Earth 2

We all know that the media’s priorities are screwed up but the fact that the discovery of the most Earth-like planet yet found isn’t front page news is just fucking criminal:

Astronomers have found the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date, a world which could have water running on its surface.

The planet orbits the faint star Gliese 581, which is 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra.

[…] We have estimated that the mean temperature of this ‘super-Earth’ lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid,” explained Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory,lead author of the scientific paper reporting the result.

“Moreover, its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth’s radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky – like our Earth – or covered with oceans.”

This is HUGE news. Big as the discovery of Dinosaurs. Big as the theory of gravity. Bigger than the discovery of Kryptonite. Up until now, we’ve only been able to theorize the existence of a planet like this and here it is. I’ll be able to point to a place in the sky and tell my children that there, right there is another planet like ours.

I hope we can send a probe there soon and maybe in fifty years or so, we’ll be bale to have pictures of the surface, maybe even what life crawls around on it.
More and more every day, I come to discover that as cool as science fiction is, real science is even cooler.

If We Keep Our Mouths Shut, Maybe They’ll Give Us Chocolate, Too

There’s been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere of late as to weather or not “mean” atheists like Richard Dawkins are helping the cause of atheism and the spread of free thought or hurting it. Some people say that of course, they are, we need our agitators. Others say we should just keep our mouthes shut. Because being polite is just how slavery was ended and women got the vote. Some even think Atheists aren’t really persecuted and shouldn’t include ourselves among those fighting for our liberties. Afer all, it’s not as if atheists are being physically attacked for their beliefs:

In what appears to be the first violent hate crime against an atheist, Justin Trottier, Director of the Center for Inquiry Ontario and President of the Freethought Association of Canada (a national body composed of secularist student groups including the UofT Secular Alliance and the Freethinker’s Association of Ryerson) was attacked around midnight on March 27 on the campus of Ryerson University. Ryerson security is treating this as a hate crime.

Mr. Trottier and his colleague Peter Aruja were placing posters for upcoming events at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto, featuring physicist Victor Stenger, author of the New York Time’s Best Seller “God: The Failed Hypothesis”, set to take place on April 5. While postering, two assailants took offense to the religious implications of the posters advertising for Stenger’s book. About fifteen minutes later when Trottier and Aruja were in a more secluded area of the university the two reappeared and initiated a verbal argument.

According to Mr. Trottier “The first individual smacked me in the face twice and said “watch your smart mouth.” I said “don’t touch me” at which point he head butted me hard in the face, causing my nose to bleed profusely.”

The attack targeting an individual for his beliefs clearly represents a hate crime and is being treated as such by Ryerson security. This also represents a disturbing trend of targeting individuals who visibly question the legitimacy of religious dogma. Just last week Toronto Police were involved in the highly publicized threats against Mr. Fatah and Mrs. Hassan of the Muslim Canadian Congress. Here the anonymous individual swore to “slaughter” the two MCC members, in the name of god, for belonging to an “apostate” organization.

The Humanist Association of Canada spokesperson, Pat O’Brien, responded to this shameful incident: “Atheists have never been accorded the same respect as those with religious beliefs even though our position originates in logic and reason, not myth and superstition. This escalation of a systemic, although till now hidden, discrimination is very troubling.”

The Un-discovered Country

In order to reach the conclusion that there is no Limbo, the Pope sent out an official Vatican exploration team, led by a driven, sincere priest who wanted to find out if Limbo was real for personal reasons, to see if his brother, who died as an infant, was there, safe and sound. But after years of plundering heaven, driven mad by his quest, he reached the same conclusion as did Ponce de Leon (and the same fate as Lope de Aguirre): that just because you can imagine something exists, it doesn’t mean it will show up in the real world.

Hey God, Next Time, Just Send A Condolence Card

I’ve only heard of this Dinesh D’Souza fellow once before, when he was on the Colbert report, selling his shitty book about how progressives and free thinkers were responsible for 9/11 and the only way we’re going to defeat The Terrorists is by passing Sharia laws and becoming more like them. So, I wasn’t expecting clearheadedness from him when I read his little rant about the Virginia Tech shootings, in which he went off on a tangent, wondering aloud to his navel where all the atheists were about now and why wasn’t Richard Dawkins invited to speak at the memorial service.

That last little non sequiter there is the result of D’Souza not knowing the names of an other prominent atheists, ones who maybe live in the US rather than England. But apparently Mr. D’Souza thinks that Dr. Dawkins has nothing better to do than to fly half way around the world, calling press conferences to comment on tragedies that he has no personal connection with.

