Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hmmm... Hobbits again make news

Here we go again.

New species,, NOT a new species, ... wait, .. YES new species. And the beat goes on.

As I said in my last post on this ongoing controversy, we'd undoubtedly hear more.

Well, here's more.

Originally paleoanthropologist Lee Berger claimed the remains found at Flores Island were that of a new hominid species. After that, the arguments began.

The last article published in August of this year(2008) claimed Berger was too quick to publish, not examining the data. IE

"I think Berger's primary mistakes were his not understanding the variation in the skeletal population in which he was working, using fragmentary remains again in a situation where he didn't understand variation, and stepping outside his own area of expertise, which, I think all scientists try not to do but sometimes we do," Nelson said.


"One of his biggest mistakes was rushing to publish," Nelson said of Berger. "He did not take the time to understand the area in which he was working -- its entire history, not just the skeletal stuff," he said. "Any time you work anywhere, you have to understand this history. You just can't walk in and cowboy it, pull some stuff out and draw conclusions in the absence of understanding the bigger picture."

It's like a tennis match.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Big Bounce, ie: Quantum Loop

Students have been taught various things about the evolution of our cosmos through the decades. The most recent "beginning" of our universe involves the Big Bang. And this theory has been embraced by education as it is taught throughout the country. But the Big Bang has it's problems. Certainly we will never know everything (unless we actually DO come up with the "theory of everything"). And while scientists continue to come up with such grand unified theories we will undoubtedly have to live with certain gaps in our understanding. But back to the Big Bang.

It seems that scientists have to conjure scenarios to make the Big Bang fit. Right now it is inflationary theory. And scientists have come up with a particle called an "inflaton" that was an apparently crucial part of the rapid expansion of time and space. Otherwise, without inflation, we cannot piece together any reasonable theory of how the universe got to be the way it is. So when scientists try to model the Big Bang, they need to add such items as inflatons. But, alas, one crucial aspect to science in general is that theories are provisional. That means that when better theories and better explantions come along, science is apt to change. And perhaps that is what is happening with the Big Bang.

Another problem with the Big Bang is that when we work backwards to the moment of "creation" we find that the math runs into infinities. And this is always problematic for physicists. Infinities cannot tell us much. But the classic model for the Big Bang does just that, worked matter and energy and space and time into such a small point (the singularity) that it is infinitely dense. At the point of the singularity it gets really messy, but up until this point in time we haven't come up with anything much better. But now, perhaps we have.

While still in it's youth, the Big Bounce, or Loop Quantum Cosmology, this theory is gaining more attention. This is due to a number of reasons, but one of them is that it doesn't require the messy singularity that the Big Bang does. Instead of a universe that spews from absolutely nothing, the LQC posits that our universe came from a previous one. And while that previous universe came hurtling back into itself in a giant universal crunch, our universe exploded from it before it would hit the mysterious and theoretically cumbersome singularity. You can see why we would call this the Big Bounce. It's a lot prettier than the previous theory and solves some of the conundrums of Big Bang.

Like I said, science is provisional. And this theory may have it's problems as well. But the physicists are back at the drawing board trying to devise ways to empirically test the theory. I can't say that, and I won't pretend to understand the details of this theory, but it is an interesting theory that may shed more light on how our universe was formed. And for some strange and illogical reason I find it interesting. Anyway, take a look below.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Book Review: Case for a Creator

I have just finished reading Lee Strobel's book Case for a Creator. I don't know if this post actually belongs among the science related material among this site, but it ism in fact, MY site so what the heck. And so far as I can tell, no one has visited or read any of the material anyway. It is a place for me to explore, write, and document things I find interesting. I guess I don't mind saying that I've always thought the idea of a God was interesting although much of the religious propaganda today is just that: propaganda. Junk to control you and tell you what to believe. Anyway, moving on to the review.

This book will certainly appeal to the religious, particularly Christians. It attempts to explore scientific evidence in relation to the existence of a Creator. But it falls short on several levels. It would seem that the story would give an impartial view of the evidence for creation, but it does not. It is obviously biased and doesn't give equal opportunity to the opposing viewpoints and opposing scientific evidence. I do find some of the book quite interesting, particularly the astronomical views. This is a good area of the book for retrospection of what it may mean that we, as humans, are actually here, living among the cosmos with all of the odds seemingly against us and life altogether throughout the vastness of the universe.

But allow me to note some of the problems I noticed in the book.

