Lobster vs. Sea Hare

i-ccbc028bf567ec6e49f3b515a2c4c149-old_pharyngula.gif

Ah, Aplysia. Also known as the sea hare, Aplysia is a common preparation used in neurobiology labs; it’s a good sized beastie with the interesting defense mechanism of spewing out clouds of mucusy slime and purple ink when agitated. I well remember coming into the physiology lab in the morning to find a big bucket full of squirming muscular slugs in a pool of vivid purple goo. And then I’d reach in to grab one, and they were all velvety soft and undulating and engulfing my whole arm in this thick, slick, wet, slippery knot of rippling smooth muscle…

Ahem. Well. Let me compose myself for a moment. I will say that I always thought handling Aplysia is an amazingly sensuous experience.

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Maybe it would be more miraculous if a huge stone Buddha appeared there

A miracle has occurred in Florida!

The Ten Commandments have appeared at the Dixie County Courthouse.

A six-ton block of granite bearing the Ten Commandments had been installed atop the courthouse steps. Inscribed at the base was the admonition to “Love God and keep his commandments.”

The concept of a Ten Commandments monument was endorsed by county commissioners.

A six-ton block of stone just “appeared”? As in “poof”? Were there angelic trumpets, perhaps, or an astonishing bolt of lightning, or an eclipse? I mean, if a miraculous manifestation of the will of the Old Testament god actually shimmered into existence magically, with a command to “OBEY” inscribed upon it, well, I’d just have to reconsider this atheism gig.

Of course, if it were actually just another gaggle of pea-brained Republican godidiots who commissioned the carving of a big rock and smuggled it into a government establishment, eh, not so much reconsideration necessary. I’m sure the newspaper would have said something if it were a mere exercise in all-too-human pigheadedness, right?

Pinker says a whole lot of sensible things all at once

I’m not a big fan of Steven Pinker’s work, but I have to agree with just about everything he says in this letter arguing against the planned “Reason and Faith” requirement at Harvard.

First, the word “faith” in this and many other contexts, is a euphemism for “religion.” An egregious example is the current administration’s “faith-based initiatives,” so-named because it is more palatable than “religion-based initiatives.” A university should not try to hide what it is studying in warm-and-fuzzy code words.

Second, the juxtaposition of the two words makes it sound like “faith” and “reason” are parallel and equivalent ways of knowing, and we have to help students navigate between them. But universities are about reason, pure and simple. Faith—believing something without good reasons to do so—has no place in anything but a religious institution, and our society has no shortage of these. Imagine if we had a requirement for “Astronomy and Astrology” or “Psychology and Parapsychology.” It may be true that more people are knowledgeable about astrology than about astronomy, and it may be true that astrology deserves study as a significant historical and sociological phenomenon. But it would be a terrible mistake to juxtapose it with astronomy, if only for the false appearance of symmetry.

There’s more, but here’s the conclusion.

Again, we have to keep in mind that the requirement will attract attention from far and wide, and for a long time. For us to magnify the significance of religion as a topic equivalent in scope to all of science, all of culture, or all of world history and current affairs, is to give it far too much prominence. It is an American anachronism, I think, in an era in which the rest of the West is moving beyond it.

One of the sad consequences of the American separation of church and state is that it has fed the notion that church is as important as state, and that it needs to be accommodated with ever-growing privileges.

This is an experiment

Acephalous is trying to measure the rate of propagation of links across the net. He’s asking everyone to link to his post (so this may just be shameless blog-whoring under the guise of doing science), exhort our readers to do likewise, and he’s going to be monitoring its movement through Technorati, and will report the results at the MLA meetings.

So you heard me. Get on your blog, link to http://acephalous.typepad.com/acephalous/2006/11/measuring_the_s.html, and let’s see how quickly we can saturate the blogosphere.

(via Bitch Ph.D)

? Peace, man ?

There is this woman in Colorado who’s being sued for displaying a peace symbol on her home—it’s very weird.

A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.

Well, it is a peace symbol, you know, so it is rather abstractly against the Iraq war. There was also this long-dead Jewish rabbi that some people call the “Prince of Peace”, and I understand he’s having a holiday sometime soon…I wonder if the homeowner’s association will be policing the housing development for Christian symbols, too? Probably. These guys do sound hardcore.

I’ve never heard of the peace symbol being associated with Satan. I think someone’s making stuff up. Couldn’t they have just said it was a symbol for those damned dirty long-haired hippies, and left it at that?

Also, look at this: it’s pathetic.

peace_symbol.jpg

Here, let me show you how it’s done. I think she needs to escalate.

This is a house down the street from me, here in the red state wilderness of western Minnesota. This display has been up every year that I’ve been here—that peace symbol must be about 12 feet in diameter.

toms_house.jpg

See? That’s how you flaunt a peace symbol. It makes me feel a little better every time I walk by it.


Ah, the power of the news and internet. The tinpot dictators realized that they were looking like pathetic, petty wankers to the entire world, and they’ve withdrawn their demands. I think Mr Kearns, the Homeowners Association GOD, has received a spanking.

None of the three members of the board in the scenic town 270 miles southwest of Denver was available for comment late Monday. Kearns and colleague Jeff Heitz both had their phone numbers changed to unlisted numbers Monday. Tammy Spezze, the third board member, did not return a call seeking comment.

☮ Peace, man ☮

There is this woman in Colorado who’s being sued for displaying a peace symbol on her home—it’s very weird.

A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.

Well, it is a peace symbol, you know, so it is rather abstractly against the Iraq war. There was also this long-dead Jewish rabbi that some people call the “Prince of Peace”, and I understand he’s having a holiday sometime soon…I wonder if the homeowner’s association will be policing the housing development for Christian symbols, too? Probably. These guys do sound hardcore.

I’ve never heard of the peace symbol being associated with Satan. I think someone’s making stuff up. Couldn’t they have just said it was a symbol for those damned dirty long-haired hippies, and left it at that?

Also, look at this: it’s pathetic.

i-f47af8a71b7fbe47f1b1d5a53ff83aee-peace_symbol.jpg

Here, let me show you how it’s done. I think she needs to escalate.

This is a house down the street from me, here in the red state wilderness of western Minnesota. This display has been up every year that I’ve been here—that peace symbol must be about 12 feet in diameter.

i-a7d1225817913c8f0e3ad5b89c764dd9-toms_house.jpg

See? That’s how you flaunt a peace symbol. It makes me feel a little better every time I walk by it.


Ah, the power of the news and internet. The tinpot dictators realized that they were looking like pathetic, petty wankers to the entire world, and they’ve withdrawn their demands. I think Mr Kearns, the Homeowners Association GOD, has received a spanking.

None of the three members of the board in the scenic town 270 miles southwest of Denver was available for comment late Monday. Kearns and colleague Jeff Heitz both had their phone numbers changed to unlisted numbers Monday. Tammy Spezze, the third board member, did not return a call seeking comment.