Flatulent Goats and Flowery Twats

  It’s a relatively crass name for a post and now the actual blog, so what the hell is going on?

It all started yesterday, but first we need to go back a bit. Unless you live in a cave or just  use Facebook for Candy crush and writing about how much you heart  celebrities you will  be aware of a page called “I fucking Love science.” It’s kind of a big deal with a website and  soon a TV show.

There’s a few critics of it, some (well 6,000) have complained that the many images on the  page have been used without the original owners permission. Others dislike how many people on it don’t actually “fucking love science” and just like pretty and often wrong pictures and Neil DeGrasse Tyson quotes and it’s more a pack mentality.

Either way I casually pay attention to it but really I can get the information in text form and actually understand the subject in more depth. It’s not to say I don’t like it, on the contrary. If it reaches one person and encourages them to read a bit more or even become more interested in Science so they truly fucking love it, then it’s served its purpose.

What I do prefer more is the profile of the actual creator of IFLS Elise Andrews. A woman who got the worst of the internet when those people who fucking love science only love it when it’s not been done by women. Now since I only follow it I just get the public posts. But these in itself deserve its own page. Peoples opinions online are like arseholes, everyone has one and they’re usually full of it. She must get an awful lot of abuse not just from genuine haters but also what appears to be an army of trolls. Most are the usual “God will send you to hell” but occasionally you do get a corker:
Now obviously we just mock these people, but what about the ones who are civil and not foaming? now the chances are you’re not going to change their minds. If that was the case Ken Ham would be the New Dawkins and not just a nutjob who doesn’t believe in evolution but thinks as a species we’re getting dumber, which would be a sign of evolution in itself.

I’ve been looking at creationists recently, mainly due to their vocal opposition and general butt hurt over the new ‘Cosmos’ and there was a “debate” of sorts with Professor Alice Roberts and a creationism over evolution. The poor soul must be smarting today because every argument about an intelligent designer was shot down, mainly by Professor Roberts showing elements of our physiology that was designed by an idiot, not someone intelligent. However both sides stopped and no-one has changes, Professor Roberts isn’t wearing sandals and condemning us to hell and “Christ21Cent” (Rather cheap for a messiah) isn’t in a lab coat preaching evolution.

This raises the question, what’s the point in rising to a challenge? Bill Nye and Ken Ham debated evolution and all that happened was Ham got more publicity and more donations. No-one changed their minds. This is the main problem.

If you hold a belief so strong that fact based evidence isn’t going to change your mind then you’re not going to be convinced by anyone, not even a world authority on the subject. You can try to change their mind but it will leave you exhausted and annoyed.

But in honour of these cranks, I’m pleased to reveal Blog 2.0 the awesomely named FLATULENT EXPRESSION OF TORTOISES!


Happy Mandela day (and 95th)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

Terry Deary’s Horrible Literacy

On wednesday the Guardian ran a story about author Terry Deary and his views on Libraries. In it he called them ” a Victorian idea and we are in an electronic age. They either have to change and adapt or they have to go.” Deary of course does speak some sense. Libraries can and should change, most are just places to pick up the latest best seller, a place to drop into on the way home.

What prompted Deary was the decision by Sunderland Council to make savings in the budget by closing a number of their libraries. Now Durham scaled their libraries back, reducing the opening times but maintaining somewhat decent coverage. Newcastle on the other hand has been nationally lambasted for imposing draconian cuts on Arts and leisure in what is an obvious attempt at playing politics.

Deary is right that they need to adapt, rather than just a room with a few books and a few computers, Libraries should become a focus point for the community. A place where people can meet up, read a good book and maybe even have a chat and a cuppa. Some of the smaller libraries stock mainly pulp fiction and celebrity autobiographies and that’s it.

