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Comment Re:Ah, yes! (Score 1) 315

Just for the record, I'm a PhD physicist, graduated from and teach at a major research university, and think both ID and creationism are utterly absurd propositions, repeatedly confounded by observation after observation. Believing in things without evidence, or in the teeth of directly contradictory evidence, is certainly possible for anybody, including physicists who should know better, but it almost invariably involves being brainwashed when they were too young to know better or think critically into thinking that antique scriptural writings had some magical cachet that simply looking at the world and letting it speak for itself does not.

Evidence directly contradicting creationism in physics starts with this little thing called the Law of Conservation of Mass-Energy . This law states in essence that we have never observed the mass-energy content of the Universe being increased or decreased (outside of the tiny transient violation in quantum theory). Ever. Not as far away as we can see with the biggest telescopes. Not as far back in time as we can see with the biggest telescopes. Not in the laboratory. Not in any physical theory that works to explain a whole host of experimental observations not directly concerned with energy. Not in our everyday lives, where I can be confident that the bed in my bedroom is still there when I cannot see it because mass-energy is conserved.

Empirically, there isn't any good reason to believe that anything, ever was created ex nihilo, let alone everything. It's as silly as believing that the dark side of the moon contains a full-featured Disney resort underneath a crater somewhere, just because we haven't looked (yet), or if you think that is too easy to falsify, believing that there exists a full-featured Disney resort on a moon orbiting the fourth planet orbiting Arcturus, or a full-featured Disney resort "in Heaven" (making it really impossible to obtain either positive or negative evidence.

Then (since you bring it up) there is the information theoretic argument. Both creationism and ID sweep under the rug the entire issue of information theory and intelligence and entropy. Here's precisely how idiotic it is:

We observe complex structure in the real Universe. One asserts -- without proof, and rather in contradiction to both everyday observation of a multiplicity of entirely natural complex forms and common sense -- that complex forms cannot occur naturally. To explain them, we invoke intelligence that must have designed/created the complex forms, the basic teleological "watch implies a watchmaker" argument for God. But of course this makes God even more complex, and by the same argument, even more unlikely to have occurred naturally! The hypothesis thus begins with a special exception -- a natural entity, God, is permitted to have infinitely more complexity than any complexity we observe in nature, all because somebody has a hard time believing that complexity in nature can come about without an active intelligence designing it. Who designs the designer?

Entropy is even worse. All of our observations of "intelligence" involve considerable structure and a fairly rigorous state-switching mechanism supported by physical biology and/or electronics. Entropy is (literally) the log of the missing information (to a physicist) and there are theorems concerning energy, entropy, and heat generation in switching mechanisms supporting intelligence. To be able to perceive time at all -- to enable free will, the ability to act on the basis of an uncertain future -- one requires a point of view that has incomplete information. The derivation of the Nakajima-Zwanzig equation for the time evolution of an open (quantum) system embedded in a larger Universe typifies how intelligent agents have entropy bleed into them from an uncertain external universe, and hence can exhibit non-deterministic behavior. God by definition is omniscient, and omniscience sadly directly contradicts both intelligence and free will. God can only choose between alternatives when the alternatives are not certain.

To a physicist, invoking God and an intelligent creater/designer involves hypothesizing an entire META-Universe filled with structure to support the complexity and intelligence of God, one that is self-contradictory in many ways, and in every respect is far more difficult to believe than a simple explanation, supported by an enormous body of empirical evidence, that complexity spontaneously and naturally evolves out of the simple time evolution of the non-sentient observed laws of nature. This is quite wonderful enough, BTW. One doesn't really need to invent an entire mythology outside of this that can never be measured or observed and that can have any properties you like as a consequence.

We could go on -- the enormous amount of physical, historical, and direct observational evidence of evolution occurring. The genetic evidence. The astrophysical evidence. Creationism and ID are absurd given the existing evidence, although an intelligent omnipotent deity could always choose to communicate directly and alter that situation, should they wish to. So far, they haven't.


Comment Re:You're projecting , too. (Score 1) 629

Hey, it works with me and lobster. There they are, relatively stupid crustaceans, ripping up and eating fish and the like and surely not deeply into philosophy. Then bang -- a few days later, at least some of their molecules have become -- me! Along with a few molecules of succulent melted butter that have joined other lipids that are a part of me around my belly that I could stand becoming not-me.

