Previously, In Science

A round up of recent science news stories and my take on them.

Let’s start with this article from the BBC: Big Bang: Is there room for God?

Perhaps a padded one so he doesn’t hurt himself. Otherwise, I’m going to go with no on this story.

The general gist, though, is that some physicists, theologians, and philosophers got together to talk about what happened before the Big Bang. This is never going to be a productive meeting and will only ever end up with the the rational members either saying something to offend the loonies or backing down to appease the nutjobs and end the round-and-round-the-facts game being played. You might as well replace “theologians” with “reptilian overlord conspiracy theorists” for all the good ever bringing them to a discussion about things that actually exist are concerned. And as for philosophers: I’ve sat through some talks with philosophers and I’ve got a real problem with them (you’d never guess). Just like theologians their whole essence of being is in talking about unknowable concepts. Endlessly. Question them on anything and all you get is “are you sure?” with a knowing smile. Demonstrate that what they’re saying is gibberish and you’ll get a reworking of the same point of view in order to make it more vague than it already was. It’s the antithesis of science where contradictory evidence is followed by refinement or discarding. Gah!

Next, an Earth-sized planet has been discovered pretty close by in Galactic Terms (always in proper case, always italicised): Alpha Centauri has a planet!

The planet orbits close in to Alpha Cen B, and is technically called Alpha Centauri Bb – planets have lower case letters assigned to them, starting at b. Its mass is only 1.13 times the Earth’s mass, making this one of the lower mass planets yet found! But don’t get your hopes up of visiting it – its period is only 3.24 days, meaning it must be only about 6 million kilometers (less than 4 million miles) from its star. Even though Alpha Cen B is a bit cooler than the Sun, this still means the planet is baking hot, far too hot to sustain any kind of life as we know it, or even liquid water.

Even though it’s close enough to visit with today’s technology within a lifetime I’m always impressed by the science behind even making finds like this. Consider this: if our sun were a bowling ball then Earth would be a pea about twenty metres away. Look up at the night sky and find Alpha Centauri; it’s smaller than a bowling ball. It’s smaller than a pea. It’s smaller than a pea at arm’s length. Even if you’ve got really long arms like the model for the jumper I just bought apparently had (we’re not all bloody orang utans!). It’s tiny. And it’s got something near it that’s that much smaller still. And we can spot it from Earth. How freaking cool is that? We are so smart.

Finally…

What do Todd Akin (republican politician, that there United States of America), Joe Walsh (republican politician, that there United States of America), and Jeremy Hunt (conservative politician, brand new Cockney rhyming slang, this here United Kingdom of Englandland) have in common?

They’re all politicians, yes, and they’re all in right wing parties, yes, and they’re all men (awaiting results of invasive surgical tests hopefully). More importantly, they’re all science-illiterate morons in positions of power to do real damage. Not one of them knows a damn thing about women (okay, most men don’t know much but give us a break, we do try to find out) but each of them has an outspoken idea on how their bodies should be controlled. Conception through rape? It’s a myth! Abortions are sometimes absolutely necessary to save a woman’s life? I don’t think so girlfriend! It’s important that the amount of time to make a decision to carry a sprog to fruition (I’m not really up to date with the modern terms for childbirth) is halved for best results? You betcha!

Great advances in space (we’d get more with some funding, of course) coupled with great strides backwards on planet Earth. We are so stupid.

Author: Mark

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