Monday, January 30, 2006

Marshall Unveils their Super100-JH Stack

According to, Marshall Amplification is releasing a limited edition Super100 stack that is built and tuned to reproduce the sound Jimi Hendrix enjoyed from his Marshall stacks. Only 600 of the dual 4x12 cabinet, 100 watt head units will be built. The 100 watt heads are hand-wired and tuned to sound just like the original vintage 1966-1967 units that Hendrix used.

Thanks to Tony for the pointer.....



Through the router, over the firewall, down the cable..... nothing but net!

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SciTech Watch: Space Enthusiast Resources

As a long-time space enthusiast (yes I did feign illness to stay home from school to watch one of the Apollo launches on TV) trying to find news and information about space flight and exploration can be tough. The mainstream media only seems to mention space exploration when there is a big event (like the stardust capsule return) or a problem (Shuttle Discovery’s loose tile gap fillers). You wouldn’t realize that there are eight (8) space missions going on right this minute.

Before we get into the specifics of current missions here are some general links to get great space-oriented news and information:

NASA’s Official Web Site The main portal into all of NASA’s sites. Sub-sites are organized by center (JPL, Goddard, etc) and by mission (Mars Rovers, Hubble, etc) is a privately owned and operated company co-founded by Marc Boucher and Keith Cowing in the summer of 1999 and is based out of Reston, Virginia and with offices in Vancouver, Canada. SpaceRef's 17 news and reference web sites are designed to allow both the novice and specialist alike to explore outer space and Earth observation. SpaceRef also offers RSS feeds of seven major space news areas.

The Space News Blog focuses mainly on robotic space exploration with stories are based on press releases.

NASA offers both audio and video podcasts providing news and information for download to your portable media device. Now you can get your Space fix without being at your computer.

NASA TV offers streaming video of NASA’s television channel straight to your computer. Its great for watching special events like shuttle launches and ISS space walks. Be aware that there are a limited number of connections so you may not be able to get connected during really popular events.

NASA Press Release Mailing List will email you instructions on how to add your email address to the mailing list that receives all of NASA’s press releases. Its a great source of scheduling information on NASA TV events including all types of launches, spacewalks, etc.

Here’s a brief list of some of the on-going space missions and resources to help you learn more and track their progress:International Space Station (ISS) Orbiting 200 miles above the earth ISS has been continuously manned since November of 2000. NASA issues regular status reports on what’s going on on ISS, what events are upcoming, etc. You can get the press releases either from the NASA mailing list or from the SpaceRef web site.

The Cassini mission is an unmanned probe orbiting Saturn and has been in orbit around Saturn since June 30th of 2004. The Cassini project issues a weekly status report that arrives from the Jet Propulsion Lab.

Mars Exploration Rovers: Spirit and Opportunity robotic rover geology labs arrived on Mars in early 2003 for a 90 day stay. At this time, two years later both rovers are still going strong. SpaceRef publishes status reports on both rovers. The status reports do not seem to come out a regular intervals, though.

Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990 aboard a the space shuttle Columbia. The school bus-sized satellite has been upgraded three times and produces spectacular pictures and a wealth of astronomical data about our universe. You can sign up for mailing lists for status reports on Hubble. Hubble’s picture archive is housed at the Space Telescope Institute and are available on-line.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) The MRO is nearing arrival into Martian orbit. MRO will monitor Martian weather, search for water and hydrothermal activity and study Mars’s polar ice caps. MRO will enter orbit around Mars on March 10th, 2006. NASA TV will televise the events in the JPL control room as the craft enters Mars orbit.

New Horizons Mission to Pluto will be the first spacecraft to visit Pluto and its moon, Charon. Launched January 19th, 2006 the New Horizons probe will arrive at Pluto in July of 2015. Mission updates are currently available at the New Horizon’s web site.

Space Shuttle is currently grounded as NASA works through issues surrounding foam loss from the external tanks during launch. You can get status reports on shuttle work from NASA’s press release mailing list or from the SpaceRef web site.

Mars Global Surveyor arrived at Mars in September 1997. SpaceRef and JPL publish photos MGS has taken. Including one of other Mars probes in orbit and on Mars!

These items represent only part of the trove on information available on the Internet on Space Exploration. Spend a little quality time with your favorite search engine and your sure to turn up even more.

Zimmerman's Law of Complaints: Nobody notices when things go right.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Book Review: Hacking Matter Multimedia Edition

Wil McCarthy has published an updated version of his seminal work Hacking Matter: Levitating Chairs, Quantum Mirages, and the Infinite Weirdness of Programmable Atoms as a multimedia Adobe PDF file. First published in 2003, the updated material is displayed as small yellow “sticky notes” at various points in the margins of the text. This allows the reader to take in the original text as McCarthy first penned it and then view the updated information at the reader’s discretion.

Hacking Matter is a collection of essays, interviews and speculations that McCarthy has written on Quantum Dots and their possible uses and programmable matter. Quantum dots are collections of electrons contained within specialized silicon semiconductor structures. The programmable matter comes in because electrons so contained organize themselves as if they were in an atom even though there is no atomic nucleus present in the quantum dot. Since the properties of matter are influenced almost exclusively by the electrons in an atom, quantum dots represent the potential ability create and change this pseudo-matter programmatically to do things current technologies cannot.

McCarthy is a science fiction writer and as such the speculative portions of the book were the most enjoyable for me. The interviews McCarthy conducts are first rate and even the technical chapters describing quantum dots, quantum wells and their ilk are not so overwhelming as the subject matter might suggest.

Hacking Matter Multimedia Edition has been released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives license and is freely available as a download. Downloaders are encouraged to donate a small sum of money to help offset bandwidth costs.

