Friday, 31 August 2007

I read...

...on the blogger help thing that you should keep your posts short.

I don't seem to be able to do that.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

News on the Frivolous Front

If you remember the lawsuit that PZ Myers was going to go through then you should also know that nothing will happen. Through common sense and the pressure of Peter Irons in pointing out pretty much all the deficiencies in the suit.

So Pivar has dropped the suit and apparently Mr. Little, Pivar's laywer, is threatening to sue Irons for some silly reason.

All I can say is congratulations PZ Myers.

I guess that since this battle is over we should probably look at the damages for both parties:

PZ Myers
  • Probably down a few dollars in legal fees
  • Gained more readers (I know I have started reading his blog more)
  • Held and holds the morale high ground
  • Is still an excellent blogger
  • Has increased the usage of the word "crackpot"

  • Most likely lost more money on a lawyer that doesn't seem to be very good
  • Has now managed to get himself laughed at by the entire internet
  • Would not have sold any copies of his book
  • Quit the suit in a really wimpy way
  • Will most likely now be known as "crackpot" for ever and ever

So as we can see PZ Myers clearly won this battle nearly all his points that are there are good ones, so we can give him +4. Pivar on the other hand has many negative points (you can see the bias...) so he gets -5. So the difference is 9, which would be say, an 'Epic Victory', in a complete and arbitrary point of view.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Peppered Moths

One of the finest examples of evolution is the Peppered Moth or Biston betularia. In fact it is so great that I am learning about it again in first year Biology. This is also the first post that I have written discussing Creationism so I hope I don't stuff this up.

Now I don't know if I can really say that I love Biology, I must admit that I prefer Chemistry but for me to live up my dream I need to understand something about Biology anyway.

Now for those that don't know the Peppered Moth (I prefer the common name, less italics to write in) can be found in the UK and can be found in two varieties a melanic variety (which is dark) and a lighter form.

Although the experiment undertaken by Bernard Kettlewell in the 1950's the effect started from the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.

Before the huge increase in factories the forests were clean and had light coloured lichen growing on the trees.

The lichen allowed the lighter moths to survive easier compared to the melanic ones because they could easily camouflage themselves on the trees and not get eaten by the birds that preyed on the insects.

Naturally the darker moths were easier targets and were eaten.

However the Industrial Revolution changed the rules.

The drastic increase of factories spewing out smoke created plenty of soot that killed off the lichen and covered the trees in black soot.

The colours of the moths changed. The melanic moths started to become more common, not being the rare variety anymore but the common one.

Kettlewell managed to show in his experiment that the darker moths were prevalent because the birds found it harder to find them in the soot covered forests.

After the 50's with a program that cut down pollution they found that the moths returned to their original colour diversity.

Now creationists seem to have a problem with this trying to find ways of disproving the hypothesis. The Panda's Thumb mentions them claiming that the results were "faked" and Talk Design has an article that quite thoroughly shows how first the creationists are wrong and how the book Of Moths and Men is also wrong.

This site which is probably getting more exposure then it should, says the following:

IMHO...a couple of issues with the most recent peppered moth study. It's still a moth, and the evolution is an oscillation of populations, just like the finches of Galapagos. Of course, the Darwinists will appeal to the "great creators", random chance, natural selection, and the jackpot, hundreds of millions of years. Given enough time, anything can happen, right?

What we see here is what we can call 'a quite stupid comment'.

It isn't the worst that I have heard from a creationist. The number one thing is a tie between someone claiming that macroevolution was "a rock turning into a banana" or "the Peppered Moth isn't an example of evolution because the pollution was man made but evolution is natural"

Trying to claim that the Peppered Moths has nothing on evolution because it is "still a moth" is a moot point. What was shown here was that the moths adapted to survive, those that were born melanic in a dark environment meant that they were more likely to survive.

The evolution was not just an "oscillation of populations" it was an increase/decrease clearly in the allele frequency of the population. Which, anyway, has nothing in common with the Galapagos finches. The Galapagos finches arrived on the island, most likely from a storm on the mainland and over time they reproduced but they also filled unfilled niches in the ecosystem. The one that I can think of at the moment is the Warbler Finch which is a finch that has adapted itself into a type of warbler, but it is still a finch.

The next line of that comment is just standard creationist drivel, make it sound like a religion and somehow it becomes an idea that is characterised by a belief system but clearly shows a lack of understanding of evolution.

Random chance only affects life if it is something that does not target specific species, for example an asteroid hitting the Earth. It doesn't discriminate between a fit animal and an unfit animal it just kills and whatever manages to survive is bloody lucky.

What he calls the "jackpot" (millions of years") is not always the case. It does not take millions of years for bacteria to become resistant to types of medicine, nor does it take millions of years for various species to become immune to the effects of bacteria like Wolbachia.

To finish, what makes creationists funny (or even IDers) is that they try so hard to disprove something but they don't understand the thing they are trying to disprove, so they fall back to fallacies...

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Citizenship test?

I heard this on the news at work.

Australia will be introducing a citizenship test

Now we are more like the Americans and Canadians.

People will have to know something about Australia like our Capital city (Canberra) or what is on our coat of arms (Kangaroo and Emu, but I know that because we also eat them (but I haven't had Emu yet, I guess it might taste like big chicken...))

One of the funnier ones involves our national anthem.

As a semi sidetrack I will point out that our national anthem is called Advance Australia Fair.

The two verses that are sung are:

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We've golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in Nature's gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history's page, let every stage
Advance Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing,
"Advance Australia fair!"
Beneath our radiant southern Cross,
We'll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing
"Advance Australia fair!"
That is the entire anthem.

Now there are some small things that you have to note. The first is that in official events you sit and listen to them play the tune once through and then you sing the first verse.

The second is that most Australians don't know the anthem.

I know both verses because I used to sing in a Choir (when I still had that young boys voice) and at big events we would sing the anthem, both verses.

The Age has 20 of the possible 200 questions that may be asked. The test has 20 out of a possible 200 that can be asked so if you are a person trying to become a citizen maybe you should learn these ones and hope you are lucky...