I'll bet I'd be delicious, slow roasted with garlic until all that fat comes dripping down over the roast, or with my belly meat cured and turned into "long bacon". More a savory dish than a sweet one.


Comment Re:Reasons we'll never meet aliens... (Score 1) 629

Granted, but now invert it back to the question. We will never meet aliens. We might at best meet their "seed ships". Those seed ships would no doubt be equipped with AI, AI at a level that would made them "the alien intelligence" we are likely to meet. Either they are programmed to avoid already settled planets entirely (wise for so very many reasons unless you are CERTAIN that you have the biggest guns in the galaxy) or else they (think they) have the biggest guns in the galaxy and consider evolution of the fittest to be the fundamental axiom of morality, in which case the robots will proceed to sterilize the planet, or at the very least wipe out all species that could be a threat and greatly simplify the existing planetary ecosystem, and then bioform it to meet their needs and crank out lots of little B.E.M. bottle babies to take it over.

Either way, we'll STILL never meet the real aliens. One way we MIGHT -- briefly -- have a clue that they were out there. If I were a galaxy-travelling AI with the second directive, I'd just stop my ship out in the Oort cloud, pick a half dozen 10 km asteroids, build fusion-driven ion jets onto them, add moderate directional control and drop them so that they would all arrive at once, with little warning, at six selected spots on the surface of the Earth. Then wait 100 years or so for the worst of the extinction event weather swings to damp down and bring in the clowns. The only hint we'd have that there are aliens in the Universe would be the enormous improbability of a six asteroid extinction event, at most one year before it happened (one year if they don't stealth the asteroids by e.g. painting them flat black or fitting them with a mirrored cone facing the sun to reflect all incident sunlight sideways). I rather think that truly paranoid aliens would arrange it so we would have no more than a day of warning or no warning at all. Most humans would see the flash of the rock that killed them, and within minutes the shockwaves and pyroclastic flow would arrive, transforming them into dust in seconds. Scattered survivors in e.g. submarines that survived the underwater shock waves and tsunamis of the oceanic hits would come back to a surface with no human built structure standing, no food, no plants, no animals, and an Earth with near-unit albedo and millions of teratons of surplus ocean water and fine-grained ash and dust in the atmosphere. First there would be dirty rain, then cleaner snow, and the Earth would ice up, quite possibly all the way to the equator.

One would hope that the aliens would have done this before, and would have the patience to wait out the mini-ice age or the technology to bring ice ages to an end, but I don't think that even with our technological knowledge a single human would survive an attack such as this for a full decade after the event (and bear in mind that "six" and "10 km" are variables that can be adjusted to reduce that probability further still). If we had a year's warning, we could probably build or retrofit underground bunkers capable of preserving humans for that decade, but our future prospects would still be bleak. We'd still have a hostile alien roboship with effectively unlimited free energy (it can refill it's deuterium supply from the moons of Jupiter, for example) sitting on top of a gravity well in a solar system that is chock fully of rocks. There is no depth we could build a shelter that could survive a second wave of smaller rocks dropped directly on any shelters revealed by e.g. a heat signature or electromagnetic radiation or simple observation from orbit. And remember, they've got a whole century to ensure that they got every last one of the vermin inhabiting what will eventually become a steaming warm jungle or a nice dry desert or whatever their idea of an "ideal" environment is.

All of this (to them) would be entirely justified. If we were fitter than they are to spread all over the galaxy and beyond, we'd wipe them out instead of them wiping us out, right?

The tragedy is that this is precisely correct. And all it takes is ONE hyperaggressive species, where evolution of intelligence very likely is almost always going to be the gift of time to one of the most aggressive (while still socially cooperative) species almost by definition in an entire galaxy, and the "nice guy" species simply lose and die when they come in contact or discover that they are still hyperaggressive when needs must after all. The best one could hope for is that there is a galactic civilization of sorts with a collective social agreement that permits them to mutually avoid this sort of single species takeover, and that they as a civilization protect new species instead of wiping them out for their resources, perhaps along the lines of Brin's Uplift series.

