Saturday, 22 June 2019

WANKAS



My posts have become very serious and cerebral of late. I’ve way too much time on my hands so I  tend to contemplate and write about grave matters and topics. There was a time when this blog was exceedingly silly and full of hilarious inanity and banality; replete with daring do tales of Arthur Askey and his arch-nemesis, George Formby and his grill. Tis time to redress the balance and issue forth a none too sensible post. This time I have chosen the highly fertile area of the ‘Album Cover’ genre. The album cover is the artist’s attempt to convey the quintessence of the contents therein. This is something not easy to do well. For every tasteful and resplendent cover, such as ‘Rumours’, we see an abundance of dross put forth by shit performers. I’ve attempted to put together a gaggle of covers which are piss poor at best culminating in the mildly disturbing, at worst. Some of the ‘artists’ gathered here are clearly not well and some, are incredibly unphotogenic. Read on and weep……..    



Why didn't he call himself, Richard or Rick? 


Indeed Sir, if you had been crucified you wouldn't be able to do the thing suggested in your name. At least not in public.


Oh dear, what an unfortunate name. I suspect his time at school was not a happy time. Kids can be really cruel about this sort of thing. Perhaps this is why this fella does not look too happy? Or could it be because he married the ugliest woman in Swansea? Looking at the 'fruit of the loins' from this union I can truly believe in retrogressive evolution. Looks like someone has been pissing in the gene pool.



Shit on a stick. I don't know about going back to Miami. I would think going back to the hairdresser would be the better of the two options. Tis a complete ecosystem sporting its own rainforest, fauna and a slug called Gerald. This is just as well as the lacquer needed to keep this concoction aloft must have released enough CFC gas to destroy the Brazilian rainforest. Why do I keep thinking of candyfloss?



I'm all for experimentation and I've certainly lived a life to the full (no shit, Flaxen). But even I find this menage a trois mildly disturbing. Apart from the dominant-submissive vibe going on, the dog looks like he's done this before (how disturbing). Like the peanut butter Rover has to lick up later, this cover is tasteless. Nuff said.



Get into da pot. I'm sure the social warrior brigade, rabid lefties and other assorted mirthless nerks will be deeply offended by this stereotypical image of our dusky brethren. On a practical/prosaic note: It is totally unfeasible that the 'duskies' would be interested in eating an aged white woman- she would be far too tough and would take a lot of boiling. Best to fry a few local, tender, young virgins. I'm sure they are easy to obtain on the black market, just a spear chuck away from the Zambezi river. A gentle pan fry would undoubtedly do the trick especially if you add a few mushrooms and shallots. Apparently, it tastes like pork. Arse.  



This is an album cover from a 'group' called Menudo. They are interesting because they keep regenerating. The band never dies. As a member of the group ages, they are replaced by a younger boy. Tis a metaphor for life, perhaps. As far as I'm concerned they look like a bunch of greasy adolescent gypos (Hola!). Am I being racist? Of course, I am. However, I live in a country which pays lip service to the right of free speech and more importantly I'm imbued with a wicked sense of humour. Hola! On an unrelated point: I also like burning stuff.   


Of course, he touched you - Jimmy, go tell it to the police and child services. The Pastor is a bad seed and needs to be serving 20 to 30 in the local penitentiary. There he can be the focus of the romantic attention of his cellmate, Big Bad Bubba, the only pigmented albino in the world. Actually, that is not totally correct as I'm aware of a few other pigmented albinos. I see albinos, everywhere.
Why is it that religious album covers are so fucking creepy?



Mein Gott! Tis the Zombie Trio coming to eat your takeaway of fish and chips (sans brains) if you let them. This family needs to get out more, especially the son. Might be a good idea if he stopped eating all those purloined fish and chips. Pray for anorexia and a personality you fucking weirdo. Mom needs to cut down on the nutritional
 intake as well.


Can I borrow a cup of sugar? NO, FUCK OFF. I don't give gratuities to strange folk with dead soulless eyes and bad haircuts. Get ye to a barber, but not the one that Mr Ecosystem (see above) goes to. Have a nice short back and sides with a side salad of self-respect. And stop looking like a serial killer.



Poor Jenny didn't get the supper on the table on time. What do ya expect when a man comes home after a hard day's graft and doesn't get a hot meal on the table. Jenny has been idling away on the internet again when she should have been slaving over a hot oven. She's lucky he didn't rupture her spleen. Next time Jenny, next time......... 




Look Jimmy's all grown up and still been touched. Methinks he likes it now. C'mon Jimmy you be a full grown man, tell him/them to stop! I'm starting to get bored now. Perhaps one last album before bedtime.



We have identified the miscreants messing with young/old Jimmy! To be honest they look like the usual suspects. Would you hire this quartet as baby sitters? I say, hang them all and hang them high. The Lord can sort out the guilty from the innocent. It's okay Jimmy, the nightmares will stop now.


That's enough tasteless album covers and equally tasteless commentary. Well, I'm off to bed to sleep the sleep of the righteous and just. Toodly Pip for now.












Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Jesus of History: Brief Introductory Notes

Jesus of Faith?

Caveat: I am not a historian or biblical scholar. I have an amateur interest in the topics espoused. My views are the product of reading widely upon the subject over many years and therefore subject to my own personal interpretation, prejudices and analysis.

