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Teabagger Tralala.

byronius, 2009/11/30 

Sky Says It’s Not Falling.

byronius,  

An email from Sky Harbor:

I read today of the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) exceeding previous energy levels at a 1.18 TeV (Trillion electron Volts)… suffice it to say that you wouldn’t want to be standing nearby when protons and anti-protons accelerated to such energies actually collide:

Yahoo News

While this is a significant milestone, exceeding previously energy levels achieved by the U.S. Fermi Lab’s Tevatron, the LHC is just getting warmed up. The massive new collider is designed to reach energies in excess of 6 TeV over the next few years. By accelerating protons (and negatively charged anti-protons in the opposite direction) to very near light speed, physicists hope to reproduce tiny equivalents of the nearly unimaginable energies present in the microseconds following the ‘Big Bang’… currently believed to have occurred about 13.7 Billion years ago.

Why on Earth would anyone want to do this? What’s the big deal?

Well, the full answer would likely bore most people to tears, but very briefly, the eggheads are attempting to prove (or disprove) theoretic ideas about the ‘unification’ of forces. Previous atom smashers have shown that 3 of the 4 fundamental forces observed today (electro-magnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces) were ‘unified’ as a single ‘force’ shortly after the Big Bang, and only split as ‘symmetry was broken’ in the cooling aftermath of creation. But the force of ‘gravity’ has proven to be a stubborn ‘hold out’, requiring previously unattainable energies to force its unification with the other 3 forces. The main idea is that ALL forces were once ONE force and only ‘split off’ from each other as things began to expand and cool.

So the ‘big deal’ with CERN’s Large Hadron* Collider is that physicists hope to produce for a very brief moment the very massive particle that transmits the force of gravity. This theorised particle is called the ‘Higgs Boson’, and it is thought to impart ‘mass’ to matter. Obviously, without mass, things just wouldn’t work the way that they do… in fact, things probably wouldn’t work at all. So it really is important to show that we really do understand what we think we do by proving the existence of this elusive ‘Higgs Boson’. Conversely, if the Higgs doesn’t exist, our physics has a serious problem!

Unfortunately, some wag scientist made the mistake in an interview of calling the postulated Higgs Boson the ‘God Particle’. In a well-meant but misguided effort to ‘jazz up’ the admittedly dry vocabulary of particle physics for the popular press, he or she imparted unintended religious implications to a purely scientific concept. Yes, Higgs is fundamental to our understanding of the Universe (multiverse?), but will tell us NOTHING about the existence or lack thereof of God! So while ‘God Particle’ makes for good ink, as a description it is misleading in the extreme. Oops.

Also, much has been made of the possibility of producing ‘black holes’ with the LHC. Unfortunately this has led to uninformed speculation that CERN might ‘destroy the world’, causing the Earth to be sucked into some manufactured black hole! SCARY, no? Well, NO. Not a chance. It IS just possible that ‘micro black holes’ could be produced, but they would ‘evaporate’ nearly instantly. So while such results would be of interest and prove unequivocally the existence of ‘black holes’, they couldn’t cause any damage. So don’t stay up worrying about it. There are lots of all too real things to concern ourselves with!

Go CERN!

Per aspera ad astra…
- Kurt

Vegetarian decadence

Max, 2009/11/29 

I haven’t yet read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, but Stefany Anne Golberg has and she’s written a splendid counter-review. Here’s a couple of grafs:

“Let the stoics say what they please,” wrote Emerson, “we do not eat for the good of living, but because the meat is savory and the appetite is keen.” I agree with Emerson here, as would Foer. People eat meat because they desire it and make their excuses after the fact. We don’t know for sure if it is more or less natural for humans to eat meat, if eating meat or vegetables made us the awesome, complex animals we are, made our brains larger, our thumbs stronger or whatever. We do know that it’s now perfectly possible to live a meaningful and healthy life without meat and without suffering for it. Even an extraordinary life, as demonstrated by da Vinci, Tolstoy, Kafka, Shaw. Foer thus appeals to our nobler sense, reminds us that we need not be ruled by the flavor of meat, that we are animals who recoil from unnecessary cruelty; who can enjoy simplicity; who strive to raise ethical, gentle children that will go on to promote a better world. The old internal mantra of the reformer, “If they only knew, they would change,” beats throughout Eating Animals.

This is where I disagree. All people, with few exceptions, understand the inherent cruelty of killing for food, whether in farms or in factories or in the wild. Most who know about industrial meat farms also know that they are ghastly for the animals and employees alike. People know, but still they do not want to change. This is because people need more than education to act ethically — they need reward. Humans have the capacity for good, but we are also scoundrels. Nobly intentioned as we are, we are creatures of appetite. Honorable as we can be, we are perhaps the cruelest of God’s little creatures. We rarely derive our culinary pleasure from goodness and even more rarely from abstinence. Just as a life of celibacy isn’t a proper reward for refraining from rape, a potato casserole does not a meat substitute make. Take all the naughtiness out of food and you take away much of its taste. What, exactly, do the vegetarians want? A well-reasoned argument or a food revolution?

There’s much more and it’s worth reading in full.

What has always struck me as odd is that carnivores always seem to carry an assumption that we vegetarians are suffering. That we pay for our choice to avoid contributing to the needless suffering of animals by an ascetic lifestyle something like wearing hair shirts or sleeping on beds of nails. When I first adopted this lifestyle that may have been true to some extent, I may have continued to harbor a longing for certain tastes hard to duplicate with processed, flavored tofu, or whatever substitutes I had available. Eventually, however, I came to realize that what I had gained far overwhelmed anything I’d lost. The realization that vegetarianism is healthy, conscientious and very, very tasty made me simply forget the lost thrill of the barbecue.

