Monday, May 31, 2010

Pennsays and PennPoint

I've been a big fan of Penn Jillette for a long time, so when I found out he had a video blog on youtube I subscribed straight away, and I watched all the videos he had made before I started watching too. His vlog called Pennsays was being managed and run by a division of Sony called Crackle, and they being the corporate assholes that they are, decided to make all their channels only available inside the U.S. so no one else on earth was allowed to watch them. This made me rather mad, and I even did a blog post about it. That was a long time ago now, and just yesterday I discovered that Penn has stopped doing vlogs for Sony, and has started up a new video series on another website called Revision3 Internet Television. As a Penn and Teller fan, I'm pretty excited to be allowed to watch vlogs again.....

But seriously, he always talks about very interesting things, go check out his new video series HERE.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Astronomical Odds, Favour Common Descent

Creationists sometimes try and use statistics and numbers to bamboozle people into thinking that evolution is too unlikely to happen, well two can play at that game.
A real scientist (as opposed to a creationist) has run the numbers on it. The odds that all life evolved from more than one ancestor (i.e. that not everything on earth is related), are one in ten to the power of 2680. That's a 1 with 2680 0's after it. You may notice that we're taking the assumption that life evolves, and has evolved to where it is right now. This is because evolution is an established scientific fact.

So, we conclude that the odds are astronomically in favour of all life evolving from a single common ancestor (3.5 billion years ago).

If you'd like to read more, visit This Page on National Geographic.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Eye-Witnesses? Nope.

It's claimed all the time by apologists that the writers of the New Testament were eye-witnesses to Jesus (particularly the gospel writers), but this simply isn't the case.
It is generally accepted that Mark is the earliest gospel written, and just who is Mark? He is believed to be a follower of Peter from the Gospel accounts, the rock upon whom Jesus apparently built his church. Did Mark ever meet Jesus? As far as we know he never knew the man at all. Matthew and Luke both used Mark as a source material for their gospels (although they contradict each other quite substantially concerning the birth narrative of Jesus, which Mark never mentions), and John is generally held to have been written in the very late first century or early second century. Considering that life expentancy in those days was ~40, and Jesus supposedly died around 29-33 C.E. By the time the gospels were written not a single one of Jesus' followers would still have been alive. Mark is placed around 70 C.E. at the earliest, So assuming Jesus' followers were at least teenagers during his ministry years, that would make them at least about 20 years old when he died. Add on another 40 years minimum to the writing of Mark, and that would make the youngest followers at least 60, which is rather unlikely considering the circumstances. If we're fairly certain that the youngest gospel was written by someone who wasn't an eyewitness, and that all eyewitnesses were likely to be dead by the time he put his pen to the paper, I think it is fairly safe to assume that the gospel accounts are unreliable.

EDIT: Sorry, I had the Life Expectancy wrong, it was 35 in the bronze/iron age not 40.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Synthetic Life

J. Craig Venter has created the first replicating cell that has a computer for its father.

Here is a link to a video where Venter discusses the experiment and some potential uses for this new technology. It is 18 minutes long, but it is very interesting if you have any sort of curiosity for cutting edge science.

Been Way Too Slack.

I've been informed by a number of my readers that I need to start posting again! So I'll try get back on track.

My apologies for my laziness.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Emotive Water? What? Lets take a look...

I was having a discussion with a friend the other day, and they mentioned a study by a Japanese scientist that showed that water formed different shaped crystals when subjected to different emotional situations. Immediately alarm bells went off in my brain, as this is quite a strange thing to hear. I knew straight away that this idea was completely bogus, but I had to go and check it out for myself. So I went onto google and I searched up a few terms, and came out with this website from the aforementioned Japanese scientist.

At first glance, I noticed a few glaringly unscientific statements made by the article. The first one I noticed was this.
"Water is a very malleable substance. Its physical shape easily adapts to whatever environment is present."
Ok, anyone with a basic understanding of science would know that the world malleable is only applicable to solids. Its definition is "Capable of being shaped or formed, as by hammering or pressure: a malleable metal." So it is fairly obvious already that these people are scientifically illiterate. The second sentence is even more ridiculous, I assume they're referring to liquid water, which behaves in such a way because it has no inter-molecular structure as a liquid, that is what makes it a liquid. Anyway, they continue on after that with this.

"But its physical appearance is not the only thing that changes, the molecular shape also changes. The energy or vibrations of the environment will change the molecular shape of water. In this sense water not only has the ability to visually reflect the environment but it also molecularly reflects the environment."

 Really? The molecular shape also changes? I would be willing to bet that these ignoramuses don't even know what the molecular shape of water is, perhaps even willing to bet that they don't understand what H2O means.
Here is a graphic representation of a water molecule
 These quacks are saying that this shape changes if you subject water to different words, for example if you yell Adolf Hitler at a glass of water, the molecular shape changes, and if you then froze the water, the crystals formed would be a different shape to the 'usual', and this ice crystal would also be ugly, because you mentioned something evil. I'm not kidding, you can read all this garbage on their website for yourself.
 I can guarantee you, that if I yell at a glass of water, that the molecular shape is not going to change, the angle between the two hydrogen atoms will still remain around 104.45 degrees.

 They then go on to provide "photographic evidence" of their loony idea, they show pictures of alleged water crystals that were subjected to various words before being frozen, and that supposedly altered how the crystals formed. There are quite obviously several problems with this. Masaru Emoto is in fact not a scientist at all, he's an author, though all he has written about is his crackpot idea. He has not given any details about his methodology for conducting the experiment. He hasn't submitted it for peer review. His results have not been replicable by anyone else. Need I go on?

For good measure, I thought I'd go through Michael Shermer's Baloney Detection Kit with Masaru Emoto's claim.

The 10 Questions:
1. How reliable is the source of the claim?

Not reliable at all, the source of the claim is Masaru Emoto, an author and practitioner of alternative medicine.

2.Does the source make similar claims?

Mr. Emoto makes similar claims, mostly to do with the effect of water on people.

3. Have the claims been verified by somebody else?

Not in the slightest.

4. Does this fit with the way the world works?

Not at all. Quite the contrary in fact.

5. Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?

Perhaps, I'm not aware of any counter-studies, as his claims do not warrant any investigation, only ridicule.

6. Where does the preponderance of evidence point?

What evidence? There is none, only bogus claims.

7. Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?


8. Is the claimant providing positive evidence?

Yes, but the evidence is bogus. He 'claims' that it is evidence, but in reality it isn't.

9. Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?

I'm not really sure how it fits into anything, it's rather innocuous, but it does contradict current knowledge about chemistry.

10. Are personal beliefs driving the claim?

I havn't really bothered to look into the personal beliefs of Mr. Emoto, I don't think it really matters at this stage.