Anyway number four is:

4. What is the first line of Australia's national anthem?

What makes this funny is that, unlike in the US where my understanding is that an immigrant will know more about their constitution then an American, an immigrant who wants to become an Australian will learn the part of the national anthem that most Australians know.

So we will pretty much all be equal.

When you listen to a country sing it's national anthem you can usually make out what they are saying (unless you don't understand the language that well). Lets choose a national anthem almost at random. The German one.

Germans know their national anthem, many also know the first verse, the one they aren't allowed to sing.

What the Germans use as their national anthem is the third verse which is this:

Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
für das deutsche Vaterland!
Danach laßt uns alle streben
brüderlich mit Herz und Hand!
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
sind des Glückes Unterpfand;
Blüh im Glanze dieses Glückes,
blühe, deutsches Vaterland.

Now you will pretty much understand what they are going on about here.

Compare that to what you would hear from the Australians. I once heard this as a joke but it is perfectly true:

Australians all let us rejoice
For we ar yun an re
Wi gowden soi an welf for toil
Our ome e girt i c

I would continue but I don't know how to exactly write it down. It is more of an unintelligible drawl in tune to the music. So really an immigrant needs to know the first verse, how to sound like they are singing and know where to put the word 'girt' which most don't know what it means (surrounded/encircled/etc.) but seem to be able to sing clearly.

Probably because girt doesn't make a good drawl sound.

I think there should be an even easier citizenship test. They learn the national anthem and then have to sing it to people. If they sing it clearly and well then they aren't allowed in and if they can't sing it we welcome them into the fold.

It is like Tripod's "New Aussie Anthem"

So we all need to raise our voice and say:
(mumble mumble mumble mumble)... ay!
The rest of the questions are:

In what year did Federation take place?

A: 1901, January 1st to be exact.

2. Which day of the year is Australia Day?

A: January 26th

3. Who was the first Prime Minister of Australia?

A: Edmund Barton. Not many people know that in fact more people know the first president of the US, so the government ran some commercials in 2000-1 so inform people about our first PM.

5. What is the floral emblem of Australia?

A: The Wattle if I remember correctly, that is where we get the sporting colours of green and gold.

6. What is the population of Australia?

A: Last time I checked it was about 21 million.

7. In what city is the Parliament House of the Commonwealth Parliament located?

A: Canberra, the city of too many roundabouts and not enough traffic lights.

8. Who is the Queen's representative in Australia?

A: The Governor General, but I don't know his name.

9. How are Members of Parliament chosen?

A: Election

10. Who do Members of Parliament represent?

A: I guess the correct answer is the people, but I think for many the party they are from is more apt.

11. After a federal election, who forms the new government?

A: For the last 10 years a 'coalition'. And I suspect that it will be the same again after this years election. It is whoever has the majority of seats in Parliament.

12. What are the colours on the Australian flag?

A: Blue, white, red

13. Who is the head of the Australian Government?

A: The Prime Minister, who is currently called John but if Labor is lucky the PM will be called Kevin. Could you imagine the insults? Ruddy Kevin Rudd...

14. What are the three levels of government in Australia?

A: Local, state, federal

15. In what year did the European settlement of Australia start?

A: Officially 1788, when the First Fleet arrived.

16. Serving on a jury if required is a responsibility of Australian citizenship: true or false?

A: Apparently

17. In Australia, everyone is free to practise the religion of their choice, or practise no religion: true of false?

A: True, unless you are a Muslim then you can practice your religion but will also face insults for being a Muslim by the racist yobs.

18. To be elected to the Commonwealth Parliament you must be an Australian citizen: true or false?

A: True. Which is why I am divided on the Shane Warne becoming a German thing. I mean I don't want him to become a German because he is jerk, and it will reflect badly on me here due to cricket loving bogans (Oh you're German, just like Shane Warne...) but I don't really want him to go into Australian politics which is apparently something that he wants to do.

19. As an Australian citizen, I have the right to register my baby born overseas as an Australian citizen: true or false?

A: I wouldn't know. I think that is true.

20. Australian citizens aged 18 years or over are required to enrol on the electoral register: true or false?

A: True, however in South Australia you are on;y required by law to enrol on the federal register not the state one, but we aren't given the option of not registering on the state register.

Who knows, maybe I got the 12 out of 20 to pass the test...

I think this is my first post where I have used both 'Musings' and 'Silliness' as a tag...

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Hot Chocolate Rapist

When I first read about this today I wondered why I hadn't heard anything about it.

From what I can tell the crimes that I am about to write about happened around 10 years ago now.

I first heard about these crimes in passing on Triple J news on Friday heading to Uni, but I missed some of it and I didn't try to look up more about it.

However from what I have found it seems that this man raped 22 women and has been charged with 61 offences that involve 24 women.

He looked respectable, and would buy the women hot chocolate which he would lace with drugs.

In 1998 the case went cold until possibly July this year when two of the victims appealed for other victims to come forward.

Yesterday a man was charged with 61 charges against 24 women.

The man goes by the name of Harry William Barkas who is in remand until December 12.

The article gives the charges:

Mr Barkas has been charged with four counts of rape, one of indecent assault, five counts of administering drugs to render a person unable to resist sexual penetration and one count each of using and trafficking cannabis.

Now the problem that I have with punishing rapists is that do they really understand what they have done? How they have hurt the people that they raped?

I want to link to a thread in the Myspace forums where someone posted that they should legalise rape, but it might have been deleted.

The reason why I wanted to link to it was because this person didn't seem to understand the difference between rape and rough sex.

I wonder if rapists have the same problem, that they equate rape with having rough sex?

How could you punish someone like that? Let them be raped to see the difference?

Finally if all goes well the women who were raped will finally get to see some justice for what has happened to them. And justice after a crime is really all that matters.

Iraq Blogs

The BBC has an updated Iraqi Blogs page.

Two blogs hit me after reading their profiles.

The first is called Days of My Life and is from a young girl who goes by the name of Sunshine, who lives in Mosul.

