Tuesday, October 30, 2007

War of the Worlds

Today marks the 69th anniversary of Orson Welles' legendary radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds. Here, for your viewing and listening pleasure, is the entire broadcast newly animated by Toyman Studios using stop motion and a cast of dolls. Enjoy.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Aliens Aflame

Three years ago, the village of Canneto di Caronia in northern Sicily suffered a spate of unexplained fires in TV's, fridges, and other appliances. Understandably, demons were the first suspect. The Vatican's chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, even said he'd seen demons possess electrical goods before. "Let's not forget," he warned, "that Satan and his followers have immense powers." However, the Italian government commissioned a report on the matter. After a two year investigation costing about $2 million and involving dozens of experts, the report has finally been released. The official hypothesis? Aliens. Specifically, aliens testing some kind of high-powered energy weapon. Lest you say nay, the report does back up its claim with evidence. It mentions an an area of inexplicably burned grass found outside the village. UFO landing site? Most likely. If one were to traverse the vast distances of space, you can't use a more efficient system than flaming rocket propulsion. Read all about it here.

Really Old Clam Found

Researchers from Bangor University's School of Ocean Scientists have found what they believe to be a 400-year-old clam off the northern coast of Iceland. By studying the growth rings of the clam's shell, they can pinpoint its age within about five years. If they're correct, then this clam is the oldest living creature known. Moving silently down through the centuries, it has undoubtedly led many secret lives in its struggle to reach the time of the Gathering, when the few clams who remain will battle to the last. Of course, one evolutionary advantage these clams have over the immortal Highlanders is the indistinct difference between their heads and the rest of their bodies. Read more about them here.

Not Really Bigfoot

Hunter Rick Jacobs strapped a camera to a tree in the Allegheny National Forest last September. He had hoped to photograph deer, but what he captured on film looks more like... Well, it doesn't really look like anything. However, that's not stopping Paul Majeta of the Bigfoot Research Organization from claiming the dark, furry blob is probably a juvenile Sasquatch. How Mr. Majeta came to this opinion considering there are no other photos of juvenile Sasquatch by which to compare is unknown. A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission says the mysterious creature looks like a bear with a nasty case of mange. But it's probably just a confused and lonely Brian Dennehy. More details here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Genetic Future

Savvy skeptics might remember evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry from Richard Dawkins' documentary The Root of All Evil?. Today Dr. Curry is making headlines over his radical predictions for humanity's genetic future. He believes that humans will reach their physical peak by the year 3000, when we will average in height between six and seven feet and live up to 120 years. Men will have symmetrical facial features, deeper voices, and larger penises, while women will all have glossy hair, smooth skin, large eyes, and pert breasts. It's not all sex and roses for the future, though. Eventually an over-reliance on technology will cause us to become weak, short, and goblin-like--creating a new race subordinate to its genetically superior masters. If this all sounds like H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, you're not the only one who's noticed. Also, in order to physically perfect human beings through selective breeding, wouldn't we have to choose not to sleep with the unattractive? Where do beer goggles fit into this theory? More details here.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Woo-Woo Poll

In anticipation of Halloween, the AP and Ipsos have released the results of a poll measuring the American public's willingness to believe nonsense. According to their results, nearly one out of three people admits to believing in ghosts, while 23% say they've actually seen one or felt its presence. What the hell that last part means is anyone's guess. Maybe the presence of a ghost makes you feel kind of fuzzy. Further, 19% believe in spells and witchcraft. Almost half believe in ESP. Demographically, those most likely to be visited by ghosts are Catholics, single people, and non-church goers. Nearly twice as many liberals as conservatives report having seen a ghost. 14% have seen a UFO, and of those most are lower income men. City folk, minorities, and poor people are more likely to believe in witchcraft; educated white people are more likely to believe in ESP. The one bit of good news here is that far fewer people admit to believing in psychics than in a similar poll from 1996. So I suppose these results make me roughly 23% disgusted, 47% bemused, and 30% depressed. Read all the results here.

Koran Returned

The AP reports that two dozen Oklahoma legislators will return copies of the Koran given to them by the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council after one of their colleagues discovered that the Muslim holy book condones the killing of innocent people. It's quite true that the Koran does condone the killing of innocent people, but so does the Bible. If fair is fair, then Oklahoma should launch a statewide campaign to remove the Bibles from every motel room. Or, better yet, why not place a Koran alongside the Bible in motel rooms. That way we'd have two books to chuck out the window. I'm kidding, of course. No one in his right mind would ever stay overnight in Oklahoma.

