Sunday, 12 December 2010

Book Review: "The Atheist's Bible"

POSTED IN:  ~ BooksReligion ~ Atheism ~ Collection    

Click for more info in the Bookshop
The Atheist's Bible
an illustrious collection of irreverent thoughts
by Joan Konner
Duckworth Overlook 2007

There's something irresistibly enjoyable about a collection of excellent things people have said on a subject close to your heart. Isn't there? This is such a volume and I'm sorely tempted to spend the rest of the review simply quoting quotes from it. What? Oh, all right then, I will.

"Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense."
   ~ Chapman Cohen

"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration - courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth."
   ~ H.L.Mencken

"Epicurus' old questions are yet unanswered. Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then his is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?"
   ~ David Hume

Oh, I'm sorry, where was I? Oh yes, the book review. Well, The Atheist's Bible is a parody of the real thing. It's divided into chapters with names, some strangely familiar, like Genesis, The Gospel, Revelations, and some not so: Scientosophy, The Tao of Disbelief and The Brimstone Chronicles.

"There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is
known as the Dark Ages." ~ Ruth Hurmence Green
The second half of the book is in the style of 'Books', as in Book of Knowledge, Book of Inspiration and Book of Laughter, followed by particular writers own book, who had a lot to say about religion over the course of their life: Book of Mark (Twain), Book of Bertrand (Russell), Book of Voltaire and Book of Woody (Allen).

"Creator: a comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh."
   ~ H.L.Mencken

The book itself is a pleasure to hold - it seems to be made to fit into your hand and its cute little hardback cover in a kind of subdued sheen seems to ask to be caressed and held close.

"It's hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning."
   ~ Bill Watterson

There are so many shining gems in here it just makes me want to jump up and down and share them with all the poor lost souls who can never appreciate them.

"If we are going to teach 'creation science'... as an alternative to evolution, then we should also teach the stork theory as an alternative to biological reproduction."
   ~ Judith Hayes

"If triangles made a God, they would give him
three sides." ~ Montesquieu
Every page is full of superb, fantastic, hilarious and tragic observations by clear thinkers from all ages.

"The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion."
   ~ Arthur C. Clarke

I'm sooo tempted to start a mailing list to send out a daily 'Freethinking Thought of the Day'. Have I possibly got the time?

"From the point of view of a tapeworm, man was created by God to serve the appetite of the tapeworm."
   ~ Edward Abbey

I think you're getting the idea. If you're the sort of person who likes this sort of book, both it's conception and its subject matter, you'll love it. Simple as that!

"Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong."
   ~ Christopher Hitchen

Oh, by the way, just in case you were wondering, even though the book is called a 'bible' I have every reason to believe it was written by the hand and mind of man. Mere, mortal man, although on reading it you may be tempted to differ. Yes, it's that good.

See you in the gene pool

Frabulous Frog Bookshop: 'Open For Business'

POSTED IN:  ~ BooksReligion ~ Science    

Open For Business...

Good news people, and I don't mean that I won't even mention Jehovah's Witnesses once in this post: Ooops! There, done it!

No, I'm excited to tell you that I've put quite a few of my absolutely favourite freethinking books into the bookshop, along with quite a few which I'm planning on reading but just haven't done so yet.

Now don't get me wrong with this fancy 'Bookshop' idea. I'm not really intending to bug you to buy books through it every two days so that I can get some paltry 50c commission or whatever it is. I've done that in the past, never made any money out of it and to be frank it was a bit of a pain in the neck!

So why am I doing it? Simply because it's a really fun way to group all my favourite books on bashing religion, philosophical puzzles, evolution and the whole shebang with their pictures, reviews and everything you'd need in case you ever did want to buy some.

I actually do buy quite a few books through Amazon, but I generally go for the second-hand ones, which can often be ridiculously cheap, especially after the paperbacks have been out for a while. I'm waiting for Dawkins' Greatest Show On Earth for a few months, for example, because there will be so many sold I'm sure it'll be in the second hand market for a euro or a quid pretty soon (plus postage).

So use the bookshop to get some ideas for some excellent reading fodder on your favourite topics and if you ever did buy them having clicked through from here, well thanks!

