Author Archives: NotAScientist

Seven Ways a Black Hole Can Kill You

One of the few things that most (and let me stress, most, not all) freethinkers have in common is a love for science.

Science is the tool that allows us to understand the universe. It’s the process that has allowed us to communicate over vast distances by typing into these little magic boxes (computers, I think they may be called). And, quite simply, it’s just really cool.

Obviously not everyone agrees with me. My own 11 year-old self absolutely loathed going to science class in school. But it can help to capture your attention if the particular scientific subject being discussed is entertaining or interesting. And there are few things as interesting or entertaining as contemplating your own morality and the destruction of the planet. Am I right?

If you think I am, check out the video below. Phil Plait, of Bad Astronomy and president of the JREF, gives an hour long talk about 7 ways in which a black hole can kill you.

So enjoy. And try not to panic.

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The Right to Kill Your Child

Although she doesn’t know it, that is exactly what Colleen Hauser wants.

Forced Chemo

Police look for mom, son who fled to avoid chemo

SLEEPY EYE, Minn. (AP) — A courtroom clash between medicine and faith took a criminal turn, with police around the country on the lookout Wednesday for a Minnesota mother who fled with her cancer-stricken 13-year-old son rather than consent to chemotherapy.

(…)

Daniel has Hodgkins lymphoma, a highly curable form of cancer when treated with chemo and radiation. But the teen and his parents rejected chemo after a single treatment, with the boy’s mother saying that putting toxic substances in the body violates the family’s religious convictions.

Colleen Hauser said she had been treating the boy’s cancer instead with herbal supplements, vitamins, ionized water and other natural alternatives — a regimen based mostly on information she found on the Internet.

Thanks to those dreadful interwebz, this poor boy’s mother has become convinced in the efficacy of a pseudo-Native American superstition called “Nemenhah”. Rather than letting the doctor’s treat Daniel she’s taken the boy on the run, where he will almost certainly die while taking vitamins and squatting in sweat-lodges.

What’s probably the worst fact of this case is that the Hauser’s have convinced Daniel of their nonsense. Though it’s hard to blame him. Undergoing chemotherapy is not a pleasant experience. It can often cause more pain than the patient has suffered from the cancer itself when the chemo treatments begin. And at the age of 13, how could a sick boy do anything but listen to his parents?

As strange as it may seem, I am not against adults refusing chemotherapy or other modern treatments. I’m not terribly happy when anyone makes a decision that ends up killing them, but an adult should have the right to do so if they can’t be convinced otherwise.

But a child doesn’t have that right. We recognize as a society that children don’t know enough and don’t have enough experience to come to decisions about their own safety. And as much power as parents do hold over their children, parents do not own them.

In Ancient Rome, the paterfamilias had ultimate authority over his family. He could put his children to death if they disobeyed him. But that is not the world we live in. You do not have the right to kill your child.

I just hope that the police find Daniel Hauser before it’s too late.

There’s a storm coming…a gay one…

As usual, it’s time for me to drop in with some light and simple humor to break up the deeper thoughts of my fellow FSGP bloggers.

Be scared, everyone. There is a storm coming. And it’s going to rain gay on everybody.

How to win at “What if?”

This is brilliant stuff. And it sounds even more brilliant because it is juxtaposed with such idiocy.

There are many things that I disagree with Christopher Hitchens about. And I don’t think all of his arguments are the best, or even the correct ones. But when he is on point (and not drunk) there’s no question that he can go toe to toe with anyone in intellectual debate.

Needless to say, evangelist radio host Todd Friel never had a chance…

(Thanks to Pharyngula for pointing me to this.)

Jesus, a zombie?

It is quite common in the online atheist community, and possibly even in the liberal-Christian one, to refer to the god of Christianity as “Zombie Jesus”.

This name, besides being hilarious, is on the surface an incredibly apt and accurate way to describe the god that around 80% of Americans say they believe in. After all, the Jesus character is written to have died and returned from the dead, and is deeply linked in some circles with the eating of human flesh. What could be more ghoulish than that?

But rather than simply using the title “Zombie Jesus” like all those before me, I thought it would be prudent to actually research the issue.

Is the Jesus character a zombie? Or some other member of the living dead? A vampire or Frankenstein-like monster, perhaps? How can we tell?

