Carnivalia, and an open thread

Talk among yourselves for a bit — I’m on my way to Minneapolis, where I will deliver Skatje to Minicon and to partake of the entertainment there for a little while, before driving back home in the cold and the dark to a busy weekend of paperwork.


  1. says

    Anyone else have thoughts on my new version of Godwin’s Law?

    Following Godwin’s sterling example, I would like to propose a Law. I use that word only half in jest, for this will be a Law in both the legal and the scientific senses of that word. First, it is an empirical statement:

    1. In any discussion of atheism (skepticism, etc.), the probability that someone will compare a vocal atheist to religious fundamentalists increases to one.

    Following this statement comes the second half, which is a judgment:

    2. The person who makes this comparison will be considered to have lost the argument.

    I’m not trying to make “fundamentalist” a taboo word. The point is that it’s not logical to stick that word upon somebody when “strident”, “vocal” or “inflexible” are actually the qualities for which you think they need criticism.

  2. TAW says

    I’m not a film photographer, but I’m almost positive (99% sure) you can get the same things on film. It’s just a matter of lowering the ISO

  3. MelM says

    One thing the “fundamentalist” attack does for the theist holy man is to keep believers from hearing about the distinction between “reality-reason-knowledge” and “Bible-faith-dogma”; believers must never ever become aware that atheism is rational. I don’t think most Americans have an explicit grasp of the distinction between these two approaches. By trying to obliterate the concept of reason, the theist is free to regard his fantasies as equivalent or superior to science. Note how often attacks on the capability of the human mind are part of theist attacks on atheism; there are many forms but they all have the same basic purpose: they relieve the theist of having to come up with real evidence and they can silence critics. With reason off the scene, nobody calls faith a vice–which it is.

    Also, I find it rather odd when theists argue by saying something like: “Your atheism is faith just like my religion; your ideas are no good (irrational) because they’re just like mine (irrational).” Somehow, religious people get away with this in their own minds. Strange.

  4. says

    I do black and white photography, and long exposures and slow film can produce some of what you see in those pictures — the streaks of light, the images layed over themselves — but other other stuff is strictly a quirk of digital cameras (as far as I know, anyway). For example, in one picture, the fellow’s reflection in a mirror is visible, but it’s completely outside of the mirror’s frame. Also the thick “grain” (or pixelation; it’s not actually silver grain, of course) in the images with especially poor lighting (only film speed and the temperature at development can change the grain of film, I believe).

  5. bPer says

    Daisy @3 said:

    Digital cameras do some things you’d never get on film.

    I have to agree with TAW – nothing unique to digital cameras here. I think it would be more accurate to say that digital cameras tempt people to try things they’d never try with film.

    In this case, if the effects weren’t expected, check the shutter settings on the camera. Perhaps someone was playing around and locked the camera’s shutter speed to something really slow like 1/2 second. It also appears that someone disabled the flash. The camera was able to compensate for the slow shutter speed by adjusting the aperture (aka iris or f-stop), resulting in somewhat acceptable exposures, but it still recorded the camera shake and/or subject motion.

    Also, if you’re wondering about the weird colours on some of the images, it is because the ambient light was artificial (e.g a light bulb). Cameras are calibrated to ‘daylight’ (as are flashes). Most indoor lighting is considerably ‘warmer’ in colour than daylight. Our brains, miracles of evolution that they are, compensate for the colour cast so you don’t usually end up noticing the cast. An easy demonstration of this is to wait until a moon-lit night. Turn off any outdoor lighting and step outside, maybe 20-30 feet from the house. Wait for your eyes to adapt for a few minutes, then look back inside. You should be able to notice how orangy the light inside seems. The demo works because your brain has adapted to ‘daylight’, in this case reflected off the moon.

    And TAW, with film, if you lower the ISO, don’t forget to tell the processor when you have it developed. I’d be tempted just to set the camera as I described above.

