Sunday, July 20, 2008

Proof That God Exists And Loves Us: Part 6.

If you're like most people you don't have a problem with alcohol. You drink moderately and socially for pleasure. Well, science has advice for you.

"Scientific evidence has long suggested that moderate drinking offers some protection against heart disease, certain types of stroke and some forms of cancer.

"But new research shows that stopping drinking -- including at moderate levels -- may lead to health problems including depression and a reduced capacity of the brain to produce new neurons, a process called neurogenesis." (Here.)
What does this have to do with the existence of a loving God, you might ask?

Well, God made us into creatures that benefit from drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. A habit that is not only good for us but one that brings joy. And when Jesus walked the Earth he traveled from town to town attending weddings and performing miracles, among many other good things. He didn't turn wine into water, he turned water into wine. The Biblical lesson is clear: Jesus wants us to drink alcohol. Who are we to defy God?


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Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Internet Mind.

A long time ago a wise man said, "your mind will be like its habitual thoughts, for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts." (Marcus Aurelius.) With our scientific way of thinking we would state it differently today. No more poetic references to the soul and the color of thoughts. Nicholas Carr, writing in The Atlantic, puts it this way:
"The human brain is almost infinitely malleable. People used to think that our mental meshwork, the dense connections formed among the 100 billion or so neurons inside our skulls, was largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. But brain researchers have discovered that that’s not the case. James Olds, a professor of neuroscience who directs the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, says that even the adult mind 'is very plastic.' Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. 'The brain,' according to Olds, 'has the ability to reprogram itself on the fly, altering the way it functions.'" (Here.)

The human brain's plasticity causes some to worry, Carr included, that increased use of the internet is changing how people read, think, and how their brains are wired. I suspect he's right. Like him, I can feel the change in my own mind. And it's not just the internet: TV and videogames have as much of an impact on people's behavior and thought processes as the internet does. But there's no stopping it in a free society because the internet's immediate value is so evident that whatever long-term consequences it might impose pale in comparison. The most we can hope to do is mitigate those consequences. The genie is out of the bottle.


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Good News, Everyone!

Science says second-hand smoke (SHS) won't kill you. It'll just annoy you and make your clothes smell bad. Or so says this article.
"In 2003 a definitive paper on SHS and lung cancer mortality was published in the British Medical Journal. It is the largest and most detailed study ever reported. The authors studied more than 35,000 California never-smokers over a 39-year period and found no statistically significant association between exposure to SHS and lung cancer mortality." (Here.)
So, smoke with abandon everybody.


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Standing Athwart History, Saying "This Way."

William F. Buckley famously said about conservatism that it is "standing athwart history, yelling Stop." (Here.) David Brooks seems to have a different idea. He passes on a quote from Benjamin Disraeli in his recent column.
"'In a progressive country, change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change, which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines.'" (Here.)
You know, the American Revolution not the French Revolution.



Birdwalking At Lake Murray

Went on a guided birdwalk this morning at Lake Murray in San Diego. Sorry, no pictures but here's the list of birds seen today.

Lots of hummingbirds, 3 varieties:

Black Chin

Red-tail hawk --- sitting on a telephone wire with half a dozen small birds on the wire above.
Turkey Vulture --- circling on a thermal.

Mourning Doves
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinches
Black Phoebe
Song Sparrows
Red-Winged Blackbirds --- family groups with the colorful males, the drab females, and several juveniles.
Cassin's Kingbirds ---- another family group perched at the very top of a tree. Raucus, kind of plain but with a yellow belly

Forester Terns

American Coot --- black w/ white stripe down forehead, and the strangest looking, green, leaflike feet. I'm thinking, a genetic experiment gone wrong.
Domestic Geese


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Thursday, July 17, 2008

DC Gun Rights That Aren't.

After litigating the right to possess his firearm all the way to the United States Supreme Court, Dick Heller had his application to register his firearm rejected. (Here.) Why? He owns a semiautomatic handgun, an ordinary and typical type of firearm owned by millions of Americans but not registerable in the District of Columbia. (Here.) Is this the kind of so-called reasonable regulation of gun ownership that the Phony Senator from Illinois supports? Who thinks that Heller's fight against DC is over?


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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Saddle Up Everybody, There's Water On The Moon!

Today's exciting space news is that scientists from Brown University have discovered evidence of water on the moon. Here's the headline at "Brown-Led Team Finds Evidence Of Water In Lunar Interior." And here's another headline at the Scientific American website: "New scans show evidence of water on the moon."

Wow! This is exciting news! It's time to start the lunar colonization programs! Let's see what the story at says:
"A Brown University-led research team has for the first time discovered evidence of water that came from deep within the Moon, a revelation that strongly suggests water has been a part of the Moon since its early existence -- and perhaps ever since it was created by a cataclysmic collision between the early Earth and a Mars-sized object about 4.5 billion years ago.

"In a paper published in the July 10 issue of the journal Nature, the team, led by Alberto Saal, assistant professor of geological sciences at Brown, believes that the water was contained in magmas erupted from fire fountains onto the surface of the Moon more than 3 billion years ago." (Here.)
Oops. Never mind. Three billion years ago.

No doubt this will thrill planetary scientists throughout the solar system. But really thrilling news would be that water remains inside the Moon today. If that were the case, perhaps residents of future lunar bases or colonies could drill deep into the Moon and mine the water.

There is speculation about the current presence or absence of water on the Moon in the story.
"About 95 percent of the water vapor from the magma was lost to space during this eruptive "degassing," the team estimates. But traces of water vapor may have drifted toward the cold poles of the Moon, where they may remain as ice in permanently shadowed craters."
We've heard this speculation before and maybe the fact that the Moon held water 3 billion years ago increases the likelihood that there is water ice there now. Let's hope so. Water's pretty darn heavy and a ready supply on the Moon could be very useful.


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Baseball: A Sport For The Sinister Minority.

An engineering professor from St. Louis has studied baseball and concluded that the game's design favors lefthanders. (Here.) Now that's what I call science in the public interest.


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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Jody Gerut: My New Favorite San Diego Padres Player.

The San Diego Union-Tribune published an interview with centerfielder Jody Gerut today. Apparently he has a history degree from Stanford University with an emphasis on Russian histroy. Here's a snippet:
Q: What about Russian history made it so interesting to you?

A: "I was not fascinated with personalities like Lenin and Stalin. What was more interesting to me was the struggle for existence and what it was like to live in a communist state. We still have an example close to home in Cuba, where people just got the right to have personal cell phones, and feminine hygiene products are still rationed. Think about that when you think about where we are."

Q: Needless to say, you studied communism.

A: "Absolutely. I wanted to know as much as I could. I wasn't interested as much in what people thought about Stalin, rather in the lifestyle under communism. I was interested in the impact of the ideology. In the Soviet Union, if you invented the widget, the widget belonged to the state, not to you. So there was really no reason to develop the widget." (Here.)
I love this guy!


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