Friday, January 30, 2009

Which century is it anyway?

I’m flabbergasted the Tulsa school district in Oklahoma as not only been suspected of witchcraft and casting hexes on her teacher but she as been suspended for it!!!! Read about the case on the ACLU website. I don’t think there is anything more that can be said about that, for got sake witchcraft!

Now, I’m sure they use the very serious and completely scientific process outlined below to insure her witchiness:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Harper might have lost the war to win the battle

The last federal budget was “approved” today by the last of the opposition party giving the conservative the vote they needed to stay in power at least for a while and prevent either an election or a coalition government from two of the three opposition parties. However, to have this budget accepted by at least one of the opposition party, they moved away from their theoretical right measure and embraced a far left lets spend everything we’ve got and then some attitude. It worked, the liberal choose to forgo their words and quit the coalition and vote with the conservative on the budget. However, no one is happy about the budget for the left, already opposed to the Harper government it doesn’t do enough, for the right it is a betrayal of the ideals and promises made during the previous elections.

I think that his will hurt the conservative chances at a majority government far more then anything they have done in the past. Simply because they alienated the people that viewed them as an alternative to the ever increasing bureaucracy and involvement of the state the Liberal and NPD propose. And, like the ADQ in Quebec politic they are still viewed by the more left leaning part of the electorate as dangerous Capitalistic Murderous, Environment Destroying Scumbag, who they would never vote for. In short, they lost the vote that usually go to them, and did not gain any new votes.

Now just imagine how bad things will be for them when the measured proposed fail and all the opposition parties blame them for it saying they did not do enough? Past tentative to save economies by massive spending and investment in infrastructures have not given any positive result, why should we expect it to be different in Canada?

I think the conservative should have gambled the government on making a budget that would have actually helped the economy instead of trying to force it to restart. First, I don’t think the governor general would have given power to the coalition (they are not numerous enough to pass any vote without the bloc which will had only agreed to vote with them on non-confidence vote, meaning the conservative could paralyze government by simply voting against everything) and second I think that people would be intelligent enough to understand while spending billions of dollars when you’re strapped for cash is not a good idea.

Oh well, all this to say that the Canadian left will probably have their wish, Harper and the conservative out of power in the next election. Some will say for the best, other will say it’s about time, many won’t care and the last group will go is there anyone out there would can represent me? That reminds I’ve got to go and see what the green party as to say about the budget, in the last election their fiscal plan was very interesting.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I'd like that kind of relationship

Those two videos are of the parent of a youtuber arguing philosophy about life and the universe. Isn't that a great relationship? Beign able to debate, argue and talk about deep subjet. Now, I'd like to have that kind of relationship with a woman, that would be nice and interesting. What do you think?



Starting the day well

This day started well, and aside from the minor annoyance of the federal budget went pretty well. I’ll go into how the day started well, it’s quite average but it really set the tone for the day. The day started exactly like every other and well seems to be normal or boring, until I got into the bus. I sat down, in a mostly empty bus so that a nice plus then, a mother with her small kid (can’t be more then 1 years old). About 5 second after the kid sat down he (or she I’m not sure, you with the winter clothes and all) started laughting, the pure, cute laught of a child. All along the bus ride, the little one keep smiling at people and laughting whenever someone winked or smiled at him. That made my day great, the kid laughting and smiling; sometimes it’s the smallest thing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Praying and my atheism

I’ve said in the past that I’d pray for someone or to help someone, and I’ve pray in the past for myself. Now you might go, but asaathi you’re an atheist who the hell are you praying to and why are you doing that?

Actually, when I say I’ll pray for someone it’s mostly because I think (or know) that this person will fell better knowing that I would do that. It’s a way to tell them, I care about what is happening to you and yours and I would like it to be resolved in the best way possible. It as nothing to do with a creator or a god watching and waiting for prayer, and everything to do with sharing the fact that I care.

Now, how about when I pray for myself, well that I think is even easier to explain, first I’m not praying to any particular entities or even something with a conscience or intelligent. Praying is a way to articulate my fear, my hope, my dreams in a way that will make me fell better about them and perhaps find solutions to what ails me. It is a way to vocalize internally what I think, what I have problem with and in a way relieve some of the stress but making the problem more realm and more concrete. It’s also a way to analyze what I feel and think about a problem or a situation. I’m not expecting answers from an outside source or even miraculous occurrence to solve the problem or situation but it does help to talk about it, even if it is only to myself.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cooking with the Astronomers

Spicy and swirly galaxy
Preparation: 10 000 years or so
Cooking times: roughly 13.2 Billion years
Feeds: unknown un species as ever eaten a whole one

Ingredients
Between 10 to the 8 power and 10 to the 10 power hot stars of various ages and metallicity
Between 10 to the 10 power and 10 to the 13 power cold stars of various ages and metallicity
Neutral hydrogen gas, to taste
Ionized hydrogen gas to taste
1 super massive black hole (between 10 to the 6 and 10 to the 9 times the mass of a typical G stars)
10 to the 13 power cold dark matter as can be found in any good universal store
an hint of dark energy.

Cooking step
1. Put dark matter in a large empty area of the universe along with cold hydrogen gas
2. Add the cold stars of the lowest metallicity
3. Stir for a few millions years
4. Add a second helping of cold stars with an high mettalicity
5. Put the super massive black hole in the middle of the dark matter
6. Add the rest of the cold stars
7. Add the young hot stars all over the galaxy
8. Add the ionized gas
9. Stir for the reaming cooking time
10. For extra spice add more ionized gas around the super massive black hole

Here you go a perfect, spiral galaxy with just an hint of nuclear activity. And aside from the fact that the neutral gas is actually the sources of all the stars you will find in the galaxy that a pretty good interpretation of how galaxies are made. And that actually part of what I do for my PhD, of course since I can’t mix the dark matter and cold hydrogen gas my work is a little more complex.

You see, what I do is kinda like trying to figure out how the cake was made simply by looking at the cake (nope not tasting it) and in what proportion everything is present. Let me tell you I’ve made cake and it quite easier to make them from the recipe that to figure out the recipe from the cake. Now luckily I can look using special tools otherwise well the information I could get would be much more limited. You see light contain an amazing volume of information about what emitted it and what stood between you and the source. You can actually measure temperatures of the gas, quantities of elements, velocity of the stars and gas relative to the line of sight and of course what happen around those pesky black hole.

You see, every elements emit in very specifics AND unique way so you can differentiate between the elements simply by seeing what light you are receiving. Also, movement cause the light to either become bluer (if the object is moving toward you) or redder (if it moving away from you), then the intensity of the emission depends on the temperature, pressures and other condition in the medium. The dependence is not unique but every light depend more strongly on one or the other of these condition so you can compute them from the ratios of many lines. So you can tell quite a lot from just the star, but you need to understand quite a lot of thing to make senses of all the information. It’s fascinating to say the least.

Taureau Rouge Glace Concassée

What is:”Taureau rouge Glace concassé” well that would be the french title for the Red Bull Crashed Ice event (that not an official translation, but the words are all correctly translated). Why would I speak about a non-existing translation of a sporting event name? Well you see this week-end in Quebec City, were hosting the what seems to be becoming an annual event of the Red Bull Crashed Ice, and their has been a manifestation to give the event a french name. Now, that perfectly reasonable… if the manifestation was done by people from Quebec City in Quebec City, the problem is the manifestation was held in Montreal, by people from Montreal.

Excuse me Montrealer, don’t you have enough problem with the well everything about your city (remember, in the last year part of the subway threaten to collapse, many important water conduit broke, you lost the Canada’s formula one race and not to mention report that the main bridge into the island is not that safe anymore)? I don’t think we need more of your opinion about what is happening in Quebec City, please let us enjoy our sports and well work out to fix your city. Oh and BTW, if Quebec ever become a part of the Red Bull Air Race, I sincerely hope it will remain the Red Bull Air Race and not some weird french translation of the words.