I have started reading through the archives, and I cannot think of anything to say at the moment. The post that I am up to at this time I think may be one referring to the Battle of Mosul which really seems to reflect the Coalition's ability to achieve an indecisive result.

The thing that I see in reading these entries is that she does not seem to give up hope. At least that is what I am reading now.

The second one that I will start reading more of is called Last of Iraqis. I have only read the little excerpt from the BBC but it sounds like another interesting thing to read.

If you will excuse me I have some reading to do...

A Review

Just to ruin my lovely long post I will post a review of a novella that I have just finished reading. So just skip down to the next post.

The story is called Stuart Pivar v. Seed Media Group LLC and Paul Z Myers and can be found in PDF format here. It is the first in the "Crackpot" series of books by the current author, the United States District Court Southern District of New York, with help from the lawyers of Stuart Pivar.

Although only 10 pages long the reader will be taken on an emotional ride of apathy, confusion, happiness, sadness and fear.

There are some funny points where the book makes reference to real facts that are distorted to represent a fantasy life of a man who feels that he has been screwed over by another and decides to sue the other and his organisation for US$15 million.

At this stage we have the opening, where the man has submitted his complaint to the court system to get the other man to shut up.

He puts forth pretend anxiety to the court so that he may get some sort of pity but then demands that if he wins that the other man will have his mouth sewn so that he may never criticise anyone ever again.

As you move through the tale you will need to look up some supplementary material which is available free off the web. Just google for it, or look on other posts here.

From a plot perspective the tale is rather bland, and contains a bias towards the character called 'Plaintiff' but I suspect that any further books in the series will be more balanced.

Overall I would give this book two stars, it just doesn't stand up on it's own.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Yes it is. Here is the complaint to prove it.

This is the more informative part of the PZ Myer "lawsuit", the one where I have read the things that I should have read last time but needed sleep.

Now reading some comments I heard that some real media sources said something about this. Too bad us bloggers have decided to talk about it.

The closest that I seem to have found is that the blog for Scientific American has said something.

Now nicking this link from PT takes us to the complaint in question.

I might as well point out now that the plaintiff is Stuart Pivar. The guy who wrote the book Lifecode. It is the review that has caused all the problems.

Reading the complaint I see many facts that seem to be completely pointless to me, I would say that paragraph 10 in the complaint (3rd fact point) could really be some sort of appeal to authority.

Paragraph 10 states:

In 1982, with the late, celebrated artist, Andy Warhol, Plaintiff co-founded and provided the initial funding for the New York Academy of Art, a classical graduate school for painting and sculpture, whose current patron is H.R.H. Charles, Prince of Wales

As I said, what is the relevance for this?

But back to the point.

Here is the review by PZ Myers (Which is a repost). Here is another comment posted on the same day.

The biggest problem is that they don't mention in the complaint which post they are complaining about, the review, or the reasoning behind reposting the review. I suspect that it is the latter because the facts seem to fit it.

Paragraph 15 is the really the start of the matter at hand.

Paragraph 15 states:

On July 12, 2007, Defendant Myers launched a vicious attack on the integrity of Plaintiff's work on Myers' "Pharyngula" webiste, found on the internet at

(The hyperlink has been added in by me and is to the correct address).

Now then, from what I can see the post in question has no attack whatsoever, and can hardly be called vicious. The closest thing that I can even see as an attack is the use of the tag 'kooks' but bloggers everywhere should know that tags are completely opinionated. I could write a post about someone and use the tag 'wanker' if I wanted to (not that I ever will or may the almighty Google delete my blog), but it has no bearing on the actual person. But that is probably a false analogy.

What PZ Myers seems to have said is that the whole premise of the book is flawed.

The second post is just his annoyance about the media giving a book that has an idea that he thinks is completely pointless any time whatsoever. I see no attack just some criticism.

Paragraph 16 states:

On July 12, 2007, Defendant Myers maliciously, and without cause, defamed Plaintiff by referring him to as "a classic crackpot"

Last I checked in countries with freedom of speech that is not a crime. There are far worse words that you can use to insult someone. Does that mean that a psychic will sue James Randi for calling their stuff "woo-woo"? Or homoeopaths suing because he claims that their 'medicine' is a hoax?

Paragraph 17 states:

Upon information and belief, Defendant Myers' references to Plaintiff as "a classic crackpot" were necessarily intended to disparage Plaintiff's abilities as a scientific enquirer and were intended to hold Plaintiff up to ridicule and embarrassment in this specific area of Plaintiff's professional endeavors.

PZ disagreed with the argument, he is allowed to do that.

Paragraph 18 continues with the supposed defamatory remarks somehow coming up with the conclusion that Myers somehow holds complete sway over the entire scientific community and that by calling Pivar a "crackpot" means that his endorsements will somehow go away.

Paragraph 20 made me laugh:

Because Defendant Myers' defamation of Plaintiff has been disseminated widely throughout the world, his remarks were also likely and possibly intended to hold the Plaintiff up to ridicule in his business relationships as an industrialist, Plaintiff's social relationships and in his activities as a philanthropist

Now Pivar is the founder of Chem-tainer Industries (paragraph 9) , a business that has absolutely nothing to do with matters of biological research. I honestly doubt that people would stop business with his company because he has ideas that have been called 'crackpot'. It doesn't stop the other crackpots now doesn't it?

The same goes for Philanthropy. I am sure that nobody there would care that he has published a book that has been labelled as 'crackpot', it isn't as if he had committed mass murder or something like that.

The biggest irony is that he is really shot himself in the foot here. People would have read the entry by Myers, thought little of it, perhaps even bought the book so they could read for themselves what this guy was going on about and that would have been it. Now pretty much the entire blogosphere is talking about it, he is now being ridiculed because he decided to embark on a frivolous lawsuit.

Paragraph 21 cites the case McFaddn v United States Fidelity and Guarantee Company as possible precedent claiming that "crackpot" can be a slanderous term. Looking around (and managing to find something from Richard Dawkins) it looks like the case never went further then the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which means that they are citing non-binding precedent because I assume, as it is done here, only federal courts can produce binding precedent.

Paragraph 22 says that Myers has just decided to keep on attacking the book.