  6. says

    Apropos to nothing, P.Z., but, if you follow Gopher hoops at all, you’ve just got yourselves a great coach up there- as well as a heck of a nice guy, in Orlando “Tubby” Smith. Sorry, my U.K.-blue blood is showing…

  7. Peter M. says

    According to Think Progress, the Bush Bible-quoting U.S. Atty. in Minnesota isn’t doing such a great job. At least she had a good education (but little experience) before coming to her job, unlike the just-resigned Monica Goodling (who went to Pat Robertson’s low-ranked law school). No one wants to work for her, though. The top four career people in her office demoted themselves as a sign of disrespect. (Her resume for the job was careful to include her religious work in the past.)

    Just doing my part for the Theocracy blogswarm.

  8. Caledonian says

    Would you please consider losing the function that puts extra spaces in-between words in order to form an aligned right margin? I think it makes it harder to read sentences, and increases the difficulty of keeping track of where I am in a paragraph.

    Thanks muchly.

  9. TAW says

    And TAW, with film, if you lower the ISO, don’t forget to tell the processor when you have it developed. I’d be tempted just to set the camera as I described above.

    Well, I gave up on film photography long ago :P I’m just pathetic at it. I think I’m going to get a new camera soon. Hopefully a digital SLR. But anyway, I meant to say that you should RAISE the ISO… lowering the ISO would make darker but sharper images.

  10. TAW says

    *cough* and I meant that raising the ISO is how you get images like those… your advice sounds good for… you know… FIXING them… what most people would actually want to do. LOL

  11. Peter M. says

    I was looking at the Planet Earth series and was struck by how much plate tectonics was mentioned, along with estimates when geological changes occurred.

    Can anyone suggest a brief (i.e., not book length) article that will get me started on plate tectonics and its implications for evolutionary theory?

    (And maybe someone can tell me how to eliminate my “right justification” in comments — this is the only site that does it to me.)

    Is this article any good?

  12. Erik says

    Can anyone recommend any good books/articles/links that explore the effects of strict materialism on the concept of free will. Someone today recommended to me Dennet’s book Elbow Room, so I’ll look for that tomorrow. I’m a fairly strict materialist, but I would like to explore more the strong feeling humans have about the existence of free will (in the colloquial sense of the phrase).

  13. Tex says

    Sir Oolius (@#15),

    Depends on what you mean by rich. If you ‘mean making above the median income in the country’, many scientists are probably rich. If you mean ‘adequately compensated compared to others of equal training and investment,’ probably not. If you mean ‘scientists have a rich appreciation of the world around them,’ then we win hands down.

    The academic department I am in is offering $87K per year to begining assistant professors, but this is after 5 or 6 years of PhD work (at slave wages of $15~20K) and 3 to 5 years of postdoctoral experience ($30~40K). However, only about half of these beginning profs will earn tenure and be able to maintain this salary level throught out their career.

    Salary details can be found here:

  14. andyo says

    All of you discussing photography, I have some comments. These blurred effects any photographer would say that it’s not much to do with ISO, but with low enough light and slow shutter speed. ISO is as much a player here as f-stop, but what you wanna get at is that slow shutter speed.

    About the “grain”, which in digital is called noise, that level could be achieved by a compact very easy, not necessarily at high ISO, it could easily be ISO 400 or even lower, depending on which camera, how many megapixels, how much was cropped how much resizing, sensor size and sensor technology.

  15. andyo says

    Regarding Daisy’s comment:

    I do black and white photography, and long exposures and slow film can produce some of what you see in those pictures […] but other other stuff is strictly a quirk of digital cameras […] in one picture, the fellow’s reflection in a mirror is visible, but it’s completely outside of the mirror’s frame.

    What do you mean by that, and which picture are you talking about? I don’t see the effect you talk about, but even if it did, what difference would being digital make? I’ve been doing SLR digital photography for some years now, and the only discussions about film vs. digital that I’ve seen are about image quality at the pixel level, like noise and moire, and other stuff about how light is captured by the sensor like vignetting with fast lenses, dynamic range, etc.

    Some comments about color could be also appropriate, but I have never seen effects on whole objects in the picture, like you seem to imply.

  16. andyo says

    And now for something completely different…

    This seems more appropriate for these inter-lairs. Whenever someone asks me why I don’t eat shrimp or lobster or crab (all of which everyone seems to love), I say that I don’t eat arthropods (another reason -the main reason- of course, is that I just don’t like the taste, but that answer will inevitably lead to “why don’t you like it? it’s sooo good, everyone likes it” kind of questions that get old and annoying really fast). Just saying “I don’t eat arthropods” seems to stop many people right on their tracks.

