Sunday, December 31, 2006

Soul Physics.

Soul Physics are an odd sort of byproduct of religion. They are the interactions between souls and odd things like that. For example, the current view is that the soul enters the cell at the moment of conception. Only human cells though.

This differs from earlier notions that the soul entered the fetus at quickening (first kick) or that early on a fetus has a vegetable soul. However, the current view (at least in the Christian worldview) has a number of rather critical problems. First, identical twins. When the embryo splits does the soul double? Do they share the same soul? Does one clump of cells get the soul and the other clump not get any? What happens if the broken embryo recombines? Does it now get one soul, two souls, half a soul? What about Chimerism? Where rather than twins recombining we simply have two different fraternal twins recombine into one person. Do they have two souls? Or one soul that enters at the moment of combining? What about clones?

If embryonic stem cells are taken to their full potential it's easily possible that any stem cell could be made into an embryo. As is, it's easily possible to remove a few stem cells from the side of a embryo and make a new stem cell line. Growing the original embryo into a human being. What happens soul physics wise if we start growing thousands of clones out of that stem cell line? What if it turns out that rather than plurapotent adult stem cells have totopotency? We could take adult stem cells and make them into embryos. It's also feasible to take any cell and un-differentiate it. Any cell in a human has the potential to be human. If embryos are people too, aren't we committing genocide by scratching our asses? The only thing stopping many of these cells from being human is a lack of a womb. Clearly, worse than the murder of removing some potential life from a womb is having a womb without potential life.

An unoccupied womb is murder!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

We are all deeply immoral and nobody realizes it

In the history of the world there has been more than a few shifts in morality. The perfectly acceptable slavery of one century is turned into anathema the next, racism, sexism, heterosexism. Even as early as fifty years ago, a number of things have shifted. And it stands to reason that things will shift again.

What will it be?

What are we doing today which will be universally condemned by progeny? Our vile eating of meat from murdered animals (tasty!), our admonishments against pride (it's okay to feel good when you kick ass), our patriotism (USA! USA! USA!)? Certainly, killing animals will seem barbaric when you're eating steak grown in a petridish, or humble about things when you should be rewarded for your deeds and given reinforcements for good behavior, our illogical love for our own country and group due to nothing more than our non-choice in being born here?

Perhaps something more sinister? Our respect for religious faiths that do nothing to earn our respect? Our rather critical attacks on higher learning in a number of areas? How about our old classics, such as xenophobia and racism. Certainly they aren't wiped out, and as such we have much to condemn from a place beyond such petty bigotries. How about the idea that we think races exist at all. That there are black people or white people or asian people rather than simply humans with a slightly different gene frequency set?

How about something rather odd? Our pathetic public school system? Even funding our public school system at all? Not providing universal healthcare? Being a society that allows lawsuits for every little stupid thing. Perhaps PETA has a point and our very ownership of animals as pets will someday be looked upon as that of slavery. Perhaps even our idea that animals are things, or that we are somehow not animals ourselves. Perhaps the very notions of sin or God? Perhaps our frigid views of sex as something you can only do with people you know the names of? Perhaps the very idea of clothing will be seen as quite Victorian and worthy of scorn. Our wasteful nature? Our trash? Our use of nuclear energy? Our lack of use of more nuclear energy? Our pollution? Our ignoring of global warming? The notions that big faceless corporations are big bad and faceless? Taxes existing at all? Circumcision being permissible on children without their consent? Indoctrination into political, religious, and ideological view points? Psychology? The very existence of science?

It's impossible to know what morality will look like fifty years from now, and thusly it's impossible to be moral in the way the future will view morality. Thusly, if my view that my family is worth more than comparable individuals who aren't my family is someday viewed as gross bigotry, my most humble apologies... assuming apologies aren't viewed as some sort of cop-out shouldn't really absolve any previous behaviors.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Why Columbus was stupid, and drugs lead to the new world

A number of people believe the Washington Irving myth that Columbus was the first to figure out the Earth was round and that sailing west would not lead to certain doom. This is however clearly false. There was a disagreement between Columbus and the intellectuals of the time, mainly the distance to Asia going east and the circumference of the Earth. He figured it was about three thousand miles traveling west to hit India, everybody else said it was probably about 11,000 miles, and he would die sailing through the great "Ocean Sea" which covered 180 degrees of the world.

Now, it turns out that the great minds of the time were right on both counts, the distance to India going east as well as the circumference of the Earth to a remarkable degree. He was pretty clearly rebuked by everybody because he was pretty clearly wrong on both these counts. Though, the wrong assumption that the span between Europe and Asia was only water was made on both sides.