Setting aside the idiocy of this part of the argument, he goes on to make some ludicrous pronouncements about the character of people who do not share his belief in the grief counseling power of fairy tales:

Several atheists–who haven’t yet lost their fundamentalist habit of reading–took this sarcastic statement literally. “So what? The Pope hasn’t been invited either!” My point was that atheism has nothing to offer in the face of tragedy except C’est la vie. Deal with it. Get over it. This is why the ceremonies were suffused with religious rhetoric. Only the language of religion seems appropriate to the magnitude of tragedy. Only God seems to have the power to heal hearts in such circumstances. If someone started to read from Dawkins on why there is no good and no evil in the universe, people would start vomiting or leaving.One clever writer informs me that atheists don’t deny meaning, they simply insist that meaning is not inherent in the universe, it is created by us. Okay, pal, here’s the Virginia Tech situation. Go create some meaning and share it with the rest of us Give us that atheist sermon with you in the pulpit of the campus chapel. I’m not being facetious here. I really want to hear what the atheist would tell the grieving mothers.

First off, atheists don’t give sermons. We don’t tell other people what they should think and feel and then condescend to them when they have a different reaction than us. In the face of tragedy, some people cry, while others laugh or simply stare into space and wonder. We all react differently to grief but I have to wonder if telling the bereaved fairy tales about the dead playing volleyball in Cloud Cuckooland will really make anything better.

Secondly, as a number of people have pointed out, your God wasn’t exactly falling all over himself to stop the bullets or change the shooter’s mind. Just like Jesus didn’t use his super wood carving powers to build an unbreakable levy in New Orleans and Moses didn’t part the South Seas to stop the tsunami. But D’Souza has this one covered:

But perhaps God’s purpose in the world (I am only thinking aloud here) is to draw his creatures to him. And you have to admit that tragedies like this one at Virginia Tech help to do that!

Nice, huh? God lets bad things happen in order for us to become emotionally dependent on his stingy love and murderous whims. D’Souza thinks that not only is humanity suffering from a massive case of Battered Spouse Syndrome but that this is somehow a good thing.

Hat tip to PZ Myers.

Picture the VA Tech Massacre Happening Every Day for 4 Years, and Twice On Thursdays

That’s Iraq, since we Invaded.

I’d thought I’d mention that, just for perspective. Next time some Conservative dipshit whose birthing cats over Virginia Tech can’t seem to shed one crocodile tear for the Iraqi dead, you can bring this up. Try not to go deaf in the silence that results as they wrack their pea brains for an excuse (extra points if it involves some tortured argument against gun control).

Aguste at Pandagon has more disheartening stats for you.

But Which Books?

I applaud Yann Martel’s decision to send Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper a book every two weeks to raise his awareness of the arts, but I can’t help thinking that if someone tried this with President Bush, they’d end up on a watch list, if not on a plane to Gitmo. Even if it was Albert Camus.

Link via Bookslut.

Update 4/18/07:

Come on Yann, Tolstoy? You can’t ween an illiterate man on Tolstoy. Hell, I’m what you might call well read and I don’t even want to read Tolstoy. Why not start him off with something a little more manageable, like Ray Bradbury? Herman Hesse is a good start, too. Anybody but Tolstoy. Why not just drop Ulysses on his desk and be done with it?

Feeding Frenzy

Anthony Bourdain disects the Food Network Awards:

It is a measure of how seriously crack-brained, rapacious and evil the Deep Thinkers at Food Network must be that I find myself–yet again–in deep sympathy with their stable of stars. Last night, during the breathtakingly awful, interminable cruelty that was The Food Network Awards, I even found myself feeling bad for Rachael Ray. YES, friends. Rachael Ray. If nothing else, Rachael’s BIG now. Network talk show– doing- well- in- ratings- Big. Own magazine Big. Friend-of-Oprah Big. So, how must it have felt for her to stand up there in front of what appeared to be a halfway empty room of stunned, near comatose trout and feign enthusiasm while presenting the award for “Best Appliance”?

It Was Four Years Ago Today…

It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since I decided to start this blog and to my surprise, people do read my words and find them put together well enough to come back on a regular basis. Thank you. I’ll do my best to keep you reasonably entertained for four more years. Think of me as you’re very own unelected president, who only a handful of kooks pay attention to. Only, I won’t drown a large southern city or bomb a country for no reason, so there’s a bright side to all this after all!