Newcastle’s central library is a good example of what a library can be I can’t see a problem with them offering more than just a book collection service, why can’t they offer something else, maybe exhibitions? For example Chester-le-street used to have a cabinet with Roman artefacts from the fort, Sacriston has paintings by the local art club and the downstairs of Sunderland Library always has displays. How about coffee? what’s to stop a coffee shop opening inside libraries so you can read the book, over a drink? the money raised from the drinks could go back into the library system so we may finally have books that aren’t out of date?

I’m disappointed with Deary, he managed to raise valid points but coated them in self interest, complaining that he gets around £6000 a year from Libraries lending his books out some 500,000 times but 30p a book from a sale makes him sound bitter and in it for the money. Deary seems to think that users of Libraries are middle class “looters”. I’d love to know which Library he’s been to because it doesn’t sound like any I’ve been in.

A Proportional response?

A milestone was reached today and it was not a good one. Today marks the day the death toll in the latest trouble to hit Palestine reached 100. It’s no surprise the death toll is so high, Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet 1.7 million people call the desolate 25 x 6 mile strip home and Israel’s tactic of dropping high explosives in it is stupid at best, a war crime at worst.

Israel defend the civilian casualties by saying it’s Hamas’ fault for placing their installations in populated areas. Just to clarify that’s a strip of land not much bigger than Birmingham but with nearly double the population. Israel say they’re doing this in response to mounting rocket attacks into Israel. It’s worth noting that only 3 civilians in Israel have died.

Of those 100 to die over half are civilians, it appears Israel is performing keyhole surgery using an axe, of course this is the same military who in 2009 remarked that although 1000 people were Killed in Gaza 500 were militants. No civilized nation should think that Killing so many civilians to get at few militants is acceptable . It’s the same line we saw in Europe during the 1940’s although this time Israel is playing – rather ironically- the part of the Nazi’s and Warsaw 1944 is Gaza 2012. Israel has reacted with disproportional response, same as in 2009 under the misguided belief that overwhelming responses would discourage any more attempts well it’s 3 years later and we’re back to square one. Israel won’t negotiate because Hamas is a terrorist organisation backed by Iran, a country that isn’t exactly friendly.

Israel needs to accept that for now, Hamas is the ruling power in the strip, we may not like it, and we certainly shouldn’t accept it. Hamas are just another variation of other fanatical rulers we saw in Afghanistan and the more remote areas of Pakistan. They are in power because the west, and Israel let them. We tried to play Hamas and Fatah off against each other. Supplying Fatah with aid and attempting to remove Hamas. It backfired, the Palestine lands split between the Hamas Gaza and Fatah West Bank. And now because of the political chess game between Israel and the West and Iran and Hamas it’s innocent civilians who are paying the price. Israel bomb Gaza Killing civilians, for every one they Kill 2 more join Hamas. And Hamas retaliate with rockets further causing strikes by Iran and more civilian deaths and recruits.

For Israel the way to win against Hamas is simple. Stop the bombing, end the blockade. Provide aid to what is a giant refugee camp and let the young in Gaza know where that aid has come from. Gaza has a young population they are the future leaders of the land and you’ll go further by helping them and creating a positive image than you will with Killing them. The onus is also on the ordinary Israeli’s, the country is bitterly divided it is not united in the slightest. By allowing the modernists and those who don’t see the complete eradication of Palestine as the only option a voice in the government then real moves could be made. There’s an election coming up which in part explains why Israel have gone on the offensive when they do that and Israel inevitably comes under attack it strengthens the nationalists giving them a mandate to continue their abhorent strikes on Gaza.

Election 2012: A view

Last night America decided that there will be no President Romney, at least for now. After months of campaigning, millions of TV adverts and a staggering $6 billion on the election Americans have decided to leave everything as it was. Barrack Hussein Obama II will remain President for 4 more years after surpassing the 270 electoral votes required for the Presidency. He faces a Congress composed of the same faces, with a few new ones and a new Kennedy, an economic crisis that is still persisting and a debt level that still dwarves our own.