Remember if you want French name for your event, start them yourself don’t complain when someone else comes in to host an even and doesn’t call it to your sensibilities. Beside, I don’t think anyone is forcing you to watch the event and if you don’t like the name don’t participate it will move away if no one get involved you know.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Higher dimension video


How To Imagine The Tenth Dimension - Watch more How-to


I'd like to point out that even if this is a pretty good way to see higher dimension it is by no mean the only way, and even if it does claim that we cannot think of anything beyon 10 dimension, this is actually quite false as some version of string theory require up to 24 dimension. But still it should give you an idea of how to interpret dimension higher then 3. And the balloon and flat-lander is a good analogy to us and the expension of the universe.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Recreating the battle of the “Plaine d’Abraham”

Apparently for the 250th anniversary of the Battle on the Plaine d’Abraham, the Canadian Battlefield commision as decided to recreate the battle in Quebec City on the plains. While the idea as some merits, it is afterall the battle that deceided much of the fate of Canada. However, it is a french defeat and the french speaking majority in Quebec associate itself with the french for some reason, I’m guessing it’s the kisses. Now, the historical value of the battle is indeniable, but well I kind of a thing agains celebrating defeat and I can justly imagine that the separatist of Quebec will see any comemoration of the Battle will be seen as a slap in the face. I don’t oppose slapping the separatist movement in the face (expecially with it’s current leaders), I think that many Quebecers will feel slapped with such a celebration. It’s a very thorny issue I guess. Hmm maybe there is a way to make such a recreation in a way that won’t make Quebecers looks like losers, we could for example make a demonstration not protesting the recreation but honoring the French’s death that fought villiantly, even if they lost, to protect Quebec City. Imagine, a few hundred people all dressed in black watching the baltle. When it ends they walk away in silence up to a cimetary and then a simple word for the French soldiers. I think that this way we both remember the importance of this battle in our history and the value of our french heritage. What do you think about this recreation?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

So about that girlfriend issue

Well since you haven’t seen any announcement on facebook that my relationship status as changed you probably guessed that there hasn’t been any change in that area of my life. You might think it is because of my astronomical standard for a girlfriend or that I’m simply too geeky to get a girl. While both might have something to do with it, I’m pretty sure it as more to do with my lack of social life at the moment, aside from gaming with my friends and my salsa classes I’m basically spending all my time in front my Mac typing away at my thesis.

Now, in the last few years I’ve gotten to the point where I believe that the most important factor in getting date is being out there. Without much of a social life there is very little chance your gonna find anyone. Even dating web site, while they are useful and can work will not be very successful if the only thing you are doing is looking at pictures of woman and not sending hundreds upon hundreds of messages (and that’s in the hope of getting a few answers).

So how do I feel about still being single? Well, honestly, I pretty much don’t care at the moment. I’ve got little to no time to spend on thinking about a date, no woman I’m interested in hooking up and very little change of meeting any and well I’m so unsure of my near future situation as to make meeting someone problematic. Just imagine if the only job get ends up three continent away… got to be the shortest relationship in the history of thing lasting longer then a one night stand. In short, I’m not worrying about, I still feel lonely at time but I guess that can’t be help, you can fell lonely in crowd so I guess it’s not hard to feel lonely when you alone.

Oh well, that was the romantic situation update, don’t worry most of the future post won’t be about things like that, beside it‘s not like I need someone’s approval to write on my blog. Not to mention that I don’t think I’ll get a girlfriend through well this blog, even tho at least one woman started speaking me because of it… hmm hey you never know.

I have Obamamaniistist

Yeah you read it right I’m sick and tired of Obamamania, mainly because that is what is keeping me from learning about Obama and his ideas. Sure Obama’s election is an historic event, the first African American elected to the post of president of the United State of America but we shouldn’t just all degenerate into a blissful unthinking state because it happened. Everywhere I’m turning to find more/learn more about Obama I’m greeted by journalist in the orgasmic bliss that tell me how great they thing he is without telling me a single thing about the man. It getting so bad that I’m actually avoiding news Channels because I’m starting to get angry the coverage, come on there are other things happening in Canada and the world beside Obama’s inauguration.

Also, but this is another rant, STOP DOING VOICE OVER TRANSLATION, I was trying to listen to Obama’s speech yesterday and after a few words in English we get that freaky, whinny voice doing the translation over Obama. Subtitle would have been so much more interesting and would have given me the opportunity to be sure that what I was hearing/seeing was what was actually said. I just can’t help but feel that someone is trying to hide the actual words when they are doing a voice over or that they consider me too stupid to read/understand the words actually spoken.

Anyway, remember journalist Obama did no cure cancer, fight off an alien invasion or staves off world hunger so please please oh pretty please stop treating him like some kind of messiah that as already saved us all from terrible danger. I’ve read part of his inauguration speech and yes he sounds like he as good idea, but give him time to show he can also accomplish them before you pronounce him a saint. Otherwise I’ll star to think your setting him up to fail by making the things people expect him to do actually impossible to achieve.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Two kinds of people

There is two very different ways that people look at science and the answers and question it provides, the open minded way and the believer’s way. The open minded way require that you adress science as tool to understand that natural word, without alreay assuming answers for your question. While the believer’s way look at science as way to prove that his answers are true.

Most often this comes in the form of religion, where the believers need science’s answer to be god did it. Science might explain just about everything but in the end the result must be, god did it. This lead to twisting of observation and interpration of theories to give them supranatural weight or worse trying to force observation to fit with scriptures, which tends forbid avenues of knowledge and reduce the impact of science on humanity.

Will writing this post I realised something, the open minded person does not approche science without looking to prove his answer are true, but he is willing to accept his answer might be wrong. This is the greatest difference between the two, one is willing to accept his answer to be wrong, the other claims science is wrong with observation disagree with his answer.

Tell me, which one would you prefere the next generation of scientist to be?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Government should save the economy

Since the beginning of the financial crisis we keep hearing that the government should save such and such because if it doesn’t everything will fall apart. We’ve seen huge amount of money fuelled into banking but the crisis as not slowed down it speed up. Now all around the world people are clamoring for the government to increase spending, increase taxing do everything to save the economy, it sound like a panic where everyone is turning toward the first authoritative figure in the room and asking: SAVE US!

But shouldn’t look at the past action and result of that authority figure before we hope it will save us from this crisis? In the past years, at least in Quebec, the government has been involved in a lot of rescue attempt, to save companies from bankruptcy. Most if not all of them resulted in spectacular failures, oh some companies where “saved” and by that I mean that with constant cash inflow from the government they are spared the shame of closing, in the process keeping jobs in a region and vote for the political party that promises to keep the cash coming. In short, in the past government help seldom resulted in a real economic cure but it became an economic artificial life support.

What I don’t understand is that it quite easy to see why things happen this way, yet people continue to use that solution. It’s human nature at its worse, why find new and better way to produce our product so that we can compete with the other producer when someone is willing to give you money to offset your lack of sales? Companies doing this are easy to spot with a simple test, cut the money flow for one year, if they must close it means they did not use the cash to improve themselves and become competitive but instead to count as additional revenue and pocket it. It a show of laziness, but given that our society consider planning for 2 years in the future long term planning and that the average government exist for 4 to 8 years in Canada, it easy to see why it would be a preferred choice. Furthermore the basic principles of democratic society help this along, if party A give money to keep a companies and job opens in an area and party B won’t there are pretty good chances that the people working for the companies will vote for party A.

Now you might wonder what do I think the government should do in the next few years to help the economy go back on tract. Well, it not easy, it’s not simple and it involve been almost certain not to be reelected (particularly in Canada’s current minority government situation). First, reduces taxes given people and companies more money, don’t expect that money to be sent back in the economy and credit to soar again; instead it will be used to pay back debt and go into savings. While this will slow the economy down further it will also build back confidence and funds to be lend to companies with new idea and for new developments. Second, the government should reduce trade restriction (at least on basic material) to increase the volumes of trades going on that will really stimulate the economy, which is completely based on the amount of trade going on. Finally and that the biggest and hardest thing, reduce the amount of bureaucratic red tape preventing new companies from being open or closed.

That should really help people get back toward economic help, not giving billions after billions to companies that are only gonna use it to survive one more year and retire their CEO in golden paradise.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Battlestar Galactica

First of the last few episode of Battlestar Galactica aired yesterday. It doesn’t seem to be headed in the same direction as Stargate: Atlantis and was actually very interseting. I’m pretty sure one of the characters was wrong when he identified the fifth cylon and I’m very puzzeled by a few characters actions. However, it does seem like one of my theory might actually be true, and if it is that would be really an amazing result. Sorry to be vague but I don’t want to post any spoilers for you. On and if you haven’t started watching it yet.. what the FRAK are you waiting for?

Gaza, Hamas and Israel

Today, the security cabinet of the Iraeli prime minister Ehoud Olmert declared an unilateral cease-fire. To answer this declaration Hamas spokeperson,Faouzi Barhoum: Hamas will not stop fighting. Makes you wonder which side wants peace and security doesn't it?

One side, fires rocket from school, churches, hospital, and residential area trying to hit the same target on the other side and use (according to it's spokenpeople) human shield to deter the other side from striking back. The other side, build shelter from it's citizen, sound alarms and ready drill to try to protect them as much as possible, as in the past let rocket attack go unanswered in the interest of trying the diplomatic solution. Yes, that side also fired bomb and missiles at school, churches, hospital and residential area in the first side, but they also dropped tracs telling the civilian the area would be targeted for bombardement in the day.