1. Nearly everyone interviewed in the book was from the noted Discovery Institute. This is creationist group that is somewhat disguised as a scientific group. While maintaining scientists among their group, their vision and allegience is towards an adamant view that a creator exists. And further more that creator is the god of the Christian faith. Don't get me wrong, there are many intelligent people among this group, but it is never noted by Strobel that the deal behind these interviews is that they are all creationists. The Discovery Institute is never explained by Strobel, only mentioned as a hopeful strengthening rung to the ladder of his "case".

2. Strobel seems to want to use science as the tool for convincing the reader that a creator exists. But several of the interviews resulted in a proclamation that science must be changed to include apparently things like philosophy. The insistence on bringing non-science to science makes me wonder if these people know anything about what science is set up to do in the first place : empirically explore the natural world. Science doesn't make any assumptions about what is outside of the natural world if anything. It is designed to study how nature works, ie naturalism. Certainly items outside of nature may exist, but they cannot be reasonably explored unless they enter the realm of nature. So while Strobel tries to appeal to the scientifically interestd parties, it falls flat when a call for science to change is made.

3. Unbalanced. While noted evolutionary biologist AND fellow creationist believer Ken Miller is quoted throughout the book as an ardent Darwinist, it is never revealed that he is also a Christian. His religiosity is excluded and is downplayed as a Darwinist dreamer. I think that perhaps the fact that he is a Christian would undermine the polarized view that if one is a Darwinist that one cannot believe in God. This is typical among creationist propaganda citing that evolution and creationism cannot be held togther with any rational harmony. But this is not the case. In addition to Miller there are many theists that wholeheartedly accept evolution and creationism hand in hand. Try Francis Collins for example, the leader of the Human Genome Project and a devout Christian. Or many of the hundreds of millions of Catholics. Strobel tries to wedge evolution and creationism saying he is not willing to gamble that such a wishful theory (evolution) is true. On the other hand he does seemingly blindly jump on the creationist bandwagon, which is equally or even more troubling and illogical. I suppose somehow the belief in God is not such a gamble for whatever reason.

4. God of the gaps arguments throughout. While I will agree that the overwhelming complexity of the universe, the planet, life, etc is exceedingly mindboggling, it doesn't suffice to say that this is due to a creator. Perhaps it is. Ancient humans often, if not always, attrbuted mysteries to gods. If we could not find a viable natural reason for something then it must be due to mystical or magical forces. This is a historical fact crossing numerous cultural boundaries. It is still present among us now. I can't say for certain that we are NOT created, and in fact I do believe in something beyond ourselves, but I also cannot honestly say that this rise of complexity is neccessarily due to god. Strobel does and so does the many creationists interviewed.

I would have loved to see more equality presented among the interviews. How about some retort to Behe's arguments?? How about some non-creationist interviews?? How about one?? The reason being is that it would not uphold Strobels "impartial" view. I seriously question how ardent of an atheist he was. Why is it that evolution should undermine spirituality and the potentiality of a creator. In the first chapters of the book he talks about his atheism. Then he visits one Discovery Institute and is miraculously converted to a believer?? There is some disconnect for me here into what he may have been thinking or that he was not being entirely honest about his adamant atheistic views.

As the book winds down we find more and more references to the Bible and Christianity. And as the book winds down I see more plainly that this book is an unbalanced written summary of Lee Strobels belief system and how he got there. It is not really any kind of "case" for a creator. If that were the fact we would see more interviews with more science on why there is not a creator. We would see a more impartial and complete view of the actual case. I did, for the most part enjoy the book, but was screaming out loud (in my head) at points along the way. Certainly it is up to the individual to decide whther to jump into a faith based scenario. And it is more appealing to believe that we will continue on somehow in another realm. It's hard for people to read the stuff that says, well, ... no there is no creator, sorry. But if we don't keep that in consideration then we are not thinking wholly realistically. While I do maintain a belief (based on the unknown) that the universes glory and mystery may be indicative and earmarked by intelligence, I can't reject material that says otherwise. This book doesn't present adequate opposition to the warm and cozy creation views.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Humans on the Move

Although I've linked to National Geographic on the sidebar, I think it is worth noting a feature of their site. This interactive feature, here, takes one on an exploration from the dawn of man in Africa to the distribution of humanity throughout the planet. Certainly there are more mysteries to be solved as more evidence presents itself (if and when it does). But with the help of genetic data, as well as a combination of climatology, geology, archeology, and more, this page highlights the generally accepted model of human migration.

My recent trip to Chichen Itza has prompted me to explore more ancient civilizations and how they had come to be. While the Maya date back nearly 4,000 years, undoubtedly there were modern humans before them. To what time span is unclear, but the vastness of distance and time is quite a revelation when considering the dangers, uncertainty, and logistics to populate the continental world.