One good thing President Obama has going for him is a weakened Tea Party. Michelle Bachmann -herself a former front runner for the Republican nomination- won her election by 4207 votes quite a fall from the 38,000 she won by 2 years previously. Allen West, a man who described congressional democrats as communists and remarked that “Goebells would be proud of the Democrats” has lost his seat, no surprise that he has refused to concede. The defeat of the Tea Party serves one vital message:
No matter how much money you throw, no matter how many Judges you buy the American electorate is not for sale. The Koch Brothers pumped $270 million on anti-Obama adverts in the last few days of the election heavily targeting Ohio and Virginia. For the record Obama won those states with a difference of 100,000 votes per state.

Here’s Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell laying down the Republicans legislative agenda in 2010:

You failed.

Citizens United and the Tea Party were meant to be the stopping block for Obama’s “Islamic socialism” Instead it cost the Republicans an election that was theirs to lose, it cost them seats in the House, seats they (Republicans) needed, it cost them the Senate and it cost the Kochs millions.

So in the words of the President:

“We’re all in this together. That’s how we campaigned, and that’s who we are. Thank you.”

On the disgusting reaction to the Colorado shootings.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”Rarely has one sentence been the reason behind so many needless deaths, adding to that list 12 more killed 2 days ago, while watching a movieJames Holmes was not part of a militia, he was by all accounts a normal if not a shy guy, he held a degree with highest honors at the University of California Riverside in neuroscience and went to Colorado to study for his PhD.

More crucially Holmes had never had any run ins with the law so during the last two months when Holmes went to his local Bass Pro Shops, and Gander Mountain Guns he bought a number of weapons including a shotgun, handguns and the weapon believed to have killed most his victims, the AR15 which is a civilian version of the M16, the main assault rifle of the US military.

James Holmes’ guns were bought legally, Colorado law doesn’t require a permit to purchase a weapon, it doesn’t require anything other than the basic background check before they can own a weapon. America is used to these tragedies and the aftermath is normally the same, many will talk about the need to control the sale of weapons, some will talk about how it could have been avoided if someone else had a gun. Holmes went into the theatre wearing all over body armour, it was dark, full of people fleeing in terror and filled with smoke and tear gas to think that everyone should have guns to protect against gun violence is naive and a dangerous assumption.

To claim -like the NRA do- that searches are controls on firearms are an infringement on individual rights is an insult to those who’s right to life was cruelly took away from them.  Some have taken the rhetoric further, Congressmen Louie Gohmert said the attack was a response to the growing attack on Judeo-Christian belief and questioned why no-one in the theatre had shot back. Some went so far to blame the parents of some of the younger victims for taking their kids to see Batman at midnight.

America has a habit of talking about gun control then doing nothing about it until the next time a “normal but shy guy” shoots at more people. Gun controls stop these weapons falling into the hands of the wrong people, the last attempt which banned assault weapons was allowed to expire simply because groups like the NRA have too much influence on lawmakers as the honorable Mr Gohmert shows. However it’s time they looked into their souls and ask whether the death of Jessica Ghawi, a 24 year old sports reporter who survived a mass shooting in Canada. Alex Sullivan who was celebrating his birthday with the movie, Micayla Medek, Matt McQuinn, John Larimer and more tragically 6 year old Veronica Mose and another 6 others to cling to a 200 year old article that has no relevance in a modern society.

Telstar (Repost w/video)

Telstar was launched by NASA on July 10, 1962, from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and was the first privately sponsored space-faring mission. Two days later, it relayed the world’s first transatlantic television signal, from Andover Earth Station, Maine, to the Pleumeur-Bodou Telecom Center, Brittany, France.

Developed by Bell Telephone Laboratories for AT&T, Telstar was the world’s first active communications satellite and the world’s first commercial payload in space. It demonstrated the feasibility of transmitting information via satellite, gained experience in satellite tracking and studied the effect of Van Allen radiation belts on satellite design. The satellite was spin-stabilized to maintain its desired orientation in space. Power to its onboard equipment was provided by a solar array, in conjunction with a battery back-up system.