Truthfully, we cannot know whether or not any of this is likely. It is enough to know that it is possible. The best plan for humans is to stay mousy quiet on a galactic scale and work hard on developing technology, world peace, world civilization, and an outward-looking plan to expand into our own solar system, both for resources and for knowledge. Sanity demands that we assume any aliens we might discover to be hyperaggressive, dangerous, and with better technology than we have (we can always turn out to be lucky and wrong a dozen times, but we only get to be right once). In the meantime, we meditate upon defenses against galactic level alien threats, and try hard to pre-defeat an invisible enemy that might not even exist but that would very likely be our worst nightmare if it did.

EVENTUALLY, perhaps, we might send out seed ships of our own. And if we had any sense at all, we'd make the sneak past any world they were sent to that turned out to be inhabited and leave no hint on the ships themselves as to where they came from, lest we stir up a hornet's nest.


Comment Re:You're projecting , too. (Score 1) 629

Or, it's at least equally possible that far more advanced creatures have a an advanced morality/compassion/value set that recognizes that the only hope lesser beings have of becoming greater ones in the one, short, pain-filled lifetime they have is being eaten by those greater beings.

In which case, when they land, their first words might well be, "Wow! Who brought the mustard..."


Comment Reasons we'll never meet aliens... (Score 1) 629

a) Because there aren't any aliens to meet
b) Because even if there were, they might not be within (fill in the blank with) N>3 light years from us.
c) Because absolutely trivial physics suggests that for ANY constructed object to travel N > 3 LY, or 18 trillion miles, it would require stupendous amounts of energy. At one kilometer per second -- 1 megajoule per two kilograms of payload -- it would still take 300,000 YEARS to travel ONE light year. To cut travel time down to 300 years, one would have to travel at 1000 kilometers per second, at an energy cost of 1terajoule per two kilograms, and shortly after that one has to start paying a relativistic penalty and get less and less benefit for each doubling in energy cost. Any propulsion system that involved reaction mass would have to lift MANY orders of magnitude more mass, multiplying this already absurd number by a much larger absurd number.

True, there is always the chance of new physics, of "warp drives" and other such stuff, but that so far is pure science fiction, and if anything the fact that we AREN'T up to our armpits in smelly alien suggests that either there REALLY aren't any aliens to meet or that there is no such new physics out there to discover.

I love SF, and am a physicist and thrilled at the prospect of new physics, but when answering an open ended question it is always better to base the answer on what is known, not what MIGHT be true, if life were a Heinlein novel. Based on known physics, we'll never meet aliens because it is effectively impossible to travel in person between the stars.

Sending one's genetic code, OTOH, might be doable, if you could get it past the customs and immigration people who might not be thrilled at us cloning a potentially hostile competitive species and raising it out of all natural cultural context just to say high to a life form that didn't evolve on Earth.


Comment Re:Thank you, Higgs! (Score 2) 259

It is fair to note that we have never observed an act of creation, in the literal sense. Indeed, the correct statement of the relevant, empirically supported physics is:

Mass-energy is neither created nor destroyed, but simply changes form.

More sophisticated field-theoretic statements conserve "information" as fundamentally as mass-energy, but the point is that these are conservation laws, things we have never observed to fail in an enormous range of observations and experiments and spacetime scales ranging from cosmology to the smallest scales we can currently measure.

The really, really interesting question is why anyone would have a "creation" theory for anything, given that we have yet to make a single concrete observation of a creation event of any sort, anywhere, at any time, or even find a way of inferring that such an event once upon a time might of occurred. All we have ever observed is things that already existed changing form. The Universe we can observe is a dance of existing stuff back as far as we can see in time, away as far as we can see in space, at all scales from the largest to the smallest that we can measure.

There is an interesting information theoretic argument that essentially proves that for an omniscient God to not be inconsistent, it has to be the Universe. In order to be omniscient and self-knowledgeable, the irreducible information content of God has to precisely match the irreducible information content of the Universe, defining the Universe as everything that exists (which must include God, if God exists). All of our observations of "sentience" or a sense of passing time involve entropy, and our understanding of reasoning and sentience as a dynamical state that changes over time further suggests that it is almost certainly meaningless to assign a property such as "sentience" to a Universe per se, no matter how complex, and the assertion of entropy as a measure of state change over time contradicts zero-entropy perfect knowledge. So there isn't any really great reason to conclude that the Universe is any sort of sentient God, but that's pretty much the only model (besides God as the really big and powerful but entirely mortal and time-bound space alien with technology that looks like magic) that isn't egregiously inconsistent.


