Squid suckers

This photo won an honorable mention in the Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge. They were robbed! Grand prize or they’ll rip the judges’ faces off!

Squidsuckers: The Little Monsters That Feed the Beast
Credit: Jessica D. Schiffman and Caroline L. Schauer, Drexel University
Crunch. The satisfying sound of a crushed cockroach comes from the destruction of its chitin-based exoskeleton. The white, fanglike circles in this electron micrograph of squid suckers are also chitin, but they are not so easily crushed. Their scant 400-micrometer diameter belies the true power of the suckers. A squid uses them to latch onto prey and force the unfortunate creature to its beak, where it is readily slurped down. “They’re just tiny things, but they really keep the beast alive,” says Jessica Schiffman, a doctoral student in material science engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She compiled the image while researching chitin properties in the lab of Caroline Schauer. The iconic film Little Shop of Horrors inspired the color scheme, she says.

Shoulda gone to church today

Today is Pulpit Freedom Sunday, that day when the wingnut churches were all planning to preach endorsements of political candidates in defiance of the restrictions imposed on them by their tax-exampt status. I hope the IRS harvests a windfall here — it’s simply absurd that they can demand freedom from taxation because they are religious organizations caring for the spiritual needs of their flocks, and then turn around and demand that they also be given the right to be a political organization. It’s one or the other. Let the preachers preach for McCain/Palin, but not on the government’s dime.

The organizers of Pulpit Freedom Sunday are convinced that the protest will result in a court challenge to the law. Mr. Stanley said the law was so unclear that, “I anticipate getting to federal court, certainly the appeals court.” But Robert W. Tuttle, a professor of law and religion at the George Washington University Law School, found that unlikely.

“It’s settled law,” Professor Tuttle said. “People can unsettle law that’s settled, but I think that it is very, very unlikely that a lower federal court would reach any other conclusion except that religious organizations have no constitutional right to engage in political speech while accepting deductible contributions.”

Speaking of settled law, wouldn’t it be nice to really shake things up and strip all churches of their tax exemptions? I know there’d be an immediate roar of protest from all churches everywhere that would have some political cost, but after 9/10ths of the churches fold, and after cities enjoy the sudden filling of the voids in their municipal tax base, and after the financial crisis is resolved, we’d be better off.

Advertising inanity

A reader just informed me that he saw that the Institute for Creation Research is advertising on Fox News. This is not at all surprising — all it takes is money, and these groups are always buying up ad space anywhere they can get it. There is some amusement in the ad, though: I didn’t realize that you could subscribe to ICR’s quarterly Acts & Facts magazine for free; I’m tempted, because it is always a source for hilarity. They also have a distance learning program in which you can get an Official Creationist Worldview Professional Certificate. I would love to have one of those certificates to hang on my wall, but it looks like that costs money…and I don’t care how little it is, it’s too much.

Wake up, Denver!

There is a big rally for separation of church and state going on today at 3:30, beginning at the west steps of the Colorado Capitol building. Get out there and make your voice heard!

This is the information I’ve received about it:

Goals: To show support for a wall of separation between religion and government. To provide individuals and groups an opportunity to speak out against erosion of our legal rights on this front. To remind people of some of these issues one month before the elections.

The event is about separation of church and state in general, but we’ll also have some highlight issues in mind:

  • The 10th District Court’s ruling against Colorado’s ban on tax money going to pay tuition at colleges that discriminate on the basis of religion.

  • The “personhood” amendment that defines a fertilized egg as a human being, and would make some forms of birth control, in addition to abortion, murder under the law. (On our state ballot for November.)

  • On the national level, the Faith-based Initiatives that give taxpayer money to religious charities, so that they can provide social services instead of government (secular) agencies.

  • Eternally recurring battles over prayer in school, school vouchers, reproductive freedom, women’s rights, sexual orientation, health care, creationism being pushed into science classrooms, and other issues throughout the nation.

Denver Atheists & Freethinkers are sponsoring the event, and you should contact Jeanette if you want to know more.

