News From Around The Blogosphere 10.6.08

The Turk

The Turk

Defining A.I. – On October 12 the Loebner Prize for Artificial Intelligence will conduct a formal Turing test of six machines to determine if through the use of complex algorithms if the machines can simulate human conversation so well that testers will not be able to distinguish the machine from an actual human when engaging in a text conversation back and forth. There is a link to a site that displays 2 text conversations, 1 where the subject is talking to a human and the other where they’re talking to a machine. So far it’s very easy to tell which is which but in time that may be much harder, which raises the question of what would real artificial intelligence entail.


Insecure minds wired for pattern-finding – Another study shows causation between uncertainty or insecurity and seeing patterns that aren’t necessarily really there.

Saudi cleric thinks women showing two eyes is just too seductive, and has called for women to wear a full veil that reveals only one eye.

Rev. Dr. Peter Mullen recommends homosexual practices be discouraged “after the style of warnings on cigarette packets” – He also added:

“Let us make it obligatory for homosexuals to have their backsides tattooed with the slogan SODOMY CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH and their chins with FELLATIO KILLS.”

Oo, what if instead we tatooed numbers on their arms and threw them into concentration camps until such time as we can shove them into ovens and gas chambers? Don’t worry; it’s cool. Now he says many of his “dear friends” are gay and he was only joking. Yeah, I bet.


Hank Fox has quit his job at a newspaper because they ran an unnecessary quote, in spite of his protests that it was blatant bigotry against atheists:

The final anecdote of the article was about his plane getting shot down, and one quote the reporter used was him saying something like “My co-pilot was an atheist before, but he’s been a good Christian ever since.”

I flagged the quote with a note to my immediate editor: “Ahem. If this quote said ‘My co-pilot was a Jew before, but he’s been a good Christian ever since,’ would we even think about including it?”

In my head was a very clear understanding that the quote was a serious insult to a certain demographic. I happen to be one, in this case, but I would certainly have flagged the line if it was that equivalent quote about a Jew being converted by the experience into being a Christian, even though I’m not a Jew. If it said “My co-pilot was a black man before, but this scared him white,” I would’ve brought it up, even though I don’t happen to be black. If the story made a similar statement about a gay or lesbian, or a handicapped person, I would have flagged it. . . Hey, if it’s vital factual information, it goes into the newspaper no matter whose nose gets out of joint. But if it’s just casual insults or jokes that you know in advance will offend, you just don’t throw it in with the attitude of “what the hell, screw ‘em.”

Here’s another great excerpt from his blog:

Atheists today face discrimination so subtle, so pervasive, that it doesn’t even have a name.

It’s rare to hear stories like this in the modern age of someone taking a stand like that against injustice. If I had some sort of Golden Cajones Award or something, I’d give it to him.

In Defense of ‘Militant’ Atheism part 2


First, this would be a good time to remind people that October 14 is the day UFOs are supposed to reach Alabama, according to Australian actress, writer, and part-time “psychic channeler” Blossom Goodchild. I can’t wait to see the post-hoc rationalizations to explain away an epic fail.

Carl Sagan’s name reclaimed – Last month I blogged about The Carl Sagan Institute of UFOlogy, a bunch of Brazilian UFO nuts who claimed not only that Jesus is a flying saucer pilot but that Sagan was a secret believer in alien visitations. Well now they’ve removed Sagan’s name from their title and replaced it with Galileo for some reason.

Cryptoastronautics – The following video is commonly passed around by UFO believers as proof that aliens have visited our world. But there are far more plausible explanations for the video:


Astrology and Jell-O – Stuart Buck persists in claiming that scientists have a bias against the supernatural, and that we dismiss it out of hand. Here is just 1 example of why he’s wrong. This is actually the story of an old epic fail. It involves skeptic Robert Grumbine testing a specific claim made by astrologer, Thomas Seers involving Bill Cosby’s favorite brand of gelatin. And well, Grumbine falsified Seers’ stupid hypothesis. But maybe this instance just happened to occur while Mercury was in retrograde, so maybe that’s why the astrologer was made to look like an idiot.

Jenny McCarthy gets Rickroll’d – As previously reported, Jenny was going to be involved in a web chat after her latest Oprah appearance where she’d answer people’s questions. As predicted, no actual hardball questions got through but she did not escape being punked with a Rickroll. In case you don’t know, this is what Rickrolling is. LOL. This is freakin’ hilarious:

What do your elected officials think about science? – Find out what your duly elected United States politician thinks about science at the Scientist and Engineers for America website, where they have helpfully listed this info.

Phil Plait’s new book “Death From The Skies!” drops in bookstores in 2 weeks!


‘Engine’ That Drives Cell Movement Discovered – “How a cell assembles its internal machinery required for cell movement has been revealed for the first time.”

Quarter Of World’s Mammals Risk Extinction – “The most comprehensive assessment of the world’s mammals has confirmed an extinction crisis, with almost one in four at risk of disappearing forever, according to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, revealed at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona.”

Alaskan Glaciers Are Retreating, Thinning – “Most glaciers in every mountain range and island group in Alaska are experiencing significant retreat, thinning or stagnation, especially glaciers at lower elevations, according to a new book published by the U.S. Geological Survey. In places, these changes began as early as the middle of the 18th century.”

HPV And Cancer, HIV Discoveries Win Nobel Prize – The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2008 with one half to: Harald zur Hausen for his discovery of “human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer” and the other half jointly to Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for their discovery of “human immunodeficiency virus.”

Earliest Footprints: Animals Walked Sooner – “The fossilized trail of an aquatic creature suggests that animals walked using legs at least 30 million years earlier than had been thought. The tracks — two parallel rows of small dots, each about 2 millimeters in diameter — date back some 570 million years, to the Ediacaran period.”

Birds Have ‘Thumbs,’ Alligator Gene Study Hints – “Bird wings only have three fingers, having evolved from remote ancestors that, like humans and most reptiles, had five fingers. Biologists have typically used embryology to identify the evolutionary origin (homology) of structures; the three fingers of the bird wing develop from cartilage condensations that are found in the same positions in the embryo as fingers two, three and four of humans (the index, middle and ring fingers). However, the morphology of the fingers of early birds such as Archaeopteryx corresponds to that of fingers one, two and three in other reptiles (thumb, index and middle finger). The fossil record clearly shows that fingers four and five (ring and pinky finger) were lost and reduced in the dinosaur ancestors of birds.”

Another bad day for Young Earth Creationists.


2 Responses to News From Around The Blogosphere 10.6.08

  1. I can tell that this is not the first time at all that you write about this topic. Why have you chosen it again?

  2. mjr256 says:

    I assume you’re referring to the Islamic story since you’d commented on my most recent blog about it. I write about it is because it highlights some of the many ways in which religion stands in the way of science, reason, and human progress. And while this story in particular has nothing to do with science, it has everything to do with the latter two.

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