It is my contention that Jesus exists in two distinct states: the Jesus of history and the Jesus of theology. The Jesus of theology is a chimaera; a beast of many parts. A series of parts that do not always fit in a harmonious whole. I consider the Jesus of history as virtually unknown and mostly unobtainable. A viewpoint from theology determines the Jesus we would like to see. Often this Jesus is a reflection of our personal theology. This Jesus is mirrored in the austere reclusive monk or the American televangelist sporting a wig asking ‘parishioners’ for money to fund his new jet plane. There is a host of other Jesus’ of faith. A Jesus for all faiths and for all men. This Jesus interests me in only so far as it relates to the original historical figure of Jesus. For me, the Jesus of theology belongs to human sociology and psychology. My interest in the Jesus of history might intrigue my readers as I’m an unmitigated and unrepentant atheist. And here is why: Jesus is, without doubt, the single most important person to have influenced and fashioned Western society and history over the past 2,000 years. I would argue that his influence was not direct but due to the energies of one remarkable man, Saul or Paul of Tarsus- but that is another story. There are scholars who believe that Jesus did not exist at all and that he belongs to the realm of mythology; no more real than King Arthur or Hercules. I do not want to become mired in this debate, today. I would just like to say that, on the available evidence, I believe that Jesus existed as a biological entity 2,000 years ago.

To reconstruct the ‘Jesus of History’ we are totally reliant on the New Testament Gospels. Extra Gospel references are rare and possibly reworked by enthusiastic Christians. If we want to discern the historical figure of Jesus we must turn to the books of Mark, Mathew, Luke, John and Acts. Perhaps we should add Paul’s letters (and letters of others) to this list although I suspect there is little of historical worth in Paul’s letters as, strangely enough, Paul seemed completely uninterested in the historical Jesus. This is a great loss to historians as Paul’s letters represent the first Christian writings and predate the first Gospel, Mark, by several years. The first epistles of Paul have been dated to 49AD.

An important point: None of the Gospellers or Paul was a witness to the historical Jesus and relied on oral tradition to flesh out their Gospels. Paul certainly had access to Jesus’ disciples and spoke with Peter and Jesus’ brother, James, in Jerusalem. This makes Paul’s disinterest in Jesus, the man, even more, galling as he would have had access to the historical Jesus through people who actually knew him. History cannot be told by ‘what if’ and we must be bound by the historical information we have. Therefore we are reliant upon the Gospels written at various times after Jesus’ death (?30-?90 years post mortem). The written Gospel, Mark, in part at least, reads like a historical narrative. However, neither Mark or the other Gospel writers were historians in the modern sense of the word. If history is present it appears to be present almost as an afterthought. The Gospels are primarily testaments of faith and the historical Jesus must conform to the Gospeller’s own theological agenda. This does not mean that the historical Jesus is not present in the bible, it means that his remains remain hidden and mostly dismembered. It is the scholar’s job to get his hand’s dirty and dig deep into the layers of theology and mythology and remove the bits of historical anatomy and attempt to piece them together to form a whole man. An impossible task perhaps, but not entirely fruitless.

Although the New Testament, in its present form, has been around for some 1,400 years, it is only in the past 200 years or so that scholars have scrutinised the bible openly for the historical Jesus. This is not to say that previous theologians didn’t ask pertinent historical questions, I'm sure they did. However, they mostly kept their research unto their breast unless it conformed closely to dogma. To do otherwise courted the epithet, ‘Heretic’ and after the 5th century AD, death.

So how do we get the religious texts to give up the Jesus of history? Firstly, historians treat the Bible with a heavy dose of scepticism no different from other ancient historical writings. The bible does not receive any reverential treatment in this regard. Clever theologians and historians have devised a series of methodologies in order to squeeze a little truth from the biblical narratives. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 14 techniques. I don’t have space to analyse these different tools from a rather extensive toolbox, so will briefly consider two ‘slash and burn’ techniques. These methods are perhaps the easiest for the none specialist to understand and conform to a common sense approach. Rational historians have no truck with anything which smacks of the miraculous. This removes wholes swathes of the biblical record. Many Christians would argue that this technique emasculates the biblical message. This, however, is a consideration of the Jesus of faith and lies outside our remit. The historical Jesus must shed the physical reanimation of the dead and the walking on water. Other miraculous events must also be dealt with equal harshness. In a scientific and philosophically sophisticated world, miraculous events, or the suspension of natural law and causation, is an impossibility. Obvious mythologising must also go as well. For instance, the nativity stories in Mathew and Luke, apart from being incompatible, are clearly contrived devices to get Jesus to be born in Bethelem. Both stories are rather daft and totally implausible but they represent a way of dealing with the uncomfortable fact that Jesus was born in Nazareth contrary to biblical prophecy concerning the birth of the Messiah. The Messiah is to be born of the Davidic line and to be born in Bethlehem.

The above is a very simplified look at an extremely complex, convoluted and fascinating area of study. I entreat my readers to research the topic for themselves- wisdom is but a Google away. To do this topic justice would require a large number of separate posts of varying complexity. This post is a supplementary post on a series of posts I’m writing on the development of Christianity. The first in the series can be accessed here. Further posts are in development.

Jesus of History?

                  

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Atheism vs Agnosticism


Gratuitous piccy of Jack the alpaca
In today’s post, I’m making a foray into a difficult and controversial area of epistemology. I am going to consider what it means to be an atheist or an agnostic and examine the distinction between these philosophical viewpoints and why we should care.

