Pluto, Plutons, and Science

Ok, the link takes you to John Gibson, Fox news columnist, who had this to say about Pluto being kicked out of the Solar Systems definition of planet;

"Now scientists say Pluto isn't a planet. It isn't big enough. It's something, but not a planet exactly.

My attitude is: Who says?

It's been a planet my entire life. I learned that in the third grade. Might be the only thing I remember from the third grade.

It's the cold one, the farthest from the sun and, yes, it's the small one."

A view to which I have some degree of sympathy. I like Pluto. I even like it as a planet. But science isn't about what we like to be true, it's about what actually
is true. The International Astronomical Union didn't arrive at the definition of planet capriciously, it built the definition around the physical characteristics of the phenomenae - that is, they insisted the definition of a planet mean something.

And so we now have 8 planets. Four gas giants, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter, and four rocky; Mars, Earth, Venus and Mercury.

Pluto is now (correctly) regarded as not being a planet because its gravity hasn't pulled it into a round shape.

Instead, it becomes the nearest of the Kuiper belt object,s a halo of fragments, that orbits our sun at a great distance and outside of the solar plane.

The fact is, this is not only a fair definition of planet, its a meaningful one. Delineating the difference between a moon (orbiting a body other than the parent star), as well as an asteroid (like Ceres), meant that we also had to let go of Pluto.

Fair enough I say. The IAU's definition of planet is reasonable, and coherent.

There are 8 planets.

Science. It rolls over our third grade educations every time.
Thank goodness.

'Annoy an Elf, buy this book' - Morgoth

The Panda's Thumb is having a go at the recent release of 'The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design', and to say the least the going is tough.

The book is so bad they are taking it apart chapter by chapter to point out the factual embarassments, half-truths, sloppy philosophy and outright lies that make up the book.

In the spirit of this enterprise, '90% True' released news of this new P.I.G book coming soon.

In particular, I love how no stone goes unturned in this satire, right down to the purported author.
(click picture to enlarge)


Sans Sapiens: Somebot to Catch Me When I Fall

I love these guys.

It's worth checking out Sans Sapiens whether you are in favour of our new robotic overlords, or not.

I for one, welcome them with whirring arms!


Spock's problem

My wife said;

"This is just wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong."
iGallop TV Ad

I believe this was originally intended as an abdominal exerciser. In any case, it's actual practical uses seem rather obvious.

And then there were eight

I had been very excited by the prospect of adding Xena, and potentially dozens more, to the ranks of planets however the IAU decided otherwise and have instead demoted Pluto to a "dwarf planent".

Does this mean we are now looking for Planet IX?


Homo Florensis

The Homo Florensis debate is still raging - the latest entry into the matter considers the matters solved - the Hobbit is a micro-encephalic human.

I am sure the controversy isn't over though, expect a contrarian perspective as soon as I locate one.


Gatchaman NTT Animation CM2


Quote of the Day

"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons."

- Bertrand Russell
Shatner Roast (Nimoy)
Shatner Roast (George Takei)
William Shatner Roast (Betty White)
"They died for us, repeatedly"


Cam Neely Tribute

Church for men only?

It seems that a church decided that it's Sunday school teacher should be canned - because she was a woman, and the bible prohibits women teaching men.

She'd only been teaching there for 54 years - do you think she was caught by surprise?


The Random Quote Meme

The task was to go to this link, and find 5 random quotes that reflected how you viewed the world.
At first I thought they would all be kinda dry and academic, but I was impressed with the breadth of quotations available.

Here are the first five that struck me;

Dubito ergo sum - I doubt therefore I am
Kayvan Sylvan

I'm as pure as the driven slush.
Tallulah Bankhead (1903 - 1968)

I hope I never get so old I get religious.
Ingmar Bergman

Reality is what won't go away when you stop beliving in it.
Phillip K Dick

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying
Woody Allen (1935 - )
No real shockers here, but I was suprised to get Tallulah Bankhead before Maye West, and I didn't get any Douglas Adams until well after I had picked my first five.

Oh well.

