Science


The other day I became bored (surprise) and decided to hop on Omegle. I typically find morons or people who don’t speak English very well, whether they are native speakers or not. To my surprise, there was one person who seemed engaging enough and somehow our conversation turned to “science.” It didn’t take long for him to discover, by asking, that I am an atheist just after I figured out he was a creationist based on a question posited to me about genetics.

I’m not an expert, but the sciences, both physical and biological, have been an obsession of mine since childhood. I can confidently say that I have a better working understanding of physics, biology and astronomy (maybe some chemistry) than most non-science majors. (Of course, explaining some of these issues to the guy on Omegle, or anyone else trying to understand basic scientific principles, becomes difficult when they can’t grasp the math involved.)

He asked, “Can you give a single example in which mutation has shown an increase in genetic information?” I wasn’t born yesterday, asshole. The question is flawed because it presupposes the fact that it can’t be answered. (Much like the challenge “Prove to me there is no god.”) There are also elements of the question that need to be further defined, such as the notion of an “increase in information.” Luckily, an expert has already answered this question in depth for me.

I had to end the conversation. It was just another creationist masking his intentions by appearing to make a sincere effort in discovering truths when he was alluding to the fact that a god must have been responsible for all things living (and non-living).

Then it struck me.

Through the years, while examining every single philosophical and scientific argument for or against atheism, it dawned on me that I was clinging to facts that would never be accepted by a creationist or theist. It didn’t matter how much scientific fact I presented or studied. It also doesn’t matter that some of the questioned posed defied logic (from both camps for their own purposes). A creationist or theist is never willing to concede the possibility that they might be wrong. Never.

So, here is my concession: I give you theists everything. Evolution is fake – both micro and macro. The Big Bang didn’t really happen. Things didn’t just appear from nowhere; they must have been created. Christ really did exist and he really did perform miracles. Everything I have fought tooth and nail for, it’s yours.

Now, tell me, how does that prove there is a god?

Some crazy scientist at Oxford has just uncovered some extraordinary news! It turns out that being active on Facebook, as well as other social networking sites, rewires a developing brain. Wow, that is groundbreaking. It’s not like learning how to play an instrument, listening to music, reading a story, playing sports and other activities will rewire a child’s brain. Oh wait, yes it does. Why is Miss Scientist so concerned? She feels that communicating online will eventually phase out real life conversations and dampen social skills. Someone should remind her that instant messaging has been around forever and that AOL allowed for profiles and social networking long before MySpace or Facebook ever came about.

Emily Yoffe at Slate says this scientist is concerned that “we are at risk of raising a generation of solipsists.” Are we? Or is the solipsist in all of us attracted to this medium of communication and sharing?

Someone needs to calm the alarmists down. Apparently, children’s brains are getting damaged because they aren’t engaging in activities that they have been for millennia. One would think that a child wakes up, spends all day on Facebook, and then goes to sleep and repeats the same thing everyday. Fact check: they don’t do that – adults do and it’s called work (how do you think all that daytime Facebook activity goes on?). Someone should remind these scientists that adult brains are capable of being rewired, damaged and reshaped, too.

I pose this question to those who think that Rock and Roll, TV, radio and Facebook are ruining the younger generation: Do you think there might be a certain personality type that is addicted to those activities? Is social networking ruining the brains of young children, or are young children with the disposition to abuse social networks being ruined?

Guns don’t kill people. People who want to own those guns and kill people… um, kill people.

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California is in a deep hole. There is no doubt about that. A bill in California has been introduced to legalize production, transportation and sale of the plant (notice I didn’t say drug, oh wait… dammit) in the state. We’re not going to go into a pro versus con argument on the legalization of drugs here because the argument is moot. It’s not going to be a gateway for the legalization of all drugs and not everyone will start doing it because it’s legal – although that really wouldn’t be a bad thing, would it? With taxation and turning marijuana into a legitimate business in California, it is estimated that it could generate up to $1 billion in revenue. Although I’d imagine that it’s entirely possible to get that $1 billion from Humboldt, Berkeley, the UC system and Stanford apart from the rest of the state. Come on, Arnold! Rally the troops and make this happen! Oh, and to the hardcore conservatives of California who are going to dismiss this without even a second thought (monetarily and scientifically): Fuck you!

