Saturday, November 29, 2008

Vlogging From Bed

I've posted a bit of a ramble about alties. Here's the embedded version:

Bloggin' From Bed, Again

Woke up with my sinuses wreaking havoc on me. Sore throat and possible ear infection. I'm not terribly happy at the moment. So I'm going to fling random stuff your way.

Orac and PZ directed my attention to this excellent video on Jenny McCarthy's woo:

Had some kind of ramble I was going to go on about with conspiracy nuts of the twoofer/JFK/Moon Hoax type, but I'm not in the proper condition to remember it.

Thinking of doing some rants on my YouTube channel that are just accompanied by my image. Might also try posting some YouTubifications of earlier posts. Any recommendations?

Anyway, I've gotten the idea to make a video with some captioned pictures of altie treatments while I do a generic ramble. Figure it's an appropriate topic since I'm under the weather right now.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Worrying the Turkey

Well, I've had a mostly quiet Thanksgiving so far, aside from occasional streams of demon screams while I replay Okami. Ended up catching up on some Pharyngula posts I missed, including this one. Got angry enough I forgot the part about it being back in the 80s. Still foamy that that sort of thing happened, though. Fucking domestic terrorists.

One part that gets me is the effort on the fundies' part to label the dissenters as Communists. I'm no historian, but using government institutions to enforce beliefs on people strikes me as something Stalin would approve of. After all, he executed people for researching evolution, and some of these people butchered goats and sent death threats to people of slightly different Christian denominations for expressing some concern.

The thing that gets my goat is that if it were to happen today, the mainstream media would probably be too scared to call this sort of thing for what it is: Terrorism. If they're scared to call gassing a daycare center for what it is, I doubt they'd say it about this sort of thing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fuck This Shit!

With a title like that, you know what's coming up: Foam. It seems the UN's passed a ban on free speech about religion, and the thin-skinned Muslims who waved around signs calling for the death of some Danish cartoonists seem to have a lot to do with it.

Most of the time I hear about the UN, it's from conspiracy nuts and wingnuts who think the US should be able to do whatever the hell they want it to do. Normally, I tend to think that if they're denouncing it, it's probably something good, but I'm definitely siding against the UN in this case. Who the fuck do they think they are, restricting one of the most basic rights of civilized society, to cater to a bunch of bloodthirsty fanatics?

So, here goes my probably illegal protestation: Islam, as written, encourages violence, sexism, and barbarism. Christianity is similarly evil, trying to drag civilization back into the dark ages. Scientology is a cult designed to make money at the expense of the psychological health of its followers. The various newage (rhymes with sewage) "neopagan" beliefs like Wicca are laughable, childish efforts to be contrary, but often end up being much like the others in their efforts to avoid criticism.

Oh, and I'm declaring myself to be an Ammyite, worshiper of Okami Amaterasu. If you ridicule her awesome game, I'll sue!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Explain This, Creationists

I'm working on another video, inspired by a caller who completely owned Kent Hovind on his radio show. The subject: Nested hierarchies, the branching nature of heredity, and the distribution of similarities. So, some questions for Creationists:

Why do we not see radially symmetrical insects?

Why do we not see crocoducks?

Why do we not see so-called "higher animals" with insect-like mandibles?

Why do we not see plants with complex brains?

Why do we not see dogs with hooves?

As far as I can tell, the Creationist answer goes something like this: Their god, which randomly popped out of nowhere, and was randomly given power and intelligence from nothing, just randomly decided on a random whim to make everything fit together in this orderly, predictable pattern of heredity that tells us where to look for new matching fossils.

A theory needs to explain the data. Creationism is just throwing your hands up and saying there is no overarching order to the diverse forms life takes. It doesn't explain when and where we can expect similarities or why different organisms have different traits. So, what does Creationism explain?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Random Geek Note

I've watched a couple episodes of that new Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon. I have a hard time accepting Hoss Delgado as Batman. Probably doesn't help that Kevin Conroy is firmly entrenched as my Batman... Christian Bale's a close second, though.

The Box Grows

Reading a post at NeuroLogica that ended up reminding me of a woo straw man. I may want to figure out a short phrase for it to give it the Doggerel treatment: A lot of woos think that we dismiss the supernatural a priori because we're naturalists, materialists, etcetera, and it's supernatural or non-material or whatever.

There are two general, very different reasons we dismiss the supernatural. The first is short and sweet: Anything that has an effect on the world is natural. By definition. That leaves the supernatural with only stuff that doesn't affect anything, which isn't much different from nothing at all.

