May 4, 2012
Now that “Elves With Shotguns” is in the final stage of production and all I have to do is wait for RPGNow to approve the pdf for publication, I can finally sit back and enjoy the fruitful political and social discourse streaming through America’s media.
By that, of course, I mean foam at the mouth at the utter lack of comprehension at 3rd grade science. Three instances in the last few weeks have left me wondering why conservatives want to gut education since, besides a mountain of evidence that shows a strong public education would help our country, conservatives themselves show their own glaring ignorance of basic scientific concepts.
Limbaugh’s Concept of Science
Rush “Hindenburg of Sexism” Limbaugh is no stranger to denying climate change. He took it a step further recently when he claimed that global climate change created by human interference was a fraud because so many scientists agreed on it. It must be heard to be believed.
Here’s Rush’s argument. Science is not based on opinions. He has that part correct. No self-respecting scientist would agree with a new theory based solely on popular opinion. Here’s the part Rush left out: so many scientists agree with climate change because they have analyzed the data or otherwise performed their own experiments based on repeatable observations. That’s what scientific consensus means.
Scientists get behind a theory when a LOT of them can replicate experiments or verify that data and experiments were accurate. It’s not a popularity contest. By this logic, here are a few more things Rush must not believe in:
- The Big Bang
- Geologic models of the earth
- The existence of extra-solar planets
- The effectiveness of modern medicine
It does, however, reflect modern American conservative thinking: if there is evidence you are wrong, the evidence itself must be wrong.
Arizona Protects Imaginary Babies
The debate over abortion and taking away abortion rights is part of the larger war on women the GOP has been waging in recent years. Arizona also has the distinction of having some of the dumbest lawmakers in the country. Now that’s something to be proud of. This one, though, takes the cake.
From the Huffington Post:
Aside from banning all abortions after 20 weeks, defined from the date of the woman’s last period instead of conception except in the case of medical emergency, it will force women considering abortion because of fetal abnormalities to have counseling [sic], and for women having an abortion to have an ultrasound.
It also says the age of a foetus [sic] is “is calculated from the first day of the last [woman’s] menstrual period.”
Got that? In Arizona, you can be legally pregnant before you conceive. It’s a Christmas miracle!
Aside from the morally reprehensible act of denying women a basic medical treatment that is legal in the rest of the country simply because one ideology is against it, let’s consider the ramifications of this, okay? A woman can now retroactively be considered pregnant when she wasn’t. This opens up a whole can of legal worms. If they’re so set on making sure the potential for life remains, why not make it illegal to have wet dreams while they’re at it?
Seems as logical.
Bill Nye vs Texas
Bill Nye is one of my childhood heroes. The man made science fun and he’s been going and teaching for years now. The man will become a legend in his own right.
But Texas doesn’t like him. In fact, it seems Texas doesn’t like science.
Nye was in [Waco] to participate in McLennan Community College’s Distinguished Lecture Series. He gave two lectures on such unfunny and adult topics as global warming, Mars exploration, and energy consumption.
But nothing got people as riled as when he brought up Genesis 1:16, which reads: “God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”
The lesser light, he pointed out, is not a light at all, but only a reflector.
At this point, several people in the audience stormed out in fury. One woman yelled “We believe in God!” and left with three children, thus ensuring that people across America would read about the incident and conclude that Waco is as nutty as they’d always suspected.
Yes, folks. It appears that pointing out the moon does not glow, a fact we can prove because we have PICTURES TAKEN ON THE SURFACE, is now an affront to Christians. Let me tell you something… if your beliefs are so fragile that having someone call out a two-thousand year old document that uses poetry to describe the world as being a two-thousand year-old document that uses poetry to describe the world… you need help.
And Bill Nye, I know I wasn’t there, but being a resident in this state, I feel I should apologize. Please come back. We have beer and brisket and Mexican grandmothers that know how to cook.
And now, let’s enjoy a trailer for a horror movie that actually looks interesting. See you Monday, and stay tuned for more updates and news on Randomology Games and the upcoming “Elves With Shotguns.”
