Agnostic views & images I like

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Archive for the ‘thinking about science’ Category

Image of angry looking Sun

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How do they get these images I wonder! But I enjoy looking at them.

Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2011/08/07 at 00:11

I love images that have some kind of drama attached!

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It’s a gigantic star, some 20 times the mass of our Sun, that has been knocked about in space by a neighboring supernova and here is the latest image capture from NASA files:

And here is its official description:

A huge star ejected from a binary system has been photographed slamming headlong through a barrier of cosmic dust, creating a shockwave that shines in brilliant yellow in infrared views.

The star, called Zeta Ophiuchi, is a stellar behemoth with about 20 times the mass of our sun and would be 65,000 times brighter if it weren’t surrounded by a thick blanket of dust. It is about 4 million years old and is 460 light-years away from Earth. The star is zooming through space at a whopping 54,000 mph (nearly 87,000 kph), according to NASA scientists.

NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, called WISE, caught the massive star plowing through thick dust to create what scientists call a “bow shock” – a shockwave that precedes stars as they move through space much like the ripple raised by the front of a boat traveling through water.

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These kinds of dramatic images are one of the most accessible aspects of astronomy that give NASA their best public image. But is it worth those big budgets?

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2011/01/26 at 16:37

The folly in the quest for perfection!

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Lee Smolin at Harvard University
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Lee Smolin is a world class scientist and does his science in Canada. He recently reviewed a book by Marcelo Gleiser that has a highly suggestive title “A Radical New Vision for Life in an Imperfect Universe”. Here is a telling excerpt from that book selected by Smolin for his review:

It became clear to me that scientists and seekers of perfection from all walks of life have been courting the wrong muse. It is not symmetry and perfection that should be our guiding principle, as it has been for millennia….The science we create is just that, our creation. Wonderful as it is, it is always limited, it is always constrained by what we know of the world….We may search for unified descriptions of natural phenomena, and we may find some partial unifications along the way. But we must remember that a final unification is forever beyond our reach….The human understanding of the world is forever a work in progress. That we have learned so much, speaks well of our creativity. That we want to know more, speaks well of our drive. That we think we can know all, speaks only of our folly.

As I read those lines I couldn’t help thinking that he could be describing how religious authorities propose unified models for human morality. Surely the one constant here, human folly, applies as much in the scientific domain as in the moral.

Scientists seem to be ready to express humility in the face of human intellectual weakness. When will religious spokespersons do as much? Is it possible that religious authorities speak from a position of intellectual arrogance since they propose that they are the final judges on earth of the perfection of their vision of human life.

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No longer the Blue Planet, morphed to White Planet

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Check this link to read about planet Earth being almost totally snow covered!

I just had a thought. Did God cover Earth in snow? Didn’t he make everything or know about it’s creation, or happening?

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?

Institute of Geosciences of the Universidade F...
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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/12/14 at 13:54

It seems suitable that this article was published in SanFran

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San Francisco Chronicle
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And here is an experpt:

Published on Thursday, November 18, 2010 by The San Francisco Chronicle

Your Angry God Will Not Save You Now

by Mark Morford

This much we know: Increasingly it is being proven that sexual orientation in general and homosexuality in particular are largely biological adventures, hardwired and pre-set in your genetic code by sly and well-groomed angels way, way in advance, back when you were but a twinkle in the eye of the moan.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/11/18 at 17:58

Melting glaciers in Greenland

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So there are many doubters about warming of earth. Do those people ever take the time to look at pictures like this one snapped on the Helheim Glacier on Greenland. Pools of summer melt water are in light blue.

Scientists are trying to measure the progress of glacier melting there and the NY Times had a gallery of images that I snipped from:

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The cbc.ca headline blares “Alcohol most harmful drug”

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Main physiological effects of Crack cocaine. S...
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I like to think that I’m a reasoning type of bloke! But what F… is going on here.

One of the simple indulgences in my life is now “the most harmful drug“. Is it just a British thing because binge drinking seems to be a visible characteristic of many young Brits out on the town, at soccer games, on holiday anywhere and such? Or is it another example of researchitis, or pseudo science?

Here’s a quote from cbc.ca:

Alcohol is more dangerous than illegal drugs like heroin and crack cocaine, according to a new study.