The second is still open to debate in the way that gravity's still open to debate: It's all about the evidence, and new evidence could overturn what we know. There's no a priori dismissal there, just extraordinary demands for extraordinary claims. And the woos generally don't live up to fairly ordinary scientific demands. Alties try to say their treatments aren't subject to double-blind control studies, psychics try to say their powers become unreliable when tested, and perpetual motion advocates have convenient malfunctions when showtime comes around.

We'll believe it when we see the good evidence. As for what that'll do for our philosophy: Not much. Discovering psychic powers for will fall into the same category as the verification of dark matter... only maybe a bit cooler because a lot of us are comic book geeks and we'd like the chance to put on an outlandish costume for something other than a convention. The "supernatural" is a category that shrinks as we understand more. Naturalism expands with every new discovery because it's inherently expansive in its definition.

What Should I Ask Dr. Christmas For For Decemberween?

I'm thinking about expanding my skeptical literature by another book or two. Already got God Delusion, Breaking the Spell, and, from my JREF donation a few years back, The Mask of Nostradamus. Probably a few more I can't think of right now, including a fair variety of stuff from Carl Sagan... I should reread his bashing of that Velikovsky guy sometime.

Any suggestions? Oh, and if you feel like donating, send me an email, and I'll send you my address.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

100th Skeptics' Circle

Well, Orac himself hosts the 100th Skeptics' Circle. It's been a fun run getting to the big round number.

Open thread as usual, but suggestions that we switch to base six are FORBIDDEN! Because I want to be the one who takes the credit for suggesting it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Link Love for Doubt

Akusai's got a good post up on doubt. Throwing some link love his way.

Subvert That Trope!

I've been neglecting my gaming blog, lately. Think I could use some inspiration. I've got two game concepts I've got some substance on: One's a platformer RPG and the other's a customizable shmup.

So, got any videogame tropes you'd like to see subverted/averted/lampshaded/justified, etcetera? For the platformer RPG, coming up with justifications for various metroidvania skills has been fun and occasionally inspiring in worldbuilding terms.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pointless Question #39

Why is it that every once in a while someone on your teen superhero team starts acting out of character, gets addicted to something, and recovers by the end of the latest themed crime spree?

Under the Microscope: What the Bleep? Part 2

Was going to back up my review of What the Bleep?. Read some comments and rated them accordingly, including someone who commented on the pineal gland. Those unfamiliar with my UtM series should know this is generally done in a stream of consciousness manner. One thing that's handy about how I'm watching it is that I can embed videos thanks to the perfectly naturalistic magic of YouTube.

So, part 4 of 10:

...Unfortunately (or fortunately) skipped for now. At the time of writing, this part was unavailable.

Onto part 5 of 10, then:

Going on about the different levels from QM up to macroscopic. The math's different between levels because difference forces dominate at different levels. Gravity's so weak it's beaten out by all the other forces on the small scale. At larger scales, those other forces often cancel out each other with different charges and such. Gravity only attracts, and with the large masses, that weak force adds up to the things we can see.

Guy waxes poetic about everything being one, which I just see as saying the laws of physics are the same everywhere, and everything affects everything else. There's no magical separation. Which I think would cause some problems for dualists.

Guy talking about "creating his day": Mentions all the little things that are "unexplainable" so he KNOWS (apparently through absolute hubris) that they're caused by his day-creating efforts. How can you know if it's unexplainable? He says it happens more often. More likely, I think he's just getting better at spotting the little positive things and better at ignoring their causes.

Woman now going on about sex fantasies causing men to get hard-ons. What does this have anything to do with this? Our imaginations and memories are just built on the same framework as our present perceptions. Evolution found that easier to do than invent a whole 'nother lump of specialized gray matter.

Back onto the main story with the woman who's going to end up dumping her anxiety medication in favor of this crap: She's complaining about getting a photo job involving a wedding, apparently because she goes emo about anything that reminds her of bad times, "living in the past." Boss tries to convince her it's a good job if you look at it the right way. I don't think a person can simply choose to look at something positively. She has to cope with whatever bad things happened in her past, not rely on magic. Either that, or get some better medication so that she can deal with it with a clearer head. Not my field, so I won't say which is the better option.