Smarty Hotties

So, Natalie Portman is guest editing the October 29th edition of Scholastic Math, a kids' magazine all about the wonders of numbers. And girl of my adolescent dreams Danica McKellar (Winnie from The Wonder Years) just released Math Doesn't Suck, a book aimed to get young girls interested in math. Where were all the beautiful women in my math classes growing up? There's nothing sexier than a woman who gets all hot over the quadratic equation. Maybe I should have taken something other than Math for Liberal Arts Majors (MATH114) in college. That class was just full of hippie chicks with armpit hair. Though I did have a crush on a few of those.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ask an Amateur Scientist: Chiropractic

This week in my PinkRaygun.com column Ask an Amateur Scientist, I deconstruct the quackery that is chiropractic care. What's it all about? Who invented it? Can you really heal all the body's ailments by adjusting quirks of the spine? Go here to read all about how chiropractic is both a terribly baseless and a terribly lucrative field of study. My only request is that you quell your greedy impulses and refrain from enrolling in a four week chiropractic course. Sure a private practice is easy money, but so is the underground baby trade.

Gay Worms

Scientists at the University of Utah have discovered an apparent gene for sexual preference in the brains of nematode worms. While most nematodes are hermaphrodites, they mostly function as females that produce a small amount of sperm to fertilize their own eggs. About one in five hundred is a true male. However, both sexes produce pheromones. Researchers were able to switch off the so-called "fem-3" gene in the hermaphrodite worms' brains, causing them to become attracted to the pheromones of other hermaphrodites--essentially creating nematode lesbians. While the same may not be true for humans, it's becoming more and more likely that the reasonable assumption is true--sexual orientation is not a choice. Which explains why I cannot get it up for Don Rickles, no matter how hard I try. Read all about the study here.

Watson Washed Up

Racist Nobel Prize winner Dr. James Watson has resigned his post at the Cold Spring Harbor research laboratory amid the backlash over his remarks earlier this month about the genetic inferiority of black people. This controversy has caused some conflict within the scientific community as well, with many arguing that if there is a genetic difference between black and white people, that doesn't equate to racism. However, Watson's statements are not scientific and are based on nothing more than anecdotal evidence of what he claims to be the negative opinions of employers toward their black employees. For that, I have no problem seeing him sent packing from the scientific community. But, as Dr. Steven Novella pointed out on the latest episode of the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast, the disdain of racism is an ethical position which shouldn't rely on any hypothetical genetic discovery. More details about Watson's resignation here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ask an Amateur Scientist: Uri Geller

With tonight's premiere of NBC's Phenomenon, I thought it would be appropriate to point you to my latest Ask an Amateur Scientist column at PinkRaygun.com. Phenomenon is a reality show which claims to be the search for America's next great mentalist. It's co-hosted by magician Criss Angel and liar Uri Geller. I trust that Angel, who is a friend of James Randi's, will offer a skeptical take on the proceedings, but Geller is another story. In my column, I discuss Geller's sordid history as a psychic fraud and provide a link to video of James Randi destroying Geller on the Tonight Show. Read it here.

Mummy Mystery Solved

Due to new testing on Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun's mummy, archaeologists now believe they know how the boy king died. Some have claimed Tut was murdered, but CT scanning shows that he most likely died from blood poisoning he contracted from a broken leg sustained in a fall from a hunting chariot. As Vice President Dick Cheney has proven, fatal hunting accidents are a real danger even today, so it's an understandable (if unglamorous) end for the famous ruler. However, who's to say King Tut wasn't pushed from that chariot by his murderer? The mystery lives on. Read all about it here.

Global Warming Censorship

According to the AP, the Bush administration severely edited testimony on climate change given to Congress by the director of the CDC. The draft of the report submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget totaled fourteen pages, but the version Dr. Julie Gerberding presented to the Senate topped out at four. Included among the deletions were specific scientific references to the various health problems associated with climate change. Of course, this may just be a misunderstanding, as the White House is simply in the habit of blacking out most of the documents it handles.