I don't live on the grid, and I don't live off it. I live with it. - Warren Ellis

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Comfort Food: My Father's Italian Sausage

My Father’s Italian Sausage


Here’s a recipe for Italian sausage my Dad used to make.  It makes ten (10) pounds of sausage, so be prepared to separate into portions and freeze.  It’s a great accompaniment to the homemade spaghetti sauce I posted earlier.


Italian Sausage


10 Lbs – Pork Butt

¼ Cup – Salt

2 Tbl – Red Pepper Flakes

½ Cup Paprika

2 Tbl – Crushed Anise

2 Tbl – Black Pepper

2 Tbl – Fennel Seed Crushed

1 Tbl – Coriander Crushed


Coarsely grind the pork butt.

Blend in the remaining items.

Grind again to finish mixing in spices.

Stuff into link casings or separate into 1-2lb packages and freeze.


Note: If memory serves, the spiciness of the sausage will increase the longer the sausage remains in the freezer.  So be prepared when you defrost that last package.


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Comfort Food: My Father's Meatballs

My Father’s Meatballs


Here’s a recipe for the meatballs my Dad made to go along with his spaghetti sauce.




8 Slices – Dry Bread

2 Lbs – Ground Beef

4 – Eggs

1 Cup – Parmesan or Romano Cheese

¼ Cup – Snipped Parsley

2 Cloves – Garlic

1 Tsp – Crushed Oregano

2 Tsp – Salt

Dash – Pepper

4 Tbl – Oil for cooking


Soak the bread in water for 2-3 minutes.

Squeeze moisture out of the soaked bread.

Combine bread with all remaining ingredients EXCEPT OIL

Form mixture into balls

Brown in hot oil.

Complete cooking in oven at 350 for 20 minutes or add to sauce and complete cooking there.



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Comfort Food: My Father's Spaghetti Sauce

John & Helenruth Vaccaro                        My Father’s Spaghetti Sauce

Here’s a recipe for absolutely killer spaghetti sauce that my dad used to make.  Recipes for meatballs and for Italian sausage will follow shortly.





                    Spaghetti Sauce

1½ Cup – Chopped Onions

1 Clove – Garlic

1/3 Cup – Olive Oil

2 #2½ Cans – Tomatoes

4 x 6oz Cans – Tomato Paste

2 Cups – Water

1 Tbl – Sugar

1 Tbl – Salt

½ Tsp – Pepper

1 Tbl – Crushed Oregano

2 Tbl – Parmesan Cheese

2 – Bay Leaves

Preheat oil. 

Cook onion and garlic in hot oil until brown.

Stir in next Eight (8) ingredients

Simmer Uncovered for 30 minutes

Remove Bay leaves

Add cooked meatballs or Sausage if desired

Continue cooking uncovered for an additional hour, minimum. (Splatter screen recommended)


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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Alaskan Pipeline Problems

Here's another thing to worry about:
It seems the designers of the Alaskan Pipeline which carries 11% of the United States' oil supply south from Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope, through rugged and beautiful terrain, to Valdez, the northernmost ice-free port in North America.

Because crude oil is very viscous, the oil is heated to reduce the effort required to pump it the 800 miles down to Valdez. Since this part of Alaska has a significant permafrost layer, the pipeline had to be insulated and raised off the ground to avoid damaging the permafrost. The supports to hold the pipeline up did not have to have a firm footing since their legs would be sunk into the rock-solid permafrost layer of the Alaskan tundra and permafrost is, well permanent, right?

Well here's the rub: the permafrost is melting like lots of sea ice and glaciers due to global warming. As the permafrost softens, the pipeline support uprights will begin to shift. If these supports collapse completely, the pipeline could rupture, cutting off the flow of oil and damaging the ecology of the area.

Just thought you'd like to know.....

Found the pointer to this Wired article on Bruce Sterling's latest Viridian newsletter.



What you see depends on what your looking for.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Changing The Best Government Money Can Buy

Changing The Best Government Money Can Buy: Term Limits


As the news of and reaction to the Abramoff and DeLay influence scandals it is apparent to me that one of the roots of this evil is the thirst for money that election-oriented politics generates.


As an elected federal legislative or executive branch official I need money to finance my next campaign.  To get that money I have to make decisions and cast votes in a manner that pleases those who can write the big checks.


What if I didn’t have to worry about re-election because I was barred by law from serving a second term.  If all I get is one shot at making my mark in history, wouldn’t I be inclined to do what was right and just and not what was made necessary by the political expediency of getting re-elected?


Look at this list of things that would go away if a second term was not an option:


  • Lobbyists and Political action committees would be defanged.  Influencing legislation by making donations to re-election funds would not be an option.
  • Corporations would have to make business decisions based on reality not what influence they can exert to warp reality to their liking.
  • The rhetoric, animosity, and frustration that our election process engenders would no longer be fueled by huge war chests build up over four or six year terms.
  • Policy decisions would be made on the basis of facts and debate over them, not by compromises that please the most generous of contributors.


How would this work in practicality?  Once the constitution has been amended to forbid re-election.  Existing members of Congress would serve out there existing terms before exiting.  There would be no wholesale turnover in Congress.  House and Senate bodies would each have to have mid term elections so that the influx of the newly elected would not be disruptive.  Some congressmen would be halfway through their term when they are joined by the newly elected members providing continuity for the bodies.


The executive branch would see no changes other that there would be a new president every for years.


To those who would say that term limits would destroy the traditions of the elected bodies, I say its high time they go!


To those who would say that Congress and the Executive branches would never vote to terminate their good thing, I say you are probably right.


And where would all these new candidates come from?  How many average americans would be willing to step into the roles?  Would Americans relish the idea of the Citizen Statesman again.  Honestly I don't think so.