Next interviewee is apparently a theologist, saying he had lots of ideas about god when he was a kid, before he realized he wasn't "conscious enough" to understand. Uh, god is a concept that's pretty much designed not to be understood because the gaps in our knowledge weren't understood. If you genuinely don't understand a lot of things, you can't reasonably slap a label on them or relate those unknown things. Another guy going on about the creator no one's found any evidence for. Talks about the failing of religion being separating gods from everything else. I'd agree, but in what's probably a very different way: Don't separate things into "supernatural." Everything can be investigated by the scientific method. He goes on to say that the judging god isn't what god is. I wonder how he knows that. I doubt science was involved.

Another guy goes on a laundry list of bad things organized religion has done. Probably one of those "spiritual, not religious" people.

Woman who went on about sex brings up Jesus's mustard seed faith thing and tries to link that to quantum mechanics. No dice. Faith doesn't change wave function collapse. She goes on about technology including an "anti-gravity" magnet, which isn't anti-gravity: It's just a repulsive force counter to gravity, much like the valence electrons in my chair repel me against gravity and keeping me from falling through it and my floor, down into the center of the Earth. Of course, we have all that technology because of skepticism and the scientific method. The superstitions that persist despite technology are because of the rejection of science in favor of epistemological hedonism.

More people rambling on about god and how big of a Marty Stu he is, despite there being no evidence of his existence, and thus nothing a person could use to make the assertions they are.

Onto Part 6 of 10:

Did they really have to spend the time getting into describing the storm of neurological activity in sinister-sounding terms? Of course, it kind of contradicts the earlier point trying to contrast mostly-empty atoms to something as "solid" as a thought, which is made of giant collections of atoms and electron currents described here. I guess they're hoping everyone gets distracted by the Code Geass eye candy.

The woman (the one who did all the sex talk, and I think is JZ Knight, that woman who "channels" that Atlantean warrior Ramtha) talks about how we can't catch specific thoughts just yet, which is probably just a matter of resolution (and hopefully we'll one day be able raise our accuracy without going too far into nasty ethical issues). She seem fond of saying "holographic". I don't see how that word fits. Thankfully, they move to a more reasonable sounding guy talking about the common ground between memory and current perception. He also talks about the associative nature of memory and thought which is just fine.

Another guy mentioning how we refine our "narrative" about how the world works as new data comes in, but our perceptions are often filtered through that narrative. Biases like that are why we have the scientific method.

Next guy talks about repetition reinforcing certain habits and associations. Daily stress accumulates, so yeah, people can get in vicious cycles. Somewhere he gets into connections breaking and people getting into knee-jerk responses rather than conscious processing. Nasty when that happens.

That woman comes up with another bit o' gibberish: "All emotion is is holographically imprinted chemicals." I'll essentially agree with the chemicals part, but I'm not seeing the holographic part.

Long, legitimate-sounding bit on the chemicals the hypothalamus makes, essentially labeling them as the essence of emotion. Don't see any reason to contest that bit... until they get to talking about the chemicals moving outside the brain and though the bloodstream. Sounds like they're talking about different chemicals than the actual emotional ones, just the ones that follow through with physiological responses. Sounds like they're trying to detach the brain from the process of generating emotions, to make it into some dualist conception of being a passive receiver of emotion from the soul or whatever. It ends with a cell jumping up and declaring it's party time.

Some psychobabble about detached people living as if the present were the past. Again, outside my field. I only do psychobabble as a guilty pleasure when I see woos projecting and such.

Moves onto showing cells reacting to the chemicals as another woman talks about it causing changes in the nucleus. I'm skeptical. Quick flip to the story where the photographer lady ends up talking to a little girl with photographic aspirations. This woman in the colorful shirt continues on to say that cells are all alive (true), and that each has a consciousness (false). Well, I've heard about some philosophy of the mind that posits single cells might have some very, very simple sort of mind. Functionalism? Anyway, I doubt even that would support what they're saying. She goes onto talking about cells being observers, continuing the confusion about how the term is used.

CGI cells bounce around as she says they're the smallest unit of consciousness (How do you measure consciousness? I thought it was an emergent property, not a discrete entity) and apparently some hungry cells get a fat guy to start raiding the wedding's buffet table.

Ends with a bit on addiction. See you next week or so. Maybe. If I'm in the mood.

Speedy Q&A #1

Q: Why do so many alternative cancer treatments have so many positive testimonials?

A: Dead men tell no tales.

Random Recall #5

Once, when I was a kid, my brother and I saw a Punisher action figure that was smiling. We got some laughs.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Doggerel #170: "Woo Makes Me Feel Better!"

Welcome to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.
"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one." -George Bernard Shaw

As Shaw points out in that nice snippet, happiness isn't terribly reliable. There's no reason to believe the universe is geared towards our emotional well being.

