Saturday, September 29, 2007


Who else gets a kind of tingle in your bottom when you look at this picture and realize that, yes, that's fucking Mars? Read all about Opportunity's trek to the heart of Victoria crater here.

Brain Eating Amoeba

This story makes for one of the greatest headlines of all time, but I hesitated writing anything about it for fear of stoking a panic. It looks like there's going to be a panic anyway. This year, there have been six fatalities due to Naegleria, an amoeba that consumes brain tissue, infecting people exposed to fresh water lakes. On average, Naegleria infections have led to only between two and three cases a year since 1995, so this sudden spike is causing a bit of a freak out. The working theory right now is that an average increase in fresh water temperatures has benefited Naegleria and increased its usual numbers. It lives on the sediment at the bottom of lakes, but it infects humans who disturb the lake bottom and end up with water up their noses from swimming. But this isn't a tiny Jaws we're talking about here. Naegleria infection, while terrifying in its ability to kill you within two weeks, is preventable. If you're swimming in a fresh water lake, wear nose plugs. Or just ride out the statistics. After all six people out of everyone who swims in a lake isn't all that many. Just to compare, according to the CDC, about 700 people die in boating accidents every year. More details here.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Cute, Fluffy Velociraptors

Even as a kid, I was never much of a dinosaur person. When other kids were playing with their t-rex toys, I was busy reading Anne Rice novels. Which probably explains my taste for velvet and the fact that I speak only in heavy-handed monologues. However, I'm shocked to learn that not only were the vicious velociraptors portrayed in Jurassic Park actually about the size of a turkey, but they were also covered in fluffy feathers. What's next? Are we going to learn that Jeff Goldblum isn't really a brilliant mathematician? More details here.

I.D. Liars

In another display of dishonesty in th e"intelligent design" movement comes this news that the new Ben Stein hosted creationism movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed lied to Richard Dawkins and other scientists in order to score interviews with them. The producers (who turned out not to be the actual producers of the movie) claimed the film was called Crossroads (it isn't) and that it would explore the intersection between faith and science (it doesn't). Read the full story here. And try not to think too hard about the stunning irony of the film's actual subtitle.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mammoth DNA

So, scientists at Penn State working together with an international team have discovered that DNA recovered from woolly mammoth hair is much better preserved than DNA recovered from muscle or bones. They've even sequenced the entire mitochondrial genomes of ten individual mammoths. At this rate, I'll be able to enjoy a cloned woolly mammoth ride at the state fair sooner than I'd projected. I should really get to work on that saddle. More details here.

Elementary Homosexuality

This is interesting. One of the questions raised during last night's Democratic presidential debate (the 7,521st this year) was whether the candidates thought it was appropriate that a teacher in Massachusetts read a fairy tale about homosexuals called King & King to a second grade class. Surprisingly, all but Hillary Clinton said they were fine with it, despite the fact that the incident brought a lawsuit from some particularly homophobic parents. As a defender of rational thinking and civil rights, I'm pretty pleased with that result. There could be more support for gay marriage coming from the Democratic field, but this isn't nothing. One of the favorite whines of the gay-hating conservatives has to do with explaining homosexuals to their children. Frankly, judging by most of these people's looks, I'd think it would be more confusing for their children to understand how their moms and dads could stand the sight of each other's naked bodies long enough to conceive a child. Of course, we all know religious conservatives do it with the lights off. Speaking of, Republican candidate and believer in the con that is the Mormon religion Mitt Romney was quick to denounce the Democrats' responses and shill for a constitutional ban on gay marriage. I'm not sure of this, but I think Mormons do it through holes in their magic underwear.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Puncturing Acupuncture

This is starting to get some play, so let's kill it while it's hot. (Correctly count the hip lingo in that last sentence, and you might win...something.) There's a new study hitting the news rounds which is being promoted as proof that acupuncture is an effective form of therapy for lower back pain. I won't go into the specifics here, since I don't need to. Dr. Steven Novella has written up a nice rebuttal at his blog NeuroLogica. Read it here.

