Archives for: "June 2010"

Why is the day exactly 24 hours long?

This has got to to be the best question so far, continuing in the questions for "evolutionists" series. It disappoints me such people don't even understand the shape and structure of the very local universe.

Darwinists, if Intelligent Design isn't true, then why is a day exactly 24 hours long?

If by Darwinist you mean biologists, then you're asking the wrong group of people. Try asking some astronomers.

A (solar) day is 24 hours long because we decided to break a day up into 24 segments for the purposes of time keeping. We could have just as easily broken it into 10 hours, or 100 hours. Or even 54 hours!

Nowadays however we know that a day isn't 24 hours long. A single day can vary by around 20 seconds depending on the location of the Earth along its orbit. When closer to the Sun near perihelion solar days become longer as the Earth is moving faster in its orbit and has to rotate further to bring the Sun back to the same position on the sky and vice versa. Over the course of a year it will average out to 24 hours, although due to the Moon the Earth's rotation is decelerating.

There's also the sidereal day to take into account which is the time it takes the Earth to rotate relative to the stars. This is truest gauge of how long the Earth takes to rotate. And it is 23 hours 56 minutes and 4 seconds.

Now if the sidereal and the solar day were the same, then maybe you could invoke an intelligent designer to explain why the Earth is a relatively nice place to live, as it would look a little different to how it is now, it would have either fallen into the Sun or remain in orbit with one side boiling and the other freezing while remaining tidally locked to the Sun.

Also, the sun reaches its highest point at noon every day. Why do Darwinists claim this all happened by 'accident' and deny this evidence of intelligent Creator?

The Earth rotates and is angled away from the Sun so it has be at its highest point at some time; we decided to call this the solar noon, which when the Sun crosses the meridian (an imaginary circle crossing between the poles angled at 90° to the local horizon). If by noon you mean 12:00 then this is false. In most countries solar noon will be sometime between 11:00 and 14:00 but due to how large time zones and the fact we like taking hours off and putting them on the solar noon and 12:00 are very rarely equal unless you're stood just in the right spot.

Biologists don't claim this happened by accident. Neither do astronomers. The solar system is a product of the laws of nature. It wasn't put into place as-is by some supernatural intergalactic dictator; it developed from a cloud of hydrogen and dust over millions of years. It seems to be you like using arbitrary names or systems that we came up with to describe the universe as evidence of a designer. The only designer it is evidence for is ourselves.

Windows Live Messenger Wave 4 beta thoughts

I've been using the new beta version of Windows Live Messenger since its release last week. I was originally going to quickly blast out my opinions of it. But I'm glad I've waited the extra few days.

My first issue which didn't manifest itself fully until the weekend is adverts. Now I understand that Messenger requires a fairly substantial server backend to operate. But isn't this going a little over the top?

Conversation window in Windows Live Messenger (Wave 4)

Yes upon opening a Messenger chat window you get a banner add in the actual conversation. Note I did remove it for the purpose of this screenshot. You can close the advert, which I'm sure will generate more accidental clicks on the ad than leaving it open. To answer my question yes this is totally over the top.

The ad in the Messenger contact list view is unchanged from the last version, and with the new expanded social feature you get a bigger ad instead. I actually like the social view and think it'll be one of Messenger's most liked features (when Twitter support is enabled).

I'm also liking that it works properly with the Windows 7 taskbar now, previously WLM would spawn a weird icon in the taskbar with a non-existent window preview. Then if you had the contact list open it would show up as a second preview. Weird. The rest of the program seems nice and fast, ignoring the ads it also looks a bit cleaner. Tabbed conversations is also a nice improvement. I also like being able to have group conversations with up to 40 people now, up from 20 in the last version. Although you can't actually expand groups to see who's a member anymore. I suppose mainly for privacy reasons.

I'm still undecided on the new emoticons. So I'll give them some time.

I am concerned about the fact ink support has been erased, whenever I was on my tablet most of the time I would ink directly into Messenger. This feature being lost is in my opinion a substantial set back. I'd often draw things to get my point across.

