Monday, November 16, 2009

Neil DeGrasse Tyson answers "Do you believe in UFOs?"

This video has been sitting open in a tab in my browser for a couple weeks now, so I figure it's about time to post it. Someone asked Neil DeGrasse Tyson, "Do you believe in UFOs or extraterrestrial visitors?" His answer is wonderful. For those too busy to watch nine minutes of awesome, his answer is summed up by the following:

"Somebody sees lights flashing in the sky . . . they say, 'I don't know what it is. It must be aliens from outer space visiting from another planet.' Well, if you don't know what it is, that's where your conversation should stop! You don't then say it must be anything!"

This is a classic argument from ignorance, and Tyson explains it very well. He also touches on the value of eyewitness testimony, and gives a strategy for UFO abductees to use if they want to be taken seriously by science. Great stuff.

Neil Tyson talks about UFOs and the argument from ignorance.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy Carl Sagan Day!

In honor of Carl Sagan's 75th birthday, Broward College is hosting the 1st annual Carl Sagan Day today. Speakers include D.J. Grothe, Phil Plait, James Randi, and others. Do something to honor his memory today, if you like. Watch an episode of Cosmos, take the telescope out for a spin, or encourage someone to think skeptically about something.

Carl Sagan's writing has been instrumental in helping me to understand my own point of view better, and was critical in allowing me to admit to myself and others that I am a skeptic. I owe him a lot. I'll post more about that someday, but today is not the day. I have a novel I need to be writing. I haven't posted much about Carl Sagan here lately, mostly because I'm too lazy. But I'd like to get back to having a Sagan Sunday at least once a month.

Here's a video I recently discovered, in which Carl Sagan features prominently, along with Richard Feynman, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Bill Nye. I could watch this over and over. It's basically a spiritual experience for me. I hope you enjoy it.

Symphony of Science - We Are All Connected

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Daily Show: The 11/3 Project

For the love of Pete, wake up people! They are coming for your internal organs! If they can take Glenn Beck's burst appendix to save his life, who's to say they can't take your healthy appendix tomorrow and eat it in front of you and your children?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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The Daily Show: The 11/3 Project

Iraq security forces using dowsing rods as bomb detectors

This story is scary as hell. There is nothing in this story, and in fact nothing in the entire body of scientific knowledge, that would suggest dowsing wands are capable of detecting bombs or anything else. False positives and false negatives are easily rationalized away, and in fact both are done by Iraqi officials in the course of this short story. It really would be funny, except that people will die because of this. It's as if TSA wanted to swing a magic crystal pendulum around your head to detect any weapons before you could board an airplane. It's ridiculous.

Maj. Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri says, "I know more about bombs than anyone in the world." He also confidently dismisses all the rigorous experiments done to determine whether the dowsing wands are actually capable of... you know, detecting bombs. "I don’t care about Sandia or the Department of Justice or any of them," he says. "Whether it’s magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs." Really? You actually care about that? If you care, you might bother to examine the evidence instead of putting people's lives at risk based on your magical interepretation of the ideomotor effect.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Colbert - Mormon Church Trespassing

This Colbert clip is fantastic, as always. It's about the two guys who were arrested for criminal trespassing on Main Street Plaza, and not at all because they are gay. In case there was any doubt about that, hear the money quote: "I am absolutely not a professor of sticking it to the gays."

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Nailed 'Em - Mormon Church Trespassing
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Nailed 'Em - Mormon Church Trespassing

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Read my NaNoWriMo novel in progress

I've been debating with myself whether to share this year's NaNoWriMo novel in progress, but I've decided to do it. This year I'm writing a story about the first commercial cruise to Mars, in the year 2060 or so. If you're interested in reading it, shoot me an email at mthelen (at) gmail dot (com) or leave your email address in a comment - I think I need your email address to invite you. However, if you think you are interested, there are a few things you should be aware of.

1. It will not be good, and I'm not trying to make it good. I'm trying to write as many words as possible, as quickly as possible, and I am turning off my Inner Editor. Trust me, I will eventually be as bothered about my bad writing as you are, but not now. You may be horrified to learn that the story will even contain notes to myself, written in square brackets. This will be a rough draft in the truest sense of the word.

2. Along these same lines, I will eventually be interested in critical feedback, but right now I'm mostly interested in adulatory praise and flattery. I'm also interested in knowing what you find most interesting about the story, and what you're looking forward to reading next. I won't promise to satisfy you, but I think I will find that kind of feedback valuable.

3. For the most part, I plan to write the story straight through, but I may very well write scenes or entire chapters out of order. If this happens and it confuses you, try to remember that this is just a pile of rubbish anyway. I will do whatever I need to do to get my 50,000 words by the end of the month. I apologize, dear reader, that I am not truly writing for your benefit. Yet.

4. There will potentially be offensive language, mature themes, embarrassing dialogue, and unlikable characters who might seem an awful lot like you. I will be writing whatever comes to mind, and I will not be censoring anything for anyone. If this might bother you, please don't read it! You've been warned.

5. I may eventually try to get this story published, so please don't share any portion of it without my explicit permission. The blog is by invitation only, so if you've been invited, consider yourself special and please respect the limited nature of this draft's distribution. Obviously, all contents of the blog are copyright 2009 Michael Thelen, all rights reserved. Yadda yadda.