Saturday, May 27, 2006

Scientists ponder invisibility cloak

Imagine an invisibility cloak that works just like the one
Harry Potter inherited from his father. Researchers in England and the United States think they know how to do that. They are laying out the blueprint and calling for help in developing the exotic materials needed to build a cloak.

The keys are special manmade materials, unlike any in nature or the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. These materials are intended to steer light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation around an object, rendering it as invisible as something tucked into a hole in space.


Scientists not involved in the work said it presents a solid case for making invisibility an attainable goal.

"This is very interesting science and a very interesting idea and it is supported on a great mathematical and physical basis," said Nader Engheta, a professor of electrical and systems engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Engheta has done his own work on invisibility using novel materials called metamaterials.

Pendry and his co-authors also propose using metamaterials because they can be tuned to bend electromagnetic radiation — radio waves and visible light, for example — in any direction.

A cloak made of those materials, with a structure designed down to the submicroscopic scale, would neither reflect light nor cast a shadow.

Instead, like a river streaming around a smooth boulder, light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation would strike the cloak and simply flow around it, continuing on as if it never bumped up against an obstacle. That would give an onlooker the apparent ability to peer right through the cloak, with everything tucked inside concealed from view.

Wouldn't that mean that the wearer couldn't see anything, if it were completely enshrouding him?

More information available here.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Universe Before It Began:

Using a theory called "loop quantum gravity," a group led by Penn State professor Abhay Ashtekar has shown that just before the Big Bang occurred, another universe very similar to ours may have been contracting. According to the group's findings, this previous universe eventually became so dense that a normally negligible repulsive component of the gravitational force overpowered the attractive component, causing the universe to "bounce" apart. This big bounce is what we now know as the Big Bang. The group published its analysis in the April 12th issue of Physical Review Letters.


Loop quantum gravity also predicts a small repulsive component of gravitational force, which is a non-factor in other theories. At most densities, even the extremely high density of an atom's nucleus, this component has no significant effect. But as density increases, approaching 1075 times the nuclear density, this repulsion begins to dominate. According to the Ashtekar's equations, this appears to be what happened to the universe before ours: As it collapsed, it became so dense that gravity started to, in a sense, work backwards, birthing our universe.

Singh, Ashtekar's postdoc, noted that the group's conclusions are eerily similar to findings published by Princeton researcher Paul Steinhardt two weeks ago. Using string theory, Steinhardt concluded that the universe may be cyclic, with each crunch leading to a bounce.


Sunday, May 21, 2006


After 34 years of college teaching, I thought I had heard just about every imaginable student complaint. Last week, however, a freshman in my 300-seat US History Since 1865 course came in to discuss her exam with one of the graders and proceeded to work herself into a semi-hissy over the fact that we had spent four class periods(one of them consisting of a visit from Taylor Branch) discussing the civil rights movement.

"I don't know where he's getting all of this," she complained,"we never discussed any of this in high school." One might have let the matter rest here as simply an example of a high school history teacher's sins of omission being visited on the hapless old history prof. had the student not informed the TA in an indignant postcript, " I'm not a Democrat! I don't think I should have to listen to this stuff!"


Friday, May 19, 2006

Y'know, the irony of the phrase "Virginia is for lovers" only just occurred to me.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

During Day of Silence, two teachers apparently passed out the following mock questionnaire that attempts to put straight people in the shoes of gays:

And now, a comic!


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

According to Yahoo! Breaking News e-mails,

ATLANTA (AP) A Fulton County Superior Court judge has struck down Georgia's constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.

[Edit] Ah, dagnammit. It was overturned on a technicality, not because Georgia suddenly realized that gays are people too:

A judge has struck down Georgia's ban on same-sex marriages, saying a measure overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2004 violated a provision of the state Constitution that limits ballot questions to a single subject.


Russell said the state's voters must first decide whether same-sex relationships should have any legal status before they can be asked to decide if same-sex marriages should be banned.