In the more literal sense, one of the dangerous aspects of this woo is when it refers to physically feeling better: Quackery. Many alties talk about how they feel better after using some alleged treatment for a condition. This is one thing I find to be anti-holistic about "alternative medicine": All the various ways we can feel bad can be considered symptoms of the problem. Quacks rely on the placebo effect so that their victims can rationalize ways to think less of their symptoms and pain: During natural variation in the symptoms, they can rationalize high points as the quackery of the time being working, and bad periods as flare-ups, perturbations from the treatment, or other such things. It's focus on the symptoms, not the causes.

In fundie circles, "knowing" that they'll get a pleasant afterlife gives comfort, but it usually comes with something nasty for non-believers, regardless of how moral they are. Fairly selfish in my opinion. Also quite nasty is that these preparations for the afterlife can come in the way of enjoying life or doing the right thing. Don't pick a religion because it makes you feel better. Pick one because it's got evidence for it. If something is wrong with the cosmos, knowing the truth about it is the first step to solving it.

For more generic woo, it often gives people a false feeling of being special, like being psychic, indigo, or whatever's hot this month. I'm usually worried these people will underachieve, feeling entitled in their ivory tower, rather than seeking out their real talents or learning something worthwhile.

You don't need nonsense to be a good person or feel better about yourself. You just need to find what you're good at.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pointless Question #38

If viruses aren't technically alive, but they reproduce by munching on your cells, does that mean they're undead?

I'm on Cracked

Don't know much about their website, but I've read a reasonable share of their various lists. Here's one I find interesting. Not as cool as reverse bladed swords that manage to never bludgeon anyone to death, but they have their charm.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pointless Question #37

So, you've got a character who's a character who started life as a clone of a human, got infected with an alien virus that made him a half-human, half-reptile hybrid, then he got into some mad scientist's growth serum that boosted him up to kaiju size. After a nasty battle, he came back as a zombie, shortly before the Big Bad outfitted him with cybernetics. He doesn't have many lines, wears a mask, and doesn't enjoy a high rank.

Is anyone going to mourn him when he dies (again), or is he just too awesome to die?

Well Said, Keith

I don't watch his show, but I've seen some damn fine clips on YouTube, like this one on Prop 8:

Good night and good luck.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Double Up the Doggerel

I feel like sharing some more link love with the Doggerel series: If you've got a blog post of your own that covers the same points as a Doggerel entry, drop a comment. I'll put a "recommended reading" section at the end of appropriate entries.

Doggerel #169: "Square"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

I haven't seen woos use this word or any modern slang updates, but many of them love to portray skeptics, scientists, and other logically-inclined people as unimaginative, stiff vulcans who don't understand emotion, art, or anything that doesn't involve explicit math at some point.

Of course, it probably involves a lot of unintentionally biased sampling. Woos generally don't hang around skeptics when we're talking about our favorite TV shows, what makes us feel warm and fuzzy, or what genre of music we like to listen to. We have lives outside our blogs, but we can be quite passionate when we post or comment about science and how people apply it.

Things probably aren't helped by Hollywood and other sources of popular media that don't understand how science works. Horror movies need someone to doubt the monster and display that something out of the ordinary is going on. The occultists who figure out the monster's weakness have easy access to exactly the right ancient, cryptic writing and know to apply the superstitions while the "skeptic" flatly dismisses the ideas contained, regardless of any merit they might show. Or that's how the story goes. Contrary to how Hollywood likes to depict things, science is an inherently adaptive, self-correcting process, rather than a collection of beliefs, like many forms of woo are. Science is hardly an inflexible dogma.

We're people just like anyone else. We go through everyday life. If you just showed up to talk about ordinary topics, you likely wouldn't spot much difference between us and the average person. We just happen to be particularly passionate about certain scientific and political topics.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Name Game

Just thought I'd post a very short quasi-meme: This post is all about your pseudonyms and blog names: Why do you call your place what it is, and why pick your pseudonym?