I've created some sections in the bookshop to reflect the general feel of what I'll be presenting on this blog, as follows:

In making up these categories I chopped and changed and added and deleted until I got to what you see above. Once again I'll say that this site has no pretentions whatsoever. I'm a nobody in the world of atheism, religion, science and plenty of other realms, many of them ending in 'ism', and many not.
But by that very fact, and the awareness of my own mortality (Christ, this got deep bloody quickly, didn't it..?) I know that I have as much right to set up my own little blog blethering on about anything I please, and so can you. Unless of course you live in... but we won't go down that route right now.
So here it is, for better or for worse, what will be an ever-growing list of what I consider cool books which I'd love it if you read too and why not leave a comment to say what you think? Cheers, and happy head-filling :-D

See you in the gene pool

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Cool Blogs ~ 'Anal Iced Bible'

POSTED IN:  ~ HumourReligion ~ Nutters ~ Blogs ~ Bible    

In The Beginning...

I really can't tell you how glad I am to not be running a blog where I try to knock down religious nutters' arguments.

For a start, I reckon I'd go nuts myself from frustration, as I see many on some forums and comments threads doing every day. And more importantly, there are just too many others doing it too well already.

Today's featured blog is called Anal Iced Bible, and is both a great laugh and an excellent introduction to the bible, should you want one. And to be honest and fair, I feel a good nontheist should at least have read a bit of what it is that so many people say they take more or less literally as the word of a supernatural power that created everthing.

You know what? There's a hell of a lot of Christian-types who (whisper this) haven't actually read the stupid book! Yes! It's true! Just ask a few. I'll bet you anything, whatever they may say, that you will get signs that this is true, if they don't admit it outright.

It's not surprising really. It's quite difficult to read, pretty disjointed, totally illogical of course, and Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings and Winnie the Pooh and Alice are, quite frankly, much better reads.

However, they say it's the book ghost-written by the creator of all things and who are we to argue?

Well, today's blog pick does, actually, argue. He or she (or it) does it in a funny way, and you can just about read the entire bible with them (they're up to Samuel as I write) just by waiting for his next interleaved joke or pointing out of more nonsense. I highly recommend you have a look.

He starts, quite logically, with the creation of the universe, and here's a few snippets from the book of Genesis to whet our appetite. The commentary is in italics; the commented in Big Biblical Bold:

Genesis 1
1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Sorry quick qestion here, the beginning of what?
16And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

Great we now have the sun and OK. I know I am quibbling here but we still on this day thing but Einstein states the speed of light is constant. Does it not take the light from Proxima centuri about 4.2 years to get here?

17And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

Hang on I thought it said this firmament thingy whatever it was seperated the up waters from the down waters have I missed something?
26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Who's this "US" he's talking to he never mentioned any help before?

27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
29And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

If this man was vegetarian as this implies, why the fuck does god feel he has to say it will be as meat
Genesis 2
 7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Is this in addition to the couple he made last week? 
11The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

Gold? What the hell would he want that for?
17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Is this a friendly warning or a threat? He never mentioned anything about the possibility of getting his dangly bits caught in the shears.
21And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

So why not just make her out of the ground like all the other animals? Whereas this seems more like some cloning type thing. Hang on, grown from a male rib the clone would be male too. Thats basic genetics so it was Adam and Steve.
24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

How does he know what a father and mother is ?

25And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

So these other people he made in the first week ? Were they too stuck up to fraternise with the gardener?

So there you have it. Pretty hilarious stuff I'm sure you'll agree. And if you don't then you're reading the wrong blog! So check out the Anal Iced Bible if you will and learn all about the good solid shite, what, ohh, two billion+ people believe even today. Dear oh dear oh dear...

Oh, by the way, if you really do want to start at the very beginning, then it's here. The navigation takes a bit of getting used to, oh, and I should say that if you prefer your ridiculing of the bible done a bit more politely, then Anal Iced Bible isn't actually the site for you. It's pretty crude.
See you in the gene pool

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Frog on a Log! ~ Stop This Sickness Now!

POSTED IN:  ~ HumourReligion ~ Nutters    

Frog on a Log
Stop This Sickness Now!

I would just like to state how disgusted and shocked I was to find this repulsive image on The Freethinker website just now.

When I think about how long I took and how carefully I chose our cheery little green mascot for the Frabulous Frog Freethinker site, you will understand that I am very, very upset to see him riduculed like this.

First of all, the image is cruel and unpleasant. No creature should ever be treated like this, even as a joke and even if it is only plaster or papier maché. It makes me think of biology lesson dissections when I was 14 - yuk.

