Angels from Another Pin
(Eschatological aspirations)


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30 May 2003 ::   I thought everyone liked "Quark" ice cream. I've got all three colors in all six flavors.  
For sale: One genuine Soviet Sputnik. A steal at $25,000. If this is real, I so completely and utterly want it.
In October 1957, the first man-made object, Sputnik, was launched into the cosmos from the secret Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. Like most earth-changing projects, more than one model was built for testing and back-up purposes. This is an original Sputnik from the '50s space program, named "model PS-1". Literally lost in space for the past 30 years, we discovered it hanging 20 feet above the ground in a science institute near Kiev. Nearly identical to the Sputnik that orbited the Earth. Constructed of a highly-polished metal alloy; 80 cm (31") in diameter and equipped with two, 3 m (10 ft) and two 1.5 m (5 ft) whip antennae. Weighing in at 30 kg (66 lbs.) Historians may note that this is lighter than the flown-craft, which weighed 83 kg (176 lbs.). This is because the once-top-secret radio transmitters and batteries were removed and destroyed, during the security conscious 1960s. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own a genuine piece of the Space Race. We have just one! Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery.
Or 54 minutes, if you're able to accept direct ballistic delivery.

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Arie Rubenstein has decided to explain the SCO/Linux imbroglio using the firmly grounded metaphor of The Dukes of Hazzard.

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Amanda Babcock
A consortium of scientific organizations and industrial companies in Britain is planning on launching the Beagle II probe to study Mars. Keen.

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So, Congress passes part of the huge tax cut for the wealthy which Bush wants, and they rip out the $400 per child tax credit for those with lower incomes. So the tax cut is now entirely for the rich. Think of it as "asymmetrical welfare."

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29 May 2003 ::   Night bleeds out into the Tokyo streets and Gamera shakes his tail in a Ginzo bistro with eyes like baby moons. He lights up a skyscraper like a Chesterfield and strolls...  
Electronics go fzzzt in the new page of A Miracle of Science.

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Apparently it's really hard to get a cup of tea to exacting British standards in the United States. However, I have heard that it is impossible to get any food of any kind to exacting American standards in Britain, so we're even.

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28 May 2003 ::   Having failed to conquer myself, my best hope now is to arrange an alliance with myself  
Microsoft's Web site is like a mad relative's attic, full of odd old ideas like this 1995 article detailing the process of creating a "virus" that will disable your computer if anyone but you uses it. Every computer geek does this when he or she is eighteen, then undoes it a week later because it's a really dumb idea. However, there it is, on the Microsoft site. For real. This is not a parody.

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Researchers have built a supercomputer-level Beowulf cluster of Playstation 2 game consoles running on, of all things, the consoles' graphics chips.

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27 May 2003 ::   Now you're on this [007], I hope we have some gratuitous sex and violence  
A cartoon for my buddy Ben (and everyone else stuck in phone support hell): Tech support the Tasmanian Devil way.

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Humor is where you find it: Star Trek answering machines.
Ensign Rodriguez from Security: "Hi, I've been assigned to a landing party and can't come to the phone right now. Leave a message and... oh my God, what is that thing? Stay back! Stay back, or I'll... Aaaauugh!!! (sound of phaser fire and bones crunching)"

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Betty Regan


26 May 2003 ::   Love us with money or we'll hate you with hammers!  
Past Penn State Monty Python Society president and general nice guy Fred Coppersmith* was interviewed by the BBC regarding the continued popularity in the United States of the very British television show Monty Python's Flying Circus. He has kindly linked to his interview so those of us who aren't in the UK can listen to it.

* Mr. Coppersmith could, in fact, be Satan incarnate on Earth and I would never know. We haven't met, and glowing eyes-slash-pointed horns don't show up via the Internet. However, I know people he knows and vice versa. In the world of the Internet, we might as well share genetic code**.

** Yes, I realize all humans share at least some genetic code. Leave me alone. Just leave me alone! What did I ever do to you? *sob*

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How do you fight an enemy against whom any attack is suicide? Find out in this episode of A Miracle of Science.

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Say what you will about its worth as a work of fiction, but when I was a kid Space: 1999 had by far the coolest ship designs of any science fiction show. Every kid wanted an Eagle lander. Unlike the designs from Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica, the ships from Space: 1999 looked like they might actually be designed to work in a lunar environment.