Straight off I am going to state my own partisan viewpoint and declare, without reservation, that I’m an atheist and a rational atheist at that. To be intellectually consistent it is a good idea to start off with a couple of definitions; hopefully, this will aid clarity of thought. Atheist: An absence in the belief of deities. My definition of atheism is not the only one, but on balance, the definition given here is the most honest, useful and intellectually valid. It is best to see atheism, not as a belief system but a negative proposition. If a belief in god(s) did not exist then the concept of atheism would have no epistemological content. In the same way that a belief in an invisible supernatural entity called Fred living on the moon would make me an afredist (ie I have bo belief in such an entity). The reason I’m not a afredist (sorry Fred) is that no one believes in a supernatural invisible entity living on the moon called Fred (well I hope Fredists do not exist). Hence the expression, afredist, becomes superfluous. Agnostic: One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a god(s). This belief is based on the limitations of rational knowledge. Thus deities, if they exist, belong to a supernatural realm and by definition, supernatural realms cannot be accessed from the natural world. Agnostics, specifically agnostic-atheists, consider the presence of supernatural realms highly implausible but not impossible. But even if such a realm existed it would have no impact or influence on our natural world. Therefore, it could be argued that the ‘existence’ of a supernatural world is tantamount to non-existence and thus the rational difference between atheism and agnosticism becomes moot. I would like to add to this mix by proposing the following possibility. Is it possible for an agnostic to believe in the existence of god (agnostic-theism)? There have been agnostics who have believed in the existence of god but considered the nature of god unknowable. The medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides held such a view. I consider this form of agnostism intellectually unintelligible. Surely to ‘know’ that god exists is to state an attribute of god, ie god’s existence. This implies some knowledge about god which refutes god’s unknowability (this is a real word). This is an inconsistent stance and introduces a contradiction and we all know that a contradiction is an abomination unto the laws of logic. I thus determine that the term ‘agnostic-theist’ is without rational content and will receive no further consideration or discussion. What about the other side of the agnostic coin: the agnostic-atheist? The problem here, I think, is that the definition of atheism and agnostic-atheist tends to merge rendering agnostic-atheist, superfluous. It is my contention that agnosticism is not a rational and valid ‘third way’ as distinct from frank atheism or theism. To my mind, there are only two alternatives: belief and non-belief. I would be interested to hear what my thoughtful readers think about the topic. Do you agree on my stance or is it possible to rescue agnosticism from the epistemological rubbish tip?

One penultimate point………When someone says they are an atheist, we can’t infer any other beliefs in association. For instance, it is oft stated that atheists are communists. While it is true that communists are notoriously atheistic we can’t assume an atheist’s political stance on their avowed atheist belief. Again, ignorant folk will state that atheists are amoral as they lack the check on their behaviour due to the belief in an all-seeing/knowing deity. This is not a tenable position. Undoubtedly some atheists are amoral as are some theists and conversely the opposite is also true. The amoral atheist is amoral; the amoral Christian is a hypocrite.  

The point of this post is to promote deeper thought with regard to the concepts of theism and atheism and perhaps encourage some folk to evaluate some of the pertinent arguments involved. And a final point on this topic: some folk will state their agnosticism without a full appreciation of what agnosticism means, from a rational standpoint. Perhaps they are attracted to the concept as it carries a patina of intellectual respectability, at least in some quarters.         

I have several posts in the pipeline, all very sensible in nature. I’m working on a second post on Biocentrism which, hopefully, will come to fruition within the week. I’ve also resurrected (pun intended) a series of posts concerning the development of Christianity over the past 2,000.

It is noted that my posts are taking a serious (nay sensible) turn of late. I blame the new medication which keeps me lucid but robs me of my creativity. If I lose my essence, my muse, my innate insanity, what have I become? The dilemma I face is which pill I should eschew in order to retain/regain the unceasing and trenchant cacophony in my head? Not all the voices tell me to burn stuff. Often they direct me to perform a light but distinctive singeing. But when they do insinuate, tis always at 4 am as I lie naked, legs akimbo covered with a sheen of corruption (ie sweat- what did you think I was talking about?). Mayhap, I should stop taking the capsules of red and gold or perhaps the mauve tablets? I’ll leave the decision to my readers. Please state a preference in the comments. 

Gratuitous image of Shagger, looking cute
    

Friday, 7 June 2019

One Year On........

The boys await the arrival of visitors
It has been a year since I retired and set up home in rural New Zealand. To be honest, I’ve taken it fairly easy and have kept myself busy with household projects, hobbies and general writing and the prospect of paid work have not been high on my mind or agenda. However, over the weekend my old boss came to visit and offered me the opportunity to work one day per week. After thoughtful rumination, I decided to take up the offer. At least it will give me a little pocket money to pay for my expensive hobbies of archery and astronomy. Quality bows and decent arrows are not cheap and I’ve recently reawakened my old interest in astronomy and purchased a 10” Dobsonian reflector telescope. Where I live there is no light pollution and I obtain stunningly clear views of the night sky. Luckily telescopes with good quality optics are reasonably priced in comparison to similar instruments purchased in the past. As a snot-nosed kid, I bought a 60mm refractor telescope for the princely sum of £27 back in 1969. It took the best part of a year to save up the money from my paper round to buy this optically modest scope.

I’ll have to catch the train to work which will take about 2 hours to reach sunny Wellington. I’ll stay overnight with my son who lives in the centre of the city. I suspect my duties will not be too onerous or demanding. My old duties of training, lecturing and providing wisdom and guidance to students has been passed on to younger and more nimble minds. Nonetheless, I’m sure I’ll be gainfully employed and it will be pleasant to reconnect with old friends and colleagues. The funding available will provide a work opportunity for eight months with the possibility of renewal thereafter.  

