Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I'll be praying for you, son

I caught myself thinking something rather odd the other day. We were having family prayers (they, my family were. My mind was mostly elsewhere) and my mom started praying for my three year old brother. She was asking that he grow up to be an obedient boy who loves and worships God. As I said, my mind was just wandering and I just found myself thinking: being the Atheistic, skeptical fellow that I am, what will I be praying for my kids to become?

I was half asleep, in my defence and the irony of my thought was lost to me for quite a while. But this shows quite well how difficult it is to get rid of modes of thought that have been inculcated into you from birth. I'm not worried, though. It was a minor lapse, brought on by slight brain fatigue. I won't be turnin' back to the lord any time soon.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Random Ramble IV - Tempel 1 - Stardust-NExT Rendezvous Day New Year's Resolutions Checkup

I've been told that Tempel 1 - Stardust-NExT Rendezvous Day* is the day to check on one's progress with one's new year's resolutions, the logic behind that being any you've managed to maintain thus far you will probably keep up with all year. Well, here goes(numbered, in the same order as my resolutions post):

1.Productive stuff....uhhhhhhhh...weeeeeeel....ummmmm, sort of, if you count reading blogs as productive. I mean, really, with Pharyngula, Bad Astronomy, Starts With A Bang, Science Blogs Select and the like, you really do learn something. Aside from blog posts and a little extracurricular research into astronomical phenomena, evolutionary biology and other stuff, that's all I've really been doing so far this year.

2.Blog...I've done that. I have done that.

3. Fiction...Ah. Not exactly. I managed to get in one new chapter for Daemon Days before copping out. Inspiration hasn't exactly come easy. I've procrastinated too much on working out my entry for the Winter Competition, so I won't be able to do what I had planned. I've come up with something else, though, and I think this idea will actually make for a better effect than my first one.

4. Varsity...Cambridge wants straight As... and an A in physics. Drat.

5. Girlfriend...............................

6. See above

7. Licence...not yet

8. Enriching lives blah blah blah...I've done well with the knowledge part, I should think. The love part, see, I am a very angry young man. The stress of not coming out to my family may be a major contributor to that, but I have not done well with the love thing at all.

9. I have yet to be informed of where girlfriends are procured.

*Due to the woeful girlfriend situation, I have decided not to observe Valentine's day this year. Every Astro-geek knows, of course, of that zomgamazing thing that's happening today (technically, tomorrow where I'm at, but who's keeping score?), so I've decided to celebrate that instead.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


So here's the next thing that's gonna kill us:

It's called C/2010 X1, dubbed Elenin after its russian discoverer. It's going to be at it's closest with Earth sometime in October and we'll pass through it's orbit's intersection with ours later in November. Apparently, the media hasn't taken to it with enough enthusiasm, so it's probably the planet Nibiru and "they"(you know, them) don't want us to know about it(genius logic, I know). There is just so much wrong with these fellows' logic that I just had to demonstrate how bunk it is. Here's a rundown of their main points and explanation of just what's bloody wrong with them.

1. Initial calculations had it passing 8.8 AU from Earth, but they've been continually revised downwards to the current estimate of at least .15 AU. (, para. 1)

Not amazing, really. As better data became available, the orbit got refined. Same thing happens with pretty much any moving astronomical object we find. Also, .15 AU is close on an astronomical scale, but still pretty far away on a human scale, 22,439,680 km away, 59 times the distance to the moon. But I guess their big point is...

2.The comet will pass through the Oort Belt (?), changing it's orbit (to hit Earth of course) (, para. 1) or pulling asteroids with its gravity to pummel earth (, para. 1)

The Oort belt? Maybe you mean the Oort Cloud? But still, that couldn't be because 1. the Oort cloud is(may be) 50,000 AU away and 2. it has never been directly observed - it is still quite hypothetical. Perhaps they mean the asteroid belt? Anyway, addressing the first issue. On an astronomical scale, Earth is a very tiny target. Veeeeeery tiny. About 0.00000000569 square astronomical units* tiny. Compare that with 0.0707AU^2, the area of the circle calculated using the closest approach distance of .15 AU, Earth is 0.0000000805 times that area! The odds of Elenin being deflected towards Earth are too minuscule to even consider.