Simple. We turn to the font of all zombie knowledge. The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks.

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A zombie, according to Mr. Brooks, is not a supernatural or magical creature. It is a human that has been infected with a virus that kills the body and mutates the brain into a new organ:

Once mutation is complete, this new organ reanimates the body into a form that bears little resemblance (physiologically speaking) to the original corpse. … This new organism is a zombie, a member of the living dead.

Alas, this criteria does not seem to apply to Jesus. According to the story, he was killed by Roman soldiers by being crucified. Presumably, he bled to death. No indication is given that he suffered a bite from another zombie, or was infected by the virus in any way.

Still, the biblical story holds that Jesus comes back from the dead.

So let’s look further.

Another aspect of the zombie is that it eats the flesh of humans. There are certainly no writings that indicate any of the apostles were eaten upon Jesus’ return. And yet, Catholic and some Protestant traditions hold that Christians are supposed to eat the flesh of their god.

Could this be a form of zombie eating? Not according to Max Brooks.

Humans have been infected by brushing their open wounds against those of a zombie or by being splattered by its remains after an explosion. Ingestion of infected flesh (provided the person has no open mouth sores), however, results in permanent death rather than infection. Infected flesh has proven to be highly toxic.

The fact that there are not whole masses of Catholic dying due to infected zombie flesh seems to suggest, at least, that Jesus’ zombification may be exaggerated.

Still, one is always served by keeping vigilant. Christians will often speak about Jesus returning once more. If this is the case, we best be on our guard.

Jesus may not be a zombie. But if he is, don’t make the same mistake that the Romans made. Crucifixions don’t work.

You can only stop a Jesus by destroying its brains.

Adam Carolla: Freethinker, Atheist, Comedian and Modern Philosopher

Many of you have probably never heard of Adam Carolla.

Of those of you who have heard of him, you probably associate him with being one half of a sophomoric television show called “The Man Show”.

Sadly, not enough people know Adam Carolla as the deep thinker he is. He has spent the last 14 years on talk radio, and only last week had his show cancelled. In an attempt to ‘fill the void’ (his words) he has decided to podcast a daily show on his own.

Why should you be interested?

Although he does, admittedly, have a brand of humor that is considered sophomoric, he is also a very intelligent and deep thinker. He spent 11 years on the hit radio show “Loveline”, dispensing serious relationship advice to severely disturbed callers. Doing that and keeping it entertaining is no small feat. Occasionally, he would wax-poetic about atheism, rational thinking and the craziness of the religious.

If you want an ‘atheist’ show, Adam Carolla’s podcast may not be for you. But if you’d like to listen to a master of minutiae, there is absolutely no one better. So please, give support to a fellow Freethinker. You may just thank me for the recommendation.

You can find his new podcast at CarollaRadio.com

Can we live forever?

highlanderEver since humanity first realized that death was inevitable we have been trying to cheat it. Religion is the most obvious example of this. Without exception, the religions of the world have convinced their followers that they are immortal. And despite the evidence of our senses (and a rotting corpse is one big stinking piece of evidence) most of the world believes that, in one way or another, they will live forever.

It is a desire that most people have and, while I don’t completely share it, I do understand. Everyone wants to live longer. Thanks to science, we have more than doubled the average lifespan of homo sapiens sapiens.  But for some, that just isn’t enough.

Is there any hope? Can we become like the products of our imagination, like Doctor Who and Highlander? Or are we stuck with the knowledge that every last one of us will eventually shuffle off this mortal coil?

There may be hope. And it comes…in the form of a jellyfish.

hydrozoa

Jellyfish usually die after propagating; however, the Turritopsis nutricula has developed the ability to return to a polyp state. This is done through a cell change in the external screen (exumbrella). The ability to reverse the life cycle is probably unique in the animal kingdom, and allows the jellyfish to bypass death, rendering the Turritopsis nutricula biologically immortal.

So all we need to do is find out a way to, biologically, return to our sexual immaturity after we reproduce. It couldn’t be simpler!

Or, perhaps, we should just come to terms with the fact that everyone dies, and live as best as we can while we’re here.

I think I’ll go with the latter. But if there are any genetic engineers out there who think they can pull the former off, email me.