Catholic Chicanery

Maputo Archbishop Francisco Chimoio, the head of the Catholic church in Mozambique told the BBC that he believes condoms made in Europe are deliberately infected with HIV to kill the Africans who use them. This pisses me the hell off. Along with Africa's huge numbers of HIV-infected people come all sorts of pseudoscientific claims about AIDS cures. It's disheartening but not surprising that witch doctors, tribal leaders, and even government officials would claim to have discovered a special diet or herbal supplement or some other nonsense to "cure" such a widespread and devastating disease. But the Catholic church has a major foothold in the formerly colonized areas of Africa, and they have been waging a war of lies to keep condoms--a proven method of fighting the spread of HIV--out of the hands of Africans purely to further their own anti-contraceptive lunacy. And they'll spread any kind of paranoid rumor they can make up to further their agenda. How about this, Archbishop Chimoio--if every sperm is so sacred, why don't you inject yourself with one from an AIDS patient?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Orphaned Stars

You may not realize it, but millions of stars across the universe are tragically orphaned by their parent galaxies. Take ESO-137-001, a particularly heartless galaxy that trails a strand of star-forming gas as it careens into the center of a galaxy cluster. It leaves behind a wake of lonely, abandoned stars just because it's in a hurry to meet up with some kind of galactic swingers' party. I know what you're thinking. "There's nothing I can do. I want to help, but it must be too late already." Well, friends, for just pennies a day you can... Actually, there's nothing you can do. These stars are totally screwed. Read ScienceDaily's article here.

Racist Aliens?

This swastika appeared in a New Jersey cornfield last Friday night, the first night of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. The real question here is why would extraterrestrials have such a problem with Jews? Oh, you say crop symbols aren't created by extraterrestrials? So you expect me to believe that benevolent Earth spirits use their pixie powder to bend cornstalks into emblems of racial hatred? Hold on, you think people were responsible for this? Racist people? Well, sir, that's just crazy.

Killer Germs from Outer Space

CNN reports that a sample Salmonella carried on board the space shuttle mission STS-115 came back to Earth three times as potent as Salmonella left behind. This raises many concerns about the effects of micro-gravity on germs astronauts and other space travelers unavoidably carry with them. Are these bugs bombarded with cosmic rays that mutate them into unstoppable killing machines? Probably not. No one's sure yet, but the working theory is that fluid shear (the force of liquid passing over cells) is lower in space, with may result in the germs becoming more robust. All I know is I'm not taking a flight on Virgin Galactic without a box of Handi Wipes.

Monday, September 24, 2007

No Gays in Iran

During his appearance at Columbia University today, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded to criticism of his regime's mistreatment of homosexuals by claiming that there are, in fact, no homosexuals in Iran. Many have found this claim to be laughable, as he can't possibly have imprisoned or executed all of them yet. But thanks to AyatollahKhomeini69, we have this video which would seem to suggest that not only was Ahmadinejad joking, but that he actually quite enjoys homosexual activity himself. Warning: Unless you work at the Bunny Ranch, this video may not be safe for work.

Ask an Amateur Scientist: Zombies

In the eleventh installment of my PinkRaygun.com column Ask an Amateur Scientist, I look into the history of zombies. To what lengths have people throughout history gone to keep their dead loved ones in the ground and protect their delicious brains from being noshed upon? Find out here.

The Visible Frog

Yes, that's a transparent frog. Yes, scientists created it on purpose. Yes, they had a good reason. Yes, you can read more about it here. Yes, that's some messed up shit.

New Moon Plans

NASA really seems serious about going back to the moon. Space.com reports that the new plan calls for the launch of large moon base modules on unmanned flights, which would be assembled by astronauts upon their arrival. This would speed up the process of building a permanent lunar outpost by cutting down on the number of manned cargo trips required. Pictured above is a concept design for a new lunar rover--a kind of portable habitat which would be pressurized and capable of trips as long as two weeks. Hopefully the new lunar modules will be spacious enough to party like it's 1969.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More Cartoon Violence

Hey, and now Bangladesh is getting into the act. Prothom Alo, a Bangladeshi newspaper, has published a cartoon involving a child's conversation with a Mullah and a joke about Mohammed's name. Islam is Bangladesh's state religion, and the country has a large population of hard-line Muslims who have staged massive protests and demanded the execution of the newspaper's editor. The cartoonist in question, Arifur Rahman, has been imprisoned for "insulting" Muslims. Anyone have any ideas about protecting free speech in Bangladesh? Read more about this insanity here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Elves in Court