Now as to the comet pulling asteroids out of their orbit...that's rubbish. Comets weigh in around 10^13 - 10^14 kg (compared with Earth's 5.97x10^24). That's really not much, and definitely not enough to have much gravitational effect on any objects in the asteroid belt. But then there's the objection that this is no comet...more on that later.

3. We'll be pummeled to death by the material in the comet's tail when we pass through it in November (, para. 1)

Save for the comet disintegrating, I see no issue with the comet's tail. A comet's tail is composed of dust particles and perhaps small pebble-sized grains, definitely not enough to pose a serious threat to Earth.

But there's a whole lot more woo-woo associated with this...

tl;dw (crud like this is always tl): this vid says that when the comet, Earth and sun align sometime in March, the comet will magnetically interact with the Earth and make us flip over or something. I raised the objections I am about to share here on that video and was called a retard. Nice fellows, these catastrophist folks.

1. Magnetism is caused by iron. Comets do not have iron.

2. In-situ magnetic fields decay over time. The only reason Earth still possesses a magnetic field after 4.5 billion years is because of convection currents in its ferrous core. Comets, being cold objects cannot have molten iron. Any magnetic iron they might have had would have decayed long ago.

3.March is *around* the time of the equinox. At that point, the Earth's axis is perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic. If there were any magnetic effect between the earth and the comet, you'd expect it to act on both poles simultaneously. Of course, Earth's magnetic field is slightly off center of the rotational axis, but not by much, and definitely not enough to be in alignment with the comet on the ecliptic.

4. Regarding the "3 degree shift in the south pole"...[apparently what caused the Chile earthquake last year] ??? Magnetic south? 'Cause that would have no effect whatsoever on the planet. If it were a literal shift in rotational axis we would definitely have seen muuuuch more damage. You haven't provided how long the shift took, but I can surmise it would have generated a respectable amount of radial velocity. The inertia experienced by the earth would have been *massive*, causing way more damage than just one little earthquake.

At this point, I saw the video poster's comment positing that Elenin is not just a comet, but something more. Some have said it is literally the Nibiru that has been long talked about. Some have even called it a brown dwarf. Well, there's something wrong with this. I don't think they (you know, them) could have hidden this from us. Something larger than Jupiter that far into the solar system would most definitely have thrown the orbits of all the planets into disarray. It would also be visible to the naked eye and we wouldn't need a frickin' telescope to see it.

Some suspicion seems to have been raised by the fact that the comet was discovered by an "amateur" on an 18-inch telescope and not by the larger observatories. People who raise this as an issue don't understand the workings of astronomy. Those larger observatories aren't sweeping the sky all willy-nilly looking for stuff. They are engaged in research, looking into specific corners of the sky, and are doing so for pretty much every moment of good observing time. Astronomical phenomena are being discovered by amateurs all the time - from asteroids to supernovae to - yes - comets, amateurs are nearly always at the forefront of discovery.

Another silly objetion is that the media have been too silent over this, therefore there is a conspiracy to keep knowledge of it away from us.

I don't think highly of conspiracy theories, but I'll grace this with a psy-ops agent worthy explanation. The comet will peak at magnitude 6-8...barely visible to the naked eye. So why should the media make a big hoopla about it? The media is always slow when picking up stuff like this anyway, so it may only be a matter of time. Unless, of course, they catch wind of this whole collision story, in which case they will be making quite the hoopla about it.

