Monday, 30 April 2007

"Darwin is dead" is dead

Last year I had a look through the "Darwin is Dead" blog carnival.

It was rather a mess. The first carnival was in February 2006; and evolutionists all over the blogsphere had a lot of fun picking through the five entries to hold up selected choice bits of nonsense for special ridicule.

The second carnival was in April. It was rather surreal. There were seven entries. Three were actually parodies by evolutionists. Two were articles from the websites of AiG, and ICR. Only two were from genuine creationist blogs.

There have been two more carnivals since then. The carnival organizer appeared to have bowed to the inevitable, and accepted a couple of entries from serious evolutionary bloggers. As before, the number of creationist entries remained small; and most of those continued be ordinary articles from professional creationist websites, plus one or two actual creationist bloggers.

I came across it again just now while surfing, and must report… "Darwin is Dead" is dead. The carnival only ran the four times. May it rest in peace. (Guffaw)

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Sunday, 29 April 2007

What the heck is the name of this blog?

Here is an image of a quartuncia, taken from the Byzantine Coin Store.

One of the major problems I faced for setting up this blog was choosing a name. I decided to go with obscure. Now I am curious to see when, if ever, I get readers. I have added a sitemeter to help me find out.

I had thought that the blog header gave sufficient clues as to how I chose the name. Perhaps not: family members were just puzzled. If anyone actually ever reads this blog and thinks they know what my blog name is alluding to, please put a comment to this post to give your best guess.

Thanks in cautious anticipation -- Chris ("Duo Quartuncia")

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Saturday, 28 April 2007

I want to try that!

I envy Stephen Hawking. He's shown here flying with Zero Gravity Corporation.
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Chinese Dinosaurs

A while ago I had the good fortune to see an exhibition of Chinese dinosaur fossils, and now that I have a blog I'll repeat some comments I recorded at the time.

The exhibition was fairly small, and the information available was limited, but appropriately geared towards the general public. There were a number of reconstructions of skeletons, and some models of what the dinosaurs might have looked like in real life, and some of the fossils themselves (copies, I suspect).

The best feature of the exhibition was a PhD student from the University of Queensland, who was there in an official capacity to talk to anyone who was interested, and was able to go into much more depth than was available in the small bits of text on the exhibits. He gave me and a few others a very clear discussion of the major classification of dinosaurs into "lizard hipped" and "bird hipped" forms. He also did a great job of conveying to some other visitors the complexities of relationships between various forms, and how evolutionary change and in particular the rise of birds does not simply involve progressive change in one lineage, but a range of forms with the development and loss of various characteristics in different lineages. For example, birds are descended from the lizard hipped dinosaurs; not the bird hipped.

His own work is on biomechanics, and in particular on birds and dinosaurs.

One striking thing about dinosaurs is the way they can capture the enthusiasm of young people. There was a little boy there, about five years old, who nevertheless knew the names of many dinosaurs, and pronounced them better than I can manage. His mother said that he gets irritated with plastic toy dinosaurs that have anatomical errors. He was talking with the PhD student about the velociraptor model, because the model was given with feathers; a plausible hypothesis not confirmed by direct fossil evidence, but based on the close relationship of the velociraptors to other dinosaurs which have been found with feathers.

The dinosaur finds from China over the last decade have been a revelation on the close association to birds, and the spectacular preservation has revealed fine details of the life of an ancient world.

I'll have more to say about this in another post! In the meantime, what you see at the head of this post is an artist's impression of Sinornithosaurus milleni based on these fossils. Artist is James Reece; image available in the feathered dinosaurs photo gallery of the link above.

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The Largest Telescope

Here is a view through the largest telescope ever. It is the Astronomy Picture of the Day for May 24, 2006.

The telescope was big. Bigger than the whole Earth. Bigger than our Solar System. Bigger even than the whole Milky Way galaxy!

This image uses an entire cluster of galaxies as a massive gravitational lens, that bends light so as to magnify the even more distant galaxies and quasar beyond it.

The image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope with 16 hours of exposure time, and was released on May 23, 2006. The cluster that forms the lens is at a distance of 7 billion light years; and the quasar is at about 10 billion light years. As is always the case with a gravitational lens, there are multiple images visible of the same magnified galaxies. This was the first ever case where a lens gave five images of the same quasar.

One of the galaxies which is being distorted into an arc by the lens is at a distance of about 12 billion light years. The whole image is about 2 arcminutes wide. To put that in perspective, the full moon is roughly 30 arcminutes across. Under conventional cosmological models, this kind of image gives a view of the universe when it was something like 10% to 15% of its current age.

For more details, including annotated images and a diagram of how this kind of gravitational lens works, see the Hubble Press Release. See also heic0606: Hubble captures a ‘five-star’ rated gravitational lens from the European home page for NASA/ESA Hubble Space telescope, for more details, images and video.

These are exciting times for anyone interested in cosmology!

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