Paragraph 23 says:

Upon information and belief, [Neil de Grasse Tyson] has withdrawn any previous review of Plaintiff's work in relation to Lifecode due to the unwarranted and vitriolic attacks Defendant Myers has made on Lifecode and Plaintiff personally.

However they do not say what information Tyson received or why he wanted his comments removed. I managed to find them on Butterflies and Wheels, which found that the quotes were either taken out of context and made up.

Pivar had a few people to support the book, Richard Milner, Robert Hazen, Brian Goodwin, Dimitar Sasselov and Neil de Grasse Taylor. Taylor decided to have his comments taken off the website because they were false and it seems that Pivar has somehow attributed lying on his part into "PZ Myers convinced him through ad hominems". PZ Myers himself stated that he received a copy of the book to review ("Instead, Pivar sent me a copy of his book to review, so I'll focus on that.").

Also notice that if you look at the reviews section the one from Hazen is the longest on that page but he admits that he is not an expert in "this area of topology and mechanics" he says many things that make little sense to me but all the reviews no matter how long are supportive of the claims so what is wrong with a dissenting view.

Because of his standing in the blog community (He is considered the best of the science blogs) I suspect that Pivar would have thought that it would have been good to get a positive review from him, but it backfired when the brutally honest review (paragraph 19 says that Myers has described himself as a cruel and insensitive person), was a negative one.

So Pivar writes another version of Lifecode called Lifecode:From egg to embryo by self-organization which received an "even worse" comment. This would have annoyed him so he ends up with the decision to sue PZ Myers, which really is shooting himself in the foot.

He didn't get the result that he wanted and is now trying to get his revenge.

Paragraphs 24 - 27 are there to try and argue why the parent company is at fault.

Paragraph 28 says that Pivar mentions (on July 17 2007) that Myers had reviewed the earlier book.

All I can say is the Myers seems to have been getting messages from Pivar well before the second review came out.

This is the link to the second review, which is another negative one.

Paragraph 30 states:

Defendant Myers' defamatory remarks have caused the Plaintiff considerable mental and emotional distress

From a guy who has been bullied in the past let me tell you something. A bad review is nothing. If I could choose between getting a bad review or having a mob of people yelling names at me I would choose the review.

Paragraph 31 is trying to say that Myers has ruined the work of Pivar as a scientist, who I guess is most likely more at home in a Chemistry lab then a Biological one.

Paragraph 32 states:

By reason of the defamatory comments written by Defendant Myers and published by SMG, Plaintiff has been damaged by loss of book sales and diminished return of ten years of funded scientific research in special damages, a sum in excess of [US]$5 million.

(I added the [US])

Now from what I understand the suit is for US$15 million. So I guess the breakdown is US$5 million for supposed people not buying the book, and him not getting money for research. Even according to's "About the Author section, Pivar has no credentials in Biology. It says Physics, Mathematics, Chemical and Mechanical engineering.

In all honesty I doubt that he would get research grants for Biological work.

The final paragraph of fact, 33, claims that he has:

[Suffered], inter alia, the special damages referenced in Paragraph 30 supra, and gross impairment of his good name, public embarrassment, humiliation, impairment to his professional reputation, public impairment of his abilities and integrity, anxiety, emotional upset and public ridicule.

Well the public ridicule of him would really have increased since he decided to slap a lawsuit on PZ Myers and SMG and the other things are just complete rubbish from a guy who is trying to garner sympathy or is someone who can't handle criticism.

The declaratory relief says that he wants Myers to remove anything negative written about Pivar from his blog. What an interesting way to silence critics. If that happens then I will willingly give space on my blog for PZ Myers to post whatever the hell he wants and I am sure that others would be willing to do so as well.

The second claim is about business interference and the US$5 million.

The third claim is where the rest of the money appears, the US$10 million. That is damages for libel per se.

The next section is where it gets scary. Under 'Prayer for Relief' comes the reasons what Pivar wants to get out of this. I will copy this herein:

WHEREFORE Plaintiff respectfully demands this court enter judgement in its favor and against Defendants Myers and SMG as follows:

1. Enjoining permanently the Defendants from making any future defamatory statements about the Plaintiff and immediately removing any remaining defamatory statements from their websites

2. Awarding on the Second Claim for such compensatory and punitive damages for the Defendants tortious interference with Plaintiff's business relationships as a jury may impost, but at least the sum of [US]$5 million, that constitutes Plaintiff's special damages.

3. Awarding on the Third Claim, such compensatory and punitive damages, inter alia for emotional distress and loss of reputation of at least [US]$10 million, or any sum as the jury may impost.

4. Granting such other and further relief as the Court seems just and proper, including the costs of this action.
What makes the whole thing scary is that would silence Myers from posting anything on his blog that criticises Pivar. Which may leave Pivar open to write a whole bunch of crap and pass it off as science.

It also would open the door up to other lawsuits against other people who criticise someone, even in book reviews where the book was sent to the reviewer by the author personally. It would also turn the US blogosphere upside down because they cannot say things that criticise.

Blogs are primarily an opinonative thing, we are not the proper media, we write about things we want to write about, we are not the news where we must be completely neutral on all issues, what makes a blog great, like Pharyngula or PT, Baghdad Burning or the BABlog. We know that they have a bias, but that is what makes them good to read, they have viewpoints that they support or don't support because they are written by real people, from real places in the world, about issues and situations that are important to them.

Do you really want to see that disappear in a blink of an eye?

Thursday, 23 August 2007


I found this on The Panda's Thumb.

It isn't really nice to hear.

At this point in time it is rather late here so I won't say too much at the moment in regards to facts, my opinions however can and most likely will make me late for my Marine Science lecture tomorrow.

PZ Myers, the excellent author of>Pharyngula has come under attack because he decided to be honest when he wrote a review on a book written by some creationist.

So now he and Seed magazine are under attack by this guy who is claiming, supposedly that PZ Myers (Who has nothing to say on the matter) used the review to ridicule the guy who wrote the book that he was reviewing.

So what?

If I write a really bad book should I honestly expect that the reviewer to be really nice and not hurt my feelings?

