Thursday, August 27, 2009

Missions to Mars or the Moon

I support the idea of manned missions to Mars and the Moon. Moreover I support the establishment of permanent bases because by doing so we gain knowledge of how to get people into space and onto other planets on a long term basis. Which will lead to knowledge of how to create self sustaining colonies away from Earth. Which will eventually lead to civilian colonies in said places. Which gets humanity spread out in such a away that a global catastrophe in any one place won't wipe out our whole species.

While this is happening we hopefully get a resurgence of the general population's interest in science, such as what happened during the Mercury and Apollo missions. Hopefully that interest will be accompanied by a desire for better understanding, especially among young people who will be the ones to grow up and make much of this possible. In short, such missions would be inspirational.

I know that there are problems right here on Earth that could use the space program's money and effort to great effect. But if we wait until all the world's problems are solved before turning to space, we will never get there. Although space programs are expensive, they don't take a very large piece of the national budget (less than 1%) and do not require that we abandon our other programs to fund them. We can help people right here on Earth and still go to space, we don't have to choose all of one vs. the other.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gay marriage in America

I can see no good reason to exclude same sex couples from all the same legal privileges of marriage as everyone else. Moreover, I can see of no good reason why this should have any legal effect on a personal freedom of religion. I know that right away some will read the above passage and think that there are indeed reasons to dispute my opinion. But please keep in mind that I wrote that there were no GOOD reasons, not that someone couldn't come up with something.

I do understand that for a vocal group of Christians, the issue of homosexuality is a deeply moral one. To them it is a choice to engage in a set of behaviors that are seen as sinful, perhaps even evil. Justifications for this view can be found in their holy book, so they do have theological grounds for their objection to homosexuality.

Often Christians like these also hold as a part of their expression of their religion the need to remake the society around them into one that is in line with their theology. Proselytizing is an integral component of their religion as it is done to help make mankind more like them and hence more beloved by God. Laws or policies that cannot be justified theologically or are in contrary to their theology are opposed. Laws or policies that are inspired by their religion are always promoted.

The problem with legislating from a theology is that it violates the Constitution as it effectively forces behaviors of a religious origin on non-believers or practitioners of another faith. I do understand that there are religious rules that also appear in the laws of our country, such as don't murder. However, those laws exist for perfectly reasonable reasons that don't require a theological basis. They can and must be justified in secular terms in order to be Constitutional.

The freedom of religion in our Constitution is absolute in terms of belief, meaning that we are free to believe as our conscience dictates. What the Constitutional freedom of religion does not protect is all conduct that might be associated with the expression of a religious faith. For example, a religion might require its faithful to cut the beating hearts out of human slaves every morning -- but that would rightly be considered murder under the law and not protected under the First Amendment.

Christians do have the legal right to believe that all homosexuals are sinful abominations who will burn in hell for all eternity. They also have the legal right to believe that homosexuals should be stoned to death outside the city walls. Regardless of those beliefs, Christians are held to the same standard of conduct under the law as everyone else and aren't allowed to murder or force other citizens into second class roles as an expression of their faith.

So if we take the theological objections out of the equation of the LEGAL rights of people to get married in this country, what is left?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Air Cannon Compilation Video

So some friends of mine from school got to talking this Summer about building an air cannon.

One of these friends is a chemistry teacher and he got his hands on a lot of lead and a mold for making 1.75 inch cannon balls. He also has a high speed video camera. He made a bunch projectiles and began looking for a way to shoot them and record the results for use in his classes.

Once I heard about this I knew I'd stumbled upon a really fun project. What if I built an air cannon out of an old pressure tank and some pipe and we use it to shoot lead cannon balls into targets we build? An idea was born. Another friend is an aerospace engineer and he worked out the materials, valve size, and probable speed of our projectiles at various amounts of pressure. We estimate it can handle considerably more than the maximum of 125 psi we'd feed it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pineapple Express movie review

This might be the worst movie I've seen in the last few years. This is a story about habitual pot users and sellers that might require being viewed while high in order to get anything from it. The plot rambled on incoherently much like the confused dialog of the constantly wasted characters -- which I'm sure was meant to be the source of the humor. Instead of funny, the scenes were overly long unintelligible conversations or overly long physical humor that even an 8-year-old would find absurd. I'd estimate that the average IQ of the characters was somewhere around 78 which might reflect on the intelligence of the film's makers as well.

Do not waste your time or money on this turd.