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23 May 2003 ::   Sticks and stones may break my bones, but so would an eighty pound carrot  
Pinky and the Brain soundfiles, pictures, and quotes! Includes my favorite line from the show, "Brilliant, Pinky! Oh, no, wait. What if we want to use a plan that works?"
Brain: Now, Pinky, if by any chance you are captured during this mission, remember you are Gunther Heindriksen from Appenzell. You moved to Grindelwald to drive the cog train to Murren. Can you repeat that?
Pinky: Mmmm, no, Brain, don't think I can.

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A camera on the Mars Global Surveyor momentarily turned away from Mars this month and snapped a picture of Earth from Mars orbit as well as a picture of Jupiter from the same location.

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22 May 2003 ::   Trying hard to think of a reason not to carpet bomb Nebraska. Failing.  
A Miracle of Science: Big badda-boom.

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Angels from Another Pin is the number two hit on Google for idiot libertarians. How cool is that? (Yesterday, when I saw this in my referrer log, this site was hit number one.)

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In case you have heard of the mythical "Anime Frank's Giant Super Dragonball Hair" but had never seen it, here it is, being worn by the guy to whom it was given after it was used as a prop in Mystery Anime Theater 3000. Yes, that is indeed costume foam hair as tall as a man.

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21 May 2003 ::   How many times do I have to tell you not to blow people up without my orders? --Betty Ragan  
Jared Diamond (author of Guns Germs and Steel) discusses why some societies make disastrous decisions.
[Lacking prior experience with a problem is] not the only reason, though, why a society may fail to anticipate a problem before it actually arises. Another reason is that they may have had prior experience but that prior experience has been forgotten. For example, a non literate society is not going to preserve oral memories of something that happened long in the past. The Classic Lowland Maya eventually succumbed to a drought around 800 A.D. There had been previous droughts in the Maya realm, but they could not draw on that prior experience, because although the Maya had some writing, it just preserved the conquests of kings and didn't record droughts. Maya droughts recur at intervals of 208 years, so the Maya in 800 A.D., when the big drought struck, did not and could not remember the drought of A.D. 592.

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Tell Elmo where the WMDs are and Elmo won't sing.

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20 May 2003 ::   Only a lack of imagination saves me from immobilizing myself with imaginary fears  
Proof that Joss Wheadon is a geek: The series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, broadcast tonight, included both Giles playing a game of Dungeons and Dragons and a reference to Trogdor the Burninator from Strong Bad Answers His Email. In the same scene.

Proof that I am a geek: I noticed this, and posted it here within an hour or so.

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Bobby Jaber, a scientist with a masters degree in fine art, creates porcelain sculptures with an eye to the physical properties of the medium.

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The history of id Software's first hit game, Commander Keen, includes the paragraph: "In January, the id guys got their first royalty check, for approximately $10,000. The two Johns went to lunch with the owner of Softdisk, told him they were leaving, and also informed him that Adrian was coming with them. They then returned to the office and informed Adrian that they had arranged for his resignation."

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19 May 2003 ::   There's no merit badge for world conquest  
A Miracle of Science reaches its 100 page milestone. I think I may be the only webcomic author in Creation who will write a column in which "circular error probable" is defined as part of a commentary on nuclear targeting doctrine. Other webcomics maunder on about the X-Box or Friends or some garbage like that. Not me. Useless sociopolitical and/or scientific knowledge all the way, baby!

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The ultimate geek street cred: white-hat hacker "Fyodor" is the author of the port scanner Nmap, which Trinity used in The Matrix: Reloaded. The fictional Trinity also exploited a real security hole, the SSH CRC-32 bug, which was discovered by Michal Zalewski. That's gotta be a rush: "Wow, the authors of this movie actually got hacking right for once... Hey! They're using my program!"

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16 May 2003 ::   Ah yes. I got a positive result from the spectrograph. It blew up.  
Ye olde mappe of Mars's satellite Phobos. (Yes, that is a real map of Phobos. Done in 17th century style.)

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The fine folks at the BBC have done a radio play of Douglas Adams's Doctor Who script for "Shada," and have rendered it into a Flash animation as well. Parts one and two are available now, with the remaining four parts coming out once a week over the next month.

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15 May 2003 ::   Is that fire in your eyes, or just the glow of machines?  
Snarkiness and missiles abound in this issue of A Miracle of Science.

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Speaking of the people who track a document through its many copyings and versions, W.W. Skeat has traced Chaucer's "Treatise on the Astrolabe" through numerous copies, including two which may have been corrected by Chaucer himself.

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I think that the fellows who interviewed Terry Pratchett had their brains removed before the conversation. You can actually see Pratchett becoming irritated with the questions as the process unfolds.