"People who believe marriages between men and women should have a unique and privileged place in our society may also believe that same-sex relationships should have some place -- although not marriage," she wrote. "The single-subject rule protects the right of those people to hold both views and reflect both judgments by their vote."

And the governor, of course, is already saying that this is counter to the will of the people. Which may be true, but is still completely irrelevant.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Governor Ernie Fletcher, who was indicted yesterday, announced that he still plans to run for a second term:

Gov. Ernie Fletcher said he will complete his first term and seek a second one despite an indictment on misdemeanor charges that accuse him of illegally rewarding political supporters with state jobs.

The embattled GOP governor was charged Thursday with conspiracy, official misconduct and violating a prohibition against political discrimination. A conviction could lead to jail time and his removal from office, according to the attorney general's office.

And we see what has come to be a pattern: investigations into corruption and illegal dealings are merely partisan witch hunts if they're against the GOP, while sexual affairs are big deals indeed:

"This has been a politically motivated, media-driven investigation from the start," Hall said. The administration will file a motion seeking to disqualify Stumbo and his entire staff from further participation in the patronage investigation, he said.

"The grand jury has spoken, the indictment speaks for itself and I intend to do the job the people of Kentucky elected me to do," Stumbo told reporters Thursday.

Fletcher, the first Republican elected Kentucky governor since 1967, centered his 2003 campaign around a promise to "clean up the mess in Frankfort." The previous governor, Democrat Paul Patton, had been tarnished by a highly publicized extramarital affair.


Friday, May 12, 2006

That sorta puts things in a different light:

When Chic Young started the strip, Dagwood was a rich playboy and one of Blondie's boyfriends. To make the strip more relevant to readers who were affected by the Depression, Young had Dagwood's parents disown him after he married Blondie in 1933, forcing him to get a job.


Saturday, May 6, 2006

Connect this fact with another one of very significant importance, and which fact is, that God never established marriage relations between any beings on earth except ha Adhom and Eve. That no marriage, with God's authority, can ever take place, except between a male ha Adhom and a female ha Adhom.


Friday, May 5, 2006

Hyperbole reaches a new high (or is it low?):

Elected last month, Vladimir Luxuria said on Thursday she was opposed to toilet "apartheid" after a centre-right lawmaker suggested the creation of a special, third lavatory for all transgender politicians.


"The apartheid of urinary segregation is not an issue that moves me particularly," Luxuria said. "I don't want the privilege of having a toilet all to myself."

"Urinary apartheid".


But wait, Italian political rhetoric regarding queer issues gets better!

Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Italy's wartime fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, attacked her on state television when she was asked by Luxuria whether she wanted to lock up homosexuals.

"Better a fascist than a faggot," Mussolini snapped.


The "controversy" in a nutshell

I really meant to post about this back when it first came out, but... well, I didn't.

Back in March, the Courier-Journal published their High School Round Table, which is basically a handful of high school kids sitting around and talking about a specific issue, with a moderator asking questions. The topic for this one was Creation vs. Evolution--an interesting headline given that they discussed mostly "intelligent design" and not creationism. Almost as if there wasn't any difference between the two.

But anyways. I distinctly recall one of the children giving the most painfully honest reasons why this entire debate is raging:

Courtney: I agree, because half of my friends believe in evolution. I don't get evolution so I just believe in intelligent design because that's what I've been taught and that's what I know more about.

That's it. All the evidence for intelligent design can be summed up as "I don't understand evolution, therefore intelligent design must be true!" Sometimes there are minor variations, such as "I don't want to understand evolution, therefore intelligent design must be true!", or "I willfully don't understand evolution, therefore intelligent design must be true!"

It's nice to see someone at least admitting it.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

A Firefly music video set to Mal's Song by Michelle Dockrey of Escape Key.
So I was looking at the Veronica Mars page on IMDb, and I saw this at the bottom:

If you like this title, we also recommend...

