March 11th, 2012

The Captain's Prop

On The Movement of Stars and Money: The Power of Myth

Throughout our history, we humans have gazed upward and considered the night sky. We have noted the passage of celestial bodies and marked their changes, especially those changes that appear to be predictable and regular. We have paid special attention to the phases of the moon and to the moving stars we now call planets, for those lights, when understood, can be used to signal plantings and migrations, storm seasons and calm.

Sometimes we go too far, though. Calamity is sometimes called "disaster," literally an "ill-starred event." The acceptance or rejection of burned offerings such as those found referenced in the Old Testament tales, was simple: if the smoke from your offering rose into the sky, God had accepted it; if the smoke hung low, your toasty goat or lamb was rejected, and you are probably toast in His eyes. (Lesson: Don't make offerings to the gods during an atmospheric inversion.)

As we became more technologically advanced as a people, we developed the ability to predict the motions of the heavenly spheres and to translate those movements mechanically. All it took was centuries of direct celestial observations, occasionally corrected to allow for more precise measurements, and the mathematics sufficiently complex to model those observations . . . right?

Well, no. Not at all. We also needed to fit those observations into a paradigm that matched what we were actually seeing. For example, the first device I pictured to the left is an armillary, a devise that plots the path of the planets and sun. The second devise to the right is an orrery, a devise that plots the path of planets and sun. The difference is more than merely the sum of the more than two hundred years of observations separating the construction of these two devices.

You see, the armillary shows the universe surrounding us as it would move from a geocentric origin, with the sun and everything else spinning around the Earth. The orrery shows the planets and moons — including Earth — spinning as they do, around the sun.

Collapse )

Südtirol wants out!?

Ah, Tyrol. That highland of long white socks, short pants, curled mustaches, broad hats with feathers in them, big Alp-horns, Jodler songs, and beer... Lots of beer!

Just when you thought Europe is all about being "united in diversity", Unions, unified currency, no borders, and shared values, comes this...,1518,819430,00.html

"Many in northern Italy have long wanted to secede. Now, the euro crisis is giving the separatist movement new momentum, with the rich north unwilling to pony up for the poor south. Prime Minister Monti's efforts to exert control may be making matters worse."

South Tyrol is feeling slighted and is getting pissed with Italy, and they want out. Well, at least some of them. They've even set a price tag to their "complete freedom" (as if such a thing exists). 15 billion euros. A nice bail-out for Italy, you'd say. Well, not nearly enough to deal with Italy's problems, but still. The very fact the idea exists and is gaining supporters, speaks a lot.

How about an EU consisting of 47 (or 57) countries rather than 27. And why would that matter, since it's gradually going towards further integration? Weird Euros, indeed.

Collapse )

(no subject)

Couple sues hospital for ‘wrongful birth’ of daughter born with down syndrome they would have aborted

Ariel and Deborah Levy are suing Legacy Health, a local hospital, for three million dollars. The parents claim a health screening, the result of which was later proven to be incorrect, cost them the chance to abort their mentally-handicapped daughter. Kalanit, who is now four, was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after birth

So, it has come to this.

I think these people are horrible people, that they only wanted a perfect child and not their child. They should have adopted, since they wanted to be able to control how healthy their baby was. And it's horrible that they would have killed a child had they known the future. And yes, this is the kind of people to point to as an example of why allowing abortion-on-demand, for any reason, is bad.

Alternate links for those worried about corrupting their computer with the stain of a conservative website:

And it looks like they won their suit:

The drowning country: a case of climate migration

Things are looking desperate for Kiribati, the tiny island nation in the Pacific. The government is negotiating with Fiji to purchase lands on an island and gradually move their population there, before the rising tides have completely swept away their country because of climate change.

Kiribati has about a hundred thousand people and that may not sound like a big deal, but given the size of those countries (Fiji has 0.8 million people) this looks like a massive exodus indeed. For years the atolls of Kiribati are experiencing rising waters, now a large part of their settlements suffering from periodic floods. Some of the 32 islands of the archipelago are already effectively gone.

If the negotiations are successful, this could be the first climate migration in modern times. Of course, migrations have occurred often in the past between the Pacific islands. But this is something unprecedented in size and consequences, especially in modern history.

Collapse )