I’m Going on Vacation


Everyone has their idea of a dream honeymoon. This is mine, in case you were wondering.

I’m not really all that sure how many regular readers I have. The information on Google Analytics is mystifying at best. But, in the interests of preserving those few readers that I may have, I want to make it clear that the fact that there will probably be no posts for the next week and a half is due entirely to the fact that I’m getting married on Saturday and have five hundred tiny, almost insignificant tasks that amount to the trials of Hercules to accomplish before 2p.m. on Saturday afternoon. It will theoretically culminate in some sort of “I do.”

Also, I will be gone all next week in Grand Marais, Minnesota, a lovely little town on the north shore of Lake Superior. Bed and Breakfast and all that. It’s going to be great.

Supposedly, Matthew Arnold wrote the poem “Dover Beach” while on his honeymoon. If you read the text of the poem literally; that is, if you take it to be fact, it paints a bleak picture: a man, sitting at the writing desk in the bed chamber, gazing out over the moonlit cliffs of Dover, while a newlywed wife lies on the bed, alone, depressed, possibly shivering against the cool Mediterranean breeze.

I’m not sure if that’s how it really went down, and nobody will ever actually know the truth of the matter. However, the point is, that is not exactly the sort of honeymoon that I am likely to have. So, no blog posts. I may bring my laptop. If I get a few minutes to reflect, or if they discover the theory of everything, I’m sure my Blackberry will tell me so, and I’ll make up some excuse to post the news here. But barring that, you won’t hear from me until early August. Until then, Adieu.

Liebe ist Musik.

Scientia Pro Publica #8

Scientia Pro Publica has a new edition out. One of my articles was accepted, which is totally cool.

This week’s edition was published by John over at A DC Birding Blog. There’s a very good lineup of articles in this edition and I hope that everyone can click on over and check it out.

The next edition is in two weeks, over at Pro-Science. Look for it there, or, if you like, you can submit an article by clicking right here.

Ciao Bella.

Copernicus Joins the Table


A month or so ago, I talked a little bit about this new element. Well, they’ve finally settled on a name for it. I must say I’m a little disappointed in Professor Hofmann. I know as well as the next guy the contribution that Copernicus made to science and, more importantly, the importance of questioning everything, but this is ridiculous.

I made a perfectly reasonable suggestion that they name the new element after David Carradine–which is well within the rules of the naming these things since he’s, well, dead–and did they listen? Of course not.

I guess that’s just how it goes. You win some, you lose some. But as far as I’m concerned, mainstream chemistry is on notice until they come up with some really cool shit for my brain to absorb.

Welcome to the periodic table copernicium. Don’t pay any attention to Iron. He’s just irritable. If you need any advice, go talk to Hydrogen. He’s been around for a long, long time.

traurig genannt.

A Funny Thing About Harry Potter

harry and snape

Some years ago, I wrote a post on my old blog about Harry Potter and certain moral issues pertaining to it. At the time, I had primarily been lamenting the fact that these kids at Hogwarts never take an English class. I mean, they’re growing up to be illiterate wackos with the power of the cosmos at their fingertips. Dangerous to say the least. But at the time I was also taking issue with the fact that they never learn science. It’s not like it doesn’t exist. There’s the muggle world, where tons of people are doing science every day, but the wizarding world is totally ignorant of this fact to their own detriment. Finally, I figured that the existence of magic ought to be utilized for humanity as a whole, and not just for the people who could wield it.

I was, essentially, being deliberately obtuse. Obviously I understand that nature of the narrative. I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter books and enjoy the films as a visualization of the stories that were so carefully told in the novels. Rowling is a wizard of a sort herself. A wizard of words, if that isn’t too cheesy for you. But it’s more than that. Her prose itself is not really that sophisticated. It’s more her ability to build a universe that doesn’t fall apart two days later. The world in Harry Potter is actually quite stellar. It’s an entire mythos that’s very fun and engaging.

In some fictions, we get pretty generic settings. Take for instance, one of my favorite sci-fi television shows: Firefly. It’s an incredibly generic sci-fi setting that is only held together by the strength of its characters and the writing. I mean, a sci-fi western is a really cheesy idea that has been literally done to death. And yet, a stellar cast with great chemistry, great acting, and helluva decent script make the show what it is.