To date, we have been subsisting without income and have been relying on our savings and investments and I’ve been seriously thinking of obtaining some form of additional revenue. To this end, we have recently joined Air BnB. For those unfamiliar with the scheme: Basically, we provide a ‘bed and breakfast’ service which is administered by an independent company. The company handles the bookings from vetted guests and provides insurance just in case things go awry. It won't be huge amounts of money but it will provide a steady, modest income. We signed up less than a week ago and already have verified bookings. I’ll endeavour not to get too drunk and shoot the guests, lonely backpackers excepted. Accidents do happen of course and at least I’ve plenty of land to dispose of the bodies. I hear tell that pigs are very good at corpse recycling- mayhap I should invest in a flock of swine. Before I sign off I would like to leave my readers with a philosophical conundrum. If I subsequently eat a pig which has previously dined on human flesh, would the act of ingestion of the trotters constitute a form of cannibalism on my part? Time for my meds.

      

Monday, 3 June 2019

Space, the final frontier.......





In today’s post, I’m taking a very sensible peek at the possibility of interstellar travel and some of its implications.

Some of my canny readers may have noticed that this post disappeared for a few days. This was for the purpose of revision as Sackerson had pointed out an error of fact in the article (refer to comments). Woe is me. The reference with respect to the time a spacecraft travelling at 90% the speed of light was incorrect. I have addressed the problem. I would like to thank Mr Sackerson for his keen observation and erudition. I do endeavour to keep inaccuracies in the blog to a minimum but occasionally even the golden-haired one is prone to error. Also, I'm a bit mad.  


The speed of light in a vacuum is the fastest possible speed that information can travel and at  186,000 miles per second this is blisteringly fast. Light expressed as a wave is massless but particles with mass are unable to reach light speed as predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity. For a particle with mass to attain light speed would require an infinite amount of energy- not really a practical proposition.

In a previous post, one of the reasons I gave for the lack of alien visitation is the great interstellar distances between the Earth and potentially advanced civilisations and the implausibility of travelling between these vast distances. Advanced civilisations capable of space travel are likely to be in excess of 100s or 1,000s of light years distant from Earth. Even if they could travel at great speeds, let’s say 90% of the speed of light, it would take a very long time for the aliens to reach us. Perhaps we should be thankful for that? There is no reason to consider that technically advanced alien species are benign.

Our nearest stellar neighbour, Alpha Centauri, is a modest 4.37 light years distant. If we ever aspire to travel interstellar distances then the cosmic speed limit imposes a severe problem. According to the Drake equation, there should be at least 50,000,000 technically advanced civilisations in our Milky Way galaxy alone. Some folk are of the opinion that aliens are already here. Why is it that aliens only anally probe mad people? I’m not convinced that UFO sightings are evidence that aliens have found us. Before we consider the least likely explanation we must rule out the most likely. We must apply Occam’s Razor like a sharp winnowing stick. Moving on at sub-light speed………

To explore the universe it would be great if we could find a loophole in Einsteinian physics to exploit. There are objects in our universe moving away from each other faster than the speed of light. The further galaxies are away from each other the faster they apparently recede. This phenomenon was first detected by the distinguished amateur astronomer, Edwin Hubble, in the 1920s and his observations showed that we are living in an expanding universe. If the distance between two galaxies exceeds 13698567863 light years they will recede from each other faster than the speed of light. This appears to contradict all that we hold true of the universe but it is entirely consistent with known physical laws. The expansion is due to the creation of new space between the galaxies. The further apart the galaxies the more space is being generated between them. Why new space is being generated in our universe is another story for another time. In fact, the galaxies are moving relatively slowly through space. As an analogy envisage numerous dots placed equidistant from each other on a partially inflated balloon. As the balloon inflates the dots move away from each other ‘faster’ depending on their relative distance from each other.

Perhaps we could generate sufficient energy to warp space so it contracts in front and expands behind the spacecraft to form a ‘warp bubble’. In this way, it may be possible to ‘travel’ faster than light speed without violating the laws of causality. This concept was proposed by the mathematician, Dr Alcubierre, in 1994. Unfortunately, it was calculated that the energy required for such a propulsion system would require 10 times the energy available in the visible universe. The concept has been refined somewhat and it is now estimated that the energy requirement would be modest- just the energy contained in two Jupiters. An advantage of this form of travel is that space/time dilation would not occur. According to Alcubierre’s principle, space and time would move and distort around a stationary craft.   

Another possibility is to accept that faster than light travel is not possible but aim for extremely fast sub-light speeds, for instance, 90% the speed of light. There is nothing here that violates the laws of physics however, it would be extremely difficult, from a technical point of view, to pull off. Realistically we would have to exploit the property of anti-matter to annihilate normal matter to produce prodigious amounts of energy according to the formula: E=MC2 . First, we would have to find a way to manufacture large amounts of anti-matter. Storage of anti-matter is clearly a problem. Initially, it would have to be rendered inert by placing the exotic matter in a huge magnetic field to prevent premature detonation. Once the controlled annihilation is activated the reaction would produce extreme amounts of directionless gamma-ray radiation which would promptly vapourise the space craft’s inhabitants. Before this could happen, the radiation would have to be converted back to a particle. Then the particles could be directed by a magnetic field to provide thrust. 


 In theory, we could attain very fast sub-light speed travel, perhaps 90% of the speed of light (or more). At these high speeds the macroscopic consequences of relativity would kick in and significant time dilation would occur. Thus, people on a spacecraft travelling at 90% the speed of light would experience time differently according to their internal frame of reference in comparison to an observer on earth. For the astronauts on the craft travelling at 90% light speed, the journey would take 2.12 light years! How can this be as it suggests that the craft is travelling faster than light speed? However, there is no rupture of the constant physical laws that determine the universe as the astronaut would experience the trip as shorter in total distance. Isn’t relativity completely bizarre and counter-intuitive? Time dilation is only going to get worse as we travel faster and approach the speed of light. From a practical standpoint, this means that interstellar travel at sub-light speeds is a one way trip for the astronauts. How would they feel to come back home to find their grandchildren dead of old age?    

