Thursday, April 29, 2010

Marim-bot

No, no, NO! They're supposed to do math and kill people, not act all friendly and play the marimba!


Well, I guess it's kinda doing math. But it needs to work more on killing people, instead of jamming with them.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beyond Hubble

We're all familiar with the spectacular images from the Hubble Space Telescope. But the end of Hubble won't spell the end of spectacular images. Take a look at the images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (the one to the left is from the SDO's Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), released as NASA's Image of the Day.

Such awesome sights bring to mind the eloquent words of C. Montgomery Burns:

Since the dawn of time, man has yearned to destroy the Sun.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Vaccine War

Frontline, great as usual, had a good episode on the "war" over vaccination, with special focus on the alleged link to autism:



The last segment, in particular, raises an interesting ethical issue I have discussed in some of my previous bioethics classes: to what extent is it permissible, or even obligatory, to override a parent's autonomy in order to protect the parent's own child? What happens when the parental decision places other children at risk? Is the level of risk all that is important? Obviously, this question arises in many contexts outside of bioethical issues, as well.

Col. Jessep was right.

Some people can't handle the truth. Look what happened when PZ Myers' readers responded the "wrong" way to a Minnesota Republicans poll. Silver lining: at least the Republican site has dropped even the pretense of objectivity.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot

Listened to the first episode of Luke Muelhauser's Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot podcast. The sound quality of the interview in this episode was poor (the rest was good), but Muelhauser has a pretty amazing line-up of interviews, and I really like his style—I definitely intend to catch up with the rest, and keep up.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dead Yemeni child bride tied up, raped, says mom

Lest we imagine that pedophilia is exclusively a Catholic problem, the Associated Press gives us a stark reminder that there are large groups of people who not only rape children, or hide and protect child rapists when they think the news might affect the wealth and prestige of their bigoted organizations, but who actually consider it a perfectly acceptable moral practice to begin with:
A 13-year-old Yemeni child bride who bled to death shortly after marriage was tied down and forced to have sex by her husband, according to interviews with the child's mother, police and medical reports.

The girl's mother, Nijma Ahmed, 50, told the Associated Press that before her daughter lost consciousness, she said that her husband had tied her up and forced himself on her. "She looked like she was butchered," she said about her daughter's injuries.

Elham Assi, 13, bled to death hours after she spoke to her mother and just days after she was married to a 23-year-old man. She died on April 2 in the deeply poor Yemeni village of Shueba, some 200 kilometers northwest of the capital. Her husband, Abed al-Hikmi, is in police custody.

The practice of marrying young girls is widespread in Yemen where a quarter of all females marry before the age of 15, according to a 2009 report by the country's Ministry of Social Affairs. Traditional families prefer young brides because they are seen as more obedient and are expected to have more children.
Religion, of course, is involved:
Legislation to ban child brides has been stalled by opposition from religious leaders...

A February 2009 law set the minimum age for marriage at 17, but it was repealed and sent back to parliament's constitutional committee for review after some lawmakers called it un-Islamic.
But, after all, why not? Isn't Muhammad a role model for us all?

Update: In response to this post, some loser actually wrote in, complaining that atheists "try to eliminate all the dreams and hopes of humanity." Right: the rape of children isn't the problem, it's atheism. Nice priorities, you sack of shit.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Florida

You know, trying to deal with the Florida problem in The Drunkard's Walk is difficult enough in itself, but it's a thousand times more difficult when you have this running through your head in a continuous loop.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Rule of what?

Hume's Ghost makes a very good point:
As Greenwald notes [link], the Obama administration attempted to invoke state secrets to prevent the court from ruling on the Bush administration's criminal [NSA eavesdropping] program; yet that's the sort of thing that doesn't seem to bother the Beck's or Hannity's of the world: their conception of "tyranny" is the top marginal tax rate going up a few percentage points or the EPA preventing some corporation from dumping toxic waste into the local water.
While the right wing has gone into bizarro-cuckoo-conspiracy land where the Obama administration is concerned, it strangely gives a free pass to real-world instances where the administration is in the wrong. Not that surprising, though, since these are instances where the sins of the administration mesh with the sins of the previous one.

HG's "Quote of the day" from Greenwald bears repeating, in case you're too lazy to follow the links above:
That means that all 3 federal judges to consider the question have concluded that Bush's NSA program violated the criminal law (FISA). That law provides that anyone who violates it has committed a felony and shall be subject to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each offense. The law really does say that. Just click on that link and you'll see.  It's been obvious for more than four years that Bush, Cheney, NSA Director (and former CIA Director) Michael Hayden and many other Bush officials broke the law—committed felonies—in spying on Americans without warrants. Yet another federal judge has now found their conduct illegal. If we were a country that actually lived under The Rule of Law, this would be a huge story, one that would produce the same consequences for the lawbreakers as a bank robbery, embezzlement or major drug dealing. But since we're not such a country, it isn't and it doesn't.