Friday, 25 April 2008

The Utilimate Machine

You know what? I think I'd buy one of these.


Thursday, 24 April 2008

More on Mecca Time

A friend sent me this link to a BBC article about Mecca time. Obviously I think they're nuts but I'm not alone. According to the article;

But the movement is not without its critics, who say that the notion that modern science was revealed in the Koran confuses spiritual truth, which is constant, and empirical truth, which depends on the state of science at any given point in time. [my bold]

Is this what passes for criticism? Are these the only critics? The BBC should fire the journalist if this is the only criticism he could find for such loony notions.

In effect what this quote is saying is that the computer I'm typing this on may, at some point in the future, stop working due to the state of science. But, revealed "truth" (you know, believing in magic) is like π or something (which, as everyone whose read the Bible knows, is 3).

Wot an elephant see's

Cool pictures taken by an elephant. This is my favorite.


Dark Matter Found ... maybe


Researchers led by Dr Rita Bernabei at the University of Rome claim that a giant detector inside the mountain laboratory has picked up signs of dark matter. The signal suggests that it could be made of theoretical particles known as axions. The discovery was announced at a physics conference in Venice. The experiment was designed to detect dark matter in space as Earth flies through it.

Lizards evolve in under 40 years

Amazing story this;

Italian wall lizards introduced to a tiny island off the coast of Croatia [in 1971] are evolving in ways that would normally take millions of years to play out, new research shows. In just a few decades the 5-inch-long (13-centimeter-long) lizards have developed a completely new gut structure, larger heads, and a harder bite, researchers say.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The religion of fear

More Pat;

Stargate Continuum

Stargate SG-1 is one of my favorite shows (even if it did decline after the departure of MacGyver) and now the very last episode is almost out. Here's a teaser ...

Robert Ingersoll & Quote of the Day

Discovered Robert Ingersoll today courtesy of

I like this quote in particular as so many people are distrustful of science and rationality in spite of the thousands of benefit's they experience as a result every day.

We have already compared the benefits of theology and science. When the theologian governed the world, it was covered with huts and hovels for the many, palaces and cathedrals for the few. To nearly all the children of men, reading and writing were unknown arts. The poor were clad in rags and skins -- they devoured crusts, and gnawed bones. The day of Science dawned, and the luxuries of a century ago are the necessities of to-day. Men in the middle ranks of life have more of the conveniences and elegancies than the princes and kings of the theological times. But above and over all this, is the development of mind. There is more of value in the brain of an average man of to-day -- of a master-mechanic, of a chemist, of a naturalist, of an inventor, than there was in the brain of the world four hundred years ago.
These blessings did not fall from the skies. These benefits did not drop from the outstretched hands of priests. They were not found in cathedrals or behind altars -- neither were they searched for with holy candles. They were not discovered by the closed eyes of prayer, nor did they come in answer to superstitious supplication. They are the children of freedom, the gifts of reason, observation and experience -- and for them all, man is indebted to man.
-- Robert Green Ingersoll, "God In The Constitution"

God in the Constitution

Also, the man had a sense of humour;

The old lady who said there must be a devil, else how could they make pictures that looked exactly like him, reasoned like a trained theologian -- like a doctor of divinity.
-- Robert Green Ingersoll, from "Superstition" (1898)


The doctrine that future happiness depends upon belief is monstrous. It is the infamy of infamies. The notion that faith in Christ is to be rewarded by an eternity of bliss, while a dependence upon reason, observation and experience merits everlasting pain, is too absurd for refutation, and can be relieved only by that unhappy mixture of insanity and ignorance, called "faith." What man, who ever thinks, can believe that blood can appease God? And yet, our entire system of religion is based upon that belief. The Jews pacified Jehovah with the blood of animals, and according to the Christian system, the blood of Jesus softened the heart of God a little, and rendered possible the salvation of a fortunate few. It is hard to conceive how the human mind can give assent to such terrible ideas, or how any sane man can read the Bible and still believe in the doctrine of inspiration.
-- Robert Green Ingersoll, The Gods

Superstring theory explained

from TedTalks (20 mins)

Plastic made from pig urine

There would be a physiological hurdle to overcome before drinking something out of a bottle made from this stuff ....