All in all its a decent upgrade and I would recommend people check out the beta. It's pretty solid and doesn't seem to have broken anything else. From now until the final version I'd like to see the Messenger team think again about the advertising, how about removing all adverts for Xbox Live Gold subscribers eh? That'll provide some nice value-ad for those Gold subscribers who don't really need it, like myself. Oh and get ink support back please.

You can download it from the beta website and learn more about it from the Wave 4 preview website.

"Magnified" lunar eclipse? I don't think so

The BBC last week ran a story on Saturday's partial lunar eclipse. I have no objections to the BBC coverage lunar eclipses, but I do have problems with non-science writers covering them.

Just a bit of background, for viewers in Asia and the Americas this lunar eclipse would have appeared while the Moon was near the horizon. The Moon is bigger near the horizon right? Kinda.

The article of the title was "Lunar eclipse 'magnified' in US". A pathetic attempt at trying to make it seem more interesting. The article went on to say:

A partial lunar eclipse taking place on 26 June will appear magnified in the US by an effect known as the "moon illusion". [...] According to Nasa, low-hanging Moons look "unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects". The reason for this is not understood.

NASA huh, well you could have just asked your local amateur astronomer and got an answer. The reason for the effect is NOT unknown.

The Moon, or the Sun for that matter (please don't look directly at the Sun), do look larger when they're near the horizon compared to high in the sky. However you can take a simple measurement to show they're the same size regardless of where they are in the sky, about half a degree across.

The effect is an optical illusion created by our brains. Our brains use other objects to estimate the size of things. Trees and houses, things you'd see on the horizon are pretty big. The Moon looks like it's close to them and about the same size or bigger, so hmmm the Moon must be big too. When the Moon is off by itself high up in the sky we have nothing else to compare it to.

Effect not unknown.

Windows Live Essentials Wave 4 beta up

It's not yet appearing on all of Microsoft's websites yet, but here's the URL:


First impressions, setup is much better. Glad I don't have to see that woman grinning into her coffee anymore like with Wave 3!

Update: replaced direct download link with the official webpage.

Clearing up storage confusion with Live Mesh and Live Sync

Last week Microsoft formally announced Windows Live Sync, the new version of which is based on Live Mesh. Live Mesh gave users 5GB of cloud storage to which they could sync data to. As well as near-unlimited data transfer between PCs.

The new Windows Live Sync, based on Mesh continues to offer most of the functionality that Live Mesh provided, bar the Live Desktop which mimicked the PC desktop as a way to offer data currently stored in the cloud which was removed as well as a few other little things here and there.

Since Live Mesh was introduced back in 2008, it sat competing with the then primitive Live Sync which only offered PC to PC synchronisation. Live Mesh was no question the better of the two so it's no surprise it is being used as the basis for the next version of Live Sync. Through Windows Live, people get 25GB of cloud storage on SkyDrive. An obvious move going forward would be to unify the Mesh and SkyDrive storage. That's basically what they've done in this release.

But you can only store 2GB of synchronised data to SkyDrive. Why?

Microsoft cites cost. Everyone shouts bogus, saying they're giving people 25GB anyway. What people aren't getting is it's really hard to fill up 25GB of space when you upload through a website or through Office, with a maximum file size of 50MB. I keep a copy of my entire picture library up there and I'm only using 6GB of it and I'm probably the top 1% of SkyDrive users.

Yet if you had folders on your computer that are set to automatically synchronise in the background to SkyDrive, that 25GB would start filling up really fast. And that would be dramatically more expensive than the current state where I'd guess the average SkyDrive account has a few megabytes of storage being used.

Give it time and no doubt Microsoft will increase the amount of synchronised storage. Sure it's a bit of a bummer that Mesh users have to downgrade to 2GB. But this isn't some geeky toy like Live Mesh was. This is a consumer product that will be installed on hundreds of millions of machines. That equals a lot of hard drives in the cloud, and that isn't cheap.

iPhone 4 can't keep up, looks dated compared to WP7

So Apple announced the iPhone 4 earlier this week. Jobs proclaimed it was the biggest upgrade since the iPhone came out. To which the Apple fanboys cheered. Perhaps somewhat exposing how disappointed they had been by the iPhone 3G, which added 3G support bringing the iPhone up to the same level as smartphones that had been shipping for years prior. And showing how lacklustre the iPhone 3GS was which was the same thing, only a bit faster.