If I do then I am thinking like a complete idiot.

Now here in Australia we all know that we have some rights, although technically not enshrined anywhere (the Constitution lists two fully if I remember correctly and touches on a third one) but we know that there is a point where you can't do a thing when it comes to words.

There are some problems, like a fencing company having to take down a sign for a supposed rude word even though it is a rather clever play on the word 'erection'. If you have thought of anything except building fences, then, shame on you.

In the US from what I hear there seems to be a very weird way of doing things. It seems that you have a right to say whatever the hell you want, but you can't insult someone?

I love how there are blatant contradictions of freedoms like this.

I don't know what was written because I haven't looked yet, but I do know that as long as PZ was within the law, and I feel confident in saying from what I have read of his blog, he has, he can say whatever he wants.

If he gave the book a poor review then he gave it a poor review.

No need to sue someone over it.

Or supposedly claim "considerable mental and emotional distress" and demand financial damages.

Having your name run into the ground by the media for something you didn't do, that causes "considerable mental and emotional distress, getting a bad review doesn't. Most authors get bad reviews once in a while, they don't sue people over it.

It's like asking for US$15 million for financial compensation...


oh, yeah that is the amount he is being sued for...


Now US$15 million is a ridiculous amount to ask for after being given one bad review. It's quite like asking for $7 million because your $2 clothes peg broke. The amount wouldn't even fit a proper slander crime in this case.

There is one good thing though. If the media start going on about it there would be a lot of free publicity for PZ Myers, and they say that any publicity is good publicity.

Unless you happen to be that US Gridiron player who pleaded guilty to the dog fighting ring...

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Arguing with 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists - Various Arguments used

Now some people can be really stupid. And then we get the people that South Park said were retarded.

Yep, the 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

Before I start I might as well point out that I am using the American convention for dates because it is simpler for the event which is known as that specific date. In the dd/mm/yy system that would be (in Australia) two days before Remembrance Day.


I will plug a few sites that have nothing to do with me, the first being Debunking 9/11 .com, a good debunking site/archive thingy and What I learned from 9/11 Conspiracy theories a site that is quite funny because it points out some really really stupid things that have been said.

Now really I should post this later but discussion on the topic has started again in August.

Many of these people are just stupid people. They don't understand science or how things actually work.

I have heard the following arguments before:

1. If a plane hit a tower why didn't it fall down like [an ice cream stick]

(They use the American name for them which I don't know how to spell)

This is probably the stupidest one that I have ever heard, I have only heard it once, and I never got an answer when I made a counterpoint.

The person who wrote it seems to think that buildings act like ice cream sticks, that they are one big continuous thing that has no separated parts or is somehow strong enough to withstand a Boeing 767 travelling at around 900 km.h-1.

2. Linking to Youtube/Google Video/some site with a video that "proves" their point"

This I have found to be a very common thing to do. They somehow seem to think that people will watch or even care. Many people who argue with these people have already seen the videos or read enough about the issue at hand to know that horribly grainy footage of the attacks is not proof.

In many cases the videos are horribly biased anyway and use mental gymnastics to try and prove their point.

3. Use of ad hominems or other logical fallacies

This is a very common argument. It isn't just ad hominems but they do extend to other fallacies.

One of the more common ones that I have seen recently involves them calling you a shill for some mysterious power that be to stop the 'truthers' as they call themselves from putting forth their argument.

This is pretty easy to withstand, what they are doing is calling someone a name that they won't like, usually a shill, which people get offended by and crumble under the idea. All you do is stay strong. Some people I have seen make a joke about it, especially from various people that say that they are in the pay of the Government/Myspace (where I have read this variation) and can't be trusted.

The silliest attacks that I have seen involve people pointing out grammatical or spelling errors and claiming that the error somehow means an argument is false.

4. Appeal to Authority

This isn't so widespread now. But at one point someone would start citing government officials who have no expertise in demolitions etc. and say "They said it so it must be true".

If they start doing this then all you do is go to a site, (I like the Fallacy Files) and just link to the appeal to emotion page. They have no argument, they are just wasting bandwidth and space on the infinite Internet.

5. Ignoring Evidence

If you ever argue with one of these people you will see this. They will say something, you provide plenty of evidence that proves them wrong and they just ignore it. I know one person who would claim that the buildings fell at 'free fall speed' would not post any evidence proving his point and ignoring any evidence to the contrary including a factsheet from NIST claiming the opposite. When he finally posted something he just ignored further rebuttal and continued arguing the same point.

Funnily enough the websites use the exact same logic when they say that "people heard explosions coming from the basement" even though most witnesses say that there were no explosions from the basement.

6. Circular Logic

Possibly the most common tactic, they argue in circles to annoy the hell out of people so they can claim a victory by boring the other people into quitting.

Very, very common. So far I haven't seen a way to stop this from happening because they ignore any attempt to continue the conversation.

7. Use of doctored evidence

Commonly selective quoting, or mis-interpretation of what was said. For example somehow they took the idea of people saying "pull" in reference to WTC 7 as meaning to blow up the building.

They pay no attention to the obvious context of the word. To pull the firefighters out of the building.

Other instances involve using pictures that have already proven to be false to try and further their point.

8. Controlled Demolition

A very silly point. They misinterpret evidence or ignore evidence to say that there was a controlled demolition.

When questioned as to how the people could not have seen people placing the explosives I have heard:

  • They had secret access to the places in the building that they placed the explosives.
  • People weren't paying attention
  • Some really outrageous theory that someone must have made up

Or in the case of WTC 7 completely ignore the giant hole in the building.

9. Other buildings as precedent/counterpoints

This one can get rather stupid somehow these people seem to think that all the buildings were made the same and because some catch on fire and never fall, or some get hit by planes (Empire State Building) and didn't fall but completely ignoring the contrary facts.

For example the Empire State Building was hit in the 20's/30's by a very slow plane and was built of similar materials to the Pentagon, which also didn't collapse by the way.

Buildings that catch on fire were not hit by a plane travelling at high speed, so the extra structural damage is not created.