The Wall Street Journal Online has posted this disturbing article on Judge Florentino V. Floro, Jr., who was fired from his position by the Philippines' Supreme Court for consulting with three invisible elves he claims only he can see. Good riddance, right? Not so fast. The Philippines have a long history of harboring believers in the wacky and absurd. Vampires are considered a real threat, and psychics are often consulted by people from all walks of life. Floro has become a national celebrity, and so have his elves: Armand, the nice one; Luis, the mean one; and Angel, the one who's just right. The Supreme Court says its medical clinic diagnosed Floro with psychosis, but Floro claims his elf-sight is no different from any other religion, and he shouldn't have been fired. Now people think some bad mojo has fallen upon the members of the Supreme Court and their families, who have since experienced illnesses and car accidents. No word on how wide the sample base here is, or whether there's any statistical significance to these "unusual" events. Floro doesn't need all that scientific gobbledygook. He Luis, the mischievous elf, is to blame.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Muslims in Space

Two Malaysians are in the running for a spot on a Russian mission to the International Space Station. Since both the candidates are Muslims, Malaysia's Department of Islamic Development has released guidelines for following Islamic ritual laws in space. Since the space station orbits the Earth 16 times a day, a Muslim would normally have to pray 80 times a day while living there. But the new rules state that a Muslim in space still only has to pray five times a day and should follow the local time of the location where he lifted off. If water is not available for washing rituals before prayer, a Muslim in space may mime the rituals by "sweeping holy dust" onto the hands and face, even if there is no actual dust available. Also according to the new rules, if you can't stand up straight during prayer, "you can hunch. If you can't stand, you can sit. If you can't sit, you should lie down." If your food hasn't been prepared in the halal manner, a Muslim in space can eat just enough to keep from starving. But when you're in orbit, which way is Mecca? Read more here.

Huckabee and AIDS

In a recent interview with CNN, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee hesitated at suggesting taxpayer money be used to distribute condoms in AIDS-stricken Africa. Citing the anti-condom argument of many religious abstinence-promoters, Huckabee said that we should focus on educating the African public that condoms are not 100% effective at preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS. He says he doesn't want them to have a "false sense of security". What he fails to mention is that condoms are actually 97% effective at preventing the transmission of STDs, including HIV. Huckabee admits that using condoms is more effective than not using them, and shouldn't that understated reasoning be enough to grant condom distribution funding? Or is Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, too afraid of upsetting the sex-hating conservative religious "base"?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More Meteorite Mystery

Remember that noxious gas-spewing Peruvian meteorite from a few days ago? Many scientists, including one at NASA's JPL, believe it's much more likely that the gas-spewing hole was caused by a geyser-like explosion, not a meteorite. Statistically, this would seem to be a safe bet, considering meteorites aren't normally gas-spewing. (Do you realize how fun it is to say "gas-spewing"? Try it.) LiveScience has more details here. Note, however, that they link to another, later story wherein a Peruvian scientist assures that the crater was caused by a meteorite. Meanwhile, the BBC speculates that the mass illnesses may simply be mass hysteria. Curiouser and curiouser.

Farrakhan: Weather Man?

Just got back from the rally in Jena, Louisiana, and boy is my indignation tired. A representative from Houston's Nation of Islam branch spoke on the courthouse steps and delivered a message from Minister Louis Farrakhan to "watch the weather", because Allah will "wipe Jena off the map" if it doesn't change its racist ways. I'm all for changing racist ways (which is why I was at the rally), but how many towns do you recall being wiped off the map for their wickedness? If Allah's justice was evenly and fairly distributed, shouldn't Tampa, Florida be nothing but a mud pit by now? That town sucks.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Doyle's Spiritual(ist) Side

The Times Online has posted an interesting article on the recent publication of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's seance notebooks. Best known as the creator of the super-skeptic Sherlock Holmes, the surprising depth to which Doyle himself believed in the supernatural has always been well-known. He was a firm believer in ghosts, psychics, and even fairies. But until the publication of these notebooks, the origins of Doyle's beliefs were unclear. Now we know that while working as a doctor in Portsmouth, Doyle attended his first seance. There, he saw a medium speaking in different voices and shaking a table to tap out coded messages from beyond the grave. This, apparently, convinced him that he had witnessed "a new revelation" of evidence for matters of faith. Not so much, Arthur.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ask an Amateur Scientist: Spring-Heeled Jack

In this, the ninth of my Ask an Amateur Scientist columns for PinkRaygun.com, I explore the myth and mystery surrounding Great Britain's favorite bouncing quasi-extraterrestrial rogue, Spring-Heeled Jack. He's like Batman, but a borderline rapist. Though he sure does have a cool costume. Read all about him here.

