October 12th, 2005


Fitness & Flakery

Now that Becca's getting up and off to work before me, I have filled my new-found post-coffee/pre-shower time with Dance Dance Revolution, a few desultory sit-ups and ten push-ups with my feet on a chair. I'm not losing any weight, but I'm gaining some muscle, which I consider a fair trade. Though I'm never going to be really muscular. Starting from soft and sedentary, I swear I put on five pounds of muscle after my first push-up. The next umpteen weeks of exercise net me another two pounds of muscle, and then my body decides it's got enough for anything I'm ever likely to do. Then when I (inevitably) stop exercizing, the evil muscle fairy makes it all disappear overnight. Actually, I believe she stows it in my belly.

And now a bonus film-review:

Though I was suspicious and had heard dim mutterings from the skeptical community, I wanted to like What the Bleep Do We Know?. I knew that the filmmakers were students of Ramtha's School of Enlightenment, but I was still hoping to be taken on an enjoyable tour of quantum mechanics, which really is strange enough to make any New Ager happy. As it turned out, though, I only made it 45 minutes in before I couldn't take it anymore. So this counts only as a review of the first 45 minutes(*).

I'm afraid that little of what was stated with wide eyes and knowing grins by the unnamed (at least in the first 45 minutes) experts is true. Occasionally, there was a nugget of something familiar as an aspect of quantum mechanics, but it was soon stretched and exaggerated out of recognition. Worse still, these exaggerations made them not just 'speculative', but false.
Going beyond science into pseudoscience, the film presents as fact the story that (for example) meditators were able to reduce the crime rate in Washington DC by 25%. In fact, the city experienced a surge in the murder rate during that experiment. Only by juggling the numbers did the 'researchers' conclude that they had reduced the crime rate by 25% from what it would have been if they hadn't been meditating. Another segment shows mysterious pictures of 'water' that are clearly snowflakes and are just as mysterious as snowflakes.
The true crime of this filme is that quantum mechanics is fascinating and it is bizarre and it does tell us something surprising about the ultimate nature of reality. This film does not present us with those science facts; it only offers science fictions.
To those interested in real quantum mechanics at a popular level, I recommend John Gribbin's book, In Search of Schrodinger's Cat.

(*) If there was a lesbian sex scene between Marlee Matlin and Elaine Hendrix somewhere in the remaining 64 minutes, don't tell me about it, but that would raise my rating to two stars.
atheist teacher

Inbox Fury

A relative passed along a little rant entitled We The People..... Of The United States. I couldn't let it go, so I reply all'ed. And now, my captive audience, you too can read my response.

ARTICLE XI: You do not have the right to change our country's history or
heritage. This country was founded on the belief in one true God. And
yet, you are given the freedom to believe in any religion, any faith, or
no faith at all; with no fear of persecution. The phrase IN GOD WE TRUST
is part of our heritage and history, and if you are uncomfortable with
it, TOUGH!!!!

For the most part, I don't disagree strongly with any of the points except this last. Certainly it's true that America was colonized and founded by many people who took religion seriously and were seeking religious freedom. But that's very different from saying that the country was founded on the belief in one true god. In fact, the country was founded on the Constitution, which makes no mention of either God or religion except to say that government should stay out of it altogether.

The phrase "In God We Trust" was adopted by the US as a motto in 1956, so I'm not sure how much heritage and history it has. Before it became the motto, it was used on coinage starting in 1864. It's interesting to read the history of how that came to happen.

To summarize, a squeaky wheel (one of those complainers who thinks he has a right to be offended) wanted a religious reference added to the coins and wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury. He said that adding God to our coins "would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism" and eliminate "our national shame in disowning God". In other words, he was complaining that the Founding Fathers had set up a secular government. So when someone talks about our heritage and history, I think they ought to look back to the actual Constitution and the actual Founding Fathers as their guide, rather than what they think our country's history is. Many of the Founding Fathers were religious men, but in their wisdom they set up a 'heathen' government so that all could be free.