If You Must Take Offence

Crispian Jago, who maintains a blog called The Reason Stick, which he describes as “A blunt, shit-stained instrument wielded indiscriminately to bludgeon pseudoscience, superstition, blind faith and common or garden irrational bollocks,” and who has been publishing a series of posts chronicling his experience of cancer, has often pointed out the hypocrisy and plain silliness demonstrated by the utterings of believers. In this post he presents a handy chart giving them optional things that would be better to complain about. The theme of the chart seems to be that they can replace selfish, hurtful things with things that have a chance of making life better for others. They can demonstrate their Christianity by thinking about others rather than themselves. It remains to be seen whether any of them will take his advice.

Go to Crispian Jago’s site to see the complete chart.

via The Reason Stick


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The Plainsrunner – Chapter 18

Mike Gonzales – CC-BY-SA

The Plainsrunner – Chapter 18

Last week Sage got a set of shoes and set off to sell her glider. In this week’s chapter, she meets the man who wants to buy it, and makes a deal with him.

Download chapter 18 at OliverOnline.


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Put Up or Shut Up

SkepticalScience – CC-BY-SA

As they did here in Canada, the federal government in the United States is trying to get science to comply with their preferred view of the world. They seem to think that if they say something loudly enough, then it will be true. It turns out that they might not be able to get away with just making things up after all. A senior judge is calling them on it. Immediately after the climate denier Scott Pruitt was put in charge of the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency, he said he didn’t think carbon dioxide was warming things up. He thinks he’s got scientific proof.

He said, “I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

Now he’s being told to produce that proof.

On Friday, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Beryl Howell, ordered the agency to comply.

This could lead to ways to limit the damage.

Pruitt’s plan to freeze vehicle fuel-efficiency standards put in place by Obama could be weakened if the courts uphold the body of climate science used to craft the standards.

The deniers have tried to accuse environmentalists of using “secret science.” I’m not sure what they mean, but it sounds bad, doesn’t it? Now they might have to reveal their own “secret science.”

“Pruitt has gone on a campaign about secret science,” Gerrard said. “Where is his own secret science that refutes findings anthropogenic greenhouses gas are a major problem? Let’s see your cards, Scott.”

I hope this will lead to a lessening of the growing reliance on deceit and misdirection that we’re seeing lately. The worst thing about it is knowing that a significant percentage of people believe it. At least, this might stop that percentage from increasing.

So, if you’ve got the proof, show it. Put up or shut up.

via Judge Orders EPA to Produce Science Behind Pruitt’s Warming Claims – Scientific American


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Balloon Launch System

Mimifromgalaxy – CC-BY-SA

I’m linking to this story about high altitude balloons because it has a small reference to the balloon-based rocket launch system that I wrote about in the Green Comet Trilogy. It’s nice to know that my idea wasn’t impractical.

[Zhou Fei, head of KC Space’s R&D team] says that Traveller could also be a ‘secondary launch’ platform. This would mean lifting a rocket above most of the Earth’s atmosphere, from where it could fire a small rocket into orbit far more easily than from sea level. This would be useful for the growing market for tiny CubeSats.

“One of the holy grails around the world is whether you can lower the cost of launching a small CubeSat into orbit,” says Jeffrey Manber, whose company Nanoracks is working with KC on the Traveller programme.

Visit the BBC site for the full story.

via BBC – Future – The new lighter-than-air race for space


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What Emotion is That?

UntitledPhoto Credit: .kleine. cc-by-nc-sa.

via The Only Emotions I Can Feel are Anger and Fear – The Seattle Star

You don’t have to be a psychopath or a sociopath to have trouble feeling or identifying your emotions. You could have a recently identified condition called alexithymia, literally, “no words for emotion.” A person with alexithymia isn’t necessarily incapable of naming emotions, but they likely have a very unsubtle sense of what emotion they are feeling. They might interpret the increased heart rate of excitement as fear, for instance. It’s easy to see that such confusion about whether or what one is feeling can lead to many problems with relationships.

Despite the name, the real problem for people with alexithymia isn’t so much that they have no words for their emotions, but that they lack the emotions themselves. Still, not everyone with the condition has the same experiences. Some have gaps and distortions in the typical emotional repertoire. Some realise they’re feeling an emotion, but don’t know which, while others confuse signs of certain emotions for something else – perhaps interpreting butterflies in the stomach as hunger pangs.

In one of his first studies in this field, [Geoff Bird, a professor of psychology at the University of Oxford] linked alexithymia, as measured with a 20-item checklist developed at the University of Toronto, with a lack of empathy. If you can’t feel your own emotions in the typical way, it makes sense that you can’t identify with those of others, either.

“… for a few of our really alexithymic people, while they can tell a smile and a frown apart, they have no idea what they are. That is really quite strange.”

For Rebecca Brewer, a former student of Bird’s and now a lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London, this makes sense. “With alexithymia, people often know that they are experiencing an emotion but don’t know which emotion it is,” she explains.

Some studies indicate that the inability to detect what is going on within one’s own body has a strong correlation with the condition of alexithymia.

The ability to detect changes inside the body – everything from a racing heart to a diversion of blood flow, from a full bladder to a distension of the lungs – is known as interoception. It’s your perception of your own internal state.