But in Harry Potter, we have a setting that carries its characters. Let’s face it, most of the characters are cardboard cutout archetypes, Harry Potter being the worst, most boring offender. He’s an utterly one-dimensional character who, despite this fact, we actually manage to cheer for. Who is he really? In a high-school drama, he’s the jock. Think about it. If it weren’t for that British accent, you’d have exactly the character in the above image.

I watched the new film last night and it did not disappoint. I’ll spare you the details, because they’re not relevant. Suffice to say, it is and does exactly what it’s supposed to be and do. It is satisfying in that you can watch it once and never have any pressing desire or need to ever watch it again. In a sense, it was a blessing to get it over and done with at the midnight showing.

It was fun, but the films, moreso than the book, have this thing called set dressing that highlights some of the holes in the world that Harry Potter inhabits. A lot of crazy stuff is happening left and right. Terrorist activities by the Death Eaters, right? Just what in the hell is the British government doing about it? I’m talking about the government that governs sixty million beer swilling britons, not the Ministry of Magic that oversees a few thousand (?) magic-slinging ones.

I mean, isn’t there a public outcry to, oh, I don’t know, do something? All I want to know is, how they’re spinning it. I think it’s perfectly possible for the right spin to be spun and still manage to maintain the same narrative, but there’s just this part of me that is absolutely dying to know what’s going on in the muggle world!

Is that because I’m a muggle and, thus, sympathize with them? Is it because I’m a compulsive critic who’s always looking for flaws and problems? Who knows? I invite anyone and everyone to think up headlines that might appear on TV and in muggle newspapers to explain these catastrophes and post them in the comments section.

verbotene Künste.

Why Humans Suck Compared to Dinosaurs


A while back researchers located some dinosaur burrows in Montana. Of course, this proved that dinosaurs exhibited a burrowing behavior when the need arose. Just recently, further burrows were discovered in Victoria, Australia. The important thing to take away from this is that it shows a similar survival behavior from different species from different hemispheres. 110 million years ago, the Earth was a warmer place, but when Australia used to be situated at the south pole, it still got pretty cold in the winter. And apparently this was how they kept warm.

They were small dinosaurs, which makes sense. Comical as the image of a T-Rex burrowing into the soft sand of a riverbank is, it probably didn’t work that way.

The above cartoon is, as usual, my way of trying to be funny. Whether it’s successful or not, is not my call, but what I like is the idea that dinosaurs might compare survival adaptations, defenses, weaponry, in a civilized tone. It’s an anthropomorphism, which is the main point here. A similar discussion most certainly did occur between dinosaurs, but it probably would have been much more violent and probably involved the T-Rex trying to eat the Triceratops (though there is some debate over whether T-Rex was a hunter or a scavenger or both).

The thing is humans have three or so key survival adaptations: opposable thumbs, upright stature, gigantic brain. Each of these things is a tremendous liability in other ways, however. For instance, our upright stature makes us slow runners. Our huge brains mean our head are big which makes human childbirth a harrowing and very dangerous activity.

So basically, when one is trying to make the argument that humans are the pinnacle, the zenith, the ultimate, in biological evolution (or creation), they have to acknowledge the fact that humans have problems. We really have no natural weaponry, no defense against cold, our immune systems suck, we’re not strong, fast, or agile. All we have is our brains and our ability to use tools.

Dinosaurs were the most successful animals to ever walk the planet. They lived for millions of years. Bipedal man has been here for about five hundred thousand years and homo sapiens for only about a hundred thousand. We have a long way to go before we are even in the same league as dinosaurs. If anything insects (cockroaches, for instance) are the most successful animals currently creeping across this world. Crocodiles, sharks, and other similar species are far older than humans. Turtles live longer.

I mean, if your standard is simply “ability to survive,” then humans suck. We have a very high opinion of ourselves and it’s utterly undeserved. That’s the funny thing.

Again, this is from a survival-ability standpoint. Obviously we’ve made more art. We have language. We have “civilization,” whatever that means. And I think a pat on the back is well deserved. Maybe a polite, quiet round of applause.

Good work people. Keep it up for a few million more years and we’ll really be something. Just don’t screw it up in the meantime, alright?