Essentially the form factor is the same. The huge ugly bezel is still present, and with the design of the sides being a bit more chunky it is only going to feel more like a brick. They've finally added a front facing camera - again a feature that shipped on original 3G phones back 5 or so years.

Most importantly they have increased the screen resolution. Anyone who had used any Windows Mobile phone back when the iPhone first came out saw instantly how low resolution the screen on the iPhone was. They've finally caught up with the old Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 in having a display over 300 DPI. So that at least puts them up with 2008-era screens.

However the screen is the same size, 3.5 inches is pretty average nowadays. Most high-end smartphones today offer larger screens without making the handset larger by having a smaller bezel and having more of the phone taken up with screen. Also disappointingly it is the same old 4:3 aspect ratio, when other smartphones have been shipping with widescreen displays for a couple of years now as the standard.

Here's the iPhone next to the HD2. The HD2's screen is almost an inch bigger, yet the device is only slightly larger. You can really see how much space is wasted on the iPhone. Look at all that black empty nothingness top and bottom of the screen.

iPhone vs HD2

The HD2, or the Nexus One or the Desire etc show how a smartphone should be done. The front surface of the phone should be as much screen as possible.

The other much touted new feature is video calling. Yes, apparently the old iPhone didn't support that along with dozens of other features that other phones support. Worse yet it only does video calling with other iPhone 4s and you need a Wi-Fi connection. Apple blame this on mobile providers. Despite the fact the first generation of 3G phones supported video calling. Apple of course in their attempt to get mindshare give this feature a hip name FaceTime. Amazing. Once again Apple are attempting to re-write history, and too many people are letting it pass.

More importantly as Microsoft showed some newer builds of Windows Phone 7 at TechEd this week and announced that some developers (on a case by case basis) would be getting their hands on Windows Phone 7 devices next month for free. It is becoming painfully obvious just how out of date the iPhone is looking compared with WP7.

Here's the AP application running on an iPhone, and underneath an AP application running on WP7.

AP Mobile on iPhone
AP Mobile on Windows Phone 7

The screens really don't do it justice so here's the video:

In my opinion the iPhone definitely looks dated in comparison. Steve Jobs' little features here and there aren't going to make up for it. iPhone applications just look stale.

Questions for "evolutionists" - chickens, eggs, protein and Everest

Continuing the long series on questions for "evolutionists" is a few questions from a reader I got. I assume they think their questions are compelling. They are not.

First up:

What came first, the chicken or the egg? If the egg; what came first, the embryo or the shell?

The egg came first. Let me explain why. At some point in the chicken’s evolutionary past, it was a different species. Scientists categorise modern domesticated chickens as Gallus gallus domesticus. Their domestication is estimated to have started around 10,000 years ago in East Asia. If we for the sake of argument define chickens or red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) as a different species at a point around 10,000 years ago when they started to become domesticated, there would have been a a time where a chicken's parents were just those wild red junglefowls. Of course from individual generations the differences are only slight. But differences do occur. Broadening the concept further, all birds are descended from dinosaurs, so at some point dinosaurs did lay eggs with birds in them. Obviously it's not as such fine a line and species change gradually, but if you have to draw a razor sharp line somewhere, it will fall between two generations.

A quick point on what came first out of shell or an embryo. An embryo, which is critical to a species reproducing, would have come first. You can reproduce without a shell, as many species do and have done in the past. If you evolve a shell and it helps you survive, bonus. But it's certainly not the first step.

What came first DNA or the proteins that make up DNA? Since DNA itself contains the code or instructions on how to make more DNA?

First up DNA is not made from proteins, DNA codes for proteins, you can think of proteins as carrying out all the jobs that need to be done in a cell, and DNA as what tells the proteins what to do. Proteins would have *probably* been around before DNA; however this is obviously cutting edge science, and without a time machine it will be difficult to determine. It's probably fair to say RNA and proteins co-evolved. Although the first life on Earth would probably have been a simple self-replicated module, similar to RNA.

