Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

And I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!

And I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!

elandorum:

no but galileo’s story is a funny one because when he published his theory he framed it as a conversation between two characters, and the character of the general position of the time (and therefore the church) he named ‘simplicio’ and made him to be a total imbecile and he basically was an asshole to the church and that’s why they rejected his ideas

Maybe all of the people who suffered under the inquisition were just assholes to the church. Saying things that the church finds offensive is totally a good reason to imprison people and/or torture them to death. I mean what else are you supposed to do when someone calls you dumb? Turn the other cheek or something?


But in all seriousness, let’s explore the context of Galileo’s trial. While it’s true that he called that character Simplicio, I think we’ll find that the matter was a little more complicated.

elandorum:

no but galileo’s story is a funny one because when he published his theory he framed it as a conversation between two characters, and the character of the general position of the time (and therefore the church) he named ‘simplicio’ and made him to be a total imbecile and he basically was an asshole to the church and that’s why they rejected his ideas

Maybe all of the people who suffered under the inquisition were just assholes to the church. Saying things that the church finds offensive is totally a good reason to imprison people and/or torture them to death. I mean what else are you supposed to do when someone calls you dumb? Turn the other cheek or something?

But in all seriousness, let’s explore the context of Galileo’s trial. While it’s true that he called that character Simplicio, I think we’ll find that the matter was a little more complicated.

(Source: divineirony)

policymic:

How many Earth twins are out there? Hundreds possibly

NASA’s recent discovery of Kepler-186f, the first habitable Earth-sized planet is big news in humankind’s long search for extraterrestrial life.

A universe full of exoplanets: Thanks to the Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in 2009 to hunt planets across the universe, we’ve managed to find around 1800 exoplanets so far, many of which have been discovered in just the last year or so.

Read moreFollow policymic

StarTalk Radio w/ Neil Degrasse Tyson: Cosmic Queries

NDT is doing some spring cleaning of his ask box.

This episode is bursting with conspiracy theories and strange hypotheses, but that doesn’t stop your own personal astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson from dropping some serious science. You’ll learn why the government isn’t secretly using HAARP to manipulate weather and why we shouldn’t dispose of pollution in our atmosphere. Find out where black holes go when they die, why there is no speed of dark, what would happen to the planets if we moved the Sun, the difference between black holes and white holes, and whether we could use quantum teleportation to explore inside a black hole. Neil also explains atmosphere, air pressure and vacuums, why hot air rises but air is colder at higher altitudes, and why time passes differently on Jupiter than on Earth. Plus, he tells comic co-host Eugene Mirman how to use physics to communicate with a 3-meter tall alien “gummy bear.”

Is it political if I tell you that if we burn coal, you’re going to warm the atmosphere? Or is that a statement of fact that you’ve made political? It’s a scientific statement. The fact that there are elements of society that have made it political, that’s a whole other thing.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (via socio-logic)

(Source: alwaysmoneyinthebnanastand)

Sacred Geometry, infinite free energy, chi healing: Why new age “spirit science” is simply nonsense.

The bias against science is part of being a pioneer society. You somehow feel the city life is decadent. American history is full of fables of the noble virtuous farmer and the vicious city slicker. The city slicker is an automatic villain. Unfortunately, such stereotypes can do damage. A noble ignoramus is not necessarily what the country needs.

Your Inner Fish

Have you ever wondered why our bodies look the way they do? Paleobiologist Neil Shubin sets out in this three-part series to find the answers in a surprising place: the ancient animal ancestors that shaped our anatomy.

In the first episode, “Your Inner Fish,” he journeys back to a time, some 375 million years ago, when the first fish crawled up onto land. Shubin’s quest for the fossil record of this primeval predecessor takes viewers from highway cuts in rural Pennsylvania to the remote Arctic. After years of searching, he and his colleagues finally found a fossilized fish, known as Tiktaalik, that had enough strength in its front fins to do pushups and heave itself out of the water. Remarkably, we can trace the ancestry of our own hands and arms all the way back to these fins. Viewers also meet the scientists who discovered the DNA recipe for constructing the human hand — an essential set of instructions passed down from fish like Tiktaalik and shared today with a surprising number of other animals, from chickens to chimpanzees. Along the way, Shubin makes it clear that we can also thank our fishy past for many of our body’s quirks, such as hernias.