A collection of some other favourites I picked out is here. Anyone else want to take a crack at it?

It's a Farce


Lewis Black on the Bible


Xena Rules!

The International Astronomical Union has proposed a new definition of planet to resolve the "Pluto" debate. The result, if accepted, would automatically add three worlds to our solar system and potentially add dozens more.


Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennaes to Heaven - Godspeed You Black Emperor! Live

80's videos can be so cruel

In the post below you'll find a video of one of my all time favourite bands doing arguably their best song.

It is certainly clear that some videos from the 80's have aged well (Peter Gabriel's come to mind), but others that were supposed to be cutting edge - like this one - were more often than not just silly.

The video actually starts off at its low ebb, with shirtless band members moving around boxes and lugging around crosses in what looks like a badly lit basement. At least one of the band members is clearly and obviously preening. Bad haircuts all around.

And then we have our lead singer as the dancing red neo-primitive, squatting and bouncing in rythymn to something other than 'Lined Up'. He makes frequent reapearances throughout the video, each more spastic and slightly less irritating than the last, until he is slips from being eye-gougingly tragicomic to merely bizzarre.

Did I mention that this song has my favourite baseline ever? That they opened and closed with it at the live concert in Calgary? That for a time, they were part of my simple musical holy trinity of New Order and the Severed Heads?

By the time they make their way to images of the lead singer as hanging man from the Tarot deck, and as 'Death' from the Seventh Seal, we recognize that the dancing red guy wasn't so derivative afterall - at least for the time (I believe the video pre-dates Burning Man), but that the director was simply, utterly, lost as to what to do with Shriekback's video. Scenes of the band (shirtless again) at sunset (again) indicate to me both the bankruptcy of the directors vision, and his no longer latent homosexuality.

In fact it looks like the one distinguishable female in the video (at the very very end, two or three seconds of her bouncing in front of the camera), was probably forced on the director. Afterall, she's wearing three times as much clothing as the band, and is so poorly lit we can't even clearly see her puppies as they bounce.

To sum up; fantastic band (One all-time classic album: 'Oil and Gold', one excellent album 'Big Night Music', two anthem singles 'Nemesis' and 'Lined Up', the only good parts of the soundtrack to the movie 'Manhunter', and for a time, two bald lead singers), terrific song, but one gut bustingly bad video.



Behind the Looking Glass: the Catholic war on mainstream Protestantism

The article traces the Neo-Con footprint throughout hard-right Catholicism in the US. At the centre of the web, Catholic theologian Richard John Neuhaus.


Vancouver Pride 2006!

This is was our third Pride, and the first with friends AJ and Lisa.

All photos are AJs...

The unfortunate thing is that I don't yet have pics from my favourite part of the Parade, the opening roar of engines and pagentry from the Dykes and Bikes.

Sadly, AJ was off in search of suntan lotion, or a blanket, or a sandwich, or on a sword quest for his demon mistress, or some such thing at thie time.

Anyway, here we go...

The Tories!

It was actually kind of a sad contingent really. But I admired that they made the effort. If I recall in years past the Tories/Alliance didn't always field a presence. Worth noting that both the Liberals in Heddy Fry, and the NDP with Jack Layton himself, showed up in numbers.

Heddy Fry wore something that on any other day would have been worthy of ridicule, but on this occasion, she gets a pass. How can you fault anyone for what they wear (or don't) at Pride?

And then to my delight, the worst fears of the Free Dominion crowd were realized...

Shortly afterwards we were treated to some ole fashion Cornhusking! Ahh. I miss the prairies.

One of the floats we all liked and that was quite popular with the crowd in general was this fella...

On his back was written 'I Heart my Gay Dad', and he was with 'PFLAG' (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, though I should fact check that)

We all dug the kilt (even our Irish contingent gave it a pass), though it must have been unimaginably hot to rollerblade in.

Random Hottie

A Moped riding S+M clown. Sweet. All I could think of was the line from 'The Devil's Rejects', "Laugh clown, Laugh! Unfortunately, it was neither appropriate nor particularily funny.

