Yes, children, we old people struggled with complex technology too

There was a time when we had to have those new-fangled communications devices explained to us. Here’s a silent film with instructions on those new ‘rotary dial phones’. You may not be familiar with them anymore.

Maybe you’re too modern to want to sit through a slow old silent black and white movie that takes 7 minutes to explain how a dial works. If so, here’s a 10 minute talkie about explaining to grandpa how to use a phone. It’s even more agonizing. Check out the Mid-Atlantic accent used by the woman doing the explaining.

Australia’s leading erotic poet disproves mathematics

Please, crackpots, I am not your sympathetic ear. Stop sending me stuff.

The latest entry in the pile of bogus crapola is a “book”, if you can say that of a 14 page long pdf file that uses a very large and ugly font — this is the tech equivalent of sending someone a long letter written in crayon. Here, you can read it for yourself: All things are possible: Case study in the meaninglessness of all views By Colin leslie dean. It has more impact in the original Gibberish.


Professional typesetting sets the tone, doesn’t it?

But once you get past the eye hemorrhages from trying to read it, the content…is worse. For instance, he disproves mathematics.

And its negation
It be said that 1+1=2 be a
certain truth
1 number + 1 number = 1
1 number (2) +1 number (2)
=1 number (4)
So 1 +1=2
1 + 1 = 1
Thus a contradiction in

I love the “blah” in the middle.

Another bonus in his book: he claims to be Australia’s leading erotic poet. I don’t believe it. I looked at one of his erotic books, and sheep aren’t mentioned even once. (Oh, that was mean of me, and I’m sure you Australians are tired of that joke.)

Yeah, you can read it for yourself. 100 Views of Mons Venus by Hiroshige Basho by c dean. I find myself hoplessly confused by just the title. I’ve heard of Utagawa Hiroshige, the ukiyo-e artist, and I’ve heard of Matsuo Basho, the poet, but not the chimera, Hioshige Basho. And who wrote the book? Hiroshige Basho or Dean? But hey, maybe you’ve got a thing about very short poems that combine “lips” and “petals” with lots of adjectives, and will enjoy the work.

Move over, Martin Shkreli: Palmer Luckey is here!

Give a young man way too much money, and they turn into instant assholes. That’s what I conclude from the story of Palmer Luckey, who was one of the people behind the VR headset Oculus Rift, which he sold for over $2 billion dollars. He’s now worth $700 million (what happened to the other 1.3 billion?), and he’s got to do something to better humanity with that that money.

So he’s funding a company that’s backing Donald Trump.

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey financially backed a pro-Trump political organization called Nimble America, a self-described “social welfare 501(c)4 non-profit” in support of the Republican nominee.

A social welfare organization? Well, that sounds nice. Except, here’s what it’s really all about.

We’ve proven that shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real. So many of you have asked us, how we can bring this to real life. We wanted to do it in a way that was transparent and had purpose. Not just sell t-shirts to sell them, but to sell t-shirts to shitpost. We’ve worked with lawyers and RNC consultants to advise us on how to establish the proper entities to do this right, and we’ll be transparent with all financial activity from Reddit. We’ve also worked with the Reddit admins to make sure all of our activity operate within their guidelines.

Announcing Nimble America, Inc., a social welfare 501(c)4 non-profit dedicated to shitposting in real life.

Oh, hell no. How can someone grow up to think that “shitposting” is the great cause to which they will dedicate their life and fortune?

But wait! There’s more! What do you think the lofty goal of virtual reality programs might be?

Someone in the audience asked Palmer Luckey a rather odd but revealing question: Why did he and his chief technology officer, video game pioneer John Carmack, often speak of a “moral imperative” to bring virtual reality to the masses?

“This is one of those crazy man topics,” Luckey answered, “but it comes down to this: Everyone wants to have a happy life, but it’s going to be impossible to give everyone everything they want.” Instead, he went on, developers can now create virtual versions of real experiences that are only enjoyed by the planet’s privileged few, which they can then bestow to the destitute of the world.

He is so generous.