Dirty, Dirty Alabama

According to AL.com (Everything Alabama!), 4,629 new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported in Mobile County last year. That's about three times the rate of New York City and twice as high as Washington, D.C. Who knew the nation's capital was so sexy? Oh, yeah. Anyway, a Department of Education spokeswoman is quoted in the story as saying that Mobile County's public schools push abstinence education as part of their health curriculum--teaching that abstaining from sex is the only protection against pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and other STDs. (Not to imply that pregnancy is an STD, but it kind of is.) The subject of condoms isn't even brought up in these classes. Of course, economic factors could be part of the problem, too, but when are people going to realize that abstinence education just doesn't work? Especially in Mobile, Alabama. There's nothing to do there but have sex and gamble. And judging from the STD numbers, sex down there is kind of a gamble in itself.

Sherri Shepherd: Idiot

I'm no fan of The View. I'm distrustful of anything that comes from the mind of Barbara Walters, since her mind has not been functioning for at least three decades. Then they hired Rosie O'Donnell, who made it a point to blather about every half-brained 9/11 conspiracy theory she'd ever heard. They replaced Rosie with Whoopi Goldberg, who I've never forgiven for Sister Act II: Back in the Habit, and who recently defended Michael Vick's dog fighting with some witless moral relativism about how poor black people from the South don't know it's wrong to kill dogs for sport. Still, none of them has approached the idiocy of new host Sherri Shepherd, who, after proclaiming that she doesn't "believe in evolution, period", was asked whether she also believed the Earth was flat. Watch her surprising(?) answer here.

UPDATE: Here's the full clip, including the inane theocratic discussion that led up to Shepherd's idiotic bombshell.

Meteorite Illness

Villagers in southern Peru have reportedly suffered headaches and vomiting after a meteorite crashed in the mountains near their homes. The meteorite left a crater 30 meters wide and 6 meters deep, from which boiling water and a smell of sulfur seem to be bubbling up. No word yet on why a meteorite would create such noxious fumes, but if a cylinder full of Martians rises from it, at least we know we just have to sneeze on them. More details here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Gerbils in Space

According to the BBC, the Russian space agency has sent ten gerbils on a twelve-day space mission to test the effects a flight to Mars may have on humans. Wait, it gets cuter. The gerbils are being kept in little cages with a steady supply of nuts and cereals. And upon their return, several of them will be dissected. Okay, the cute factor kind of hits a wall there, but this is exciting. These kinds of gerbils can live for more than a month without using liquids, so scientists will be able to test salt exchange mechanisms in a zero gravity environment. Science can be so adorable.

God Sued

Independent Nebraskan state senator Ernie Chambers (pictured) has decided that enough is enough and has brought a lawsuit against God in Douglas County Court, according to KETV. In the suit, Chambers alleges that God has caused "fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects, and the like". Sure, the alliteration peters out toward the end, but this is still a serious list of charges. Chambers says he filed the lawsuit to prove a point about the allowance for frivolous litigation in the judicial system. Still, it only seems to prove that God has a lot to answer for. As of press time, He is unavailable for comment--most likely due to His inability to exist.