Although operational for only a few months and relaying television signals of a brief duration, Telstar immediately captured the imagination of the world. The first images, those of President John F. Kennedy and of singer Yves Montand from France, along with clips of sporting events, images of the American flag waving in the breeze and a still image of Mount Rushmore, were precursors of the global communications that today are mostly taken for granted.

Telstar operated in a low-Earth orbit and was tracked by the ground stations in Maine and France. Each ground station had a large microwave antenna mounted on bearings, to permit tracking the satellite during the approximately half-hour period of each orbit when it was overhead. The signals from Telstar were received and amplified by a low-noise “maser” (Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation), the predecessor of the modern laser. After demonstrating the feasibility of the concept, subsequent communications satellites adopted a much higher orbit, at 22,300 miles above the Earth, at which the satellite’s speed matched the Earth’s rotation and thus appeared fixed in the sky. During the course of its operational lifespan, Telstar 1 facilitated over 400 telephone, telegraph, facsimile and television transmissions. It operated until November 1962, when its on-board electronics failed due to the effects of radiation.


Who speaks for Earth?

…The civilization now in jeopardy is all humanity. As the ancient myth makers knew, we are children equally of the earth and sky. In our tenure of this planet, we have accumulated dangerous, evolutionary baggage — propensities for aggression and ritual, submission to leaders, hostility to outsiders, all of which puts our survival in some doubt. We have also acquired compassion for others, love for our children, a desire to learn from history and experience, and a great, soaring passionate intelligence — the clear tools for our continued survival and prosperity.

Which aspects of our nature will prevail is uncertain, particularly when our visions and prospects are bound to one small part of the small planet earth. But, up and in the cosmos an inescapable perspective awaits. National boundaries are not evidenced when we view the earth from space. Fanatic ethnic or religious or national identifications are a little difficult to support when we see our planet as a fragile, blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars.

There are not yet obvious signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, and this makes us wonder whether civilizations like ours rush inevitably into self-destruction. I dream about it . . . and sometimes they are bad dreams.

In the vision of the dream I once imagined myself searching for other civilizations in the cosmos. Among a hundred billion galaxies and a billion trillion stars, life and intelligence should have arisen in many worlds; some worlds are barren and desolate. On them life never began or may have been extinguished in some cosmic catastrophe. There may be worlds rich in life not yet evolved to intelligence and high technology; there may be civilizations that achieved technology and then promptly used it to destroy themselves; and, perhaps, there are also beings who learn to live with their technology and themselves, beings who endure and become citizens of the cosmos.

Immersed in these thoughts, I found myself approaching a world that was clearly inhabited, a world I had visited before. I saw a planet encompassed by light and recognized the signature of intelligence. But, suddenly, darkness — total and absolute.

In my dream, I could read the “Book of Worlds”, a vast encyclopedia of a billion planets within the Milky Way. What could the galactic computer tell me about this now darkened world? They must have survived some earlier catastrophe. Their biology was different from ours. High technology. I wondered what those lights had been for; there must have been signs they were in trouble. The possibility of survival in a century — less than one percent, not very good odds. Communications interrupted. Their world society had failed; they had made the ultimate mistake. I felt a longing to return to earth.

The television transmissions from earth rushed past me, expanding away from our planet at the speed of light. Then suddenly — silence, total and absolute. But the dream was not yet done.

Had we destroyed our home? What had we done to the earth? There had been many ways for life to perish at our hands; we had poisoned the air and water; we had ravaged the land. Perhaps we had changed the climate. Could it have been a plague or nuclear war? I remembered the galactic computer. What would it say about the earth?

There was our region of the galaxy; there was our world. I had found the entry for earth: HUMANITY: THIRD FROM THE SUN. They had heard our television broadcasts and thought them an application for cosmic citizenship. Our technology had been growing enormously (they got that right). Two hundred nation states, about six global powers, the potential to become one planet. Probability of survival over a century — here, also, less than one percent. So, it was nuclear war, a full nuclear exchange.

