Angels from Another Pin
(Eschatological aspirations)

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31 May 2002 ::   It's good to know that there will never be a shortage of mental defectives in the world to compensate for my colossal lack of creativity  
It's the all-lies edition of Angels from Another Pin!

We start with the intelligent design movement, which is as big a sack of lies as you are likely to see in your life.

The people who back intelligent design are, almost exclusively, liars and bullshit artists. They lost a Supreme Court challenge in 1987, and so cannot teach "creation science" (an Oxymoron of the Year Award winner, that one) to schoolchildren--so they made up "intelligent design" and tried that out on the Neanderthal school boards of America. They hoped to use intelligent design as a stepping stone to teaching religion in the schools as if it were science.

Want an example of their twisted illogic? According to the article I link to above, "[House Republican Steve] Chabot cited a 2001 Zogby poll that found that 71 percent of those surveyed supported offering students the 'scientific evidence against evolution.'" What a nice bit of liar's logic. Hey, I would be all for teaching the scientific evidence against evolution. There's only one problem. There isn't any. Every piece of scientific evidence points towards the correctness of evolutionary theory in one of its forms. And those pushing the intelligent design gateway drug know it.

I will state, for the record, that intelligent design is bullshit. Anyone who wants to debate me needs to (1) throw away your Bible, since mythology has nothing to do with scientific debate, and (2) learn some basic logic. Anyone ignoring these two dicta will be laughed off the field.

I miss Steven Jay Gould already.

The next liar on the hit parade...Ari Fleischer and His Amazing Dancing Teeth:
Once, about six years ago, I called to ask [Fleischer] something about tax reform. Knowing Fleischer, I tried to anticipate his possible replies and map out countermeasures to cut off his escape routes. I began the conversation by bringing up what seemed a simple premise: His boss, Bill Archer, favored replacing the income tax with a national sales tax. Fleischer immediately interrupted to insist that Archer did not support any such thing. I was dumbfounded. Forgetting my line of questioning, I frantically tried to recall how it was I knew that Archer had advocated a sales tax. But in the face of this confident assertion, my mind went blank. "Wha ... uh, really?" I stammered. He assured me it was true. Completely flustered, I thanked him and hung up. I rummaged through my files, trying to piece together my reality. Didn't everybody who followed these things know that Archer favored a sales tax? Yes--here was one newspaper story, and another, and finally a crinkled position paper, authored by Bill Archer, explaining why we needed a national sales tax. Of course he favored it. Fleischer had made the whole thing up.

30 May 2002 ::   Holy Xiao, we're goin' to Mars! --Mark Sachs  
We are on-target for an eventual manned landing on Mars, says NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, quoted by the BBC: "I ask, 'what is the difference between what we are doing on Mars now and the preparation we would have to do for a manned Mars mission'. The answer is nothing. Our unmanned exploration of Mars is just the homework we need to be doing for any eventual manned mission. This programme is the right antecedent for man on Mars."

Straight from the horse's mouth comes the official NASA press release regarding the water layer found on Mars.

The Third Millennium CE meets the Second Millennium BCE: how does one follow Jewish law while in orbit? Astronaut Ilan Ramon, who will go up in Columbia in July, has asked scholars to answer this question for him. It turns out to be thornier than you might think.

There's something amazing about these mathematical surfaces as rendered in Lego.

Mike Ryan
29 May 2002 ::   Many interesting responses to my question about why we didn't fight the Soviets harder during World War II. My bad!  
Why whips crack: Whips don't crack because the tip is passing Mach speed, as was previously thought, but because a loop travelling along the length of the whip passes Mach speed.

John McPhee wrote in his biography of physicist Ted Taylor, The Curve of Binding Energy, that Taylor used the parabolic reflector from a flashlight to concentrate the photons from a nuclear test and light a cigarette. I mentioned this to some folks last weekend, and promised to find a Web reference for it. Well, here you go: there's a passing reference to the event in a Seattle Times review of a book about the Orion Project, and in a review of the same book by a fellow named Rick Kleffel. McPhee's actual statement is quoted by a page hosted by the University of New Mexico.

Speaking of nuclear explosions, the 1952 test shot at Enewetak Atoll, called Mike, obliterated an entire island and portions of two others.