"Survivor" (2000)

A trailer for a live-action Death Note

Only one of you might care even a little about that, and I don't think you understand Japanese. Or even read this journal anymore.

But I'm posting it anyways!

In your face, espressosnail!

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

From this comment at Ex-Gay Watch, comes this letter. It was allegedly sent by someone to Dr. Laura Schlessinger (Yeah, remember her? Me neither. Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for small favors) after she declared homosexuality a mortal sin because of Leviticus 18:22). Some versions of have it addressed to President Bush.

Dear Dr. Schlesinger,

I'm writing this letter to personally thank you for your educational work regarding the Bible and God's laws. I learnt a lot listening to your radio shows and I tried to share your precious advices with as many people as possible.

From now on when someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle I always remind him/her that in Lev. 18:22 it's clearly said that homosexuality is a mortal sin: end of the discussion. I now feel so relieved I need to ask you for some more precious advices regarding specific God's laws and how to apply them.

1) I would like to sell my daughter as a slave as it's said in Exodus 21:7. What do you think it could be a good and fair price?

2) When I give fire to a bull on a sacrificial altar, I know from the scripts that this produces a pleasant smell for God (Lev. 1:9). My problem is that my blaspheme neighbors sustain that the smell is not as pleasant for them. Should I hit them violently?

3) I know that I cannot have contacts with a woman during her periods (Lev. 15:19-24). My problem is how might I ask this specific thing to her? Many women feel insulted.

4) Lev. 25:44 says that I can have slaves, both males and females, but I have to buy them in foreign countries. A friend of mine says that you can do that with those coming from Philippines but not with the French people. Could you help me to better understand it? Why I cannot have French slaves? [In most versions "Philippines" and "French" are replaced by "Mexico" and "Canadian", respectively; it was often forwarded with the title "Why can't I own Canadians?"]

5) A friend of mine insists he wants to work on Saturday. Exodus 35:2 clearly says that he should be killed. Am I morally obliged by law to personally kill him?

6) A friend of mine thinks that eating seafood (especially lobsters) is a mortal sin (Lev. 11:10) but less mortal than being homosexual. I don't agree because I really hate lobsters. Can you guide me in this dilemma?

7) Lev 21:20 says that I cannot get close to any God's altar if I have serious problems with my sight. Do I get any benefit if I say I use glasses showing the prescription or my sight has to be perfect, period? Do you have, let's say, any "easy" solution to the problem?

8) Most of my male friends use to shave their heads including the hair next to their ears even if this is clearly forbidden (Lev. 19:27). Which is the best death sentence I could use with them?

9) Lev. 11:6-8 says that I become impure if I touch the pork's dead skin. When I play soccer, football, basketball, etc. should I wear gloves?

10) My uncle owns a farm. He is a sinner (Lev. 19:19) because there are two different kinds of vegetables in the same garden. His wife as well violated Lev. 19:19 because she wears dresses made with two different kinds of fabrics: cotton and acrylic. My uncle also says the name of God in vain so many times. I really think it's a pain in the neck try to collect all the inhabitants of my town to stone both of them as the sacred scripts say. Should I really do that? Couldn't I simply burn them when they sleep as Lev. 20:14 suggests for people sleeping with other people of the same blood?

I know you studied so deeply these topics, so I'm pretty sure you will be able to answer my very simple questions.

I use this opportunity to remind everybody that the words of God are eternal and unchangeable as you suggested so many time reading the Bible.

Sincerely yours,

Danforth says gay marriage ban silly idea:

Former Sen. John Danforth says a conservative push to ban gay marriage through a constitutional amendment is silly, calling it the latest example of how the political influence of evangelical Christians is hurting the GOP.


Referring to the marriage amendment, he added that perhaps at some point in history there was a constitutional amendment proposed that was "sillier than this one, but I don't know of one."

Well, prohibition itself was pretty damned silly. And then there were all the amendments to ban interracial marriage, polygamy, and divorce.

I don't know if any of those are "sillier", but they're sure up there.