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Access to the Internet is pretty much ubiquitous these days. You can go to any coffee shop, airport, bookstore, or school and it’s practically a guarantee that there will be WiFi there. So, my question is: Why don’t all new mobile devices have WiFi? More specifically, why don’t all new smartphones have it? Although it’s not as pervasive as network signals from mobile carriers, wireless internet access seems to available in places where the network just doesn’t suffice. The Boy Genius’ take on WiFi pretty much sums up my own thoughts on it. If you think you’re on the greatest network on earth and you don’t need WiFi, you’re pretty much a ‘tard. Why?

To start, conditions have to be optimal in order for you to get high speeds and great coverage for your device. As we all know, this happens maybe 20-30% of the time. Otherwise, coverage and speeds are usually mediocre, and sometimes worse depending on where you are. Secondly, and the reason I’m writing this particular entry, is because it typically allows you to access data while you are on a call. That’s right. I was on a conference call this morning and I attempted to access an email… fail. So, I thought I’d try the web on my phone… fail. For the record, I am using a Blackberry Bold which allows data and voice access at the same time either via the 3G network or WiFi. Why didn’t it work? I was in a woodsy area where I received only EDGE service (don’t ask why I was there and on a conference call). This made me think, “Other than this isolated case, I wouldn’t have had this problem. However, folks without 3G GSM or WiFi are pretty much fucked if they needed to access data while on a call.” Lastly, it’s rare that network data speeds will ever match WiFi speeds (there are exceptions, of course). So, say you are at a Starbucks waiting for a friend to arrive and you whip out your iPhone, Blackberry Bold, or HTC Fuze to kill time and surf the net… If your signal strength is low, very low, it may constantly switch between EDGE and 3G. Even if it isn’t switching, and you’re showing one or two bars on 3G, that is going to kill your battery! In my experience, having WiFi on will eat up less of that battery life than having a weak signal on 3G. WiFi wins.

Should you ever find yourself asking whether it’s worth it to have WiFi, um, remember what I said. Yes! It’s a deal-breaker, in my opinion. The next time you buy a smartphone, choose a WiFi-capable device. Without it, it’s really a not-so-smartphone, in my opinion.

Blackberry Storm sucks. Bye.

Check her out – totally mesmerized by some mad hypnosis skillz. For the most part, hypnosis has always been considered by skeptics like myself as a pseudo-science… well, to a degree. I’d just as soon believe there is a magical, mystical, all-knowing being watching over 6 billion people reading all their minds at once as I would believe you can make a woman quack like a duck against her better judgment. However, it seems that hypnosis (the non-radically-ridiculous kind) has its place in science and study of the mind. Whether the benefits of hypnosis are all just psychological (well, duh, they have to be) in the placebo sense, or they are actually tapping into a resourceful part of the mind, it seems that it can do more good than harm in many cases. Hit the link provided for a good read, but be warned… if you have the attention span of a 4-year-old after drinking a can of Coke, don’t bother clicking.

[Via Scientific American]

The image above clearly shows what’s going to happen next: Splat! Kerplunk! Why is it funny when people fall or trip over themselves? According to Scientific American, we all develop a sense of humor (some worse than others…) and the first requirement for the illicitation of laughter is something called a “play frame.” A real-life, non-serious event would fall into such a category as no one is actually harmed and nothing serious is destroyed. Otherwise, the reaction would be far from humor due to our ability to empathize grief and pain. So, miss-slippery-heels there can slip, flail her arms around, and fall without an injury and it would be a play frame that would likely cause a few snickers and giggles. Should she be seriously injured, however, the reaction would be quite different. Perhaps an, “Oh shit!” Maybe a call to the paramedics.

The next requirement, aside from play frames, is incongruity. In this case, incongruity is the irregular instance where the woman slips and falls. Though I’m sure it happens every day, falls are still uncommon enough (since we’re all experts at walking by the age of 3 or 4) to cause a brief and startling reaction. In conjunction with play frames, there is the beginnings of a recipe for laughter or humor.

Finally, a theory by Scientific American suggests that the idea of mirror neurons, the part of the brain which allows us to empathize and “feel” what someone else is feeling, make is a little more humorous, too. When we look at the image of the lady slipping, or perhaps see someone else stumble out in public, we can almost feel exactly what they’re going through. That, coupled with incongruity and a play frame (a surprise which yielded no injury) might cause us to laugh just a little… perhaps deep inside.

[Via SciAm.com]