For me: "Bronze Dog" is a gradual evolution from some names I decided to make up for generic Internet purposes. Going around by my fantasy characters names didn't exactly fit on an Armored Core forum, so I made the decision to go generic. I started with "Blue Chu": I was just getting into anime at the time, and hearing 'chu' a lot in relation to mice and rats made me think it was the translation, but a visit to a Japanese/English dictionary dispelled that notion. Eventually, I found out it was the Japanese onomatopoeia for squeaking. Next generation was "Blue Inu (Dog)", but since it didn't have the two rhyming syllable thing I was going for, I just dumped that for Blue Dog. First entered it into R-Type Final as a pilot name, and did for a couple games of Armored Core. Since there were no shortage of Blue Dogs on the internet, I tried some variations, at one point leaning towards "The Tiny Blue Dog" as one less likely to show up. Anyway, that tended to get long, so thought I'd get something back down to two syllables. I did a little Adobe Creative Suite, drawing up website buttons at one point, settling on some metallic hexagons. Didn't go for cliche gold or silver, so I went for bronze, also thinking about one favorite bit in Earthbound: The 5 mole brothers that all claimed to be the third strongest of their family.

I'm guessing you weren't expecting that much history. The blog's altered name is much simpler: Blog rhymes with dog.

Comment or make a post about your names. No tag rules. This is strictly voluntary.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Brace Yourself, Mormons

Well, I got irritated from Prop 8 passing in California, and it seems funding from Mormons played a part in that. Since my cynical side agrees the IRS won't likely revoke the fundraisers' tax exempt status, I'm going with PZ's suggestion to crank up the criticism of Mormonism.

The first place I learned about the origin story of their church was South Park. They're well-known spoofers who put humor above strict accuracy, but I haven't seen anything contest the gist of the story, yet. I think I'll be focusing on the golden plates in this post. Before I begin, I'll say a few things, including one annoyance about the South Park episode: Yes, Mormons are perfectly capable of being nice people, even if they're silly. My complaint is that despite what the Mormon kid said at the end of the episode, I don't think Mormonism had anything to do with his family being nice. Many of us atheists manage to be good, decent people without supernatural beliefs. Religion just likes to take social values and claim they're supernatural.

So, onto the golden plates. According to the story, they were buried and protected by an angel named Moroni when John Smith found them. One thing I tend to find in several "mysterious" artifact tales are people who claim to have found them while out on their own. Granted, if you wanted to hide some magical artifact for someone destined to find it, putting it in the middle of nowhere would make sense. Unfortunately, we don't live in a world that operates on fantasy tropes. The fact that we don't have these plates to examine doesn't help, either.

Next point of suspicion is the fact that John Smith didn't let anyone look at the plates. I'd think any normal person would wonder about that. Then again, I guess fantasy tropes dominate some people's thinking, along the lines of 'too sacred to look at', maybe expecting head melting or something, like Indiana Jones. One point that gets ridiculous for me to imagine is the translation in the hat with the 'seer stones'. It's just funny to imagine.

Since I'm currently distracted, I'll go ahead and post. There's apparently a bit more to the story than I know, given the length of the Wikipedia entry on them. Food for comment.

Doggerel #168: "Theology"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

You've probably watched some fanboys or not-far-off parodies of them get into a violent argument about whether Picard or Kirk is the better captain (hint: it's Picard) or whether Superman could beat Dragon Ball Z's Son Gokuu in a fight. To us atheists, that's what theology looks like, and it's prone to starting more than just a slap fight.

Whenever fans of a fictional series argue, they can refer to the material the authors put out, and convention goers often get the opportunity to ask questions directly. Theologists have a canon they can refer to, and many people claim to get answers when they pray, but there's a lot of contradiction when different people ask.

Fiction and theology often end up looking much the same when you try to apply their principles to the real world. No, a katana can't cut through a machinegun under normal conditions, no matter how many times your favorite anime ninja did it in the show. The mythbusters tried it. Within that anime, you can say additional forces are generated by the ninja's chi, but we recognize that as fictional physics that apply in the show's "universe." Theologists, however, expect their system of rules to be treated as real as any scientific theory. They don't stand up well to any tests.

That's why we don't take theology seriously, no matter how intricate, detailed, or whatever you say it is: If the foundation doesn't stand up to scrutiny, why should we take everything built on that seriously? Mobile Suit Gundam is a series that invented some detailed physics for a fictional Minovsky particle that powers much of what the titular giant robots do. Real-world physicists aren't jumping onto that bandwagon for a simple reason: No one's found a real Minovsky particle, yet.

No one's defined and found a deity yet.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Under the Microscope: What the Bleep? Part 1

Well, I've been watching some debunks from the awesome Captain Disillusion, and a few crappy UFO videos (giving them 1 star) suggested by people asking Cap'n D to debunk the dots in them. As a result, YouTube's recommending some woo for me. Think I'll take on one guy's video that popped up as a result. I haven't watched yet, but the one I'll be starting with claims that quantum mechanics justifies woo. I think I know where this will be going. Clicking over, and embedding so you can watch for yourself.