10. Pentagon and security cameras

This is another stupid one. They assume that footage that is not released means that there is some conspiracy to it. Even though none of the cameras that the footage was taken from was a stop motion camera the footage would still have the blur.

There are plenty more things that I could mention but I think this post is getting too long so I will stop here. I will very likely go and make a part two to this.

In the mean time may I suggest that you look at Wikipedia's page on the matter. It has the arguments and links to various pro-conspiracy theory sites so you can get both sides of the argument that shouldn't exist. There is no evidence that goes against what the US government has told the world.

Saturday, 18 August 2007


It started with an article on various Iraq blogs on Blogspot. But while writing this I have 8 tabs open (I use Firefox) of articles that I will be using.

I think I will work with data first before I head into the real life stuff.

This is the earlier of the two polls.

The main trends that you will clearly see is that people are thinking in 2007 about life overall has mainly been a decrease in all areas apart from 'somewhat worse' which has increased by about 10% from 2005 (this is the poll on the left). However there seems to be a slight increase in the 'about the same' section from 2005 (the poll on the left). However the poll on the right seems to show a few different trends. The 'somewhat worse' answer did increase, but the 'somewhat better section' shows a decrease. What the two polls do show is that there seems to be a pretty close split between people thinking that life is slightly better or slightly worse. That would probably depend on the location of these people.

A large number of the people believe that Iraq is controlled by the US. And surprisingly there seems to be an increasing number of people who think that attacks on the coalition forces is acceptable (51%).

Most people have experienced more violence from coalition forces (~45%) in their area compared to car bombs (~32%) or factional infighting (~25%). As well as this only about 26% of people feel safe in their neighbourhoods.

More people seem to believe that a democracy is the best answer for the state at the moment, but a strong leader is the second option.

This is some data taken after the 'surge'

Although the statistics look somewhat promising, looking carefully you see that only the US forces received any reduction, the civilians had an increase from the previous week and Iraqi police and military deaths and woundings has increased dramatically.

Power supplies seem to be rather non-existent while the price of fuel has jumped horribly while people wait in queues to get fuel to power generators.

This article has statistics regarding post-war Iraq. What they seem to show is that electricity is less then the pre-war level but it is nowhere near reaching demand. Also it seems that regardless of where they are in the country about 25% has daily problems with receiving fresh water.

Now the problem that this data is showing is that the reconstruction efforts isn't working well enough. The low level of security shows that the people might be turning to militias for the protection that they are not getting from the coalition forces.

On the 13th the US forces launched a new offensive.

Called Operation Phantom Strike it was supposed to make the country safer by removing Al Qaeda forces in the country. This is at the same time that people are claiming that the national unity government has become useless and politicians are pressuring Maliki to hold an emergency meeting.

And while the US is trying to defeat Al Qaeda they have most likely struck back.

A truck bomb was used to attack some Yazidi villages.

The Yazidi are, simply, a group of Kurds who follow a religion that is an amalgamation of many religions. The Extremists consider them heretics and want them dead. The Yazidi say that they are not in any way heretical.

Recently there has been some trouble with the Sunnis and the Yazidi, with an attack by people believed to be Sunnis against the Yazidi in April where 23 people were killed after they were taken off a bus and executed.

What the news is reporting is that the minority groups, Christians, Yazidi and other small groups, are being targeted by the fanatics of the bigger groups, not like a big fish would eat a smaller fish so don't think that. What is happening is that the terrorists are trying to cause more discord by attacking smaller groups, they think they they are an easy, or easier, target, and, as noted by Iraqi bloggers, ruining the peaceful co-existence of these people before the country went to hell.

An article written on Thursday is discussing whether the attack was based on the surge that the US started. What this means is that the US is pushing the terrorists around, as they leave an area the terrorists just come back and get back to where they left off. At this point the number of dead was said to have been around 250 - 400 people.

Yesterday (Friday) the toll was at 344 dead, around 400 wounded and 600 people were made homeless.

Now this is really sad to hear. These people have gone through hell. And what I find more annoying is that the news here gave it less space then information on:

  • A new surge in Afghanistan, and information about a German convoy being attacked (about half a page)
  • News on Madeline McCann (about a quarter of a page)
  • That woman who won the British Lotto (a half a page)
  • Something about Elvis (same page as the 'article' about these bombings and most of it)
  • Something about that golfer Greg Norman and his wife's divorce (same size as Elvis)
What annoys me even more is that it had less time to it then Mark Ricciuto's retirement which took up:
  1. Front Page
  2. Pages 4 and 5, part of the 'proper news'
  3. Pages 106 - 107, sport section
  4. Page 43, front page of the AFL supplement "main game"
  5. Page 44 - 45 of the supplement "main game"
The "main game" supplement is part of the paper proper though.

And all we get from such a horrible event is a very vague description that the BBC has been writing articles on.

I guess there may be something in this mornings paper when I get it but I suspect that it will still be far less then the retirement which will probably take up half the entire paper. My God Australians are shallow people...

I honestly feel sorry for these people, to have had stability in their lives finally thrown upside down in a world that was on it's side to begin with. I am so pissed off at the newspaper though. People are suffering horribly but they don't seem to care. We don't seem to care, to us it is just "Another bunch of Iraqis died today". If it were Australians we would be going "Oh shit diggers were killed today" but because it is a bunch of Iraqi people it doesn't count as news.

These people have gone through hell and most of the world who should be caring will never know. The people who should really see what their governments actions has achieved will be able to shrug it off.

These people, with ties to the land they are in, who have a rather unique culture and religion my end up fleeing like many of their fellow citizens, and their culture will be damaged, their persecution used to fuel the fires of hatred, for those people to try and use them as an example of why people should believe what they, the fanatic, believes and all others are wrong.

I found the article that started this off.

It is a bit old, but the views are perfectly valid. These people know far better then I do about the problems facing the Iraqi people because, at least in the examples in the article, they have fled, in the process of leaving, or are still in Iraq, each one brings something new to the table, viewpoints, conditions, little known facts and write with a wide range of emotions.