But what really gets me is the use of the ancient barbaric cross of the sick god cult lead by the notorious terrorist Jesus Christ. To sully the image of our lively little pond-dwelling pal with that of the leader of a group of mass murdering lunatics is beyond contempt. Oh well.

And talking of ponds, this little picture on the right shows you what a future 'Arc-Park', sorry, 'Arc Encounter', could look like.

Yep, you read that right. Kentucky could be the proud host of a Creationist theme park in a few years if what looks like a completely corrupt plan by some religious lunatics, sorry, tautology, gets accepted. It'll include a so-called life-sized copy of the arc, yeah!, along with a Tower of Babel and some typical middle-eastern villages, although I thought they didn't like people from the middle-east... oh dear, it's all so complicated, isn't it? Christians hating Muslims but worshipping someone from the middle-east. Bizarre.

And just to finish this little blether of recent findings on the web, check this out from MediaWatchWatch. Jesus with a massive hard on. Oops. Guess what? Yep, some Christian didn't like it and is prosecuting the Gateshead gallery what was showing this work of art.

What's funny is that the offending appendage isn't actually very well-done by the looks of it. Looks more like a dowel plug if you ask me. And I read some comments saying that the Romans or Greeks would have approved heartily, not to mention some Horny Hindu and boner Buddhist top dogs, virility being virility and all that.

Anyway. More sniggers tomorrow, pondlifers.

See you in the gene pool

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Book Review ~ 'Can A Robot Be Human?'

POSTED IN:  ~ PhilosophyPuzzles Religion ~ Reviews    

Can A Robot Be Human?
Peter Cave
Oneworld Publications 2007
ISBN 9781851685318

'If it doesn't make you think, you are probably dead already' is the first quote on the back cover, and there's no mistaking it: if you like philosophical puzzles then get a copy of this book forthwith. Or sooner.

I'm currently reading a couple in bed before I turn out the light, and I have to tell you that my bedtimes are getting later and later.

In fact, you'll see where I've been stealing, errr, borrowing some ideas from for my philosophical puzzles recently. So I'm repaying my moral debt here by saying immediately and unequivocally: buy 'Can a Robot be Human?' You'll love it.

The blurb on the back continues with the intriguing questions as follows:
  • How unique are you?
  • What does it really mean to be in love?
  • Can you believe anyone who says 'I'm telling the truth'?
  •  Can a murderer be innocent?
  • What is the difference between a saint, a sinner, and a suicide bomber?
Now look folks, be gentle with me; this is my first stab at tackling this sort of publication, so excuse my wonder at these questions. Someone told me recently that they didn't have much time for philosophy because it just tended to be a bunch of people talking about stuff, much of it interesting, admittedly, but not actually getting much done.

Well I nodded and 'hmmm'ed in some sort of agreement, not really knowing what he was talking about. But be that as it may, you'll probably find yourself falling into this book and having problems pulling yourself out. These 'problems', if we can call them that, relate to our every day lives. Which is exactly what makes them so interesting. Sure, we're on a different level of thinking to that needed for every day activities. But nevertheless, there's great satisfaction in filling your head with this stuff, as opposed to watching videos of people killing each other or even the depressing daily ritual of reading or watching the news and... learning about how many people had killed each other that day.
The puzzles themselves cover all sorts of things. I've just dipped into the book at random and found a discussion on where our morals come from. Religious people, it is said, derive their ideas of right and wrong from their faith and its teachings. The puzzle suggests two twins who were somehow separated at birth, one growing up in a devoutly Catholic family and the other in a Muslim family. It also wonders what the two women's morals would be if they had been 'swapped' at birth and brought up in the opposite religion. Holds aren't barred and mentions of suicide bombers and horrific Catholic witch burning are invoked to bring the conundrum home.

Less scary, on a viceral level at least, is the puzzle of when a sandcastle in a breeze stops being a sandcastle. If we can tell no difference between  a fully fledged sandcastle, and the same sandcastle minus one grain of sand, then logically if we carried on doing that we would still be claiming it was a sandcastle when it was only a slight mound of sand.

And what about the incredible thought experiment when we try to work out why we cry or get angry or scared during films and plays, and even when listening to music. Are those emotions real or not? I real, we should be running up to the stage to help the woman in the play being attacked, shouldn't we? But if we know it's just a bunch of actors surrounded by directors and lighting technicians and so on, why do we emote at all. Brilliant.