The true pleasures in life are almost always overshadowed by the blatently obvious ones.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Lest We Forget

Lest we forget what Martin Luther King did for the Civil Rights movement in this country below is his famous "I Have A Dream" speech from the August 8th, 1963 rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.  You can download the text in PDF format, download the audio as an MP3 or listen to the audio stream.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."²

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

                And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

                Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

                Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of

                Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

                Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

                But not only that:

                Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

                Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

                Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

                Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!



I'm interested in the fact that the less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice. - Clint Eastwood

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

American Taliban III: Book of Daniel v AFA

The American Taliban rides again. This time the American Family Association is pressuring companies to not purchase ad time on NBC's new series The Book of Daniel. The AFA seems to be oh so capable of bringing about negative actions, but where were they when Three Wishes floundered and died from lack of viewer support?

The New York Times
January 11, 2006

Few Are Booking Ads on 'The Book of Daniel'

ONE of the few advertisers that bought commercial time during the premiere last week of "The Book of Daniel" on NBC will not be back. The series, about a priest, was singled out before its debut by a conservative activist organization, the American Family Association, which condemned it as anti-Christian.

The advertiser is Combe Inc., a company in White Plains that sells personal care products, which bought a 30-second commercial for Just for Men hair coloring. It was one of only about two dozen national spots that ran during the two-hour back-to-back episodes that composed the premiere of "The Book of Daniel" from 9 to 11 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific times) last Friday.

Asked yesterday by a reporter if consumers had reacted to Combe's sponsorship of "The Book of Daniel," the company replied with a statement sent by e-mail that described the advertising buy as "a one-time event."

"The company will not be advertising on the show in the future," the statement concluded, without elaborating. It appears that consumers have called the company, though; when the reporter reached the Combe switchboard, asking only to speak to a company representative, an operator asked, "This wouldn't have anything to do with 'The Book of Daniel,' would it?"

Many mainstream advertisers have long been skittish about television programs with plot lines deemed contentious or provocative. Still, the paucity of marketers buying commercial time during the debut of "The Book of Daniel" was particularly pronounced - despite lower prices for the spots, which reflected a week's worth of media attention devoted to complaints from the American Family Association about the contents of the program.

The complaints led 5 of NBC's 232 affiliates to pre-empt the series last Friday; in one market, Little Rock, Ark., the local WB affiliate ran it instead.

The series "touches on something that our society, and Madison Avenue, are not ready for," said Joe Mandese, editor of MediaPost, an online and print trade publication. "Religion is the ultimate taboo topic."

In the series, which is to return on Friday in its regular time period, 10 p.m., Aidan Quinn portrays Daniel Webster, an Episcopal priest who lives in suburban New York with his dysfunctional family, which includes a daughter who sells marijuana, a son who is gay and another son who is a teenage lothario.

He regularly discusses his problems - for example, an addition to Vicodin - with Jesus, who is also a regular character in the series.

NBC is hoping that the eyebrow-raising story lines of "The Book of Daniel" will appeal to younger, educated and affluent viewers who prefer their TV programs with an edge.

It is part of efforts by NBC and the other big broadcast networks to make up for the viewers they have lost to cable networks that present more daring series like "The L Word," "Nip/Tuck," "Rescue Me" and "The Sopranos."

"Advertisers do have a history of taking a cautious approach to controversial shows," Kevin Reilly, president of NBC Entertainment, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

"It's an age-old issue," Mr. Reilly said. "We want to run contemporary programming, and we want to create the best possible environment for advertisers.

"Sometimes, those two things don't always go hand in hand. Sometimes, you have to experiment to find the right side of the line."

The rest of the episodes of "The Book of Daniel," a limited-run series, remain on the NBC schedule, Mr. Reilly said, "and we will stick with them." The series is to continue on Fridays through Feb. 3.

Some of the provocative series to which "The Book of Daniel" has been compared, like "Nip/Tuck," have lost advertisers because of protests from organizations like the American Family Association. So has "Desperate Housewives" on ABC, which in its episode last Sunday featured a kiss between two young actors who play high-school classmates.

But those series are considered hits because of their large audiences, so when some advertisers stop buying commercials, others emerge soon after to replace them. The two episodes of "The Book of Daniel" shown last Friday attracted only 9 million viewers, compared with more than 20 million for a hit like "Desperate Housewives."

While that was the best performance by NBC in the time period in nine months, the program finished a disappointing third in the national Nielsen ratings behind CBS and ABC.

To compensate for the lack of demand from advertisers last Friday, NBC ran more than three dozen commercials to promote its other prime-time programs. It also advertised its coming coverage of the Golden Globe Awards and Winter Olympics, and movie and DVD releases from two siblings under the NBC Universal and General Electric umbrellas, Universal Pictures and Universal Home Video.

Some of those commercials, promoting the NBC Thursday night lineup, the Winter Games and the Universal movie "King Kong," ran up to two minutes each - a virtual eternity in an era when many advertisers buy commercials in 15-second units.

Of the few outside advertisers, most could be categorized as bottom-feeders - that is, known for their alacrity in buying commercials at lower prices. In addition to Combe, they included the Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corporation; Chattem Inc., for Gold Bond lotion and Icy Hot pain reliever; and movie studios like DreamWorks SKG and the Paramount Pictures division of Viacom.

Among those studios was the Columbia Pictures unit of Sony Pictures, part of the Sony Corporation of America, which ran a commercial for the film "Memoirs of a Geisha." A sibling, Sony Pictures Television, is producing "The Book of Daniel" for NBC, however.

And DreamWorks, which bought a spot for the film "Match Point," is a partner with Universal in releasing the movie "Munich," which was also advertised during "The Book of Daniel" along with "King Kong" and two Universal DVD's, "The Constant Gardener" and "Two for the Money."

Other advertisers, including Burlington and Chattem, did not return telephone calls yesterday seeking comment on whether they would return to "The Book of Daniel" on Friday.

