Archive | October 2011

Why I’m an atheist

Over at Pharyngula, PZ has started a daily feature where people email him about why they’re atheists and he posts their email. He’s been inundated with them, so I’m going to post this here for now.

There’s a load of reasons for people to not believe in ANY gods – whether the Roman ones, Greek ones, the Abrahamic one (the one worshipped in Christianity, Islam and Judaism). Mine are as follows, in no particular order:
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Behold the Hyneman!

From time to time, people show up on the Mythbusters fansites and post the same old pictures of Jamie (The Hyneman) as a walrus or a LOLcat. Finally, something new!

No more anonymous posts?

Over in the UK, a parliamentary committee wants a “cultural shift” against anonymous posts on the Web.

My two cents are as follows: this happens to be one of the few places I post under my real name on the Web, but I don’t care if people use pseudonyms here or not. I am quite generally in favour of freedom of speech, with some exceptions:
Spamvertising: Despite the musings on a previous post concerning spam posts, I’ve decided that I will just delete them without comment. In real life, the letterbox has a sign that says “No junk mail please”, which cuts down on a lot of it. That, however, is a minor annoyance at best, and if somebody actively and specifically asks for a service and somebody else suggests one (such as a cafe in Galway or somewhere else), that is perfectly acceptable.
Trolling: if somebody posts here just to piss me off, I am probably going to give them a polite warning first. Then I will mangle their posts if they don’t stop, using this English-to-N00bish translator, and if that fails – I will ban them permanently. My blog, my rules, but I would rather not go that far. In real life, however, the best thing to do is to just ignore somebody like that – quite often, they do it under pseudonyms, as a result of G.I.F.T. (Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory), so I suspect many of them won’t do it to your face.
Sockpuppetry: this involves creating a second account or posting as another to support your argument. It’s pretty pathetic and dishonest, and I can view people’s IP addresses to check if it’s happening. If that is the case, I’ll probably ban the IP address. Again, I would rather not go that far.
Threats: On or off the web, these just are not acceptable, and these are the one thing that I would probably report. If you can’t make your point without resorting to threats, then I think you’ve pretty much lost the argument.

In real life, not everything is perfect. You get bigots everywhere, and the silver lining of allowing them to speak their bigoted minds is that most people will be disgusted by them, and you also have the right to tell them to fuck off. Case in point: two years ago, the NUIG Literary and Debating Society had a vote on whether to allow a Holocaust denier to speak in NUIG – the majority were in favour of this, but the Socialist Workers’ Students Society refused to accept this and said they would protest it. I wasn’t involved in the decision or even the talk because I had other things to do, but I agree with it entirely. Let them speak – and the rest of us can tell them we think they’re complete fuckheads.

First Galileo satellite is off the ground

After the failure of the end of the world (again!), here’s something more interesting: the first satellite in the EU’s Galileo network has left Earth.

The Galileo network is intended to act as a European version of the GPS network, and it may provide a lot of jobs in the IT and science sectors for the rest of the decade as they get the network up and running. Now, the big question is “Why not just use the GPS network?”
The answer to that might well have something to do with increasing competition in the markets. It also might be related to the clocks on-board the satellites being more precise, which may make measurements using GPS more precise. That said, satnav systems won’t be able to use it until around 2015, so don’t turn them off just yet (if you use them, that is)!

Gaddaffi is dead

So, Gaddaffi/Khadaffi is dead? Looking at his track record, the only thing I can say is “Good riddance”.

Of course, the big question: What next? I personally hope that Libya is rebuilt as quickly as possible, and that the old joke about revolutions (so-called because they just go round and round and nothing changes) don’t happen. Not being an expert on North Africa – sod that, I’m just a random physics student who doesn’t even know Dublin that well! – I have no idea what’s going to happen next. Any idea, anyone?

Arduino – my next experiment

For the next few weeks, I’m working on using the Arduino microcontroller in the lab – partly acting as a guinea pig to see if it could be used in the 3rd Year labs.

Arduino is an open-source electronics board that’s aimed at artists, designers and hobbyists, but it might be useful to physicists and engineers as well. The open-source part refers to the software that’s required to run it, but you can buy the boards pre-assembled or build them yourself.

So far, I’m just getting used to it, but the programming language is similar to C. I wonder if this would have made a bit of a difference in electronics last year?

If anyone’s interested, the website is here.

“Saved”

Camels With Hammers over at Freethoughtblogs embedded a clip of an Australian singer named Shelley Seagal singing a piece called “Saved”. It’s brilliant.

I don’t use MySpace or anything like that, but here’s her profile. Well worth following…unless you’re a religious fundamentalist, in which case just listen and think about it.