Friday, February 27, 2009

Melting of Everest's glacier

It's melting! It's melting!
Seen at, more at:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hansen on global warming

A Call to Action on Global Warming from Dr. James Hansen from Greenpeace USA on Vimeo.
"It's hard for people to realize that climate is an emergency."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Conservatives write ELCA policy on homosexuality.

The Task Force for Sexuality Studies in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has issued its "Recommendation on Ministry Policies". According to a Worldwide Faith News report,
"If steps one and two are accepted, step three asks the assembly to commit to implementing steps one and two "in such a way that all this church bear the burdens of the other, love the
neighbor, and respect the bound conscience of any with whom they disagree." According to the report, "decisions about policy that serve only the interests of one or another group will not be acceptable."

Step four presents a proposal for how the ELCA could move toward change "in a way that respects the bound conscience of all," said the report. The fourth step is different from the previous steps in that it is "not simply a commitment in principle, but makes a specific recommendation for flexibility within existing structures and practices of this church to allow for people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-
gender relationships to be approved" for professional service in the ELCA, stated the report.

I often find it useful to compare the philosophical underpinings of contemporary, "unsettled" issues to the "settled" ones of yore. Mentioning "Hitler" is probably still too incendiary in this day and age, so I look at the issue of slavery.

The issue of a change in sexual ethics could have been taken two ways. One, they could have taken up an issue of "personhood"-- and stated that God requires us to change our ways and accept all persons as fully part of God's table. Perhaps some pretty effective law and gospel appeals could have come from that. But you might have to call out folks as being "sinners", even if you meant the prejudiced ones. In so doing, they would have been purely in the philosophical tradition of the abolitionists and civil rights advocates.

Another tack, the one taken here, is the honoring the "bound conscience"s of all. I'm hearing that the Recommendation takes on a philosophical underpining of affirming every one's conscience. And in so doing, it took on hook, line, and sinker, the argument of the slaveholders, who wanted a local option. The holders wanted everyone to "I trust people.". In the words of Scrooge, "I wish to be left alone." I'll say that politically, and spirituallly, this philosophy is an anathema to me. It's not the philosophy I read in the confessions or a Theology of the Cross or of all the great "busybodies" in the history of the church triumphant, with folks like Bonhoeffer and Dr. King coming to mind.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Improvements in flocking algorithm

This post represents improvements after multiple iterations in my flocking algorithm. I fixed a bug where my "maximum" acceleration was actually coded as a minimum acceleration. I removed the drag component outright, and spent some time tweaking the various parameters of avoidance strength and maximum acceleration. I even put in a counter to track the closest that two particles ever come to each other.

This animation represents a flocking simulation done with 150 particles across 400 frames in povray. It has a pretty nice feel for gracefully avoided near-collisions.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Flocking algorithm in povray, v. 13

Accusations of religious totalitarianism (by philosophical totalitarians)

Imagine for a moment a Muslim cleric or imam living in rural Iraq or Afghanistan. He takes seriously to heart all of the Koran, especially those passages which cause him to live a self-examined life. A large measure of the demands he sees from the Koran are to life a life of charitable acts and self-control. He believes all of it to be literally true, and the only true revelation from the Power that Created the Universe, whom he calls Allah. He strives in the public square to make a case for his religion as part of respectful dialogue with his friends of other religions and sects. He believes them all to be 100% mistaken.

What does the ELCA say about this guy? He's a terrorist.

Granted, this is not what every pastor or pew-sitter of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America believes. Hopefully, it's not what even a small fraction believe. But it is practically what was said in a podcast by the radio ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, "Grace Matters". The episode is entitled, "The Dangers of Religious Totalitarianism". In the name of advancing respect for those of other faith traditions, the podcast took a hard tack on the topic of religious totalitarianism versus religious pluralism. Elements of totalitarianism was defined as believing other religions are wrong.
Host Peter Marty says:
"People of this or that persuasion convince themselves that they have the truth on various matters. They may stop listening to others of a different mind or faith, simply because they cannot fathom there's a way that anyone else could possibly have an angle on the truth.

This is why Islamic absolutists, or those Muslims with a totalitarian mindset, to use Eboo Patel's phrase, blow up the mosques of other sects within their own world of Islam. It's why certain Christian absolutists, or totalitarian minded Christians, have been known to blow up abortion clinics served by Christians of a different perspective than their own. "

I find Rev. Marty's position to be completely untenable. If I disagree with people, does my conviction of my rightness mean I have to go kill the erants? The number of cases in our everyday life where we know we have a unique angle on the truth, from observations in science to knowledge of a slippery spot on the floor, and we may see a need to "convert" others to our worldview, lest they slip on the floor. We may also have a conviction about human freedom, that people may walk where they may after you warn them, perhaps in the way a parent might need to teach a child an object lesson. But there can be no debate over whether there is a spot on the floor. Some questions are not open to existential debate. Asserting that a spot exists is not the same as shooting those who walk on the spot we'd identified.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blog housekeeping

In looking at the Google Analytics report for this web site, I learned that one of the most popular pages on the blog was a reference to a web-based service that no longer exists. I offered a short discussion of the service and provided a link to it. (I fear that if I say anything more specific about the service, then this post will generate hits from Google's search engine.) In the interest of giving everyone who visits this site or uses Google a fun ride, I have removed that post from this blog.