There would be no more big questions, no more answers. Never again a love or a child; no descendents to remember us and be proud; no more voyages to the stars, no more songs from the earth.

I saw east Africa and thought, “a few million years ago we humans took our first steps there. Our brains grew and changed. The old parts began to be guided by the new parts, and this made us human — with compassion and foresight and reason. But, instead, we listened to that reptilian voice within us, counseling fear, territoriality and aggression. We accepted the products of science; we rejected its methods”.

Maybe the reptiles will evolve intelligence once more. Perhaps, one day, there will be civilizations again on earth. There will be life, there will be intelligence; but there will be no more humans — not here, not in a billion worlds.

Every thinking person fears nuclear war, and every technological nation plans for it. Everyone knows its madness, and every country has an excuse. There is a dreary chain of causality. The Germans were working on the bomb at the beginning of World War II, so the Americans had to make one first. If the Americans had one, the Russians had to have one. Then the British, the French, the Chinese, the Indians, the Pakistanis. Many nations now collect nuclear weapons; they are easy to make. You can steal fissionable material from nuclear reactors. Nuclear weapons have almost become a home industry.

The conventional bombs of World War II were called “blockbusters”, filled with 20 tons of TNT they could destroy a city block. All the bombs dropped on all the cities during World War II amounted to some 2 million tons of TNT — two megatons. Coventry, Rotterdam, Dresden and Tokyo — all the death that rained from the skies between 1939 and 1945 — a hundred thousand blockbusters, two megatons. Today, two megatons is the equivalent of a single thermonuclear bomb — one bomb with the destructive force of the second world war. But there are tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. The missile and bomber forces in the Soviet Union and United States have warheads aimed at over 15,000 designated targets. No place on the planet is safe.

The energy contained in these weapons — genies of death, patiently awaiting the rubbing of the lamps — totals far more than 10,000 megatons; but, with the destruction concentrated efficiently, not over six years but over a few hours. A blockbuster for every family on the planet; a World War II every second for the length of a lazy afternoon.

The bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed 70,000 people. In a full nuclear exchange, in the paroxysm of global death, the equivalent of a million Hiroshimas would be dropped all over the world. And, in such an exchange not everyone would be killed by the blast and the fire storm and the immediate radiation. There would be other agonies. The loss of loved ones; the legions of the burned and blinded and mutilated; disease; plague; long-lived radiation poisoning the soil and the water; the threat of stillbirths and malformed children; and, the hopeless sense of a civilization destroyed for nothing. The knowledge that we could have prevented it and did nothing.

The global balance of terror pioneered by the United States and the Soviet Union holds hostage all the citizens of the earth. Each side consistently probes the limits of the other’s tolerance — like the Cuban missile crisis, the testing of anti-satellite weapons, the Vietnam and Afghanistan wars. The hostile military establishments are locked in some ghastly mutual embrace, each needs the other but the balance of terror is a delicate balance with very little margin for miscalculation. And the world impoverishes itself by spending half a trillion dollars a year in preparations for war and by employing perhaps half the scientists and high technologists on the planet in military endeavors.

How would we explain all this to a dispassionate, extraterrestrial observer? What account would we give of our stewardship of the planet earth?

We have heard the rationales offered by the superpowers. We know who speaks for the nations; but who speaks for the human species? Who speaks for earth?

From an extraterrestrial perspective, our global civilization is clearly on the edge of failure and the most important task it faces is preserving the lives and well-being of its citizens and the future habitability of the planet. If we are willing to live with the growing likelihood of nuclear war, shouldn’t we also be willing to explore vigorously every possible means to prevent nuclear war? Shouldn’t we consider in every nation major changes in the traditional ways of doing things, a fundamental restructuring of economic, political, social and religious institutions? We have reached a point where there can be no more special interests or special cases. Nuclear arms threaten every person on the earth.