Comment Re:Thank you, Higgs! (Score 2) 259

Surely you jest. The Bible is disproven repeatedly. It is massively internally self-contradictory (and hence literally cannot possibly be true in its entirety). The book of Genesis is disproven -- not just not proven to be true, but proven to be false, proven to contradict a great deal of empirically founded, macroscopically and microscopically consistent knowledge, things that we accept as almost certainly true, beyond any sane question, every day.

It is difficult to even know where to begin in listing the problems in Genesis, as it isn't even approximately or metaphorically correct in its description of creation -- it has things in the wrong order, an absurd order temporally, it has nothing whatsoever that describes the actual processes any rational person would infer looking at the actual data. It gets the age enormously wrong. It gets the size wrong. It gets the structure wrong. It posits the story of a truly absurd flood (6 inches of rain a minute for 40 days straight to barely cover Mount Everest) and a Wal-Mart sized wooden boat ventilated through a carefully described one-square-cubit window in which every species on Earth that would be killed by such a flood -- which would be damn near every species on Earth -- was preserved. It describes a creation process for humans that never happened and is directly contradicted by the fossil record, introduced as an equally absurd explanation of theodicy -- the contradiction between believing in a compassionate and loving God and the existence of evil. It asserts that the Earth is the center of all things, floats on the ocean, and is surmounted by a solid bowl of sky hung with lights and pierced with holes through which God pours rain. It asserts that the stars can be shaken down by things like Earthquakes.

The "history" of the Bible is equally absurd and is contradicted repeatedly by archeology. Again it is difficult to know where to begin, but Tubal Cain as an "artificer of iron" is an excellent example, given that any Biblical timeline would put Tubal Cain several thousand years before the iron age. Iron, in other words, literally hadn't been invented yet. There isn't a shred of evidence outside of the assertions of the Bible itself that Moses ever existed (any more than there is evidence for Adam and Eve, or Noah, or any of the other figures from Genesis or Exodus). Jesus clearly was not omniscient or clued in on this, as he asserted on more than one occasion that Noah and the flood was a real person and real event (generally when predicting a similar apocalyptic event that never happened).

Besides, even if the Bible (old testament) were a nearly perfect history, instead of an obvious collection of fables, myths, legends, a mish-mosh of earlier Sumerian legends that dates no earlier than the first thousand years or so BCE that would not constitute any sort of evidence for the truth of its creation myths, any more than the creation myths of the Hindu religion are "proven" when somebody discovers that e.g. Mathura from the Mahabharata actually existed at some point in the past. I can write entire fantasies about (say) the Civil War with all sorts of characters that never existed and events that never happened and yet salt the story with references to things that did happen and people that did exist. I can even insert space aliens, or (in the case of the Iliad) with Gods. Does the Greek pantheon of Gods actually exist because they are characters in the Iliad and we've now discovered the site of ancient Troy? Does this prove Greco-Roman paganism, creation myth and all?

Look. I mean that quite literally. Forget the big bang and just look. You can, if you look for it, find and follow the entire historical argument and evidence for estimates of the size and age of the Universe. It isn't hidden, and isn't mysterious. Nor is it the product of "scientists with an agenda" unless that agenda is doing their best to figure out what really happened by letting the world speak for itself rather than taking an antique mythology written by enormously ignorant and barbaric peoples and edited and revised repeatedly over centuries seriously as a source of "truth". You have to be a child in order to do that, or to have been brainwashed as a child so that you are no longer capable of any sort of objective or analytical comparison of hypotheses given observational data.

This state is curable by education. Give it a try. Radiometric dating proves the world to almost certainly be between 4 and 5 billion years old, with multiple radioactive clocks with overlapping ranges giving consistent results. Parallax, blackbody theory, and the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram one builds by studying those stars close enough to be ranged using parallax permit one to build a stellar-distance ruler. Studies of certain kinds of very bright stars and events permit one to build a galactic distance ruler. Studies of redshifted galaxies plotted against their distance permit one to built a "universal" distance ruler, one that pushes the size of the visible Universe easily out into the billions of light years away, billions of light years old. You can doubt that the Universe is exactly 13.7 billion years old post Big Bang (or whatever you want to call the event that is visible in the night sky in the form of 3K blackboard radiation) but it is difficult to challenge the assertion that it is at least (say) 13+ billion years old, a far cry from 6 to 10 thousand.