April 18, 2012
Let’s make a deal, conservatives. You get to teach religion in science class when liberals get to teach science in church. You get to preach creationism if we get to come in and explain the inaccuracies of the sun standing still, a world-wide flood, and a six-thousand year-old planet with sentient life.
Tennessee has what it calls an “academic freedom bill.” They want to make sure teachers have the freedom to teach and question, to make sure children are exposed to new ideas so they may have a well-rounded education.
Sounds good. Except for the part where everything about it is actually an attempt to teach creationism in public schools. Let’s break this down.
The bill specifically mentions “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning” as theories and concepts that need to be analyzed and questioned. That should already make alarm bells start ringing in your ears, but here’s the kicker: the bill was based on legislation drafted by the Discovery Institute. This is a group that’s been pushing for intelligent design for years and, time after time, it gets its hide handed back to it by judges who know what they’re doing.
This bill, though, is intelligent design wrapped up to look like “freedom.”
It’s the same call of “freedom” that the 1% wants when it insists it can’t pay its fair share. It’s the same “freedom” libertarians want whenever they say they want to get rid of social programs and regulations in the name of ideology. It’s the same freedom espoused by racists when they claim they want to right to treat others like crap.
A science class is a place where facts are shown and theories discussed. It is a fact that the Earth has been getting much warmer than previous centuries. It’s also a fact that the geologic formations on this planet required billions of years to form. The theories that explain these observations are based on decades of investigation. To throw them away and put them on the same level as unproven, unscientific theories based on religious teachings is to put science on the same level as the guessing game involving a jar of jelly-beans.
Frankly, I thought Texas and Arizona were tied for “Most Willfully Ignorant” states. Arizona is already going to teach the Bible as it pertains to science. Looks like it’s a three-way race now, folks!
And now, let’s all bask in the glory that is the King of Pop versus the King of Rock.
March 8, 2012
Neil Degrasse Tyson narrated one of the most beautiful monologues I’ve ever heard. Superimposing his description of the most astounding fact about the universe was a treat for every science lover out there. In a nutshell, we are all made of star-stuff…
We were made in the same furnaces that created every planet and star in the universe. We are the universe made sentient, creation itself inspecting and trying to understand itself. In the end, we are all connected on a level that defies everyday comprehension.
It’s why I almost became a physicist.
For much of my youth, I had two great passions: science and language. On the one hand, tales of Asimov and Clarke and the great masters of the Golden Age made me want to find out what was out there. I wanted to know the blueprint of reality. I also wanted to create my own stories, make something that thrilled and stirred my imagination like Ellison, Stoker, and the dozens of other authors I gorged myself on when I was younger. That ability to make others wonder, to feel and imagine things that never existed… That was my goal.
I could either study physics and unlock those secrets… or I could learn to write.
I chose writing. It wasn’t an easy choice. Freshman year at DePauw, I could have gone into science or English. I chose English. Something occurred to me, something I think is the reason we write, the reason we take photographs, the reason we continue to draw and imagine.
There is truly only one of whatever we make.
We are all made of stars, but there is nothing different about the oxygen in my body versus the oxygen in a supernova cloud. If we erased all of history and every scrap of scientific knowledge to start over, eventually, we would discover that matter is composed of atoms. That future society would emerge from the dark ages and eventually find out that the Earth orbits the sun and we came from monkeys.
But we would not have Isaac Asimov. We would not have John Donne. We would be forever without the works of Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore. And no one would have known the maniacal face of Spider Jerusalem.
There’s bad writing. There’s bad art. That’s a given. But to make something real, something that touches people, is to create something unique and beautiful.
A piece of music that stays with you and speaks to a part of your soul mere words can’t touch.
A poem where every word flows into the other and says more than the sum of its letters.
A photograph where a single moment that will never occur again is forever held behind glass.
Before art and writing, our words just vanished. Our thoughts remained only as long as our memories. Hard facts, scientific constants… those things are universal. They can be found by anyone.
Artists create things that have never been and may never be again.
That’s why I write. I want to learn to say things words can’t convey. I want to imagine pictures that can never be. I want to make others see the world in a different way.
That’s what you do when you write, when you create art. It’s more than the mechanics.
November 2, 2011
Why is Halloween so much fun?