Well, that's just a taster, and I'll show you the pictures, which are from the book, by a great artist called Jolyon Troscianko, who also researches into avian cognition, to whet your appetite for the rest. And as I said: buy 'Can a Robot be Human?'. You won't regret it. Having said that, would it really, logically, not be the biggest waste of time ever to regret something you haven't done... oh dear :-( I think I'm hooked on philosophical puzzles. I don't think this is the last time I'll be mentioning Mr.Cave and his philosophy puzzles.
See you in the gene pool

Monday, 6 December 2010

Philosophical Puzzles ~ 'Have One On Me!'

POSTED IN:  ~ PhilosophyPuzzles            

"Have One On Me!"

Three intrepid explorers have decided to cross the desert alone. There's Barmy Brian, the world-renowned desert scientist. There's his long suffering wife, Weary Wendy, and their personal assistant, Pretty Petulia.

The expedition gets under way, and Barmy Brian barges on as usual, oblivious to everything except his desert plants, oh, and Pretty Petulia's legs, which he focuses on particularly closely as they make their way across the sand dunes.

Brian is quite happy to have Petulia as his 'bit on the side' and doesn't even think his wife, Wendy, as noticed. But she has.

He also thinks that Petulia is perfectly satisfied to be hobnobbing (and occasionally bed-bugging) with a famous biologist who takes her on trips around the world. Only this time it's different.

Petulia is annoyed that Brian won't leave his wife for her, and has decided to use this trip, away from the watching world, to poison him.

So during the night, as Brian and Wendy lie sleeping, Petulia sneaks over to Brian's water bottle and slips in some poison which she brought along for that very purpose. If she can't have Brian, then no-one's gonna have him!

The dastardly deed done, Petulia goes back to her sleeping bag and falls asleep. A few minutes later Brian's wife wakes up, sees the others sleeping, and decides this is the moment she's been waiting for. She'll finally be rid of this pompous, cheeting swine of a husband!

She, in turn, creeps over to Brian's waterbottle and punctures it, leaving its contents to leak out and be instantly absorbed by the sand. Neither woman has any idea of the actions of the other.

The following morning, everyone wakes us as usual, and the day begins normally. The ladies go off to do their lady things, taking their water bottles with them, nervously remembering the night before and wondering how things will turn out. They get to talking and find they have quite a lot in common, including their dislike of men who want to have their cake and eat it. They decide to go for a long walk, chatting more and more deeply, although all the while carefully avoiding the subject of their shared misdeeds, Brian. Indeed, if you looked at them, you'd think they'd be quite happy to go on talking forever...

When they finally finish talking and walking the whole day has passed and they suddenly 'remembered' Brian and head back to the camp. They find Brian dead on the sand, his empty, poisoned but leaky water bottle lying pathetically by his side.

The question is: who, if anyone, killed Brian? Surely not Petulia, because he didn't drink so much as a drop of poisoned water - it was all gone! But then didn't Wendy equally save him from a horrible death by getting rid of the poisoned water?

If you think you know, or even if you don't, leave a comment here. I'm not saying there's a straightforward answer, but then again I'm not saying there's not! Over to you :-D

See you in the gene pool

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Rape & Marriage, Horse & Carriage

POSTED IN:  ~ ReligionHumour Videos            

"Rape, incest, forced marriage to your rapist... but it's OK, it's in the bible..."

We at the Frog are far from prudes - there's nothing wrong with a bit of fun from time to time between consenting adults.

But there are limits, and in today's world of horrific real-life situations, it sometimes seems sad that these are the very things we glorify in our leisure moments, or which are supposed to tittilate and tempt us to spend.

Anyway, that's not what this posting is about.

It's about a young Romanian lady who makes videos. No, she's not a porn star, although she's certainly beautiful, and also highly intelligent as well as - gasp - a confessed atheist! Whatever next.

Oh yes, and she has a healthy sense of humour into the bargain. So I invite you to discover one of her videos, and I admit I haven't seen any others, in which she reads the bible... and shudders.

She says she used to be religious, by the way, until she actually looked into her beliefs a bit more thoroughly. And that, it seems, was all she needed. And a minimal dose of common sense, of course, which it seems she has retained despite the usual childhood brainwashing.