I'm leaving it in anyway.

Two minutes later, we were treated to some political commentary...

Yup, it's the priviledged white lesbians for a totalitarian Cuba. At least, I think that's what the sign says.

AJ found this part of the parade so interesting he was distracted by a wicked Chinese junk taking sail in the bay...

One of the biggest comedy moments for us came when the Vancouver S+M Society drove their float by...

I suggested to AJ that you can't see the other 7 members because they are locked in the trunk.

Seriously though, L-A-M-E float. I hope they do better next year.

'The sisters of perpetual indulgence' - AJ was impressed enough by their rigorous theology to give religion another try. I figured the catechism would be too much for me.

The 'Brokeback Harper/Bush' Float.

Maybe it's just me, but I was hoping for something a bit less cliche' than the recycling of Brokeback as a slur. There was someone with a sign of Bush that said 'Queer Eye on the Stupid Guy' which was at least clever, but I found myself hoping for more wit than the Brokeback float delivered.

This one though, was by far my favourite....

Librarians! Whoo Hoo! What could be sexier?

Another big chuckle we had (once I returned from my slightly dazed and confused state after the librarians passed) was with a guy who was giving away free razors for Schick or Bic, or whoever. As he started to pass out the goodies he was mobbed. I turned to AJ and said,

'Great strategy, he really knows his market. Afterall, there are clearly a lot of women here who NEED razors'.

Not everything was glamour and fabulousness mixed with crass commericialism and the occasional moonbat politics. But at least the guy was making the effort, and at Pride that counts for everything.

'Insert joke here' - This float had the four of us in hysterics. I can't say exactly why, but we had been drinking fairly steadily, and for whatever reason, it struck our collective funny-bone like an Antonio Carver left hook.

Among the favourite floats we saw, was this one. Very low budget, but enchanting.

This float was our winner for 'Most anatomically correct'. Is it any coincidence that many of the hottest chicks were trailing this float like kids following an ice-cream truck?

Among the guest celebrities,
Flava Flav made an appearance!

Random Hottie #2

After teasing us with her wicked dance moves and Betty Grable gams, she announced with a cheerful smile we could see her take it all off at a local strip club that evening. Sadly, I was unable to convince my compatriots that seeing her naked was worth the effort of going to the club.

The most annoying Pride participant award goes to the Candy-man above. It wasn't that he was buck naked except for some very sweaty candy decorating his bits (there were many participants wearing less, and less creatively), it was that he insisted on not deviating from his space in the parade. We were treated to his prancing ALL DAY LONG as he weaved in and out of the floats as they went past him. Like I said, annoying. If he'd only just moved along, instead of constantly flitting in and out of our field of vision, we would have been fine.

The after march - where a sea of humanity extending as far as the eye can see, makes its way over to the beer gardens, bars, restaurants, and clubs of Vancouver. Sun drenched, liqoured up and treated to the marvelous spectacle that is Pride in Vancouver, everyone had a smile on their face.

Another smashing success!

Happy Pride Everyone!


Male Circumcision and AIDS

This article in the Independent suggests that male circumcision might be reconsidered as an option by the public in light of its health benefits in preventing AIDS.

Times writer Andrew Sullivan (still my favourite blog) suggests that while he opposes male circumcision as sexual mutilation, he makes an exception for it as a preventive measure against AIDS.

On this, I'm afraid I have to disagree. There is already a much better solution to AIDS in Africa (and elsewhere) than something as odious as male circumcision.

Unfortunately it is one that is still objected to on grounds that are purely theological and not rational. It's an objection that is literally killing millions.

Next thing you know somebody is going to start calling for voluntary castration as an AIDS preventative rather than consider the screamingly obvious.
Phaneuf 2005-2006
Iginla 52-Goals


Oblique Firefly Overlocker 2003


Schopenhauer Confirmed!

One of Schopenhauer's contentions was that perception was affected by desire, often in unconscious ways.

The classic example is where two men walk into a room, one is hungry, the other isn't. The man who isn't hungry first notices the art on the walls, the one who is hungry notices the food on the table.

