Day at the Creation Museum

Moishe 'n' me

Moishe ‘n’ me

The Creation Museum in Kentucky is really a marvelous testament to what money can buy. A temple of Mammon, if you will. Designers and craftspeople work for money, not ideology, and the money here paid for some good ones. It reminded me a lot of Las Vegas that way.

You won’t learn much about the Bible here, since creationists really pick and choose. From an Old Testament perspective the whole place is outrageously idolatrous, violating the Second Commandment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth…” —Exodus 20:4-6 (KJV)

Finally, the Creation Museum is a magnificent monument to the limits of human psychology. Here it’s especially easy to see the extraordinary lengths humans go to to make some kind of PALATABLE sense of the world. I vastly prefer science to biblical authority, but even the best method of inquiry gets mashed through our squishy, emotional, fallible, fragile human minds. It’s easy to make fun of creationists, but we all have similar longings to understand the world, and there’s only so much cognitive discomfort we can handle before we just project on reality as we see fit.

Big ol' bible dinosaur at the entrance

Big ol’ bible dinosaur at the entrance

The Bible is authoritative, without error, and inspired by God. UNLIKE YOUR SILLY "SCIENCE" NONSENSE!

The Bible is authoritative, without error, and inspired by God. UNLIKE YOUR SILLY “SCIENCE” NONSENSE!

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Bill Benzon’s Busy Bee Brain

Read the whole thing, it’s one of those ideas that’ll stay with you. Excerpt:
There is now a pretty strong consensus that the cerebral cortex (which is, by no means, the entire brain, but it is likely that this is where culture is carried) is organized into small columns of neurons. In a 1978 essay Vernon Mountcastle called these minicolumns and suggested that they have about 100-300 neurons each. He estimated that the neocortex consists of 600,000,000 of these minicolumns. He also suggested that these minicolumns are organized into macrocolumns, about 600,000 of them — implying that there are hundreds of minicolumns per macrocolumn. (Mountcastle was clear that these numbers were just order of magnitude estimates & that is all I need for my purposes.) That makes these macrocolumns roughly the size of a typical invertebrate nervous system of 10K to 100K neurons. So, here’s my metaphor: Your neocortex consists of 600,000 buzzing bees going about their business.

The point of the metaphor is that, just as individual bees are autonomous agents (which must, nonetheless, feed and reproduce in a group), so the macrocolumns are autonomous agents (which are physically coupled to many other such agents). Bees go about their business by sensing optical and chemical gradients and features and by moving their bodies and excreting chemicals. The macrocolumns are not directly connected to the external world, but they have extensive inputs and outputs to other macrocolumns and to other regions of the brain and nervous system. From a purely information processing point of view, they are as capable of action as are bees. They “sense” neurochemical gradients in the intersynaptic space and act on their sensations by excreting chemicals into that space.

Me discussing VHEMT on Bloggingheads

This was recorded about 2 months ago. Today Bloggingheads finally posted it – SURPRISE! Now everyone who didn’t figure it out before will know that the nice lady who made SSTB is also in the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Please, please watch the whole thing – you may be surprised.

Update: comments on this video inspired a Mimi & Eunice comic!

Academics! “Sita” cited in Humanities paper

Cultural Evolution: A Vehicle For Cooperative Interaction Between The Sciences And The Humanities by William Benzon was just published at On The Human, a project of the National Humanities Center. The paper focuses on Cultural Evolution and uses Sita Sings the Blues as a primary example. For the next two weeks (until July 19) the comments are open to all. There’s a lot of Academese there, but I’m assured plain English is also acceptable.

Also from Bill Benzon: Sita Sings the Blues’ Agni Pariksha in context.