The plight of NBC is reminiscent of the difficulties ABC encountered when it introduced "N.Y.P.D. Blue" in the 1993-94 season, which was unusual for its time in its use of profanity, violence and nudity on a broadcast series.

Most episodes of "N.Y.P.D. Blue" in its first season carried so few commercials - because of protests from the American Family Association - that ABC asked the producers to add several minutes of programming.

And what advertisers there were included little-known brands like Cortizone-10 anti-itch ointment, Permathene-12 diet aid and Wash 'n Curl shampoo.

Only after months of critical acclaim - and audiences of tens of millions of viewers - did mainstream advertisers clamber aboard the "N.Y.P.D. Blue" bandwagon. Some, however, continued to avoid the series because of its subject matter even to the end of its run last March.

"Some advertisers will take a chance on a show and accept some potential backlash," said Jason Kanefsky, vice president and account director at MPG in New York, a media agency owned by Havas.

"But even if you're a bottom-feeder," he added, "you have to look at the results and do they justify the complaints you get for sponsoring the show."

Organizations like the American Family Association are entitled to protest programs, Mr. Kanefsky said, "but you can't just vote no." He cited the failure of a series that NBC introduced on Fridays last fall, "Three Wishes," which had as its host the Christian singer Amy Grant.

For activists, it should not always be "about getting shows off the air," Mr. Kanefsky said, but rather "about getting and keeping shows on the air."

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Stars at the Mily Way Galaxy's Center

The Spitzer Space Telescope took this awesome mosaic of the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Click the picture to read the press release and get high-rez versions of this image.

Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Pledge to boycott DRM CDs

Go here and sign the petition to show support for the anti-drm efforts of's Elizabeth Stark and Fred Benenson.
Throughout history, the most common debilitating human ailment has been cold feet. - Unknown

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Interview with inventor of LSD, Albert Hoffman, now 100

Pointer from Boing Boing......
The New York Times
January 7, 2006
The Saturday Profile

Nearly 100, LSD's Father Ponders His 'Problem Child'

BURG, Switzerland

ALBERT Hofmann, the father of LSD, walked slowly across the small corner office of his modernist home on a grassy Alpine hilltop here, hoping to show a visitor the vista that sweeps before him on clear days. But outside there was only a white blanket of fog hanging just beyond the crest of the hill. He picked up a photograph of the view on his desk instead, left there perhaps to convince visitors of what really lies beyond the windowpane.

Mr. Hofmann will turn 100 on Wednesday, a milestone to be marked by a symposium in nearby Basel on the chemical compound that he discovered and that famously unlocked the Blakean doors of perception, altering consciousnesses around the world. As the years accumulate behind him, Mr. Hofmann's conversation turns ever more insistently around one theme: man's oneness with nature and the dangers of an increasing inattention to that fact.

"It's very, very dangerous to lose contact with living nature," he said, listing to the right in a green armchair that looked out over frost-dusted fields and snow-laced trees. A glass pitcher held a bouquet of roses on the coffee table before him. "In the big cities, there are people who have never seen living nature, all things are products of humans," he said. "The bigger the town, the less they see and understand nature." And, yes, he said, LSD, which he calls his "problem child," could help reconnect people to the universe.

Rounding a century, Mr. Hofmann is physically reduced but mentally clear. He is prone to digressions, ambling with pleasure through memories of his boyhood, but his bright eyes flash with the recollection of a mystical experience he had on a forest path more than 90 years ago in the hills above Baden, Switzerland. The experience left him longing for a similar glimpse of what he calls "a miraculous, powerful, unfathomable reality."

"I was completely astonished by the beauty of nature," he said, laying a slightly gnarled finger alongside his nose, his longish white hair swept back from his temples and the crown of his head. He said any natural scientist who was not a mystic was not a real natural scientist. "Outside is pure energy and colorless substance," he said. "All of the rest happens through the mechanism of our senses. Our eyes see just a small fraction of the light in the world. It is a trick to make a colored world, which does not exist outside of human beings."

He became particularly fascinated by the mechanisms through which plants turn sunlight into the building blocks for our own bodies. "Everything comes from the sun via the plant kingdom," he said.

MR. HOFMANN studied chemistry and took a job with the Swiss pharmaceutical company Sandoz Laboratories, because it had started a program to identify and synthesize the active compounds of medically important plants. He soon began work on the poisonous ergot fungus that grows in grains of rye. Midwives had used it for centuries to precipitate childbirths, but chemists had never succeeded in isolating the chemical that produced the pharmacological effect. Finally, chemists in the United States identified the active component as lysergic acid, and Mr. Hofmann began combining other molecules with the unstable chemical in search of pharmacologically useful compounds.

His work on ergot produced several important drugs, including a compound still in use to prevent hemorrhaging after childbirth. But it was the 25th compound that he synthesized, lysergic acid diethylamide, that was to have the greatest impact. When he first created it in 1938, the drug yielded no significant pharmacological results. But when his work on ergot was completed, he decided to go back to LSD-25, hoping that improved tests could detect the stimulating effect on the body's circulatory system that he had expected from it. It was as he was synthesizing the drug on a Friday afternoon in April 1943 that he first experienced the altered state of consciousness for which it became famous. "Immediately, I recognized it as the same experience I had had as a child," he said. "I didn't know what caused it, but I knew that it was important."

When he returned to his lab the next Monday, he tried to identify the source of his experience, believing first that it had come from the fumes of a chloroform-like solvent he had been using. Inhaling the fumes produced no effect, though, and he realized he must have somehow ingested a trace of LSD. "LSD spoke to me," Mr. Hofmann said with an amused, animated smile. "He came to me and said, 'You must find me.' He told me, 'Don't give me to the pharmacologist, he won't find anything.' "

HE experimented with the drug, taking a dose so small that even the most active toxin known at that time would have had little or no effect. The result with LSD, however, was a powerful experience, during which he rode his bicycle home, accompanied by an assistant. That day, April 19, later became memorialized by LSD enthusiasts as "bicycle day."

