Bars vs Grocery Stores

From Flowing Data:

FloatingSheep, a fun geography blog, looks at the beer belly of America. One maps shows total number of bars, but the interesting map is the one above. Red dots represent locations where there are more bars than grocery stores, based on results from the Google Maps API. The Midwest takes their drinking seriously.

The New Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Your trash murdered my albatross.

Forget the old poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Look deep in that glittering eye of the the old man. Let it hypnotize you with his message. He has come to you to say, “Clean up the world, goddamnit.”

From Clusterflock

Taken on Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent. The nesting babies are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking. To see more of the series click the photo or follow this link

Discover Magazine: 20 things you don’t know about a Virus. In other news, your body is a viral whore house.

This month’s Discover Magazine “20 Things You Don’t Know About a …” series features viruses. I thought this one was particularly interesting, as it gives a peek into non-living organisms and evolution.

The article just came out, so it’s not available to read online. But here are two of twenty facts you don’t know about viruses.

The #1 thing you don’t know about viruses is:

Viruses are not alive. They do not have cells, they cannot turn foods into energy, and without a host they are just inert packets of chemicals.

The #2 thing you don’t know about viruses is:

Viruses are not exactly dead, either: they have genes, they reproduce and they evolve through natural selection.

The scary part to a creationist might be the last part (“they evolve through natural selection.”) Try to remove that from your mind if that bothers you. Instead, concentrate on the first part: Viruses have genes and they reproduce and a virus is not alive.

It doesn’t consume any kind of “food” to burn for energy. It doesn’t have a “mind”, and yet it successfully exists to replicate, and to infect you so badly with itself, that you are knocked off your feet for sometimes days. It doesn’t have a mind, yet it successfully infects millions, then it uses its non-brain to replicate in a way that the next time it gets you, your immune system can’t defeat it fast enough.

The way I understand evolution and the beginning of life (abiogenesis), and many of my readers can correct me, is that there were chemical processes that created a type of lifeless particle. This lifeless particle replicated through chemical means. The particles grew in size and complexity. And poof, us. Magic, right? No, this process continued and continued over and over. And complexity arose out of simplicity.

The creationist/Intelligent design “theory” of Irreducible Complexity has been debunked time after time. Science shows that simple does beget complex. An organism that appears to have suddenly popped into existence — as the bible explains — turns out to have a simpler predecessors.

This is a pedestrian and relatively ignorant explanation, I know. I really wanted to throw out there that there is evidence among us that non-living things can replicate, “live” among us, and cause such havoc.

You have to agree that viruses are amazing little beasts. They’re so amazing that they can fell the strongest man or woman alive. All this without a brain.

When I read about these things, it makes sense. It makes sense that non-life can replicate itself, grow in complexity, and become the simple celled organisms that gave rise to multicellular organisms. Hence why Dawkins says, in “The Greatest Show on Earth,” we went from simple sperm and egg to a baby in 9 months. If a baby can do it, why is it so difficult that over the course of millions of years, these things started happening in nature? Once the process is in place, it becomes standard fare and seemingly easily done.

If something so simple as a non-living virus can be so miniscule and complex at the same time … If it can reproduce so fast as to out-speed your body’s immune system and find yet another way to infect it with virtual petri dish of viral breeding grounds … Only to cause you to sneeze, wipe your nose, open a door and have your wife open that same door, wipe her eye, and blam … she’s sick too. And these things are all explicable by natural selection and science, and you still believe that god did it, what in the world is wrong with you?

Maybe to you, when you read the bible, and there’s a talking snake, a tree of life and women made from ribs, it sounds completely reasonable to you.

And you think it’s crazy that I think complexity arose from simple.

If you believe the genesis story, please tell me one thing: Where’s the verse in the bible that explains god’s all-powerful knowledge of viruses?

Was the story of Jesus removing demons a metaphor for viral infection going from man to pig or did it validate the predominant ignorance of the day?

Don’t forget: Your body is a viral whore house.

Daniel Dennett on Consciousness


The Santa Claus of the famed Four Horsemen, Dan Dennett gives an excellent talk about consciousness to a group of Spanish-speaking intellects.

Watch it!

Oscar Night, yawns-a-licious

T and I watched a little of the Oscars tonight. They were okay. We haven’t seen a lot of the pictures, so there’s not much of a point for me to watch the awards.

We arrived late to the ceremony after eating dinner out with bros-in-law Michael and Jason. That means we missed out on a lot of the theater and jokes that the beginning of the ceremony features.

We got sucked into what we saw though. I can’t believe I haven’t seen “Precious” yet.

I saw an interview with the guy who directed it on Jon Stewart a couple weeks ago, and I almost immediately knew he was a sharp talent. I’ll add several of the movies to my growing list of movies to see. It was great to see the amount of diversity — albeit not much — but more than usual.

I did see “Hurt Locker” and “Up in the Air”. I thought they were both worthy of the accolades they received. I haven’t seen “Avatar”, and it doesn’t bother me that I haven’t. All in all, what I saw seemed pretty inspiring.

My favorite feature, even though it didn’t seem to help the length of the show, was the limits on speeches. Next year, the Academy should limit the speeches to 10 twitter tweets.

Seriously.

I can say that from what I saw, there was only one mention of god and it was from Mo’Nique. That’s all I counted. Maybe when there’s a time limit, there’s more thanks to the tangible talent and influences that inspired the works.

Here were a couple graphics I saw at the Daily What that made me giggle. Man, people work fast. They’re funny, because I completely thought the same thing, but I failed to put out a graphic that reflected it.

Note to self, act faster.