100 Hours of Astronomy

From April 2 to April 5, there is going to be a worldwide event for astronomy, 100 Hours of Astronomy. Among them is a 24-hour livecast from 80 telescopes around the world (from speculating about going around the world in 80 days to live broadcasts from 80 telescopes around the world in a single day, we really have come far), which some might manage to watch it all in a single marathon session, although I'm only planning to watch a few live such as the livecast from Chandra. Of course, 100 Hours of Astronomy would also be a great excuse to go out and look through a live telescope.

Nonsensical criminalization of religious criticism

Dozens of Islamic nations show how little they actually care about human dignity as they attempt to pass a UN resolution restricting religious criticism. Really, criticizing a religion is more of an affront to human dignity than incarcerating or even executing people because they criticize a religion? This is such a thinly veiled attempt to shield Islam from valid criticism, and they know it. Somehow I doubt the Islamic nations would be so eager to restrict the public censure of a religion for free speech: I suspect many of them would actively suppress anything like this, in fact.

(Anyone want to establish a religion worshipping free speech?)

Helping Arecibo find binary systems

Arecibo radio telescope
Arecibo radio telescope

Einstein@Home is a distributed computing project that has been helping LIGO sift through data from its laser-interferometry based gravitational wave detector. Now it is also sifting through data from the Arecibo radio telescope to search for radio pulsars orbiting around very heavy objects such as another neutron star or even a black hole. It will not only provide more indirect observations for gravitational waves like what was provided by the first binary pulsars discovered, but it will also reveal potential candidates where gravitational waves could be measured directly with gravitational wave observatories.

Einstein@Home runs on top of BOINC, an infrastructure for running distributed computing projects, and there may be other projects using BOINC that catch your interest such as SETI@home.

No redshift in a box

I previously talked about a thought experiment which would supposedly show that "expansion of the universe" is fundamentally different from just "everything moving away from each other". However, discussion at the Physics Forum has convinced me that light would not be redshifted over time in a perfectly reflecting mirrored box despite the light being stretched along with the expansion of space.

Continue reading No redshift in a box

Religion rejects violence, maybe

The pope of the Catholic Church says that "genuine religion rejects violence and totalitarianism", which makes me wonder if he is unaware of the history of his own religion. But I might have been all for the pope telling such a lie if I thought it would actually help reduce religion-based violence, and for all I know that may indeed be his intention (the other possibility being that the pope only believes what he wants to believe regardless of truth). Unfortunately, I don't think it will do any good, and in fact be harmful, because it could enable religious people to think they are advocating peace when they are most certainly not. It's the same kind of thinking that allows a religious organization to claim that they hold life sacred while trying to eliminate both birth control and abortion or condemn the use of condoms that prevent the spread of HIV.