Denmark-based Agroplast wants to transform pig urine into plastic dinnerware and household items.


The company has essentially devised a way to better commercialize urea, a compound of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen, found in urine.


The Madness of Certainty Continues

Reads like a joke but it's actually real.

SPEAKERS at a Doha conference on Mecca's importance said that the holy city, not Greenwich, should become the reference point for world time, reigniting an old controversy that started some four decades ago.

A group of Islamic scholars presented on Saturday "scientific evidence" to prove that Mecca was the core of that the zero longitude passes through the holy city and not through Greenwich in the UK.

Greenwich in England has been the home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) since 1884. GMT is sometimes called Greenwich Meridian Time because it is measured from the Greenwich Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Greenwich is the place from where all time zones are measured.

In a clear support for the call, Islamic scholar Yousuf al-Qaradawi said Islam, "unlike other religions, never contradicted science".
The participants recommended the unification of the time in the Arab world to the time in Mecca instead of Greenwich. They also called the Arab governments to abandon the new world maps "because they are forged to serve Western interests."

I love the ignorance on display here - they have "scientific evidence" that an imaginary line run through Mecca! I guess that means Ley lines run though it too, that the magnetic field is slightly stronger (or weaker) and that, occasionally, the sun dances in the sky.


Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Temporal Perspective

Cool little animation:

Characteristics Of Fascism

Fourteen Defining
Characteristics Of Fascism
By Dr. Lawrence Britt
Source Free

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottoes, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.


Acupuncture and QI

This is from a newsletter I receive each week. Last week the author criticised acupunture with this post;

A couple of weeks ago the Metro Section the Washington Post ran a front page story about a pilot program in a Washington suburb to incorporate acupuncture into the treatment of drug addiction.

There is something called the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association that certifies people to administer acupuncture for drug addiction. As I read this I paused to watch a chiropractor on Good Morning America wrenching some poor women’s neck to lower her blood pressure. It raised mine.

But back to acupuncture: this morning I was sent a notice from the University of Maryland Health Center about it’s acupuncture services. "Originating in China about 5,000 years ago," it began, "acupuncture is the oldest continuously practiced medical system in the world." You might prefer something a little more up-to-date. If my health is involved I want to know what was learned yesterday. It goes on to explain that acupuncture is based on the circulation of qi, "the life-giving energy that circulates along channels to all organs and enables them to function." My own university put this out? There is no qi. It‘s superstitious nonsense. After you stop laughing, check out the health service at your institution. The American health system has completely sold out to this crap.

Kinda surprisingly (considering you have to subscribe to the mail shot) he recieved lots of objections to his dismissal of acupuncture. I'm putting here mainly because although I had heard or 'QI' I didn't know what it meant (in an etymological sense).

You will not be surprised to learn that WN got a lot of disagreement about the item on acupuncture last week. As one reader pointed out, "millions of people have been treated with acupuncture and say it works; scientists should be trying to find out how it works rather than ridiculing it." Look at it this way, an even larger number of people around the world say astrology works. If you think they’re right you’re beyond help. What we need to understand is why people think acupuncture works. If you ask an acupuncturist how it works, the answer is “qi.” What’s qi? I refer you to for a full discussion.

Briefly, dissection was forbidden in ancient China, as it was in the West before about 1500 AD. Beheadings, on the other hand, were common. The carotid artery and jugular veins sticking out of the severed neck looked like empty tubes, and were assumed to be passageways to let air flow through the body. Blood was thought to fill the body cavity. As recently as the late Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644) the arteries were thought to carry air.

Qi is the word for air.

101 Atheist Quotes


A small selection to get you started.