The radiometrically dated fossil record tells a compelling story of the evolution of species over some 4 billion years -- almost from the point where the Earth coalesced and cooled out of the stardust leftover the previous supernova that eventually became our sun and its planets and had a surface containing free water. Wherever we look -- at the age of meteors, at the age of rocks we've collected from the moon -- we get similar numbers. Billions, not thousands. A parade of species evolving over time, not a single creation event in which all species were rapidly "hand made" and stuck down on the Earth by a mythical hand. When we study the DNA of all of the species that currently survive (and a number that have gone extinct) it tells exactly the same story. Evolutionary biology makes sense. If it didn't, don't you think that one or two of the hundreds of thousands of students that have taken it might have noticed? We don't burn them alive for heresy, the way that the Church did for well over a thousand years when its tenets were challenged. We reward heretics in science with Nobel Prizes, once their heresy is proven to be a better description of things than the set of trial knowledge it replaces.

To conclude, the Bible is imperfect, flawed, full of easily verifiable falsehood and ethical monstrosity, and in the end it was written, and repeatedly rewritten by men. If you want something that isn't tainted by mankind, a 2 to 3 thousand year old scriptural mythology isn't the place to look.

Try looking up at the stars. Try looking down at the rocks beneath your feet. They have a story to tell, an explanation to give, that is utterly untainted and indeed, untaintable by men. You don't have to believe me because I have some special authority. You are completely free to repeat, for yourself, the entire series of observations and experiments that support scientific beliefs as most-probable truth (so far). Students in my physics class, like students in modern chemistry and biology classes around the world, are required to do quite a few of those very experiments as they learn. Not to "learn the scientific method" per se -- in large part so that they can see for themselves that nobody is bullshitting them, gravity really does work thus and such of a way, that this and that chemical, combined, do indeed react to make the following byproducts, that paleontology provides at broadly consistent picture of the evolution of species, that blindness cannot be cured by rubbing filthy mud made from spit in a blind person's eye as Jesus reportedly did (and indeed, is more likely to help blind a normally sighted person from the possible infection).


Comment With a club in one hand... (Score 1) 278

... of course. Because if you have to explain it at all to anyone over the age of five, nothing less than a clearing blow to the head will work. One hard enough to clear that head of most of the superstitious brain matter that resides within it.

I say this with a rather enormous amount of experience on the subject. Absolutely no scientific or rational or empirical argument will convince someone that their religious beliefs are wrong. The entire sub-field of cognitive dissonance in behavioral psychology is devoted to understanding why this is so and how to deal with it, but its empirical conclusions are that a human deep in the throes of CD is not going to be pulled out of it by a silly little thing like facts, not even the blatant in-your-face failure of the core belief. There is even evidence that the more absurd the belief and the more humiliating its failure the stronger the denial becomes, the more powerful the state of CD itself becomes.

So don't bother pissing into a category four hurricane, my friend. Radiometric dating will not work. Astrophysical observation will not work. Paleontological observation of the orthogonality of human and dinosaur fossils will not work. Attacks on the core scriptural mythology (showing that it is absurd and self-contradictory and filled with evil and not in agreement with known geography or facts) will not work. Arithmetic (for example, showing the absurdity of a 5-6 inch per minute world-spanning rain that lasted 40 days -- the rate and time required to cover Mount Everest -- while preserving several million species in a handmade wooden boat the size of a Wal-Mart with no air conditioning nor heating nor ventilation for an additional half a year) will not work. Nothing works. If mere rationality or evidence worked, it would already have done so.


Comment Re:Pointing out the truth can not be bigotry... (Score 2) 1121

Had he expressed hatred or prejudice based on their religion, like the AC above did with Islam...

Fuck Christianity. The only thing it has going for it is that it's not quite as evil as Islam.

...that would be bigotry.
You know... picking A religion as being "more evil" based on current political situation, when every single flavor of Abrahamic religion has uncountable crimes to answer for, and those others aren't much different either.

Pointing out that all brands of Christianity are the same fairytale (only told a bit differently) is just telling the truth.

Just like pointing out that all religions are evil as they teach the people to build their view of reality based on a delusion - basically, inducing billions with cognitive dissonance bordering on insanity.