*(pi) x (radius of the earth in AU, approx. 0.0000426 AU)^2

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sabbath School 06/02/11 - The Devil ain't no telepath

I learnt something fascinating at Sabbath School yesterday: Satan cannot read our minds! Ain't that just wonderful! Now, I was prepared to ignore this particular bit of childish fantasizing, but I really could not pass on the whopper that followed. Want to know how to thwart him? Don't say your thoughts out loud. Yeah, that's right. If you do, he can then us his knowledge against you and place corresponding temptations in your path.

And here I am thinking, are these real, fully grown adults saying these things? I mean, this is the kind of thing you'd expect to hear from kids, sort of like "don't say 'boogeyman' three times while you're in bed or else he'll appear underneath it"! I've found myself noticing these things a lot of late and I tend to get this "like, seriously?" smile on my face when I do. People then tend to think it's because I have something to say but when they ask me I politely decline and say "no, it's nothing." I'm beginning to feel that this, coupled with the fact that I barely say more than ten words from the time I enter the church gates to the time I leave has got them thinking I am a very odd person indeed.

Well, this is what religion really is, a system of childish beliefs held by people who've somehow failed to grow up(in a bad way - not growing up is good in certain circumstances), throw off the shackles of reckless fantasy and embrace the cold, hard truth of reality and make something good out of it.

On a sadder note, oner of the church elders is currently in a critical condition in hospital. He's an ex-alcoholic and his godless past is finally catching up with him. Now, just a few weeks ago everyone had been praising God for his miraculous recovery and saying how marvelous He'd been in answering their prayers (the elder had been in hospital for quite a while before that).

Now, I am not going to use this as an opportunity to gloat - I am not some heartless, evil demon. But I do wish to deliver a lesson through this. Put simply: sometimes people get better. Sometimes they don't. It's the way of life - no hocus-pocus magic men in the sky necessary.

I am definitely hoping the old man gets beter. He's a genial, soft-spoken fellow and I have developed quite a soft spot for him. I haven't a shadow of a doubt that hands of flesh and blood are doing their best to keep him with us, and I hope they succeed. All we can do in addition to this is to let him know that we are behind him and hoping for his recovery. In fact, this is where I think prayer makes a difference, in lending the person and their family support in their trying hour - no magic involved. And let's also not belittle the advances in science that actually give him a shot at survival he would not have had mere decades ago.

P.S. - About a week ago I reported that 2011 is the Seventh-Day Adventist Year of Revival and Reformation. Well, as it turns out, the theme isn't just for this year, but the next five years (couldn't find any links - I heard it at church yesterday).

EDIT(7/2/11 - 22:35) - I've just learnt that the elder I spoke about has passed away. They'll probably never read this, but his family has my deepest sympathies.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Kepler finds 1200 new planetary candidates

I don't think I can contribute much beyond the geeky zomgfest that's already been raised over this, but it makes me think: somewhere out there there is quite possibly another alien civilization looking vaguely in our direction, seeing a teeny dip in our sun's light and thinking, "Whoaaaa! We've found a Skreegl-sized planet in this star's habitable zone!" This is only the beginning for Kepler, and we can only see more planets out there.

Congratulations to Kasese Humanist Primary School

I just wish to congratulate the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda on their first day of term and give them my best wishes for the future. The work the Kasese United Humanist Association is doing is commendable, and I hope it will make for the model upon which the rest of Africa will follow. Those who wish to donate to the project can do so here, and the school director, Bwambale Robert, can be reached at Atheist Nexus.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sorry folks, false alarm

Well, February's come by and Barack Hussein Obama sin Laden, vice Antichrist of the New World Order hasn't signed the National Sunday Law into effect. And we all breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Like I said earlier, that post has been my most viewed ever, sending my page views skyrocketing (veteran bloggers may find my accomplishments piffling, but this is something really amazing for me) and it was still generating hits at a rate of some thirty-something plus a day a week after I posted it. Now I've got to look for some more sensational headlines to make use of, kinda keep the interest up. Or maybe - gods forbid - I should actually do some research and write stuff with substance in it.