As you were.

Syncopates in the singular but not the plural

An LC-MS Seminary professor does a few seconds of rap, originally seen at Matthew Harrison's blog

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Flocking algorithm in povray, v. 8

More tweaks to flocking algo in povray.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Flocking algorithm in povray, v. 7

Here's a project that I dusted off: flocking algorithms, programmed in povray's SDL.

Here are the key components:
  • A maximum value for the acceleration.
  • A drag force where a component of acceleration is -0.3*log(speed)
  • A mission or target position, with an acceleration component pointed in the direction of the target.
  • A crowd or collision avoidance component of acceleration, where each particle experiences a repulsive force equal to the sum of: the vector from each other particle, divided by the distance of each pairing squared.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Proving God from nature.

“If the Scripture does not use nature to prove God, it can’t be the best strategy. Notice that Pascal does not say that there are no good proofs of God or that none of them begin with data from nature. Elsewhere, he specifies merely that such proofs are psychologically weak, but he does not say they are logically weak. More important, they are salvifically weak, [meaning that] they will not save us. If nature proved God clearly, we would not have to search for him with all our hearts.” Pascal further writes in his Pensées 429 , “This is what I see that troubles me… Nature has nothing to offer me that does not give rise to doubt and anxiety…if there is a God supporting nature, she should unequivocally proclaim him, and that, if the signs in nature are deceptive, they should be completely erased; that nature should say all or nothing so that I could see what course I ought to follow.”

This is an excerpt Peter Kraft's commentary on a writing by Blaise Pascal. The excerpt appears on the website of Rice Professor James M. Tour, who makes no bones about telling the world he reads the bible every day and is nourished by it.

Who knew! Could entirely sincere Christians, even great apologists for the faith long before the Age of Darwin, have declared nature an agnostic on telling about God?! So refreshing to hear.

Too often we hear folks coming up with some wacked-out and easily disprovable statement about nature and then follow it up with an altar call. This is what I think of the Young Earth Creationists. The quote above, however, does seem to throw cold water on the enthusiasm that Old Earth Creationist Hugh Ross has about "proving" scripture. I still approve of Hugh Ross' outreach, but perhaps a better statement of what he is doing is "DISproving cheezy objections to the reliability of the bible made from science".

Monday, February 09, 2009

Character animation with vertices

Here is some creative-commons-licensed brilliance from flickr user ebmorse. It just goes to show that you don't need photorealistic humans to do character animation with a computer. It inspires me to want to try something similar.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Obama: "I let Jesus Christ in my life..."

"... I learned that my sins can be redeemed."

Here's an address by Barack Obama to the A.M.E Church General Conference. A few reasons for posting it:

1) I'm still running into fools who insist he's not a real Christian, and in this address he makes reference to Jesus redeeming his sins. I think we just need to put out as many reminders as we can so folks won't be fooled by the smears.

2) I discovered it through an interesting new service from Google called "Google Audio".

3) It's completely hilarious that the automatic transcription got the words wrong. Obama clearly says, "I let Jesus Christ in my life." The Google transcription says, "I like jesus christ in my life." You know, I guess I do, too!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The bus incident at the clone traffic stop

Here's a stop-motion animation my son directed using little science fiction action figures. There's a lot going on.

The bus incident at the clone traffic stop from pterandon on Vimeo.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Women's dresses & men's legs, dancing in SecondLife

Here's an interesting video that demonstrates the comical effect I've seen in SecondLife when people dance. Womens' dresses will "swirl" out in a very logical way, but if there's a man next to them, the dresses go right through the man!

That's gotta hurt!

Posted by Katiya Rhode-Smith under a Creative Commons License. See her photostream for more interesting videos of dancing SL's.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Yet another procedurally generated landscape

Only this one I think is a little bit better. I've got a "cooler" function to work with this time. It actually gets ugly in like the last 20 frames: I should have stopped it sooner.

Born-again Americans for... uh, what?

A friend forwarded this to us. It is an incredibly well-produced piece by an incredibly sincere group of people, who are standing up for, uh... something that might be liberal. Giving that it's able to tug at your heartstrings and make you want to forward it all around, I'd say it's a pretty effective piece of propaganda. Not that it's evil or deceptive, it's just so vapid. And the fact that they are co-opting a Christian theological term "born again" in a way that is probably not at all related to Christian theology is just wackier.

If you go to the site, you can see that it might be associated with People for the American Way.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Rose time lapse

Here's a really cool time-lapse view of a rose opening, uploaded to flickr by BY-YOUR-⌘, with a creative commons attribution license.

You'll love the ending. Quite beautiful!

Google search fixed; gmail still down on Firefox.

Google realized that there was a problem with its search engine.

When will they realize that gmail is broken for Firefox (but not IE)? Maybe this post will attract the attention of the folks at Google.