The start's rather random, with sprinkled in phrases, ideal for quote mining. Given the CGI, I'm thinking this is "What the Bleep Do We Know?" a particularly wootastic movie. The most recent comment says so and asks yourti, the video's poster why he didn't label it as such.

One that sticks out asks how we can know anything if the self is intangible. There's a nicely vague word woos probably love. "Self" probably qualifies as an abstract. Money also strikes me as an abstract, but good economists can make some predictions on it (Though the data's noisy enough to have no shortage of people calling it a soft or non-science). It's not immaterial at least, since it has effects on behavior and such.

Gets into parallel realities, which doesn't exactly help out the woos. If I could shift to a parallel reality, I'd be observing things change around me. And there'd be my parallel version to assassinate if I wanted to take over his life.

"Have you seen yourself through the eyes of someone else you've become?"

Uh, what's that got to do with the lookalike in the scene? But yeah, I have: It's called reminiscing, and it's a function of memory, often distorted with nostalgia.

"Looked at yourself through the eyes of the ultimate observer?"

I should call up my brother. Some theist philosopher ended up saying stuff doesn't go away when no one's looking because a deity's doing the observing. Of course, since this'll be on quantum mechanics, I'm curious how this ultimate observer works. Observation isn't a passive process.

After the fauxlisophical scene with people asking the "big" questions, "We can't explain it" and talking about people who investigate getting "lost down the rabbit hole". Yeah. From what I've seen, the people who actually study QM are much more stable than the people who just look long enough to declare it weird and magical.

I can dig the people who say it gets weirder and cooler the more you look. I know some proper scientists got quote mined, so I should be on the watch. Next guy goes on about QM explaining "how we feel about the universe" or some crap, but I think we can agree he's one of the deep woos.

Ramble about what sounds like the Indigo Children crap, and another guy going on about paradigms. Sorry, fella, but that won't help out. Science is pretty well anti-paradigm by its self-correcting nature.

"Modern materialism strips the people of the need to feel responsible." ...Wonder what he's been smoking. He's right in that religion does that. Don't see how QM imbues responsibility, since it's a part of modern materialism. I also don't see how weirdness links to responsibility.

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery." Uh, fella, we're in the mystery because we want to be in the know, even if that's fatal for the mystery.

And title screen, confirming this guy didn't label his stuff properly. Though, that might be because he wants to avoid DMCA's. Anyway, I hope this means there'll be less random jumping around interviewees.

Onto some scene while a guy asks why we keep recreating the same stuff. Uh, we don't. We don't create reality, we're made from it.

"Internal world" and "external world". There's no difference between them. They're made of the same stuff, and no, the discovery of QM doesn't change that.

And I think I spot one person who's actually a scientist. He talks about the observation thing, and it doesn't require us conscious people: Things whack things to nail them down (collapse wave functions), essentially. That's how I understood QM.

Example of watching a brain's activities: Looking at an object and imagining and object trigger many of the same areas to light up. Nothing wooey about that. The act of imagining simulates sight in the brain, and looking at an object triggers recognition processes to the ideas of objects we hold for reference. Of course, woos will take that to mean that an imagined object is exactly as real as an observed object. I get the feeling this is a real neurologist or something being put into this "creating reality" context instead of just describing mental processes and the shortcuts that backfire into things like deja vu.

Onto Part 2:

"This camera is seeing more than what is around here because it has no objection and no judgment."

...What? We can look at what it showed by playing back the tape. Cameras are objective because they don't leave out the things we would label as irrelevant or unimportant. It's built to record, while we're built to survive and not waste precious time looking at blades of grass while a lion charges at us.

Going on about how our eyes might see more than our brains process. Duh. We prune stuff off to save time and sometimes ego. I'm now wondering if this is a scientist who had a bit of verbal stumbling recorded.

New interviewee saying we're trained only to see what we believe is possible. Uh, no. If that were the case, I'd be staring at blank screens during chunks of Mythbusters and videogames would never subvert my expectations. She goes on that bogus story about the Indians being unable to see the ships. Skeptico's covered this, along with the whole movie.

More baseless assertion about us creating reality. Possible quote mining of a guy who might have been blindsided by a 'why not solipsism?' type question. I could be wrong, because his computer has some seemingly pointless graphic of a brain. I hope that's his screen saver. No, we can't have certainty. That doesn't mean any of this reality creation crap is true. Series of probable quote mines.

