Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Idiot Rants Against Large Hadron Collider

Stupid people on the Internet have been railing against the Large Hadron Collider for years, but this guy takes it to a whole new level. Apparently, he sees a particle accelerator developed by many nations working together as the new incarnation of the Biblical Tower of Babel, which somehow means that God is going to destroy us all for using it.

With this in mind, an excitable and overly sincere Zach Drew draws attention to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel in the book of Genesis where God scattered arrogant knowledge seekers across the land, speaking in different languages.

“What if I told you, again, today, the ancient story of the Tower of Babel is being repeated,” Drew ominously intoned. “Isn’t it interesting that people from all around the world have once again come together to build the largest machine that man has ever constructed? They say it is for the purpose of discovering the God particle. This mystery particle that essentially holds the entire universe together and, if found, would explain our very existence.”

“This insane machine? It’s called CERN,” he continued. “The Large Hadron Collider. The Tower of Babel. The whole world came together to work on it… The people at the Tower of Babel’s goal was also to reach a portal, or a gateway, into the sky, or into another dimension where God dwells.”

Here's the thing - "god particle" is basically tongue-in-cheek quantum physics terminology, like calling quarks "charm" and "strange." The term was coined for the Higgs Boson because it was the last particle needed to complete the standard model of quantum physics. That's it. Nobody - and I mean nobody - thinks that the Higgs Boson is an actual deity that physicists should worship or something. The only way it "explains our existence" is that detecting it proves the standard model. It has nothing to do with "detecting God" because religion is not science.

Now it doesn't help matters that Dan Brown passed along that same misinterpretation to some of his characters in Angels & Demons, which became a super-best-seller after people discovered The Da Vinci Code. Thanks to the former book, many ignorant people leaped to the conclusion that "detecting God" was what the physicists were on about. But it also seems to be stock in trade for evangelicals to interpret everything in pop culture as literally as possible. It seems that the concept of metaphor is totally lost on them.

At the same time, though, that's what makes this argument so confusing. In the Bible story, God destroys the tower, not humanity, and makes everyone speak different languages. So if the Large Hadron Collider is literally the Tower of Babel, that means God should destroy the collider and make everyone speak different languages - except, of course, that many of the scientists who work at CERN are from different countries and already do.

In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the core of the Tower of Babel story was true. When you build a really tall tower in the middle of the desert, what happens? It's the highest point, so of course it gets struck by lightning over and over again. Very massive stone structures like the Great Pyramid can absorb lightning strikes, but any sort of tower with a more spindly and less robust design will be destroyed in short order. So as far as ancient people would have seen it, they built a really tall tower and God zapped it in an impressive manner.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Not Something You See Every Day

These folks are definitely not the Teen Exorcist Squad. But police were surprised when they were called to a public park on a disturbance and found a Texas couple performing what appeared to be an exorcism on a third woman, who was being held on the ground while the couple demanded that Satan depart from her.

“They start getting louder and louder and louder, she was on the ground and they were standing over her with hands on her and screaming Satan I demand that you depart and it went on and on and on, but it was very bizarre!” said one bystander who noticed the religious ritual being performed in public at Memorial Gardens Park.

Police who arrived at the scene said their hands were tied because exorcisms are not against the law and no one was injured. According to witnesses, the three people were sitting on a park bench speaking before the exorcism commenced. One woman, who reads her Bible in the park, said the three got right into it with few formalities beforehand, disrupting her from her daily ritual.

This would probably qualify as assault or something similar if the woman being exorcised decided to press charges, but it sounds like she declined to do so - which makes it totally legal. Just totally weird, at least the way a lot of evangelicals do it. Instead of an actual ritual, there's a lot of yelling at Satan kind of like what you would see in a horror film.

There's no word on whether the exorcism worked, and the names of the participants have not been released so there's no way to follow up. I just hope that the woman got what she was looking for from the experience.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

That's One Way To Do It!

After the news came out that The Satanic Temple had lost the original venue for the unveiling of their Baphomet statue in Detroit, emboldened conservative Christians announced various plans to protest and disrupt the event at its new location, wherever that turned out to be. But the event promoters came up with an clever and hilarious way to weed them out, and the unveiling went off without a hitch.

First, taking a hint from rave culture, they kept the location secret to the public. Anyone wanting to attend had to go to the ticketing location in person to buy tickets, and only then would they receive the site of the unveiling. Better still, before anyone could buy a ticket and obtain the location, they had to sign their soul over to Satan. Predictably, no protesters made it to the event. Most likely none of them wanted to take the chance that signing might have real spiritual consequences.