I am dumbfounded at the incredible plight of ancient humans. While today we are accustomed to driving our climate controlled SUV to work, stopping at a Burger King for lunch, and awaiting our favorite programs digitally recorded on our HD TV's at home it is a wonder, literally a stupifying wonder, to humbly grasp the daily peril that faced our ancestors in getting here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving at Chichen Itza

It's definitely a place I'd go back to. There is much more to see even though no one is allowed to enter the structures anymore. This is of course due to disrespectful morons that decided to grafitti parts of the ruins. And for another that broke down a relief inside the pyramid. I'll try and search for some decent links to Mayan history, archeology, and culture as soon as I have time to search for them. I'd like to read up some more on these ancient people of Mexico before the return of Kulkucan. The site was spectacular.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Wooly : Close to Ressurection??

-- Their groundbreaking achievement has them contemplating a once unimaginable future when certain prehistoric species might one day be resurrected.

"It could be done. The question is, just because we might be able to do it one day, should we do it?" asked Stephan Schuster, the Penn State University biochemistry professor and co-author of the new research. "I would be surprised to see if it would take more than 10 or 20 years to do it." --

The philosophical and ethical questions will certainly arise in the near future to address the implications and potential cultural and social reaction to reconstructing this massive ancient animal. But, more often than not, if we CAN do it, we become more likely to do just that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fossil Fuels were Good??

We didn't hear much about climate or global warming during the recent political campaigns. And understanding the truth about the nature and cause of global warming is as puzzling as politics itself. In fact, the political advocates often spin the story to reflect their own personal or partisan ideologies. Imagine that.

I think that the truth is that global warming, it's ramifications and causes, are complex. Too complex. If someone tells you that man has caused this or that man did not cause this really has a bias. Scientists differ on this matter of climate change. And it is no wonder. The climate has so many complexities that we are simply not able to accurately define the conditions and causes for such a great problem. There is much more work to be done. Until then, I would lean to being conservative. Develop alternative energies. Conserve and minimize carbon emmissions. And so on.

But I haven't even got to the point of this post yet. And that is an interesting idea. This article posits the idea that perhaps we were heading for another great plunge into ice-age conditions and we inadvertently side-stepped it with the mass consumption and burning of fossil fuels. This dumped huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere heating the planet. And rescuing us from another ice world and perhaps from extinction.

Just when you think you are starting to understand something. Thats what you get for thinking I guess.

Quest for the Blue Dot

News Flash:

Although controversial still at this point (as science always tends to be), it appears that we have actually taken a picture of an exoplanet circling a star. This also celebrates the last mission of the Hubble Telescope as accomplished.

It is quite a revelation being able to see further and more clearly into the universe. It will still take some time to be able to detect something as small as an Earth, but we appear to be on the right track. Right now these planets are large in magnitude and in luminosity. Appearing several times larger than Jupiter. But you can sense the excitement and potential of more. When and if we do discover the "pale blue dot, what next??

BTW, what a beautiful image. These eye-like images, as well as many others, of areas around our universe are simply stunning.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thanks Phoenix

So it didn't catch a jackrabbit sprinting across the Martian plains. But it collected a lot of important data about the red planet. The mission was slated for 3 months and lasted 5. The Phoenix lander has stopped communicating with the scientists at NASA. How rude. Maybe its just telling NASA to "talk to the hand". The robotic hand. Wait, I mean the scooper/scratcher/scraper extendomatic oven placement modular shovel. It's a long shot, but maybe that bucket of bolts has developed an attitude.

So it's been a long day. Catch up with the news about this here.

And here is how it got to Mars in the first place.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

CNN Hologram fizzle

Yes, apparently my excitement was a bit premature. Turns out there really was no hologram. When Blitz and Anderson were looking at, and commenting about, the holograms apparently in front of them they were actually looking at nothing. There was no hologram in front of them. There was a blank space. This is a bit of a let down I might say.

Blitz says, "You're a terrific hologram". Anderson desribes what he is apparently witnessing in front of him. In either case, both broadcasters are lying or, at best, having fun fooling the viewing audience. Ignorance is bliss. I wondered, as I watched the interview, why neither of them walked up to the hologram to look at it. I would think this might be the first thing someone would do when witnessing a real hologram.

Oh well. It's not as if holograms don't exist. They just require a lot more money. Someday we'll see the real deal. I'll give it a decade. Maybe two.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

CNN Hologram

The hologram on CNN lately has featured a number of different people.