Space exploration will no doubt continue. The extent of that exploration is heavily dependant on the attending technology. To be honest we are not even close to designing a manned craft for serious interstellar travel. The challenges involved in ‘space travel’ are not to be underestimated and drives sufficiently powerful may take decades or even centuries to develop.

I'd like to finish with a thought experiment. Imagine that it is possible to travel at the speed of light. At light speed, the universe would become but a point and the time taken to travel this point would be instantaneous. Makes you think, dun it?

Warp factor 10, methinks

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Flattus

I'm convinced
I remember being taught at school that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue to prove that the Earth was round and not flat. Mr Columbus seemed to be the only man in Europe to have thought this way and his gullible and rebellious sailors were afraid that they would slip over the edge unto their doom. Why spoil a rollicking good story with the truth (what is truth?). In fact, no one of this period thought that the Earth was flat. The Ancient Greeks had worked out that the Earth was a globe from empirical evidence. By observing a ship pass across the horizon it was noted that the ship started to disappear from the bottom up. This sequence of events could only be compatible with a globe Earth. In 240BC the Greek philosopher, Eratosthenes, measured the circumference of the Earth using a little nifty trigonometry. Considering the crudeness of his methodology his estimate was surprisingly accurate.

The evidence that the Earth is a globe is multivarious and undeniable and you would have to be an absolute and complete nutter to believe that the Earth is flat. Die-hard ‘Flat Earthers’ of the English Flat Earth society finally admitted defeat in the 1960s and disbanded mainly due to evidence obtained from the space programme. Now you would think that would be the end of the discussion and the flat Earth theory would be consigned to the bin of historical curiosities. But nay, it seems that the belief in a flat Earth has had a resurgence in recent years and according to a recent survey 4% of millennials in the US believe in a flat Earth. So in a modern technological society how is it possible to believe such obvious nonsense? I blame the internet. At the flick of the wrist, you can be exposed to all manner of treatises. There has never been an age where so much information has been at our fingertips. But not all information is created the same and therein lies the problem. Not everyone will exercise their critical faculty when obtaining ‘knowledge’ from the internet making them vulnerable to accepting crackpot and unsubstantiated ideas and hypotheses. Furthermore, there appears to be a growing trend to consider science and other authority systems as misleading. This appears allied to a conspiracy mindset. There is no doubt that government agencies lie to their citizens or withhold information on a regular basis. This has always been the case. In the past, people were more trusting of the government than today. And to be fair this is not a bad thing. Everything should be open to critical scrutiny and this sentiment applies especially to government. However, this does not mean that all our leaders and Justin Beiber are shape-shifting alien lizards from the planet Theton.

So what does the modern day flat Earther actually believe in? The mechanics of the flat Earth are extremely fluid and appear to be very much driven by individual imagination rather than sound scientific principles. The following exposition is just a general guide. Thus, the Arctic region is represented at the centre of the Earth and the edge consists of an ice wall (Antarctica) which prevents oceans from crashing over a precipice. The sun, moon and stars are envisaged as being uncomfortably close (a few miles away) and disconcertingly small. After this things get decidedly hazy. A raft of convoluted explanations is put forth to account for observed natural phenomena such as the progression of day/night and the seasons. Flat Earthers generally deny the existence of gravity and other well established scientific principles. Their explanations are heavily dependant on intuition. How can the Earth be round if we can’t observe curvature? Or if the Earth is spinning why is it we remain in the same place if we jump off the ground? Surely if the Earth is revolving thousands of miles per hour we would expect to land elsewhere? Simple well established physical principles seem unknown such as inertia and conservation of momentum. This mindset comes under the umbrella of ‘scientific ignorance’ or the principle of ‘personal incredulity’. Basically, this means that because the individual can’t grasp the principle then it cannot exist. The fact that the greatest minds that have ever existed have grappled and solved nature’s conundrums is completely lost on these folk. And this brings me to the next point. The general level of education is pitifully lacking. Their arguments are farcical to anyone with a half decent school education. Sadly, the flat Earth fraternity represents woeful evidence and advertisement for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

In addition, to believing in a flat world there appears to be necessary add ons. Thus, if the moon is a small disc then NASA did not go there or anywhere as space travel is impossible if the Earth is covered with a dome. The International Space Station is visible to the naked eye if you are patient and prepared to wait for a suitable conjunction. I’ve watched the station through my 10” Dobsonian reflector telescope on several occasions. Due to the high resolving power of the telescope, I can make out features on this man-made object 400 km above the Earth. Explain this away flatties?    

International Space Station through a 10" telescope
A flat Earth conference was held last year in Denver, Colorado and a second is planned this year. Interestingly the location of the conference is given by GPS coordinates. The fact that GPS is dependent on Earth orbit satellites to provide locational data is lost on the attendees. While watching video coverage of last year’s highlights I couldn’t help but notice that the affair seemed to attract a certain type of person. No doubt they would describe themselves as ‘free thinkers’ but I noticed the usual suspects: ‘the mad, the bad and the sad’. The organisers and keynote speakers are happy to perform in the only arena they could shine and receive almost godlike adulation from their followers. Heady stuff for immature intellects and social inadequates. Although flatties would view themselves as individualistic and innovative thinkers all I can see is a load of intellectual sheep. And of course, where there are sheep there are wolves. Not all flat Earthers are genuine believers. As always the unscrupulous have found an easy mark to exploit and make money through youtube videos and merchandise.         

