Saturday, May 31, 2008

My Book is Soon to be Available in Swedish

I found out today that my book, The Bible’s Most Fascinating People, has been translated into Swedish; the title of the book in that language is “The Apostles and Prophets.” The translation was done by someone named Gunhild Winqvist Hollman.

The website, translated by Google from Swedish that offers it for sale in Sweden is:

The Apostles and Prophets (You'll have to click the hyperlink "The Apostles and Prophets" to see the cover of the book and other details.)

The original website, in Swedish is:

Apostlar och profeter

I wonder what other languages my book has been translated into? I can’t imagine Swedish is the only one. I had not anticipated such a world wide audience for my book.

Shuttle Discovery Launched Today

The Space Shuttle Discovery launched on time this afternoon on a beautiful sunny afternoon in Florida. It is taking the Kibo, Japan's laboratory, to the International Space Station.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Space Friday

The Space Shuttle Discovery is set to launch on Saturday afternoon about 2 PM PDT. It will be delivering the Japanese Kibo laboratory to the International Space Station, the largest of the space station modules to be taken to orbit. It is 37 feet long and 14 feet in diameter. It cost Japan about 1 billion dollars to build. Already, the International Space Station has the living space of a four bedroom house; on the exterior, it is about as long as a football field. This will simply add to the enormity of the space structure, which is by far the largest object human beings have ever built in space.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix is working perfectly on Mars, sending back images and flexing its 8 foot robot arm preparing to start digging into the permafrost in search of evidence of life. Visit the official JPL website for the Phoenix.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Physicist Quote of the Day

The paradox is only a conflict between reality and your feeling what reality ought to be

Richard P. Feynman

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Does Time Run Backward in Other Universes

Scientific American currently has an interesting article, Does Time Run Backward in Other Univeres, written by Sean M. Carroll:

The universe does not look right. That may seem like a strange thing to say, given that cosmologists have very little standard for comparison. How do we know what the universe is supposed to look like? Nevertheless, over the years we have developed a strong intuition for what counts as “natural”—and the universe we see does not qualify.

Make no mistake: cosmologists have put together an incredibly successful picture of what the universe is made of and how it has evolved. Some 14 billion years ago the cosmos was hotter and denser than the interior of a star, and since then it has been cooling off and thinning out as the fabric of space expands. This picture accounts for just about every observation we have made, but a number of unusual features, especially in the early universe, suggest that there is more to the story than we understand.

Among the unnatural aspects of the universe, one stands out: time asymmetry. The microscopic laws of physics that underlie the behavior of the universe do not distinguish between past and future, yet the early universe—hot, dense, homogeneous—is completely different from today’s—cool, dilute, lumpy. The universe started off orderly and has been getting increasingly disorderly ever since. The asymmetry of time, the arrow that points from past to future, plays an unmistakable role in our everyday lives: it accounts for why we cannot turn an omelet into an egg, why ice cubes never spontaneously unmelt in a glass of water, and why we remember the past but not the future. And the origin of the asymmetry we experience can be traced all the way back to the orderliness of the universe near the big bang. Every time you break an egg, you are doing observational cosmology.

The arrow of time is arguably the most blatant feature of the universe that cosmologists are currently at an utter loss to explain. Increasingly, however, this puzzle about the universe we observe hints at the existence of a much larger spacetime we do not observe. It adds support to the notion that we are part of a multiverse whose dynamics help to explain the seemingly unnatural features of our local vicinity....

It's a long article, but very interesting.

Physicist Quote of the Day

You say you are a nameless man. You are not to your wife and to your child. You will not long remain so to your immediate colleagues if you can answer their simple questions when they come into your office. You are not nameless to me. Do not remain nameless to yourself — it is too sad a way to be. Know your place in the world and evaluate yourself fairly, not in terms of the naïve ideals of your own youth, nor in terms of what you erroneously imagine your teacher's ideals are.

Richard Feynman, Letter from Feynman to Koichi Mano (3 February 1966)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Quantum Weirdness

Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood a single word.
Niels Bohr

Science News reports on an odd experiement:

There’s no way around it: The nature of light seems different depending on how it’s observed. Light can act like a particle or wave, and all shades of gray in between. Now, physicists have the most dramatic demonstration yet that this range of behaviors between wave and particles really is unavoidable, and that light itself doesn’t know what it is while it’s propagating....