The protagonist describes the ship dream and her roommate, sister, or whatever is apparently very easily impressed. She goes on about past lives, parallel worlds, and so forth. Uh, does it ever occur to these people that sometimes a dream is just a dream? Mention of anxiety medication, which I seem to recall that she abandons though the magic of QM at the end of the movie. Uh, you do realize they prescribe the stuff because it shows success when tested, and this What the Bleep stuff hasn't shown any promise, last I checked.

Guy talking about decisions in life depending on QM effects not "washing out". Our "macro world" understanding depends on quantum effects generally averaging out. They were accurate before QM's discovery, and they're still accurate afterward. Depending on odd QM effects not to cancel out is depending on massive dumb luck.

He apparently has some rage for subatomic physics since he's describing it as "made up". Well, the theories exist today because they're accurate in their predictions. We don't know it all yet, of course, but we're doing a hell of a lot better than the woos. ---Moves onto disjointed stuff about how weird QM is. Says without apparent basis that disappearing/reappearing particles are moving between parallel worlds. For pair production, I believe the answer is that they don't add up to anything: Opposite charges, spin, momentum, etcetera.

Guy talking about time and why it seems to move in one direction. I guess he's not acquainted with entropy. The reason we can't "remember" the future is because our memories are assembled by "spontaneous" chemical reactions that move towards overall increasing entropy. Reverse the process, and you're disassembling memories. Only way out of that would be dualism, and that's a new question I think I'd like to ask them.

Clip ends with her moving into some magic basketball court of unlimited possibilities. Moving onto part 3:

Start going on about matter mostly being empty space. That's odd, but that doesn't change the fact that dropping a hammer on your toe will probably hurt. Its solidity and mass are still the same, even if there's a lot of space between its parts. Somehow, though, this guy ends up saying the most "solid" thing it can be compared to is a thought. Somehow, I fail to see the connection. A thought is a complex collection of molecules (made of atoms) and electrical signals (made of an electron current). That's kind of like saying a hammer is made of jackhammers. One guy goes on to apparently conflate thoughts with the physicist's use of "information."

Talks about going back in time in QM. Uh, no. Whatever point you're making about the weirdness of applying the time axis to that level, it doesn't mean we can actually go back in time. No one from the future showed up to that time traveler's convention.

Dr. Quantum comes up. I saw this guy's skit earlier (not shown yet). He left out the part that observation is an active process. If you look at a rock, you have to shine a light on it, which warms it up. If you look at something as tiny as an electron, you're going to do more than just warm it up. Also, observation has nothing to do with consciousness. Substitute "whacking" for "observing" and you've got something that might be more appropriate. Plenty of rambling on about the word, and this one guy going on about poking around the brain and not finding "the observer". Uh, guy, the whole freaking brain is the observer. It's a system, not a distinct entity. We look at the parts to find out how our whole selves act as observers.

Of course, that has nothing to do with how QM uses the term.

"Four layers of the bio-body suit." Fun. A dualist. Maybe he's found the homunculus the other guy was looking for.

Anyway, that's 3 parts out of 10. Think I've done my due for the day.

My Vocabulary Word for the Day #3

TheoCon: The Religious Wrong Right. Generally those who push for religious issues like banning abortion, any sort of marriage they aren't fond of, free speech, and in favor of turning the government into a theocracy, starting with adding more unconstitutional establishments of religion until "Christian Nation" is what everyone thinks. They often do this at the expense of secular conservative values.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

An Elephant in the Room

Berlzebub has a good post on the old "blind men and the elephant" story. He's said pretty much what I think about it: The analogy falls apart when you encourage the blind men to feel more of the elephant.

99th Skeptics' Circle

It's up at The Ferret Cage.

Open thread as usual, but touching my miniatures is FORBIDDEN!

Okay, On to Criticizing

Well, we've had our celebration time. Orac brings up something for us to raise a stink about: RFK, Jr. is apparently in the lineup for heading the EPA. Given his gross dishonesty and general crankdom, I wouldn't trust him for anything.

Raise a stink.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Castle Town Crime Log

Vandalism, petty theft: Reported destruction of antique clay pots, estimated value 350 rupees. Resident child reported hiding 7 rupees of saved up allowance in the pots, not found in the remains. Sharp pieces briefly posed a threat to pedestrian traffic until cleanup.