By the way and if you are interested the next conference will cost a mere US$199 for a two-day event if you register early. See you there. I’ll be the blond fella wearing a tin foil hat. Wibble, bollocks.         


Let's take no chances







Friday, 17 May 2019

Broken Arrow


Today I broke the ash bow that I’d spent many hours fashioning from a board. In fact, the bow was nearly ready for backing with genuine snakeskin and I had high hopes that this bow would be, if not a masterpiece, at least reasonably serviceable. The destruction event occurred when I was flexing the limbs prior to removing more wood. During the process, there was a resounding crack and my bow was rent in twain. To say I was disappointed is an understatement especially as the breaking bow took a chunk out of my hand (strength through pain). I’d put a lot of effort into the project and now I have two pieces of expensive firewood. Well, not quite useless, I’m sure I’ll find some use for the ash. This is the third bow to break from the large piece of ash I bought some time ago. The two ‘successful’ bows I’ve made from the board are very weak and next to useless. It could be that I’m a very poor bow maker, or perhaps I’m very unlucky. A third possibility involves the intrinsic quality of the wood. I don’t know how the wood was dried. It could have been air or kiln dried. As I understand it kiln drying is the quicker of the two processes but is prone to leaving the wood brittle and dry. Over drying the wood is generally not a problem for most building projects but can lead to catastrophic weakness during bow making. To test my hypothesis I’ve ordered a wood moisture metre to check the water content of the ash board. They are fairly inexpensive and at least I’ll know whether the problem is down to me or the wood. It will also be useful for checking how the drying process is proceeding for the tree staves I’ve harvested from my property. Ideally, the wood should be in the 8% to 10% range.


Moving on…….. Although a little dispirited I’ve decided to continue anew. The eucalyptus staves harvested 8 months ago have been drying naturally in the barn. Eucalyptus is not an ideal bow wood so to compensate I’m going to build it long and wide for the sake of safety. There is a trade-off for making a ‘safe bow’ in terms of efficiency and speed. To prevent splinters rising from the back I’ll add a backing of rawhide. Enough writing for now. I need to make a bow. But before I go I feel encumbered to write an ode that the muses have begged me to share. Read and weep.

Achy breaky bow 
Four score and 10 hours (and a bit) I have laboured on your form and sweat has glistened my brow and trickled to the grain to remain, ingrained.
From stout ash, you came and ached to be fashioned by knotted hand.
Driven by madness barely perceived I worked late until the sun descendeth like a descendy thing.
The stroke of the adze and rasp have contoured gnarled, knotty lines to manifest driven beauty unparalleled by man.
As I worked you split asunder with a crescendo of doom. A craven tumult descending into a babble of pandemonium.
My sweat and blood mingled with your splintered disarticulation (not a real word).
Cruel fates and Hade’s furies have drained my soul; my very being is laid prostrate and supine.
O woe, can it be my toil has been but a barren sham? A work of labour lost?
Bugger! I shall start anew to fashion a piece to grace the table of the gods.
Nay, stay my hand. Once lost can never be the same. Yet I will go on with fingers stout and a bow will bow to my very will.
My bruised heart still beats and shall create again, but not before I test your moisture content with an instrument designed for this sort of thing.
The wood will rise again (unless the moisture content is less than 5%) and bend with fury to cast an arrow to its mark.
An arrow to wend and rend my foe.
Let me go now I need to think and drink.
Later I will escape my grim demeanour to run naked upon the dale, shouting: “Arse, big fat ARSE”.               

            





            

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Biocentrism: Part I

In the eye of the beholder

What follows is part one of a three-part series. I thought about keeping the subject matter limited to a single post of 1,000 words but the topic of Biocentrism is simply too grand to comply with such arbitrarily enforced restrictions/constrictions. The first part will describe the theory of Biocentrism in all its majestic glory and experimental evidence cited in support of the theory. In subsequent posts, I’ll consider the theory's implications for our conception of reality and look at some of the objections raised against Biocentrism.      

The flaxen haired one is not averse/adverse to considering and discussing weird stuff. Once in a while however I come across an idea so strange, and on the first inspection, so asinine, that I’m willing to dismiss it without undue contemplation. Remember the dictum: ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’. Usually, the ideas originate with the swivel-eyed conspiracy brigade but on this occasion, the idea comes from a respected and eminent scientist. Now, it wouldn’t be the first time a scientist has gone rogue or maverick and started to spout utter and complete bollocks. But in this instance, the scientist in question cites the behaviour of the quantum world to support the thrust of his thesis. The scientist is Dr Robert Lanza and his theory is called Biocentrism. Dr Lanza is a highly respected medical doctor and stem cell researcher. He was the first researcher to elicit stem cells from adult cells using somatic cell nuclear transfer. He has been described as a genius and considering his intellectual credentials it behoves serious individuals to seriously review his speculations. For those who seek a deeper knowledge of Dr Lanza’s theories, I suggest reading his two volumes on the subject, ‘Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe’ and ‘Beyond Biocentrism: Rethinking Time, Space, Consciousness, and the Illusion of Death’; they make a riveting read.      