“You can change choices which, common sense says, had to be made at the beginning,” comments Wojciech Zurek of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. “In some sense, you can rewrite the past by what you measure now.”

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Phoenix Has Landed

The Phoenix space probe has successfully touched down on Mars in the Martian Arctic. Touchdown occured at 4:53 PM PDT.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.

Gregory Benford, known as Benford's law of controversy

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Letter in the LA Times

Sometimes I get upset enough to write a letter to the Los Angeles Times. I've been subscribing to it for over thirty years now and most of the letters I write get published; they seem to like my style (actually, it's relatively easy: keep the letter short, say something inflamatory, and make sure you're responding to something from the front page). In any case, I responded on Monday to an article on the front page of the paper and they published what I wrote today:

Regarding the front page article, News Analysis: Arabs feel bias in Bush's Visit to Mideast (Monday, May 19, 2008): you’ve got to be kidding! The article points out that Bush praised Israel during his visit to celebrate their 60th anniversary, but that the “mood was markedly different” when he addressed the Arab nations. And this is held up as an example of bias? Some simple questions: do women have equal rights in the Arab nations? What is the status of the gay community in Arab nations? What about the status of religious freedom? How about freedom of the press and freedom of speech? Was there anything inaccurate in the president’s criticisms? Then why do you make it out to be a bad thing for the president to point out that those Arab countries remain repressive and backward? And in answer to the inevitable complaint about the Palestinians, another simple question: if I point out that murdering your brother is a bad thing, does your retort about my horse stealing somehow justify your murderous behavior? The only real bias I see here is in the mind of the journalist responsible for this article and in the newspaper that printed it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

'You're not going to die, are you sir?' he said.
'Of course I am. Everyone is. That's what being alive is all about.'

Terry Pratchett, Truckers

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quote for the Day

I wonder whether any other generation has seen such astounding revolutions of data and values as those through which we have lived. Scarcely anything material or established which I was brought up to believe was permanent and vital, has lasted. Everything I was sure or taught to be sure was impossible, has happened.

Winston Churchill, Roving Commission: My Early Life (1930)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Humor for a Monday

Even if you don't know Modern Hebrew, I think you'll still find this video very funny:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

I wonder how many men, hiding their youngness, rise as I do, Saturday mornings, filled with the hope that Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam and Daffy Duck will be there waiting as our one true always and forever salvation?

Ray Bradbury, "Why Cartoons Are Forever", Los Angeles Times (December 3, 1989)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Who We'd Really Like to Vote For

McClane (of the Die Hard movies) for President! (obviously, some one has way too much time on his/her hands)

Official Israeli Tourism Commercials

Every year at Passover, a child asks the question: "How is this night different from all the others?" To paraphrase this question, "How is Israel different from all the other countries of the Middle East?"

(WARNING: content may offend some people)


(WARNING: contains bad language and blasphemy and thus may offend an even larger group of people)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Modern Israel's 60th Anniversary

In 1947, the United Nations approved the partition of the Mandate of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Arab League rejected the two-state plan and Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq launched a massive military attack designed to drive the Jews into the Mediterranean. But on May 14, 1948, the Jewish provisional government declared Israel's independence and the nascent country was able to defeat the combined armies that invaded. Meanwhile, Jordan had taken control of the West Bank and Egypt took control of Gaza. The Palestinians living in those regions did not attack Jordan or Egypt, nor did they demand their independence nor complain that they were being oppressed or occupied by foreign imperialists.

The current issue of Commentary Magazine responds to current criticism of the only democratic and free country in the Middle East:
Sixty years after its establishment by an internationally recognized act of self-determination, Israel remains the only state in the world that is subjected to a constant outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and blood libels; whose policies and actions are obsessively condemned by the international community; and whose right to exist is constantly debated and challenged not only by its Arab enemies but by segments of advanced opinion in the West.

