Astronomical Failures of Intuition

Washington Post, Joel Achenbach and Aaron Steckelberg, 15 Jul 2022: Take a cosmic tour inside the images captured by NASA’s Webb telescope

Here’s an excellent interactive guide to the images released this week from the James Webb Space Telescope, highlighting significant aspects of each image. One thing I’d overlooked until now: the deep field photo (shown above in a screen capture from this piece), not only shows distortions due to gravitation lensing of distant galaxies, it even show *mirror images* of a single galaxy as its light has been bent around either side of a closer object.

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Sfadb.com status at its tenth anniversary

Pretty much every year I status my ongoing projects — in particular sfadb.com, and my personal and family history here on this blog — and think, this year for sure! And every year I do make some progress, but even after all these years — about a decade for both — I’m still not done. Still, I think I’m closing in. This past year I’ve had the added incentive of worry about health issues. I’ve dodged the bullet twice (in both cases because I had someone here at home to call 911 or take me to the hospital), but can’t expect to live forever.

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Links, Quotes, and Comments, Today 14 July 2022

Red States and Abortion Bans; Religious Nuttery; How Fox News fakes it; Conservatives attempts to turn back the cultural clock; What Proud Boys and their wives want

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Galaxies Like Grains of Sand

Two topics today. About the James Webb Telescope photos; and about why people feel the world is broken.

I chimed in on Facebook on Monday with a link to this image, as many of my Fb friends were doing, only to put a well-known science fictional title over it: the name of a short story collection by Brian W. Aldiss, first published in 1960.

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Orwellian “Freedoms”

The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein, 8 July 2022: The Glaring Contradiction of Republicans’ Rhetoric of Freedom, subtitled, “Democratic governors are showing the national party how to challenge the red states’ rollback of rights.”

Republicans say freedoms for me, prohibitions for thee.
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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

We watched the entire 10-episode run of the latest Star Trek show, “Strange New Worlds,” which finished late last week, and it was OK.
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Intercessory Prayer and Science

About a month ago I put together a post in part about how belief in prayer reflects a fundamental inability to understand cause and effect in the real, actual, physical world; that post is here.

I had a current link at hand, what prompted the topic, but I couldn’t find an older link about a more recent and thorough study about so-called “intercessory prayer.” Now I’ve found that link; it’s an article that apparently cycles on and off the homepage of Free Inquiry (https://secularhumanism.org/) as a feature article, and earlier today it cycled back on.

This is worth reviewing closely because it’s an excellent example about how to actually test a religious claim, and about how the faithful will find ways to dismiss the evidence when it conflicts with their beliefs. Again, somehow the evidence of cause and effect (or non effect) that they would apply to other situations doesn’t apply when it comes to their own “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Apparently sincerity trumps evidence and rationality.

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Kids These Days, Bauerlein and Will Style

Beware cranky old men complaining about kids these days. Surely George F. Will, a renowned (conservative) political commentator, knows better.

Washington Post, George F. Will, 8 July 2022: How millennials became aggressively illiberal, censorious young adults

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Ensoulment and Miscarriages

Here’s a nice essay that observes how the prevelance of spontaneous abortions — miscarriages — doesn’t seem consistent with the theological position of “ensoulment,” the notion that God inserts the just-feritilized embryo with a soul.

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Fiddler on the Roof

Over the past couple evenings we’ve watched the movie version of a musical I had never seen before, in any form: Fiddler on the Roof. I was aware it was a big-hit musical, back in the 1960s or ’70s, in roughly the same era as West Side Story and The Sound of Music. The main thing I knew was that it included a couple three memorable songs, in particular “Sunrise, Sunset,” a moving, even heartbreaking song about parents observing how quickly their children grow up. It’s been on my list of favorite sentimental songs (stub list here) for years. Here’s the wedding scene with the song:


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