We're looking forward to discovering some more of her videos in due course, and you can do so with us here at the Frabulous Frog if you like.

I'm afraid I was about to post another of the fabulous (and quite possibly Frabulous too) Pat Condell, but saw a link to her and, well, Pat, much as I love you, I think you can imagine what happened next. But I'll be back to your superb demolitions of the towers on tripe shortly.

Oh, and by the way, I'm including this video here, and ones like it, as much for entertainment purposes as anything else. Seeing as there's no Tooth Fairy, I'm sorry, I mean god, watching people making fun of people who believe falls firmly into the 'humour' category these days. Otherwise we might as well have discussions with Jehovah's Witnesses all day. And what I was really doing with Pat Condell in the first place was trying to find a great video he did making very serious fun of JWs, (or was it Born Agains?) where he was expressing his disappointment at the end of a doorstep speech where the 'Good News' was still the same old same old. Can anyone tell me which one it was?

Y'all have a great day now, I'm just off to watch a few more videos from the Romanian Atheist and I recommend you do too.

Actually, I retract that. I just got sidetracked for about two hours watching some very scary videos about creationist versus evolutionist 'debates' - totally addictive and totally timewasting.

Which is why here at the Frog we don't debate the existence of god itself, but we do talk about those who still believe. At least that's vaguely intellectually stimulating and good for a laugh.

See you in the gene pool

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Great News: I'm Going To Kill You!

POSTED IN:  ~ PhilosophyPuzzles            

"I have some great news: I'm going to kill you!"

You are a sugeon - and you have four patients waiting not to die. If they wait too long they will die, because they all have terminal conditions.
You can't treat them because there is no donor available.

Then you spot your nice young intern - fresh, healthy and... yep, you guessed it: possessing all the organs your four dying patients need.

You invite her into your office with an enormous smile on your face. You announce the happy news to her over a cup of tea: she is going to help four people to live happy, fulfilling lives, and you both jump up and down with excitement.

She follows you cheerfully to the operating theatre, gets washed and puts on her surgical gown. She then lays down on the operating table and you kill her, cutting out her wonderfully healthy organs and transfer them immediately to your four anxiously waiting, dying patients.

The four, well, five really, operations are a great success and your four patients live long happy lives and their families are delighted and consider you a hero.

Instead of four people dying only one has done so. You have just saved three lives. Well done. That's a wonderful story, isn't it?

Or do you think there is something wrong with this reasoning. Over to you in the comments section, if you think there's anything to add here.

See you in the gene pool

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Jehovah's Witness Alert

POSTED IN:  ~ ReligionHumour            

I'm pretty worried right now.

My 13 year-old daughter and her mother, who live in Britain, are slowly but surely being dragged into a sticky web of Jehovah's Witnesses, and I can't do much about it.

I don't know where this video came from, but I think it's pretty accurate on what they believe.

A load of typically loony and nasty stuff in there, even though it's only a cartoon, and you can't help but notice how they linger lovingly over the scenes of the non-JVs being horribly burnt and drowned and stuff. Hilarious.

Here are a couple more videos on the subject. I've included the first one because it looks like a regular Joe telling us in a very down to earth (!) and unsensationalist way about some of the scams and real psychological dangers of this bunch - brainwashing, hypnotism, lose your family, lose the ability to think for yourself, etc. etc.

The second one also looks interesting, but I haven't watched it - the first in a set of seven, quite old I think, exposing the whole organisation for what it is - sick.

Now, where are I going with this? Well, I'm not sure, and I had wanted this posting to be a happy, positive one following on from the Saint Anthony's Tongue piece below. But this is worrying me, and the best I can do is to continue sharing my thoughts and ideas and discoveries over the weeks and months and hope it does some good.

But in order to get a little entertainment value out of all this anyway, and following some great men and women's advice that ridicule and laughing at religion (hence proving to the victims that there's a hell of a lot of us that don't give a damn and maybe they shouldn't either (if only it were that easy), here's some of the bull they believe...

1) The world as we know it is going to end soon.
They've made this prediction over and over again, getting it wrong every time, and now they're a lot vaguer - surprise, surprise... But they have some ridiculous posters to show you what you can look forward to.

2) They believe in the Noah and the Ark story.
Yep, two of all the animals in the world fitting into an ark, a global flood happening (which has been scientifically proved didn't happen), then all reproducing again (so the first generation would have a nice bit of incest going on there - cool!

