Tag Archives: death

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.


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.

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.


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.

Near death and embracing no gods…

Paul F. Tompkins is one of my favorite working stand-up comedians.

The funny thing is that I didn’t know he was an atheist like me until quite recently. It’s a subject that will occasionally find its way into his act, but he doesn’t focus on it. But when he does, it’s always enlightening and hilarious.

So I thought I would share with you one of his more non-believer angled bits that I came across on YouTube. It’s both funny and touching, as Paul talks about how his mother gave up religion and would not be turned back, even by death.

And here’s a quick rough transcription of some of the better bits:

She’s in her seventies and is like ‘I’ve decided that gay people must be born that way.’ And I said ‘What, what brought you to that, uh, that decision Mom?’ And she said ‘Well, it’s a…they have a really hard time, you know, everybody gives them such a hard time and I figured they must be born that way because why would someone choose to put themselves in a position where everyone is against them all the time? So it must be that they’re just born that way. You know, they can’t help who they love and that’s just the way it is.’
And I said ‘You know what? I think you’re right, Mom. I think you’re absolutely right about that.’ And secretly, I say this to myself but not to you, you’re going to be very happy in a year’s time when my older brother comes out of the closet that you have decided this.

Old Lady, what do you think you’re doing!? You’re supposed to be going the other way as you get closer to the grave. Seeking comfort in the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ! Haha, not this gal! She had had it!

Things started to unravel until, and this is a direct quote, she said ‘Til I woke up one day and I realized it was all just shit.’ Hmm. Well. Well put Mother, dear.

So my Mom said that there was no heaven, that meant it was fuckin’ true!

She’s not going to be in heaven. There is no heaven, she’s just done. She had her time on Earth, and I’m going to have my time on Earth. We’re not going to see each other again. And that sucks, but the rest of my life is living with that idea that there’s going to be a lot of times I’m gonna want to talk to my mom, but I’m not going to be able to.

And it does suck when a loved one dies.

But you’ll always have the times when you were together. The only time you’ll ever have.