Bang, Zoom

Here's hoping this is the beginning of another space race. China launched its lunar probe today--the first step in a planned 10-year mission to culminate with sending and returning a rover from the surface of the moon. While NASA is working on its own lunar program, their funding is limited and national interest seems to be low. If it takes a little patriotic yammering about beating the Reds, I'm willing to suffer some jingoism in exchange for a viable space program. More details here.

Close Encounter of the Kucinich Kind

In her new book Sage-ing While Age-ing, actress Shirley MacLaine claims that Democratic presidential candidate and magical pocket gnome Dennis Kucinich once saw a UFO hovering above her house. She writes, "...when he looked up, he saw a gigantic triangular craft, silent, and observing him. It hovered, soundless, for 10 minutes or so, and sped away with a speed he couldn't comprehend. He said he felt a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind." Kucinich has yet to confirm the story, though he is a close friend of MacLaine's. It's important to remember, however, that despite her role in the classic film The Apartment, Shirley MacLaine is, in fact, a crazy person who also claims to "communicate" with trees. Thanks to the Cleveland Plain Dealer for the story.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ask an Amateur Scientist: Werewolves

In this fourteenth installment of my weekly PinkRaygun.com column Ask an Amateur Scientist, I explore the myth and mystery behind werewolves. What do they represent? What can they tell us about ourselves? How do you kill one? Can they really do a handstand atop a delivery truck? Find out here.

Happy Creation Day

According to 17th century biblical scholar James Ussher, today is the anniversary of God's creation of the universe. By piecing together a chronology of biblical events, Ussher calculated that creation began on the evening of October 23rd, 4004 BC. If nothing else, take a few moments on this special day to contemplate all we've accomplished in the roughly 6,000 years since. Our uncanny ability to cram millions of years of evolution into such a brief span of time is enough cause for celebration, don't you think?

Antimatter Ray

Scientists at North Carolina State University have created the most intense positron beam in the world. They hope this antimatter ray will lead to the development of, among other scientific breakthroughs, a powerful antimatter microscope capable of investigating atomic structure with greater detail than ever before. Also, it's an excellent recruitment tool for attracting prospective students and megalomaniacal supervillains. More details here.

On the Fence

The New York Times reports that Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff has bypassed several environmental protection laws in order to continue building a fence along the U.S./Mexico border despite a federal court ruling to suspend construction. Chertoff claims the fence needs to be built due to "unacceptable risks to our nation's security". This despite the fact that foreign terrorists enter the country legally via airports and that illegal Mexican immigrants, who pose no security risk, can just go around the fence. Good to see our tax money hard at work.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Attack of the Monkeys

According to the BBC, the deputy mayor of Delhi, Mr. SS Bajwa, has died after being attacked by a horde of wild monkeys. Many Indian cities suffer from a monkey plague, but Delhi has a particularly bad infestation. The adorably vicious little thieves are revered by many local Hindus who see them as the physical manifestations of the god Hanuman and therefore feed them bananas and peanuts. While science works on the problem, a government-mandated study has suggested releasing trained bands of ferocious langur monkeys to kill off the troublesome Rhesus monkeys. I'm no city planner, but this does not seem like a wise solution.

Chuck Norris: Politico

The celebrity presidential endorsements are flying every which way these days. Obama's got Oprah. Giuliani's got the Fox News Channel. Chris Dodd's got...Chris Dodd. But until today, Chuck Norris had kept his preference a closely guarded secret. Get ready to sweep the office pool, because Chuck's thrown himself behind Republican candidate Mike Huckabee. The star of Walker Texas Ranger and Internet meme explains himself thusly: “Like our Founding Fathers, [Huckabee is] not afraid to stand up for a Creator and against secularist beliefs.” By "secularist", Chuck means "supported by evidence", and by "like our Founding Fathers", he means "not at all like our Founding Fathers, who were actually secularists". Read more here.