Biocentrism in a nutjob, er I mean nutshell: Life is the centre and ultimate meaning of the universe. For the universe to exist consciousness must exist to contemplate it. The universe is without form or organisation unless contemplated by the conscious mind which imparts form and order on the universe. The conventional view, held by the majority of scientists, is that the universe was formed by the big bang and once the universe cooled, stars and planets formed. On our planet, the conditions were conducive to life formation and evolution to higher organisms. Thus, Biocentrism overturns and reverses this commonly accepted paradigm. Instead of seeking a theory of everything based on physics (Grand Unified Theory). A theory of everything should be based on biology instead. Heady stuff indeed.  

Dr Lanza argues that Biocentrism is a logical development of established and widely accepted notions. Firstly, the universe is finely fine-tuned for the existence of organised matter. And without organisation, there could be no life. Consider that there are over 200 physical constants. If the value of any one of these constants varied by just a small amount the universe would be unable to exhibit order and therefore the existence of life would not be possible. Another point concerns our sense perception. Our view of the world, 'our reality', is very much conditioned by how our sensory apparatus works and how our brain interprets the data it receives from our sense organs. Therefore, what we consider ‘reality’ is very much dependant on our subjective interpretation of wave data. Dr Lanza would argue that objective reality does not exist without the biological observer. Still with me? This idea is not entirely new and echoes the words of the great physicist, Niels Bohr: “When we measure something we are forcing an undetermined, undefined world to assume an experimental value. We are not measuring the world, we are creating it”.

Dr Lanza cites observations of the quantum world that appear to have bewildering and disturbing outcomes not easily explained by conventional models of the universe. Behold the double slit experiment first performed by Thomas Young in 1801. In this experiment, light is passed simultaneously through two slits and the resultant light pattern viewed on a piece of white card. When this experiment is performed we observe the classic wave diffraction pattern consistent with light existing as a wave. More sophisticated versions of the experiment have subsequently been performed using lasers and electron beams. For convenience, I’ll consider the experiments performed with electrons. Firing electrons through two slits will show a typical diffraction pattern expected for a wave. However, if only one slit is open the resultant pattern on the card is what we would expect if the electrons were acting as particles (wave/particle duality). A bit strange you might think but is going to get worse. If we now open the second slit to allow electrons to pass through we observe a refraction pattern consistent with a wave. Let us now fire the electrons one at a time through both slits. This time the electron will pass through either the left slit or right slit. And indeed when electrons are passed multiple times through the slits we observe a pattern again consistent with the wave model. In the next experiment, a detector is placed next to the slits to determine which slit the single electron will pass through. This is where it starts to get spooky strange. The result: instead of a wave interference pattern we detect a particle pattern! The act of detection appears to have changed the result. It as if the electrons are aware of being observed or not. Other, more sophisticated experiments (see Quantum Eraser Experiment), confirm these findings. Why we obtain this result is a fundamental problem in quantum mechanics known as the ‘Measurement Problem’ and a Noble prize awaits the person who can come up with a coherent scientific solution. This rather thorough exposition of the experiment is necessary in order to continue our discussion of Biocentrism.
Classic experiment showing light as waves 

So what has this got to do with the theory of Biocentrism? If consciousness is formulating reality and the universe then the bizarre results obtained in the above experiments can be readily explained. This in no way ‘proves’ the theory, but merely shows that the results are consistent with the theory, or at least with certain interpretations of the theory. The following posts on this topic will consider the theory in more depth and will involve a discussion and critique of the salient philosophical and scientific ramifications of the theory. Hold on to your hats it is going to be a rough ride.            

  
      


Saturday, 11 May 2019

Saturday Rant



Many years ago I worked for the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. During that time I contributed to a government backed pension scheme for nearly 14 years. As I’ve recently taken early retirement I thought it would be a good idea to initiate the pension in order to bask in the guttering light of its pittance.

Problem One: Before I could receive any information about my pension it was necessary  to establish my identity to the satisfaction of the 'Authorities'. Personally, this is not a problem as I’m well aware of who I am, a few philosophical doubts aside. However, it was necessary to establish my identity to the satisfaction of the pension authorities back in the UK. I understand, identity theft is rampant and consequently unequivocal true identity establishment is of paramount importance. Helpfully, the agency directed my aim to a number of independent organisations willing to check my credentials. I picked an organisation at random and completed the online form. I submitted my details and promptly received notice that the company could not confirm my identity. This was a little frustrating as no explanation was forthcoming. Never mind. I went on to the next cited organisation and completed and submitted their online form. Again, my application was rejected. A pattern seemed to be emerging. Undaunted and being of a sanguine disposition ( I’m particularly in tune with the word’s original definition) I persevered unabated and completed a further four applications with the same ultimate result. Surely, this is the definition of madness? I can only surmise that my lack of residence in the UK is somehow connected with my ‘non-existence’. As a practising solipsist, I contemplated the implications with rising terror and dread. Perhaps I did not exist except in a mad daemon’s dream? A sort of solipsism by proxy. My head reeled in reflective speculation. After consuming ten pints of homebrew and running naked around my property I finally concluded that I did exist and that the NHS pension agency was a complicated arse hell bent on making people’s lives difficult and tragic.

Considering that it is estimated that 5 million British folk live outside the UK I suspected that this issue may have been encountered before and therefore there would be a ready solution to the dilemma. But this was not the case and the lack of further information pointing to a remedy was becoming annoying.

Problem 2: To solve the problem I needed to contact the NHS to determine an alternative route to my verification. I scoured the site for a relevant email contact but could find none. I had to settle for a contact email totally unrelated to my enquiry and politely asked if my request could be forwarded to the appropriate official. Several days later I received a reply from someone willing to help. The pension agency would write to my New Zealand address with a reference and information concerning my pension. Six weeks later I received the letter which enumerated my pension entitlement. To be fair it was more than I expected. All I needed to do was fill in a claim form.