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Amanda Babcock


14 May 2003 ::   It's a wonder they can type with one hand while ironing their brown shirts with the other  
You are directed to read Brother, Can You Spare a Dimetrodon, a weblog which contains strange revelations about Salman Rushdie. Warning: May cause brain to hurt.

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Nearly all the Democratic representatives in the Texas House walked out in order to keep a quorum from forming. This extreme form of political action was engendered by an attempt by the Texas Republicans to gerrymander the state:
The bill [Republican] would carve up a number of congressional districts held by Democrats, in some cases creating bizarrely shaped boundaries connecting seemingly unrelated parts of the sprawling state, and slicing up neighborhoods. For instance, in Austin, a city of 678,000 and one of a dwindling number of Democratic enclaves in the state, a single downtown street would be divided into four congressional districts, one of them tortuously connected with the Mexican border about 300 miles away.

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13 May 2003 ::   Thermostadt, Capital of the Robo-Hungarian Empire  
Ladies and gentlemen, for your downloading pleasure we present a trailer for the game on which Mark has been working lo these many months. The trailer will be displayed on the big Jumbotron screen at E3, the huge tradeshow for videogames.

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Mark Sachs
Some people in England have discovered, via an experiment with monkeys and a keyboard, that the closest six Sulawesi crested macaques will get to Shakespeare is some serious repetitions of the letter "S" without an "h" is sight, much less an "a," "k," or "e." Quipped one of the researchers, “Obviously, English isn’t their first language.”

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Craig Powell
If you have some time, peruse the 101 dumbest moments in business for the last year. Three items detailing corporate largess to failed executives are titled: "Slyly slipping a camel through the eye of a needle," "Taking a camel and firmly shoving it through the eye of a needle," and "Chopping a camel into millions upon millions of tiny camel pieces and pushing them, one by one, through the eye of the godd--n needle."

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Noel Tominack


12 May 2003 ::   Perhaps it is because I am a French dictator made out of gelatin  
A Miracle of Science, now with more killer robots!

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All other online tests are a mere trifle compared to this one: To which level of Dante's Hell would you be damned? I would apparently (and quite logically) be in the iron-walled city of Dis among the heretics and disbelievers, although I came this close to making it into Limbo among the virtuous nonbelievers. (Warning: Dealing, as it does, with questions of morality and death and being a very very bad person, the page probably isn't the best place to visit whilst the boss is looking. Just so you know.)

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9 May 2003 ::   Your gloves don't match your shoes! Wait! Your gloves don't match each other!  
There is nothing but truth in this 404 error page!
Yes, those lying, imperialistic dogs have lied to you again. They have told you that you would find /error2.php here but we do not have such a file.

That file is not even within 100 miles of this website. That file is committing suicide because it has been shamed and Allah will roast its stomach in hell.

Look around. Do you see the file they claimed was here? No! But we will be sending so many files to them that their weak and stupid browsers will scream for our mercy. And we will show those browsers no mercy whatsoever. We will show no mercy because those browsers who sent you looking for the file deserve no mercy.

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Squawk lead Settler Eel: The Eater of Meaning turns the Internet into a meaningless sea of words. Which is to say, it changes things very little indeed.

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Pennsylvania is only about half a century behind the times with regard to its flags.

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7 May 2003 ::   Best if read in a detached, snobbish sort of voice. Sort of like the people on NPR.  
History geek time: Peruse this large site containing information about medieval writing. The site contains interesting information such as this:
Thus a book generally originally had a single author, or was compiled from the works of various authors, and was transmitted sequentially by individual scribes. Errors and variations crept in and were perpetuated through subsequent generations of the book. Scholars of immense and extraordinary patience and diligence have actually worked out the pedigrees of these chains of transcription by plotting the variant forms, thereby working out routes of contact and communication delineated by them. The results are fascinating, but the work ... unbelievable!
The site also has such nifty gems as information on how to make a writing quill (bury the point in hot sand, remove the flights, and cut the nib to shape with a knife), and how one could make a grant of land by the gift of a knife. So complete is the information on the site that the glossary includes the term "Bible," just in case you hadn't picked that word up in the course of your education. The entire site is witty, well written, and interesting. Spend some time there.

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California is considering a three-strikes law for corporations. While the law as it is currently written appears to be pretty well flawed, I think that bringing corporate law into alignment with individual law is in this case perfectly logical, if corporations wish to continue to reap the rewards of legal personhood - such as contributing to political causes and thereby screwing up my perfectly good democratic system.