Try these simple steps:

1. Google: "how old is mount everest"
2. Google: "how many inches does mount everest grow in one year".
3. 70 million x 2.4 = 168 million
4. Divide by a mile: 168 million / 5,280 = 31,818
5. Mount everest should be 31,818 miles high?

Very nice. But the Earth cannot be understood by such simple arithmetic. You also need to consider the different rates Mt Everest and the Himalayas would have been growing, or shrinking over the course of the last 70 million years. You also need to take into account the amount of erosion that would have been happening over the course of those 70 million or so years, and take into account its variability also. Lastly, you also need to take into account that mountains cannot get much bigger than Mt Everest because gravity will pull them down, essentially they'll shrink under their own weight. An asteroid can have a huge lump or mountain out of one side, but an object as massive as the Earth has a lot of gravity and it will tend to smooth itself out.

Internet Explorer 9 offers the best HTML5 and CSS3 support

A few years ago, the Firefox fanboys were arguing for Internet Explorer to drop its own Trident rendering engine, and adopt Firefox's Gecko engine. More recently people have argued for Internet Explorer to use Webkit. Looking at these results, shouldn't we be asking Firefox and Chrome to use Trident? Well no, but it's the thought that counts.

As we can see above the Platform Preview of Internet Explorer 9 passed all 192 of the tests co-developed with the W3C, no other browsers came close. Other browsers like to claim to be standards compliant, but which standards and what does that really mean? It means not using proprietary tags (like Firefox and Webkit browsers) and not trying to roll out standards before they're finalised (like everyone did with CSS2).

So not only is Internet Explorer 9 really fast thanks to being GPU accelerated, its HTML5 and CSS3 support is shaping up nicely for when the time comes and they are finalised.

Google spreading the security FUD

This week's news of Google transitioning away from Windows to Linux or Mac OS has spread its way across the internet, Google cite security reasons for the move. But is that the only reason behind it? The answer is no.

First up, we're talking about Google; of course they would rather run their own in-house stuff. Primarily Linux, they use that as the basis of Android and Chrome OS, their servers run Linux. It should come to no surprise that Google from a corporate level would prefer to be seen running their own stuff, or if not their own at least not the stuff of their main competitor - Microsoft.

That in my opinion is the main reason behind it. The security excuse they chucked out is FUD pure and simple. Microsoft or Windows aren't at fault for Google being hacked back in January. Google got hacked because their IT administrators allowed a 9 year old browser on their machines, running on a 9 year old operating system. I tell people almost daily, upgrade your browser, and if you can afford it look at moving to Windows 7.

If they had proactive IT administrators, ones who roll out updates within days of their release, or ones who through group policy prevent unpatched machines getting onto the network this would not have happened. Heck IE8 was blasted onto all my machines within hours of release. Testing compatibility with the machines or their own systems could be done during the public beta. For Google, a so-called leading internet company to be using a nine year old browser is embarrassing.

Of course Google were quick to blame Microsoft for the problem, why wouldn't they? The fact it didn't effect Windows Vista or up, or Windows XP with IE7 or up was irrelevant, they needed some FUD to spread. This new story is just part two of their FUD campaign, and they're almost getting a free pass with it.

Google could deal with all their security problems by moving to Windows 7. They might as well even use their own Chrome browser if they want, it is pretty respectable. Moving to Linux is certainly not going to solve their security problems, and giving their workers the option for Mac OS in addition is only going to be a total security disaster with how insecure that is.

Security wise, Mac OS X is a joke, it consistently falls first in any test. Linux is respectable security wise, although it has far more vulnerabilities than Windows, and is more difficult to maintain, and let's not even talk about usability. Microsoft since the release of Windows Vista back 2006/2007 has had a very good track record on security, to the point where exploits on Windows aren't targeting Windows itself anymore, they're targeting Adobe Reader, Flash or QuickTime because exploiting Windows itself is too difficult these days.

For Google to cite security is laughable.