Radio reminder

It’s the physicists’ turn on Atheists Talk radio today. Tune in at

Honolulu Sun 4:00 AM     Sao Paulo Sun 11:00 AM     Addis Ababa Sun 5:00 PM
Anchorage Sun 6:00 AM Rio de Janeiro Sun 11:00 AM Baghdad Sun 5:00 PM
Vancouver Sun 7:00 AM St. John’s Sun 11:30 AM Aden Sun 5:00 PM
San Francisco Sun 7:00 AM Reykjavik Sun 2:00 PM Riyadh Sun 5:00 PM
Seattle Sun 7:00 AM Casablanca Sun 2:00 PM Antananarivo Sun 5:00 PM
Los Angeles Sun 7:00 AM Lisbon Sun 3:00 PM Kuwait City Sun 5:00 PM
Phoenix Sun 7:00 AM Dublin Sun 3:00 PM Moscow Sun 6:00 PM
Edmonton Sun 8:00 AM London Sun 3:00 PM Dubai Sun 6:00 PM
Denver Sun 8:00 AM Lagos Sun 3:00 PM Tehran Sun 6:30 PM
Guatemala Sun 8:00 AM Algiers Sun 3:00 PM Kabul Sun 6:30 PM
San Salvador Sun 8:00 AM Madrid Sun 4:00 PM Tashkent Sun 7:00 PM
Tegucigalpa Sun 8:00 AM Barcelona Sun 4:00 PM Mumbai Sun 7:30 PM
Managua Sun 8:00 AM Paris Sun 4:00 PM New Delhi Sun 7:30 PM
Mexico City Sun 9:00 AM Brussels Sun 4:00 PM Kolkata Sun 7:30 PM
Winnipeg Sun 9:00 AM Amsterdam Sun 4:00 PM Kathmandu Sun 7:45 PM
Houston Sun 9:00 AM Geneva Sun 4:00 PM Karachi Sun 8:00 PM
Minneapolis Sun 9:00 AM Zürich Sun 4:00 PM Islamabad Sun 8:00 PM
St. Paul Sun 9:00 AM Frankfurt Sun 4:00 PM Lahore Sun 8:00 PM
New Orleans Sun 9:00 AM Oslo Sun 4:00 PM Almaty Sun 8:00 PM
Chicago Sun 9:00 AM Copenhagen Sun 4:00 PM Dhaka Sun 8:00 PM
Montgomery Sun 9:00 AM Rome Sun 4:00 PM Yangon Sun 8:30 PM
Lima Sun 9:00 AM Berlin Sun 4:00 PM Bangkok Sun 9:00 PM
Kingston Sun 9:00 AM Prague Sun 4:00 PM Hanoi Sun 9:00 PM
Bogota Sun 9:00 AM Zagreb Sun 4:00 PM Jakarta Sun 9:00 PM
Caracas Sun 9:30 AM Vienna Sun 4:00 PM Kuala Lumpur Sun 10:00 PM
Indianapolis Sun 10:00 AM Stockholm Sun 4:00 PM Singapore Sun 10:00 PM
Atlanta Sun 10:00 AM Cape Town Sun 4:00 PM Hong Kong Sun 10:00 PM
Detroit Sun 10:00 AM Budapest Sun 4:00 PM Perth Sun 10:00 PM
Havana Sun 10:00 AM Belgrade Sun 4:00 PM Beijing Sun 10:00 PM
Miami Sun 10:00 AM Warsaw Sun 4:00 PM Manila Sun 10:00 PM
Toronto Sun 10:00 AM Johannesburg Sun 4:00 PM Shanghai Sun 10:00 PM
Nassau Sun 10:00 AM Harare Sun 4:00 PM Taipei Sun 10:00 PM
Washington DC Sun 10:00 AM Cairo Sun 4:00 PM Seoul Sun 11:00 PM
Ottawa Sun 10:00 AM Sofia Sun 5:00 PM Tokyo Sun 11:00 PM
Philadelphia Sun 10:00 AM Athens Sun 5:00 PM Darwin Sun 11:30 PM
New York Sun 10:00 AM Tallinn Sun 5:00 PM Adelaide Sun 11:30 PM
Montreal Sun 10:00 AM Helsinki Sun 5:00 PM Melbourne Midnight Sun-Mon
Boston Sun 10:00 AM Bucharest Sun 5:00 PM Canberra Midnight Sun-Mon
Santiago Sun 10:00 AM Minsk Sun 5:00 PM Sydney Midnight Sun-Mon
Santo Domingo Sun 10:00 AM Istanbul Sun 5:00 PM Brisbane Midnight Sun-Mon
La Paz Sun 10:00 AM Kyiv Sun 5:00 PM Vladivostok Mon 1:00 AM
San Juan Sun 10:00 AM Khartoum Sun 5:00 PM Auckland Mon 2:00 AM
Asuncion Sun 10:00 AM Ankara Sun 5:00 PM Suva Mon 2:00 AM
Halifax Sun 11:00 AM Jerusalem Sun 5:00 PM Chatham Island Mon 2:45 AM
Buenos Aires Sun 11:00 AM Beirut Sun 5:00 PM Kamchatka Mon 3:00 AM
Montevideo Sun 11:00 AM Amman Sun 5:00 PM Anadyr Mon 3:00 AM
Brasilia Sun 11:00 AM Nairobi Sun 5:00 PM Kiritimati Mon 4:00 AM

A quick update

I’m at the big Atheist Alliance conference, and this has been the very busy day, so I thought I’d just mention a few of the fun things going on.

  • Last night at Libros Revolución was a blast, and thanks especially to Keith for driving us around. Lots of familiar people from the threads here were present, as well as many new people. I do have to comment on one fellow (who can volunteer his identity if he wants):


    Awesome tattoo.

  • At lunch, I got to sit next to Jill Sobule. She reads Pharyngula! Everyone say hello to Jill now. Of course, she also ‘fessed up to reading WorldNutDaily for the humor value, so this may not be an entirely flattering revelation.

  • The secret guest at this meeting was supposed to be Ayaan Hirsi Ali; her presence was kept secret because of the threats against her life. To no avail, though: local security freaked out on the Queen Mary and in Long Beach, and she wasn’t allowed to attend. We had to settle for a too-brief video link from an undisclosed location.

  • Got little kids? Here’s a site you must check out, Charlie’s Playhouse. THey are making and marketing simple games and displays about evolution for young kids, a niche that needs to be filled. Their wall hanging belongs in every grade school classroom in the country.

  • My talk is over. I took a different direction than I usually do — I got lots of questions, which is good, but I never can tell how successful these things are. People tend not to go up to the speaker and say, “that sucked”. (You can, you know—I can take the criticism).

  • I’ve done three video interviews so far today, and there were several others stacked up. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be at the happy hour social event at 6, the banquet at 7, and this Religiomania thing, whatever it is, for at least a little while around 10. Busy busy busy.

  • I fly back tomorrow. I may just sleep all the way home.

Have fun in the comments while I play!