Meanwhile, staying politically correct and letting them carry on with their delusion without at least pointing out the most glaring flaws in it - that would be hypocrisy.
Also, infliction of harm through inaction.

Sadly, this is deeply insightful and correct. I do think it is possible to sort religions and sects out very roughly in order of the overt evilness of their scriptural precepts and functional memes, but it is much more difficult to project this evil onto individuals who nominally belong to such a sect. That is because we live in an age of heresy unheard of before, where everybody feels perfectly free to makes stuff up and alter the fundamental scriptural precepts and memes at will. Hence if you point out (correctly) that the position of most Southern Baptist churches is that homosexuality is a sin:

then of course somebody will turn around and point out an exception. And since we outlawed burning people, hanging people, torturing people, jailing people, silencing people, persecuting people, prosecuting people, and otherwise using force majeure and mortal sanction to enforce rules against choice, there have been plenty of exceptions, in fact being heretical is the post-Enlightenment post-Protestant normal, with an ever increasing divergence of belief. So although it is absolutely true that the official position of the Catholic church is one that opposes the use of birth control, in the US nearly all Catholics would be considered heretic by the non-heretical standards of Catholicism 400 years ago, and most sexually active Catholics use birth control. One can also compare Bellarmine's Letter to Galileo (which lays out its formal dogma concerning the ad literam interpretation of scripture and the horrific doors of heresy and contradiction that are opened by allowing it to be "interpreted" according to the discoveries of the science Galileo and others were in the process of inventing) to modern reality, and note that all of those predictions have, in fact, come to pass.

The point in the end is that none of this matters. One can take any of the scripture-based religions and note countless contradictions in their scriptures and that will not falsify them in the minds of individuals who nominally subscribe to it (but then lay on a small mountain of individual heresies according to their individual whim) because they will, as you note, willfully engage in a rich mixture of the practices associated with cognitive dissonance to avoid confronting the contradictions. Hermeneutics, exegesis, head in the sand syndrome, or simple denial, one cannot prove them wrong and hence they consider themselves "free" to continue to believe an absurd mythology (modified to suite their particular personality).

And this will still not make that mythology true! Or make it probably true, the only kind of truth a good Bayesian can acknowledge. Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack, perhaps, but it also damn well isn't evidence for, and the default state of belief, the null hypothesis, is disbelief in any given exotic proposition concerning the metaphysical nature of the real world. Any other system leads, as you note, to a kind of mass delusion, to the evil of willfully believing the untrue. How can one choose wisely, especially when confronted with ethical choices, on the basis of (probably) untrue beliefs with no objective support?

One of the many great lies concerning religion is that religion is harmless. Believing in things that aren't true causes countless life decisions to be made poorly at best. Even Buddhism suffers from this problem -- it is based on a model of serial reincarnation and some sort of automated cosmic justice engine that is all pure fantasy, without a shred of objective, double blind verifiable support (and with no POSSIBLE model for how the cosmic/karmic justice engine might actually work, or how any possible part of our "identity" might be preserved at the information theoretic level to bounce around from physical matrix to physical matrix). One of the consequences of this false idea is that Buddhism considers it a virtue for lay people to support the "clergy", people who have given up participating in ordinary life in favor of meditating and seeking enlightenment. In principle if you help somebody become enlightened in this life, you will have a better chance of enlightenment yourself in the next one.

Notice how even this very simple, seemingly harmless assumption leads to great evil. If, in fact, we have exactly one lifetime in which to attain "enlightenment" ourselves, working hard and giving our money to a slothful drone so that they can be enlightened in our place makes zero sense, it is in fact precisely the sort of abuse Buddha railed against in the prevalent Hindu priesthood, that routinely extorted a living from the peasantry. That doesn't make the other precepts of Buddhism (which are practical and empirical) wrong, it just means that there should never be a separate "lay" community and "monk" community with the former supporting the latter in any way. Quakers got this one right, where of course they get OTHER things wrong.

A rational being separates rational ethics from myth-based morality, and does not base entire systems of asserted "right action" on unverifiable post-mortem hypotheses born of some mix of imagination and con-artist greed way back in the most ignorant and brutal of times. In the end, that's what almost all of the world religions actually are.


