The Pope extends the hand of friendship by falsely equating atheists with Nazism

September 16, 2010 16:54 by scibuff

The Papal visit to the UK lasted officially only a few hours before the first controversy started. In his speech in the Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, the Pope compared “atheist extremism” with Nazism and went on to warn that people should be wary of the secularism in modern life that undermines tradition Christian values; quite an attempt to “extend the hand of friendship” to the whole of the UK where about 40-45% consider themselves non-believers.

The notion that it was the atheism of Nazis that led to their extremist and hateful views or that it somehow fuels intolerance in Britain today is a terrible libel against those who do not believe in god. The notion that it is non-religious people in the UK today who want to force their views on others, coming from a man whose organization exerts itself internationally to impose its narrow and exclusive form of morality and undermine the human rights of women, children, gay people and many others, is surreal.

British Humanist Association

This is the part of the Pope’s speech that sparked a big outcry (#1), (#2):

Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny” (Caritas in Veritate, 29).

I’m not even gonna into the whole “Hitler and Nazis were not atheists” debate. Let’s just say that the Pope misrepresented atheists and atheism by falsely equating them with Nazism, which is completely historically inaccurate. Here is what a more historically accurate version of that part of his speech would have looked like:

Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how The Catholic Church and his leaders stood with a Nazi tyranny that wished to inculcate God into society and defined an exclusive humanity against many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall my own Catholic regime’s attitude against non-Catholic Christian pastors and the religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives while Catholics stood in support. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the Catholic/religious extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the inclusion of God, religion and scriptural lessons in public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny” (Caritas in Veritate, 29).

And to continue on that note, he could add:

“A new Catholic Church under my leadership promotes a doctrine of truth in love above all and will depart from our long history of hatred, exclusion, and murder of those who do not submit traditional Catholic dogma.”

Overall, I’d like to express my thanks the Pope for the offer of a hand of friendship, and a bigger thanks for then reminding us so persuasively why we should not accept it. So, until the next attempt, I’m gonna keep listening to Tim Minchin “tribute” to the Pope, which you can download on Tim’s website.

Tim Minchin - The Pope Song

p.s. Feel free to join the protest of the Pope’s visit in Central London on Saturday. I’ll be there wearing this T-Shirt.

Save The Planet

Save The Planet T-Shirt

Silencing the crazy “Do not bomb the Moon” outcry

October 8, 2009 10:37 by scibuff

Tomorrow, the spaceflight part of NASA’s LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite) mission will end as the two main components, the Shepherding Spacecraft (S-S/C) and the Centaur upper stage rocket, impact the Cabeus crater located about 100km from the Lunar south pole.

An artist's impression of the LCROSS spacecraft's Centaur stage crashing into the surface of the Moon. The LCROSS spaceraft will observe and record the impact and then it also will crash into the crater - Image Credit: NASA

An artist's impression of the LCROSS spacecraft's Centaur stage crashing into the surface of the Moon. The LCROSS spaceraft will observe and record the impact and then it also will crash into the crater - Image Credit: NASA

Immediately after the LRO/LCROSS launch on June 18, science illiterate members of the blog community started a campaign to stop NASA from “Bombing the Moon”; an act, which, according to them, was in a clear violation of the UN resolution 2222 written in the 1499th plenary meeting on December 19, 1966 – Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. I will not support this insanity by providing links here (just google “NASA Moon bombing”).

The arguments on blogs range from the creation of (up to) 8km deep crater, to the bombing constituting a hostile act against known extraterrestrial civilizations and settlements on the Moon allegedly observed by the crew of Apollo 11 (seriously?). Several magazines and newspapers (the likes of Scientific American, the Examiner and the UK Telegraph – no surprise there) jumped on the bandwagon featuring articles with an unfortunate (but I suspect a rather deliberate) word choice – “Moon bombing”.

Asteroid impact the Moon

Bombing can be defined as detonation (on impact) of an explosive devise producing a chemical action which causes a sudden formation of a great volume of expanded gas. In other words, nothing close to the events which are about to occur near the Moon’s south pole.

Let me assure you: the Moon is hit by space junk on regular basis. It has withstood this bombardment for billions of years and it will prevail for many billions to come. The flash in the sequence below was caused by a meteoroid about 25 cm in diameter traveling at 38 km/s. As such, although much smaller than either the (S-S/C) and the Centaur, the energy released in the impact is comparable with tomorrows impacts because this piece of rock was traveling fifteen times faster than LCROSS.

A meteoroid hits the Moon, May 2, 2006; video-recorded by MSFC engineers Heather McNamara and Danielle Moser.

A meteoroid hits the Moon, May 2, 2006; video-recorded by MSFC engineers Heather McNamara and Danielle Moser.