I'm not taking side yet, this war is more complex then the actions taken in the last few months, but one side prides itself on it's use of woman, children and elderly as human shield...

edit: Today Hamas as decleared it's own cease-fire to allow the Israely troops to leave the area.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

TV science

As someone studying in science I must say that I find most tv series to pathetically bad at science. Most of science fiction use the concept of the super scientist, you know the guy he’s got a phd in Astrophysics but can in flash splice the genome of a new species, find the cure to an alien disease, understand language dead from millenia and of course build from scratch a device that interface amazingly advance technology with the USB port of a computer (what I call the Atlantis offense). Still that gringe worthy but well it’s not that bad and it can be considered an artistic license.

However, somethings are really scarry, you know the basic highschool science failure kind of thing. Like for example in the last Knight Rider (yeah they remade that) we saw a plane go beyond his ceiling, which could have made the presure destroy the plane while keeping a ground speed of more then 100 miles per hours and finally flying away from an exploding nuclear weapon (and surviving with it’s cargo door opened!). Now that like 7 imposible things before breakfast, a plane cannot go beyond his ceiling, the plane ceiling is the maximum altitude it’s wing can find enough air for it to fly. Past the ceiling, the plane doesn’t fly… so imagine 20 000 feets above the ceiling.

But still depite it’s outrageous science Knight Rider irks me far less the Fringe. Fringe is a show where “fringe” science is real, you know speaking to the dead, raising the dead, airborn chemicals that melt skin, instant cloning and all the rest of the paranormal stuff. In itself it as nothing to make me cringe but well it adresse everything with pseudo-scientific jargon, they also try to make everything sound scientific…. But they still get basic high school level knowledge wrong. Not to mention that the show isn’t that good.

But you know what really made me stop watching Fringe, while I’m still watching Knight Rider is that the first take itself seriously while the second doesn’t. Knight Rider science is outrageously wrong, mentally retarded wrong in fact, but the whole show fits in a parallele universe where holywood laws of physics rule. Fring on the other an take itself very seriously, the are a serious investigative team, involved in countering the patern in wich evil scientist experiment on the world, thankfully they have one scientist on their side who can explain everything “scientifically”.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The moon isn't turning around the Earth

Surprising right, but it actually true, the moon does not rotate around the Earth, its rotating around the sun and making a sinusoidale patern around the Earth. Now this illustrate a little misconception a lot of people have about gravity. You see the force of gravity doesn’t point exactly to the center of the most massive object. It points to the center of mass of the system, that means that for exemple the Earth-Moon system (if it existed outside everything else in the universe) would orbit not around the center of the Earth but around a point that correspond to center of the mass distribution between the Earth and the moon. Now since that Earth is much more massive then the moon this point is currently inside that Earth’s crust, but if the moon was farther away it could move outside the Earth and both would be turning around empty space. Fascinating isnt it? Oh and btw that also means that you are attracting the Earth toward you with the same force as the Earth is attracting you toward it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How and where is the universe expending

I was reading a post on anyflower’s blog and she was telling us that she is having trouble understanding that the universe is expending into nothing and that dimensions were folded into themselves. I won’t say it’s quite simple, because well it isn’t and quite frankly it is unintuitive.

First, let us set some base, there are two answers that are helping me understand the expansion of the universe: everywhere and 13.7 billions years ago. Like 42 these don’t help mean much without the question those answers answer. Well the question are: where did the Big Bang occur, and When did it occur. It might sound strange to say that the Big Bang happened everywhere but let me walk you through the reason. This reasoning is quite simple, we observe that the universe is expending, since it is getting bigger in the future, we can safely say that it was smaller way in the past. And if you continue to look into the past at some point the dimensions of the universe are going to be zero, it’s gonna be a point. Now, this point containing all the matter and energy of the universe is the Big Bang, well no to be completely accurate this point is the result of the Big Bang, it comes into existence at instant 0, which can only exist simultaneously with the Big Bang.

Now, this point contains all the matter, energy AND space in the universe. So all the everywhere of the universe is contained in that point. Which means that in that everywhere the Big Bang happened. You might wonder why when we do not know where the Big Bang occurred, how can we know when. Well through the same process as we figured out the entire universe was in that point. You see the reversal of the expansion produce this point some time in the past, that why we know “when” the Big Bang occurred.

This existence of a when with nowhere (or with everywhere) helps us in the where does this universe expend into. You see nothing is not exactly the answer I would give. While it is true that the universe does not expend into any space (if their was space to expend into it would be part of the universe…). You see everywhere stays the same, but when changes, in a way the three-dimensional expansion we see are the result of the explosion of the Big Bang but in time instead of space. Each second the universe becomes older and this manifest as space being a little bigger.

Now, this ties in with the folded dimension idea. This idea comes from string theory, which basically says that the universe is the manifestation of vibrating object. One of the interesting prediction of this theory is that their exist an number of extra dimension that are too small to be observed by humanity (depending on the version of the theory you see it, it ca be as much as 22 extra dimension). Now we explain those hidden dimension as being folded over themselves to insane amongst. Now “before” the Big Bang every dimension was folded in this way. At the moment of the Big Bang, 3 spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension for some reason unfolded and created the space-time we observe.

This lead to another way to understand the expansion of the universe, the dimension of space have not yet finished to unfold and are slowly relaxing into their full size. Kinda like a t-shirt that would be folded and help by only one layer of the fold, it would quickly restore itself to its original size. But that doesn’t really answer the question of what it is unfolding into, and one again we much go back to the time answer I am usually giving.

So here I’d welcome questions about the expansion of the universe, tell me about what puzzles you and I will try to answer. Now I do not hold all the answer, in fact I don’t believe science as all the answers to that question figured out yet. However I will try to answer and explain to the best of my abilities.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Science and religion

Listening to creationist videos and the biologist and other scientist to those videos makes me want to ask about science and religion. Some scientists expect religion to disappear replaced by the wonders of the natural world, logic and reason as the basis for or societies and laws. Other believe that religion will always exist as some part of humanity will be unable to leave behind the idea of god. But it all comes down to a single, are science and religion opposite ideas?

I would answer strangely, religion is the opposite of science, but science is not the opposite of religion. The opposite of science would ignorance and even the most backward of religion is based on knowledge, often knowledge without understanding but knowledge nonetheless. If we follows the thoughts of some anthropologist and biologist to think that religion arose from a new to understand the event of our life and feel that we have an importance in the universe it as no choice but to be based on a little knowledge. Any religion that would not offer explanation for natural phenomenon or would not thought its ritual offer observable protection from unexplained problem would quickly disappear in favor of more personal god. You just have to think about the rules against eating pork that many religion have, its easy to explain, undercooked pork meat as a very risk of making you sick or infecting you with parasite. You don’t need to know how it is dangerous but you need to know it is.

Now, I say that religion is the opposite of science for a simple reason, science is the quest for more understanding, for more knowledge with at it’s core the knowledge that there is no forbidden knowledge, that the problem is not in the knowledge itself but in how we will find ways to use that knowledge.

As a side note, this explains why I think the story of Adam and Eve depict god as a dangerous monster. Think about it, you have here an all powerful being creating intelligent being with curiosity, free will and the power to learn and grow; yet forbidding them the fruits of the tree of knowledge. Then, when those creature he created follow curiosity he build inside them, and use the free will he so graciously provided to disobey and taste the fruit to learn and grow, something else the creator put into them. This god, cast them out of paradise curse them to die and be tortured for all eternity afterward, curse them to pain and suffering and finally blame his creation for their own punishment. Already at the beginning of the story this god person sound evil, denying knowledge that he already has, and then he proves it by his action when things follow predictably from the condition he himself set.

Anyway, back to religion as the opposite of science, religion by it’s very nature as a set of ritual and an explanation for the natural world by an outside intelligent or energy must change very slowly or very rapidly but catastrophically (just look at Christianity schism in the Renaissance). Rapid change would not make sense to explain, things we see, as human, as unchanging, like the mountain and the stars. In short, to maintain it existence religion needs to oppose new knowledge and new explanation for things. It’s part of the god in the gap problem, most of our religions are based on what is missing from human understanding but as we fill those gaps the place for god seems to disappear. Even more problem start to appear when science contradict the teaching of religion by demonstrating that a phenomenon that religion explain do not work as religion advocate. Try think of someone today that would follow the Greek Pantheon of god, how do you reconcile Zeus sending lightning bold down from the star with humanity using electricity and producing it own lightning for experiment. If Zeus is supposed to smite the infidel claiming to use his power he is taking his sweet time about it.