British experts evaluated substances including alcohol, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana, ranking them based on how destructive they are to the individual who takes them and to society as a whole.

Researchers analyzed how addictive a drug is and how it harms the human body, in addition to other criteria like environmental damage caused by the drug, its role in breaking up families and its economic costs, such as health care, social services and prison.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2010/11/01/alcohol-illicit-drugs.html#ixzz144geyLEW

This brings to mind the gist of the ad from Standard & Chartered Bank in Asia: “Counting of things is important but not all things should/or can be counted”

I would say that applies to research into human behavior in another way: “Research into human behavior can be helpful, except when it finds simple human indulgences most harmful!

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If not for Google’s driverless research this would be another slip for the US

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The Gobi Desert lies in the territory of Peopl...
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I posted about the start of this when it began:

Driverless vans end 8,000-mile test drive to China

SHANGHAI (AP) — Across Eastern Europe, Russia, Kazakhstan and the Gobi Desert — it certainly was a long way to go without getting lost.

Four driverless electric vans successfully ended a 8,000-mile (13,000-kilometer) test drive from Italy to China — a modern-day version of Marco Polo’s journey around the world — with their arrival at the Shanghai Expo on Thursday.

The vehicles, equipped with four solar-powered laser scanners and seven video cameras that work together to detect and avoid obstacles, are part of an experiment aimed at improving road safety and advancing automotive technology.

The sensors on the vehicles enabled them to navigate through wide extremes in road, traffic and weather conditions, while collecting data to be analyzed for further research, in a study sponsored by the European Research Council.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/10/28 at 11:19

China now has No 1 supercomputer

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The supercomputer Kraken, a TeraGrid computing...
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This is not good news for the USofA!!!!

October 28, 2010

China Wrests Supercomputer Title From U.S.

By ASHLEE VANCE

A Chinese scientific research center has built the fastest supercomputer ever made, replacing the United States as maker of the swiftest machine, and giving China bragging rights as a technology superpower.

The computer, known as Tianhe-1A, has 1.4 times the horsepower of the current top computer, which is at a national laboratory in Tennessee, as measured by the standard test used to gauge how well the systems handle mathematical calculations, said Jack Dongarra, a University of Tennesseecomputer scientist who maintains the official supercomputer rankings.

Although the official list of the top 500 fastest machines, which comes out every six months, is not due to be completed by Mr. Dongarra until next week, he said the Chinese computer “blows away the existing No. 1 machine.” He added, “We don’t close the books until Nov. 1, but I would say it is unlikely we will see a system that is faster.”

Here are specifications of the Chinese supercomputer:

A photo of ORNL's CrayXT5 Jaguar supercomputer.
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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/10/28 at 10:38

Great Silk Road Today

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The Silk Road connected many civilisations acr...
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The Great Silk Road today

When in the second half of the 19th century German orientalist Ferdinand Richthoven, who investigated the ancient caravan trails heading from the East to the West, in his fundamental scientific work titled “China” for the first time coined the term “Silk Road”, he did not expect, that only one and a half century later the term “The Great Silk Road” would become a global historical brand.

On the Great Silk Road lie the cities whose names breathe of Oriental exotics – Samarkand and Tashkent, Bukhara and Khiva, Teheran and Baku… But life goes on and everything changes in the world. The ancients had all the reason to say that one can’t hold the time. The Minaret Kalyan in Bukhara, which for many centuries dominated over the city, has yielded the palm to the modern TV tower. Camel trails have been intersected by modern autobahns, railways have been built along the caravan routes.

In the age of globalization, when transnational companies gain importance, the revival of intercontinental route is becoming a social need, a demand of the times.

In 1988 UNESCO approved the project “The integral research of the Silk Road – the road of a dialogue”, intended for the period of 10 years. This project was meant for a large-scale and detailed study of the history of the ancient route, the formation and development of cultural contacts between the East and the West, improvement of relations between the nations populating the Eurasian continent.

In 1993 the UN General Assembly took the decision on reviving the Great Silk Road as an important channel of international cooperation in the field of diplomacy, culture, science, trade, and tourism.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/10/09 at 18:28