Fundamental changes in society are sometimes labeled impractical or contrary to human nature: as if nuclear war were practical or as if there were only one human nature. But fundamental changes can clearly be made. We are surrounded by them. In the last two centuries abject slavery, which was with us for thousands of years, has almost entirely been eliminated in a stirring world wide revolution. Women, systematically mistreated for millennia, are gradually gaining the political and economic power traditionally denied to them. And some wars of aggression have recently been stopped or curtailed because of a revulsion felt by the people in the aggressor nations. The old appeals to racial, sexual and religious chauvinism and to rabid nationalism are beginning not to work. A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed. We are one planet.

One of the great revelations of the age of space exploration is the image of the earth, finite and lonely, somehow vulnerable, bearing the entire human species through the oceans of space and time. But this is an ancient perception . . . history is full of people who, out of fear or ignorance or the lust for power, have destroyed treasures of immeasurable value which truly belong to all of us. We must not let it happen again.

We have considered the destruction of worlds and the end of civilizations, but there is another perspective by which to measure human endeavors. Let me tell you a story — about the beginning.

Some fifteen billion years ago our universe began with the mightiest explosion of all time. The universe expanded, cooled and darkened. Energy condensed into matter, mostly hydrogen atoms, and these atoms accumulated into vast clouds; rushing away from each other they would one day become the galaxies. Within these galaxies the first generation of stars was borne, kindling the energy hidden in matter, flooding the cosmos with light. Hydrogen atoms that made suns and starlight. There were in those times no planets to receive the light, no living creatures to admire the radiance of the heavens. But deep in the stellar furnaces nuclear fusion was creating the heavier atoms — carbon and oxygen, silicon and iron. These elements, the ash left by hydrogen, were the raw materials from which planets and life later arrived.

At first, the heavier elements were trapped in the hearts of the stars, but massive stars soon exhausted their fuel and in their death throes returned most of their substance back into space. Interstellar gas became enriched with heavy elements.

In the Milky Way galaxy the matter of the cosmos was recycled into new generations of stars now rich in heavy atoms, a legacy from their stellar ancestors. And in the cold of. interstellar space great turbulent clouds were gathered. by gravity and stirred by starlight. In the depths the heavy atoms condensed into grains of rocky dust and ice, complex carbon-based molecules. In accordance with the laws of physics and chemistry, hydrogen atoms had brought forth the stuff of life. In other clouds more massive aggregates of gas and dust formed later generations of stars. As new stars were formed, tiny condensations of matter accreted near them, inconspicuous moats of rock and material ice and gas that would become the planets And on these worlds, as in interstellar clouds, organic molecules formed made of atoms that had been cooked inside the stars. In the tide pools and oceans of many worlds molecules were destroyed by sunlight and assembled by chemistry. One day, in these natural experiments, a molecule arose that quite by accident was able to make crude copies of itself.

As time passed self-replication became more accurate as molecules that copied better produced more copies. Natural selection was under way. Elaborate molecular machines had evolved slowly, imperceptibly — life had begun. Collectives of organic molecules evolved into one-celled organisms. These produced multi-celled colonies. Various parts became specialized organs. Some colonies attached themselves to the sea floor; others swam freely. Eyes evolved and now the cosmos could see. Living things moved on to colonize the land. Reptiles held sway for a time and gave way to small, warm blooded creatures with bigger brains who developed dexterity and curiosity about their environment. They learned to use tools and fire and language — star stuff, the ash of stellar alchemy had emerged into consciousness.

We are a way for the cosmos to know itself. We are creatures of the cosmos and always hunger to know our origins, to understand our connection with the universe. How did everything come to be? Every culture on the planet has devised its own response to the riddle posed by the universe. Every culture celebrates the cycles of life and nature. There are many different ways of being human.

But, an extraterrestrial visitor examining the differences among human societies would find those differences trivial compared to the similarities. We are one species. We are star stuff harvesting star light. Our lives, our past and our future are tied to the sun, the moon and the stars. Our ancestors knew that their survival depended on understanding the heavens. They built observatories and computers to predict the changing of the seasons by the motions in the skies. We are all of us descended from astronomers.