One last thing, science is not a religion no matter how little some people understands science or how it works. Even if those people see similarity in how scientist act toward people with less knowledge and how priest and holy men act toward the less enlightened. Even if science looks like it as dogma that cannot be challenged just like religion. It is false, there is no absolute law in science, anything and everything can be challenge… but there is a few catch, you must have something to replace the law, that not only explains all the phenomenon the law you are challenging explained (it was obviously valid for some phenomenon otherwise it wouldn’t have been used), it also has to explain the phenomenon you used to challenge the law in the first place and it must not invalidate other laws (except if it respect the two first condition for those laws as well). This is why, you do not see many big changes in the theories of sciences, it is very hard to find something that would at once explain what was previously explained AND explain the new objection.

There are only a few good recent example, but they should give you the scope of the change that can occur in science: Relativity. Not only did it explain everything Newton explained about gravity (in fact General relativity is mathematically identical to Newtonian dynamics in the limit of slow moving object in “weak” gravitational field) but it also explained why Mercury was behaving strangely, how light travelled through space, what would happened if you increased an object mass to infinity, what were the possible future for the universe and many other unexplained observation of the time. As a second example, Quantum mechanic not only did it solve the problem of the single electron interference pattern, it also explained the radiation of the stars, the nature of light, the nature of elementary particle and so many other fantastic things that it is just mind boggling.

That last difference is quite interesting, when science change it is most often by building on what already existed, expanding our knowledge even as it is changing it. When religions change it is by tearing down the old and replacing it with the new. It burns what it didn’t like with the ancient and provides a new explanation and new sets of rules to go with that.

I wanted a House tonight

No, not the building house but an episode of House, md, well have been hearing for the past month or so that House was moving to Monday. So I expected the first one to be tonight, instead I got two hours of the new season of 24. I’m not really into 24 so you can imagine that it not really I was looking for. Oh, well it not like I’m gonna lose any sleep over missing an episode of House.

On a side note, I’ve been browsing dating site tonight and I’ve realise that education really shows in the message the people use to present themselves and to say what they are looking for. The average message looks a little like this:

“Hey, I’m a fun guy/girl who likes sport, good food and a good bottle of wine one in a while. I’m looking for a girl/guy like to have a little fun and maybe more.”

I kid you not, I just showed you about 90% of all messages over there, no wonder some guy use only the picture when they decide to communicate with a woman. Anyway most educated people will have a much longer message with, well sometimes the above message included but usally as part of something more or as a sarcastic remarque on the quality of messages they see. Oh and you also see that a lot of people have phd apparently… 18 years old with phd that type in SMS and barely string too sentenses together while saying they are studying to be hair dressers claims to have phd. I think it’s proof positive that their very little you can trust on dating sites.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A themed week

Last week, had a theme, a very annoying theme if you ask me but a theme nonetheless. The theme cancelled games. You see last week I was supposed to have 4 games, one Sunday, one Wednesday, one Saturday and one today. My first Sunday was cancel because of the DM note having any time to prepare since he was working over the holyday. Next my Wednesday game was cancelled because of snow, Wednesday night was one of the first snow storm of the year over here. Just as I am starting to see the patern emerging, my Saturday game is cancled on Thursday, because of one of the players being sick and hers and another player’s child being sick so no game. Then tonight, well I hadn’t hear from that game DM about a game so I send out an e-mail and made a few phone, turns out… no game tonight DM still isn’t ready. That’s what I would call a theme week, every single game I was supposed to have has been cancel.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Realisations come from the strangest sources

At the moment between my long bout of writing text and producing figures for my thesis I like to watch lighthearted comedies and anime. At the moment I’m watching the very interesting anime Pumpin scissors. It’s about the tribulation of a military unit after a large war (kinda like our second World War) that is assign to the task of helping society rebuild itself and fight “war aggravator”, i.e. people that are corrupt and keep thing bad for their own profit. While watching one of the episodes I though, wow: I’d love to tell that story in one of my RPG games. That when it hit me, one of the biggest reasons I do not like the new edition of D&D and I want my game to be interactive storytelling. I want to tell the story of the characters the players made in a situation or another. The latest D&D, the 4th edition, doesn’t feel that way for me, oh I’ve read the book and the feel I’m getting from them is that I’ll be playing a game, only a game. Not telling the story of my player’s characters and the world I am crafting. Already in D&D 3.5 (the previous) edition I’m finding it hard to tell some stories as the mecanic of the game, well more like the mood and feeling intrinsecly link with the game are pushing me toward a game and not a story.

Writing about this I also understand why some of our games have moved into legend. You know games that we talk about for years after we have stopped playing them, games where you find the old characters sheets and you go: man that was a cool game, remember when Alcarne did that? All of those game where about the stories of those characters. From the neonate vampire born in the first cities search for something that cannot exist, to the first 4 space cops in the starship Destiny by way of the young force sensitive that found and rebuild an hold jedi starship, those story have entered our memories has legend.

Through the magic of sharing an universe and the will to have our protagonist survive despite what the universe threw at them, I think we’ve made stories and myth. And that is what I try to recreate with my games, oh I often fail, well I think I fail most of the time. Yet, I must not be doing so bad, my player keep coming back to one of my game after 7 years and I learned that they even talk about the game with people that do not play any RPG (must be weird for them…)

Yet another realisation has hit me (must be the hour of realisation or something), gaming and interactive storytelling has shaped a big part of my personality. It as made me more expressive, more assertive, and it as gotten me to talk a lot more. Well, when you’re most often the world builder/main storyteller of your game you spend a lot of your time talking and well you end up enjoying it. Well, maybe I should try listening a little more, it might make my life even better… and my games too.

The futur of science-fiction on TV

I’m looking at what has been announced for the next season in term of science fiction serie and I must say it’s not really impressive. In short, there is the last half Season of Battlestar Galactica and the second half of Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicle second season. However I have little hope to see a third season of Terminator, Fox as just moved the serie to Friday night and that usually a dead sentence (as was observe with Firefly and Dark Angel). So what else is in the work?

Well, Stargate:90201.. oups sorry Stargate: Universe, a new hippier Stargate, that sounds like a poor remake of Star Trek: Voyager. In short the show’s premise is that humanity learns that the Stargate ninth symbole is use to open a gate to a gatelaying ship the ancient sent off millenias ago. As can be expected they send an expedition to the ship which find it cannot gate back to Earth and while have to finish the ship mission if they want to see home ever again. Oh, did I mention that the ship is moving and that if they are not fast enough some people might get left behind and that they will be using a younger cast to attract a younger audience.

Also, Capriaca, Battlestar’s first spinoff is supposed to be in the work. It should be a look at how and why the cylons came to be be and maybe part of the first human-cylon war. It looks promissing but given they only gave the widely popular and interesting Battlestar Galactica only 4 seasons worth of money, I can only wonder how long and how deep the serie will be.

And that about all I heard about, kinda depressing. Particularly when you realise that there are new season of just about every reality show that are announced and that American Idol will once again be aired. I know I’m not the usual target democraphic of tv network but I’d at least expect an effort to get me to watch the network. Oh well, I guess it’s back to book and the internet for me. Maybe I should try to write my own series, you never it might not suck as much as instinct tells you it will.

Friday, January 09, 2009

National Novel Writing Month is a big challenge

I’ve always wanted to participate in the NaNoWriMo contest, I talked about this before on the blog, basically it s a challenge to write a 50 00 words novel in one month (november to be exact). Now, I’m someone that has little problem writing lots and lots of text, I’m easilly inspired so to speak. Well, as a way to have an archive of what I wrote on this blog I started to record all my post in a word document on my computer. The first post I recorded was the Anti-Religious themes about the golden compas. Well that was in 2007 (november to be exact) and you know that in word you can check the number of words you have written. Well in that more then 1 years of post there is less then 35 000 words in 50 pages of text. So in one year I’ve barely managed to word 2/3 of what would be required of me in 1 month should I participate in NaNoWriMo. Impressive when you think about it no?

Stargate:Atlantis is over, finally

Stargate: Atlantis is over, finally.

Tonight marked the abrubt ending of the Stargate: SG-1 spinoff of Stargate: Atlantis, while the serie had a very good beginning and lot of potential for great stories, something missfired and made the serie sucky. My observation is that the serie generation coincided with the end of Stargate: SG-1, i.e. the transfer of writer from the old serie to the new serie and the weird decision to aim for self-contained episodes instead of a season wide story. This lead to faillure to have any kind of continuity and lead to increased convoluted ideas and stupidity to make the plot of the week posible while still keeping a semblance of evoluting setting.