If you’re a kid, you get free candy and get to dress up and essentially play all day and night. You get to watch horror movies and act out in the darkest way possible without getting arrested (for the most part).
But as an adult?
I’m going to warn you right now. I’m about to get all philosophical up in this post.
At some point, we stopped enjoying life. We go to work, cash a paycheck, and go about our routine. We’ll watch a television show or learn a hobby to pass the time, but we seem to have lost the spark of being able to play and enjoy life. This has to do with work and time as much as anything, and it’s not like we couldn’t make an extra hour in the day if we really wanted it. It’s just inconvenient. We work and act professional, and for most people this “professionalism” bleeds over into everyday life.
We become the suit we wear. The formality becomes normal.
And then Halloween comes around and we can wear a mask or a costume that, ironically, usually tells us more about us than anything else. Mary wanted to dress up like a bloody clown because she likes to creep people out. I dressed up like a calaca because I enjoy the mythology and symbolism of Dia de los Muertos.
It’s odd, but a lot of people get to be themselves more on Halloween than any other day. They let loose. It’s like they’re drunk without the hassle of drinking. There’s a general feeling that you can do anything on Halloween and it doesn’t count, so you get to see who is reserved, who is really a freak, and who likes to show off.
Maybe I’m over-analyzing it, but I think more adults need to just loosen up and have fun. Do something childish. My dad is a consummate professional in everything he does, but get him to a car museum and he turns into a little boy in a candy shop. I’m almost thirty and I work as an educator and freelance writer, but yesterday, my fiancée and I watched Tom and Jerry yesterday for a good hour.
Grow old. Just don’t grow up too much.
And now, to make up for the lack of articles in the last two weeks, here are some links made of awesome. Enjoy!
- As far as costumes go, going as a fully-functional camera is pretty sweet. Going as a spider-rider is even cooler. Going as an 8-foot tall Elite from Halo? You, sir, are awesome.
- However, the best costume has to be Princess Vader. It’s so cute and epic it’s on a level on its own.
- Here are some other epic costumes that also deserve honorable mention.
- I used The Lorax when I worked in the Indiana Reading Corp. It really opened the kid’s eyes, but I’m not sure the movie is hitting the right notes in the trailer.
- You think you’re a badass? Try walking out of a moving vehicle and shooting a car so it flips in the air and lets you grab the occupant inside while the flying vehicle falls to its crunchy doom. Without flinching
- The airwaves are full of scary things. Like Jersey Shore. These broadcasts, however, are much scarier for other reasons.
- Movie monsters come in many flavors, but this handy chart will help you keep them in order.
- I loved watching the Treehouse of Horror specials, but they seem to have gotten kind of lame lately. When I read this ranking, I was glad I wasn’t the only one who thought so.
- I said everyone needs to calm down and just have fun with Halloween. It seems even Planned Parenthood got in on it. They released a very important memo about the dangers of vampire sex. And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.
- Carving a pumpkin with a knife? Standard. Carving a pumpkin with explosives in a science lab? Like a BOSS!
- You think Halloween is creepy and scary movies are gory and unnerving? Try Halloween a hundred years ago. The costumes back then were pure, unleaded nightmare fuel.
- These guys pulled the perfect prank. It’s creepy, unnerving, they caught it on tape, and they managed to not break any laws. Behold the horror of Timmy!
- And finally, let’s get over Hump Day with a little metal. And Halloween. Halloween metal!
October 8, 2011
If there’s one thing I hate as much as I hate sloppy or lazy writing, it’s the inability of some people to grasp BASIC science. Things like the definition of “theory” or the scientific method, for example, are not so difficult that you need a doctorate to understand. We teach them to kids, so they’re obviously simple enough, right?
Enter Robert Bryce, a man who can’t seem to tell the difference between experiments and the gum he stepped on.
He wrote an article for the New York Times where he attacked green initiatives, clean energy, and environmentalism. He went so far as to say that, even if we knew carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases were harmful (they are), what can we do? We’re making more and more useful energy-draining devices. Emissions are down. What else are we supposed to do?
Past all the willing blindness to reality, however, is this little gem of a sentence. See if you can spot where Bryce shows us he’s replaced his brain with assorted change and dull spoon.