28 May 2002 ::   Thinking has now been decriminalised in 37 US states  
The BBC writes that enough water to cover Mars to a depth of 500 meters has been discovered by the Mars Odyssey orbiter's gamma ray spectrometer.

Mark Sachs
While the city planning council and the monied interests dither, the people of New York want the World Trade Center rebuilt to its former glory. "'If the Brooklyn Bridge were destroyed in a terrorist attack, we would not be discussing the re-envisioning of East River crossings,' one speaker said. 'We would rebuild it.'"

27 May 2002 ::   Human speech is like a cracked cauldron on which we bang out tunes that make bears dance, when we want to move the stars to pity  
Van Gogh gouged color onto the canvas of Vase With Fifteen Sunflowers because he was concerned the pigments would fade with time. Medieval portraits of the Virgin Mary showed her in blue robes - a tradition which I still see today in traditionalist Roman Catholic works of art - because the blue paint, rendered from lapis lazuli, was extremely rare and expensive. Raphael's Madonna dell Granduca is nearly impossible to photograph with its true colors intact. All this and more in the science of paint and color as seen by Philip Ball.

Astronomers Christopher Kochanek of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics and Neal Dalal of UC-San Diego have discovered signs of dark matter in the gravitational lensing of light by four galaxies. This is immensely cool, and if it bears up to scrutiny may give a better idea of the amount of dark matter in the Universe.

23 May 2002 ::   It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.  
I will be out of town this weekend, so I leave you with a quiet story from Japan, from The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura, to tide you over until I return.
Rikiu was watching his son Shoan as he swept and watered the garden path. "Not clean enough," said Rikiu, when Shoan had finished his task, and bade him try again.

After a weary hour the son turned to Rikiu: "Father, there is nothing more to be done. The steps have been washed for the third time, the stone lanterns and the trees are well sprinkled with water, moss and lichens are shining with a fresh verdure; not a twig, not a leaf have I left on the ground."

"Young fool," chided the tea-master, "that is not the way a garden path should be swept." Saying this, Rikiu stepped into the garden, shook a tree and scattered over the garden gold and crimson leaves, scraps of the brocade of autumn! What Rikiu demanded was not cleanliness alone, but the beautiful and the natural also.

22 May 2002 ::   The thing vanished from the multiplex quicker than a Hungarian historical romance starring Tom Green  
Your moment of Zen.

I could just replace my quote of the day, lovingly copied-and-pasted and then touched up by underpaid immigrants like a Thomas Kinkade print, with an automated surrealism.

21 May 2002 ::   And if, as is likely, a bacterium had landed on the inner surface of the [One] Ring, would the Ring corrupt it into an evil bacterium?  
Some motherbleeper wrote a worm, set it out on the Kazaa file-sharing network, and then waited for it to make him money by forcing infected users' computers to display a pop-up ad. And then he admitted it.

Arrest him. Now. I spent too much time as a network manager setting policies to stop worm and virus propagation inside my company, and too many late nights fixing computers that end-users had destroyed by getting them infected with a virus that was so new Symantec hadn't even heard of it, to think that anyone should be allowed to propagate a virus or a worm.

We know the developer's name, and most likely where he lives. I want the local cops to bust down his door and break his computer, then convict him of trespassing, computer fraud, and anything else that local law allows. Then I want him extradited to Texas, where they'll probably execute him.

The really annoying part of this is that the bastard has the unmitigated gall to state that Kazaa is an "illegal network." Well, I have never used Morpheus or Napster or Kazaa, because much of the utility of these networks is in stealing copyrighted materials and I have no interest in such things, but the mere existence of such networks is utterly, completely legal. Saying they are illegal because some illegal activities take place over them is like declaring the US Postal Sevice a terrorist organization because it can be used to send mail bombs and anthrax.

Arrest Paul Komoszki and his idiot developer cohorts, and fry 'em.

Doctor Seuss meets Professor Tolkien:
The Eye is mean. The Eye is red.
He rules nine Riders. They are dead.
They’ll try to make you dead, as well.
But will they catch you? Time will tell!