This is while I’ve decided in the post to talk about reimagining Stargate: Atlantis. I want to talk about what I would have done with it, how the initial story would have progressed and all that. I won’t go into 5 seaons of episode but I will try to go with the main lines and the critical season opening, mid season two-parter and season ending episode. So without further introduction here is Season 1:

Season 1:
Season opening:
Pilot episode would remains largely the same, Atlantis crew find itself on Atlantis with no way to get back to Earth, in the process of exploring the nearby planets of the galaxy meet with Teyla and encounter the Wraith. After invading the Wraith sleeper ship they keep the keeper and awaken this ship and it’s hive. The Atlantis expedition find itself at risk from an enemy that appeartly defeated the Ancients.

Before the mid-season episode, The Genni:
While looking for allies against the Wraith and supplies to feed Atlantis, Teyla brings the explorer group to the Genni home planets. While investigating strange neutron radiation reading the team discover that the Genni are much more numerous that any other planet they have seen before AND possess technologie on part with Cold War Earth. After being found the expedition is capture by the Genni, with a demonstration of superior technology and the revelation that the nearest Hive should be awakening. Humanity and the Genni strike a deal to try and destroy the Hive mothership. Follows the desatrous success of the mission, while the nuclear weapon destroy the mothership loses amongts the Genni are high because the Atlantis expedition refused to leave behind humans captured by the Wraith to be feed upon. The end is the same as with the initial Genni episode in the serie, the Atlantis expedition makes a new ennemi, the Genni.

Mid-season: Wraith awakening
The team find itself trapped on a world the Wraith are culling, while the Genni are building a weapon to destroy the Wraith destroyer in orbit doing the culling. Mckay is capture by the Genni and the rest of the team must dodge the Wraith dart and attemp a rescue attemp the construction of the Genni rocket progress rapidly, with Mckay’s help the nuclear weapon it supposed to be carried is improved the Earth standard, notably with the inclusion of naquada (revealing in the process the usefulness of the mineral to the Genni). The episode ends with Wraith dart attacking the Genni position after the rocket as been launched.

Second part:
As the Wraith dart are attacking the rocket hit and inflict critical damage on the destroyer. The destroyer crash land and unleash a torrent of Wraith on the population making the situation not that much better. The Atlantis team manages to rescue Mckay but with the Wraith in number on the surface and protected by dart they require the Genni help to get off world. Both the Genni and the team finally get off world and split off after a tense face-off, but facing Atlantis superior weaponry the Genni team backs off. The last scene of the episode show Sheppar asking Mckay where he’d lose his weapon.

Season final: The Storm, part I
This would be the season 1 mid-season that we got to see, the Genni trick the expedition and manage to invade a low on personel Atlantis during a catastrophic storm.

Season 2
Season opening: The Storm, part II
This would be the season 1 mid-season that we got to see, the Genni trick the expedition and manage to invade a low on personel Atlantis during a catastrophic storm. Sheppar manage to repel the invsion and the take a prisonner. Unfortunatly investigation reveals that a lot of advanced weapon and munition were stolen during the Genni retreat.

Before the mid season: The Genni
This would be the first in a serie over the season of episode feature Genni exploration team. We would not see anyone from Atlantis instead we would be following the Genni equivalent of the SG team. We would see what Earth could have been with less regard for exploration and more of a focus of survival and the aquiring of technologie no matter the cost. In short the Genni would be a dark reflexion of Earth.

mid-season:Distress call
While investigating a distress call on the ancient newly working sensor thanks to the fabrication by the expedition of a few new naqueda generator (naqueda is more common in the Pegasus galaxie then in the milky way) the team find itself in the middle of a Wraith gathering point. We see the Wraith fleet of 3 motherships and a few destoyer gathering for some mission that is still unknown. Using the cloaked jumper the team tries to locate the source of the distress call. They find it on the planet coming from a crashed ancient ship. It’s automatic system detected ships in orbit and activated its destress becon. Of course the Wraith laid a trap and manage to caputre the team

mid-season: Discovery
The episode open with the team trapped on a Wraith cruiser and Wraith very intrigued by the team appearance with highly technical item on a planet with no indigenous human population and with only a space gate. Thanks to Teyla previously unknown Wraith DNA they manage to hack into part of the ship computer and escape using a Wraith landing craft. The episode ends with the Wraith searching on the ground near the crashed ancient ship and finding the cloaked puddle jumper by running into it. One of the noble Wraith looks and the other and says as the screen fade to black:”It is as a we though Atlantis as risen from the sea.”

Before the season final: Letters from Atlantis
This episode is almost exactly the Letter from Pegasus season 1 episode.

Just before the season Final: The stand
The Wraith fleet is in route, the Atlantis expedition is preparing to abandon the city when the gate activate. It’s the SG-1 and as soon as the shield is lowered, soldier carrier heavy equipement come running into the Atlantis gate room. For a whole 28 minutes, soldier and equipement is being rush in Atlantis as tightly pack as possible. The leader of this new force inform Dr Weir that Stargate Command as decided that Atlantis secrets where too valuable to destroy and they send a force to defend the city with the most modern hardware human possess. He also mention that a small fleet of human warship is in route toward Atlantis, one should be there in a few days thanks to a ZPM plugged in a retrofitted ancient hyperdrive. The rest of the fleet should be there in a month. New and improved generator are plug-into every critical system they can power. Unfortunatly the shield would require more power then the human can produce without a ZPM. Luckily a few ancient weapon can be powered and the Asgard-tech weapons the human have build should be a nasty surprise for the Wraith. The season end on a massive Wraith fleet existing hyperspace above the planet and unleashing a torrent of dart.

Season final: rolling the dice
The Deadelus is still hours away from Atlantis and the Wraith dart are falling like plague of locus on the city. The defender put on a great fight, stoping the wraith initial assault completely thanks to very heavy anti-aircraft fire the like of which the Wraith have never seen in before. The seacon wave of attack include heavier Wraith attack craft some of which manage to land despite the heavy defense of Atlantis. Part of the fighting is moving to the streets of the city and yet more and more Wraith craft are being sent down. Finally the human defender fire the Asgard weapon to the ship in orbit instead of the incoming craft hoping to destroy the ship while still in orbit. The plan succeed however in retaliation the orbiting start firing at the defensless city, knocking out the asgard weapon on the first salvo and the moving to secondary batteries, without shield Atlantis is doomed.


Season 3:

Season opening, part II: Only the dead won’t weep
Explosion rock the city, the defenseur slowly retreat toward the city spire, destroying teleporters and computer terminal on their way out. Everything seems bleak, the Deadelus should still be horus away, the Wraith are gaining ground and the teams are hard pressed to destroy every computre access to the city before the Wraith capture the ground. Weir orders the destruction of the city just as an hyperspace window open: the Deadelus as arrived. With is shield and weapon powered by the ZPM the opening salvo from the ship destroying one the Wraith mothership. The Wraith are trown into disarray, their fleet is not quite large enough to destroy what they think is a new model of Ancient vessels. Under fire from the Earth ship the Wraith fleet flees leaving it’s ground troop without support and without protection againts the human ship and teleporters. Not only is Atlantis saved but it as gained a fully charge ZPM. However the episode end on a scene from one the Wraith mothership bridge, the Queen whispers to her ship captain: “The Ancient are back in Atlantis, we need to waken the other hives.”

Before the mid part: Unexpected surprise
Previous episode have shown strange symbole poping up on ancient computer since the ZPM has been plug-in and we see one of the expedition repair team moving along a corridor to repair a computer terminal that as been destroyed in the fighting only to find it fully repaired and fonctional. As the fighting with the Genni and the Wraith appears to be in a cease fire, Mckay explore the new possibility availlable to the city now that it as a ZPM as a power source. It finds that the city as rerouted power to many previously unused areas and that at least two of the unknown symbole are related to this area. After every commercial break, we come back to teams of P90-like weapon equiped Genni exploring and fighting strange creature in some unknown ruins. As the Atlantis team learn that the city is now repearing part of itself it also find that the city as tremondous manufacturing capability, as exposed by the fact that the city as build 2 more ZPM and require human input to plug them in it’s power generation system. The episode ends with the Genni existing the ruins, many wounded but smilling an carrying a device we recognize as a ZPM.