Mr. Hofmann participated in tests in a Sandoz laboratory, but found the experience frightening and realized that the drug should be used only under carefully controlled circumstances. In 1951, he wrote to the German novelist Ernst Junger, who had experimented with mescaline, and proposed that they take LSD together. They each took 0.05 milligrams of pure LSD at Mr. Hofmann's home accompanied by roses, music by Mozart and burning Japanese incense. "That was the first planned psychedelic test," Mr. Hofmann said.

He took the drug dozens of times after that, he said, and once experienced what he called a "horror trip" when he was tired and Mr. Junger gave him amphetamines first. But his hallucinogenic days are long behind him.

"I know LSD; I don't need to take it anymore," Mr. Hofmann said. "Maybe when I die, like Aldous Huxley," who asked his wife for an injection of LSD to help him through the final painful throes of his fatal throat cancer.

But Mr. Hofmann calls LSD "medicine for the soul" and is frustrated by the worldwide prohibition that has pushed it underground. "It was used very successfully for 10 years in psychoanalysis," he said, adding that the drug was hijacked by the youth movement of the 1960's and then demonized by the establishment that the movement opposed. He said LSD could be dangerous and called its distribution by Timothy Leary and others "a crime."

"It should be a controlled substance with the same status as morphine," he said.

Mr. Hofmann lives with his wife in the house they built 38 years ago. He raised four children and watched one son struggle with alcoholism before dying at 53. He has eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. As far as he knows, no one in his family besides his wife has tried LSD.

Mr. Hofmann rose, slightly stooped and now barely reaching five feet, and walked through his house with his arm-support cane. When asked if the drug had deepened his understanding of death, he appeared mildly startled and said no. "I go back to where I came from, to where I was before I was born, that's all," he said.

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

CanTaliban Want to Emigrate

Saw a reference to Pandgon's post on Kung Fu Monkey's blog.  In my worst moments I consider emigrating to Canada to escape the American Taliban's stranglehold on our politics, morals, ethics and technology.  Nice to know the CanTaliban is going to make room for me!
All the countries of the world except Burma, Liberia and the United States employ the Metric System. - Edward J. Rose

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Running Hot and Cold

Reprinted in its entirety below, a piece by Judith Lewis of the LA Weekly listing a dozen weather anomalies found during 2005. I believe you extrapolate most of these to see what our world will look like as global warming begins to really bite. Thanks to Bruce Sterling, Viridian pope for the pointer!

Running Hot and Cold: A Dozen Weird Weather Moments
Katrina turned the weather into the year’s biggest news event, as the natural world against which Bush has made war since 2000 decided to send back a return salvo. The storm quickly became a political portent for both ends of the spectrum, with Christian conservatives interpreting the supposed fetal shape of Katrina to be a pro-life meteorological statement sent by a vengeful Lord to ravage the Gulf of Mexico, and the sane world noting apprehensively that hurricane season has been worsening with steadily increasing ocean-surface temperatures. Bad as it was, the scientists added, 2005’s weather is just a taste of what’s to come. Here’s the rest of the year in bad weather.

1. 2005 was the hottest year on record. This year’s global average temperature topped the previous record, set in 1998.

2. The Amazon River basin experienced its worst drought in recorded history.

3. The National Climate Data Center (NCDC) reported that nine of the 10 warmest years in history have occurred in the past decade.

4. Satellite monitoring in September revealed that the summer Arctic sea ice has shrunk as much as 40 percent since monitoring began in the late 1970s. At the current rate of decline, there will be no summer Arctic ice pack within two decades.

5. Multiple studies showed that the higher average temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere over the last decade are unprecedented over the past 2,000 years.

6. Swiss and U.S. climatologists working in Antarctica built “EPICA Dome C,” the longest ice-core record to date. Gas bubbles trapped in ice crystals record the atmospheric compositions over time. From this, researchers reported that today’s levels of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, are higher now than at any time in the past 650,000 years.

7. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that sea-surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico this summer were the highest since measurements began in 1890.

8. The warm waters contributed to the year’s record-breaking hurricane season, with 26 named storms forming in the Atlantic. Fourteen became hurricanes, and Katrina, Rita and Wilma created an unprecedented triumvirate of category 5 storms. The NOAA also exhausted its pre-assigned list of storm names, and for the first time had to turn to the Greek alphabet. On the last official day in hurricane season, tropical storm Epsilon strengthened into a hurricane.

9. Wilma played second fiddle to Katrina despite being the stronger storm. In Florida, Wilma was “the Big One” they’ve been expecting for a century. It knocked out the power for weeks, and left a destruction path wider than any previous hurricane in the state. With a central ultralow pressure of 882 millibars, Wilma surpassed 1988’s Gilbert as the strongest hurricane on record.

10. Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology reported in the May issue of Science that the long-term process of global dimming, a diminishing of the sun’s effects caused by an accumulation of particulate matter in the atmosphere, began to turn around in 1990. Since global dimming has a cooling effect, its decline could speed the effects of global warming.

11. Researchers on a scientific expedition in the Atlantic Ocean discovered that the strength of the current that drives the Gulf Stream — and bathes Britain and Northern Europe in warm waters from the tropics each summer — has slowed by 30 percent in just the past decade. Thought to be a consequence of global warming, the weakened current could trigger severe winters and cooler summers on both sides of the North Atlantic.

