Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Have an hour to spend and nothing to do?

Then I suggest watching this video of Richard Dawkins having a chat with Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Two brilliant minds and amazing popularizers of science. DeGrasse Tyson is as charismatic as ever...I'd love to get a chance to meet him. If anyone can get people excited about sicence, it's him.

The Stupid, It Burns....

The ever laughable (and pitiable) Ken Ham has a little segment on the Answers In Genesis website called Kids Answers, where he takes time out of his busy day of ignoring evidence and thinking up new ways to sidestep logic and reason to answer questions sent to him by children. A little rascal named Brendon asked him a very good question that points out just one aspect of the absurdity that Young Earth creationists believe, and Ham has responded with this little gem (emphasis mine):

Q-If God created the world 6,000 years ago or so, why are stars millions of light years away?

A-Brendon, what a question! Yes, we know from the dates God gives us in the Bible that He did create the whole universe about 6,000 years ago. When we hear the term light-year, we need to realize it is not a measure of time but a measure of distance, telling us how far away something is. Distant stars and galaxies might be millions of light-years away, but that doesn’t mean that it took millions of years for the light to get here, it just means it is really far away!

Really, Ken? Way to show that you really are absolutely ignorant. I'm sure I don't need to explain it to anyone reading this, but a lightyear is defined as the distance that light travels in one year. That's why it's called a light year. It takes one year for light to travel one lightyear, it takes 10 years for it to travel ten lightyears, and so on. So yes, if we observe an object a million lightyears away, it means precisely that it took the light a million years to reach us.

Do creationists like Ham really want to be taken seriously? Because time and time again they display such a complete dearth of understanding even the most simple and fundamental concepts of science. There's hardly a better example than that above.

Super nerdy Star Wars-geek aside: Ham isn't the only one who confuses measurements of space and time - George Lucas is guilty of this as well! In Star Wars: A New Hope, Luke and Obi-wan meet Han Solo in the Mos Eisley cantina for the first time. When Luke admits he's never heard of the Millennium Falcon, Han tells him that the Falcon completed the Kessel Run in "less than twelve parsecs", obviously meaning to brag that he was able to complete the course quicker than any other pilot. However, a parsec is a measurement of distance, equal to 3.26 lightyears, and not a measurement of time.

Hardcore Star Wars nerds such as myself, though, will argue that what Han meant was that he was able to navigate the course by taking a shorter route that took him dangerously close to a black hole instead of flying the entire 18 parsec course. He was thus bragging about his piloting skills rather than his speed.

Monday, 4 October 2010

2010 Nobel in Medicine/Physiology goes to...

Robert Edwards for his work on the development of in vitro fertilization.

This came as a bit of a surprise, since his work on IVF was completed some 3 decades ago, and the prize is generally given to work done in the last 10 years.

Anyway, it is work that is worthy of a Nobel prize, if a bit unexpected. Now to guess who wins the prize in Physics tomorrow...