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Moving [Apr. 10th, 2009|02:53 pm]
This will be one of my last entries here. I'll still be following friends on Livejournal. I just want more control of things. I'm moving to:
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Fine Tuning [Apr. 6th, 2009|01:19 pm]
An joint article with Oystein Olgaroy.
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Bunting does it again [Apr. 6th, 2009|09:00 am]
Madeline Bunting is at it again, constructing straw men with passion and efficiency:

The argument she constructs is tediously simplistic: that the so-called "new atheists" are out to wreck all belief in myth, and destroy the power of stories, restricting what people can say, and think, removing any moral foundation from their lives.
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Darwin was Wrong (about species) [Apr. 5th, 2009|10:55 pm]
I could not resist picking up a recent and controversial New Scientist front page article title to introduce a post about species.
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Dread Fear of the Comedy Song [Apr. 3rd, 2009|11:12 pm]
A new series of "4 stands up" has started. Comedy is a significant part of my life. I listen to radio during much of the time that I am working, and I tune in to comedy both on radio and on TV via the BBC iPlayer. I have already mentioned my huge admiration for Stewart Lee, and his excellent "Comedy Vehicle" programme. But, over the years, nothing makes me reach for the "off" switch faster than the announcement that a funny song follows.
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The Strangeness of Charged Black Holes [Apr. 3rd, 2009|05:58 pm]
No force can resist the collapse of dense enough material into a black hole. If there is less material it may form some strange structures, like neutron stars. There may even be a further stable point, called a "quark star". But in the end, with enough mass, a black hole will form, and collapse of everything to a quantum point - the "singularity" at the centre cannot be resisted. Or perhaps not.
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Under Pressure [Apr. 2nd, 2009|05:43 pm]
A BIG post on the wonderful objects that are charged black holes is coming up. To prepare for that, I need to discuss something that at first sight seems rather surprising about Einstein's gravity. It does not just take into account the mass of an object, but also pressure. This seems very odd (it did to me), but there is a simple explanation, which leads to some very strange outcomes.
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Black hole journeys (1) [Apr. 1st, 2009|09:36 pm]
Some wonderful video simulations of what it looks like to fall into a black hole have been released. I would suggest selecting the first video to start with: It is a Schwarzchild black hole - no spin, no electric charge. Things get very distorted. You don't see your destination - the centre of the black hole, as no light can reach you from it. What you see is a flat plane of blackness, as tidal forces and your velocity distort everything into a ring of light around you until you are ripped apart. This is a great site - enjoy:
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OK, I Confess [Apr. 1st, 2009|08:40 pm]
Sorry if I misled anyone. If I really was pressed to identify with a religion, I could say I was a Zen or Theravadin Buddhist, but I don't. The clue that should have given away the joke was the mention of Mahayana Buddhism, which embodies so much of the supernaturalism I reject.

This prank was a response to a couple of posts on Pharyngula.

Someone posted a positive response a comment of mine on Russell Blackford's blog about a reported statement from the Buddha that public statements of faith are political acts. A response to that response said "you aren't going all Buddhist on us, are you?". That attitude needed mocking - that reporting the supposed words of a historical figure associated with religion makes one subject to the accusation of being religious. Even agreeing with the ideas of such a historical figure does not make one religious, especially when the ideas one is agreeing with are about rationality and the rejection of dogma. My comment was mean to indicate the complexity and irony of ideas: that followers of a possibly historical figure we consider religious are trying to promote the idea that faith is not just an intellectual problem, but a problem for the functioning of society. This is yet another way that the idea of religion as most people understand it is a mass of self-destructive contradictions.

I am no more Buddhist for finding what the Buddha said interesting than the historian David Starkey is a Tudor for finding the life of Henry VIII a subject to study.
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The Right Day [Apr. 1st, 2009|12:00 pm]
This has been coming for some time. I have decided to convert fully to Mahayana Buddhism. I think it needs to be more than just the hard atheist (Theravadin/Zen) version I have been discussing in recent posts. Most people need emotional support so some "belief in belief" is necessary. There is no need to move into support for the supernatural, just to accept that the physical world may be richer than we currently believe. The way to avoid the problem of compatibility is to consider that science explores a subset of that wider world. Providing we are sceptical about our beliefs, there can be little problem. This is the right time for such an announcement, I feel.
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