Problem 3: I scoured the information I had been sent but nowhere could I find instructions about redeeming my rightful gelt. However, I was informed that if I had further questions I should access the suggested website. Once there I placed an enquiry on how to initiate access to my pension. My request elicited 967 documents neatly headlined ten per page. Mayhap the top item would be a portal leading to my aspiration for newly acquired riches? But the information provided was a load of cockwaffle concerning pension regulations and completely unrelated to my enquiry. Undismayed, I sent an email to my original respondent asking for a link to the relevant application form. And yea, after a three day wait I received an email promising a link to an application form. But first I just needed to confirm my identity…….  


Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Israel- The Exodus?

Folau contemplating the loss of $4,000,000

I seem to be doing a lot of updates lately. Must be the new meds. Perhaps if I cut down on the green pills and supplement them with the red ones everything will be tickety boo? Moving on. First off, I've been a tad naive in thinking the northern hemisphere has not heard of Israel Folau. He appears to be quite famous in the world of rugby. I missed this because I do not follow the game. In fact, I had not heard of said gentleman before the media furore a few weeks ago.

My son raised a practical and pertinent point when I discussed the issue with him. He pointed out that the rugby authorities were probably not particularly bothered by the homophobic rant as such but more bothered by how the situation would affect their sponsors and ultimately their revenue. They were worried that sponsors and advertisers would decamp leaving them in the financial pit of doom, or despond depending on perspective. When examined under this light, the response by the governing rugby authority is very understandable and practical, but not commendable. Sadly, the laws of economics trump/stump 'free speech'.

The drama has taken a new turn in the last couple of days. A gaggle of Island players (Taniela Tupou, Billy Vunipola, Curtis Rona) has come out in support of Israel. I am sure there are other Islander players waiting on the wings undecided. The Pacific Islanders are well renowned for their adherence to a peculiar and fundamental flavour of Christianity. To sophisticated Western eyes, it is literal, paternalistic and primitive. More in tune with the Old Testament injunction of smiting and gnashing of teeth rather than Jesus' proclamation of love and peace. As I recall, Jesus was silent on the act of buggery, but considering that he professed to be a devout Jew it is likely that he would have considered homosexuality an abomination in the sight of Lord. I'm starting to digress. And apparently, there is word afoot that Pacific Island players are considering a boycott. I'm sure this represents a worry for the relevant rugby authorities and fans alike. Mayhap the 'boys' have one eye on their religious beliefs and another on their lucrative contracts. Israel has also received an unlikely boost from an English rugby player, Courtney Lawes. However, Mr Lawe's support, like mine, is not of the religious persuasion but revolves around the nutty problem of free expression in a free society. Also, there is an online petition gathering momentum on social media. This, of course, will do no practical good.

The plot thickens. Mr Folau has challenged his termination of contract by the Australian Rugby body and has engaged a prominent lawyer in an effort to save his career. A Code of Conduct hearing was held last Saturday and is likely to extend until Wednesday. As a counterpoint, a number of Israel's teammates (go the Wallabies) are reportedly considering their own boycott if he wins his case to play again.

The whole affair is getting rather messy and expensive and, regardless of the result, tis likely to be highly damaging to Australian rugby.

Don't worry folks, I'm not going to make a habit of reporting the antics of 'sports stars' in the future. In this instance, I made an exception due to the impact the story is having in Australia and New Zealand. Rugby in this part of the world is not so much a sport but an activity sewn into the fabric of life and culture itself. Arse.  











Tuesday, 30 April 2019

BEER- Update


The tankard, in repose

As my regular readers will recall I undertook a unique brewing experience with my son. We brewed and bottled about 40 litres of a New Zealand IPA. I have patiently waited with a certain amount of trepidation as to the outcome. The beer, as instructed, was left in the garage to undergo secondary fermentation. Last Saturday marked three weeks after the bottling process and thus the beer was ready for consumption. 

The beer was placed in the fridge to cool. It is a common misconception that the English enjoy warm beer; this is not the case. After the cooling process, I carefully decanted a litre bottle of the beer into a jug. The frothy head and the heady aroma was reassuring. The beer was then poured into two awaiting bronze flagons embossed mightily with the family motto: 'Strength through pain'. With rising excitement, I placed the larger flagon to my lips and quaffed deep into the amber brew. My son watched on with quivering countenance. His bright blue eyes showed emotions unknown to man and he shook in sweet anticipation.

As the patriarchal head of the family (this is tautology) I reserved and exploited the privilege to take precedence in sampling the roiling brew. The cooling beer hit my tongue with force and unleashed a thousand furies each eliciting deep stabbing tones. Twas as if Shagger, the ferret, had partaken of a quart of sweet ambrosia and Angel tears and had then proceeded to lick my tongue. The Ale bespoke of bitter tannins and was surprisingly unbalanced morphing from tart to sweet as it meandered across the fissures of my trembling tongue. Delicate notes of citrus buttressed with soft elegant tendrils of aged pickled onions made their presence known. The beer was exquisite and I almost became overwhelmed in the presence and embrace of this seductive concoction. My son watched on barely able to contain his heaving and expectant breast. I gave the nod of access/assent and my son raised the brass vessel to his lips and drank heartedly. The gurgling sound seemed to last an eternity, but eventually, he placed the tankard down and gave forth an impressive and productive belch. The smile on his face matched mine. Nothing more was said as I filled our cups anew with the elixir of the gods.

The time passed, as if in a thrice, as we drank with accelerated gusto throughout the night. Nuff said.