3) They think that blood transfusions are bad, because like drinking blood, and not allowed by the bible.
Many have died because of this.

4) They don't celebrate any public holidays or birthdays, believing they have pagan roots.
Happy... oh never mind.

5) They think a lot of different stuff about God and Christ than Christians, primarily to mark themselves out as 'different', so that they can have their sick, family-destroying rules.

6) They believe that being a JW overrides everything else, hence the family break-ups and all the rest.

7) However, if you don't follow their wacko rules to the letter you can be punished by being totally shunned by the only family left to you: them.

It goes on and on, and it doesn't get any better. Hence I'm worried. Tower Watch seems like a useful site for worried JWs. Again, I haven't researched it yet. Ironically enough all the Google ads that came up on this site were for the JWs... More later.
See you in the gene pool

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Fancy a Bit of Tongue, Love?

"If there is a god, why did he make his followers so damn stupid?"

This is a lovely quote from message 2229 in the thread on a terrific posting I've just discovered on what is no doubt a great blog I've also just discovered (hey, you have to start somewhere, right?).

So as I share with you my marvellous voyage of discovery of the wonders and idiocies of this world, I thought I would throw that one in for your delectation.

But what I really wanted to pass on was something told to me by The Mole earlier. She'd just finished talking to a rather garulous old friend who she said could talk the hind legs off you know what.

Anyway, seems she's been ill and is going into hospital to have her eyes sorted out. Yuk. That would make me pretty damned queezy, and apparently that's the effect it's having on her too. But it's ok.


She's actually not that bothered about her bad health. And do you know why?

Because this normally rational  and even sane woman is protected by a little piece of cloth that she carries around with her in a special little sack.

And what's so special about this little piece of cloth? Ah well. It's been dragged, ever so lightly, over the dried and preserved tongue of someone known today as Saint Anthony, who died many centuries ago.

A dried tongue. I ask you.

Well here it is, folks. After an extensive search I've found what is supposed to be said tongue, and what a gross, disgusting object it is. Still, let's not let appearances put us off, so let's all bow down to it and put it in a gold case where the heart should be, and 'venerate' and 'adore' and, oh yes, 'worship' it, like the bible says we shouldn't:
Exodus 20
"You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me." ~ God, 330 CE
Oops. Well that's a bit of a bugger then, isn't it. Be cause it looks to me that there be a whole lotta veneratin' and adorin' goin' on down at the Catholics place tonite...

Oh well, on the blog I stole that from there was a comment suggesting that to worship a dead tongue was pretty sick. Luckily, God's words, indeed tongue, can be interpreted in many ways, as a reply proved, from a gentleman who himself had gone through a miraculous transformation just recently:
"St. Anthony’s tongue was found “incorrupt” after his body was exhumed – it was a great sign of the marvelous preaching he exhibited during his life – There is no idolatry going on, as it is simply the glorying in the works of Christ accomplished through the members of His Body – and a marvelling in a true miracle.
I used to be an Evangelical Protestant, but God eventually led me to the Catholic Church, where I have grown in deeper intimacy and union with Our Lord, through the Holy Eucharist – the very Body and Blood of Jesus. I am telling my conversion story here: http:\\catholics..." etc. etc.
You see? It's all been a big, silly old misunderstanding. Phew! Glad we got that one cleared up then. (Another one for the loony bin.) P.S. Is it just me, or does the way they've arranged the 'relic' look just a teeny weeny bit like a, well, y'know... v*g*n*? Just too weird for words, these guys...

See you in the gene pool

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Chaos Theory in a Wingbeat

Imagine this:

You go to buy a train ticket. You find that you are 1 cent short and didn't bother to bring your credit card. Bummer. So to paliate your annoyance at missing the professional conference you were going to where, little did you know, you would have met your future mentor and business partner where your combined skills would have created a revolutionary new product and made you both multi-millionaires... you go the station café for a coffee.

As chance would have it, a Jehovah's Witness is having a break from their 'ministering' but spots a potential victim and says hello.

Your guard is down and as you recount your unfortunate story he makes sympathetic noises and even jokes that if he had been behind you in the queue he would certainly have given you the extra cent you needed for your ticket.