Jessica Gothie
When Markets Go Mad: There is an increased level of predictability in certain complex systems just before large changes. Researchers at Oxford applying the techniques of physics to the study of financial markets suspect that this model may be mapped onto the stock market and other large-scale financial trading venues.

20 May 2002 ::   All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you they will kill you  
Do not, under any circumstances, play Diamond Mine. It will eat your soul (and your entire afternoon).

Ivy Kilgannon
Deconstruct language with the Automatic Babelizer, which automates the old game of running a translation back through Babelfish repeatedly to watch the translation software progressively maul the language.

Noel Tominack
19 May 2002 ::   For a mechanic, you think extraordinarily often  

AMC Theater ticket for Attack of the Clones

18 May 2002 ::   Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them  
I've been reading a bunch of political columnists today while waiting for people to arrive at my house, and have come up with my Grand Theory of Politics: Liberals are idiots; conservatives are morons.

I probably shouldn't read a political column ever again.

17 May 2002 ::   I bow before your pants, O Luminous One  
Between 1991 and 2000, the percentage of Americans reporting no religious affiliation doubled from 7% to 14%. The reasons attributed to the increase by UC-Berkeley sociologists Michael Hout and Claude Fischer are "changes in both population characteristics and the politicization of religion." According to the researchers, a cause of the fall in Americans' identification with organized religion is the increasing conflation of Christianity and political conservativism.

In other words, the religious right wing of the Republican Party is killing Christianity.

The irony is overwhelming.

If you want to know one of the fonts of Western civilization, read the Twelve Tables, the core of ancient Roman law. Or at least such fragments of them as remain.

16 May 2002 ::   If the worst that can be said about me is that my mustache goes out at night and preys on the blood of the living, I'm content  
You can learn a lot about a culture from its commonplace sayings. I found this catalogue of Japanese Buddhist proverbs fascinating. I find myself admiring the poetic:
Kori wo chiribamé; midzu ni égaku
"To inlay ice; to paint upon water"
...which refers to the vanity of selfish effort for some merely temporary end; and
Tsuki ni murakumo, hana ni kazé
"Cloud-wrack to the moon; wind to flowers"
...which means "All beauty is fleeting."

Everyone is related to everyone else. Although DNA researchers have determined it is probable that we are all related to one woman, the Mitochondrial Eve, over 700 millennia ago, this new research posits that we all have common ancestors within the Common Era. I find the mathematical and logical arguments weak (it presumes completely random marriages among the entire population in question), but I think the hypothesis will ultimately be found to be solid.

My own family eventually traces back to Charlemagne--via a well-documented lineage that starts out peasant and middle class (20th and 19th centuries), meanders back into the nobility (Sir Thomas Mytton in the 16th century), thence to the royal houses of Europe and to the famous son of Pepin the Short--just as the new research suggests. Of course, my family's experience is only one data point and therefore is not a valid datum from which to draw a conclusion. However, the one data point still stands.

15 May 2002 ::   WARNING: both inspirational and motivational  
Short story: a killer spambot.

Ivy has requested that I note this story is, in fact, fiction. So I am. With this comment. Fiction. Yup.

According to the voting record of the elections for the Italian Parliament, there are five Socialists in Sessano del Molise. No wonder great-grandpa left!

14 May 2002 ::   I am not the Psychological Warfare Mascot  
Digitally Imported provides five channels of trance, house, classical, and European dance music from its servers in New York and elsewhere. A playlist for each station updates when a song changes, and you can rate or discuss each individual track via an off-site discussion board system. Give it a listen.

A group of German computer enthusiasts installed lights in a building in Berlin for five months, creating the world's largest blinkenlights display. There is a gallery of the little 144-pixel movies played on the sides of the building; each movie is inspirational, in its own 1978-retro kind of way.

13 May 2002 ::   Pink rabbit says, "SHOOT TO KILL"  
Since 90% of the readers of my little lagniappe of a Web page will be overcome with nostalgia by the 2001 - 2002 Penn State Monty Python Society photographs, I herewith provide a link. It's good to see the old traditions being kept up. Grappling Spam away!

The royal genealogies of the ruling houses of Europe are as tangled as a nest of worms. I suspect this deep inbreeding explains the mental defectives reigning in England these days. The English deserve better.