Any conservative who wanted to ruin the Satanic Temple’s party would have had to sign a Transfer of Soul Agreement literally signing their eternal soul over to Satan. Here’s the text of that agreement:

"I agree that by signing this document under any name, given or adopted, actual or pseudonymous, I am hereby avowing my soul to Satan (aka Abbadon, aka Lucifer, aka Beelzebub, aka The Antichrist). I do so knowing that He (aka The Fallen One, aka The Father of Lies) or any of His representatives may choose to collect my eternal soul at any time, with or without notice. I understand that my signature or mark representing any name, real or made up, upon these papers constitutes a lasting and eternal contract, and that there will be no further negotiations on the matter of my eternal soul."

Predictably, with ingenious measures put in place, the whole event happened without a single problem and the long-awaited unveiling of the statue finally occurred in all its glory sealed by a kiss between the two men who removed the sheet covering it.

Now as I've mentioned before, Satanic Temple members are mostly LaVey Satanists who don't literally believe in an actual being named Satan who could take your soul. For that matter, my guess is that most of them don't even believe that "the soul" exists. But the point is that the sort of fundamentalist Christians who would protest the statue do. Apparently, they even fear that simply signing a form could place theirs in jeopardy.

I expect we may see this tactic adopted again at other events, since it worked so well this time around. What's so amusing about it is that nobody takes it seriously aside from the exact people that the "contract" is designed to exclude. Even from a magical standpoint you can't really sell your soul. The popular fiction surrounding the idea is based on the lore of pacts with spirits, which can be magically effective. But spirits also know that "the soul" is not a thing that can be traded.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sturgeon or Catfish?

A while back I posted a series of articles suggesting that the Loch Ness Monster might be a sturgeon. We pretty much know at this point that it has to be a fish, as any air-breathing mammal or reptile would be surfacing often. Likewise, the fact that a sonar scan of the loch revealed no large creatures means that the only way it could have evaded detection is to have sat on the bottom of the lake or on a ledge. A diver in the 1970's reported seeing something that looked like "an enormous frog," which I contended could have been a sturgeon seen from the front.

While all of that adds up, sturgeons are not known to inhabit the loch. However, as it turns out there's another species of fish that grows quite large, hides on lake bottoms, and could easily look like a giant frog seen from the front. That fish is the Wels Catfish. The picture above shows one of the largest ever caught, measuring 8 feet 8 inches and weighing in at 280 pounds. And we also know that Wels Catfish can be found in the loch, because they were introduced as sport fish during the Victorian era.

Steve Feltham, who has searched for a solution to the Loch Ness mystery for almost 25 years, recently commented that he believes a Wels Catfish is probably the leading explanation at this time. Some newspapers reported this as an admission that he was giving up the hunt, but Feltham fired back that this was not the case and he intends to keep investigating.

Last week, the Times newspaper reported that Steve Feltham, who gave up his job, house and girlfriend 24 years ago to look for the creature full-time, had abandoned his long quest, causing ripples among monster-lovers across the world.

But Feltham says he has no intention of quitting his hunt for the prehistoric beast, which legend has it lurks beneath the deep, dark waters of the lake in northern Scotland, although his current best guess is that "Nessie" is just a large catfish.

"It's still a massive world-class mystery," Feltham, who lives in a van on the shores of the loch, told Reuters. "It's been a life-long passion for me and I'm dedicated to being here and being fully involved in this whole hunt. I couldn't be more content doing anything else."

Feltham said he suspected Nessie was most likely to be a large Wels catfish, a native European fish that can grow up to 13 ft (4 meters) long. Victorians introduced the fish to the loch near Inverness to provide sport. "At the moment, a Wels catfish ticks more of the boxes than any of the other contenders for the explanation," he said.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Don't Climb the Monster!

Minne the Lake Creature, a fortean sculpture that moves to a different lake in Minneapolis every summer, is being taken in early from Lake Calhoun this year. The sculpture is made from fiberglass and patterned after the famous surgeon's photo of the Loch Ness monster, which was revealed as a hoax back in 1994.

The photo was faked in 1934 using a tiny model of the creature, but the sculptors decided to build one that was life-sized for display. However, the problem this year is that Calhoun is a lake with a lot of canoe, kayak, and other un-motorized boat traffic, and people just couldn't resist the urge to paddle or swim out to the sculpture and climb all over it.

Minne is the Twin Cities’ only annual floating sculpture. The Parks Foundation first introduced Minneapolis to the Lake Creature in 2009, purchased the sculpture in 2010, and today manages Facebook and Twitter personas (@LakeCreature), which have grown to nearly 5,000 followers combined.

