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Archives / 2010
  • The fact checking generation

    RotativeI'm not very good at predicting the future (because I'm just one individual out of several billion) but I'll give it a shot today, and try to make it some sort of message of hope.

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    Tags: Humanism

    Sunday, December 26, 2010 8:41:22 AM
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  • Of taste and right

    Portrait of James MadisonWhen a Dutch cartoonist drew the prophet Muhammad, the world split between those who thought that was a serious crime that deserved death, and those who thought freedom of speech was more important than anybody’s susceptibility.

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  • Faster than the wind

    SailboatThere is a vigorous debate going on about whether it’s possible to build a vehicle that uses only wind power to accelerate to a speed that is higher than the speed of the wind and in the same direction as the wind itself (a phenomenon referred to as Downwind Faster Than the Wind or DWFTTW). You can see a summary of the debate here and a video of an actual cart going at 2.8 times the speed of the wind here.

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    Tags: Science

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010 6:00:54 AM
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  • What that guy believes

    Fig. 68Michael Egnor has now answered his own questions so we can now review his answers and discover in amazement how they make a lot more sense than what non-theists and scientists could come up with. Or not. His new post can be found here. My own answers to those same questions can be read here.

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  • How the hell do we know?

    Fig.8I was once asked “Why do you believe the Earth to be revolving around the Sun, and not the other way around?”

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    Tags: Science

    Thursday, October 7, 2010 4:13:00 AM
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  • Bret Easton Ellis' Imperial Bedrooms

    Allégorie (la Mort) After the absolutely amazing Lunar Park, Bret Easton Ellis delivers a relatively short read with Imperial Bedrooms, the sequel to Less Than Zero. Let’s say it up front: if you’ve read all of his previous novels already, you have already read this one. It is almost entirely without surprise: perversion, murders, a nightmarish blend of the inner and outer worlds of the narrator and a desperate absence of feelings and empathy are all there.

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    Tags: Book, Review

    Sunday, September 19, 2010 3:33:36 AM
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  • More fundie fun

    snakeThere is an article on stupid Conservapædia (that I won't grace with a link) that rants about the theory of Relativity because apparently it contradicts the Bible. Well, what doesn't? Even the Bible contradicts the Bible...
    Anyways, here is how that fantastic piece of entertainment begins:

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  • When failure is a feature

    I was reading an article in SciAm this morning about the possibility of a robot uprising. Don’t laugh yet, this is a very real, if still quite remote possibility.

    The main idea that was described was that AI could rise one day to self-awareness and to an ability to improve itself through self-replication beyond human abilities to control it.

    Sure, that’s one possibility, and some people are actually arguing that if that’s the case, maybe it’s just the march of evolution and humankind is just destined to one day become obsolete and be replaced by something fitter, whether from good old evolution or by artificially creating its own replacement.

    I would tend to agree but I do have an objection. There is a distinction in this kind of speculation that is not often pointed out: self-replication and evolution are not the same thing.

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  • Despite all that, France is not a collectivist dictatorship. Go figure.

    académicien

    • The state owns a majority of railways, energy production and distribution, aircraft and telecommunication industries of the country.
    • There is a minimum wage, and it's pretty high: 1300 euros a month.
    • Health care is mandatory, universal and state-managed.
    • Cities have an obligation to provide cheap homes to poor people.
    • Several of the top TV and radio stations are state-owned.
    • Movies and art in general are largely sponsored by the state.
    • Public schools are often better than private ones.
    • Free college education for all.
    • Top 3 scientific colleges pay their students for being promising future contributors to society.
    • Owning a gun is not a sacred right guaranteed by the constitution.
    • The constitution is only 52 years old, and it can be changed by referendum.
    • People can't get fired from a permanent position for no good reason and without a severance package or time to rebound.
    • If you get fired, you get substantial unemployment insurance.
    • Religion and the state are strictly separated, to the point that cults and religions pay taxes like everybody else, and politicians rarely talk about their religious convictions, or lack thereof. No mention of God is made on banknotes.
    • 64% of the population defines itself as atheists or agnostics according to http://www.harrisinteractive.com/news/allnewsbydate.asp?NewsID=1131
    • Children in school don't pledge allegiance to the flag.