12. Outlandish weather effects materialized all over the world. On July 26, 37 inches of rain fell in Mumbai, India’s financial center, during one 24-hour period. Four hundred thirty-eight people drowned or were buried in landslides in India’s highest recorded rainfall. A record 22 tornadoes hit Southwest Australia in May, causing the state’s most expensive natural disaster. In October, 78.9 inches of snow fell on Mount Washington in New Hampshire, nearly doubling the previous record of 39.8 inches, set in 2000.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Paranormal Strings

I have always though that the gap between believers in paranormal (esp, precognition, ghosts, etc) and the scientific community was unbridgeable.  Of late I have come to the conclusion that while paranormal experiences may be real, science does not have an explanatory mechanism, therefore paranormal activity is not real in a scientific way.  How do you explain the persistence of reporting of paranormal experiences that occur?
Even if the hoaxes and non-paranormal explanation occurrences are subtracted you are still left with that small number of experiences that occur, but defy scientific explanation.
Brian Greene's books on String theory popularized the idea that our universe may have as many as ten (10) dimensions.  Now what does this have to do with paranormal activity?  What if the paranormal events that science can not explain turn out to be interactions with these other dimensions that String theory postulates.
Sound outlandish?  Consider the Edwin A. Abbott's classic tale of inter dimensional experience, Flatland.  This story details the encounters a two-dimensional being would have with our three-dimensional world.  For instance a sphere would appear as a circle.  An inhabitant of the two-dimensional Flatland world would consider an interaction with a three-dimensional object to be paranormal.
So the next time you want to pooh-pooh tales of ghosts, poltergeists, and other paranormal phenomenon consider that these occurrences may be the result of a ten-dimensional object passing through our three-dimensional world.
Always remember you're unique, just like everyone else.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The decade the blockbuster died

Chris Anderson details below the demise of the blockbuster album.

Your mother knows how to push your buttons because she installed them all.

The decade the blockbuster died

I've been collecting data on just how bad it's getting in the music industry, and this useful list of the 100 all-time bestselling albums offered another lens on the meltdown. I looked up the release dates of each and grouped them in half-decade bins. The data speaks for itself:


If you want to do your own analysis, the underlying data

is in this spreadsheet.

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The State of Green Business: Good News and Bad

A good summary of the plusses and minuses in the Green world.
We are born naked, wet and hungry. Then things get worse.
The State of Green Business: Good News and Bad

Recently, after 15 years, I ceased publication of my monthly publication, The Green Business Letter. The reason, simply put, had to do with closing one door before opening others -- which I expect to do in 2006.

Following is adapted from the final edition, in which I offered my assessment of the green-business landscape over the past decade and a half.

If you've been engaged in the green business world for any length of time, you know the short story: there's good news and bad. Herewith is a top-ten list of sorts: five reasons for optimism, and five reasons for concern, about the state of business and the environment.

Five Reasons for Optimism
1. The leading edge is moving. During the past two decades, the leading edge of green business activity has moved across three phases. Phase One might be referred to as the Eco-Hippocratic Oath: "First, Do No Harm." During the 1990s, Phase Two -- let's call it "Doing Well By Doing Good" -- kicked in, during which companies recognized they could reduce costs through pollution prevention, waste minimization, energy efficiency, and other means -- and in the process, they could garner public goodwill.

More recently, the leading edge has shifted into Phase Three: "Creating Value." In this phase, sustainable business initiatives are being designed not just to save money, but to drive topline growth -- increased sales, customer retention, innovation, and the like. General Electric, Sun Microsystems, Toyota, Shaw Industries, and other companies are among those demonstrating the business opportunities to be found in offering products and services that help customers to reduce emissions, save money, lower risks, and enjoy other benefits.

Environmental responsibility as a driver of topline growth: This is the point at which sustainability becomes, well, sustainable.

2. Environmental concerns are being widely addressed. Nearly every large company and institution has taken at least some steps to address their environmental impacts. The breadth of issues being addressed has grown, too. This is evident from, among other things, the steady stream of annual environmental (or sustainability or corporate social responsibility) reports being published. Early on, companies focused on toxic emissions or solid waste issues. As pollution prevention, recycling, and waste minimization initiatives took hold, companies began looking at other issues, especially those related to energy and climate, but also looking upstream to consider the impacts of suppliers and downstream to address the impacts of customers, including what happens to a company's products when they are no longer needed or of service to customers.

All told, the foundation has been set for developing more comprehensive life-cycle solutions for tomorrow's products and services.

3. The bottom-line case is building. At first, there were the low-hanging fruit derived from reducing pollution and waste. A big company could redesign something as simple as a beer can (Anheuser-Busch) or a paper napkin (McDonald's) and save millions of pounds of natural resources -- and millions of dollars. Simple, sensible management practices in industrial processes could dramatically slash waste, along with the cost of its disposal.

Today, the business case is more sophisticated and robust. Research is showing how investments in energy management, carbon mitigation, toxics reduction, and product end-of-life management can provide both tangible and intangible benefits of interest to financial analysts, institutional investors, and others. And there is evidence that environmentally minded activities can contribute to companies' ability to attract and retain employees.

For companies seeking to justify, on bottom-line grounds, the value of sustainability, the arguments can be readily found.

4. Customers are driving change. In the early 1990s, regulators and activists were the principal drivers of most companies' sustainability agendas. But increasingly, the market is kicking in, with customer needs -- or demands -- shaping company environmental policies and practices.

For example, in its 2005 Global Citizenship Report, HP says that in 2004 it received more than $6 billion in requests for quotations that required information on HP's commitment to social and environmental responsibility -- an increase of 95%% compared to 2003 and 660%% compared to 2002. Those requests came from Asia and Europe as well as North America.

