Saturday, March 31, 2007

Space Sounds

Although sound can't travel in space, this site has some intriguing "sounds" captured by space craft. In particular, I got a kick out of the "noise" generated by Jupiter's magnetic field and the sound of dust particles striking the antenna of Voyager II as she passed through the rings of Saturn. Oh, don't forget to check out the Lion's Roar on Earth...

Check out spacesounds

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Abolition of Slavery

It's 200 years today since the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. While I appreciate the monumental change for good in the legal abolition of slave trafficking from Africa to the New World, I'm a little more ambivalent about this anniversary - and I'm especially sceptical of the fad for ceremonial apologies. Here's why:

Firstly, I have no doubt there are more slaves in Britain today than ever before. Sex slaves are being brought in from eastern Europe in their droves. Children are being flown in from Africa to live with cousins and aunties as unpaid household help [read - domestic slaves]. Uprooted from everything they know, they will fail at school, fall in with the wrong crowd, and eventually run-away, likely into prostitution (as I saw happen in a family I know).

Second, my ancestors were Scottish - some of whom were mercilessly driven off their land tenure. People were cleared to seize land for the wealthy elite. Yes, that's white people being treated as more worthless than chattel.

Thirdly, it's a lot easier to make theatrical apologies for crimes of another generation than to put your own house in order. Our society still consigns people to miserable hopelessness by fostering dependence on welfare and a host of other morally corrupt policies.

Fourth, many of those clambering for an apology can trace their ancestry back to slaves. But it is almost certain that their ancestry also includes the slave masters. Callused as I may sound - apologise to yourself! We did not chose our ancestors, and it's just too damned convenient to chose to identify with the victim rather than the oppressor. The genes from both sides define every cell in your body.

And finally, the vast majority of white British families never kept slaves. They were more likely to lose their jobs to them. My ancestors and yours had enough to think about putting food on the table before their own children.

So apologise if you want. It'll do more harm than good - because it is not honest.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why are scientists atheists?

Why are scientists so dead-set against the concept of God?

They say, "we can't test the theory." But you can't test the string theory either, and you don't see mass revolts against that. There's absolutely no proof for the existence of Dark Matter except that we have a hole in our gravitational calculations and it just so happens that Dark Matter is a convenient way of filling that hole. Occam's Razor would suggest that when 99% of the universe has to be made up of Dark Matter for the our equations to return a result close to what we see around us, it's the equations that are wrong. Dark Matter is fairy dust.

Interestingly, if you adopt the fractal universe and the influence of electromagnetic radiation on large scale structures of the universe, the "need" for Dark Matter to make the equations work disappears... To my mind, the observational evidence for a fractal universe and the elimination of fairy dust are the two strongest reasons to consider fractals. But... that strays from the point.

Science has always been at the cutting edge of suggesting things it cannot prove or substantiate. It took almost a decade before anyone was able to find any conclusive proof about relativity and, even then, some of Einstein's predictions weren't properly tested until the late 1990s, almost a century after they were made. So I don't buy this, "I don't believe in God because I can't test Him" argument.

I love the image associated with this post. It shows the distribution of galaxies through space. The solid green curve you can see is the Great Sloan Wall. A hundred years ago, an image like this was unimaginable. Erwin Hubble would be astounded at how far we have come in such a short period of time.

So why do scientists feel threatened by the existence of God?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Religion of the Secular Left

Those of us who believe in God well know the sneering disdain of the atheist political left. There are of course many kinds of atheists, but few are as self-righteous as the humanist left.

It's striking how religious the anti-religious left-wingers have become.

This stark irony is glaring in the recent bullying of the church by our Labour government. Having grown up in the church I see the worst characteristics of religion in the secular left:

1. Disagreement from the received wisdom is barely tolerable. All efforts are made to suppress dissent. Parliamentary time was not even allowed to debate new laws which will force Roman Catholic run adoption agencies to adopt children to gay couples. The view that "any loving stable relationship" is equal is above question to the elite left. In their arrogance, they smugly dismiss the accumulative wisdom of human history, heritage and design. They have no respect for the knowledge of the church which has been active in caring for orphans and the vulnerable long before the government took an interest. The liberal left's willingness to use children for this reckless social experiment is deeply shameful.

2. Those who dare to disagree are personally attacked. There has to be at least a character flaw, and probably a psychological derangement in anyone who deviates from the holy consensus. To suggest that children should be with a mother and father is tantamount to sacrilege. 'Homophobia' is the much thrown about accusation as though belief that marriage is between an man and woman, or disagreement with gay couples adopting is a mental illness. Actual phobias are real, and can be debilitating to the sufferer. Believing that children in need of adoption should be cared for by a married man and women is not a phobia, it's common sense.

3. Outrageous bossiness. The elite not only demand obedience of action, but obedience of thought. Not content with banning smoking in public buildings, every public building must display regulation signs forbidding the practice. Once again, churches are being made to display the signs. Nobody smokes in church! If the lefties had ever put their head in the door for a moment just to glimpse the heritage of their nation's principles, law, morality and values, they'd notice that no one is smoking in there. We don't need your damned bossy sign defacing the wall! The fashionable morality of the left may be a flash in the pan beside the enduring principles of the church, but those moral fads will be forced on all nonetheless.

4. Condemnation - for all are guilty. We're wrecking the environment, world poverty is somehow our fault, we're supposed to apologise for African slavery. We're even to blame for the shit-for-brains murderous rabble spreading their violence over the middle-east and the world. Your car is too big, your carbon footprint is too big, your arse is too big, you eat too much, waste too much... And fear - the Earth is too small, too warm, too full, too dangerous, and that's our fault too.

Jesus himself detested this religious practice of lording over people...
For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

Jesus called them together and said, You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.