Real Time with Real Idiots

You may have seen this clip already, but on last week's episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, there was an amusing incident involving some screaming 9/11 conspiracy theorists and an incompetent studio security staff who took an extraordinarily long time throwing these nuts out. I'm no fan of Maher. He demonstrates more smarm than talent, and earlier in this same episode he stupidly blamed rising rates of staph infections on a carnivorous diet. But his handling of this situation was pretty entertaining. Take a look:

Friday, October 19, 2007

Origins of the Eye

One of the favorite creationist arguments is that an organ as complex as the eye could not have naturally evolved. Of course, they fail to explain why God would have created such a delicate and imperfect light sensor. After all, I wear glasses. Nor do they explain how a false assertion could be considered an argument. Regardless, scientists at UC Santa Barbara have discovered the evolutionary origins of photosensitivity in animals by studying the ancient aquatic Hydra. Read all about it here.

What's the Deal with Scientology?

So now it turns out Jerry Seinfeld's been impressed by Scientology's "technology" as well. To quote: "They have a lot of very good technology. That's what really appealed to me about it. It's not faith-based. It's all technology. And I'm obsessed with technology." I don't really know what to say about this. I'm hoping it's all some kind of elaborate promotion for Bee Movie. Read more about this disturbing interview with Mr. Seinfeld here.

Creationism Blocked

Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter has been pressured into dropping a $100,000 earmark for Louisiana Family Forum, a Christian group seeking to teach creationism in the classroom. The money, which was set to "promote better science education" will now be spent elsewhere. It's important to note that by "better", the LFF means "worse", and by "science", they mean "not-science". Oh, and not that this really has anything to do with anything, but Sen. Vitter is the one who was recently caught spending money on whores. More details here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fiery Pope

It's easy to dismiss those who claim this picture taken at a Polish ceremony commemorating Pope John Paul II shows the deceased pontiff appearing as a waving pillar of fire. But the more I hear about the behavior of the dead, the more I'm convinced that these kinds of things just might be true. After watching countless episodes of John Edward: Cross Country and seeing all these vague and creepy images of fire, wood grain, grilled cheese sandwiches, and tufts of smoke, it's becoming harder and harder to deny that the afterlife is a terrifying wasteland where the only way to communicate with the living is through frustratingly inaccurate games of charades. Sure, John Paul's ghost would love to come out and write a letter providing some hopeful promise for tomorrow, but the laws of the netherworld prohibit him from sending any more specific message than "Here I am, and I'm on fire." Plus, it's a good thing they took that picture when the flame was just so, otherwise it'd be back to square one for the old pope.

Susan Orr: Idiot

George W. Bush has appointed Susan Orr to oversee federal family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services. If you'll recall, HHS was responsible for this incredibly cool abstinence-only education ad, so Orr seems like a nice addition to their higher ranks. She was an adjunct professor at Pat Robertson's Regent University--a kind of Hogwarts for the religiously insane. She also described insurance-covered contraceptives as being a part of "the culture of death". Actually, she has a point there. Condoms lead to the deaths of millions of helpless STDs every year. More details here.

Mitt Romney: The Marriage Fairy

Mitt Romney, the square jawed, glossy-haired Republican presidential candidate (who believes that a con-man translated golden tablets while staring into a hat) spoke before a group of Christian conservative leaders and laid out his plan to encourage young people to get married. "Number one on my list is we have to teach our kids that before they have babies, they should get married," Romney said. First of all, how do you encourage kids to get married before having children other than telling them it might be a good idea? Also, shouldn't potential parents consider other issues such as financial independence and whether mom or dad can get out of sixth period geometry in time to feed the baby? And by "marriage", of course, Mitt means "straight people marriage". The children of homosexuals can just go screw. More on the speech here.

No Cold Medicine for Kids

A group of concerned pediatricians is petitioning the FDA for a ban on cold and cough medicine for children under five years old. There have been several studies suggesting these medicines don't have any effect on very young children, but now the issue is whether they're actually harmful and pose a risk of overdose. Where were these doctors when I was that age? They could have saved me a lot of time hiding under the coffee table while my mom tried to force ass-tasting cough syrup down my throat. Just looking at this picture still makes me gag. More details here.

