29 April 2008

ID and religion

I know there's a few readers of this blog who believe differently from how I do on "hot topic" issues such as global warming, Intelligent Design, and conspiracy theories. For those of you who believe in Intelligent Design, I'm curious, do you feel that ID is creationism and is a religious belief, or do you think it is a scientific theory with tangible proof to support it?

24 April 2008

One small step for Texans

Today a subcommittee of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has decided unanimously that the non-accredited Institute for Creation Research, which espouses Young Earth Creationism, may not offer an online Master's of Science degree, saying that while "Science and religious belief are surely reconcilable, ... they are not the same thing."


It's worth noting though that this is not the final word. Next the full TX HECB must meet and agree with the committee decision. Presuming they agree with the subcommittee, the ICR can still fight it many ways. But for now reason appears to be winning.

Follow-up to this post

21 April 2008

Magic Pen

Next time you need some procrastination, check out the "crayon physics" -style java game Magic Pen. Your goal on every level is to get a circle (or sometimes a square) to move to touch a flag. You do this via drawing simple physics-type tools. The one thing it's lacking is a pause button, that would really help.

If you ever get stuck on a level, you can skip it via the menu, but you cannot submit your "score" (number of shapes used) until you beat all levels. Once you beat all 25 levels (took me a full day of procrastination), go back and see how many different ways you can solve the same level. After a bit you'll build up a mental "toolbox" of different techniques for each level, and you can go back and see how to force a square peg into a round hole.

02 April 2008

Globular Cluster or Dwarf Galaxy

A few years back when doing research on the mass of dwarf galaxies I asked my advisor what the difference was between a globular cluster and a dwarf galaxy. I was more-or-less scoffed at, as the "obvious" textbook answer is that globulars consist of only old stars and don't have any gas, while galaxies of any sort will have stars of varying ages and will have gas.

New research using Hubble and Gemini South shows the question isn't quite as clear-cut as textbooks like to put it. Our Milky Way galaxy has all these globular clusters orbiting it, but we've also got some dwarf galaxies like the Large and Small Magellenic Clouds. There's this one strange globular cluster, Omega Centauri, which has got multiple generations of stars and a large mass (causing its fast spin), but doesn't seem to have any gas. And now they've discovered that there's an intermediate mass black hole in the center, implying that that Omega Centauri is probably a dwarf galaxy, not a globular cluster after all. Huh, go figure.