Book Review: Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique (Part 2)

[ I'm reviewing this book because I liked it, but also for a larger reason which will become evident at the end of Part 3 of the review, and in the weeks ahead. ] [ Also, in case you missed it: Part 1 ] Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique by John Gribbin Asked about the likelihood of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, or in the galaxy, or in the neighborhood (of a size for technologically-conceivable visits), most of us here would say it was possible. We wish it to be, … [Read more...]

Book Review: Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique (Part 1)

Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique by John Gribbin From the dust cover: John Gribbin is one of today’s greatest writers of popular science and the author of bestselling books, including In Search of the Multiverse, In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat, and Science: A History. He trained as an astrophysicist at Cambridge University and is now Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex. Regarding life in the universe, I some years back concluded on my own that life is not … [Read more...]

World Ending! Again! This Time for Real! So Get Right With Jesus, Slacker!

I've got this thing I think about sometimes, an observation about religion and how it really is out in the real world.  How it works in people's heads. Not the way Christians think it is, but the way it really is. I think I've mentioned it before — I call it "the 180-degrees thing." (As in '180-degrees-opposite.' Someday I'm going to come up with a cool name for it instead of this kludge.) The basic idea is that, whatever Christians say, astonishingly often, there's something REAL just … [Read more...]

Oh, Jeez. Memorial Day.

Memorial Day. The Internet is ablaze with it. All the proper things are being said, all the good, right sentiments are being expressed. Yes, we – and I include myself – love our war heroes. My adopted Dad was a medic in the Navy, my two brothers were in Vietnam, and I have plenty of friends whom I truly respect for their service. I see the memorials and the fields of crosses – I made a point of visiting the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC two of the times I was there – and I feel … [Read more...]

Duh, Idiot Me — or: Why The Catholic Church Soldiers On

Reading this article on Papal infallibility — Postponing Self-Destruction of the Catholic Church — I just now learned the real reason why the Catholic Church doesn't update its outworn policies on things like contraceptives, marriage, or human morality. Because, really, who hasn't thought about how much good this huge worldwide organization could do if it reversed its stand on condoms and contraceptives? Rather than waiting for tardy governments to act, it could simply began distributing … [Read more...]

In Which I Brag on My Friend … Again

If you're in the biological sciences and expect at some point to get published, here's someone you should know: Carl Buell. He's done heaps of illustrations for science author Carl Zimmer as well as cover and interior illos for countless other books and magazines. He has pieces in museums all over the world, and has designed blog headers for PZ Myers, Chris Clarke and a number of others. (And I've probably written about him before, but he's just one of those cool people you can't say enough … [Read more...]

Reason Not to Rest

I'm reading the book American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic, by Nancy K. Bristow. It's pretty good by the way, well worth a read. It's amazing reading about how many people were dying, and how the public reception, including media coverage, was so casual for so long. And really, how the thing mostly vanished from the public mind after it was all over, despite its impact. Wikipedia says "Between 50 and 130 million died, making it one of the deadliest natural … [Read more...]

A Day to Draw Mo

Speaking of anniversaries (re: PZ's 10 years), today is the second annual anniversary of Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. From the Wikipedia entry, here's a paragraph honoring people who live in some alternate universe in which the concept of freedom of expression is poorly understood: Law professor and blogger Ann Althouse rejected the Everybody Draw Mohammed Day idea because "depictions of Muhammad offend millions of Muslims who are no part of the violent threats." James Taranto, writing in the … [Read more...]

Interlude, With Pack Mule

Sorry, all, about the recent paucity of posts. Among other things, I’ve been busy getting some stuff ready for an event – Mule Days, it’s called – happening in Bishop, California, where I used to live and where my Dad lived. I’m trying to get all the people who knew him to contribute stories, photos, etc., memories of his life that will go up on a couple of memorial-type web pages. This event will draw quite a few people into the area, some of which will be old friends or … [Read more...]

Celebrate, We Must. Yes.

According to the Wikipedia article on PZ Myers, "Pharyngula.org was started on June 19, 2002." Surely that means there will be some sort of celebration — on or about June 19, 2012 — in honor of a full DECADE of delightful and curmudgeonly atheist blogging? (Few will remember that PZ's entire first year was devoted mostly to talk of squid sex.) I'm thinking backyard barbecue. Liquor should be involved. … [Read more...]