Turns out that this not the only way a hungry man's perceptions are altered.

It seems that a hungry man will find larger women more attractive than when they aren't hungry! So much like the amount of beer affects how attractive a man will rate a woman so will the amount of pretzels.


Flying Primates?

Are the Megabats actually more closely related to primates than they are to other bats?

Did flight evolve independently a second time among mammals?

Me Heart Palaeontology


A Postmodernist and 9-11

Baudrillard on 9/11

"The horror for the 4,000 victims of dying in those towers was inseparable from the horror of living in them - the horror of living and working in sarcophagi of concrete and steel

By the grace of terrorism, the World Trade Centre has become the world’s most beautiful building - the eighth wonder of the world

Terrorism merely … puts the finishing touches to the orgy of power, liberation, flows and calculation which the twin towers embodied … So, at Ground Zero, in the rubble of global power, we can only, despairingly, find our own image."


Right. Let's take this slowly shall we?

The horror of the people
dying in the towers is inseperable from the horror of living in them? Is it just me, or is that not obviously the kind of line we should expect from someone who has skipped taking some very necessary medication?

Just so I'm clear, Baudrillard is suggesting that the horror of those who lept to their deaths from 30 stories up rather than perish in a blazing inferno is 'inseperable' from the soul killing ennui of the common office worker?

Yup - that's just f*cked. But wait, this Po-Mo whackjob is on a roll...

'By the grace of terrorism the WTC has become the world’s most beautiful building - the eighth wonder of the world'

Uh, no. Sorry Jean, but the 'grace' that terrorism brought to the WTC was that of a smoldering crater, thousands of lives lost, and nightmares of horror and violence for everyone who saw the footage and possessed a beating heart. Indeed, I have trouble with the use of the word 'grace' in this context at all.

But then, language was always a problem for the po-mo crowd. Notice how the towers are now 'beautiful' for Beaudrillard? Doesn't that strike you as a gross abuse of the word?

But he isn't done yet! No, he still hasn't used any symbolic elements to make the case that the WTC is a sign or sygil rather than just a building with, you know,
people in it...

'Terrorism merely … puts the finishing touches to the orgy of power, liberation, flows and calculation which the twin towers embodied'

To which I can only say, that is biggest steaming pile of po-mo BS I have encountered in quite some time, and I say this having actually read his book of essays 'Screened Out'.

"So, at Ground Zero, in the rubble of global power, we can only, despairingly, find our own image."

I take it by the 'rubble of global power' we mean 'globalization' - but that hardly stopped for a beat before it resumed again, despite the fact it was in 'rubble' according to Baudrillard.

Never let the truth get in the way of a good axe to grind though.

Finally and fortunately, I do not find that I see my own image (or that of humanity) when I look at the wreckage of 9-11 - I see only madness.

As if inspiring the two sequels to the Matrix wasn't bad enough, when I read the po-mo view of 9-11 provided by our man Jean, we encounter that madness again in a written form.

Somebody, please, make him stop. He's giving philosophers a bad name.


On Books

1. One book that changed your life?

Rene Descartes 'Discourse on Method and Meditations on Natural Philosophy', because he was right about scepticism being the foundation of knowledge, and wrong about just about everything else. The effort of taking this work apart and re-examining the pieces was life altering.

2. One book you have read more than once?

1984, though I think I suspect I've re-read 'Neuromancer' more often.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

The complete works of Shakespeare.

4. One book that made you laugh?

'Cat's Cradle' by Kurt Vonnegut

5. One book that made you cry?

'The World According to Garp'

6. One book you wish had been written?

Mine. But I'm working on that.

7. One book you wish had never had been written?

'Mein Kampf' comes to mind.

8. One book you are currently reading?

Best of Science Fiction Short Stories 2005 by Gardner Dozois.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

'Paris 1919' - but I'll get to it.

10. Your oldest books?

A friend gave me a very old copy of 'The Time Machine' by HG Wells. For the most part (Bill's gift being the chief exception) the contents, not the age of the copy, were what mattered to me.