Saturday, May 31, 2008

It Probably Oughtn't Be Called Rock Music

but, this is, in my not-so-humble opinion, among the greatest electric guitar songs of all time. Robert Fripp is so unlike anyone else playing the instrument he really belongs in a class by himself. Although ultimately it would be hard to exclude Adrian Belew from that class.

Friday Galactic Blogging

Another beautiful example of the effect of close gravitational interactions and the seemingly infinite variations in galactic structure that can result. This is AM 0644-741 (the "AM" designation is new to me.) One of a class of "ring galaxies," it is officially a lenticular galaxy. It is about 300 million light away in the southern constellation Dorado. It's an APOD image, and, as always, clicking through is rewarded with additional information and higher resolution views.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

More What's Wrong With Texas

This time via Pharyngula. Hint: more stupid religious cultists, but this time with real jobs.

Friday Galactic Blogging

Between the foreground dust clouds and diffuse gas (a bit of our own galaxy - an Integrated Flux Nebula - and the intergalactic background, this strikes me as a canonically beautiful image. The galaxies in the background compose the M81 group of galaxies. M81 (Messier 81) itself with M82 (Messier 82) are a gravitationally locked pair interacting visibly, as I've blogged in the past. This is an APOD image.

Click once for the APOD page, click through there to see the higher resolution image.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Is Wrong With Texas?

Firstly there are far too many unutterably dumb religious sects. Secondly, there are apparently state appeals court judges who aren't any brighter. In the matter involving the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), the Mormon splinter group accused of the organized statutory rape of young girls, the Texas Third Court of Appeals has ruled that the state has failed to show that the 440 children seized in a raid last month were in any immediate danger. Apparently pedophilia, as long it's based on religious beliefs, does not constitute what this judge believes to be a danger to children.

New York Times:
"Even if one views the FLDS belief system as creating a danger of sexual abuse by grooming boys to be perpetrators of sexual abuse and raising girls to be victims of sexual abuse... there is no evidence that this danger is 'immediate' or 'urgent'," the court said.

I find this ruling stunning. I think this judge shows a remarkable indifference to civilized norms, I imagine as a response to some kind of badly formed idea of religious freedom - though I'd be hard pressed to prove that last assertion. I hope this ruling is overturned on appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, and I hope that reason is found to remove the idiot judge who issued it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Huckabee Seems Like a Decent Guy

Dan Drezner makes a good point. I'm glad Huck isn't going to be the next President. I can't help feeling a lot of affection for the guy - and I'm pretty grouchy when it comes to people responsible for what I think are disingenuous anti-science rants - a sin Huck is certainly guilty of. He nonetheless comes off as a basically sane, intelligent, decent guy for the most part. It's a paradox.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

Viewed side-on a spiral galaxy can reveal an entirely different kind of view. This interesting, fat looking, edge-on spiral is NGC 3628, a member of the Leo Triplet - a small group, three galaxies, which also include the spirals M65 and M66. The long tidal tail, seems to evidence of gravitational interaction with the other members of the group. This APOD image links back to the APOD page for the image that, as always, links to a higher res version.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Spackerman Gets It Right

Spencer Ackerman:

Welcome to the next four years. These people have plunged the country into two failing/failed wars and killed hundreds of thousands of people. (Also, they pulled off a housing crisis and a healthcare crisis and an environmental crisis and when an entire city drowned the administration left the black people to die.) There’s no alibi: when conservatism had its chance to govern, this is what it yielded. If I was one of them, I’d bitch about Rajiv Chandrasekaran or Jeremiah Wright or whatever was necessary to distract people from what I did when I had the chance to do it. Get ready for years and years and years of this puerile and tiresome nonsense.

The whole post is about partisan whinging among people on the public payroll - and is worth reading in its own right. But, this paragraph stands out as a crystalline depiction of current reality.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

This nicely situated galactic collision is close enough and oriented such that we have an extremely good, detailed snapshot of the ongoing interaction between two apparently merging galaxies. One hundred million light years away, it's almost in our neighborhood (the furthest visible galaxies are thirteen billion light years distant), located in the Hydra-Centaurus supercluster, the nearest supercluster except for our own.

Friday, May 2, 2008


John Derbyshire's felicitous neologism, ought to, in my opinion, be promoted to the status of permanent part of the vernacular. And since my friend bjkeefe has outed me as a cheerleader for National Review's The Corner group blog, this seems like the right time to assert this. Also I'd like to quote part of the ferocious anti-anti-science bit Derb posted there today:

One of the best reasons to be a philosemite in our time is sheer gratitude at the disproportionate contribution Jews have made to the advance of Western civilization, and to our understanding of the world, this past two hundred years. The U.S.A. dominated the 20th century in culture and technology, to the great benefit of all mankind, in part because of the work done in math and science by the great tranche of pre-WW2 immigrant Jews from Europe.

Derb has his detractors, and I've seen him accused of racism - a charge I know he'd deny despite the acidity of some of his commentary. The clarity of his declaration on this embodies a view I endorse completely.