Random stuff found while procrastinating :P

Posts Tagged ‘obama

A bunch of interesting reading

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Sorry for a bit of delay between posts.  Have been too busy with study/work/touch football (I have 4 nights of touch this week :/).

Anyway here are the favourite things I’ve read lately;

Christopher Hitchens rightly has a massive swing at the Republican’s strong anti-science platform.  Anti-science seems to be all the rage these days.  In fact just recently the Tasmanian Premier, David Bartlett dismissed what actually amounts to over 400 peer reviewed scientific journal articles that show that logging forests reduces their carbon carrying capacity as “bullshit.”  In doing so he ensured that I will never vote for him any higher than just above the religious political parties.  It’s also interesting to note Bartlett’s view that emissions from forestry are not a big deal because they represent such a small portion of global emissions.  The same can be said for every single persons individual emmisions, all of us make an almost insignificant impact on global warming, and it’s only when you add up all those almost insignificant impacts that you end up with a very significant impact.  People in Qatar (the country with the highest per capita emissions) emit 0.0000002% of annual global emissions.  Using Bartlett’s logic they don’t need to bother doing anything about climate change either – and everybody in the world emit even less than them.

There is a good article about Richard Dawkins here.  He addresses some criticisms well and demonstrates that he’s a funny guy too (although anybody who reads his stuff would know that already :P).

Speaking of religion, there’s a interesting, but heavier, essay about it from Pascal Boyer in Nature.  Definitely worth a read.


Some US election stuff

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So I’m starting to get into the spirit for the US election, and even making plans for celebrating Obama victory.  There was a bunch of interesting stuff today about the election.

This article about rumours was particularly interesting, especially since it involves evolutionary theory and the application of mathematical models, to show that the best response to dispelling them is to respond publically to them, rather than ignore them.

Chris Hitchens wrote a typically awesome attack on McCain and Palin.  Worth reading, if just for laughs.

The 2008 Nobel Prize for Chemistry winner, Marty Chalfie has put out a video describing who he’s voting for and why  🙂

Written by beast9

October 14, 2008 at 12:17 pm

McCain hates science

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So I kind of missed the presidential debate earlier in the week, but it’s generated a lot of comment from science blogs because of the criticism about Obama supporting a “$3 million overhead projector.”  Andrew Kravtsov from the University of Chicago sums it up beautifully in this comment to a New York Times article on the story.  Quoted because I’m not sure if that’s a perm. link.

I am an Associate Professor of Astronomy at the University of Chicago (the University that today has added yet another Nobel Prize winner in the sciences for the US). I would like to comment on Sen. McCain’s statement during the today’s debate that Sen. Obama has earmarked “$3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Ill. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?”

The way Sen. McCain has phrased it suggests that Sen. Obama approved spending $3 million on an old-fashioned piece of office equipment (overhead projector).
The 3 million is actually for an upgrade of the SkyTheater – a full dome projection system, which is probably the main attraction of the Adler Planetarium and is quite sophisticated and impressive piece of equipment.

I find it appalling that Sen. McCain would call a science education tool for public (largely children) for
a historic planetarium with millions of visitors a year a wasteful earmark. The planetarium’s focus, as stated on their website ( is “on inspiring young people, particularly women and minorities, to pursue careers in science.” Is an investment in such public facility at the time when US
competitiveness in math and sciences is a constant source of alarm a waste?

“American’s ability to compete in a 21st Century economy rests on our continued investments in math and science education,” said Rep. Brian Baird, Chairman of the Research and Science Education Subcommittee in Congress, after the passage of The 21st Century Competitiveness Act of 2007.

Considering such investments “wasteful earmarks” today, even in the face of the financial crisis, will severely cripple US economic competitiveness in the increasingly high-tech world down the road.

— Andrey Kravtsov, Chicago, IL

The other thing worth briefly mentioning is that there are oranges out there with THC in them.  I’m not sure how you get your hands on them, but it’s pretty interesting anyway.  The story of why the scientist in question developed them is even cooler (check the link 🙂 )

Written by beast9

October 10, 2008 at 1:04 pm

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If politicians were trains

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Written by beast9

October 8, 2008 at 11:58 pm

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A Space Elevator!! (and some other stuff)

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Japan has announced that it’s going to try and build a space elevator!!  Pretty awesome stuff.  I’m unsure if it’s really possibly or not, but $9 billion is a lot to be investing on potentially nothing.


Ever wondered how big China’s population is?  This map gives a better idea, with each province labelled with an equivalent sized country.  Initial source here.  


This is a little old now, but a really cool machine that’s been built that can essentially build itself (and pretty much anything else, so long as it’s made from plastic :P).  Unfortuantly it needs a person to do the actual construction, but maybe that will change.


113 new species of sharks and rays have been “discovered” in Australia!  Pretty exciting, although many are very rare and straight onto endangered lists.  One has only ever been found inside the stomach of another shark.  Here is one of the new sharks.



Interesting article by George Dyson (son of Freeman) about economics in the 13th Century! Ok, only interesting to a select group of people I guess 😛


Finally here is an excellent summary of the environmental positions of Obama and McCain.  I don’t think there is any doubt that I’d be a very strong Obama supporter if I were American.


Oh and my camera has arrived, so I’m pretty much going to spend the next month just taking photos and reading about how to take photos 😛

Written by beast9

September 25, 2008 at 11:13 am

Monster Pigs and pirates

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While this story is rather amusing, I detect a definite dropping in the quality of news at ABC online this year.  I need to quote the story it is so amusing;


Monster pig holds woman hostage

A pig the size of a shetland pony is holding a woman hostage on a property in northern New South Wales.

Since when do journalists use such literary licence in their reporting?


There is some very cool research happening at MIT (US) in building a network of sensors in trees, that are powered by the energy generated by the trees (apparently a bit like how you can generate power from lemons and potatoes).  The research is aimed at fire detection and weather monitoring.   


As if the conspiracy theorists didn’t need more meat, the secretive Catholic organisation Opus Dei is spending $44 million USD on a biomedical science laboratory.  I hope the conspiracy theories take into account the alleged link between Opus Dei and Nazis.  


I really liked this image by the guy who created the popular Obama Hope image.



Jano Caro is amazing.  If you haven’t read her book The Stupid Country: How Australia is Dismantling Public Education yet then you need to.  Anyway I really enjoyed this article by her on religion in schools.  She’s also affiliated with the Secular Party of Australia :D.


I don’t really understand the law in the UK.  Some Greenpeace protesters were aquited of damaging a coal fired power station to the cost of about $76,000 AUD because the judge ruled that the potential damage caused by the power station in terms of global warming justified their actions.  Not that I’m saying that I disagree with their actions, it’s just a hard to understand legal decision.  I guess it also needs to be said that the damage they caused was just painting the word “Gordon” on the power station, which apparently costs a lot to remove (they must have made it really really big).  If you’re legally allowed to damage coal fired power plants because the damage they cause is greater than the damage you’re doing, why are they legal at all?  Not that I’m saying they should necessarily be immediately banned either – it just seems like there are two very conflicting views being presented by this decision.


Oh and finally, if you have facebook and you go to settings/languages you can change your language to English (pirate) and it rephrases everything in pirate speak.  Not sure if this is a permanent thing, or just hasn’t been removed from talk like a pirate day, but it’s cool in a retro geeky kind of way.