Well, then, I say we should give Luckey what he wants, and condemn him to spend the rest of his life with an Oculus Rift shackled to his head, and free access to all the VR he wants, while he lives in a shack and works 16 hours a day assembling expensive electronic gadgets in a Chinese factory.

It is a shame, though, that the Oculus Rift looks like a nifty toy, but now I’ll never buy one.

Commutation of sentence

There I was, heaving a bow saw against the shrubbery, sweat running into my eyes, red-faced, and maybe looking a little over-stressed, and my wife gives me one of her looks and tells me that maybe I ought to call it a day, she was about to drive off to the dump with a load of brush and was a little bit afraid that she’d find me slumped into an unconscious heap when she got back.

Now you know, this is an affront to my manhood. I quickly marshaled many fierce replies, but I was slowed in delivering them because I was panting so hard. Otherwise, I was ready to tell her…

“At least I will have died like a man, with my tool in my hand!”

Or maybe the classic,

“We all gotta go some time.”

But then it sunk in that if I said anything like that, I would sound like Gary Johnson.

My gob, what an idiot. Aren’t you New Mexicans a little embarrassed about having elected this guy?

So I surrendered meekly and have gone into the house. I guess being sensible and cautious is one way to avoid surrendering to our fate.

Oh! And as I walked into the house, I got handed some bulky certified mail. Richard Carrier is suing 7 entities, and I’m two of them. He’s demanding $1,050,000 in compensation and another $1,050,000 in punitive damages. So there’s another fate I won’t be surrendering to.

Winter is coming

And that means that Mary and I are spending our morning doing yard work, hard physical labor. I’ve already killed one tree and dismembered it, and next I’m going to murder a lot of shrubbery.

They’ll get their revenge tonight when I’m lying prostrate and moaning about my sore muscles and aching back, though.

Black hole discovered inside the astronomy community

It’s name is Scott Lewis. He has “borrowed” over $30,000 from various people by telling tales of financial misery, getting pitying contributions, and then turning on his donors.

Scott Lewis tells many persuasive tales of woe involving former partners and/or friends designed to appeal to his current target’s compassion and desire to make a difference in his life. In hindsight, it should have been an obvious red flag to us that he seems to have an alarming number of these stories. By connecting with each other, we have now realized that many of the stories we had heard about each other were in reality blatant lies, crafted by Scott Lewis presumably to dissuade us from contacting each other. As author Lynn Fairweather puts it, “…an abuser’s prospect becomes an even better potential victim if she’s willing to listen to his tale of woe and offer him sympathy and encouragement, because then he’s hit the jackpot: He’s found a “saver,” a nurturing woman who compulsively takes in troubled souls, blind to the inherent risks to her own well-being”. Each of us have wanted to be “better than all the previous people” when we first entered his life.

Scott Lewis deliberately maneuvers his new target into disliking all his ex partners and previous friends. This is also why we have been silent for so long; for a very long time we were too scared to reach out to anyone else, or speak about what he did to us. We knew that he would always craft his narrative to portray himself in the best possible light while making us look vindictive, petty, and delusional. We were scared that he would reach out to mutual friends first with his own version of the story, to further isolate us and make his deception and abuse less likely to be called out. Since connecting with other victims of Scott Lewis’s abuse, we have been able to see exactly how he distorts the things that he does; the way he minimizes his own role, plays the victim, and pins all the blame on the actual victim instead. We were surprised to realize we each experienced the exact same cycle of abuse at his hands.

I used to be so optimistic about human beings.

The evolution of caffeine

Let us turn now to the One True God of science and atheism, the Ground State of our existence. We shall now contemplate Caffeine. Raise your cup in praise.


This morning, as I was sipping the blessed stimulant and browsing the journals, I learned a little something. I learned how caffeine evolved, and it was both unsurprising and surprising. I am not a biochemist, so it’s always enlightening to read a little out of that field. This, for instance, is the chemical precursor in the synthesis of caffeine.