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  • Be inquisitive

    Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!Recently Ambrose pointed me to one of his posts in response to a snarky comment I made about the Inquisition on Twitter. His summary goes like this: "The Inquisition was a good thing for its time. You don't even have to be Catholic to think so, if you'll just look into the facts and how it was a civilizing and taming influence in otherwise extremely brutal times."

    The argument is that the Inquisition wasn't doing the torturing and killing themselves, but rather that their role was to determine who was "innocent" and who was "guilty" and then hand them over to the competent authorities who would then proceed with the torturing and killing (which they were fully aware of). Of course, the crime these people were "guilty" of was to believe differently or to not believe at all.

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  • *theism: how many gods are there?

    quetzalcoatlMost of the debate tends to be around theism versus atheism. But there is so much more! Let's review the full set of hypotheses:

    - x = 0: atheists think there is no god.
    - 0 ≤ x ≤ Infinity: agnostics think there may be between zero and an infinity of gods. Interestingly, the set of natural numbers plus infinity is called "supernatural numbers".
    - x = 1: monotheists think there is one God.
    - x ∈ ℕ*, x > 1: polytheists think there is more than one god.
    - x ∈ ℚ: in some polytheist religions, gods can procreate with humans, which gives demigods. If demigods then procreate with humans, does that make quartergods? This is of course assuming the divinity of humans is zero. ℚ is called the set of rational numbers, which doesn't make this position especially more rational than the others...

    So where do I stand? I think x ∈ ℂ: there is a number of imaginary gods. I guess that makes me a complexotheist.

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    Tags: Religion, Math

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010 11:47:08 AM
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  • As much as I would have liked to, I did not like Tim Burton's Alice

    Alice in WonderlandI took (my) Alice to the movies this week-end, and we saw Tim Burton's Alice in 3D. I love Tim Burton's universe. But this time it just didn't work for me.
    Maybe it's because I've recently read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, but the whole foundation of the movie seems utterly absurd. In a bad way.
    All events *should* be absurd but should make sense in their own weird way. Alice should be the one who tries to make sense in an absurd world.
    Instead of that, we have a relatively normal world with slightly mad characters. there is a plot, and even a quest.
    But worst of all, Alice as a warrior in a shiny armor? Alice in Wonderland as an action flick? Wow. And when Alice recounts the six impossible things she's done today, she sounds like Rambo, not Alice.
    It's OK to take an existing work and make it your own, but this is not it. It's not even very personal: Burton can do so much better than that.
    The only moment of grace for me was when Alice remembers her previous visits.
    Anyway, (my) Alice liked it so it wasn't a complete waste of time...

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    Tags: Review, Movie

    Monday, March 15, 2010 9:26:49 PM
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  • Wild non-scientific musings: extra dimensions and parallel universes

    fig. 8Amy was asking me some questions on "alternate dimensions" and "parallel universes". Here's my answer, which is entirely non-scientific although it is based on a few things I know (or think I know) about physics. I'm suspecting for example that the string theory stuff is a little shaky as I never really studied the math in there.

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  • News from the gym: oh the hypocrisy!

    Davy safety lampUh oh, I've been watching Fox at the gym again...

    The big thing they were talking about was Harry Knox, a White House advisor, having said the Catholic Church was "hurting people in the name of Jesus" by forbidding the use of condoms. Fox pundits of course were outraged, their arguments being that scientific consensus was agreeing with the Pope that condoms weren't preventing the spread of AIDS and that the Catholic Church was saving a lot more lives through its charities than Knox's organization, HRC.

    Let's look at these claims.

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  • How to build 2D glasses

    My two pairs of 2D glasses It’s the week-end, which is the perfect time for a slightly off-topic post. It’s still engineering of sorts though in that it provides what I think is an original and cheap solution to a real problem.

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    Tags: Science, Movie

    Sunday, January 31, 2010 12:53:00 AM
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  • My video setup

    As I’m in vacation, I thought I’d make a post on something different but still quite geeky. I really like to see how people set-up their video systems: there isn’t just one way to do it right and I can’t think of two friends of mine who have something even remotely similar. So I’ll describe my setting and invite you to drop me a comment and describe yours. I’ll also tag a few friends and ask them to describe theirs. I’ll post links here.

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    Tags: Movie

    Thursday, December 31, 2009 11:36:00 PM
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