Mid-season: the ennemy
Atlantis sensors are now fully back only and they detect a fleet for Wraith warship heading for the Genni homeworld. Discussion follows about the morality of warning or not warning the Genni, warning finally comes as the solution and a team is prepare to be send with the warning to the Genni planet as the main team is away gathering intelligence on Genni activity. The gate open and the team comes through but does not radio back, humanity witness the first other civilisation to have put an Iris over it’s gate. The Atlantis expedition nonetheless tries to contact the Genni via radio to warn them of the danger. The Genni do not answer and the gate closes. After the main team arrival it is decided that three of the 2 of the 5 ship defending Atlantis will be sent to try and help the Genni. The episode ends with the Deadelus and the Apollo opening hyperspace windows.

Well, I’m gonna stop here tonight I’ve got ideas for still a few season but this post is already long enough and I’m getting tired of writing. Tell me what you think, wouln’t this be better then the Atlantis we’ve had. Putting the Genni as the secondary ennemies a dark mirror of Earth’s humanity, the Wraith as a slightly overconfident enemy that won against the Ancient mainly by numbers not technologie or tactic and mostly no FUCKING REPLICATORS!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

2009

Well after the previous monster posts I’ll do a little short and sweet just to inform/remind you that 2009 is the international year of Astronomy. In this year we will celebrate the achievement of humanity in understading it’s place in the universe and the nature and structure of this universe. That we have been looking at the stars, dreaming and trying to understand since the very first breath of sentience does not mean we understand the cosmos. There is still a lot to learn and a lot that will surprise and bring wonder to our world. So joint us astronomers, to celebrate discovery, science and wonder all present in Astronomy.

Happy Internation Year of Astronomy! Clear skies and bright stars for everyone.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Cosmic Evolution

This is the 3rd and final kind of evolution I want to address. This is supposedly the evolution of that deals with the evolution of the cosmos. Quite Simply the evolution of the universe i.e. the creation of time and space, the Big Bang according to science would explain that. Now, I have shown that our understanding of stellar evolution is born out of our observation of hundreds of billions of stars, but you guess that we do not have millions of universe to look at, so how in hell can we build an understanding of the evolution of the universe.

Well we first observe the universe and see what tracers of its origin we could find. It’s a little like looking at someone and trying to find tracers of his past by seeing traces of broken bones, scars and antibodies form past sickness for example. So what do we see about the universe that tells us about its past. Well first the universe is flat, as far as we can tell there is no curvature to space. There is no reason for this to be, in fact if matter was prevalent in the universe we would expect it to have a curvature proportional to the amongst of matter in it.

Second, everything in the universe is moving away from us, or everything in the universe is moving away from everything else. I’m making the distinction between the two because observation shows that just about every objet outside of our local group of galaxies is moving away from Earth. That would make Earth the center of the universe, except that this does not make any since from what we know about the Earth. First, it’s not the center of the solar system, and it not even at the center of our galaxies (not even close) which mean that having the whole universe rotating our us would violate the law of gravity. However, we can interpret the result of everything seeming to move away from Earth as everything is actually moving away from everything else i.e. there is an expansion of the universe.

Next we observe a uniform radiation field everywhere in the universe. It’s almost uniform in every direction and the small variation (less then 1 part in a 1000) can be associated with the presence of large volume of matter in the universe for example cluster of galaxies. This would indicate that the source of this radiation field is actually located behind the clusters. Anything that would be behind this source would be revealed by peculiar emission structure in this radiation field.

Also, we observe that there is a lot more photons in the universe than matter, about a billion time more. This would mean that at some point in the past part of the energy of the universe became matter but the very large majority of it remained in the form of energy. We also know that the globally the universe is homogeneous and isotropic as far we can see. That mean that there is no preferred place in the universe, all vantage point are roughly the same and that is no discontinuity in the fabric of the universe.

The Big Bang, with a cosmological inflation period explains all those observation. In fact the Big Bang is so good at explaining those observation that it predicted the existence of the uniform radiation field, the so-called cosmological microwave background. The theory is also explaining the primordial abundance of light element (Helium, lithium and Deuterium). Of course we cannot observe the Big Bang, it happened at least 13.7 Billion years ago and lies beyond the surface of last diffusion, i.e. origin of the cosmological microwave background which is the maximum distance from which we can receive photo that have not been scattered into losing all the information from source. However, the Big Bang is at the moment the only theory that manages to explain and predict more fact. Sure it as flaws, but it is supported by observations and it actually explains a lot of how things occurred in the early universe to build what we observe now.

So here you have it, 3 evolution that do not exist that we have no proof of and no observation in support of according to at least one young earth creationist. I’ve not addressed the Darwinian evolution they seem to hate so much, but if what they tell you about 3 of the 6 kind of evolution they claim exist are false. Shouldn’t you wonder about there honesty toward the fifth one: Darwinian evolution.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Stellar Evolution

Well as an astronomy student I must say that I always cringe when I hear someone mention that stellar evolution is impossible. Even more so when I heard that the reason it is impossible is that we have never observed it directly, i.e. we have never seen a star birth or a star changing into another stars. I will start by answering this since we have never seen it directly it cannot happen and then I will talk about stellar evolution itself.

So for the sake of argument lets imagine a sentient specie of bacteria that lives on average for an hour. Meaning that for this specie that every minute is roughly the same as a year of human life. Now, in a 24 hours period 1440 years would have happened in this civilization history. Suppose that in the last 12 hours they developed optical means to see humanity. Now since one of our minute as the same meaning as a year for them and that one day is about the timescale of their current civilization humanity would look like eternal unchanging but moving object. Now this species is rather limited in its measurement capability it can only tell three things about any given human, the speed it moves with, it height and the number of wrinkle it is showing.

I will show that with only these three parameters they could get a pretty good idea of how a human evolve in his life, without ever seeing a single human evolve. The first thing they would be doing is plotting the size of the human vs. their height, now this would be a pretty annoying plot because after a while it falls back on itself and you can’t really tell anything. However if you add a third dimension to this plot, i.e. the number of wrinkle you get a three dimensional curved surfaces that actually allows you to identify ages for humans. You have the slow, tiny and without wrinkle that are young, the fast, tall and with few wrinkles, the adult and finally the slow, tall and with a lot of wrinkle, the olds. You could event identify the pregnant woman in their own particular area of the diagram, they would be tall, slow and with few wrinkles. Granted this would only give them a rough idea of the evolution of humanity still admit that with only three easily observable parameters we can get a lot of information about the evolution of a human.

How this works is quite impressive, you see the bacteria in the example cannot ever see a human evolve, even a whole civilization of the bacteria would never see a human change (at least not significatively) except for the occasional accidental death. What gives them the information about the evolution of humanity is the diversity in the humans that they can observe. They’ll see old, young, adult, and everything in between that they can characterize them with some observable parameters. In fact, give them a few more observable and they can tell a lot more about humanity.

It’s the same thing with stars, and we have a lot more then 3 observable, not to mention that the, we’ve never seen star evolve is slightly false. We know of at least 1 star that went supernova and left a nebula with a pulsar inside. So we went to a star visible in the optical wavelength, to a big explosion that shone like a galaxy for a few days to a ball of expending gas that as a lighthouse like object that is only visible in radio emission. So we have seems a star actually change shape and nature. Of course, no single person saw this change, some documented the existence of the stars, another group saw a flash of light and we are seeing the pulsar and nebula. Still our records are good enough for us to identify all those step in the process.

Now, just what do we know about stars, what kind of stars have we seen? Well first we have what we call the main sequence stars, the stars that are like the adult of the human races. We see lots and lots of those; they are stars that according to our observation burn hydrogen in their core. We’ve seen “baby stars” like the T-Taury variables, they are stars without clouds of dust and gas that we see gas actually falling toward and sometimes when density reach critical points on the stars a flash of fusion occur and it expulse a jet of matter. We’ve seeing older stars, stars that are past their prime so to speak they now burn helium and other heavy elements in their core and have bloated to unimaginable proportion. For example, Betelgeuse, the largest star we know about, it’s about 1000 time the radius of the sun, i.e. only a little something like 700 millions km, that larger then the orbit of Mars! We also know of rebellious, middle life crisis kind of stars called Wolf-Rayet stars they are massive stars with stellar wind so intense that they expulse a significant fraction of the Sun mass every year. We also know of dying stars, little slowly cooling core of highly compact matter that we call white dwarf. We call them white dwarf because those stars are so hot, they emit what can only be called white light.

Not to mention that we also see dead stars in the form of neutron stars, and the inferred black holes in binaries system. We basically have a whole picture, not only that we have pictures of families of stars with different distribution of stars that well can be explained as an evolution sequences. We can see that from the amounts of heavy elements in the stars themselves, the groups of stars showing the most massive stars on the main sequence are also those that have the most heavy element (in general there are some exception of course). Since we know that heavy elements are produced in stars, it doesn’t take that big a leap of logic to see a sequence there.