The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might—repeat, might—travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein’s theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth’s atmosphere.
What exactly are neutrinos, anyway? They’re an elementary subatomic particle like neutrons and electrons. However, neutrinos have no electrical charge and are only affected by the weak sub-atomic force. They’re also TINY. If an electron is the mass of a battleship, a neutrino is the size of an apple. This means neutrinos can pass through ordinary matter and we would never know unless we’d developed EXTREMELY sensitive equipment to verify theoretical models. In fact, that’s why, as you read this, you’re getting hit with something around one quadrillion neutrinos emanating from the sun. And no, that’s not a typo. That’s a 1 with 15 zeroes after it.
As for traveling faster than light, that’s a bold claim. Nothing can accelerate past the light barrier, but some scientists think matter might exist on the other side. These little darlings are called tachyons and do not violate Einstein’s theory because they did not ACCELERATE past light. They already started on the other side. It gets into really funky science after that, but the point is that the numbers on paper say tachyons MIGHT exist.
Did CERN find neutrinos traveling faster than light? Well, it’s doubtful.
But let’s go back to Bryce for a moment. He says that scientists reported on an anomaly that may show regular matter traveling faster than light. This, he says, means we should question climate science as well, right? If we can question Einstein of all people, we can question Al Gore and his silly little movie, right?
Well, yeah, he’s right. Except he forgot the second and third parts of his logical argument.
We can question Einstein and we can question climate science. Questioning something, however, does not equate into proof that runs counter to what the established theories state. In other words, if I went out and I said I ran an experiment in my own home to see if carbon dioxide causes warming and it showed the gas did nothing, that would not b e evidence climate change is not real. That experiment would be dissected by the scientific community and I would have to show how my new data explains the currently observed behavior or greenhouse gases.
And here’s the kicker. Just because we have a debate, it does not mean there is a legitimate second point of view. When creationists try to claim that their point of view is legitimate because not everyone believes in evolution and people question Darwin, it does not mean the creationists are right. You have to show verifiable data. And do you know what happens to all that “data” creationists put in to defend their views?
It gets put through the scientific peer review process and is usually found to be lacking, a fluke, or fabricated.
Likewise, the claim that neutrinos traveled faster than light is being looked at by other scientists. It may turn out to be that equipment was faulty or someone forgot to carry the one. If it can be repeated, then we have to look at the underlying theory.
You can question climate science, Bryce, but that doesn’t mean you have a point. It just means you flunked middle-school science. Oh, and fifty points to anyone who tells me the joke in the title.
And now, here’s a short documentary of the Aperture. They build the future so we don’t have to.
September 8, 2011
I was going to put together Divine by Zero for today, but let me tell you a little story.
My sister has been out of town for a week, and Mary and I have been left alone with her faithful pup, Lucky. Lucky is a very sweet dog once she gets to know you and realizes you aren’t a threat. She’s all of 18 inches tall but has a powerful set of lungs. I love this dog. I really do…
And I wish she’d let me sleep!
This will be the third day I get less than three hours of sleep a night because Lucky barks, whines, and cries because she misses my sister. She gets on the bed, wanders between Mary and I, and generally keeps us up. I get it. Lucky’s young. She’s very attached and protective of my sister.
But I have class to teach! I need sleep! I can’t teach with one blood-shot eye!
So, while I’ll finally get some shut-eye tonight, I can’t even gather the energy to put together a picture for this post. In place of satire and righteous anger, please enjoy autotunning… for science!
September 2, 2011
Wednesday’s article was part of a flood of internet talk about the movement by a Catholic group to bring back geocentrism. I berated them for basically ignoring science, for tossing aside the last four hundred years of observations in place of fringe beliefs supported by questionable data. I called them out for rejecting basic logic. Well, I did as did pretty much anyone else who read the article that discussed them.
This, apparently, struck a chord.
A chord that forced Robert Sungenis to publish a 13-page response, followed by his original interview, then a scientific paper for all us scientific illiterates to read and marvel at the evidence for Earth being at the center of the universe.
Well, I read all 39 pages. Every one. Before deciding to study writing, I was seriously considering studying physics too. I still love science in all aspects, and astronomy was my favorite, so let me start by saying that whoever taught Mister Sungenis science needs to be taken out back and beat with a spoon.
