Sunday, August 30, 2009

Atheists for Jesus!

One of my favourite blogs is Pharyngula. It's written by P.Z. Myers, a very vocal atheist. One of the ad banners caught my eye. It was for the web site Here is the screen capture.


Fractal Quotes

Over the years, I've had lots of silly thoughts (that's what happens when your job is mental gymnastics). Some of those thoughts can be captured nicely in a quote. I call them "fractal quotes". Many of them are cheesy, but maybe some of them will make your head spin. Enjoy, and remember to hit the reset button on your brain when you're done.

  1. "First of all, the last word of this sentence is first."
  2. "I washed my hands, for the tap handles were dirty."
  3. "Would you ever say no to me?"
  4. "One of my favourite numbers is e."
  5. "I've learned my lesson... three times now."
  6. "I can't stand sitting."
  7. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, except for those things
    that maim you for life."
  8. "This sentance is not worth mentioning."
  9. "Punctuation matters, period!"
  10. "It goes without saying."
  11. "My brain has a mind of its own."
  12. "This is the least I've weighed since I was slighly heavier!"
  13. "I'm tired of losing sleep."
  14. "The number-one cause of death is life."
  15. "A picture is worth a thousand words. Here's proof.
    This 40x50 pixel graylevel image has 8 bits per pixel, for a total of 2000 bytes, or 1000 words."
  16. "My calculation was off by a factor of 1."
  17. "This line has intentionally been left blank."
  18. "The first word of a sentence should always evoke interest in
    the reader."
  19. "I refuse to use 'Buzzwords'."
  20. "A little bit of pain never hurt anyone."
  21. "Please refrain from reading this line."
  22. "Do we really need rhetorical questions?"
  23. "This is a self-reference (taken by permission from Orchard2000)."
  24. "My opinion is the right one, but that's just my opinion."
  25. "I could sense the presence of her absence."
  26. "I'm pretty well-rounded... especially when it comes to specific
  27. "You can make your own decisions, or you can let me make them
    for you. It's up to you."
  28. "Using a simile is like taking someone else's art work and signing
    your name on it."
  29. "There comes a time, in every person's life, when a time comes."
  30. "Incy-wincy spider went up the water spout.
    Down came the rain and this verse doesn't rhyme."
  31. "Don't be afraid to be fearless."
  32. "I'm younger now than I am now."
  33. "I leaned over to pick my ruler up off the floor.
    And as I leaned, my arm shifted and nudged my binder,
    which pushed the ruler on my desk, and it fell...
    right to the place where my hand was reaching.
    So I picked up my ruler."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Difference between worldviews of scientists and believers

Religious people see the world differently than those of us who prefer a scientific or naturalistic interpretation of the world. I thought this might be an interesting and visual way to encapsulate the differences.

The world

How scientists see the world

How the religious see the world

Creationists tend to jump around from topic to topic, poking their little fingers through holes in our scientific knowledge. A creationist (and by "creationist", of course I mean "intelligent design proponent") might challenge you with "What came before the big bang?", or "Radio-carbon dating is based on false assumptions", or (my favourite) "Show me the transitional fossils between species X and species Y."

If you're willing to give up if you can't answer every one of their questions, then you should choose a religion and just be happy. However, if you can accept that we don't (and probably won't) know everything, then the best we can do is our best. And our best is to try to piece together all the thousands of experiments and bits of knowledge that we've acquired over the ages and try to come up with some coherent theory to explain it all. Hence, the scientist's view of the world, though somewhat cluttered and confused, shows a consilience of information.

consilience (noun)
  1. (logic) the concurrence of multiple inductions drawn from different data sets
  2. Agreement, co-operation or sharing of methods between or convergence or overlap of academic disciplines

Every tidbit of data adds something to our understanding of reality. Take the theory of evolution as an example. It's one of the most successful theories ever. Genetics, molecular biology, anthropology, geology, developmental biology, mathematics, and physics (to name a few) all tend to point toward the same general conclusion, that life on earth evolved over a long period of time by natural selection acting on genetic variation. It would be difficult to be so confident of that conclusion if you drew from only one of the academic fields. But the fact that they all converge on the same conclusion... that's consilience!

If instead you pick'n-choose a small number of facts, you can arrive at any of a number of conclusions that are inconsistent with the vast majority of other facts. Religions tend to fit in that category.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Anal-retentive photo archiver

Hello, my name is Jeff Orchard, and I have a problem. I find it very hard to delete photos.

As you can surmise from my previous post about digital cameras, we take lots of pictures. We got our first digital camera in Dec. 2002, and have gone through several since. And we've accumulated over 23,000 photos. And I can't throw any of them away. OK, I guess I can part with the odd blurry shot, or "oops I didn't realize the camera was on" picture of the sky or ground. Other than that, I keep'em all.

Part of my reasoning: you never know when you might want that picture of the yard before the deck was built, or that photo of the left-side of the van to see if that dent was there last April.

We capture about 2GB of photo data every month or so. That means our photo/video archive is a stack of DVDs that looks like this...

Maybe that's even healthy. The insanity becomes obvious when I tell you that I keep duplicates, one copy at home (hence the text "home copy" written on the DVDs), and one "remote copy" that I keep in my office at work.

Oh, I can hear the sirens. They're coming to take me away!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Kids for sale

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the absence of an apostrophe after "kids" in this sign suggest that Jennifer is selling kids?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Murder: Right or Wrong?

Thanks to all those who commented on my earlier post. Though ALL the comments were on Facebook, rather than on the blog itself. In case you didn't know, these blog posts are from my blog Intelligent Falling, and are automatically posted to my Facebook page. I'd prefer comments to appear on my blog, especially since Facebook seems to limit the length of the comments on notes.

It was such a great response that I thought I'd stir the pot a bit more.

Murder, right or wrong? I say neither, since I don't believe in right and wrong. Or, at least I don't believe in any absolute, cosmic notion of right and wrong. In my view, right and wrong is only defined by our society. Whatever doesn't jibe with those that live and work with us... well, that's what we call wrong. And it doesn't take long for a murder-happy population to hack-and-slash itself into extinction. So, the only ones left are those that outlaw -- or at least manage -- murder.

As you might have noticed, this view is consistent with the views that I expressed in my previous blog post, that there is really no fundamental difference between living and non-living matter. We're just organized piles of chemicals. And there's nothing fundamentally wrong with rearranging a glob of chemicals.

That said, I want to clarify that I have no interest in going to jail, so I don't kill people. I also have a human brain, so I come ready-equipped with all the irrational behaviours that we've come to know and love.

Ants working together

Why do societies abolish murder? Because society invests in each person; every member of a society holds a piece of that society's capital. That's why societies have a process in place to try to distinguish its productive members from its unrecoverable liabilities (we call it the court of law). Abortion can be gauged on the same societal-investment basis, but that's a topic for another blog post.