NASA's fleet of Space Shuttles uses technology so outdated--or time-tested, depending on your point of view--that spares are scrounged from such unlikely sources as old medical equipment purchased on eBay and scavenged for its rich vein of 8086 processors.

Advertising as cultural virus: Duuuuuude!

10 May 2002 ::   If they keep this up, they'll have the most successful evil knish stand ever  
From Florida comes the story of con artist Madison Priest, who scammed his way into the trust and the wallets of US West, Intel, Blockbuster, and many others with his improbable tale of TV-quality streaming video over a standard copper phone line. It started with patter about zero-point physics, expanded to coaxial cables under the St. Johns River and empty cases sent as test devices, and finally ended in claims of amnesia and alien technological transfers. You have got to read this: part one and part two.

Glenn Juskiewicz
The fall of the Crusader States: Two boy kings, one greedy Emperor forced to go on Crusade, and dozens of barons in control of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.

9 May 2002 ::   You have to love shiny metal things that attack other shiny metal things. --Glenn Juskiewicz  
The Internet, that new, untorchable Library of Alexandria, provides information on the bells of naval timekeeping. Never be confused by a Hornblower novel again.

The electronic biosphere has awakened: The old Chernobyl virus has infected the Klez email worm, creating a metavirus that combines the traits of both. Klezumon, digevolve into Kleznobylmon!

8 May 2002 ::   An armada can't fight a puppy  
The Periodic Table by Theodore Gray is a wood table with integral receptacles containing samples of each stable, solid element. I want one.

Mike Ryan
The Italian province of Isernia contains the oldest human remains ever discovered in Europe.

How fast will an Iowa-class battleship go, and how fast can one stop? The answer is pretty surprising: an Iowa running flat out can create a speedboat-like rooster tail, and can stop in less than its own length from full speed. Yowza.

I've been reading up on Enron, and on the lawsuits against the banks involved in the whole mess, in a desultory manner. Isn't this sort of peculation the reason why banks weren't allowed to run securities companies for most of the twentieth century? Oh, wait, that's right, Gramm-Leach-Bliley repealed the Glass-Steagall Act. Idiots.

7 May 2002 ::   To be cautious, we should completely devour the Moon by tomorrow  
The Philadelphia Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility is that grand cluster of decaying seafoam-gray ships one sees on the Delaware River while driving up I-95. Among the ships housed there are a small fleet of minesweepers, the Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier USS America, and the USS Stark, which you may remember was hit by an Iraqi Exocet missile in 1987 during the Iran-Iraq War and heavily damaged.

"It is reported that at 8:50 P.M. a huge, flaming object, believed to be a meteorite, fell on a farm in the neighborhood of Grovers Mill, New Jersey, twenty-two miles from Trenton. The flash in the sky was visible within a radius of several hundred miles and the noise of the impact was heard as far north as Elizabeth..." The script of the 1938 Mercury Theater War of the Worlds radio broadcast.

The Canadian Space Agency kindly makes available a realtime diagram of the location and intensity of the northern hemisphere's auroral oval.

We all learned in school that the North Magnetic Pole moves over the course of decades. Did you know that it also moves as much as 80 kilometers on magnetically active days?

6 May 2002 ::   But I thought "Dick Armey" referred to Congress as a whole?  
I think it's pretty cool that the U.S. Navy lists the power plant of the USS Constitution as "42,710 sq. ft. of sail on three masts." (For comparison, the Navy lists the power plant for the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as "Two nuclear reactors, four shafts.") If you've never seen the Constitution, it's a lot bigger than you'd expect--its scale is easier to envision if you look at it next to the frigate USS Halyburton (453 feet long) and the destroyer USS Ramage (505 feet long).

The Naval Vessel Register lists all the ships and submarines the U.S. Navy has under construction, has in service, or decomissioned after 1980.

Some ships and boats with names that caught my eye are:
USS Springfield (Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine)
USS Springfield (Providence-class cruiser)
USS Philadelphia (Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine)
USS Chicago (Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine)
USS Baltimore (Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine)
USS Valley Forge (Ticonderoga-class cruiser)
USS Pennsylvania (Ohio-class nuclear ballistic submarine)
USS Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania-class battleship)
USS Maryland (Ohio-class nuclear ballistic submarine)
USS Maryland (Colorado-class battleship)
USS Illinois (Iowa-class battleship)
USS Guardian (Avenger-class minesweeper)

(Los Angeles-class subs look pretty slick.)