Not only is there no god, but try getting a plumber on weekends. - Woody Allen

What’s “God”? Well, you know, when you want something really bad and you close your eyes and you wish for it? God’s the guy that ignores you. - Steve Buscemi (From the movie “The Island”)

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? – Epicurus

I’m a polyatheist - there are many gods I don’t believe in. - Dan Fouts

Religion does three things quite effectively: Divides people, Controls people, Deludes people. - Carlespie Mary Alice McKinney

People will then often say, ‘But surely it’s better to remain an Agnostic just in case?’ This, to me, suggests such a level of silliness and muddle that I usually edge out of the conversation rather than get sucked into it. (If it turns out that I’ve been wrong all along, and there is in fact a god, and if it further turned out that this kind of legalistic, cross-your-fingers-behind-your-back, Clintonian hair-splitting impressed him, then I think I would choose not to worship him anyway.) - Douglas Adams

Jesus hardly made the greatest sacrifice. He knew he would be resurrected anyway. – Anonymous

Actually the last quote I remember thinking off when I was very young. Our teacher was explaining the marvelous and brave sacrifice of Jesus but I thought since he was the 'Son Of God' it really shouldn't have been all that much trouble to him. I managed to suppress/ignore this thought (and more like it) for quite some time.

BBC4 'Washes Whiter'

BBC4 is currently running an entertaining program about the history of advertising on British TV title 'Washes Whiter', so in the same spirit here's an old coffee comercial.

Lego Millennium Falcon Time-Lapse

50,000 individual pieces! This is pretty cool aside from the terrible music track. I kinda felt he cheated a little though by not opening every bag of components and spilling them into a big heap in the center of the room.

from boingboing

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

The Irish Property Market

Property is on my mind these days and it seems the bubble is well and truly over.

I "borrowed" this image from a PropertyPin article about the phases of Property decline, it appears we are in the early days of phase 4. Don't believe me? See this post at IrishPropertyWatch.

The phases of a slowdown are listed below, the dates given are for the US market but simply adding 9 months should give the Irish equivalent; According to the article we are in phase three below.
Phase One: Home prices stop rising and buyers strike while sellers still have expectations for continued escalating values. As a result, a dramatic slowdown in activity begins. This phase started—depending on the particular market—anywhere
from August 2005 to March 2006.

Phase Two: Activity begins to slow even more dramatically as buyers realize home prices are overvalued. Sellers start to accept some price declines; however, they do not accept the degree of pricing adjustments needed in order to generate a sale. Conversely, new home builders begin to lower prices substantially and/or provide concessions in
order to stimulate and drive demand. As a result, they become the market pricing leaders and drive prices lower. This phase of the cycle began—depending on the market—in the summer of 2006.

Phase Three: As foreclosures escalate, thereby becoming the new price leader in the market, home prices begin to plummet at an accelerating pace. Although this stimulates some levels of activity from those buyers who have been waiting on the sidelines. For new homes, builders can no longer offer the concessions because, for any new product
they build, not only are they losing money on the lot but also on the construction costs. This is a very dangerous scenario for the economy, leads to the failure of struggling home builders and dramatically increases the loss rates for banks and mortgage
investors. We believe this phase has started over the last few months.

Phase Four: New construction finally grinds to a halt which enables inventory levels to narrow. The market does not deviate too far from this bottom until there is employment and wage growth which reinvigorates demand to the point that it exceeds supply, therefore, causing prices to rise again. It is worth noting that this final phase can last for a period of many years and, given the excessive inventory and continued payment shocks coming out of the IO and, soon, the payment options market, it will not be short-lived.
So how much will property fall by? The diagram gives the answer but Aeshos has a post which spells it out;

Because all asset hyperinflations revert to the mean, we can expect housing prices to decline roughly 38 percent from their peak as they return to something closer to the historical rate of monetary inflation. If the rate of decline stabilizes at between 6 and 7 percent each year, the correction has about six years to go before things stabilize, leaving the FIRE economy in need of $12 trillion.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Hollowed-Out Economy

Despite the continually trippy optimism of most financial 'heads', there are still a few guy's shout from the edges

What was even more curious about the G-7 meeting was the lack of outcry from our [the U.S.] trading partners about the weak dollar.