The discovery that there is order in the universe, that there are laws of nature, is the foundation on which science is built on today. Our conception of the cosmos — all of modern science and technology –is traced back to questions raised by the stars. Yet, even 400 years ago we had still no idea of our place in the universe. The long journey to that understanding required both an unflinching respect for the facts and a delight in the natural world.

Johannes Kepler wrote: “We do not ask for what useful purpose the birds do sing, for song is their pleasure since they were created for singing. Similarly, we ought not to ask why the human mind troubles to fathom the secrets of the heavens. The diversity of the phenomena of nature is so great and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh enrichment.”

It is the birthright of every child to encounter the cosmos anew in every culture in every age. When this happens to us, we experience a deep sense of wonder. The most fortunate among us are guided by teachers who channel this exhilaration. We are born to delight in the world; we are taught to distinguish our preconceptions from the truth. Then, new worlds are discovered as we decipher the mysteries of the cosmos.

Science is a collective enterprise which embraces many cultures and spans the generations in every age and sometimes in the most unlikely places there are those who wish with a great deal of passion to understand the world. There is no way of knowing where the next discovery will come from. What dream of the mind’s eye will remake the world. These dreams begin as impossibilities. Once, even to see a planet through a telescope was an astonishment; but we studied these worlds, figured out how they moved in their orbits, and soon we were planning voyages of discovery beyond the earth and sending robot explorers to the planets and the stars.

We humans long to be connected with our origins so we create rituals. Science is another way to experience this longing. It also connects us with our origins, and it too has its rituals and its commandments. Its only sacred truth is that there are no sacred truths. All assumptions must be critically examined. Arguments from authority are worthless. Whatever is inconsistent with the facts — no matter how fond of it we are — must be discarded or revised. Science is not perfect. It is often misused. It is only a tool, but it is the best tool we have — self-correcting, ever changing, applicable to everything. With this tool we vanquish the impossible; with the methods of science we have begun to explore the cosmos. For the first time scientific discoveries are widely accessible. Our machines — the products of our science — are now beyond the orbit of Saturn. A preliminary spacecraft reconnaissance has been made of 20 new worlds. We have learned to value careful observation, to respect the facts even when they are disquieting, when they seem to contradict “conventional wisdom”.

WWe depend upon free inquiry and free access to knowledge. We humans have seen the atoms which constitute all of nature and the forces that sculpted this work and others. We have found that the molecules of life are easily formed under conditions throughout the cosmos. We have mapped the molecular machines of the heart of life. We have discovered a microcosm in a drop of water; we have peered into the bloodstream and down on the stormy planet to see the earth as a single organism. We have found volcanoes on other worlds and explosions on the sun, studied comets from the depths of space and traced their origins and destinies; listened to pulsars and searched for other civilizations.

We humans have set foot on another world in a place called the Sea of Tranquility, an astonishing achievement for creatures such as we, whose earliest footsteps three and one-half million years old are preserved in the volcanic ash of east Africa. We have walked far.

These are some of the things that hydrogen atoms do given fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution. It has the sound of epic myth, but it is simply a description of the evolution of the cosmos as revealed by science in our time. And we, we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos, we have begun at least to wonder about our origins — star stuff contemplating the stars, organized collections of ten billion billion billion atoms, contemplating the evolution of nature, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet earth, and perhaps throughout the cosmos.

Our loyalties are to the species and to the planet. We speak for earth. Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves but also to that cosmos ancient and vast from which we spring!

(transcript of the last Episode of Cosmos: A Personal voyage by Carl Sagan, broadcast on PBS and reproduced from http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/sagan_cosmos_who_speaks_for_earth.html)

Bargain Hunt

So now the madness of Christmas day is over we’re left with ‘la petite mort’ of Boxing day and more importantly the January Sales.