In the second episode, “Your Inner Reptile,” Shubin exposes our reptilian roots. He searches for our ancient ancestors at fossil sites in the Karoo Desert of South Africa and on the tidal flats of Nova Scotia. He also reveals modern-day links to the past through visits to a fertility clinic in Chicago and a biology lab in London. Along the way, he explains how major transitions in the history of life paved the way for our ancestors’ evolution into mammals. Shubin identifies some amazing connections: the amniotic sac was an innovation to keep our reptile ancestors’ eggs from drying out; our complex teeth can be traced to ferocious beasts that lived millions of years before dinosaurs; and our hair is linked to the whiskers of reptile-like mammals that lived much of their lives in the dark. Our reptilian ancestors — from fearsome predators to creatures as small as a paper clip — are responsible for more than a few features of modern humans.

In the final episode of the series, “Your Inner Monkey,” Shubin delves into our primate past. He travels from the badlands of Ethiopia, where the famous hominid skeletons “Lucy” and “Ardi” were found, to a forest canopy in Florida, home to modern primates. En route, he explains how many aspects of our form and function evolved. We learn that a genetic mutation in our primate ancestors conferred humans’ ability to see in color — but it was an advantage that led to a decline in our sense of smell. The shape of our hands came from tree-dwelling ancestors for whom long fingers made it easier to reach fruit at the tips of fine branches. Shubin concludes by tracing the evolution of the human brain — from a tiny swelling on the nerve cord of a wormlike creature, to the three-part architecture of a shark’s brain and the complex brain of primates. As Shubin observes, “Inside every organ, gene and cell in our body lie deep connections with the rest of life on our planet.”

Anonymous asked
"Cosmos" is great and all that, but why no mention of PBS's "Your Inner Fish"?

Omg! I’m so woefully ignorant! Had no idea this existed. Thank you! I have some catching up to do.

http://www.pbs.org/your-inner-fish/watch/

s-c-i-guy:

The Cambrian Explosion
The Cambrian explosion, or Cambrian radiation, was the relatively rapid appearance, around 542 million years ago, of most major animal phyla, as demonstrated in the fossil record. This was accompanied by major diversification of other organisms. Before about 580 million years ago, most organisms were simple, composed of individual cells occasionally organized into colonies. Over the following 70 or 80 million years, the rate of evolution accelerated by an order of magnitude and the diversity of life began to resemble that of today. Ancestors of many of the present phyla appeared during this period, with the exception of Bryozoa, which made its earliest known appearance in the Lower Ordovician.
The Cambrian explosion has generated extensive scientific debate. The seemingly rapid appearance of fossils in the “Primordial Strata” was noted as early as the 1840s, and in 1859 Charles Darwin discussed it as one of the main objections that could be made against his theory of evolution by natural selection. The long-running puzzlement about the appearance of the Cambrian fauna, seemingly abruptly and from nowhere, centers on three key points: whether there really was a mass diversification of complex organisms over a relatively short period of time during the early Cambrian; what might have caused such rapid change; and what it would imply about the origin and evolution of animals. Interpretation is difficult due to a limited supply of evidence, based mainly on an incomplete fossil record and chemical signatures remaining in Cambrian rocks.
Phylogenetic analysis has supported the view that during the Cambrian radiation metazoa evolved monophyletically from a single common ancestor: flagellated colonial protists similar to modern choanoflagellates.
source

s-c-i-guy:

The Cambrian Explosion

The Cambrian explosion, or Cambrian radiation, was the relatively rapid appearance, around 542 million years ago, of most major animal phyla, as demonstrated in the fossil record. This was accompanied by major diversification of other organisms. Before about 580 million years ago, most organisms were simple, composed of individual cells occasionally organized into colonies. Over the following 70 or 80 million years, the rate of evolution accelerated by an order of magnitude and the diversity of life began to resemble that of today. Ancestors of many of the present phyla appeared during this period, with the exception of Bryozoa, which made its earliest known appearance in the Lower Ordovician.