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6 May 2003 ::   Argumentum ad CAPSLOCK  
Leonard Cassuto observes the difference between the cultures of science and the humanities, finding the science community to be open and honest while the humanities heirarchy is a virtual nest of vipers. But I'm sure he means that in the nicest way.
Money is the lifeline of the research scientist, and there's only a certain amount of it available in a given area. The answer seems to be that physicists (and others in the hard sciences) have a strong faith in the peer-review system. More important, they trust in the evaluative process that underlies it. Physicists told me that peer review in the sciences has an ethical code built into it. There can be personality conflicts, of course, but the scientists share the belief that the peer-review system can deliver trustworthy assessments of their work. That enables them to relax and treat each other with respect.

The peer-review system in the humanities and social sciences inspires no such confidence. Humanists pursue vastly different goals, even within the same field, and their work is inherently subjective. Consequently, judgment is bound to lack some of the concreteness that attends scientific peer review. Glitches in the peer-review system in physics are rare enough to make news -- like the story I wrote about. Humanities peer review gets attacked all the time. Edmund F. Byrne, an emeritus professor of philosophy and philanthropic studies at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, recently wrote in The Journal of Information Ethics that peer review is so riddled with bias that "anyone committed to such democratic values as fundamental fairness, equal opportunity, and equal respect should have ethical concerns about the process." A physicist reading Byrne's article might wonder what on earth he is talking about.

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From the makers of Space Penguin - the Shockwave game DOOM FUNNEL!

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Glenn Juskiewicz


5 May 2003 ::   The Legion of Doom had everything they needed. A bald guy, a gorilla, and a robot in its underwear.  
Is your brain hurting after reading the article on parallel universes? Well, why not cool down with a simple FAQ on the many worlds theory?

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The new page of A Miracle of Science includes both applied orbital mechanics and a very shocked-looking Caprice.

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This Scientific American article on parallel universes is long, involved, and fascinating. Be sure to read all of the sidebars and extra pages. Here's just enough of a teaser to get you to read the rest:
By this very definition of "universe," one might expect the notion of a multiverse to be forever in the domain of metaphysics. Yet the borderline between physics and metaphysics is defined by whether a theory is experimentally testable, not by whether it is weird or involves unobservable entities. The frontiers of physics have gradually expanded to incorporate ever more abstract (and once metaphysical) concepts such as a round Earth, invisible electromagnetic fields, time slowdown at high speeds, quantum superpositions, curved space, and black holes. Over the past several years the concept of a multiverse has joined this list. It is grounded in well-tested theories such as relativity and quantum mechanics, and it fulfills both of the basic criteria of an empirical science: it makes predictions, and it can be falsified. Scientists have discussed as many as four distinct types of parallel universes. The key question is not whether the multiverse exists but rather how many levels it has.

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2 May 2003 ::   My legal counsel-slash-team leader has just advised me to kick your fruity goth a-- back to the First Age  
Are you a Bond villain in need of a secret lair that is easily visible from orbit? Then unpack the volcano-generator and cause the sea floor to rise in the form of these imaginary islands in the shape of animals! Come on, what supervillain doesn't need an island shaped like a crab to instill fear in the hearts of the UN Security Council and loyalty in the minds of his henchmen? (The islands were really mapped to show off some mapping software, but there is nothing I can't twist to the goal of silliness.)

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The Hall of Ma'at is an entire website dedicated to debunking the claims of pseudoarchaeologists (Atlantis and Mu believers, for instance).

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So, yesterday President Bush pretended to copilot a plane down onto an aircraft carrier in order to give a speech that could have been given just as well from the Oval Office. I can't help but think "Michael Dukakis in a tank" when I see this.

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1 May 2003 ::   When I open boxes of cereal, you should be inside  
OhrightnewAMiracleofScienceIforgottolinktoitverybusybyenow.

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Worms from an experiment on the Columbia have been discovered to have survived the breakup of the vehicle. Hypothetical vermiform mythology: "In the time of our grandfathers' grandfathers, we were in a state of grace where all floated and food was easy to find. Then we angered the gods and were cast from the heavens in a ball of fire. Now we live with decreasing food supplies, under the unutterable curse of gravity. Repent! REPENT!"

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It seems as if, every time I have seen the name of Vice President Dick Cheney's old company* Halliburton, I have been reading a news article about an illegal, immoral, stupid, and/or near-treasonous action.

* Note: Halliburton is still paying Cheney a million dollars a year. I wish my old job still owed me a million bucks a year.

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