I just have to say, this is the coolest thing. I wonder what it really looks like in person. And, of course, I wonder how long it will be before we are watching our family members and friends in hologram form. How long before TV, movies, radio personalities, etc come along as well. I'm guessing it can't be that far off.

Ever since Star Wars, I've wondered if we'd have anything similar someday. Well, someday has passed us by. Probably because the holgram isn't getting stuck in some kind of loop. At least for Princess Leia, ... "Obi-won, you're my only hope"

Now, in retrospect, I don't really know how all this stuff works. And I've recently seen some articles by people bashing this effect. There will always be these kinds of people that bash any type of new gizmo or technology. But to understand some more about the technology itself, I'll do a little searching and reading to understand it more. But if you let your imagination wonder a bit, it isn't too hard to see the important and perhaps revolutionary ways of using it. Think education. Or entertainment. Whichever you think is more revolutionary.
Anyway, here is the CNN Hologram technology. See what you think.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Spirit Landing on Mars

I am still amazed at what we can do. Here, if you haven't seen it before, is how you send a rover to Mars. And here might be the first planet in our solar system that we step foot on. Just wait.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Deep Sea Fish

Deepest-living Fishes Caught On Camera For First Time

ScienceDaily (2008-10-08) -- Scientists filming in one of the world's deepest ocean trenches have found groups of highly sociable snailfish swarming over their bait, nearly five miles beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. This is the first time cameras have been sent to this depth. ... > read full article

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Walk in the Woods

A walk in the woods. What's the point??

It's difficult to convey the moments of experience. We have cameras and words to help describe our experiences. A simple walk in the woods can reflect so much, but the ability to express and capture these moments doesn't even begin to rival the time itself . And it is unfortunate that more of us can't feel and enjoy the small slices of peace that we sometimes are presented. At least for me, a simple walk in the woods can literally do wonders..

And the surprises on a walk like that can refresh the wonder, curiosity, and bio-aesthetic appreciation that we all have. As I walked with my children, we discovered a snake skin, funky fungus, footprints, cicada shells, two deer, and a vine to swing from. Soon my children were ahead of me at a reasonable distance. Slanted pillars of sunlight plunged through to the forest floor as I manuevered around them. Insects vocalized into a comfortably numbing audio background. Glistening spider-webs appeared like hanging mirrors. Perfectly structured webs. Reflections of ancient DNA. A grand history of arachnid success discovered by mere observation.

A walk in the woods can be inspiring.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Iron Giant predecessor???

If you've seen the kids film Iron Giant you will undoubtedly remember the robot re-building itself. Possible in reality??

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bad Dream Robots

Here's some material for that next "creepy robot chasing you" dream.

You don't see too much of this type of robotics. Usually they seem more clumsy, mechanical, and still quite primitive. This one was methodical, dilligent, yet sure-footed and seemingly mammalian. Think Llama or Bighorn Sheep. It certainly conjures different images of the next robotics generation. Maybe we should be scared.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hubble finds weird new object

A new observation of a "mystery" object was seen over a period of about three months recently from the Hubble Space Telescope. Now for some strangeness....

It was found outside any known galaxy seeming to mean it was kind of in the middle of nowhere.

It was of a different spectrum than all known or recorded supernova and, in fact, the spectrum was not found in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey database.

So what this really means is that some new class of celestial phenomena has been discovered. (Barring any discrepencies or scientific error). Everything new thing we find usually puzzles us even more, but they are certainly important in revising our understanding of the universe.

I was skeptical of this story originally, because it seems to be quite an anomaly on perhaps a grand scale. It hasn't yet been reported by NASA or any Hubble source that I've yet seen, but is published here.

And the technical report is here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricane Ike from ISS

A humbling view of the massiveness of Hurricane Ike from the International Space Station. Perhaps a picture like this should have been shown to all those that stayed home.
"You can stay here if you really, really want, but know that THIS thing is coming into your neighborhood very soon". "Don't make us come back here to rescue your sorry, up on the roof of your house, butt. Just get out." Sadly many didn't heed the warning

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Search for ET ala NASA

NASA has just announced Carl Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowships in Exoplanet Exploration. This should speed up the discovery and identification of new planets throughout our galaxy. And in the spirit of Sagan, the search for extraterrestrial life will undoubtedly remain a critical driver in the development of newer and better techniques and technologies to help study our heavens.

