Month: December 2008


Just reposting a little film I made. The voice is Douglas Adams..



On the largest scales the universe is evolving. In a few billion years our galaxy will merge with the Andromeda galaxy, our nearest big neighbour. The scales involved here mean that this will probably happen without any major collisions – just a series of gravitational interactions.

For smaller things there are theories that cosmic rays coming from within and outwith our galaxy are responsible for small changes in DNA code and therefore can alter the evolutionary process.

In a universe this dynamic and changeable it is heartwarming to know there are some things we can hold on to – some things to rely on.

One of those things for me is the near certainty that sooner or later the catholic church will make a bizarre statement which is likely to give me a good laugh.

True to form…

Pope Benedict XVI has said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

He explained that defending God’s creation was not limited to saving the environment, but also about protecting man from self-destruction.

What is particularly comical here is that he has decided to dress this intolerance up with science and sociology – that is doubly bizarre because the church still has an attitude to those subjects that is schizophrenic at best.

He continued…

It is not “out-of-date metaphysics” to “speak of human nature as ‘man’ or woman'”, he told scores of prelates gathered in the Vatican’s sumptuous Clementine Hall.

I don’t think anyone thinks it is out of date to consider that there are two sexes, especially given that human hermaphrodites are relatively rare, so what is he talking about?

“We need something like human ecology, meant in the right way.

Ahhh. This is classic. “Meant in the right way” – right way according to whom? God, via the catholic church presumably. After all, they still have that infallibility thing  – eating fish on Friday was wrong, but now it isn’t. And just ask Galileo who is happily in heaven now after receiving a papal sort-of-pardon…. in 1992 – they might not be fast but they get there in the end.

The BBC story also pointed out that…

The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage. It teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are.

…which is something like a rerun of what they said to Galileo “we aren’t saying you are wrong,  you are probably right, but you can’t go around telling anyone that or we will set fire to you.” [I am paraphrasing a little there].

I wonder if this means that they are going to be preaching to the 1,500 animal species that have had their gay behaviour observed? Probably though, we just won’t be able to eat gay animals on a Friday.

I have never had a gay episode in my life. I did once fall asleep in a gay bar in Seoul. I was there with some gay friends and the only thing of note that happened was that I was woken up by the barman an hour later asking if I wanted another drink.

But maybe I have been on the wrong bus all of my life because all of this struck me as a good way for gays to promote their culture.

The human race really doesn’t need more people at the moment. Quite simply, there are far too many of us already. So why not ‘Gay is the new Green’ campaigns. If almost everyone goes gay for 25 years then the population will reduce over time giving us an opportunity to feed, house and water the people already here and the ones to come in the future.

On many occasions the church has exhorted young men to lay down their lives in uniform for the greater good so why not encourage them to lay down their DNA in sequins?

It is an absurdity, but I am deliberately joking. The unfortunate thing is that these buffoons aren’t and this idea is not any less absurd than the next thing they will  invent – did I say ‘invent’? Sorry, I obviously meant to say ‘receive by first class post from god himself’.


There are a few things we can say with certainty about December 25th. One of them is that if there was such a person as Jesus then there is only a 1 in 365 chance* that he was born that day, no one knows it for certain.

However, enjoy the time with your families and if you have time to look then here are some of the things that did happen on December 25th  – which is of course one day in our calendar which is fairly arbitrary and has been subject to numerous changes…

The Christmas Truce – when both sides in World War 1 stopped fighting and started playing football. This horrified the British officers so much that they decided to get them back in the trenches and to start shooting again.

Nicolae Ceausescu – became the pin-up in the December 1989 edition of ‘Dictator Monthly’.

Cassini orbiter releases Huygens probe which successfully landed on Saturn‘s moon Titan on January 14, 2005.

Shane MacGowan was born as were Sir Isaac Newton, Humphrey Bogart, Cab Galloway.

And, unfortunately, James Brown died so I will give him the last word…


*Footnote – I know that this figure does not take into account leap years and the real chance is 365.something-something. I was going to work out the exact figure but a [very] little research discovered this…

…the duration of a solar year is slightly less than 365.25 days. Years that are evenly divisible by 100 are not leap years, unless they are also evenly divisible by 400, in which case they are leap years.[1][2] For example, 1600 and 2000 were leap years, but 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not. Similarly, 2100, 2200, 2300, 2500, 2600, 2700, 2900, and 3000 will not be leap years, but 2400 and 2800 will be. By this rule, the average number of days per year will be 365 + 1/4 – 1/100 + 1/400 = 365.2425, which is 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds. The Gregorian calendar was designed to keep the vernal equinox on or close to March 21, so that the date of Easter (celebrated on the Sunday after the 14th day of the Moon (i.e. a full moon) that falls on or after March 21) remains correct with respect to the vernal equinox.[3] The vernal equinox year is about 365.242374 days long (and increasing).

The marginal difference of 0.000125 days between the Gregorian calendar average year and the actual year means that, in around 8,000 years, the calendar will be about one day behind where it is now. But in 8,000 years, the length of the vernal equinox year will have changed by an amount that cannot be accurately predicted (see below). Therefore, the current Gregorian calendar suffices for practical purposes, and Herschel’s correction (making 4000 AD not a leap year) will probably not be necessary.