I’m not entirely in accord with Ms. Golberg’s thesis. I don’t feel any compelling need to add human secretions to my diet, for instance, but I love her spirit. Screw all the justifications and moralisms, it’s quite apparent to any fool that one shoudn’t kill or torture if one has no reason to. Vegetarianism is not just a healthy lifestyle, it’s a great fucking diet!

Grad school options

Cat eyes,  

In my constant search for the right thing to do . . .

MIchigan of all places has a unique program. See this.

Interestingly if you follow the link to more about Michigan states medical marijuana policy the first thing I noticed is that marijuana is spelled marihuana. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is intentional.

Worth a read

Max, 2009/11/28 

The Wisdom Of Lazarus Long.

byronius, 2009/11/27 

Bits from Expanded Universe.

There’s probably a thousand of these scattered throughout Heinlein’s work, and all of them snuck right past my conscious mind and became directly embedded in my nervous system.

A person who won’t be blackmailed, can’t be blackmailed.

If you pray hard enough, water will run uphill. How hard? Why, hard enough for water to run uphill, of course.

A man should be prepared to abandon his baggage many times during his life.

Everything in excess! Moderation is for monks.

Pack your blaster. We’re headed for the Frontier. Rockets roar!

We Are Not Alone.

byronius,  

Meteor!

TimesOnline

Nasa scientists have produced the most compelling evidence yet that bacterial life exists on Mars.

It showed that microscopic worm-like structures found in a Martian meteorite that hit the Earth 13,000 years ago are almost certainly fossilised bacteria. The so-called bio-morphs are embedded beneath the surface layers of the rock, suggesting that they were already present when the meteorite arrived, rather than being the result of subsequent contamination by Earthly bacteria.

“This is very strong evidence of life on Mars,” said David Mackay, a senior scientist at the Nasa Johnson Space Centre , who was part of the team of scientists that originally investigated the meteorite when it was discovered in 1984.

In a 1996 study of the sample, Dr Mackay and others argued that the microfossils were evidence of life, but sceptics dismissed the claims, saying that similar-shaped structures might not be biological. The new analyses, the product of high resolution electron microscopy, make a strong case for the Allan Hills 84001 Meteorite having carried Martian life to Earth. The microscopes were focused on tiny magnetite crystals present in the surface layers of the meteorite, which have the form of simple bacteria. Some argued that these could be the result of a carbonate breaking down in the heat of the impact. The new analyses show that this is very unlikely to have resulted in the kinds of structures seen in the rock. Close examination suggested that about 25 per cent of the crystal structures were chemically consistent with being formed from bacteria.

Germs! From Mars!

They appear to have affected Max’s brain. Nobody say a word, though. It’s just a theory. About why Max is the way he is. I could be wrong. Probably am. Maybe not, though.

One Thousand Years Of Beatles.

byronius, 2009/11/24 

This is actually a great poke at archeological historians.

The fish

Cat eyes,  

Check out this fish’s technique for feeding.

It made me think of Missy Io’s dream of how to clean the world, just substitute in mean, foul people for the feeder fish.
Maybe it’s a prototype.

Prognosticationally Correct.

byronius,  

Considering the GOP’s new claims that they created Medicare, Social Security, and Civil Rights over the objections of their ‘Democrat’ colleagues: (seriously, Virginia Foxx claimed just that on the floor of the House, and charged the Democrats with “Revisionism”) –

Kos

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…

Hot off the press of the future

Former TV Host Leads ‘Hands Off My Public Option’ Rally

November 24, 2041

WASHINGTON — Government-sponsored health care was on the minds of angry conservative “tea party” protestors in the nation’s capital yesterday, as former TV host Glenn Beck led a “Hands Off My Public Option” rally on the mall.

The 77 year-old Beck, who was banned from the airwaves in 2014 after pouring what he thought was water over an intern as part of an on-air gag, only to discover after lighting a match that it was, in fact, gasoline, said the new president “needs to keep her cockamamie paws off our universal coverage.”

“Thirty-two years ago, Republicans fought tooth and nail for healthcare reform with a public option,” said Beck, choking back tears. “We fought for it and we bled for it. And we’re here to tell the president that any cuts or rollbacks will be met with a fury like she’s never seen. We surround you, Madame President!”

Protestors held up signs with slogans like, “Only Hitler would take away my pubic [sic] option” and “Don’t tread on my cradle-to-grave gov’t coverage” as they marched to the steps of the U.S. Capitol for a rally. D.C. officials estimated the crowd size at 5,000. Organizers disputed that, claiming that attendance “easily topped a couple million.”

Liberals responded to the rally by pointing out that, in fact, the Democratic Congress passed healthcare reform with a public option in late 2009 against unified Republican opposition, and the bill was signed by former President Barack Obama. It was subsequently strengthened in 2019 and 2024. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that improving efficiency and introducing competition to the healthcare industry has resulted in savings of over $4 trillion.

“There’s a reason Democrats have won every election since 2008,” said Senator Al Franken (D-MN), who voted for the original bill and is now serving his sixth term. “It’s great that Mr. Beck and his followers enjoy having access to affordable government healthcare, but let’s not rewrite the history books. Oh, and by the way, it’s worth noting that the president has every intention of strengthening the public option further, and hopes that the twenty Republicans in the Senate will climb on board. Frankly, I’m not sure why these protestors are out here marching except to vent their frustration over losing yet another election.”

Beck noted that health care is now the number-one issue with the Republican base, whose median age is 67 according to the latest U.S. Census figures.

There was only one confirmed injury, which occurred when guest speaker Bill O’Reilly, 92, tripped over a fire hydrant while lunging at Senator Franken with his walking stick. He was treated and released at the scene. No charges were filed.

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