21 September 2006

Chain Letters as a Source of Woo

If I would get off my butt and write something, I would have plenty of material for Skeptics Circle just from chian letters that my wife gets in her email. Her family is quite credulous, especially the younger ones, and often pass these things along - and require a good swift kick in the backside from an older sibling or me to get them to smarten up.

Well, in this week's Skeptic's Circle, See You at Enceladus goes off on the large number of chain letters being distributed via Powerpoint presentations. My wife received "The Woman", as mentioned in the Enceladus article, from her sister-in-law. Of course, they both found it very inspiring, and my wife forced me to watch it. I kept on expecting something funny to happen, but it ended up being pure, sappy, Xian-inspired, sentimental, Oprah-esque fluff. Ugh.

She also received one about self-CPR by coughing during a heart attack. That one really pissed me off because it used about 8 slides just for build-up to the actual technique, like an infomercial. My wife was impressed and sent it out to everyone she knew, including my mom, who's a doctor.

It seemed silly to me, since CPR is really only done when during cardiac arrest, not for a heart attack, so the R (R=resuscitation) in CPR is a misnomer. But, being tired, I supposed that it could have some sort of function in helping the strained heart muscles pump, so I let it slide. That night, one of my wife's brothers did some research on it, and found that, while technically possible, the likeliness of doing it correctly is miniscule and doing it incorrectly can hurt. The Urban Legends at About.com listing on it says that it can be used, with professional supervision, for people who suffer heart attacks due to heart arrhythmia. As I told my wife when she asked me about it, the article also says that the best first response for a typical heart attack is to take Aspirin.

After her brother told her the technique was not recommended, my wife sent a follow-up email telling everyone to disregard the previous email. But this was too late, for my mom had already read it. Of course, she became very insulted that someone would pass on this nonsense to her, so I had some situation-diffusing to do.

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15 September 2006

New Carnival

There's a new blog carnival in town, called Philosophia Naturalis hosted at Science and Reason, focused on physics and technology. Crap, now I'm going to have more reading to do. I can barely keep up with Tangled Bank, Skeptics Circle, and CotG, and I generally don't get around to Mendel's Garden or Carnival of the Liberals much at all. Now this. Oh well, I guess I'm not going to get much work done on my own posts, or (sigh) my real work at my job. Some buildings are gonna be falling down.

Anyway, the first edition of Philosophia Naturalis is here, and it seems to focus a lot on cosmology (cool stuff, though I would have failed my 1st year astrophysics course if it wasn't an open-book final, with exam questions identical to homework problems). It's intimidatingly big. Fortunately, it's only a monthly, not biweekly like the other carnivals.

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11 September 2006

Comics Online

Here are two of my new favourite comics that can be accessed online.

XKCD and PhD Comics.

Update 26 Sept: Also great is Jesus and Mo.


08 September 2006

In God's Image - A Thesis About What God Looks Like

Genesis 1:26 - Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness...."

What exactly does "Created in God's Image" mean?

It certainly doesn't mean physical form, unless of course heaven is a physical realm very, very similar to the surface of our planet. Why else would God need a nose? Or feet? Or hair? Or a mouth? You need a nose to smell, and the shape of nose is fairly arbitrary, especially for humans. You need feet to move, but it only works on land and in water (I guess that's why angels have those itty-bitty wings; feet aren't that useful for moving about clouds). You need hair to keep your head warm, protect you from sunstroke, and as a sexual selective feature (If we have hair and that means God does too, but God doesn't have to worry about sunburn or the cold because he's God, does that mean God has a non-insulating buzzcut, or that his hair is purely ornamental?). You need a mouth to eat to keep you alive, and to help form sounds (God must be quite the talker). All these are a result of selection on genes based on physical processes. The concept of heaven as a physical realm of that sort makes little sense.

None of this even comes close to the discussion of the variety of human forms, which of these Adam was, and which, if any, God would resemble, from the concept of race (Is God black? The first humans were African. Asian? There are more asians than anyone else. Middle Eastern? That's where the Judeo-Christian tradition originated. Maybe he's a mix of everything.), to the differences between the sexes (If God is male, and men are created in God's image, does that mean God has a penis? And if so, what does he use it for? Writing his name in the clouds? Knocking-up Mrs. God? If there is no Mrs. God, then I'll bet God is blind or has hairy palms by now. If "he's" female, that might explain the biblical moodiness, from love to hate to wrath in the blink of an eye, and all that. Uh-oh, I think I'm going to get in trouble for that from my wife...). Still, the NIV Genesis account says, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness...." which seems pretty conclusive that it is physical form being talked about.

Perhaps God is the average of all men and women so that real people deviate from his perfection, starting roughly equidistant from the centre. First, that makes androgynous people closer to God's form. We can expect no genitals then, or maybe both sets. Well, that settles that, but I hardly think people will like the idea of Eric Cartman as Jesus ("But Meeehhhhmmm! I don't wanna die on the cross! I wanna go to Casa Bonita!"). But it still leaves us with the problem of all those other organs and appendages that only make sense on an Earthlike world.