The Cambrian explosion has generated extensive scientific debate. The seemingly rapid appearance of fossils in the “Primordial Strata” was noted as early as the 1840s, and in 1859 Charles Darwin discussed it as one of the main objections that could be made against his theory of evolution by natural selection. The long-running puzzlement about the appearance of the Cambrian fauna, seemingly abruptly and from nowhere, centers on three key points: whether there really was a mass diversification of complex organisms over a relatively short period of time during the early Cambrian; what might have caused such rapid change; and what it would imply about the origin and evolution of animals. Interpretation is difficult due to a limited supply of evidence, based mainly on an incomplete fossil record and chemical signatures remaining in Cambrian rocks.

Phylogenetic analysis has supported the view that during the Cambrian radiation metazoa evolved monophyletically from a single common ancestor: flagellated colonial protists similar to modern choanoflagellates.

source

jtotheizzoe:

explore-blog:

Rachel Sussman’s photographs of the oldest living things in the world – a masterpiece at the intersection of art, science, and philosophy.

With an artist’s gift for “aesthetic force” and a scientist’s rigorous respect for truth, Sussman straddles a multitude of worlds as she travels across space and time to unearth Earth’s greatest stories of resilience, stories of tragedy and triumph, past and future, but above all stories that humble our human lives, which seem like the blink of a cosmic eye against the timescales of these ancient organisms — organisms that have unflinchingly witnessed all of our own tragedies and triumphs, our wars and our revolutions, our holocausts and our renaissances, and have remained anchored to existence more firmly than we can ever hope to be.
Above all, however, the project raises questions that aren’t so much scientific or artistic as profoundly human: What is the meaning of human life if it comes and goes before a patch of moss has reached the end of infancy? How do our petty daily stresses measure up against a struggle for survival stretching back millennia? Who would we be if we relinquished our arrogant conviction that we are Earth’s biological crown jewel?

See more here.

I guarantee you that Rachel Sussman’s ten-year quest to chronicle the oldest living things on Earth will be the best thing you read about today. It will change the way you look at your life, and the life around you. It will change your perspective regarding your time on Earth, that everything, from fleeting mayflies to ancient mosses struggles for existence daily, and no matter how many sunrises we see, we should relish in each of them for their impermanence.
(Emphasis mine. Seriously… go to Brain Pickings and check out the rest. You can buy Sussman’s book here.)

jtotheizzoe:

explore-blog:

Rachel Sussman’s photographs of the oldest living things in the world – a masterpiece at the intersection of art, science, and philosophy.

With an artist’s gift for “aesthetic force” and a scientist’s rigorous respect for truth, Sussman straddles a multitude of worlds as she travels across space and time to unearth Earth’s greatest stories of resilience, stories of tragedy and triumph, past and future, but above all stories that humble our human lives, which seem like the blink of a cosmic eye against the timescales of these ancient organisms — organisms that have unflinchingly witnessed all of our own tragedies and triumphs, our wars and our revolutions, our holocausts and our renaissances, and have remained anchored to existence more firmly than we can ever hope to be.

Above all, however, the project raises questions that aren’t so much scientific or artistic as profoundly human: What is the meaning of human life if it comes and goes before a patch of moss has reached the end of infancy? How do our petty daily stresses measure up against a struggle for survival stretching back millennia? Who would we be if we relinquished our arrogant conviction that we are Earth’s biological crown jewel?

See more here.

I guarantee you that Rachel Sussman’s ten-year quest to chronicle the oldest living things on Earth will be the best thing you read about today. It will change the way you look at your life, and the life around you. It will change your perspective regarding your time on Earth, that everything, from fleeting mayflies to ancient mosses struggles for existence daily, and no matter how many sunrises we see, we should relish in each of them for their impermanence.

(Emphasis mine. Seriously… go to Brain Pickings and check out the rest. You can buy Sussman’s book here.)

Creatures of the deep: terrifying macro pictures of polychaetes or bristle worms

These tiny monsters may look like they are from another planet but they are in fact creatures from our deepest oceans.

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