Ye Olde Large Hadron Collider

During the Spring of 2001 I had the privilege of freelancing for CERN‘s Public Relations department in Geneva. My task was to try to explain what scientists were seeking in the Large Hadron Collider, especially an explanation of asymmetry. For this, I created possibly my best informational graphic ever:

click for high resolution PNG

Unfortunately CERN never used this, nor the 6-page pamphlet it was part of. But now that we have a more mature interwebs, I can share all 6 pages right here! Click on thumbnails below for high res PNGs (except for page 6, which was too big as PNG so is instead JPEG).

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page 6

Hooray for Entropy!

Remember the days before digital copying? Every copy introduced small errors; a copy was always a degraded, inferior version of its parent. But entropy has a beauty of its own, as in this beautiful film By Alexander Stewart (it’s not embeddable, so you have to follow this link):

Errata is an animation made by photocopying copies of copies. Starting with a blank sheet of paper, each successive copy becomes a frame of animation, meaning that each on-screen image is a copy of the last. All movements, pans and zooms in the film were accomplished using standard zoom and shrink features on copy machines; the animation camera used to shoot the copies onto 16mm film was not used to manipulate or direct the film’s motion. Comprising thousands of copies made on a dozen copiers, the resulting imagery is a moving Rorschach test of analog textures, bleeding ink spots and pareidolic cloud formations.

In contrast, digital copies are perfect – indistinguishable from their “originals.” Compression, however, retains that exciting element of entropy, as artist hadto demonstrates:

Granted he intentionally increased the compression from frame to frame; the discussion on the video page  is enlightening (and led me to Errata in the first place).

Avian Transportation Theory

Aaron Simpson pointed me to this excellent mock-trailer:

Originally found on RichardDawkins.net, it’s a parody of what looks like a truly dumb “Intelligent Design” PR piece.

You’ll notice there’s a little clip of my short film The Stork at the beginning. No, the producers didn’t ask for permission and no, that doesn’t bother me because yes, I enjoyed the piece so much I’m honored to be included (also the clip is really brief – blink and you might miss it). But hey Sexpelled producers – get in touch anyway, I like your style.
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Marrowing News

from plexpixel:

  • As you may have heard, Emru Townsend, Editor of Frames Per Second Magazine is suffering from leukemia and is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. None of his relatives are a match, so he is relying on outside donors. We are asking you to help us encourage members of the animation community to join a bone marrow registry – you or someone you know may be the match Emru is hoping for!
  • Because tissue types are inherited, patients are more likely to match someone from their own race or ethnicity. As an Afro-Caribbean, Emru Townsend will be most likely to match other donors of African or Caribbean decent. So please urge anyone in your circle with this racial background to participate.

Emru adds:

I’d just like to make one small correction: although there’s a better chance of a match from someone of the same ethnic background, it doesn’t mean I have no chance of matching anyone else. It’s better for me (and everyone else waiting for a transplant) if everyone registers. Registering is easy and, at worst, as painful as a blood test.

I wanted to spread the word here. Emru did a big article on me and Sita in 2005.

Links for Lunch – Science Edition

An ongoing feature in which I recommend the work and websites of people who buy me lunch. Today’s entry: The Purugganan Lab!

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What does animation have to do with genetic biology? Lunch! Yesterday I was treated to pizza at Otto by not only friend and NYU Professor Michael Purugganan, but also a bunch of Postdoctoral Fellows, Graduate Students, and Technicians who are exploring the The Molecular Evolutionary Ecology of Plant Development, among other genetic biology type things.

Dr. Purugganan studies Plants
Before lunch I got to visit the Purugganan lab itself!

Purugganan Lab
It sure looks science-y, doesn’t it?

I learned some important science things, such as in Europe you can’t just go planting genetically modified plants willy-nilly like we do in the US; that at least one visiting scientist enjoyed and recommends King Corn; and that many scientists are looking to date and marry non-scientists (contact lab for details). I feel more smarter now.

Would YOU like to be featured in Links for Lunch? Then buy me lunch. My email address is at the bottom of the middle column, the one with the pictures linking to my movies and cartoons and stuff.