Existence of Monkey Army Questioned

Hardcore Hindus across India have successfully pressured the Indian government to withdraw a report it filed in court questioning the existence of a Hindu god, according to the BBC. The government would like to build a shipping canal between India and Sri Lanka, which would require the destruction of a land bridge of sand and stones. Hindu believers say the bridge was built by the god Ram and his army of monkeys, and should therefore not be destroyed. The Indian government, using its brains, filed a report with the court saying the Archaeological Survey of India had found the bridge to be a natural formation, and that the events and characters depicted in the Ramayana (from which the monkey story is derived) have no basis in history. Fearing an uprising, the government has since withdrawn the report. Of course, the only solution here is for government workers to dismantle the land bridge while wearing monkey costumes. The townspeople might see the zippers, but, then again, they're pretty dumb.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

God Hates Fags, Likes Rap

So, here's something. The Westboro Baptist Church youth group has apparently decided to freshen up its "God hates fags" message by producing this slightly tweaked cover of Jay-Z's Big Pimpin'. Their song? Big Fibbin'. Not only are they clever word smiths, but they almost have rhythm, too. Perhaps they should team up with rapper Ja Rule, who also hates fags.

The Silver Lining

Sure, global warming has melted Arctic ice to its lowest level in at least 30 years, but the good news is that the Northwest Passage has finally opened up! This will cut the trip by sea between Europe and east Asia by 4,000 miles--allowing much faster transport of such future necessities as sun-suits, ice rations, and rifles to protect your family's underground compound from roving bands of desert mutants. The post-greenhouse post-apocalypse just got a whole lot more convenient! Read LiveScience's article here.

Cartoonish Bounty

The head of al Qaeda in Iraq (or "NAMBLA") has offered a $100,000 reward for the murder of Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who recently drew a cartoon depicting Muhammad with the body of a dog. For those of you who don't know, Muhammad is the prophet of Islam who married a six-year-old and had sex with her when she turned nine. He was fifty-three at the time. Anyway, al Qaeda in Iraq is also offering a $50,000 reward for the murder of the editor of Nerikes Allehanda newspaper which published the cartoon. And there's a 50% bonus prize if Vilks is "slaughtered like a lamb". Unfortunately, I'm unable to find a copy of Vilks' drawing in the cowardly, complacent press, so the picture you see if of one of the Danish cartoons that got so many panties in bunches two years ago. More details here.

The Fonda Syndrome

In the latest edition of their Freakonomics column in The New York Times Magazine, authors Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt suggest that Jane Fonda may have contributed to global warming in a big way. They point out that Fonda's anti-nuclear power movie The China Syndrome opened just three days before the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, sparking a widespread panic over the dangers of nuclear power which may have resulted in the needless continued use of greenhouse gas-emitting coal plants. Correlation without causation? Probably. The column also points out that cost problems, waste disposal issues, and Chernobyl didn't help nuclear power's image either. However, nuclear power may come back in style as a cheap, efficient, and clean source of energy. On the other hand, our best plan for dealing with all the toxic waste is still to bury it under a mountain. More details here.

Water Boarding Banned

In this recent article, reporter Brian Ross, along with the ABC News investigative team, reports that the current director of the CIA, Gen. Michael Hayden, has banned the use of water boarding in interrogating prisoners. The technique is considered torture by many human rights groups and most people with functioning brains. However, its effectiveness is a point of controversy, which could really use a definitive study. ABC News' article quotes an unnamed high-level CIA source as saying that water boarding was the only interrogation technique that broke Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who confessed to plotting several al Qaeda terror strikes, including the beheading of reporter Daniel Pearl and the 9/11 attacks. So perhaps this is a bittersweet victory for human rights?

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Amateur Scientist's Reading List

In my eighth Ask an Amateur Scientist column for PinkRaygun.com, I provide an educational list of the movers and shakers in the world of skeptical letters. Get ready to exploit the inter-library loan program and take a look at the books every amateur scientist needs to read here.

Google Moon

In cooperation with the X-Prize Foundation, Google is offering a $30 million prize to the first private firm to soft land a functioning robotic rover on the surface of the moon. The goal of the contest is to stimulate research into low-cost robotic space exploration. The rover must be able to travel certain distances and take photos and video in order to qualify. A $5 million bonus will be offered for additional tasks accomplished by the rover, such as photographing Apollo artifacts, analyzing ice, or uncovering a giant black monolith. Read the BBC's report here.

Sticky Gum No More

Screw cancer, AIDS, and global warming. Science has stepped up to the plate and knocked out the worldwide epidemic of messy chewing gum residue by inventing a non-stick, self-deteriorating new kind of gum. Called Rev7, it was created at the University of Bristol and will go on sale sometime early next year. Researchers added a "water and oil-loving copolymer" to the gum, which keeps it from sticking to any surface, and it also breaks down into a white powder when left in the open. Now, I hate when a wad of fresh gum catches the sole of my shoe, but I've always considered gum's sticky properties a kind of gift with purchase. Good luck retrieving your keys from a storm drain or plugging a hull breach with your fancy Rev7. More details here.