That's on the b-to-b side. On the consumer side, demand for greener products, services, and companies is less apparent, though there are encouraging signs, notably the marketplace success of hybrid vehicles and other energy-efficient products. They show that consumers are willing to embrace green technologies under certain circumstances -- a less-than-worldchanging development, to be sure, but progress nonetheless. It helps when energy markets -- gasoline, heating oil, natural gas, electricity -- reflect true market prices, not the heavily subsidized ones that have kept consumers from paying their full costs and making purchase decisions that reflect more accurate information.

5. Sustainability is spurring innovation. This is implicit in Reasons #1 and #4 above, but it bears repeating: Sustainability is spurring companies to innovate with new processes that enhance their bottom lines, such as closed-loop manufacturing processes, in which there is virtually no energy, water, or material waste. Products designed with fewer, simpler, less-toxic, and more recyclable ingredients enable everything from carpets to car parts to be fully recycled at the end of their useful lives -- not simply "downcycled" into commingled, less-valuable materials. Markets for biobased products -- polymers, building materials, textiles, and other goods made from plants or crops -- have been frustratingly slow to develop, but progress is being made to break through market barriers. And the green-building revolution has led to a wealth of innovative designs, systems, products, and materials intended to make tomorrow's structures simultaneously more livable, more beautiful, less expensive, and less destructive to the environment.

There's more to celebrate, but it's time to look at the other side of the coin.

Five Reasons for Concern
1. The pace of change is slow. While it's easy to point to how far the leading edge has progressed, it's hardly the full story. Many companies still struggle to make even small, incremental improvements to their policies, processes, and products, and many of the innovations being seen inside companies are limited to a single facility, business unit, or product line. It's all progress, of course, but it's easy for cynics to make the case that such changes fall into the too-little-too-late category.

To be fair, the frustratingly slow pace of change isn't always companies' fault -- or, at least, not entirely. Most industries represent a complex web of suppliers, customers, shareholders, activists, regulators, and others whose opinion or actions can thwart even the best-intended companies or most passionate CEOs. I've been sobered over the years by tales of large, multinational companies unable to get supply-chain buy-in to support their companies' laudable goals for reducing toxics, waste, or energy use. And I've heard countless tales of companies that have abandoned development or marketing of greener products and services for lack of customer support. Whether such underwhelming sales resulted from customer resistance or poorly designed or marketed goods is arguable. In most cases, there's plenty of blame to go around.

And some barriers to change are internal -- the failure to gain the support of line employees and, perhaps more critically, that thick, impenetrable band of resistance known as "middle management." While "Get top-level buy-in" remains number one on the list of how-to tips for most company environmental efforts, even the greenest of executives can be thwarted by those down the line. As one CEO famously put it: "An organization's ability to resist and defeat a direct order to do something difficult is just about infinite."

2. "Good" is rarely good enough. When it comes to addressing society's environmental concerns, most companies find themselves aiming at a moving target. Yesterday's activist ideals are tomorrow's minimum requirements. The result is that some companies are never entirely sure how good is "good enough."

Things are most challenging for consumer-facing brands, and especially for market leaders. They often are held to a standard far higher than their competitors -- a function of environmental groups' need to slay corporate dragons in order to rally the troops and justify their funding. One result is that many firms are afraid to promote, or even discuss, their environmental initiatives for fear that doing so will unwittingly illuminate their shortcomings. The unfortunate outcome is twofold: companies don't receive the credit they deserve in the eyes of customers and other interested parties; and the people inside companies who work, often struggle, to make these changes happen find it that much harder to get internal support for taking on the next, perhaps more substantive, set of company challenges.

3. EHS still doesn't get it. Environmental, health, and safety (EHS) departments inside companies remain a ghetto of regulatory compliance and engineering fixes -- perfectly fine functions, to be sure, but ones often seen as outside of core business strategy. As a result, many talented EHS professionals have found themselves on the street, having been handed their walking papers during the latest round of downsizing or re-engineering.

Much of this is self-inflicted. Historically, EHS professionals haven't learned how to make environmental concerns a source of business value and not just a cost. Despite years of effort on the part of professional organizations, business schools, and others to imbue EHS folks with business skills, most remain far more at home talking geek-speak with the regulatory crowd than discussing with their higher-ups how to turn environmental initiatives into new sources of business value.

That's a lost opportunity. EHS has a great deal to contribute. But the lack of EHS departments to think in these terms, let alone take action on them, will forever limit their effectiveness -- and, in many cases, lead to their demise.

4. Small business isn't engaged. The vast majority of efforts to improve companies' environmental performance -- whether taken by regulators, activists, the public, or companies themselves -- have focused on the largest companies. That makes sense: As an environmental Willie Sutton might have put it, that's where the pollution is.

But not all. Roughly 98%% of all U.S. companies have fewer than 100 employees. While many of these smaller firms provide services that have negligible environmental impacts, there are tens of thousands of dry cleaners, printers, bakers, metal finishers, furniture makers, automobile repair shops, and others among them with seemingly small but cumulatively significant emissions and waste. And these firms have largely been left out of the sustainability conversation.

The failure to find effective means of bringing smaller firms into the environmental fold will continue to limit progress on many fronts and will become a growing problem as larger companies continue to improve their performance.

5. The public remains clueless. It's hard for companies to effect widespread culture change if the people who comprise its employees, customers, suppliers, and shareholders don't understand the underlying issues. Despite more than a quarter-century of Earth Days, the rise of green activism, and the growth of environmental curricula in schools at all levels, the public remains woefully uninformed. Surveys show that most citizens' understanding of environmental issues remains depressingly low and that myths and misunderstandings persist.

Companies often are their own worst enemies here. The tremendous communications clout many businesses, especially service-sector firms, possess could be harnessed to improve the public's eco-literacy and, in the process, help garner newfound appreciation and build markets for companies' environmental initiatives. But there's been little appetite on the part of companies to educate, and not just propagandize, the masses on these issues.

