldn't have produced a better result. The response from NASA? Well, you have to understand that on the Moon light can behave in odd ways.

Light on the Moon works the same way as light on the Earth. It's just these dumbasses don't even know how it works on the Earth - light reflects off things and illuminates things. That's why shadows aren't infinitely black, because there's light coming around from their environment, off walls, the floor or anywhere else - just like on the Moon where you have a big white Lunar surface reflecting light at the astronauts.

There isn't the atmosphere to spread it around like on Earth, but there is an open surface to reflect it where you might least expect it. So where are the stars? In every photo, the sky was ink black, with nothing at all twinkling out there.

That's because they were taking photos of the Moon - not the stars. They used fast exposure times on their cameras because it was day time on the Moon - the Sun was up lighting everything up. Even standing on the Moon with the Sun up you won't see stars unless you hide the bright lunar surface and the Sun from your view - then if you give your eyes some time to adjust to the lower light levels you'd be able to see stars.

To capture the stars you'd need exposure times of several seconds, and the lunar surface would be massively over-exposed.

The lunar surface during the day is very bright. It's been compared with ice or snow on the Earth.

And how come, when the spidery landing vehicle hovered above the surface and fired blasts from its retro-jets to lower itself down, it didn't even appear to have disturbed the very ground underneath it.

Because the thing had a throttle - if they were firing the engines at full blast they'd be taking off not landing.

Secondly unlike the Earth there is no atmosphere, therefore the actual flame from the engines would have to touch the lunar surface to disturb it.

And the flag planted by Armstrong and Aldrin. The sceptics say the shadows cast by the astronaut, the lander and various rocks seem to go in all directions when they should be parallel, while the flag doesn't cast any shadow at all.

Look at shadows running over some bumpy ground on the Earth, they all change direction slightly (none of the lunar photos show shadows going in all directions), as the shadow follows the contours of the ground.

Perhaps most outrageous of all conspiracies is that three men did indeed go to the Moon but there was not the technology to bring them back. They were sacrificed for US pride. The Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, who reappeared on Earth were lookalike actors

I'm sure their wives would of noticed something a bit different after 40 years!

Today only Aldrin, now 78, keeps a high public profile. He was confronted two years ago by a TV reporter who demanded he swear on the Bible that the landing wasnt a hoax. Aldrin's response? He punched the guy on the nose and narrowly escaped prosecution. More proof, said the HBs, of the pressure of keeping a 40-year secret

He wasn't just asked to swear on a bible - he was called a "coward and a liar, and a thief". Here's the video:

Bart Sibrel has been harassing the Apollo astronauts for years - it's about time he got what he deserved. Nice punch Buzz.

That small step begins to look even more mysterious than ever.

Nah - you're just dumber than usual.

Einstein did not believe in your "creator", so stop saying he did

As some of you may remember I touched upon one of the comments left on the Boston Globe's HST advent calendar last month.

Some of the comments however I found quite disturbing, and some were just plain out whacky. Here's one of the more moderate ones:

So beautiful, so complex, there are physical interactions to numerous to count every second in the universe and yet it holds together, in balance, exploding here, imploding there.

The universe holds together? Actually its doing quite a bad job of that with its continuing acceleration, come back in 100 billion years and see the combined mess of the merger of the local group, massive black holes, the burnt out remains of stars, the cold frozen remains of planets, and see that the rest of the universe has gone over our horizon never to be seen again. Then take another look in say a trillion years and see the mix of elementary particles thinly spread around, with a temperature a fraction of a degree above absolute zero. They went on to say:

Einstein said the complexity of the universe demands the existence of a creator, but we may never know Him. The joy of this season is that we can.

Wrong, Einstein never said that. Here's a few things Einstein did say in relation to your so-called creator:

The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.

Letter to Eric Gutkind, 1954

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

Letter to an atheist, 1954.

It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere.... Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

Albert Einstein writing in the New York Times Magazine, 1930.

Couple of letters critical of religious organisations:

I am convinced that some political and social activities and practices of the Catholic organizations are detrimental and even dangerous for the community as a whole, here and everywhere. I mention here only the fight against birth control at a time when overpopulation in various countries has become a serious threat to the health of people and a grave obstacle to any attempt to organize peace on this planet.

Letter, 1954.

The minority, the ruling class at present, has the schools and press, usually the Church as well, under its thumb. This enables it to organize and sway the emotions of the masses, and make its tool of them.

Letter to Sigmund Freud, 1932.

For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups.

Letter, 1954.

And I'll chuck this in here too (good for the current economic climate), it might put some of those right-wing religious people off Einstein a bit.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor - not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.

The World As I See It, 1949.

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