There was no reference to any country’s intervening in the currency markets to stabilize the fluctuations, however, and no reference to whether the dollar’s recent slide against the euro had been too large, a trend that has worried many in Europe because it has made their exports more expensive and imports cheaper.

That’s because the Europeans and Asians are not worried about a flood of cheap American manufactured goods competing with their local producers. We have managed to so hollow-out our industrial plant in the last 30 years that they have little to fear. And as oil is priced in dollars, they have suffered far less in the recent price rises.

Ted Talks: Johnny Lee's Wii remote hacks

Some people are just very clever, some amazing 'hacks' done with the WII remote in this video

link from boingboing

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Abolish the Federal Reserve

MEDIA HACK: What would you do if you where in charge?

JIM ROGERS: I would abolish the Federal Reserve and then resign.

Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships

The "Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships" is part 1 of a projected 7 part series detailing the entire Trojan war, from the causes and background of the war through to its conclusion.

This first installment begins with Paris as simple (if arrogant) cow herder who is discovered to be a prince of Troy presumed to have been murdered as a child. Shortly thereafter he is then sent on a mission to Achaea on behalf of the king of Troy, Priam, where he seduces Helen and takes her away.

From then on the book deals with Agamemnon's and Menelaus's efforts to raise the Achaean army in order to attack Troy, gain revenge and retrieve Helen, so we get to see the "madness" of Odysseus and the search for Achilles as well as other episodes from the Trojan War story.

I have to say I really loved this graphic novel, it doesn't rush head long in to the action but instead built up the story and characters. The author has also lovingly researched the material both from a mythical and historical perspective which I found very satisfying. Like I said this is only part 1 of the story, part 2 and half of part 3 are currently out with new editions appearing every few years so it's going to be long hard to wait before we can read it all.

For more, Salon have a very favourable review here.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

What makes us happy?

When you think about it, it's not surprising that the answer is "We don't know", Secular Philosophy illustrates ...

Common sense says that we are happier when we get more money to spend on ourselves. At least, that’s what passes for commonsense in modern capitalistic societies, from the United States to China. Indeed, when Elizabeth Dunn and colleagues at the University of British Columbia and at Harvard Business School asked a bunch of their students (the usual subjects in social science studies), that’s exactly what they found: students thought they would be happier getting $20 than $5, and that they would be happier spending the money on themselves than on others. Turns out, the students were spectacularly wrong.

FLOW: For Love Of Water

some clips here for an upcoming documentary about water that looks interesting. Water is not yet regarded as a human right mainly because some people would like to sell it to you, more information on the film is here.

Friday, 4 April 2008

The Guiness Pint Index

one of life's important questions;

How many pints would the average person have been able to buy with their wage packet?

Movie News

themovieblog has a new Hellboy 2 trailer up that looks great and they also report the Dan Simmons Hyperion is going to be made into a movie. Hyperion was a brilliant book, it will be tricky to make a good movie out of it.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Can We Know Our Own Mind?

Dan Dennett Ted Talk - amazing.

Korean drummer takes the show

This is great, the man is pure talent.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Deep Thoughts

Why, That's Delightful totally brightened up my day with links to someone called Jack Handey.

"if you ever reach total enlightenment while you're drinking a beer, I bet it makes beer shoot out your nose"

There is also some links to his New Yorker pieces.

How I want to be remembered
We are gathered here, way far in the future, for the funeral of Jack Handey, the world’s oldest man. He died suddenly in bed, according to his wife, Miss France.
According to our scientists, with their electronic soul trackers, Jack is in Heaven now. And not just regular Heaven, which any jerk can get into, but special secret Heaven, which even some angels don’t know about.

My First Day in Hell
Despite the tasty food and warm weather, there’s a dark side to Hell. For one thing, it’s totally disorganized. That anything gets done down here is a miracle. You’ll be herded along in one big line, then it’ll separate into three lines, then the lines will all come back together again! For no apparent reason! It’s crazy. You try to ask a demon a question, but he just looks at you. I don’t mean to sound prejudiced, but you wonder if they even speak English.

very funny.