Sunday, April 20, 2014
Bible-punchers, and other 'gold-miners' like Roma Downey are once again milking those ancient myths for every dollar they can get, because the faithful are usually so most often only on a couple of days a year - Christmas and Easter. And shame on all of us.
Recently, in a discussion of the relative differences between science and religion, one of our more prominent scientists pointed out that science doesn't depend upon faith, but rather on facts. Religion, on the other hand, is all about faith, and as Michel de Montaigne said in the 1500s, "Nothing is so firmly believed as that which is least known."
One of the more serious problems is that there are a lot of different religions, because anyone can start his or her own, if they can get enough others to join them, and as someone has pointed out, they can't all be right. H.L. Mencken, the American journalist and literary light, once said "We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart."
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Colonel Putin seems to believe that the old Soviet Union was the greatest invention since sliced bread or gunpowder, and he also seems to have a selective memory of the past history of the Soviet Union. Reading the history of changes in leadership one is impressed with the similarity to the power struggles experienced in a gang of mobsters, whose leaders typically came to violent ends. Being a leader of the old Soviet Union was not usually synonymous with a long and comfortable old age, and President Putin will be 62 in October.
That is most often a time of life for thinking about retirement rather than empire building. And the Soviet Union was dissolved because the member states wanted more freedom to make their own decisions.
Another tidbit of information on something that's beyond our grasp, and that's probably just as well. As a species, we aren't known for our peacefulness, tranquility, nor intelligent use of intelligence.
I can't find my well-thumbed copy of astronomer Paolo Maffei's excellent account of a mythical space flight from here to the outer limits of the known universe, but I recall that in it, he relates an analogy using common objects we're all familiar with, to give us a more easily grasped 'picture' of distances involved. For example, to travel from Earth to the nearest other star system, the binary Alpha Centauri, would be comparable to leaving an object smaller than a sesame seed located, let's say, at Vancouver, Canada, and making our way on a tiny little craft from there to another planetary object orbiting that nearest other star system, and finding that other smaller-than-a-sesame-seed planet at a distance about equal to the distance between Vancouver and Montreal. At the speed of spacecraft which went to the Moon, that trip would take us about 500,000 years, the author says.
So you must forgive me for not getting excited about the discovery of an Earth-like planet orbiting a star 500 light-years away, when even one 4.367 light-years distant is seemingly well beyond our abilities to visit. If asked why everything seems to be spread out and separated from one another by such prohibitively great distances, I'd be inclined to suggest that this is God's way of making sure that we don't interfere with other evolving life forms and contaminate their environments as we've done here. Just a theory, you understand, but it makes sense to me. We haven't met any extraterrestrials yet because they don't need this aggravation.
Friday, April 18, 2014
St. Matthew, Chapter 6, beginning at verse 5, to the end of verse 8:-
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who like to pray, standing in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you that they have already received their reward.
But as for you, when you pray, enter into your chamber and lock your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret shall himself reward you openly.
And when you pray, do not repeat your words like the pagans, for they think that because of much talking they will be heard.
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need, before you ask him;
The pilot interacts with it using a touchscreen and voice control? So it can be an automated drone flying on one side of the world, and the pilot can be sitting comfortably at a desk on another side of the world, relaying commands to it via satellites? Just like radio-controlled model aircraft, but more sophisticated, further away, and more antisocial - is that what you're trying to say, cousin? Don't we have that kind of hardware already? What do you mean, 'Microsoft made us a deal we couldn't refuse on unsold touchscreens with Windows 8.1 pre-installed'? ..... Shouldn't you wait for Windows 9?
This is interesting, and it's keeping the Astronomers out of the unemployment office, but in depressingly practical terms, it's of little use to the vast majority of us Earthlings, who will live and die right here on Earth, and never, ever set foot on any other planet - and certainly not one that is 500 light-years distant.
It's inspiring to dream of contacting intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, but the sad fact is that because of prohibitive distances and costs and technological requirements it is extremely unlikely that any of us would ever live long enough to send and receive messages to and from planets orbiting distant star systems. Space is called 'space' because that's mostly what it is - vast spaces between relatively small objects of solid or semi-solid bodies and clouds of gases. Most of the stuff we see out there is so far away that it would take many, many lifetimes to reach even the moderately-distant ones, and there will likely never ever be a time when mankind will whiz around in space like Captain Janeway and her intrepid crew of Star Trekkers, because, as mentioned, those distances are too great, and the technology required would very likely exceed available resources and budgets.
There's talk lately of putting a few people on Mars. We already know that it costs about a million dollars a pound to move something from here to there, so it's highly unlikely that there will ever be practical commerce between here and there. And we already know from our robotic rovers there that the place is essentially a vast wasteland without breathable atmosphere or other obvious essentials for life support. It will never be practical to try to colonize the place, and it certainly could never adequately substitute for Earth as a place to live. It's too near the outer boundary of the habitable zone around our sun. In fact, it is on the bitter edges of that, and wishing will not make it otherwise. The only planet most of us will ever be able to explore is the one we're standing on right now.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
If I was Miley, (and don't we wish?) I'd give my PR guy a good swift kick in the kneecap, for not telling us this story up front, instead of leaving the world to wonder if maybe this was all because of a 'bad trip' on her much-discussed 'pot'.
I had sinus trouble for most of my younger years, and back then, we didn't have the cures available today, and it mostly involved suffering headaches a lot, so I can sympathize with anyone having such problems. And I hope she gets well soon. And be careful picking a doctor - they bury their mistakes.