Madonna, Kabbalah, and Watah

Remember Madonna? Well, she's still around. And she's still practicing Kabbalah, the esoteric Jewish mystical philosophy through which one is supposed to become "spiritually closer to God". As a responsible parent, she's also forcing her children (both adopted and not) to practice it right along with her. She and her family recently traveled to Tel Aviv to drop breadcrumbs symbolizing their sins into a river, thereby cleansing their souls. Such a waste of good bread. Her youngest son is less than two years old. How much sinning has he done? Still, this little excursion can't be any more futile and unrewarding than Madonna's film career. Snap! Read more here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bin Laden Video Raises Questions

C|Net News is reporting the findings of digital video analyst Neal Krawetz, who says the recent videos of Osama bin Laden may have been fiddled with. Krawetz points out that bin Laden, in his latest video, appears to be wearing the exact same clothes that he wore in a video from 2004. Maybe an international terrorist just doesn't have much time to shop for the latest fashions, but Krawetz also noticed several audio/video splices as well. And in the sections where bin Laden mentions recent events (such as the 2006 midterm elections), the "video" is actually a still frame. If these findings are true, it could bolster the theory that bin Laden is actually dead. Of course, Krawetz could be full of crap. Judge for yourself here.

Now I Am Become Laser

According to the BBC, scientists have successfully created a new type of matter, di-positronium. The molecules form from positronium atoms, which are formed from the interaction of electrons and positrons (matter and antimatter). The molecules only survive for about a quarter of a nanosecond before the matter and antimatter annihilate one another, but they could possibly be stabilized long enough to utilize their tremendous energy output in the manufacture of gamma-ray annihilation lasers. These lasers could be used to aid nuclear fusion in a reactor, which could help tremendously with the world's energy shortage, or they could be used by the military for something I'm sure would be peaceful and wonderful and beneficial to all humanity. Or, I'm thinking, they could be used to create the Hulk.

When a Kilogram is Not a Kilogram

The CBC reports that the platinum and iridium alloy cylinder used as the official standard for the kilogram has been mysteriously losing mass. The 118-year-old cylinder is kept locked up outide of Paris, but it appears to have lost 50 micrograms in comparison with its copies. There is currently no working hypothesis as to why the cylinder is losing mass, and the explanation may just be that the copies have gained mass. Still, as the article points out, 50 micrograms is about equivalent to the weight of a fingerprint, so it's no big loss. But if the cylinder eventually disintegrates, I suggest we replace it with what my fourth grade science textbook used to illustrate the weight of a kilogram: a dirty old roller skate.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ask an Amateur Scientist: Sylvia Browne

In this seventh installment of my weekly PinkRaygun.com column Ask an Amateur Scientist, I dissect the pasty, eye makeup slathered phenomenon that is fake psychic and professional liar Sylvia Browne. Read all about her breathtaking inanity here.

Haunted House Prices

Columnist Broderick Perkins at RealtyTimes.com brings us this interesting article on the effects of ghostly superstition on real estate prices. Due to a fear of spirits going bump in the night, home sellers are required by law to disclose whether someone has died in their house. The insanity here runs deep. Aside from the fact that ghosts only exist on fudged voting records, doesn't it seem a little naive to assume a wandering soul couldn't wander into the house next door? Who's to say the specter of a deceased loved one is tied to its corporeal home for all eternity? If it were me, I'd want to haunt a place with hardwood floors and a nice Jacuzzi. The height of absurdity comes, however, from the law stating that deaths due to AIDS don't have to be disclosed. Since AIDS is federally classified as a disability, it's considered discriminatory to require the disclosure of an AIDS-related death. Our legal system seems to be haunted by silliness.