For those that are from Mars the January sales is when companies that couldn’t shift their rubbish knocks the prices down to clear it in time for Spring. Or if you are a certain electronic retailer named after an Indian dish, you hike the price up 3 days before Christmas then lower it again.

Frankly I like the sales. I can get stuff I actually wanted for Christmas at a lower price. Like a Laptop that was Half price, then full price then slightly less than half price. With the way the economy is for some companies this is the hail mary pass. Billions is expected to be spent by consumers in the next few weeks. Shopping centres are already filled to capacity and I don’t get paid till Friday.

Gadaffi and the New Libya.

Gadaffi’s death was undoubtedly a turning point in the Libyan civil war. Died with him were 4 decades of suffering, misery and oppression. There was no doubt that when he was captured hiding in a sewer drain he wouldn’t see the end of the day, no way would he survive his capture and there was little surprise when he ended up killed.

NTC claimed he had been killed in “crossfire” between his captors and loyalists. Slowly the videos and images emerged. One showing Gadaffi bloodied but very much alive, then his lifeless corpse, blood oozing from his face. Then it got more disturbing, footage of him being sodomized with a metal object, a video showing him being beaten and finally with a pistol to his head, conveniently when his body was on show the head was tilted covering the area the gun was pointed at. It turns out the manner of his death summed up his entire rule on Libya, painful and cruel.

Many will argue that Gadaffi deserved to die, however I disagree. Gadaffi should have been kept alive, placed on trial and allowed to speak. What would he have said though, it’s pretty certain that there would be ranting, but what about the meetings with Blair, Oil deals, Lockerbie and the murder of Yvonne Fletcher.

With the announcement that Libya will be run in accordance with Shariah, and the spate of murders as scores are settled, Libya is at a dangerous crossroads, Libyans fought hard for this, and it would be a crime if they were pushed one way without a say. The announcements made during the official declaration of liberation raised a few eyebrows both in the wider world and in Libya. One person on Facebook remarked that:

“First Abdul Jalil is not the one who should change or add rules, it’s not [part] of his powers. He was aperson that we agreed on for temporary period until we get a constitution that we vote on then political parties.[The]thing is islamists are pushing on him and they have been supported by qatar and got [have] power on the ground. Most people are afraid to oppose someone [who] talk about religion. I’m afraid we are not free yet from police/military dictatorship to people speaking with religion dictatorship .

I and many will go with a liberal government. and others with Islamist. It depends but I will accept the elections and what most of the ppl vote for, even if i don’t like it. If you can follow my arabic status it’s all about these since days I went out for freedom .and that means freedom for all ..including libyan jews.

The 4 wives thingy is rather silly to mention it in such a speech and most women don’t agree on it and it won’t happen in real. i think Abdul Jalil was trying to convince islamists that he will not go secularist as they keep saying. However, it can’t happen [the]thing is we DON’T HAVE ANY POLITICAL GROUND! it’s really hard there r alot of ppl trying to force their view with force ..some coprruted ppl with their money some islamists has been given money and power from qatar and wants to push themselves in. and you got large number of youths who doesn’t really know what’s politics and dont really care to learn. I’m rather pissed since we made it into tripoli because many incidents happened (jew thingy. fashion show and also sufi’s temple being destroyed) I want a democratic state which respect everyone’s views”

His declaration was carefully planned. To be seen as too secularist would mean alienating people, being too religious would alienate the western nations that helped remove Gadaffi. These are tough times for Libya, times that do not call for too much western interference, because we all know how that ends.

Libya is suffering a complete collapse of the government there is very little power amongst the politicians and in a country that is- now Gadaffi is dead- tribal there is a real risk that unchecked there is a potential for a Somalia type failed state.

Libya must choose it’s own path, however with so much at stake there are too many vested interests for this to happen. Western governments want a friendly face in charge, Saudi Arabia, Quatar and other big muslim countries will want friendly governments in charge and there is no Doubt Iran will have a hand in there somewhere.

However I believe the UK should stand back and take stock before it ends up throwing its lot in with killers and thieves. And for once, let the people decide.