So many times I've heard Christians criticized for "pushing their beliefs on others". Religions certainly have been guilty of this, but no more so than today's political left. Jesus didn't put his energy into bossing others around. He taught and lived what he believed, and people were inspired to follow.

Jesus wasn't religious at all. He said "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." It's the political left and this damned Labour government that has all the hallmarks of a constrictive religion.

Cristiano Ronaldo

I don't mind these foreign footballers coming over here and diving in the penalty box. But I can't put up with them using the word 'polemic' in the after-match interview.

If they're gonna play football in this country, they can bloody well learn to talk proper.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Friday, March 16, 2007

Artificial Intellegence

Do you trust the machine? An intriguing story at Wired tells of a web service providing bankruptcy paperwork.

A web-based "expert system" that helped users prepare bankruptcy filings for a fee made too many decisions to be considered a clerical tool, an appeals court said last week, ruling that the software was effectively practicing law without a license.

First I laughed, but this has huge implications for not-too-distant future technology.

Reynoso entered his personal information, debts, income, assets and other data into a series of dialog boxes, and the program generated a complete set of bankruptcy forms, including an affidavit for Reynoso to sign claiming he'd done all the legal research on his own.

Fair enough! He did do the research - in a manner of speaking. If he had done his research in books he would still be taking the word of the authors. If he printed pages from the web he could be said to be "doing his own research". The affidavit was an attempt (albeit a failure in this case) to make the user take responsibility for the results.

The problem here arose because of an error in the paperwork and the affidavit was apparently inadequate. But this is very early days, software will improve. Some legal advice is fairly simple and a reasonable short term target for AI software. The same can be said for financial advice.

If I need to decide whether a certain level of mortgage is manageable, or whether to pursue a libel case, there are undoubtedly some rules-of-thumb. Answering a few questions ought to give me some guidance.
Proposed mortgage in described circumstances constitutes: Extreme Risk!
Consider 20% reduction in mortgage level for Moderate Risk.
Libel case success probability: 30%
Libel case failure probability: 70%

Now if I'm choosing between paying £150 for 5 minutes with a lawyer looking down his nose at my small-beer proposal, or paying £5 for consultancy from software that can trawl a database of a million similar cases, the software sounds like a good start. Sure the software can miss things, but so could the expensive lawyer.

A little further down the road - how long before NHS Direct uses some Artificial Intelligence triage? Of course there will be an outcry when it's first suggested, but it will come.

And I think people will want it. How many of us have already walked into the GP's surgery with a fist full of printed web pages filled with possible diagnoses and courses of treatment. We may have used a search engine to find page. Soon we may try a medical search engine - perhaps a search on a symptom database. Perhaps we'll select a category, narrow down the search, answer a couple of questions and view a list of probable conditions. Then who did the research?

Who will take professional responsibility for recommendations made by this software? In the bankruptcy case, the web site maintainer is held responsible. He was ordered to withdraw the service and pay back the fees. This seems straight-forward at first. But web technology isn't bound like that. The site (or something similar) will pop up again, perhaps hosted in a less regulated country. Ultimately, the user will be responsible for the advice he follows.

And what happens when the software is sophisticated enough to amend itself, or to update it's own research database? Then the software will write new software - a generation removed from human authors!

Science fiction authors have been thinking about this for decades. We'd better all start thinking about it. It's here.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

And now for something completely different... a fractal universe...

The thing I love about science is it never stops thinking... Just when you though it was save to go back in the water along comes Jaws, or at least, the scientific equivalent of it.

I'm no scientist, but I love the simplicity of design. To my mind, the Big Bang never made sense, and not because I believe in the Creator, but because it is contrary to experience. Order never follows chaos.

So it is interesting to see the emergence of the fractal universe theory. To me, at least, it seems to hold true because it extends a simple concept found all around us in nature. So that the same holds true at the macro level of the universe is no surprise. The real surprise will be if the scientific community is open minded enough to embrace this dynamic concept and take it further.

Check it out for yourself

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Easter is on the horizon, and it's got me thinking about the impact of Jesus Christ's life.

Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus Christ stood against religion, not for it. It seems almost anytime he healed someone, he upset the religious status quo. He confronted tradition, challenged dogma and exposed hypocrisy. Eventually, it was the religious leaders of his day that orchestrated his murder. I've often wondered just how welcome he would be today in the numerous churches that bare his name. Has anything really changed?

Anyway, here are some quotes about religion that I think Christ would approve of...

Steven Weinberg
Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.

Anais Nin
When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.

Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is.

Richard Dawkins
I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.

All religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few.

Sinclair Lewis
When facism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.

Georgis Harkness
The tendency to turn human judgments into divine commands makes religion one of the most dangerous forces in the world.

And from an unlikely source, Larry Flynt
Religion has caused more harm than any other idea since the beginning of time. There's nothing good I can say about it. People use it as a crutch.

From what I read in the Gospels, Christ would agree.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday, March 04, 2007

More English Ales

  • Second place: Fursty Ferret. Clean, clear.
  • No place: Tribute - How the hell did this get into the photograph?
  • First place: Old Hooky - Strangely bitter and sweet at the same time. This is the one I'll look for next time.

Fursty Ferret and Old Hooky deserve their place among the quality ales previously sampled.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Dylan Hears a Who

Zimmerman meets Seuss! The confluence of America's finest thinkers?

This is unbelievably good. I have no idea who is behind it but even a Dylan fan could almost believe Bobby himself is strumming these Dr. Seuss numbers.

Have a listen and laugh. Whether you love Dylan or Seuss, this is the finest site I've found for a while.

(The music may not work if you use Microsoft Internet Explorer. Try Firefox.)