Property destruction, grand theft: Shopkeeper reports destruction of a patch in his roof and theft of a heart talisman stored in a chest. Estimated value of 2,000 rupees. Residents reported a young man in a green tunic jumping across rooftops with a golden rooster. Bomb shop owner reported a young man of matching description bought 60 standard bombs, 30 water bombs, and 20 mobile bombs. City guard and citizens have been warned to watch for suspicious individuals and increase security around their valuables.

Animal and Supernatural Creatures report: A small red-haired demon has been spotted riding a large black wolf through alleyways. Various citizens report the wolf sniffing the ground, apparently following a scent trail. Citizens are warned not to approach either creature if spotted.

Extreme Traffic Hazard: Eldin Bridge has been extensively damaged, leaving a large gap. Strange black monsters have been spotted nearby. Do not approach.

Armed Robbery: Owner of the "STAR Challenge" tent reports cheating by one of his contestants who utilized "some sort of mechanical claw-shooting grappling hook thing" to win. Suspect was reported to be agitated over his disqualification and took the prize by threatening him with a broadsword with an ornate blue metal hilt, possibly stolen. Three young girls dispute the events. Suspect is blond and blue-eyed, last seen wearing a green tunic and long pointed green hat. Needed for questioning.

Kakariko Village Report: Instances of Cucco abuse have been on the rise. Eyewitnesses have reported a young man in a green tunic running out of town, chased by an agitated flock.


Proposition 8 passed in California. I don't spend much time talking about LGBT rights, but they're people, dammit. They should have the right to love and live with whoever they want, just like us heterosexuals do. Guess measures like Prop 8 mean that it's a privilege, not a right.

I like to think that marriage has grown beyond the patriarchal economic tool of the old days. It should be about love, not about popping out babies to inherit the family land or restricting a pleasant activity to the types some murderous, demonic bronze age idol approves of.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


McCain got owned. Now I need to figure out what fluid I should drink to celebrate.

Meh. I can enjoy my ice cream sammiches. They're liquid at room temperature so they count, even when frozen.

It's That Day Again

So go out and vote, vote, vote...

...Like a baby stoat.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Woos Do Chaotic Evil

The rest of you probably know about what happened to Stop Sylvia Browne's original site, and know to boost its rank by associating Sylvia Browne's name with the new site. Short story for those who don't know: Someone bought up the domain when it expired: When Robert Lancaster was in the hospital.

Now, it seems some Chaotic Evil guy hacked Stop Jenny McCarthy. Other pages in my history are now 404. Jumped the gun, apparently Stop Jenny McCarthy is working. The 'site' in my original link lead to the CE image. Dunno what that's about.

Pointless Fun Advance

Well, my dad found my Gameboy Advance with FFTA in it. So I'm going to celebrate with a bit of purposeless entertainment.

Argent Burst: Remember Missile Command from way back, when microchips were just barely newer than the stone knives and bearskins our distant grandparents used? Well, this is like that, only faster.

Light Bot: Fun with programming... I'm stuck on level 10.

Frantic: Doesn't quite live up to its title, but it's a nice shooter. No need to hold down the fire button, which is nice.

So, onto the videos:

Just another day at Aperture Science:

What's going through Gordon Freeman's mind? This:

I need more ninja cats in my life:

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Doggerel #167: "If It's Not Particles, You Can't Study It!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

I've been dealing with a woo who apparently thinks us naturalists/materialists/scientifically-minded people can't study phenomena that can't be easily reduced to a handful of particles. Or at least that's what I've gathered. This is, of course, bunk. Science is the study of effects. Particle physics have nothing to do with it. We've just successfully reduced much of the universe to those units.

The scientific method mentions nothing about particles, atoms, or anything like that. Those are things that were discovered thanks to the method, not a required part of it. Though I suppose some people can't be blamed for thinking about particle physics: It was the sort of thing Einstein looked at, results are often predictable even if it's weird on the quantum level, and just about everything we know anything about is made of it.

Of course, science studies many things before we know how it works on the molecular level. Geneticists were able to study how genes work before DNA was discovered and decoded. All it took was predictable behavior on the genes' part. There's nothing stopping the scientific method from analyzing more complicated things like bodies and minds. The data are just very noisy. Even if you add in some magical component made of stuff currently unknown to science, that's not going to be a problem in the long run. As long as it behaves in a consistent manner, it doesn't matter if we think with complicated chemicals or ethereal pixies.

Pointless Question #36

Why is it that when the ancients decide to make a powerful weapon to vanquish demons or seal the forces of evil away, it's always a sword? There are other kinds of weapons, you know.