Therefore, you can work it out yourself if it overly concerns you.


There is a larger point germinating in my mind about this at the moment but it is Saturday early evening and I just can’t help blurting out something about probably the strangest thing I have ever seen.

I was in South Korea. I was with an Australian friend. We walked up a mountain. Not a high mountain, definitely not, but it was reasonably sized. Being Korea though, the road goes most of the way up the thing so you don’t walk so much and it was the middle of summer, so it was an easy and short but nevertheless steep walk.

She had never walked up a mountain before so I had to go slow. I am not so good at doing that though, I tend to want to get it done – so I was marching her a bit. As we went up through the trees on some mud paths interspersed with stairs on the more difficult parts [this was not wilderness, it is a mountain that overlooks a large city] we overtook a few people. We walked past two couples and strangely [but not nearly as strange as the next thing] the females of both the couples were wearing high heels. I was stunned by the stupidity of that, despite the 28 degrees.

After an hour or so we were getting near the top the path and it was quite steep and it was still hot so we were taking little breaks. She was panting for breath so I waited and took a little look around.

And I will never forget this…

On my left, just 200 metres from the top of the mountain, was a badminton court.

I have walked in many mountains. I have been fortunate enough to see and be in the Himalayas, I have seen the almost Martian volcanic stuff near the top of Etna and I have experienced the beauty of the Scottish mountains in summer and in winter.

In any of those places I have never considered the possibility that a game of badminton might be just the thing to make the trip complete.


Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on.

Kurt Vonnegut

The ice gets thinner, the planet gets hotter and still people turn on those christmas lights and won’t turn off that TV or other useless appliance.

Governments continue to do nothing except give lip service to the issues whilst simultaneously trying to expand air travel and boost the car industry.

And the journalists still have to put in last [or second last] lines to every article [quotes or not] saying how it might all be alright and we don’t have to start really worrying yet.

Don’t say you weren’t warned…

This is from the BBC

Changes ‘amplify Arctic warming’

Scientists say they now have unambiguous evidence that the warming in the Arctic is accelerating.

Computer models have long predicted that decreasing sea ice should amplify temperature changes in the northern polar region.

Julienne Stroeve, from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, told a meeting of the American Geophysical Union that this process was under way.

Arctic ice cover in summer has seen rapid retreat in recent years.

The minimum extents reached in 2007 and 2008 were the smallest recorded in the satellite age.

“The sea ice is entering a new state where the ice cover has become so thin that no matter what happens during the summer in terms of temperature or circulation patterns, you’re still going to have very low ice conditions,” she told the meeting.

Autumn return

Theory predicts that as ice is lost in the Arctic, more of the ocean’s surface will be exposed to solar radiation and will warm up.

When the autumn comes and the Sun goes down on the Arctic, that warmth should be released back into the atmosphere, delaying the fall in air temperatures.

Ultimately, this feedback process should result in Arctic temperatures rising faster than the global mean.

Dr Stroeve and colleagues have now analysed Arctic autumn (September, October, November) air temperatures for the period 2004-2008 and compared them to the long term average (1979 to 2008).

The results, they believe, are evidence of the predicted amplification effect.

“You see this large warming over the Arctic ocean of around 3C in these last four years compared to the long-term mean,” explained Dr Stroeve.

“You see some smaller areas where you have temperature warming of maybe 5C; and this warming is directly located over those areas where we’ve lost all the ice.”

Wider changes

If this process continues, it will extend the melting season for Arctic ice, delaying the onset of winter freezing and weakening further the whole system.

These warming effects are not just restricted to the ocean, Dr Stroeve said. Circulation patterns could then move the warmth over land areas, she added.

“The Arctic is really the air conditioner of the Northern Hemisphere, and as you lose that sea ice you change that air conditioner; and the rest of the system has to respond.

“You start affecting the temperature gradient between the Arctic and equator which affects atmospheric patterns and precipitation patterns.

“Exactly how this is going to play out, we really don’t know yet. Our research is in its infancy.”

The study reported by Dr Stroeve will be published in the journal Cryosphere shortly.


Was having a bit of fun with but apparently the guy who really did it is not having too much fun.

According to his brother [who told the AFP] and someone at opednews…

The Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at US President George W. Bush has a broken arm and ribs after being struck by Iraqi security agents, his brother told AFP on Tuesday. He said he had been told that his brother was being held by Iraqi forces in the heavily fortified Green Zone compound in central Baghdad where the US embassy and most government offices are housed.

People seem to be reacting to this news in a ‘Well, what did he expect?’ way, but really, is that where we are now – he threw a couple of shoes so he should expect to be tortured?


Just two documentaries you could watch if you have the time.

The End of Suburbia talks about suburban life in the USA and its evolution. It explains quite well how it won’t last…

Taxi to the Dark Side is a BBC documentary focusing on US policy regarding torture and some individual cases. It is interesting but like many Vietnam films tends to focus on the suffering of the US soldiers involved rather than their victims.