The Centaur upper stage will impact the lunar surface at around 11:31:20 UTC at -84.675, 311.275 E (in selenographical coordinates). NASA estimates the impact velocity of 2.5 km/s which will excavate more than 350 tonnes of lunar material and create a crater 20m in diameter with a depth of about 4m; in other words, nowhere near the sensational 8km (given the crater size, not even the Hubble Space Telescope will be able to see it under ideal conditions).

Using the nominal impact mass of 2,305kg and the velocity of 2.5km/s the kinetic energy of the spacecraft can be easily calculated as

E=\frac{1}{2}mv^{2}=0.5\times 2,503kg\times \left ( 2,500m\cdot s^{-1} \right )^{2} = 7,203,125,000\ J

E\simeq 7.2\times10^{9}\ J

Since a kiloton of TNT is equivalent to 4.184\times10^{12}\ J, the total energy released in the impact (under ideal conditions) is 0.001\ 72 kiloton of TNT; again, nowhere close to the 2 kiloton of TNT (which equals to 10% of the yield of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima) claimed by some authors. Furthermore, both the S-S/C and Centaur performed a blow-down maneuver to vent any remaining fuel inside the Centaur to help prevent contamination of the impact site and the ejecta material, thus there will be no explosion.

The Shepherding Spacecraft will impact the lunar surface roughly four minutes after the Centaur upper stage, at around 11:35:39 UTC at -84.729, 310.64 E, ejecting about 150 tonnes or material leaving behind a crater 14m wide and 2m deep.

LCROSS Shepherding Spacecraft and Centaur upper stage impact sites - Source: NASA

LCROSS Shepherding Spacecraft and Centaur upper stage impact sites - Source: NASA

As for the last argument, if you truly believe in the conspiracy to cover up the presence of an extraterrestrial civilizations on the Moon, reported in witnessed statements by astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, and in witnessed statements to NSA (National Security Agency) photos and documents regarding an extraterrestrial base on the dark side of the Moon (let’s forget for a second that there is NO such thing as the “dark” side of the Moon), I applaud you for reading this far and let’s just leave it at that…

Moon Defence

Chandrayaan images – Another blow to Moon landing conspiracy theories

September 3, 2009 15:30 by scibuff

Although the Chandrayaan 1 mission by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) ended prematurely when scientists lost contact with the spacecraft on August 28, 2009, the agency claimed it to be a grand success in that it completed its major tasks.

Apart from the primary objectives to prepare a 3D atlas with the resolution of up to 10-5m and chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface, the terrain mapping camera on board the spacecraft has also sent images of the landing site of Apollo 15 and the tracks of land rovers astronauts used to travel on the lunar surface.

Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon - Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon - Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Analysis of data from the onboard Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) and the Hyper Spectral Imager (HySi) revealed disturbances on the the lunar surface show tracks on Lunar Roving Vehicles (LRV) used by astronauts on Apollo 15, 16 and 17.

That’s right, all your Moon landing deniers (read crazy people). Here are photos and data acquired by instruments built by an agency from a different country on board a spacecraft launched into lunar orbit independently of NASA – Chandrayaan 1 also carried NASA instruments but the TMC was built in ISRO’s Space Applications Centre (SAC).

I’m truly curious how Moon hoaxers tackle this one. Meanwhile, the rest of us who live in a real world will no doubt enjoy in awe all other wonders of the universe.

LRO proves the Apollo 11 landing to be real

July 17, 2009 16:35 by scibuff

Today at 16:30 UTC, NASA released the first images of the Apollo landing sites taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). These are actually the first photos of Apollo landing sites with resolution high enough to show the equipment left behind by astronauts on the Lunar surface. Contrary to the ridiculous beliefs of Moon landing deniers, the resolution power of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is nowhere close to being able to accomplish a similar feat.

Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle at the Tranquility Base. Image width: 282 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle at the Tranquility Base. Image width: 282 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 14 lunar module, Antares. Image width: 538 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 14 lunar module, Antares. Image width: 538 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Labeled photo of the Apollo 14 landing site - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Labeled photo of the Apollo 14 landing site - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon. Image width: 384 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon. Image width: 384 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 16 lunar module, Orion. Image width: 256 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 16 lunar module, Orion. Image width: 256 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 17 lunar module, Challenger. Image width: 359 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 17 lunar module, Challenger. Image width: 359 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

First of all, let me make clear that I’m not naive to believe that (yet another) piece of irrefutable evidence will change the mind of conspiracy theorists. Those who still believe that NASA pulled of the biggest lie in history matched only by that of organized religion, despite having every single piece of their fantasy debunked innumerous times, are not gonna be stopped by some silly thing called evidence. As Phil Plait has put it in one of his posts:

You could fly a conspiracy theorist to the Moon and show them the equipment lying on the desolate surface, and they’d accuse you of drugging them.

