Thursday, February 28, 2013

MinutePhysics: How Big is the Universe?

Watch this and fall in love with science. Then go to minutephysics at YouTube and get married to it by subscribing. Then be unfaithful by ogling the other science sites that are its friends. (I'll stop there.)

To Start Your Day: Obey! (Please...)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Space Elevator Gets a...Lift

When has the idea of an elevator up into space NOT held our imagination? Yes, many years, even decades, and the notion has not left our imagination. Consider this article by Claire Evans:
"...although it's been a pipe dream of armchair theorists since the 1800s, it just made one giant leap into a whole new world of plausibility. Why? Because the Japanese, perhaps afraid of being eclipsed by the mighty progress of commercial space travel companies, or the showboating of the nascent Chinese space program, have decided to build one, for real. It's a smart pairing. Japan is a pioneer in the kind of precision engineering that a space elevator requires, and their space program, JAXA, is a small but powerful operation, excelling in X-Ray astronomy, satellite-based Earth observation, and building smart modules and components for the International Space Station."

Is Our Universe the Only One? (Well, there's the Star Trek universe...)

The Daily Tweet

A Pee Chee Folder, a Shoe Box of Baseball Cards, and a Fan Trailer

Let me set the stage: it's late 1998 and I'm in a theater lobby waiting with my two daughters to see The Rugrats Movie, and when I look up I see hanging on the wall a very large poster. There are no words on this advertisement, only a young boy standing amid sand dunes dressed like Luke Skywalker.  It takes me a few moments but I soon notice the boy's shadow, how it stretches out into the shape of Darth Vader. This wasn't my first clue that this film was on its way. Still, I nearly pee my pants with glee. But I am waiting for the movie trailer...

On the advent of that film's teaser trailer a CNN article (11/20/98) put it this way:

"Star Wars" junkies eager to catch a glimpse of the first prequel, your wait is over: 75 theaters in North America got to show a sneak preview [italics mine] of the trailer for "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" among the trailers shown before other full-length feature movies.
The preview will appear nationwide on Friday. But loyal fans who paid close attention to the official Star Wars Web site learned there would be a sneak preview Tuesday in some theaters across the country.
Some people are apparently paying the full price of a movie ticket just to see the two-minute preview. Variety reported that nearly two-thirds of the 500 people in an afternoon showing of "The Siege" in Los Angeles walked out after seeing the trailer. Movie theaters across the country reported other fans doing the same thing.
Asked to comment, one fan who saw the trailer in Washington said "Unbelievable. I consider myself a harsh critic, but after the trailer I was applauding."

Monday, February 18, 2013

Shooting From the Hip: Wrangling for Ideas

No caption necessary, am I right?
Gonna shoot from the hip. I haven't done this in a while. Usually I have an idea and I sequester it and think it through. I come up with some supporting angles in which to hurdle this concept through time and space. But now, I'm just letting it out, letting it loose, letting it run wild--

But not too wild. Gotta have some plan. Gotta have an angle. No one likes sloppy writing. No one enjoys the too-glib approach, sounding like you love to hear yourself write.

But I love to hear myself write, to let an idea spin out of me; it's like wrangling a wild animal. Heaven knows I've done that a few times in my youth. Growing up in Yakima on a mere acre, we city folks from Las Vegas tried to be sons and daughters of the soil, or at least of the flock. Yeah, we grew hay, cut and bailed it; stacked it I did, like Abel, but like Cain we raised animals and drew the ire of God upon us with rabbits that ate their babies ("Hey, we were gonna eat those!"), calves that wouldn't eat and had to be force fed with a tube rammed down their throats, and sows that wouldn't give suck and their piglets having to be hand fed all summer, day and night. Especially night.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This Debate. (Here we go again...)

Oh, it is so on...
Atheists remind us pew-sitting scripture monkeys that religion is the pure invention of Man's mind--all of it, including the part about the "Jewish Zombie". I wish to avoid bitterly complaining about the lack of civility towards religion. But if I think about some of the religious right's more infamous spokespeople, who come off like the carnies lined up at the state fair to cajole us into a try at the ring toss or a quick gander at the two headed cow fetus stored in the back, well then we probably deserve a great deal of that heat.

Still, the hatred and mockery of religion (not too strong a description), while rooted in a foundation of dismay I can agree with, has strayed of late into the territory of hyperbole. What I see is a new wave of atheism ramping up out there: a full on frontal attack to not correct but to dismantle faith in God. Amusing and inventive billboards and multi-media campaigns. Take no prisoners. Maher, Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens once led the charge with the same intensity as Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps and the late Jerry

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Blog for Your Sabbath Day: Spiritual Ownership

"But Daddy...I want it naaaaaoooooooow!" 

The impatient Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a demanding sort of little girl; her impatience was coupled with an insatiable greed. Every bobble that lit her fancy she demanded it right then, right there, and with each passing moment she was made to wait, her temper flared to new heights of frustration. Homer Simpson, a notorious shirker of responsibility, devised a way to get out of a community service project during a work outing: just to get out of picking up roadside trash, he spent 600 dollars on a life sized mannequin and faked his own death (albeit briefly). As Bart pointed out to his father, Homer would have saved money--and time--by actually showing up for work. Nonetheless, so opposed to work Homer always is that the cartoon oaf was willing to roll up his sleeves to get out of lifting a finger. Extreme examples these are, certainly. Between the empty hands of these characters and the object of their desires lays a chasm unfilled with the recipe for success: work, labor, effort. Call it what you will, but neither Homer nor Veruca have any appreciation for the concept of ownership.