Oh, I said, I certainly do recognize that — I’ve been teaching budding cell biologists about important biological macromolecules for the past few weeks, and that’s a nucleoside. Note the ribose sugar with the attached nitrogenous base, the double ring of one pentagon attached to a hexagon? That’s xanthosine, which is also a precursor in the synthesis of those purines our cells use in signaling and assembling chains of nucleotides in DNA and RNA. That’s obvious. And then you look at caffeine, and it’s also obvious how cells make it: slap a couple of methyl groups (those -CH3s sprinkled around), and presto, you’ve got a happy drug. Easy.

Except…not all cells make significant amounts of caffeine. It takes specific enzymes to glue those methyl groups onto the core base with any reliable yield, and my cells might have xanthosine around, but they aren’t making any for me. I have to raid the vegetable kingdom and tear off their leaves and beans and hit them with boiling water to extract the blessed caffeine. And then not all plants make it — I can’t get a buzz on with a bowl of peas in the morning.

And then I learn that caffeine has evolved independently at least 5 times, and that the distribution of caffeine is patchy — some species in a genus will make it, while other related species in the same genus don’t. The caffeine molecule in Coffea (coffee) and Camellia (tea) and Theobroma is identical, but it’s synthesized by different pathways.

My mind is blown. Excuse me, but I have to take a break and think about this. I’m going to take a walk down to the coffee shop and gurgle down a couple of cups to help absorb this information. I’ll resume this post a little later.

You understand, don’t you? Go have another cup of coffee or tea while you’re waiting.

[Read more…]

Michael Egnor is business as usual for creationism


The other day, I wrote about how New Atheists are the same as the Old Atheists, and in particular, how all kinds of atheists are responding to the failure of all religion to answer basic questions about our existence. I could argue that religion is a font of bad ethics, bad philosophy, bad charity, etc., but because I’m a science guy I wrote about how badly it addresses questions of our origin and nature, and how the major premises of all religions are false.

This has roused the indignant jellyfish of the Discovery Institute, Michael Egnor, who has declared that atheism is a catastrophe for science. The most remarkable thing about his complaint is that I asked a number of questions about key premises of faith, like about the existence of a deity, an afterlife, and why we should believe your particular dogma over another, and he doesn’t answer any of them. He doesn’t even try. This isn’t even an argument.

I ask, “Why should I believe one religion over another?”

He harumphs back, Because Christianity is obviously true.

I could ask, “How do you know?”

Because it just is.

This is not a productive direction the discussion could take, but it’s what I expect from a Discovery Institute flunky. The details are not much different from my broad outline. So I bring up this basic question in my post:

Why should I believe in any god? We don’t need an intelligent authority to explain the universe…

His answer:

Of course we need an intelligent authority to explain the universe. The universe is shot through with intelligibility. Nature is governed by astonishingly complex and elegant physical laws, and the laws themselves are written in the language of abstract mathematics. In fact, theoretical physicists must often explore utterly new mathematical theories in order to explain the behavior of inanimate matter.

That’s not an answer. Nothing in that addresses the issue, and when he continues on to babble about the religious beliefs of scientists, claiming that many of them have believed in gods, he is mistaking personal quirks that are irrelevant to question for the facts that support his contention. I could argue that many scientists have been good musicians, but it would not imply that therefore my theory that the universe began with a note on a violin is true; an even more universal truth, that all scientists have possessed nostrils, is not support for my theory that the Big Bang was actually the Big Sneeze. And doesn’t Sandwalk’s list of atheist scientists immediately refute the idea that religiosity is a precondition for good science?

Egnor is simply making a fallacious assertion, and is begging the question. I will reply with a quote from Percy Shelley, published in 1814, which the Intelligent Design creationists will ignore, as they’ve been doing for two centuries.

Design must be proved before a designer can be inferred. The matter in controversy is the existence of design in the Universe, and it is not permitted to assume the contested premises and thence infer the matter in dispute. Insidiously to employ the words contrivance, design, and adaptation before these circumstances are made apparent in the Universe, thence justly inferring a contriver, is a popular sophism against which it behoves us to be watchful.