Now, we cannot observe stars evolving, except in the spectacular supernova and even then it might be years before we can see the end result. You see, the fastest evolving star we know of, should have a lifetime on the main sequence of a few millions years, that way greater then the average research grant lifetime. However, we have more then enough examples of stars in various stages of evolution to be able to get a pretty accurate picture of the sequence. Remember that we only 3 parameters about humans you can get an evolution sequence, imagine what we can do with hundreds.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Fine tunning the universe

It seems I’m starting a series on dispelling falsehood propagated to undermine science and promote religious dogma as the explanation for natural phenomenon despite the evidence. On future post I will talk about cosmic and stellar evolution and show that even if it cannot be completely observed, we have enough evidence to conclude in it’s existence or at least to know that our theories and hypothesis are adequate enough model of reality. In this post tho, I’ll talk about the idea that the universe is fine tune for the existence of life.

The argument goes roughly as such: if you change any one of a number of universal constant (such as the charge of the electron, the gravitational constant, the fine structure constant, the speed of light, etc.) life becomes utterly impossible in our universe. For example, elementary charge (the electric charge carried by an electron or a proton) was a little higher or lower, atoms would be unable to form, as electron would rapidly spiral into the nucleus or not be attracted enough to the nucleus to form an atom at all. At first glances a good argument for the design of the universe by some intelligence to eventually produce life.

Note, from the previous two posts you probably already guessed that this first glances is not the end all be all of this. First, let’s talk about something a little known fact, humanity exist. Surprising I know, but bear with my sarcasm for a second. Suppose that the particular set of constant we observe in the universe is one that allows the possibility of the human life is not the only one possible. Now, let’s have pure randomness determine every single constant in the universe. Given that only one set will produce humanity, the only set where humanity will be around to observe is the set we are in. Even if all the values are taken at random, if fact there is no reason that an infinite number of other space time with other fundamental constant do not exist, each one of those without humanity and as such without anyone to ask the question: “Why are all those constant at the right value for human life”. In short, the fact that we exist to ask the question: “how or why are those constant existing with those value” is not a valid reason to invoke an intelligence, pure, complete random luck could produce the exact same result without the need of a directing intelligence.

Now, I know that the previous argument isn’t going to be standing very strong with most people, and it is logical. It’s much easier to think that something was put there with a purpose in mind then to figure we are nothing special. This why I like this second argument better. You see the fine-tuning of the universal constants is a lie. The fact that if you change the value of only ONE constant life become impossible is true, however it is only true if you change ONLY ONE constant. You see there are many way to have an universe almost exactly like our own without using the exact same physical constant. To retake the elementary charge as an example, if in addition to a change in the elementary change you have slight change in the coulomb constant and in the strength of the weak nuclear force you can build another universe that should look a lot like our own. The fact is that our set or value for those universal constant is just one of many that allows for the possibility of matter and probably the possibility of life.

A third thing to consider is the other lie in the opening argument, that life becomes utterly impossible. It is only true in the meaning that life as we know and experience it as human being probably becomes impossible. Science-Fiction writers, dreamers and scientists have conceived form of life based on other chemistry and other biologies for years now, true that not the same as life based on other physical principles but given the challenge I’m pretty sure someone could conceive a way to create life out of a very alien universe. And if we can conceive a way for life to exist in such an alien place, there a good chance that if such a condition existed there would be life there. Cause you know, up to now, humanity has found life everywhere it didn’t expect life to be possible except outer space and other planets. And even there, they are mounting evidence that life could have/has/or will exist one day.

Think about this, scientists are seeing evidence that the condition of the small floating rock known as Mars were once fertile ground for the devoleppement of life. Scientist know of spores that could survive the vacuum of space and being irradiated with cosmic rays for thousand if not millions of years and still produce living organism if introduced in a adequate environnement.

One last thing about the fine tuning, it’s not that fine. While some universal constant values have a very narrow range that is favorable to life most can change quite a lot without any adverse effect on life. Take for example the distance from the Earth to the Sun varies by about 5 millions km twice in a year. The habitable zone around the sun is only about 120 millions km wide, with the Earth orbit around the middle slightly closer to the inside edge. To give you an idea that Earth is only 12 000 km wide, that means you could fit 10 000 other Earth in the habitable zone of our sun! And that only if life is impossible on Mars and Venus which would expend the habitable zone dramatically. So you see, the fine tuning isn’t that fine, it more like gross approximate tuning, or rough tuning, or well you know a your lucky if it works tuning.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Primordial Energy

A comment left on my post about Chemical evolution ask me to comment about where did the initial energy came from for the Big Bang. I could have answered in a reply to his comment but the scope of the answers and the hypothesis I must explain to answer means it deserves a post of it own. I must say before I begin that prereionisation physics is not my field of research and that the ever more complex physics of the plank era (not to mention the “prebig bang physic) is probably beyond my understanding of physics. I will attempt to explain things but it will only be to the limit of my understanding and it could very well prove to be wrong.

Ok, first off do we need initial energy for the Big Bang, many would say yes because of the Law of Conservation of Energy. The problem is that a lot of people incorrectly interpret this law, it is though to mean something like Lavoisier law of conservation of matter: “Energy cannot be created or destroyed”. This is false, the law merely state that energy in a closed system must be conserved, i.e. that the sum of the energy present at any moment in the system remains a constant. I know, it sound like it’s exactly the same thing but it is not. The law of conservation of energy does not preclude the creation of energy provided that exactly the same amount of negative energy is created at the same moment. Up to a 1999 negative energy would get you laugh out of most scientific establishment but astronomer have discovered that such a kind of energy appears to exist in our universe in the form of the cosmological constant which produce an acceleration of the expansion of the universe. You might ask how this constant can be a negative energy, well it imposes a negative curvature on space while every other kind of energy impose a positive curvature on space. It has to be energy of opposite amplitude, i.e. a negative energy.

Now that we know that we can “create” energy, lets look at what could happen in a perfect vacuum, i.e. 0 energy, 0 space, 0 time. (the condition before the Big Bang). Well your 0 energy could spontaneously break into x part positive energy and –x part negative energy without any violation of conservation of energy. Once you have this separation of energy, many things could possibly happen, one of them would be the Big Bang (another would be annihilation of these energy to restore the vacuum state). Is it unlikely that the Big Bang would have occurred, yes and no. Yes because we do not know if a Big Bang event is likely and no because well if this is the explanation of the origin of the Big Bang it happen so the probability of it happening is 1. This hypothesis has at least one problem: the total energy of the universe has to be exactly 0, which doesn’t seem to be the case from our observation. But it does show that you do not absolutely need an energy field to have a Big Bang.

Another way to produce a Big Bang without requiring a preexisting energy would be through “quantum fluctuation”. Once again we must consider a vacuum where you have 0 energy, 0 space, and 0 time, now according to the quantum uncertainty Principe is you know the position exactly you can have “infinite” fluctuation of the momentum. Now, this uncertainty principle can also be used with energy and time. i.e. if you know the time exactly you have no idea of how much energy is involved. This could mean that their exist fluctuation in the vacuum state of energy of unimaginable proportion. Now, one of our theory for the origin of the universe stipulate that the Big Bang is a manifestation of the unwinding of 4 string to “create” the 4 known dimension (i.e. the 3 dimension of space +1 dimension of time). The energy requirement to unwind a string is staggering, as proven by the idea that no other string has begin unwind since the Big Bang. So imagine the situation, we have the vacuum state, fluctuating widely to follow our uncertainty principle one of those fluctuation reach the level of energy require to unwind the strings and Big Bang you get the universe with everything in it, the energy left over from the unwinding becoming the “positive” energy of the universe and causing the creation of matter.

A third way, more mysterious and I’d say esoteric way involve membrane theory. This production of the Big Bang implies that two (or more) multidimensional membranes collide with each other. This collision produces an interference pattern in a few dimensions that is observed by lower order dimensional being as being this universe. I must admit I am not very familiar with Membrane theory and it’s implication and construction (in fact you are close to have been shown the entirety of my understanding of the theory) but from what I know it can produce a Big Bang without an existing energy.

Of course there are hypothesis for the origin of the Big Bang that requires a preexisting energy level and various natural explanation for where this energy field came from (anything from tachyon moving back in time to the moment of the Big Bang to the rest state of vacuum to being a none zero level). Humanity understanding of anything before the reionisation of the universe (the cosmic microwave background) is sketchy because of the difficulty of having any observable. It’s understanding become purely theoretical when you approach the inflation era as the laws of physics start to leave the boundaries we know and understand. And finally it becomes almost purely conjectural when you reach the Plank epoch (before something like 10^-43 s after the Big Bang) when all our knowledge of physics fails. You can imagine what happen when you try to go into the condition before the Big Bang “when” its not even sure that physics works.