In 2016, Bird and Brewer, along with Richard Cook at City University in London, published a research paper that characterised alexithymia as a “generalised deficit of interoception”.

Geoff Bird wants to look at the idea that there are two different types of alexithymia. People with one type don’t produce enough of the bodily signals necessary for the experience of an emotion, so would be unlikely to benefit from the Sussex group’s kind of training. People with the other type produce all kinds of bodily sensations but their brains don’t process these signals in the typical way.

Bird stresses that, although people with alexithymia struggle to understand emotion, that doesn’t mean they don’t care about other people. “For the most part, individuals with alexithymia can recognise that others are in a negative state, and this makes them distressed. The problem is that they can’t work out what the other person is feeling, and what they are feeling, and therefore how to make the other person feel better or how to reduce their own distress. I think that’s important because alexithymia is different from psychopathy in that respect.”

It would be a terrible thing if the only emotions you could feel were fear, anger and confusion. Getting the diagnosis of alexithymia and some techniques and exercises to deal with it could make a big difference in a person’s life, and the lives of those around them.

Read the whole article here.


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The Plainsrunner – Chapters 16 & 17

Mike Gonzales – CC-BY-SA

OliverOnline posted while I was away, so I’m a little late this week.

Last week Sage found a place to sleep in the city. In this week’s two chapters she has dinner with her hosts and gets a pair of shoes.


Download at OliverOnline.

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The Plainsrunner – Chapter 15

Mike Gonzales – CC-BY-SA

Part Two – The City continues.

After she’s welcomed to the city by a pair of dubious characters, Sage meets someone who fulfills the other half of Street’s prediction. She gets a quick orientation to city life, and starts to think about how she might fit into it.

Download chapter 15 at OliverOnline.


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Continental Drift

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Public Domain

Alfred Wegener had a lot of evidence for continental drift, but he didn’t have an explanation for how they did it. He had the curious way South America and Africa looked as if they should fit together. This was noticed almost as soon as good maps were available, but it was largely dismissed as coincidence. After all, it would imply that the two land masses had moved apart, and everyone knew that couldn’t happen. The idea was ridiculous.

He also had a geological connection. The rocks of South America and Africa matched up where they would have been joined had they once been a single land mass. It is the same two billion year old rock on the two separate continents.

In a similar example, there is an old mountain range — over 400 million years old — that today has its remnants in the widely separated areas of Canada, Greenland, Ireland, Scotland, England and Scandinavia. When these areas are put together, the so-called Caledonian mountain belt re-emerges.

Old glacial deposits put down during the Permo-Carboniferous glaciation 300 million years ago are found in the present day Antarctica, Africa, Australia, India and South America. The most economical explanation for this is that these continents were gathered around the south pole at the time.

Finally there is the fossil evidence. Often the same type of fossil is found on continents that are separated today, while being found nowhere else. Either this is because the continents drifted apart after the fossils were laid down, or something more improbable happened, such as breeding pairs swimming together to another continent and establishing the species there.

Public Domain

Alfred Wegener was born in 1880 and died in 1930, but his continental drift theory, first put forward in 1912, didn’t achieve wide acceptance until the 1950s. The expanding theory was developed in the four editions of his book, The Origins of Continents and Oceans, accumulating increasingly impressive evidence as it went. The theory had a few supporters, such as Milutin Milankovich, but since Wegener couldn’t come up with a convincing mechanism for how the continents moved, most scientists were sceptical. One even argued that the continents simply couldn’t “plow through” the oceanic crust. They also found fault with the imperfect fit of the jigsaw coastlines, not realizing that he was matching them at their continental shelves, where it is a much better fit.

Paleomagnetism, a new science in the 1950s, produced much evidence to support Wegener. The ancient magnetic field was imprinted in the rocks and can be read today. India is in the northern hemisphere today, but its paleomagnetic signature shows that it was in the southern hemisphere in the past, as predicted by Wegener. As the evidence quickly mounted, and with additional evidence of seafloor spreading, scientists came to accept the theory. Eventually the theory of plate tectonics brought it all together.

Pangea animation 03.gif
Original upload by en:User:TbowerUSGS animation A08, Public Domain, Link

Today we can directly measure the movement of the continents with the Global Positioning System (GPS.) Alfred Wegener could have used that when he was exploring Greenland, the continent that eventually killed him.


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The Plainsrunner – Chapters 13 & 14

Mike Gonzales – CC-BY-SA

Chapter 13 is the beginning of Part Two – The City.

Sage finally reaches the city and learns that what Street told her about it is true.

Download chapters 13 & 14 of The Plainsrunner at OliverOnline. (Leza’s post is entitled “The Plainsrunner, Chapter 2″, but we’re really in Part 2, and the chapters are 13 & 14.


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The Plainsrunner – Chapter 12

Credit: finetooth- CC-BY-SA

Chapter 12 marks the end of Part One.

Adorned with her trophies, Sage continues her trek. It has been about a month and she thinks she must be getting close to her destination, when she comes upon a sentinel tree. She also meets some people, the first she’s seen since she left her village.

My partner hasn’t made a post on her website, so I’m putting the link to the chapter here. I can’t expect you to wait forever, can I?

Download chapter twelve here.

Next week will see the beginning of Part Two – The City.


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