Let me explain.
I Know Words
One of the first criticism Sungenis has against those who view him as a man who bases scientific beliefs on a two-thousand year old document that also claims bats are birds is that people say he believes the Bible proves geocentrism. He claims this is not true. The Bible, Sungenis says, only says the moon and stars revolve around the Earth.
That’s GEOCENTRISM, buddy.
Just because you change the words, doesn’t mean it’s any less dumb. Okay, so this is a softball defense. Too easy. But let’s move on to the meat of article.
We Can Rebuild Jesus. We Have the Technology
There are two conflicting ideas in this rebuttal. One is that Sungenis’ group is not going against the Church and is therefore not some “splinter group.” They are scientists and concerned Catholics. Okay, fair enough. The Church has never officially made a statement about geocentrism, even though it did apologize for Galileo. I’ll go with that. Since they are not going against the Church, they can’t properly be called some “fringe” group.
But then it gets weird.
Sungenis is not shy of claiming that science has killed religion’s influence on the world. Galileo’s observations were some of the first to contradict long-held Church doctrine, the common belief that Earth was made for us and is therefore the center o the universe. The church controlled everything, and by casting doubt on fundamental principles, Galileo started what Sungenis views as the decay or divine influence in our lives.
But I thought geocentrism wasn’t central to Church doctrine.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim in one breath that the Earth being at the center of the universe is not some basic tenet of Catholicism, then claim that promoting heliocentrism is a conspiracy to undermine the Church. It’s like saying you don’t care if Spiderman is black or white, then bitching when the new Spiderman is half black, half Latino.
What Happened to the Mouse?
One of the big arguments Sungenis, and in fact all conspiracy nuts make, is that their ideas are so radical and world-altering that people won’t take them seriously. It’s a curse, really, to be the Cassandra to Earth. He and his confederates have evidence that shows the Earth does not move.
Wonderful. How, exactly, does it jive with the centuries of observation that 99.99999% of scientists have seen to show a dynamic universe?
In science, you can’t just ignore previous observations. You have to account for them. For example, Young Earth Creationists claim they found evidence for a six-thousand-year-old Earth. Their evidence uses proper documentation to show a phenomenon that indicates the planet is only a few millennia old.
Wonderful. Now how do you explain carbon-dated fossils that are millions of years old? What about light from distant stars and galaxies that are sometimes BILLIONS of light-years away? Any chance your new data jives with geologic samples that show features on the Earth’s surface would take ages to create? Lo and behold, these measurable, repeatable sets of data are often hand-waved by Young Earth Creationists as “Well, God planned it that way.”
If you have data that shows the earth is the center of the universe, or even that the sun revolves around the Earth, you have to show how said data is not a blip or a currently unexplained phenomenon and why the ENTIRETY of science in multiple fields is wrong.
If the universe revolves around the Earth, what force or forces are moving the mass of billions of stars around us? Either gravity is wrong or there is an unseen force we’ve never encountered before moving the cosmos.
Jesus Did It
Don’t fool yourselves. These idiots can use all the “science” and vague, poetic quotes they want. The theory of geocentrism is ridiculous, not because scientists will not look at the evidence, but because the premise goes counter to or ignores virtually the entirety of the history of modern science. It would be like claiming humans don’t really have to breathe; it’s a vestigial action.
It’s not that science isn’t willing to debate. It’s that science isn’t willing to debate morons who see blips on a screen as evidence of magic space Jesus.
August 30, 2011
People still believe the sun revolves around the Earth. And no, these aren’t some loony fringe group in some backwaters compound. This is an actual splinter group of the Catholic Church. They held a conference at the University Of Notre Dame. And if this story is to be believed, it is growing in numbers.
Really? That’s what we’ve come to? The sun revolves around the Earth?
Let me break it down for everyone. If a book written during the Bronze Age says one thing, but centuries of observation and data say something else, if the OBSERVED information contradicts said book, the SCIENCE is still right.