The Racist Scientist

Dr. James Watson, Nobel Prize winner and co-discoverer of the DNA double helix structure has caused quite the controversy by claiming that black people are less intelligent than whites. The comment has caused the British museum to cancel a scheduled lecture by Watson. Watson backs up his claim by stating that there's no reason why groups of people in different geographic regions should evolve identically. True enough, but that's not a very convincing case for a discrepancy in brain capacity. Interestingly, CNN's article on the story mentions that Watson isn't the first scientist to make similar claims. They site the views of ex-Leeds University lecturer Dr. Frank Ellis, who was forced to retire after saying all immigrants should be rounded up and deported. Aside from being a nutbag, Ellis was a professor of Russian studies. Not exactly a hard science, that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Death in a Tortilla

Look, I know this isn't a very scientific statement, but I'm pretty sure one bite of Hardee's new Country Breakfast Burrito--with its two egg omelet filled with bacon, sausage, ham, cheese, hash browns, and gravy wrapped in a flour tortilla--will kill you instantly. If that's not horrifying enough, read about how it's not even the most unhealthy monstrosity on the Hardee's menu here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ask an Amateur Scientist: Magnets

In the thirteenth installment of my weekly PinkRaygun.com column Ask an Amateur Scientist, I dissect the outrageously ridiculous phenomenon that is magnet therapy. Yes, I'm talking about those copper bracelets your grandfather wears for his golf swing. It's not the only useless thing your grandfather's ever done, though. Remember that thing we whittled for your twelfth birthday? What the hell was that thing? Anyway, read all about it here.

The Science of an X-Wing

Bogger Jay Garmon has posted a video proving once and for all that there's no way an X-Wing would fly in atmosphere without falling apart. The Polecat Aerospace club rigged up a nearly full-scale X-Wing model and launched it into the sky. You'll have to click here to see what happens. Suffice it to say, not everything in Star Wars is scientifically feasible, despite what that guy wearing a cloak at the Barnes & Noble told you.

The Softer Side of T. Rex

Long considered the alpha dog of the dinosaurs, the Tyrannosaurus rex has lost some of its cool factor in recent years. I blame Jurassic Park's glorification of the velociraptor. Sure, the T. rex wins in the end, but it's definitely not crafty enough to open a kitchen door. Then two of them suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of a giant gorilla in that Peter Jackson crapfest. But since the revelation that velociraptors were really nothing more than vicious, fluffy chickens, T. rex is poised for a comeback. Now scientists have recovered soft tissue from the thigh bone of a T. rex. MSNBC's story on the matter is all about the exciting chance for protein isolation this tissue affords. Yawn. I want me some T. rex clones, and I want them now.

Friday, October 12, 2007

ATA Online

The Allen Telescope Array, a massive group of radio telescopes funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has finally been switched on. Run by the SETI Institute and the Radio Astronomy Laboratory of UC Berkeley, the array significantly enhances our ability to discover signs of intelligent life. The ATA is able to sweep more than a million star systems, so here's hoping we pick up a few alien TV shows that are better than this year's fall lineup. I mean seriously. Cavemen? Read the BBC's story here.

NASCAR Fans Contagious?

The House Homeland Security Committee, an organization of congressional aides, decided to take a trip to a NASCAR race to study public health preparedness at mass gatherings. But before their trip, the government recommended they be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, tetanus, diphtheria, and influenza. I've never been to a NASCAR race, so I don't have any anecdotal evidence to share, but I can't say this sounds like a bad idea. I'm loathe to stereotype people, but these are NASCAR fans we're talking about. Congressmen from the areas in question are livid over the whole thing. Read their protest-too-much quotes here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hitchens Nominated for National Book Award

Congratulations to Christopher Hitchens on being named a National Book Award finalist for God is Not Great. If you haven't read it, order it here. Also, congratulations to Sherman Alexie, Lydia Davis, and Denis Johnson on their own nominations, because I really like all of them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Treasure Holes

According to a new study conducted by the University of Manchester, supermassive black holes embedded in quasars spit out prodigious amounts of glass, rubies, and sapphires. These precious jewels eventually break down into the kind of space dust that can form new stars. But before that happens, methinks we should batten down the hatches of our space boats and chase after that booty! Aaarrrr!


If you don't know the story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, you should. In 1992, she fled to the Netherlands from Somalia instead of allowing herself to be forcefully married to a man she didn't know. Since then, she's been an outspoken critic of the crimes committed upon women in the name of Islamic society--including genital mutilation, sexual subjugation, and physical abuse. She was elected to the Dutch parliament and worked with politicians, refugees, and artists in her efforts to educate the west about the atrocities from which she escaped. But when her collaborator and friend Theo van Gogh was murdered for his anti-Islamic film Submission, Hirsi Ali was forced into a life on the run from psychopathic Muslim extremists who want to see her dead as well. She has since been living in the United States under the protection of Dutch security, but now the Dutch government wants to cut its funding of her safety. Read Christopher Hitchens' essay on the subject here. Sam Harris and Salman Rushdie have also written about the situation here. Follow their advice and write to the people in power who have made this ridiculous and cowardly decision. It's not much, but it's the least you can do for a true defender of freedom.