You warm to him, and, to cut a long story short, accept an invitation to a meeting, meet a whole bunch of 'nice' people who welcome you in, you struggle for a long time before eventually 'accepting' their beliefs, spend years standing outside metro stations with religious magazines in your hand getting in everyone's way, renounce your ambition and drive, sink into misery and are overwhelmed by feelings of uselessness and pointlessness, and end up jumping in front of a train on the very same line the train you would have taken travelled, without you, all those unhappy years ago, for the want of a cent, and killing yourself.

This is an example of chaos theory. The idea that a very small change in the initial starting conditions can cause wildly differing results.

A simpler example is that you're in a traffic jam and you miss your train to the airport by 30 seconds. The next train is in 30 minutes. When you eventually get to the airport, you've missed your plane. The next available flight isn't until tomorrow. A 30 second lateness seems to be responsible, ultimately, for a whole day's delay.

Mathematicians call this a non-linear effect, where the initial small thing can lead on to much bigger things.

A classic example is the weather. Why can't we accurately predict what the weather will be more than a few days in advance, if that? Because the system is far too complex to be able to take into account all the starting conditions, and even less so all the possible consequences.

Despite the name, the use of chaos here doesn't imply totally random events. Indeed, chaos theory is about separating totally random phenomena, which are by definition totally unpredictable, from chaotic ones, which have some chance of being predicted correctly?

Still with me? Never mind. There's a fair bit of chaos gone into writing this little article (I predicted that right from the start), and so much the better, I reckon.

The final example I'll give is actually the most famous: the Butterfly Effect. This is a much-quoted and purposely over-the-top scenario where the gentle flapping of a butterfly's wings in one country causes, eventually, a horribly destructive tornado on another continent.

Chaos theory can be applied to many real-world 'systems', from a leaky tap to the orbit of Pluto. The prices of shares and organisations are also seen to experience chaotic behaviour, where small changes can set of a chain reaction of monumental importance, or a major upheaval can go relatively unnoticed.

So there you have it, more than you probably ever need to know about chaos theory; aren't you glad you didn't ask?

See you in the gene pool

How Long is the Coast of Britain?

Benoît B. Mandelbrot, the mathmatician famous for, amongst other things, asking the above question, died in October of this year, 2010. Take note of that middle 'B.', by the way; it's vitally important, as we'll discover in a moment...

The question might seem a funny one, because obviously we know - we can probably just look it up on Wikipedia or something, right?

Well, no, not right, according to Mr.M. It all depends on what you measure. More specifically, what actually is the coast of Britain, or any other country for that matter.

Any map is obviously a simplified representation of reality. If we actually zoomed in on the grey map on the right, we'd discover lots of little nooks and crannies (bays, promontories etc.) which are definitely part of the coastline but which haven't been taken into account, and which would change the numbers.

And let's take an even closer look, insisted Mandelbrot. What if we have a perfectly straight stretch of beach. We can just draw a line from one end to the other and measure it, can't we? Or is that not a gross simplification and should we not be tracing the contours of every pebble, no, every grain of sand which makes up the line where that beach meets the water to have a better figure. And what about the atomic level... Oh dear!

So Mandelbrot worked on this and many other mathmatical problems, coining the terms fractal and his famous Mandelbrot set.

A fractal is a shape which can be split up into parts and those parts are more or less the same as the big shape, and so on, ad absurdum. Mountains and leaves are other real-world examples of this phenomenon.

A Mandelbrot Set is explained here, (what do you mean I haven't got a clue what I'm talking about, of course I do, look:) and this is a some-would-say rather beautiful pictoral representation of one...

Finally, he was well-known for applying his ideas to the real world where unclear boundaries exist, in the realms of economics and information theory. For example trying to explain price fluctuations in markets.

Just a couple more snippets before we go. He had French / American / Polish nationalities. President Sarkozy said that Mandelbrot had "a powerful, original mind that never shied away from innovating and shattering preconceived notions". Sarkozy also added, "His work, developed entirely outside mainstream research, led to modern information theory." He worked in the research department of IBM for 35 years. He has an asteroid (27500 Mandelbrot) named after him. He's got a heap of honours, including the French Legion of Honour (the big one!).

He was also closely linked to Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect, which I'll post about shortly, and... oh yes: apparently the 'B.' in his name doesn't mean anything at all; he invented it just for a laugh, the old dog! Haven't had enough of Mandelbrot yet? Watch this and you will have!
See you in the gene pool
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