Some have postulated that by being created in God's image, the bible really means that we have the power to be creative, to have morals, feelings, intellect, free-will, etc. and that we have a spiritual soul. You know, all those things that separate us from animals (Oh, wait, chimps and elephants paint, get sad at loss, exhibit altruism, and can solve problems. Can't say anything about the soul part, though.). Anyway, I call shenanigans. In Genesis 3, it is obvious that the first humans were tremendously dim and gullible. They had free-will, but they had not yet even learned of good and evil (What good is free-will without morality anyway? You end up with a psychopath.). They saw God create with their own eyes, yet still did everything a serpent said that went against what all-powerful God said. The serpent, of course, being much smarter and more cunning than Adam or Eve, somehow already knew about good and evil. If mental power is the likeness to God, then surely the evil serpent was made in God's image, not dimwitted Adam. Remember Genesis 3:22 - "And the LORD God said, 'The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil."" Clearly, the bible shows that mentality was not the way humans were created in God's image.

So, in closing, after weighing all the ideas brought up above, I'm going to side with the original, yet demonstratably flawed, view that God has a human-like physical form. Further, I shall state that this form is black because humans were African first, and male, because the Bible refers to God as "he". Undoubtedly, men should be fit, healthy, and strong, so I'll postulate that God has a superlatively powerful physical form. He'll have hair; but further, based on my previous argument, his hair should be primarily ornamental. To make good use of his mouth, he likely talks a mean streak. So, without further ado, I now present to you my image of God:

"I pity the fool who doesn't kneel before God."

(NB: I realize that Mr. T is a staunch Christian, and is probably going to be offended and kick my ass.)

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07 September 2006

Another Geek Test

Another Geek Test.

This one is a lot harder. I scored 27.61341% - Total Geek


I'm a High Nerd

I am nerdier than 80% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Darn, I thought I'd be higher than that. I think the problem is, it's tuned to older nerds than me, and tuned to computer nerds more than other nerds. Because I have no money, I have forcibly omitted myself from computers/electronics since 1999 because it would just depress me. The fact that my home computer has a AMD Duron 700 processor doesn't help my nerd score in this case.

But I think the real reason is because I met my wife. If I remove her influence, lets see...

I am nerdier than 87% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Well, that's not too bad.

But she scored in the high 50s only.


06 September 2006

CotG #48

CotG #48 is up at Deep Thoughts. Being that I was way too busy these past couple of weeks, I sucked and didn't publish anything carnival worthy. I'm working on a few posts but haven't been able to finish them to my liking. Hopefully, I'll complete those and be set to send submissions for the foreseeable future. No guarantees though; it's not that designing bridges is hard work, it's that all my spare time on the job (lunch, etc.) is taken up reading CotG, Tangled Bank, Skeptic's Circle, and various ScienceBlogs. I hardly have time to write.

Anyway, I'm working on something for the Skeptic's Circle on a new altie cure-all: Noni Juice. I also wanted to write something sciencey for Tangled Bank. These are not going quickly. One thing I've noticed: Science is hard. It takes so long to do things like background reading, checking sources, etc. It's much easier to rant about the head-in-ass fundies, so that's why all my postings so far have been with CotG in mind. It's so much easier, and, for those who don't know me, I am one lazy bastard.

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01 September 2006

The Babies are Coming, The Babies are Coming!

...Or, knocking down Godidit mentality.

My brother-in-law and his wife just gave birth to a new baby girl. She was about a week overdue, and this lead to a discussion about inducing birth and how the baby knows to come out between me and my wife:

King: Wow, good news about the baby. Is everyone doing well? They sure didn't pick a great time to have the baby at 6 am. Yikes, that's early. Did they have to induce, or did it come along on its own?

Queen: I'm not sure if they had to induce the labour. Not really important. :) They don't get to choose when the baby comes, the baby comes when it comes (and this one wanted to come at 6:08am).

K: Babies should be more considerate ;-) Really, we should stop saying that the baby decides to come out. It's not deciding anything at its stage of mental development. It can't even decide when it goes to the bathroom; it just happens. Not that babies go to the bathroom: they just go, wherever and whenever.

Q: Okay I guess the baby doesn't really decide on when it wants to come out. God does :) The baby is probably really unintelligent in the beginning and just plops out.

K: For the birthing stuff, answering "God does it" doesn't really provide us with useful answers, so I did some research on the baby stuff. Inducing labour is done by either artificially rupturing the membranes, applying a special suppository drug to the cervix, or through an intravenous drug. As to what decides when a baby is born, research from 2004 indicates that it starts when the baby's lungs mature enough to actually be used. Once this occurs, about a week or two before birth, the lungs suddenly start producing a large amount of a special protein which is used to combat microbes. This protein also enters the amniotic fluid and in turn activates fetal immune cells which enter the uterus and trigger an inflammation response that starts the whole birthing process. The researchers think there are other regulatory mechanisms to this as well, but this is the major one. Also, certain infections can cause premature births, and the researchers think that, by coincidence, the infection is mimicking the irritation of the uterus done by the fetal immune cells.

Q: Okay I guess saying God does it doesn't help you :) I mean that God is in control of everything and knows what will happen. Thanks for doing research. That was neat to read. I'm not too keen on having labour induced because I don't want them to stick anything up my goodies (e.g. "inserted into cervix"), no thanks.
So ongoes my continuing struggle to make my wife less God-awed.

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