    Anyway, I don’t remember now what I was reading some time ago that suggested that crustaceans are closer to insects than arachnids are. I have found some vague references by googling, but I’d like to know what you biologists say about this. I’m just working on my follow-up answer if it comes to that.


  17. Mike says

    In response to the earlier comments about ‘fundamentalist atheism’ I think part of the problem is the use of the term ‘atheist’. As Sam Harris frequently mentions in his articles, ‘atheist’ is a term that shouldn’t exist; there’s no word for people who reject astrology or palm reading, so why is there a word for people who reject that last bit of nonsense? The words atheist/atheism are used by theists in the same way that the words Darwinist/Darwinism are used by creationists.

    One way of dealing with this could be for vocal ‘atheists’ to reject the term, instead referring to themselves as ‘rationalists’. Uppity atheists will try to dictate what others should believe whereas vocal rationalists will try to influence how others make decisions. Rationalists point out the flaws in relgious beliefs not to try to destroy them but instead simply to demonstrate that they *are* flawed and therefore should not be used as the foundation of genuine, real-world decisions. This distinction could prevent questionable comparisons between (for example) Richard Dawkins and Stalin because while could both be called Atheists, Stalin could definately not be called a Rationalist.

    An alternative approach would be to confront the term head-on. If more people were open about their atheism to the people around them it would force the general public to accept that atheists aren’t the scourge of society.

  18. Carlie says

    Whoa, Tex! Around my parts we’re lucky to get something over $40k/year to start. Which, by the way, isn’t solely a function of being an academic – starting assistant professors in business, computer science, and engineering technology make 20-30 more than that at the same school.

  19. says

    Yeah, I’m an associate prof, and I don’t make anywhere near $87K. In biology, $40K is a more common number for assistant profs with 4+ years of grad school and a postdoc under their belt.

  20. Don Price says

    $40k/year to start… Yes, one of the main reasons I decided to bail and go into pharmacy after doing a PhD and postdoc. Combine that with grant renewal rates hanging in the 20% range…

    You can only live off of your idealism for so long. I was meeting way too many folks in their late 30s-40s who were talented and motivated and just got unlucky. You want to meet someone who’s bitter and utterly disillusioned? Try somebody who worked themselves into the ground, burned up the best years of their life, and got left with nothing and has no fallback plan.

    Why are the US and Canada getting killed when it comes to science? Why are all the grad students/postdocs from China or Eastern Europe these days? Because only someone whose prospects in life are already nil would consider it a great privilege to work 16 hour days for $20k/year with no chance of ever attaining stability or security.

    I know that’s a pessimistic take on it, but I’ve been there and I’ve seen what happens to people. Because I love doing it so much, I may decide to continue in research once I finish my current degree. But I will definitely be advising my daughter to get a professional degree (medicine/engineering/pharmacy/law/dentistry etc.) before she considers dabbling in science.

  21. says


    I don’t eat such critters either because of a sneaking- but unresearched, suspicion that, were I to boil up a bunch of, say, palmetto bugs and, then, peel their shells away, I would end up with something that wouldn’t look odd ringing a batch of cocktail sauce. I figure if I don’t eat bugs off the wall or the ground, why eat’em off the ocean floor? Of course, I do enjoy a good spider…

  22. andyo says

    Exactly! That’s my excuse also. I found out some more stuff about it.
    It seems to indicate that crustaceans somehow are closer to insects than arachnids and other “bugs”. And I also found out something even more interesting (for me, at least). These little buggers abound in the gardens of my home city, and I never knew they were crustaceans…

  23. andyo says

    Damn! this thing won’t post links. The preview function does not work very well with this. Sorry for the quadruple post. Lemme try again…

    the “even more interesting” link should have been this

  24. andyo says

    Continuing… (Sorry, I had to segment because I can’t post more than one link.)

    …Not only are those “pill bugs” crustaceans, they are of the same class ( And look at the picture of that other isopod. I’m gonna have some fun grossing out my shrimp-loving friends. Ain’t science fun!