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Comments by glenister_m

Go to: A Moment of Science

glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by glenister_m

I've always loved science, including astronomy, but even so I had a literal Saturn-moment while at university. The astronomy department's observatory had free public viewing on clear saturday nights. While it was very busy when Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter, most Saturday nights were fairly quiet so you got a fair amount of viewing time. On one of my visits I had my first view of Saturn through a telescope, and a reasonably big telescope at that. In short, it didn't look real. It looked like someone was hanging a Saturn model in front of the telescope. Of course it was real, but Saturn mades quite an impression, even though I had seen Venus, Jupiter & its moons, and other objects previously through the same telescope.

Now that I finally have my own (decent) telescope. We had a good summer for Jupiter last year, and I'm looking forward to showing my kids Saturn soon.

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 17:09:15 UTC | #947078

Go to: What Would Darwin Say to Today's Creationists?

glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by glenister_m

Shouldn't it be:

Note that Transylvania University is a university in the US and NOT associated with vampires or Romania as you may first think.

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 21:00:39 UTC | #945756

Go to: Sex: it's a good thing, evolutionarily speaking

glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by glenister_m

I wonder if sex is also a function of multicellularity, in that it is not practical to clone yourself after you pass a certain body size or complexity.

In other words:

  • budding is impractical after a point because the metabolic needs of the offspring, before it can survive on its own, exceed the practical capacity of the parent

  • binary fission is too complicated/difficult for a complex multicellular adult organism, and too risky (loss of half the resources, increased possibility of faulty replication of organs, organ function disruption as it duplicates, etc.)

  • vegetative reproduction has problems with dispersal of offspring and therefore competing for resources

  • So sex may have had some value in sharing the metabolic needs of the offspring between two different individuals, and reducing the risks involved in duplicating an adult organism.

    I realize I'm probably stretching things, but I thought it was worth the discussion.

    Thu, 31 May 2012 16:36:12 UTC | #944770

    Go to: A Year After the Non-Apocalypse: Where Are They Now?

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 30 by glenister_m

    They seem to have avoided the possibility that the rapture did happen, but they didn't make the cut either.

    We should set up a website for apocalypse believers. If they think the world is going to end, they can donate all their money through the website (We can call it 'Apocalypse Insurance', while they can call it 'Spiritual Cleansing'). We'll use half of their funds and donate to worthy secular causes (eg. Doctors without Borders).

    After the end of the world doesn't happen, if the believer can admit (with some help) that they were deluded, we'll give them the other half of their money back so they can restart their lives. For those that can't accept that they were wrong, their money will be divided among the website supporters (ie. us).

    Win-win-win situation. The only losers would be those who don't think they lost.

    Thu, 24 May 2012 18:00:50 UTC | #943324

    Go to: How much water is there on, in, and above the Earth?

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by glenister_m

    @Comment 15 A good idea.

    I just did the rough calculation assuming Earth's mean radius of 6371 km, and needing 9 km to cover Mt. Everest. Subtracting the volume of the two spheres leaves you with 4,597,068,190 cubic kilometres of water, or a cube with sides of 1663 km or 1034 miles.

    In other words, creationists require an additional 1.5x as much water as is present.

    Tue, 15 May 2012 19:18:58 UTC | #941666

    Go to: 'Save the planet', science leaders urge G8 governments

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by glenister_m

    Reminds me of James Burke's "After the Warming" special, in which he pretended to be living in the future (after global warming was undeniable), looking back at how things had changed at the end of the 20th Century and beginning of the 21st Century.

    One particular scene was how over and over again from the 1980's onward was a "call to action" to get the 1st world countries to reduce their carbon footprint and reduce the amount of CO2 they were dumping into the atmosphere. Of course nothing was here we have yet another one.

    Fri, 11 May 2012 19:25:51 UTC | #941071

    Go to: How was airline bomb made to be 'undetectable'?

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by glenister_m

    I suppose it's because I like puzzles, but I've often thought about ways to get around airport security. There was never any attempt on my part to try it, more of identifying a weakness in the system with the vague idea of contacting the authorities and possibly getting paid for helping them.

    Back in the 80's I used to wear steel-toed boots, and realized that I could hide a small gun or knife in my boot, and while the walk-through metal detector would beep, before 911 you could just point to the steel toe, and after a quick test by the handheld metal detector continue on to your flight.