I wonder how humanity might react as we encounter deep space signatures of something very much like Earth.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hurricane Tracker

You should check out this link if you'd like a nice visual way to track current hurricanes. I've posted the link on the right tab, but thought it worth mentioning. It has been an interesting season thus far. Lets hope for the best.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hobbits exist,.... wait,.. no they don't

Perhaps you have heard in the past year or so about the discovery of so-called hobbits at Flores Island in Indonesia. The claim was that little people had lived there up to several thousand years ago. This claim cause quite a stir in the anthropological and archeological world among other disciplines.

A new report identifies these "hobbits" as normal modern humans. I won't explain it as I wouldn't do it much justice. And I'm sure there will be some kind of rebuttal. But it is interesting and underscores interpretation problems in science. Many discoveries, like the Flores people, deserve a multi-discipline approach. It is up to the methodologies of science to get it right. Perhaps with an event like this, a rush to press is immature. It can make or nreak a scientists career. Or it can do both. I'll have to keep my eye on this story as I'm sure it isn't over yet. We've certainly seen much debate over hominid species over the decades.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Prepare for the New Physics

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."

- Albert Einstein

On September 10th the tests on the Large Hadron Collider will begin. This structure is probably one of the greatest achievements of engineering in history. That is, if it answers the deep questions it seeks to find. We'll begin to find out rather soon. With all the hoopla about mini-black holes and possible demise of our planet, I think it's time to fire this baby up.
It's amazing to think that our own curiosity about the nature of the universe is so strong that we have engineered massive instruments to aid in seeking the answers. There must be something about the human condition that begs these answers. I think it is quite an intriguing and awe-inspiring undertaking. And after many years at a standstill in physics, perhaps this will shed light on the origins of matter. Look for physics to change, perhaps drastically, in the preceding years.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bug Identified - Tobacco Hornworm

The last post contains a picture is of a Tobacco Hornworm. Funny since I'm not growing tobacco. There are actually tomato hornworms and tobacco hornworms. they look similar but the tobacco hornworm is identified by seven white stripes and a typically red "horn". The tomato hornworm looks very similar but has eight stripes and a typically black "horn". My sources say to pluck this and remove it from the garden, because it apparently feasts on my tomato plants. Oh boy.

On top of that there is likely more of them. Wonderful. And I thought it was just this harmess, wonderful, LARGE caterpillar hanging out for a photo op. The things you learn.

Here is one of my sources

By the way this is what they turn in to.

And I'm pretty sure I saw my cat wrestling with one recently.

Insect in my Garden- Huge Barbed Caterpillar

You never know what you might discover if you never go out and look at things. I've been thinking about this as I've started this blog. And what do you know, I found this little, uh, .. big critter clinging to a branch of my tomato plants. It has a barb at the top (or bottom) of its body. Not exactly sure which end is up.

Either way, it was really interesting and something I've never seen before. Anyone know what it is??? I certainly don't as of right now.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

From Chaos to slightly less chaos

I wanted to start a science blog. But I knew that I would stray from the science a bit. I also want to incorporate personal subjective experience, and we know how this begins to depart from science. Science is dedicated to understanding and improving knowledge by way of repeated observation, testing, developing hypotheses, interpresting data and so forth. You'll definitiely find a lot of science related material here, but it won't end there.

I find in our society, American society that is, we have a packaged reality. We are reminded daily of what to buy. We are told and reminded how we should look. Continuing on we are molded into perfect consumers. We are lambasted by commercialism. We understand what to wear, what to eat, what kind of car to drive, that we should go to work 5 days a week, trust our government, and what is important. Apparently what IS important is Britanny Spears, Brad and Angelina's babies, political marital infidelity, and how we can all look more attractive.

It is difficult to sum up the messages we hear everyday, but most of them display aspects of controversy and entertainment. We somehow think we are truly informed because we read the paper everyday and watch the news and surf the net. However, I find that we are not truly informed, we are closer to being programmed. It makes life somewhat simpler for many because it is easier to be told what to do and how to act than to actually make these decisions for ourselves.

So, in turn I thought I would try and make some sense out of this "storm" of societal and domestic pressures. This blog is to find the interesting things in life that we don't often hear about. In fact, honestly, it is a venue for me to follow interests of mine. Science is a large part of this. I wonder how many people understand the unbelievable things we are doing in space. And what it took to get there. And where it may lead us. On the flip side, I'd also like to write about non-science stuff as well like music, art, and experience. I'm not entirely sure where I will even venture. But it is time for me to explore my own personal sense of clarity among the chaos that is our everyday lives. No time like the present to start. I hope if you discover this blog somehow that you will enjoy what you read.