Comment But sadly, no alligators... (Score 3, Interesting) 398

... in Durham, in spite of the fact that alligator reproduction is an excellent bellwether and they are abundant a mere 150 miles away due East on the coast. 1 degree is 70 miles North, 4 to 6 is (say) 350, so by now there should be alligators in Virginia on the coast and central NC where I live FROM the coast. Alligators can only reproduce when a winter is frost free, as temperature determines the gender of the alligators in the egg. First and last frost in Durham haven't discernibly changed in the forty years I've lived here, starting back in the last "the Ice Age is starting" panic in the early 70s. There have been some bitterly cold winters and some remarkably warm ones -- much like the winters over all of the last century. We've set 100 year records for snowfall in the last 13 years, had a snow and ice storm on the Outer Banks (and inland) where it never seems to snow in mid-April, and had a killing frost in May, three full weeks after our supposed last-frost date. We've had winters where the Bradford Pears and Redbuds started to bloom in mid February (easily a month early), where it hasn't snowed at all, when you could sunbathe in mid-January, at least if you picked your days.

This winter was amazingly normal. A handful of small snowfalls, a few warm days, but mostly cold, often wet and cold, with lots of frost. The Bradford Pears and Redbuds still haven't bloomed, although we've had a few days of really nice spring-like weather (quite seasonal) and it didn't frost last night although it did the night before. The massive snows of winter all fell to the west or to the north, never quite reaching us here (except as cold nasty rain a few degrees above freezing -- got a lot of that).

There's plenty of scientific evidence of warming, as long as you pick your days, pick your events, pick your years, pick your starting points, and don't look at all the evidence that contradicts it. As everybody knows, scientific studies prove that green jelly beans cause Acne.


Comment Re:One small problem (Score 4, Informative) 368

But what about all those reactors that blew up or melted (in TFA)? Or were they cheating and just bombarding the nickel with slow neutrons? One would think that if they produced an exothermic reaction even one time and weren't complete Pons and Fleishman nutcases they'd be able to pick up the beta (if not gamma) signature of the events. I'm also a bit curious as to just where the energy produced "comes out". They assert that no gamma rays happen. They get electron and neutrino out. Presumably we're talking about order of MeV/event, so the reaction produces order of MeV electrons (we hope, as energy going into neutrinos is gone forever) and a certain amount of lattice recoil in the now-copper nucleus. MeV electrons seem to have enough energy to produce an electron-positron cascade and convert at least some of the energy into X-rays (ionizing radiation). Probably relatively easily stopped (as is the beta itself) but the process would likely not be "radiation free". Finally, those same electrons seem as though they have the right general range of energy to be captured by the hydrogen nuclei (or would, if they didn't scatter on the way in and if there was any sort of cross-section) leaving open the possibility that the electrons themselves would create the requisite electron excitation and some sort of chain reaction might be possible.

Interesting idea, in other words, but TFA doesn't clarify the underlying physics to the point where it is really intelligible.


Comment Re:Nice thing about red dwarf stars (Score 3, Informative) 132

A tidally locked planet would have all of its atmosphere period precipitated out on the dark side. There would be no habitable band. The antipode opposite the sun would be open to space, cooling the surface there, essentially 100% of the time. There would be no factors driving global circulation -- the atmosphere would rapidly stratify (and get very hot indeed, stably, on the side facing the sun). Eventually, where by eventually I mean in a matter of a few days if one stopped the Earth from rotating without vaporizing it (can't be done, sure, I know) it get cold enough to first rain, then snow, the snow carbon dioxide, then the greenhouse effect disappears and the temperature really plummets, and in just a little bit more time you have a rain of oxygen and nitrogen followed (as they deplete the atmosphere by a fall of solid oxygen-nitrogen sleet). As fast as it falls out on the dark side, it is replenished from the warm side (cooling as it comes) until the warm side -- now bloody hot not unlike the lit side of the moon -- has almost no atmosphere at all. The dark side has a rather large mountain of frozen air centered fairly symmetrically on the solar antipode. There would probably be some residual partial pressure of gas, but it wouldn't be enough to keep your blood from boiling anywhere on the planet's surface.

If the atmosphere was a more exotic mix, you'd actually precipitate out the gases in layers, frozen methane in one layer, oxygen in another, hydrogen and helium on top of the whole mess at the end.

So "tidally locked" is indeed a fatal problem.

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