If you want to know more about the Iraqi people, by all means read the newspapers, look at the online editions because they are not as bound as the printed media, look at other countries news sites, but most of all, read the blogs. You can go through life on a soundbite, but when you fail to take the opportunity to read what people are saying in the areas that are affected, or are now watching on the sidelines as their country that they had, and probably still do, love, fall to pieces around them, you really can empathise.

The problem is that our society is a self-centred one of bad news that really isn't so bad when you think about it, and pointless drivel. What we have created is a society that is losing one of the most important things that makes us human.

The ability to empathise with others.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Troll Feeding

If you know anything about the Internet, apart from it not being a dump truck but a series of tubes, then it is that you shouldn't feed the trolls.

Simply put an Internet troll is just a jerk who posts things on Internet fora and pisses everyone off.

Now we are told to not feed these guys, but we can't help it can we?

People find it fun to bait the troll and it does increase the trollness of the place because it pisses other people off as well.

But it is fun though, watching the troll run around in little circles yelling:

"OMFG BUSH IS A FAGOT !!!1!1!oneONEone1"

And other stupid things in 'leet-speak' that is completely incomprehensible to a normal person of the Internet.

Although there is one downside. And that is if the troll brings friends. Then it can get really annoying.

You do get sick of the 9/11 threads or the evolution ones, and you get rather quick on the attack.

However some people who you might think is a troll is probably just some guy who wants to have a proper discussion but has a stupid viewpoint.

The trolls are the ones that don't change.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Sex and Christians

And people say 'Only in America'.

Too bad this happened in South Australia

It seems that the education department has been censoring sex education sections because of the religious people.

What annoys me even more is that I was very likely one of the first people to be taught under the 'new' curriculum, however I did find it rather boring, probably because I found really nothing new.

The first thing to note is that they removed many examples pertaining to gay couples. I would hazard a guess that it has something to do with Leviticus 18:22:

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination

However it probably also alienates all the gay people because they might find it harder to relate to a heterosexual couple.

Also removed were the words 'harm minimisation". I guess these people would prefer people to either a) not have sex, or b) have sex and run the risk of many problems.

It reminds me of what one murderer was told (whose name eludes me, I will post the name when I can remember it), that 'All sex is dirty, if you have sex you will get a disease".

And we see that Family First had something to do with this. For those that don't know, Family First are a somewhat popular political party which are more religious then most political parties.

From the article:

Family First MLC Andrew Evans said he met Education Department officials because of concerns about inaccurate portrayals of Christianity and representations of intimacy that included masturbation.

He said the party was "grateful" for changes made but they "didn't go far enough". "We pushed abstinence," he said.

As we all know masturbation causes you to go blind, get acne and causes a whole host of other problems.

And we all know how well abstinence-only programmes work.

Especially when you see what the US Congress had to say about their abstinence only education.

See the problem with promoting abstinence is that, yes it is a good way of avoiding unwanted pregnancies and STD's but the effectiveness is being debated. If you want to pass on stupid facts to people then you can reap the rewards.

The only plus is that the Education Department was not that stupid when the started to censor their programme.

The Ancient Ones Return

Reading through the BBC I found two articles that interested me.

The first was the discovery of an ancient forest in Hungary.

The trees, identified as a species of Swamp Cypress have been buried for about 8 million years, and protected by a layer of sand which kept the 16 specimens safe while the rest of the forest was buried.

Now there is something of a frantic rush to save these trees, because they are now unprotected and at the mercy of the elements, but I personally feel confident that they will be safe. However the productivity of the mine will collapse because they have found that they can't move the trees failed.

Really they are just tree trunks, about 6m high and 2-3m wide.

However the insight that they can bring. They can give a good idea as to the climate of the region for around 300 years, 8 million years ago.

And the next item that I have found takes us to a lab.

Scientists have managed to 'restart' some ancient microbes

Well, maybe 'restart' is not the right word, perhaps 'reawaken', but anyway the story.

This happened about a week ago though but it is still interesting.

What they have managed to do is revive various strains of bacteria that lived from around 100 000 years to 8 million years (I wonder if they knew the trees? Probably not because they are in Antarctica...) ago.

The results are interesting.

They have found that the oldest microbes reproduced slowly compared to the younger ones (doubling about every 30-70 days instead of about a week). They suspect that they have been damaged by radiation because they have also had trouble finding out what the oldest stuff was.

They found that the DNA will degrade exponentially after 1.1 million years, so the chances of finding a microbe with a full undamaged genome is highly unlikely, but the possibility is still out there.

This is probably some decent evidence pointing away from life having arrived on Earth from something else, but we never know.

The younger microbes are very interesting though.

DNA testing found that there were examples of common bacteria among them. They found forms of protobacteria, this phylum is home to commonly known pathogens like E. Coli, or Salmonella. The firmicutes found are part of the same phylum as Staphylococcus, or, if you work in the hospitality industry, Listeria. A final example in the news article was the actinobacteria, which have modern relatives like the Micrococci, including the bacteria well loved by deodorant companies Micrococcus luteus which helps to cause the bad odour when you sweat, or another bacteria loved by other companies Propionibacterium acnes which causes, well you can guess the well known condition that usually affects people in their teens or people the day they have a hot date...


What makes these young microbes interesting is that DNA testing also found few matches, which indicates that the DNA has genes currently unknown to Science. So they may not have been isolated yet or we have not found a modern example of the genes that we don't know anything about.

What would these unknown genes do? Are they just simple ones that regulate processes or the creation of certain proteins? Or are they genes that could have a more sinister purpose? Or are they genes that could provide cures for diseases?

Now interestingly a few days before this came out NASA launched their probe to Mars (The Bad Astronomer has a pretty good picture of it on his blog) which is going to look at the ice caps of Mars, and take some samples to be analysed on Earth.

Wouldn't it be interesting if they found some cells there with DNA similar to the ones found here?

I doubt it, but they would probably find better examples of the genome of whatever appears on Mars. Perhaps any examples of life might have developed a different way of storing information?