    As any high school chemistry teacher knows, there are plenty of chemicals that will react explosively when mixed, so the articles comments about wires, batteries, and matches are completely unnecessary. The only issue is how to keep them separated until you want them to mix, for which there are lots of low tech solutions.

    I trust I've been vague enough in my last example, but made my point that a clever terrorist could get around whatever security precautions the TSA cares to put in place. I don't want to be like Rod Serling (of Twilight Zone fame) who had to regret a plane thriller script he wrote as it lead to numerous crank bomb threats.

    Wed, 09 May 2012 18:28:02 UTC | #940758

    Go to: Family Battle Offers Look Inside Lavish TV Ministry

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 11 by glenister_m

    If god had wanted us to be rich, he would have made us televangelists.

    Sun, 06 May 2012 02:38:22 UTC | #940049

    Go to: Cardinal Brady will not resign over 'abuse failure'

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by glenister_m

    @metamag comment 4

    I thought the same thing when I heard the term. Well they certainly act like the less evolved members of the family.

    Wed, 02 May 2012 21:03:02 UTC | #939140

    Go to: Patrick Coffin, with Edward Feser, Receive a Call from Sean Faircloth of the RDFRS (US)

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by glenister_m

    Unfortunately I think for regular listeners of that program, that Sean probably didn't come across effectively. I suspect the audience is used to quick to the point answers, and so when Sean is forced to explain in detail where he is coming from, that they would just tune out wondering "Why isn't he answering a simple question with a simple answer that I understand?", which of course is compounded by the hosts cutting him off when he was trying to discuss a topic "That we covered in a previous podcast."

    For example, for the repeated question of why Dawkins won't debate Craig, some of these answers might have gone over better:

    "Aside from the moral reasons of not wanting to share a stage with him, he is too busy with more important demands on his time." (opening it up for a discussion on the moral reasons)

    "Public debates are often a contest of who is the better speaker, not necessarily who has the better arguments, so aren't a useful forum for deciding important issues."

    "Why should he? He's debated numerous religious people in the past, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, and finds it is usually a waste of his time."

    "Richard wrote an entire online essay on why he wouldn't debate Craig. One answer is that he has no respect for Craig in view of the immoral views on genocide that Craig holds."

    "Why should he? Craig always says that he finds Dawkin's philosophical arguments childish and easy to refute, yet he never explains in any detail which ones, and how to refute them. Unless he demonstrates he has some substance behind his statements, then he's asking for respect that he hasn't earned."


    Wed, 02 May 2012 20:22:27 UTC | #939130

    Go to: Study: US College Students Advance Little Intellectually

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by glenister_m

    “It’s good to lead a monk’s existence [in college]," says Eric Gorski, an Associated Press writer who reported on the study. "Students who study alone and have heavier reading and writing loads do well.”

    I'm not sure I agree with this statement, or what evidence there is to support it. My advice to students heading to university is "Have fun at university, just not too much."

    I'm also pretty sure that studying with someone, where one person explains how to do a given problem to the other, increases the understanding of the material of both parties.

    If you manage your time efficiently, you can also be involved in lots of clubs with no effect on your grades, by choosing clubs that have activities when you wouldn't normally be studying, eg. lunchtime, friday/saturday nights, etc.

    Tue, 01 May 2012 05:13:27 UTC | #938572

    Go to: Richard Dawkins Has a Point, Your Eminence!

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by glenister_m

    "It’s so simple even an atheist gets it. "

    I thought the idea that 'god doesn't exist' was so simple that Catholics would get it, after all lots of children figure it out. Doesn't seem to be the case though.

    Fri, 27 Apr 2012 16:33:43 UTC | #937766

    Go to: Group blasts Marine Corps for reviving 'Crusaders' name and symbols

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by glenister_m

    A Canadian comedian pointed out that if he were a James Bond villain, he would name his henchman something so silly/ridiculous (eg. "Poopypants") that the henchman would kill anyone who heard it (ie. James Bond). The reverse idea was put forward by a "Mini" ad a few years ago, which compared the car a man drove to the size of his manhood (Ferrarri, when you are trying to compensate for your shortcomings, "Mini, when you have nothing to prove.").

    So rather than "Werewolves", perhaps they should pick something unmasculine, and dare anyone to make fun of them.

    Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:17:53 UTC | #936551

    Go to: Monster-Sized Rabbits Discovered; Sadly, They Can't Hop

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by glenister_m

    Have they found any fossils of magicians on the island? How might they have evolved to compensate? Or did the giant rabbits force them to disappear?

    Sat, 21 Apr 2012 17:01:39 UTC | #936299

    Go to: How thinking about death can lead to a good life

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by glenister_m

    There was a news item today discussing the world's oldest man, 115 years old. It made me think that I hope to live as long, at least in good health.

    Imagine all the things that have happened in that time: - radio - powered flight - television - antibiotics - spacecraft - satellites - landing on the moon - computers - movies - colour photography/movies - digitial cameras - internet - automobiles (increase in)

    May the rest of my/our lives be as interesting, and in a good way.

    Fri, 20 Apr 2012 21:51:13 UTC | #936121

    Go to: Petition: no jail time for birth control

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by glenister_m

    @strangebrew I remember a discussion about the Manson case, and the suggestion was that one of the techniques Manson used to control his "family" was to unite them by telling them that a revolution was coming and that they would be part of the battle. However 'when' was not made clear, Manson probably had no actual plans to start one, but 'Tex' jumped the gun and Manson was forced into saying either that Tex was wrong (and potentially lose control/leadership) or to support the actions.

    Fri, 13 Apr 2012 14:24:11 UTC | #934414

    Go to: “The Hidden Brain”: Behind your secret racism

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by glenister_m

    Kind of coincidental that this was posted. For some reason I've been thinking about situation-specific behaviours lately, and it kind of relates.

    What I mean by situation-specific behaviours is how when you are in certain places, with certain people, you or they might do something which at the time seems silly, just having fun, or acceptable behaviour, but later in retrospect is not acceptable behaviour or even indefensible. Admittedly peer pressure has a part, but I think it has more to do with the 'Hidden Brain".

    I like to try to be independent in my thinking and actions, not follow the crowd, and to strive to be the type of person who isn't affected by 'diffusion of responsibility' that allows a woman to be attacked in front of a crowd of onlookers. However thinking back on some incidents at university, I remember witnessing a few events that not only did I not even think of intervening, but even laughed at. They weren't necessarily illegal or dangerous, but if I had been questioned about them I would have been at a loss to explain why I considered them acceptable at the time, and been embarrassed to admit that I didn't intervene and laughed.

    At least I can say that in many cases since then, I haven't held my tongue when others have, and stood up against unacceptable behaviour.

    Sat, 24 Mar 2012 01:39:18 UTC | #930022

    Go to: Civilian Pastor Attacks Atheist Soldier - Reverend Bryan Griem Claims Atheist Solders Are "Big Fat Chickens"

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by glenister_m

    I must admit, reading the headline "Civilian Pastor attacks atheist soldier", even with the "Big Fat Chickens" ending, I initially assumed it meant "physically attacked". The chicken comment at the end could have been stated after the fight was stopped/ended.

    Sensationalist headline perhaps, but my bets are on the soldier if the two do come to blows. (Pay per view???)

    Fri, 16 Mar 2012 16:38:01 UTC | #927852

    Go to: Refute This, Hoax Lovers: More Proof Men Totally Walked on the Moon

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by glenister_m

    I actually like using that ridiculous FOX show "Did we land on the moon?" to teach critical thinking in science class.

    Unfortunately the digital photography age is making students less able to recognize the flaws in the arguments the conspiracy theorists make. Having done a reasonable amount of photography with film, reprinting negatives, etc. it was easy to explain the photographic artifacts and other claims the show makes. However even though most students have taken more photos than I had by their age, using cellphones, etc., they miss out on the nuances of exposure, etc.

    Fri, 09 Mar 2012 07:44:40 UTC | #925563

    Go to: Earworms: Why songs get stuck in our heads

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by glenister_m

    Is it me, since the article didn't state this explicitly, but are earworms generally songs we don't like/aren't that crazy about?

    I wouldn't mind having a song I like playing in my head, but usually it is one I don't like, hence the desire to stop it. I've even woken up in the middle of the night realizing I had an earworm.

    Tue, 06 Mar 2012 18:44:07 UTC | #924910

    Go to: Graham Not Sold on Obama’s Christianity, Santorum Warned of Satan in 2008

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by glenister_m

    They were saying on the radio this morning that a recent poll showed that none of the potential Republican candidates have any chance of winning against Obama. I am not surprised. With 300 million people is that selection of candidates really the best they can do?