Future Battery Update

Last week, I linked to a story about the development of a new betavoltaic battery which would supposedly generate enough energy to last about 30 years. Dr. Steven Novella discussed this story in the latest episode of the excellent Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast and raised many interesting skeptical issues. Download the episode here. Or, better yet, just subscribe already.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Spy Sharks

What's more terrifying than a deadly shark slicing toward you through the water? How about one with a U.S. military-controlled brain implant? According to DefenseTech.org, that's precisely what's in the works. I'm all for having the best available weaponry, but shouldn't some things just be left to mad scientists and Bond villains?

Abstinence, Schmabstinence

First of all, watch this commercial put out by 4parents.gov, a government website run by the Department of Health and Human Services:

Let's put aside the obvious political implications here. Yes, this is just another bone thrown to the religious conservatives by the Bush administration. And let's even put aside the scientific implications. No, abstinence education does not work, and yes, it does cause harm by not educating children about potentially lifesaving safe sex measures. Let's instead focus on just the social implications. Why would any loving parent want their children to wait until marriage before having sex? I don't know about you, but my first time was sweaty and nervous and about as erotic as two manatees in a fist fight. Which isn't to say my first in any way resembled a manatee. Of course, why should I care about hurting her feelings? Cheater. Anyway, my point is that I'd hope my child's honeymoon wouldn't be marred by jitters and flailing inexperience. I'd want the best for my children, and when it comes to sex, the first time is never the best.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Hillary Clinton: Science Hero?

In a speech timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Sputnik, Hillary Clinton accused the Bush administration of waging a "war on science" and promised that as president she would lift the ban on stem cell research, support the development of robotic space exploration and a replacement for the space shuttle, launch a space-based climate initiative to fight global warming, and provide $50 billion to research into alternative fuels. Read all about the speech here. None of this really sets her apart from the rest of the Democratic field, and there's no reason to believe these are anything but empty promises. But, regardless, it's nice to think that her strategists have come to the conclusion that voters respond positively to pro-science messages. In fact, I think I'm going to use that research to lure in some big name advertisers. Pretty soon, this website will be called The Taco Bell Amateur Scientist, and I'll be rolling in the cash. Maybe almost as much as Clinton's taken from the health insurance industry.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

I Heart Stephen Fry

Here's a great video of comedian Stephen Fry on the show Room 101 wherein he discusses the inanity of the terms "positive" and "negative" energy, the cultural rape and musical crimes committed by the New Age movement, and the dangerously anti-scientific mindset of astrologers. Among other things. Enjoy.

Appendix Not So Append...actle?

Hooray for the mystery-solving power of science! A news study published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology (I wonder what that journal's about...) by Duke University immunologists theorizes that our favorite seemingly useless organ (the appendix, of course) may have a use after all. It may, in fact, produce helpful pro-biotics for our bodies. Now aren't you regretting your completely voluntary Ayn Randian appendectomy? Not so practical after all, huh? Read more here.

Friday, October 5, 2007


Researchers at the University of Michigan have created a new plastic that's as strong as steel but lighter and transparent. It's made of layers of clay nanosheets and a water-soluble polymer. I'm not sure what all that means, but I'm hoping it'll be strong enough to hold a couple of humpback whales aboard my Klingon bird of prey. More details here.

Future Battery

Thanks to U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory funding, you may never have to recharge your laptop battery again. Scientists have created commercial betavoltaic power cells made from semiconductors which use radioisotopes as an energy source. As the radioactive material decays, it creates a steady stream of electrical energy capable of running an electronic device for up to thirty years. Even better, it runs completely cool and is non-toxic once all the energy is used up. According to this article, the plan is to release the batteries to the public within a few years. Here's hoping that I'll never have to charge my iPod during my sleeper ship journey to Alpha Centauri.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

China Twofor

First Christopher Hitchens publishes a scathing critique of China's involvement with human rights-squashing despotic regimes and calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics (read it here), and now NASA administrator Michael Griffin says the Chinese will land a person on the moon before we get around to doing it again. What gives? Maybe Griffin is just trying to drum up some base-level nationalistic support from a water-brained congress, but at least somebody's doing it. I'm all for starting another space race as long as it takes Chinese attention and money away from supporting genocide in Darfur and slaughter in Burma.