In May, the Parks Foundation invited the public to choose Minne’s 2015 aquatic abode; Lake Calhoun won in a popular vote. At more than five million visits annually, the Chain of Lakes Regional Park is one of the most popular destinations in Minneapolis, with people of all ages and cultures taking part in both land and water activities. Lake Calhoun is the most active in the regional park and boasts biking and walking trails, three beaches, a yacht club, watercraft rental and a restaurant. Minne’s Loch Ness Monster-like appearance created moments of unexpected whimsy for park-goers, and the sculpture quickly became a must-see selfie destination for trail users and paddlers.

“Lake Calhoun embraced Minne the Lake Creature like no other lake – a bit too literally, at times,” says Tom Evers, Executive Director of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, who notes that as many as three people at a time were witnessed climbing on the Lake Creature this summer. “We want people to engage with Minne from a safe distance because it’s a sculpture, not a climbing structure. It’s better for both Minne and Minneapolitans.”

And this is why we can't have nice things, folks. A handful of idiots can ruin it for everyone else with comparative ease. I suppose I could be smug that nothing like this happened when the statue was put on display in Powderhorn Lake near my home, but the reality is that Powderhorn doesn't have anywhere near the traffic Calhoun does. So statistically speaking, with more people in the water the dumbass subset was bound to emerge.

This makes me sad, both because I won't be able to see the monster for the rest of the summer and because too many of my fellow humans either just don't give a damn or fail to understand that artwork is generally not designed for climbing. See you next year, Minne! Hopefully wherever you wind up folks will treat you better.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Satanic Temple Statue Faces Opposition

What, again? Of course! Now that the Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capital must come down, the Baphomet statue created by The Satanic Temple as a counterpoint has been looking for a new home. The group now plans to unveil the statue in Detroit - that is, if Christian extremists don't succeed in preventing them from doing so.

The statue’s first home in Detroit was to have been Bert’s Market Place, but owner Bert Dearing returned the Satanic Temple’s rental fee after he learned that the group was affiliated with satanists. “When I rented the place, I just thought it was a church,” he told ABC News. “I didn’t know about the unveiling of a statue. We weren’t aware they were into devil worshipping.”

The Satanic Temple’s co-founder Lucien Greaves isn’t buying that, because as he told Hemant Mehta Thursday evening, “the very contract specified that we are the Satanic Temple.”

Greaves believes that Dearing backed out because of pressure from local Christian groups — pressure that would make any venue wary of hosting the unveiling. “IT IS EVERY CHRISTIAN’S DUTY TO DESTROY THIS IF YOU SEE IT DESTROY THIS STATUE DESTROY THIS STATUE DESTROY THIS STATUE” reads one Facebook post Greaves provided to Mehta. “Let’s burn the statue down!” reads another.

The person responsible for this campaign, Greaves told Salon, is most likely Pastor David Bullock of the St. Matthew Baptist Church. “The last thing we need — in a city where we’re fighting against violence and fighting against economic problems and unemployment and the water crisis — is a statue dedicated to Satan right downtown,” Bullock told Christianity Today earlier this week.

It really does take a special kind of stupid to not realize that when you rent to a group that calls itself The Satanic Temple, you might very well be renting to a Satanic temple. It's funny how these expressions for communicating information called "words" work. To be fair, though, Dearing is almost certainly feigning ignorance in order to present himself as innocent in the eyes of those opposing the group.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Illuminati = Boredom

I think I've posted the argument here before that supposed "Illuminati symbols" in broadcast media are more likely to be the result of people who are just bored rather than any sort of sweeping worldwide conspiracy. Now the author of this article may have found the smoking gun - a television graphics designer who started inserting such symbols into graphics and animations out of boredom and frustration with the political leanings of the network bosses.

I started fucking around with the graphics packages when I leveled up from making generic logos to getting more creative projects like designing the holiday animations and elements for a special pre-produced investigative news segment or special war report.

I’d find a way to incorporate something in the graphics, usually small and out of the way—maybe a reference to the Illuminati or Freemasonry—just to fuck with anyone who noticed it. I also liked using symbols created by John Dee, who was a 16th century alchemist and occultist, like the esoteric Monas Hieroglyphica, or just simple, but well-known things like the pentagram or the eye in the pyramid.

If there really were a secret conspiracy, why would they broadcast their symbols in news reports? Secret conspiracies are supposed to be, you know, secret. And let's face it - the people who spot these things aren't usually the sharpest tools in the shed, so I can't imagine how anyone would expect them to go undetected. There's the whole idea that the symbols constitute some sort of mind control technique, except that experimental psychology has completely debunked the notion of anything like that having an effect, and also that clearly they're not doing anything to the conspiracy enthusiasts who notice them.

A bored graphic designer, though? That totally makes sense.