A theory, in scientific terms, is not a “guess.” That is a “hypothesis.” Something cannot be called a theory in science unless it has stood up to decades, often centuries, of scrutiny and testing. The “theory” of gravity doesn’t mean we’re guessing gravity exists. It means we’ve observed that objects tend to gravitate towards each other and larger objects create much more pull. Maybe it means planets and moons love each other and want to be close together, but we have no evidence for that, just evidence for the mechanics that govern the motions of stars and galaxies and everything else.
You know what? I’m pissed. Whenever one of these backbirth groups pops up, they usually take to radio, or television, or the internet in order to broadcast their ignorance. I guarantee you these groups are shooting videos and getting the words out electronically.
You know what made those technologies possible?
If you have no respect for scientific advancement, for the fruits that science has given us, get off the internet and go back to the Pony Express. This is a place made possible by scientific discoveries, everything from the electron to the microprocessor. It is engineers and scientists reaching to make the most of the knowledge they have. Science has cured diseases. Science has extended our lifespans. Science took us to the moon and makes it possible for me to stream Hellraiser while I type this.
Science is the act of observing the world and discovering the rules that govern reality based on those observations. It is impossible to “prove” something, but highly possible to “disprove” it. All it takes is ONE piece of evidence. Something we can all measure equally.
If you want to dispute said observations, fine. Science welcomes your challenge. Scienc change as new observations come in. This is not a weakness in the process, but rather a strength. Religion doesn’t do this. It has to get dragged kicking and screaming to accept change. Old theories don’t just vanish. Relativity didn’t overthrow Galilean physics. It supplemented them, much like quantum mechanics didn’t replace relativity.
All I’m saying is…
Just don’t walk up to science with snot in your nose a juice box in your hand. If you want to argue, come with something better than, “Magic book from desert nomads says so.”
And people wonder why fundamentalists aren’t taken seriously…
And to wash that taste away, here’s a short film based on Portal 2. Enjoy!
July 7, 2011
No, I’m not going to address the Casey Anthony trial except for one thing. All I’m going to say is that everyone stunned by the verdict needs to answer one question: is there reasonable doubt? Yes. Is there evidence to show she did it? Oh yeah. But go back and look at that last answer. Reasonable doubt? Oh yes. That’s the basis of our justice system. There were so many pieces of evidence that were not linked that while most of us might readily assume she was guilty, it’s an assumption.
- To clean all that nasty stuff out, here is a corgi breaking out another corgi.
- Is there any way I could a run a Mario-meets-Silent Hill RPG with THESE monsters? Please? Any players willing to try it out?
- And speaking of a Mario game, I’d run it here.
- Science is cool. Science with space-aimed lasers? AWESOME!
- It turns out that exposing children to Fourth of July celebrations is a factor in them turning Republican later in life. It makes sense. The GOP is fixated on American symbols of celebration (even if they don’t understand said symbols and blindly hold on to American Exceptionalism). Immigrants often vote for liberal causes, probably because they were not brought up on such celebrations before moving here.
- Michael Bay wrote the projectionists of America and asked them to do a few special things when Showing Transformers 3. That act in on itself is insulting enough and prime diva material, but the response letter is… well, let’s just say that Carl Fake, movie projectionist, needs an award for the written curb-stomp he unleashes on Michael Bay.
- This letter is more glaring when Bay himself reused shots from The Island in his latest cinematic bowel movement. Yeah. Multi-million dollar movie and he reused scenes. Maybe it was a sign he had TOO much action.
- And speaking of sheer awesomeness, Sean Connery is already a cultural icon, the embodiment of cool and the man who went on to enjoy a career marked by ups and downs but which, in the end, gave us memorable performances and characters. What could make it more awesome? How about Connery essentially telling Steve Jobs to go fuck himself? In a way only Sean Connery could pull off? We are not worthy.
- I’ve been wondering how I can get my sugar AND caffeine hits in one easy-to-go package. Behold, caffeinated Butterfinger!
- Cyclops shark. Just TRY to unsee this.
- And finally, Neil Gaiman alone is already nerd fuel. Adam Savage of Mythbusters? Also cool. Adam Savage serenading Neil Gaiman as Gollum doing a spoke-word rendition of “I Will Survive”? The only way this could be cooler is if Gaiman was being knighted with a lightsaber.