However, this can only be seen as an argument for a “god in the gap” i.e. we don’t know so it must be god. There are naturalist possibilities that do not involve supernatural intelligent or its intervention. These possibilities also respect one of the most interesting structures of physic the idea that there should be no discontinuity in the laws of physics. This means that at the boundaries between two laws (i.e. before and after the big Bang for example) the equation explaining both phenomenons must give the same answer. Since by definition god must be a discontinuity in the laws of physics any explanation involving him must be backed by much more evidence that: well we don’t know what does it.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Canadian Politics

I’ve had the joy a few weeks back of having to explain the current political weirdness to a Greek friend. Well I must admit that compared to the crisis in Greece our political problem seems like children arguing whom as the strongest dad. Still it made me think about the situation and I can’t help but conclude that it is a proof that our system is completely bonkers. We’ve got on one side a prime minister that has to ask for a unelected representative of a Queen for permission to stop the working of our government even though it is every arguable that she as the actual authority to say no. On the other side we had a coalition of two party with a third promising not to vote against them in non-confidence vote that wants to declare that the people of Canada have lost confidence in the government and that the prime minister should ask the same unelected representative of a Queen to give them the power (or to declare a 3 election in two years.) Considering that the crisis started mere days after the election of the government it is hard to believe that the coalition talk did not begin during the election campaign. It might just be me but I do not believe that such a situation should be possible in a democracy.

Furthermore I think the problem of Canadian government comes from the root of our parliamentary system. We build a system on the opposition of two view points, technically our government works by having a party in power doing just about whatever it wants and the opposition party trying to point out flaws in everything the party in power does. Sound like a receipy for disaster no? Not to mention that our voting system is also weird, we have in our constitution declared that no matter how the population is distributated in Canada some provinces will never have less then % of the deputy. In part that is logical, it makes sure that no province dominate Canadian politics but on the other hand that means that 1 vote in some province might be worth more then a vote in another province. Finally, our voting system work with the premisses that the elected representant is not the one that get the majorty of votes but the one that gets the most no matter how little of the people he actually represent.

Now as is the tradition in Quebec, someone is bond to say: yeah yeah you complain but you do not have anything to propose to solve the problem! Well actually that not true, I have something to propose, it’s rought for the moment but I belive it might increase the stability of Canadian governement AND make them more representative of the people of Canada. We first have to positively scrap the current system I’d keep just about nothing. I’d start by making the office of leader of the country (presently a prime minister in the future whatever you want to call him/her) elected separatly from the parlement. I’d even go has far as to demand that the people running for that position be outside the “parties” or at the very least that they cannot be the leader of any political party. This office would be determined on a multi-tour majority win baillot, i.e you cannot become the leader of Canada without getting the support of at least 50%+1 vote of all Canadian.

The second part would be a proportional vote for the party the citizen feel would better represent them in Canada. The proportional vote means that if say the liberal get 42% of this vote they would get 42% of the proportional deputy in parlement. There is no candidate attached directly to these vote you vote strictly for the party and the party choose a number of deputy from it’s member to represent them.

Finally, you vote for the deputy from your circonscription. This person task in parlement is not to represent the ideals of a party but to represent the people in his circonscription. In a perfect world they would not belong to any political party but I doubt such a situation is possible (at least at first).

Now it might seem like I would be increasing the number of deputy considerably, actually no. The first thing we need to realise is that large densly populated area of the country tend to work as a bloc (Montreal is a good exemple of this, you actually need only 2 deputy to represent the 2 Millions people of the Island!) This means that we can dramatically reduce the number of deputy in large city without loosing any representativity. Now before you start screaming that this would mean that a vote in Montreal would be worth less then a vote in for exemple Rimouski you have to remember the proportional section of the vote. There are hundered of thousan of more votes in Montreal then they are in Rimouski meaning that the population of Montreal proportional vote wills competly eclispe the regional vote. Restoring the balance in vote vs population by in a way associating the floating proportional deputy to large city.

The last part of the idea, is that the elected leader would have to go and ask the leader of the party with the most vote to be his prime minister and to form a governement representative of the vote from the people of Canada. Minister would have to be elected from the members of parlement and may be remove by the will of parlement. The leader of the country has no vote except to break ties in parlement, but he as more power to propose new bills and law and could have a limited veto power in the form of asking for a bill to require a strong majority to be accepted. I think that even if this system is far from perfect (or even ready to implement I’m sure they are a lots of thing I failled to take into consideration) it would still be more stable AND instead of being based on an adversarial fight between to idea it rest on ideas of cooperation toward the common good of the voters of Canada.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Chemical evolution

Creationist like to say they are 6 kinds of evolution and that only the 6th as ever been observed. Those sixth kinds of evolution are as follow:

1. Cosmic evolution
2. Chemical evolution
3. Stellar evolution
4. Organic evolution
5. Macro evolution
6. Micro evolution

Today I wan to address a few videos by Kent Hovind (look on youtube none of his stuff is copyrighted) who says that aside from the 6th, none has ever been observed and are unscientific. As you might have guessed from the title I’ll be talking about his second kind of evolution chemical evolution. Hovind claims that for chemical evolution to be happening hydrogen would have to transform into every element from Helium to Ununoctium (actually he stop at Uranium but since we scientist go up to element number 118). Note he is not completely clueless as he mention the first method throught which we obtaint heavy element in the universe: fusion and the restriction of fusion, i.e that it is not energy efficient after the fusion into Iron. Before I go on to rebutte the thing let me go on his second claim to disprove the possibility of chemical evolution: a chicken and the egg problem for the stars. You see he says correctly that elements are produced in stars and he continu by saying that since stars are made out of element we have a circle without any beginning.

Well let me answer the second part of his argument first (it’s easier), first by pointing out that egg laying animals existed millions of years before chicken so the problem only exist for creationist. Second even if you consider the metaphore for it’s actual sences that the problem is that you have a product that is the sources of the the that produce it, i.e a circle of causation that cannot be started since you would need a first chicken to lay the first egg and a first egg for that first chicken to be born, the problem is inexistant for stars. First, because hydrogen is not created in stars, as a matter of fact all hydrogen in the universe was created at the Big Bang. Second, you do not need anything other then hydrogen to make a star (even if the Big Bang did produce small quantities of other element (notable Helium)). In short, you have an outside supply of the building block for your stars so no chicken and the egg problem, the hydrogen comes from outside the first stars and the first stars produce the first heavy elements.

Now for the first part of the equation, Hovind talk about fusion i.e the proces through which a number of low atomic number nuclei are transformed into one of an higher number. Such as the very well known and observe p-p cycle happening in our first own sun and experience in part here on Earth as part of thermonuclear explosion that transform 4 Hydrogen atom into 1 Helium atom and a shitload of energy. Process such as these exist for many elements up to Iron, but how do we get heavier elements such as Uranium, Colbat, Nickel, Gold, Mercury and Californium?


Well we know of a number of processes to explain that are called r-process, s-process, p-process and rp-process (aren’t astronomer just poetic when comes to name?). All of those involve that collision of an heavy nucleii with something which will eventually create a new heavier nucleii. Both the r and the s process are process involving neutrons colliding with the nuclus of an atom and after a short amount time the neutrons decaying into a proton and an electron (neutron unlike proton are not stable particule) increasing the atomic number of the atom by one. The p-process is special; it is a process through which the weight of an element is actually reduced by colision with a gamma ray and subsequent alpha-decay (emission of an alpha particule, i.e a helium atome nucleus), this change the force binding the nuclus toghether and explains the existance of a few heavy element. The p-process is simple the direct addition throught collision of a proton to an already neutron rich nuclei, changing the atomic number of the element and again producing a new element. Now, none of those process have been observed in laboratory the reason being that you need stellar condition for them to be possible, however there is one more way to produce heavy element and this one as been observed on Earth as evidence by the existance of synthetic elements, i.e element that where constructed in laboratory through a collision of two heavy element or through neutron capture in nuclear reactor. Since we know how to produce these element in our lab AND that we have observed technium (the first artificial element) in stars we know that stars produce heavier element from lighter element.

So in short that the inexistant and unobserved chemical evolution for you… So inexistant that we are using it. So unobserved in fact that we have 6 elements that have not being given a name yet because they have only being observed in laboratory for split seconds. Makes you wonder if the rest of those creationist evolution if as unobserved…