Eat the rich: WorldCom loaned CEO Bernard Ebbers $30 million at 2.15%. The loans are completely unsecured. I wonder if WorldCom can sell Ebbers' organs to cover the loans...

4 May 2002 ::   If the thought of something makes me giggle for longer than 15 seconds, I am to assume that I am not allowed to do it  
A battle took place on 24 June 1442 on the "Plain of Sessano" in Molise. An awful translation of Il Molise dalle origini ai nostri giorni (Molise from Its Origins to Our Days) states:
King Alfonso, while, had taken Naples, and forced he avails again to esulare; and, landladies omai of the Reame, collected all the military services in order to pull down the armies of Sforza and de' Caldora that they held hoisted the flag of Angi. The battle took place June 24, 1442, in the plain of Sessano; and in Mon of Sessano in the third volume particular narration is given one. Giovanni Strains riusc ě to cross the frontiers, Paul di Sangro during the pugna pass in the Aragonese enemy field determining of the Victoria, and Antonio Caldora remained defeated and captive.
Yeah, I'm the only person on Earth who cares about this.

3 May 2002 ::   Well, whaddya know. There was a burnt connector in the technobabble.  
Among the advice Lawrence Krauss offers to those who are advocating science in a public forum, and who are forced to debate practicioners of pseudoscience is: "When debating U.F.O. experts, ask them whether they believe in "Young Earth Creationism." When debating young earth creationists, ask them whether they believe in alien U.F.O.'s. When they say no, ask why. Their answers will inevitably shed light on the weakness of their own positions."

See colors where there are none with the Flechner Illusion!

The Hubble's new Advanced Camera for Surveys has created some really cool computer wallpaper.

2 May 2002 ::   Powerful like a gorilla, yet soft and yielding like a Nerf ball  
Create new and altogether strange superheroes with the Hero Machine. My contribution to the fray is Captain God, a superhero with the only three super-powers one will ever need: omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence! Oh, and a couple of guns. (Yes, I am easily amused.)

Mark Sachs
Be amazed at the world of science, as seen through movies and TV! The Simpsons and Futurama quotes are priceless: "Oh, please! That's preposterous science fiction mumbo-jumbo! Guenter's intelligence actually lies in his electronium hat, which harnesses the power of sunspots to produce cognitive radiation!"

(Does that remind anyone else of transcranial magnetic stimulation, as reported here on April 19th?)

Need to increase your daily dosage of cynicism in this accepting, happy World of the Future? Allow me to recommend the Dictionary of Received Ideas by the nineteenth century Frenchman Gustave Flaubert ("There are always two sets of victors: those who won and those who lost"), and the Devil's Dictionary by twentieth century American Ambrose Bierce ("ERUDITION, n. Dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull").

I don't know why they call them children's poems; I like them just fine, and I'm at least legally adult.
I could gobble them all
For I'm seven foot tall
And I'm breathing green flames from my ears.

1 May 2002 ::   I can make a bunny, do you have a light bulb? --Matt Pyson  
Today we find They Might Be Giants (or the Four Lads, if you want to be pedantic) on the Road to Isengard: Istanbul (not Constantinople) rewritten for Middle Earth.

We have some more info from Lawrence Livermore Labs on gravastars, the theory which is in competition with black holes as the end-state of massive stars.

You know, it is probably due to scientific illiteracy among Americans that so many people are taken in by phone psychics.

The new Superman show on WB, Smallville, is pretty good, but it does have some recurring angsty bits that are thrown into sharp relief by this fan deconstruction of the show which I'm tempted to think of as Smallville Thumbnail Theater:
Pete: What’s all your fault?
Lana: My parents are dead.
Pete: I’d comment on that but I only have three lines left!
Chloe: I have a theory about that. It’s because of the meteors.
Clark: That means it’s my fault!
Lex: No, we already established that everything’s my dad’s fault. He’s a bad man.

(The Side of the Angels)

A Miracle of Science

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