Update: I spoke to the Bio lecturer today who had experience with things like this and he said that in regards to the trees they can probably cover them in something that would protect them.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

The Pot and the Kettle

I wrote this about a hypocrite. He was accusing someone of distorting facts while doing the same thing himself.

Sorry for the bad prose and plot devices and so on, but this is what I came up with as my first 'Silliness' post.

Wildy Presents, A Wildy Production of Wildy's random idea:

The Pot And The Kettle

SCENE: An Old Style Kitchen.

*Enter Pot*

Pot: Look at me, I am a pot. I sit on the flames and grow pure white. But my purpose here is to insult the sink.

*Pot goes and insults a prop sink*

*Enter Kettle*

Kettle: I am a kettle. I can boil water while I sit on the flames. However I fear that I may one day run into the Pot, and be told that I am while he is not. He doesn't look at himself when he spews forth words, and fails to see he is similar.

Pot (not noticing Kettle): Haha I won. I beat the sink. I shall bask in my victory until my next victim.

Kettle (trying to hide away): Oh dear, oh dear, the Pot draws near.

Pot (notices Kettle): Brilliant. My next victim approaches, I shall defeat him with my perfect wit.

Kettle (sighing): Hello Pot.

Pot: Greetings, I am the Pot. The greatest and best coloured object the kitchen has ever seen. My colour is unmatched for you I see are completely black.

Kettle (annoyed): Considering that you are also a black object?

Pot (taken aback): BLACK?!?!? ME!?!?! NEVER?!?!?! Look at how pure and white I am, how dare you call me black.

Kettle: You aren't white for you fail to see that you, yourself are as black as me. The two of us, look quite the same for we have been darkened by the flame.

Pot: Why I never. I think I will go back to arguing with the sink.

Kettle (feeling somewhat triumphant): You do that yet you will fail to see that you sir stink of hypocrisy. You do not accept that you are black, and run away from that fact.

*Exeunt Pot*

Kettle: And after that small encounter you see, the pot returning to hypocrisy. He will not change although challenged, of the face of his character. He will remain and fight the sink, in circles like the water draining from it. And as he fights he goes nowhere, because he treads the same path with care. For each encounter he will face he will just stand there in his grace and close his ears to any rebuttal while his argument falls and creates a clutter upon the world of discussion but will be rebuilt without a flutter. And become and argument that will be loathed to mutter.

*Exeunt Kettle*

The Ghost of the Ghost of the Beumont Children

I noticed this at work yesterday.

The article in question is about the appearance of one Bevan Spencer von Einem in some archival footage of the search for the Beaumont Children.

Firstly the only real link that I can see between the two is that they both have something to do with the criminal history of the city of Adelaide.

For those that don't know, Bevan Spencer von Einem is a convicted sex offender and former Good Samaritan. I know that sounds weird but he did save the life of Roger James, a man who had been beaten and thrown into the River Torrens for being a homosexual. However von Einem was later convicted of the rape and murder of Richard Kelvin. He was convicted in 1984, and the series of murders that he was suspected of at the same amount of time are known as the Family Murders, since the media believed that there was some form of secret society covering his tracks.

The Beaumont Children disappearance (1966) has a few dubious honours. Firstly after the Wanda Beach murders of the previous year it is considered a major turning point in the Australian lifestyle. Secondly it is remembered for having the largest police investigation in Australian history. Now so I don't spend too much time prattling on about this and not getting to what I want to say, I will give a background that is probably shorter then it should really be.

On Australia Day (January 26th) 1966 the three children of the Beaumont family, Jane (9), Arnna (7) and Grant (4) went to Glenelg for a day at the beach. They lived in Somerton Park which is not that far away from Glenelg or a beach. They left in the morning and never returned home. Despite police searching, false letters, help from the media, 'psychics', and a rather substantial reward no trace of them was found. To this day the case remains unsolved and also changed the Australian way of life. Unlike the Wanda Beach murders where the two girls, Christine Sharrck and Marianne Schmidt were murdered in a somewhat remote part of the Sydney foreshore the Beaumont's disappeared from a packed Glenelg beach. This fear was reinforced after the disappearance of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirsty Gorden (11 and 4 respectively) from the packed Adelaide Oval in 1973 and parents became more vigilant (this case was never solved as well).

And now to the whole point of this post.

There are two 'ghosts' of this case. The first is the actual case the ghosts of the children who most likely never grew up at all. The second is one of the media's creation.

Every few years the media will dig up this case and bring it to the limelight. I would say that the first instance of this would have to be with the trial of Bevan Spencer von Einem. There a witness, known as 'B', stated that von Einem was the culprit in the Beumont and Adelaide Oval cases with no actual evidence to support it.

From it's start in 1994 the current affairs show (read: phoney made up rubbish designed to provide people with a different kind of soap opera) Today Tonight has been bringing this back into the limelight with it's latest "The Beaumont children are located in [insert location here]" (i.e. New Zealand, a cult somewhere, Queensland) or "We have 'evidence' as to who did it" story which is stupid enough because the show has no real credibility to begin with.

However it has spread. On the Crime and Investigation Channel they ran a programme about the Beaumont Children and the Wanda Beach murders. The end of the programme they some interviews with some people who 'claimed' that their father had done it.

And now we have this, what you could really call a return to the earlier "von Einem did it" sort of thing.

The problem is that after all the TT 'stories' things that are probably legitimate seem completely pointless, the grasp of stupid television is starting to create an apathetic view on the case. People don't really care any more because the stupid stories have drowned out anything relevant.

Would people care about more important issues like in politics if a show like Today Tonight or A Current Affair produced stories that dealt with an important issue such as the budget to death?

I think so.

First Post

From what I can tell the first post is usually about the author. But to be honest that is rather cliché, so I won't do it.

All I will say from here is that I am posting under the name 'Wildy' and that this is my nickname which pretty much cuts my last name in half, and that I am studying Forensic and Analytical Chemistry.

I welcome you to Musings, Silliness.

The name should hopefully describe what I will probably be doing here, posting thoughts and smarter things along with completely random stuff that I just happen to think up of here.

This is something of a quasi-semi weekly bi-annually fortnightly sort of thing, so it might be updated sporadically.