During the past decade or so, the actual elimination of the Jewish state has become a cause célèbre among many of these educated Westerners. The “one-state solution,” as it is called, is a euphemistic formula proposing the replacement of Israel by a state, theoretically comprising the whole of historic Palestine, in which Jews will be reduced to the status of a permanent minority. Only this, it is said, can expiate the “original sin” of Israel’s founding, an act built (in the words of one critic) “on the ruins of Arab Palestine” and achieved through the deliberate and aggressive dispossession of its native population.

Read the whole article: 1948, Israel, and the Palestinians: Annotated Text, by Efraim Karsh

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Science Fiction Author Quote of the Day

I will use big words from time to time, the meanings of which I may only vaguely perceive, in hopes such cupidity will send you scampering to your dictionary: I will call such behavior "public service."

Harlan Ellison

Monday, May 12, 2008

Star Trek Quote for the Day

Villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish, spreading fear in the name of righteousness.

Jean-Luc Picard, The Drumhead, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Friday, May 09, 2008

Apocalypse Now

A list of failed end-time prophesies is a rather fascinating time-waster for a lazy Spring Friday:

A Brief History of the Apocalypse

Klingon Proverb for a Friday

A fool and his head are soon parted.

The Final Reflection, John M. Ford

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Klingon Proverb of the Day

To those who are overly cautious, everything is impossible.

Kahless the Unforgettable

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Star Trek Quote for the Day

If winning is not important, why keep score?

Worf, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Slate asks: "Does Christian Pop Culture Have To Be So Wretched?"

Interesting article in the online magazine Slate by Hanna Rosin entitled, "Pop Goes Christianity: The deep contradictions of Christian popular culture":

The entertainers in Radosh's book complain about watchdog groups that count the number of times a song mentions Jesus or about the lockstep political agenda a Christian audience expects. They complain about promoting an "adolescent theology" of Christian rock, as one calls it, where they "just can't get over how darned cool it was that Jesus sacrificed himself." In his interview with Radosh, Powell pulled out an imitation of a 1982 New Wave pop song with the lyrics; "You'll have to excuse us/ We're in love with Jesus." This, he explained, was the equivalent of a black-velvet painting of Elvis. Only it's more offensive, because it's asking the listener to base his whole life around an insipid message and terrible quality music.

For faith, the results can be dangerous. A young Christian can get the idea that her religion is a tinny, desperate thing that can't compete with the secular culture. A Christian friend who'd grown up totally sheltered once wrote to me that the first time he heard a Top 40 station he was horrified, and not because of the racy lyrics: "Suddenly, my lifelong suspicions became crystal clear," he wrote. "Christian subculture was nothing but a commercialized rip-off of the mainstream, done with wretched quality and an apocryphal insistence on the sanitization of reality."

It's an extended review/discussion of a book by Daniel Radosh called, Rapture Ready!Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture.

Kepler Mission

Once again, NASA offers the chance to send your name into space. According to NASA:

“Kepler is NASA's first mission capable of detecting Earth-size and smaller planets in the habitable zone of solar-like stars other than our own. The spacecraft is planned to be launched from Kennedy Space Center in February 2009. The spacecraft will be launched into orbit around the Sun, not the Earth, with an orbital period of 372 days. The spacecraft will slowly drift away from the Earth, such that in about 25 years it will be half an Earth orbit away, 300 million kilometers distant from the Earth, passing behind the Sun as viewed from Earth.”

Visit Kepler Mission: A Search for Habitable Planetsbefore November 1, 2008 to add your name to a space-bound DVD.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Quote for the Day

You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Friday, May 02, 2008

Send Yourself to the Moon

Or at least you can send your name there. Just go to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Page and give NASA your name. Not only will your name get to make a long trip, you'll get a nice certificate suitable for framing. It's free! And you have until June 27, 2008 to sign on. Your name is then scheduled to be launched October 31, 2008 aboard an Atlas V rocket.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is designed to go into a polar orbit of the moon. It's mission is set to last a minimum of one Earth year. An optional extended phase of the mission (up to five years) could provide a communications relay for other future ground lunar missions, such as a moon lander or rover.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Quote for the Day

In religion and politics, people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination.

Mark Twain