Church in State

What the hell? Liberal bloggers have huffed up their righteous indignation over the fact that 51 House congressmen refused to vote for a resolution commemorating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and declaring Islam one of the world's "great religions". Who cares? Doesn't the congress have more important things to do than pass useless and trivial commemorations? I'd really like some health insurance, for instance. Oh, and isn't there a war happening somewhere? It's this kind of religious malarkey that keeps my mail from running on Sundays and my bank closed on Christmas. Anger! And for the record, Islam is a religion based on the worship of an illiterate pedophile and warmonger, and the Koran is a sub-intellectual tract of plagiarism. It's been almost as globally harmful as institutionalized Christianity, and its mythology is almost as ridiculous as the Mormon church's.

The Devil Takes a Lover

Back in 2003, 55-year-old pastor Gennaro Piscopo of Evangel Christian Church in Michigan was convicted of sexually assaulting a church member upon whom he was performing an exorcism. Now Piscopo's lawyers have requested a review of the case--citing the fact that some key information about his female accuser which was not allowed to be considered in the first trial. That information? The woman believed that she had previously been raped by a demon and diddled by Satan himself, who she says was living in her attic at the time. Also, about 100 people witnessed the exorcism in question, and no one else saw the woman being assaulted by Piscopo. Obviously this woman is insane, but I wonder why no one recognized this before arranging an exorcism. There's no amount of holy water that'll flush away the crazies. And by "the crazies", I mean anyone who believes in demonic possession. More details here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ask an Amateur Scientist: The Crystal Skull

In the twelfth installment of my weekly PinkRaygun.com column Ask an Amateur Scientist, I delve into the mystery surrounding the famed crystal skull of South America. Turns out it's not so much a mystery as a scam. And it probably didn't come from South America. But it sure is pretty. Read all about it here.

More Psychic Time Wasting

The parents of the missing girl Madeleine McCann are apparently trying to consult "psychic medium" Gordon Smith in an effort to find their daughter. Kate and Gerry McCann, who were named suspects in the case after traces of blood were found in their car, have reportedly been urged by family members to seek out paranormal help. This despite the fact that so-called psychics have never been proven to have solved any criminal case in the history of the world. This is disgusting on many, many levels. The good people over at BadPsychics.com have a writeup on the case here.

Nessie Dying

Here's an interesting article from The Advertiser. Those who profit from Nessie-hunting tourists at Scotland's Loch Ness are increasingly concerned that rising skepticism as to the existence of the Loch Ness Monster may be killing their industry. Too bad for the people who make a living pointing webcams at water, but hooray for science. Says naturalist Adrian Shine: "I think we live in a more pragmatic age, and that people are becoming more aware of the sort of illusions that can occur on water." If only.

Sulu Finally in Space

Congratulations to Star Trek's Sulu, George Takei, on having an asteroid named after him. When traveling between Mars and Jupiter, keep an eye out for 7307 Takei. "I am now a heavenly body," George joked upon hearing the news. Well, Mr. Sulu, in my book, you've always been a heavenly body. In tribute, I present this video for the lovely ditty Sulu by The Gomers.

Obama: Superman

Barack Obama has laid out a plan to accomplish what only Superman was capable of: ridding the world of all nuclear weapons. And even though Superman first proposed the idea to the United Nations in a terrible 20-year-old movie, it still makes an awful lot of sense. Much of our diplomacy and saber-rattling has to do with keeping other countries from developing nuclear programs, which isn't a bad thing--after all, if someone like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had the bomb, he really could get rid of all the homosexuals in Iran--but it also places every other nuclear power in a position of hypocrisy. Non-nuclear weapons have achieved a level of precision that eliminates any need for a nuclear strike (if there ever really was one), so why not destroy these things and get them off the market? The more I think about this, the more I like it. But do we have a net big enough to hold all these things when we throw them into the sun?

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