Why then did the new Spanish Monarchs fund his journey? Why spend a lot of money funding a fool's errand? Drugs. When the Muslims took over Spain and were later cast out they left a rather interesting legacy: Opium addiction. They were desperate to find a better way to India because they needed a fix. After Ferdinand and Isabella managed to drive the last of them out, they were left with a rather bad drug problem and no supplier. They gave him unusually generous terms, partially because it was doubtful he was going to return, and an order for opium.

Christopher Columbus was wrong on every count, had stupid ideas, and was rightfully rebuked. Finally, though finances were short he was sent on a drug run to India. He was so foolish he believed he actually made it (hence the word "Indians" for Native Americans) and refused to hear otherwise and died believing he was right.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Panphones to cure ToTs.

A few years ago, there was a study conducted on ToTs, tip-of-the-tongue that concluded that the phenomenon was when the brain knew the word but couldn't access the proper phonemes the word had to vocalize the word. One popular strategy to resolving this problem that I personally use is to run through the alphabet in my head until something clicks. A better solution would be to memorize a short phrase with every phoneme in English within it.

The good cat just found grizzly bear poo.
Sharks having lawyers chose, why marry you?

Not quite perfect, but most are there. Actually kind of hard to make one up. Rhyming would help, but a needed part of rhyming is to introduce a duplicate phoneme.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dishonesty in the Baylor Study

Several months back Baylor university did a study which had several interesting findings. One of their claims was that about 94.8% of people believed in God. This was done by running an essentially valid survey and asking a question, number 26.

26. In your opinion, does each of the following exist?
God -------------- Absolutely, Probably, Probably Not, Absolutely Not.

We see from page 27 that the given definition for Atheists: "Atheists are certain that God does not exist." - Apparently only people who answered "Absolutely Not" to that final question are atheists.

This seems like a rather minor nitpick, but I think it's an extremely valid one. A good number of people from the "distant God" category are really atheists in the (non-belief in gods sense of the word). Saying that their findings of only 5% is boon to the religious is wrong. Self declared atheism previous registered at 2% then 3%. It raises a question of how many of these distant God people answered "probably not" to that question, and were still promptly tossed into the theist categories.

The Stephen Colbert / Richard Dawkins piece (airing shortly after the Baylor study hit the waves), we see that Colbert cites this 95% stat and Dawkins states his view on the subject. The irony is, given Dawkins view, he would be a theist in the Baylor study. The Baylor study claims there is a boon to religion in today's culture. However, this is mostly because they willfully shoved anybody who wasn't an unabashed strong atheist into a theist group... shouting "Look Ma, Religion."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Invention of the Day

Fill levees with that diaper stuff. Absorbent gelling material is actually fairly cheap, and it seems like several pockets of it would have the actual ability to stop a leak. Pretty much anybody who does such things knows that all it takes is a trickle of water and it's over. A trickle leads to a spray, to a good seeping, to a big hole and finally to a massive breach. All in a very short period of time. If you could have some kind of built-in method to stop the trickle, you'd be set.

If it's good enough at stopping the poop of babies, it should be quite apt at fixing much smaller problems like massive floods. If dams(parents) can use it, dams (walls to stop water) can use it!

Secondly, perhaps the stuff could be made to independently assemble a make-shift levee.
You could get a large container of the stuff hook it unto a chopper and dump in on some quick flooding area. Turn most of the water going a certain direction into gel and divert the river.

It would kill fish, not sure how the hell you'd clean it up.

In a thousand words or less describe your most admirable characteristic:


Saturday, December 9, 2006

World Genealogy Tree.

With the advent of the human genome project and the advances in gene sequencing. It is entirely possible to track down all of your ancestors even if nobody knows what their names might have been. If a few specific mutations to gene 10 from your great great grandfather are passed down to everybody who gets his gene 10, then everybody with that mutation is an descendant of that person. It would be completely possible to track down exactly how related you are to your spouse, 5th cousins or 50th cousins. It will soon be possible to trace down the family trees of those individuals who lost their family traveling to their new homes whether on a ship whose registry was lost or a slave ship being ripped from their homelands.

Within our lifetimes, we could compose a family tree for all of mankind. Unless we decide to engage in the grand mass murder of our cousins before we can do so.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Invention of the Day

UPS systems are nice, but they are dreadfully inefficient for a product which needs every precious second of time. However, note the conversions:

AC wall -> DC battery -> AC UPS -> DC power supply.

Why can't I get a UPS that converts the power to DC, stores it in a battery, and delivers the power to a 12v (power supply/regulator/splitter) without converting. Firstly, this will stop a bunch of worthless conversions of the power current, this will replace a power supply with a simple box which splits and regulates the power flow that won't need fans and other such things.

Also, this would allow for pretty quick easy server rack, multi-power supply. It turns out you can save a ton of power if you have one large power supply to serve a large rack of computers. This would do roughly the same thing but add UPS.

Worst case a few super capacitors could one day be put into the power supply after the conversion of DC power and provide some nice functionality. That or just convert all the computer's memory to non-volatile.