As with the good news, there are more concerns, too, but I'll leave it at that. And despite the obstacles, I remain optimistic -- indeed, confident -- that the hard work of good people inside good companies will continue to raise the bar, the performance, and the appreciation of corporate environmental practices.

(Posted by Joel Makower in Sustainability Sundays at 05:00 AM)

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This is Good News for the blogosphere . Extends Free Content Length to 60 Days
ClickZ reports that traffic from blogs and feeds have encouraged the to extend its free content window from 14 days to 60 days.
In a bid to increase traffic and reap more online advertising revenues, will allow articles to remain free on the site for 60 days before they go behind the subscribers-only wall. Previously, stories were only accessible for 14 days.The switch is an acknowledgement of the role of blogs, search and RSS, which have all worked to keep news stories in the public eye for longer periods of time. Company executive point to the news operation's recent scoop regarding secret CIA prisons in foreign countries -- a story that has continued to generate links and buzz for weeks after its debut."For us to take that article offline after 14 days really does us a disservice," Jim Brady, executive editor of the site, told ClickZ News.These new blog and search links tend to drive traffic directly to stories, rather than to the front page of the site, contributing to the importance of individual articles. About half the traffic at now comes through these "side doors," according to Brady.
ClickZ also says that Houston Chronicle and The Toronto Star recently removed registration barriers to allow more incoming traffic but notes that the New York Times moved in the opposite direction by making more content subscription-only. Hopefully, more newspaper websites will follow the Washington Post's lead and ignore the decision made at the New York Times.
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Monday, January 02, 2006

Sam Harris: Science Must Destroy Religion

From the I wish I had said this department: HuffPo posting by Sam Harris.


Sam Harris: Science Must Destroy Religion

Most people believe that the Creator of the universe wrote (or dictated) one of their books. Unfortunately, there are many books that pretend to divine authorship, and each makes incompatible claims about how we all must live. Despite the ecumenical efforts of many well-intentioned people, these irreconcilable religious commitments still inspire an appalling amount of human conflict.

In response to this situation, most sensible people advocate something called "religious tolerance." While religious tolerance is surely better than religious war, tolerance is not without its liabilities. Our fear of provoking religious hatred has rendered us incapable of criticizing ideas that are now patently absurd and increasingly maladaptive. It has also obliged us to lie to ourselves — repeatedly and at the highest levels — about the compatibility between religious faith and scientific rationality.

The conflict between religion and science is inherent and (very nearly) zero-sum. The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma; the maintenance of religious dogma always comes at the expense of science. It is time we conceded a basic fact of human discourse: either a person has good reasons for what he believes, or he does not. When a person has good reasons, his beliefs contribute to our growing understanding of the world. We need not distinguish between "hard" and "soft" science here, or between science and other evidence-based disciplines like history. There happen to be very good reasons to believe that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. Consequently, the idea that the Egyptians actually did it lacks credibility. Every sane human being recognizes that to rely merely upon "faith" to decide specific questions of historical fact would be both idiotic and grotesque — that is, until the conversation turns to the origin of books like the bible and the Koran, to the resurrection of Jesus, to Muhammad's conversation with the angel Gabriel, or to any of the other hallowed travesties that still crowd the altar of human ignorance.

Science, in the broadest sense, includes all reasonable claims to knowledge about ourselves and the world. If there were good reasons to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, or that Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse, these beliefs would necessarily form part of our rational description of the universe. Faith is nothing more than the license that religious people give one another to believe such propositions when reasons fail. The difference between science and religion is the difference between a willingness to dispassionately consider new evidence and new arguments, and a passionate unwillingness to do so. The distinction could not be more obvious, or more consequential, and yet it is everywhere elided, even in the ivory tower.

Religion is fast growing incompatible with the emergence of a global, civil society. Religious faith — faith that there is a God who cares what name he is called, that one of our books is infallible, that Jesus is coming back to earth to judge the living and the dead, that Muslim martyrs go straight to Paradise, etc. — is on the wrong side of an escalating war of ideas. The difference between science and religion is the difference between a genuine openness to fruits of human inquiry in the 21st century, and a premature closure to such inquiry as a matter of principle. I believe that the antagonism between reason and faith will only grow more pervasive and intractable in the coming years. Iron Age beliefs — about God, the soul, sin, free will, etc. — continue to impede medical research and distort public policy. The possibility that we could elect a U.S. President who takes biblical prophesy seriously is real and terrifying; the likelihood that we will one day confront Islamists armed with nuclear or biological weapons is also terrifying, and it is increasing by the day. We are doing very little, at the level of our intellectual discourse, to prevent such possibilities. ??In the spirit of religious tolerance, most scientists are keeping silent when they should be blasting the hideous fantasies of a prior age with all the facts at their disposal.

To win this war of ideas, scientists and other rational people will need to find new ways of talking about ethics and spiritual experience. The distinction between science and religion is not a matter of excluding our ethical intuitions and non-ordinary states of consciousness from our conversation about the world; it is a matter of our being rigorous about what is reasonable to conclude on their basis. We must find ways of meeting our emotional needs that do not require the abject embrace of the preposterous. We must learn to invoke the power of ritual and to mark those transitions in every human life that demand profundity — birth, marriage, death, etc. — without lying to ourselves about the nature of reality.

I am hopeful that the necessary transformation in our thinking will come about as our scientific understanding of ourselves matures. When we find reliable ways to make human beings more loving, less fearful, and genuinely enraptured by the fact of our appearance in the cosmos, we will have no need for divisive religious myths. Only then will the practice of raising our children to believe that they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu be broadly recognized as the ludicrous obscenity that it is. And only then will we stand a chance of healing the deepest and most dangerous fractures in our world.

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