Despite thousands of pictures and hours of video footage made by astronauts themselves and an unconquerable mountain of evidence refuting every single one of their claims, the Moon landing deniers will continue to spread their non-sense with religious zealotry. Similarly, antivaxxers will insist that vaccines cause autism. Creationists will obstinate that the Earth is 6,000 years old, even in a speech about mining Uranium, which, ironically enough, is used in the Uranium-lead scheme of radiometric dating to determine the age of Earth (4.5 billion years). These people live in a fantasy world rivaling that of magic schools boys and a gay headmaster in a fight against an evil soulless orphan supremacist. Their “reality” has nothing in common with an evidence-based world.

To say the truth, these people are not deserving of any respect whatsoever as they have none for the thousands they would call liars, frauds and cowards. They have the audacity to dismiss the heroism of those 24 brave astronauts who flew to the Moon and thus ventured further from the Earth than any man in the history. They would blatantly shrug off the achievement of the 12 extraordinary men, who had the privilege to touch and walk on another world, standing on shoulders of every single man and woman who dedicated their lives to the human space flight. That includes every single cosmonaut who has ever passed beyond the barrier of space, every worker in every mission control center around the world, every scientist who devised an experiment to be conducted in vacuum under zero gravity, every technician and engineer who tirelessly built every component, connected every wire and tested and retested every spacecraft zillion times until they could no longer talk, think or dream of anything else, and most importantly, the crew of Apollo 1, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roget Chaffee, together with Edward Givens (support crew Apollo 7) and Clifton Willians (backup LMP Apollo 9) who were among the 32 astronauts who made the ultimate sacrifice in the effort to push the boundaries of what is possible.

To discard this wondrous accomplishment of humanity based on nothing but paranoia, inferiority complex and/or in an attempt to sell a few extra copies of a book or a movie, is against the very nature of being human, i.e. our curiosity to explore the unknown, our perseverance and unwillingness to give up despite odds or doubt and the determination to reach the stars. Fortunately, the view of these (few) individuals is irrelevant because:

Truth needs no defense. Nobody, nobody… can ever take those footsteps I made on the surface of the Moon away from me.

– Eugene A. Cernan (Gemini 9A, Apollo 10, Apollo 17)

This graphic shows the approximate locations of the Apollo moon landing sites - Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

This graphic shows the approximate locations of the Apollo moon landing sites - Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Oklahoma: spreading the doom

June 29, 2009 11:46 by scibuff

Sally Kern, Oklahoma state legislator from Oklahoma City and a member of the Republican party has brought forth a so-called “Proclamation for Morality”:

WHEREAS, the people of Oklahoma have a strong tradition of reliance upon the Creator of the Universe; and

WHEREAS, we believe our economic woes are consequences of our greater national moral crisis; and

WHEREAS, this nation has become a world leader in promoting abortion, pornography, same sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse, and many other forms of debauchery; and

WHEREAS, alarmed that the Government of the United States of America is forsaking the rich Christian heritage upon which this nation was built; and

WHEREAS, grieved that the Office of the president of these United States has refused to uphold the long held tradition of past presidents in giving recognition to our National Day of Prayer; and

WHEREAS, deeply disturbed that the Office of the president of these United States disregards the biblical admonitions to live clean and pure lives by proclaiming an entire month to an immoral behavior;

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we the undersigned elected officials of the people of Oklahoma, religious leaders and citizens of the State of Oklahoma, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world, solemnly declare that the HOPE of the great State of Oklahoma and of these United States, rests upon the Principles of Religion and Morality as put forth in the HOLY BIBLE

So remember:

Do Not Anger The Gods

My First SITP – Trick or Treatment – Alternative Medicine on Trial

May 21, 2009 00:21 by scibuff

Today, I finally managed to go to the Skeptics In The Pub over at The Penderel’s Oak (between Holborn and Chancery Lane stations) and it was truly fascinating. Even despite the unusual time (SITP meets usually on Mondays), the bar downstairs was totally overcrowded up to the point when Simon encouraged everyone to look for a bigger venue (or a sponsor for one).

SIPT @ Penderel's Oak

SIPT @ Penderel's Oak

SIPT @ Penderel's Oak

SIPT @ Penderel's Oak

The title of the talk was Trick or Treatment? : Alternative Medicine on Trial. The speaker, Edzard Ernst, offered, besides a good amount of jokes, four topics. The “most intriguing research trial” won the contest by a overwhelming majority of votes even before the other topics were presented.

I talked to a few people who were quite disappointed and angry. The disappointment was caused by missing the opportunity to buy a ticket for TAM London in fall. The anger 100% directed at themselves was for the assumption that tickets would be available for a few days despite no evidence to suggest it; something that shouldn’t never happen to a true skeptic, but well … we’re just human, aren’t we.

I can’t help myself but to conclude this post by two quotes from Professor Ernst:

Nobody ever dies in homeopathic hospitals because no one is really sick!

… I’ll put my homeopathic hat on but you can’t see  it because it’s too diluted …