    Personally I'm disappointed with Obama, as he doesn't seem to have the guts to stand up to his opponents, and tends to compromise too easily. However as one other person said months ago: "I look at the economy and think there is no way Obama can win; then I look at the Republican candidates and think there is no way he can't."

    Ralph Nader really should run in this election...

    Thu, 23 Feb 2012 06:27:34 UTC | #920938

    Go to: Attacks paid for by big business are 'driving science into a dark era'

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by glenister_m

    This reminds me of MacMillan Blodel running it's "Forests Forever" commercials on British Columbia tv back in the '90s'. An environmental group tried to buy ads to point out that MacBlo was lying about their "sustainable practices", but were refused by the television networks. A "useful" collaboration between the corporations to ensure that the public got only one side of the story...

    Tue, 21 Feb 2012 07:07:26 UTC | #920244

    Go to: So Britain's a Christian Nation?

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by glenister_m

    "So when is the next witch-burning, goat-sacrifice, and execution for working on the sabbath?"

    Wed, 15 Feb 2012 20:01:09 UTC | #918126

    Go to: 12 Visualizations That Will Change the Way You View Scale in Your World

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by glenister_m

    The IMAX movie, Cosmic Voyage, is based on the powers of ten video. It's still my favourite IMAX, and I love when the Milky Way comes into view. All the 'spirituality' I need.

    Fri, 10 Feb 2012 07:00:54 UTC | #916117

    Go to: Pope 'exorcised two men in the Vatican', claims new book

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 31 by glenister_m

    @Comment 27

    I think the demons are smarter than that. They know that the RCC has lots of authority over other people. So they possess someone, the victim is taken to a priest, the priest does an exorcism, the demon laughs, leaves the victim, and possesses the priest. The demon then has lots of fun doing every immoral act it can think of, knowing that it can move throughout the RCC heirarchy without ever being at risk of getting caught.

    It would explain a lot...

    Thu, 09 Feb 2012 19:46:31 UTC | #915977

    Go to: Calls to Behead Indonesian Atheist Alexander Aan

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by glenister_m


    However it appears we have moderate Muslim's in Canada, in this case responding to recent "honor killings" in Kingston, Ontario:

    Tue, 07 Feb 2012 19:57:24 UTC | #915363

    Go to: Creationist School Bill Looks Doomed in Indiana

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by glenister_m

    I love how the overwhelming legislative support rapidly falls away as soon as the public is made aware of what the bill actually entails. Interesting what happens when the politicians have to actually represent the people instead of their own interests.

    Sun, 05 Feb 2012 18:48:41 UTC | #914853

    Go to: Elephants Took 24 Million Generations to Evolve From Mouse-Size

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by glenister_m

    So not enough time to evolve a King Kong then...

    Sun, 05 Feb 2012 13:16:39 UTC | #914797

    Go to: How to Dispel Your Illusions

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by glenister_m

    @Comment 7 I haven't seen 'Moneyball', but your comment reminded me of the movie 'Two for the Money' which concerned sports gambling. The main character had a knack for picking winners, while one of the other characters used statistics and computer analysis. The owner of the company recognized the main character's talent and preferred him over the tech guy, although I'm sure in real life the tech guy's record would be much more consistent and correct.

    There was also a tv series called 'Life by the numbers' which showed how mathematics was used in everyday life. One of the more interesting episodes was about the statisticians who work for professional sports teams. They analyze the opposing team's play history, and determine the most likely strategies that will be used in the next game. The team then practices how to respond to those plays. Of course the opposing team has its own statisticians doing exactly the same thing.

    Jerry at WEIT has been discussing free will a lot lately. I imagine that with enough data and the right analysis, you could (eventually) predict a person's behaviour/decisions perfectly. That would essentially prove that free will is also an illusion.

    Sun, 05 Feb 2012 06:16:09 UTC | #914751

    Go to: Closely Watched Study Fails to Find Arsenic in Microbial DNA

    glenister_m's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by glenister_m

    "But Wolfe-Simon and her colleagues say the work on arsenic-based life is just beginning. They told ScienceInsider that they will not comment on the details of Redfield's work until it has been peer reviewed and published."

    Kind of an ironic statement since as I recall the media were given the claims about their results before their paper was published, and then their paper didn't live up to their initial claims.

    Sat, 04 Feb 2012 20:53:53 UTC | #914642