Killer Bees are Coming

Shit. Just when it was starting to cool down enough to go outside without my sneakers melting, I read this AP story about killer bees invading my neck of the woods. Actually, they've arrived in the New Orleans area, which is about a four-hour drive from my house, but still. I'm too terrified to do any actual research into where the bees came from or how to protect myself from them. Instead, I think I'll just roach bomb my Y2K bunker and hole up until Bug Girl can save me. I think there's still some Ramen noodles down there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Suck It, Censors

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (the one that produces the Emmy Awards, not the online college where you bought your useless communications degree) has announced that comedian Kathy Griffin's acceptance speech for her show's award will be censored before airing on the E! Network (you know, the supermarket tabloid that moves and talks on your TV). During her acceptance speech, Griffin said, "A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus." She went on to add, "Suck it, Jesus, this award is my god now!" Apparently, bloated blowhard Bill Donohue of the Catholic League was offended. I hope, however, that Griffin was telling the truth. If Jesus or his father/self had anything to do with Kathy Griffin winning an Emmy, then he/they have even more explaining to do. Read the AP's story here.

And watch Christopher Hitchens debate Bill Donohue about Mother Teresa here.

Bush Sees Dead People

In interviews with author John Draper, President George W. Bush has confessed that he sees ghosts coming out of the White House's Lincoln Bedroom. These revelations have been published in Draper's new biography Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush. Read about them here. In the book, Bush also claims that the stress of his job causes him to weep daily. Depression, anxiety, ghostly apparitions--do you think the war is driving Bush insane? Or are there some former White House residents who just refuse to let death end their public service careers? Personally, I think it's time we voted out these afterlife-long bureaucrats and replaced them with ghosts who haven't been corrupted by Washington politics.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ask an Amateur Scientist: 9/11 Conspiracies

Six years later, and the conspiracy theories surrounding the 9/11 attacks have only grown more entrenched in the minds of the uncritically thinking. In my tenth Ask an Amateur Scientist column for PinkRaygun.com, I lampoon the "inside job" believers a bit before linking to Dr. Robert T. Carroll's superior essay on the subject. After you read it, why not play the Loose Change drinking game? While watching the ineptly produced movie, take a shot every time someone demonstrates a logical fallacy. It's almost as fun as the Star Wars prequel trilogy drinking game, in which you take a shot every time someone says exactly what they're feeling.

The Science Guy Speaks

If you don't already, I can't recommend enough that you subscribe to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. This week, they interviewed one of the heroes of the skeptical community, Bill Nye (you know, the science guy). It's a good interview, and Bill's crazy excitement really comes through. Check it out here.

The Evolution Diet

Take a look at this article from the New York Times. According to a new study in the journal Nature Genetics, the human genome responds to changes in diet. Through natural selection, people living in areas with a high-starch diet produce more of a starch-converting enzyme than those who normally eat less starch. In other words, our bodies evolve to compensate for changes in our eating habits. Perhaps in several generations, my body will be able to process a diet of triple cheeseburgers and chocolate fudge Pop-Tarts without ballooning me to a crane-bending size. Now all we need to do is prepare for the embarrassment of explaining the origin of our Hot Pocket gene to our future alien overlords.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A.A. Unconstitutional

According to SFGate.com, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled that requiring parolees to attend Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings is a violation of the separation of church and state and should be considered unconstitutional. This ruling results from A.A. and N.A.'s appeal to a "higher power" and "God as [you] understood him". The ruling says that such language is religious in nature, and a parolee shouldn't be forced to attend a religious meeting. It's about time, if you ask me. Though I know people who have benefited from A.A., it's because of their own willpower, not due to any help from God.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Ask an Amateur Scientist: HeadOn

In this sixth installment of my weekly Ask an Amateur Scientist column at PinkRaygun.com, I discuss HeadOn, which, I hear, is applied directly to the forehead. It's also a homeopathic remedy, which means it doesn't work at all. No, not at all. And think of all the money you've wasted, you waxy-headed fool. Read all about it here.


SkepChick has a nice writeup on WorldNetDaily's new article about the increasing cool factor of atheism. Now before you get all excited and start trolling the bars for some sweet action, you should remember that if you have to be told you're cool, you're probably not cool. Though the statistic about our rising acceptance amongst the electorate is encouraging. It would be nice to see fewer hands raised when Wolf Blitzer asks who doesn't believe in evolution. On a side note, who do you think is the coolest atheist? We need our own Fonzie. Is Fonzie an atheist? I'm going to go track down Henry Winkler's e-mail address.

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