Deuce of Clubs Book Club: Books of the Weak

I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski

Guy Debord: Revolutionary

No Place to Hide

Command of Office

The Christ-Myth Theory And Its Problems

The Christian Delusion

Lincoln's Wrath

How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself

The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex

Bossypants

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

Catching the Big Fish

Dig Infinity

The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones

Crazy for God

Basin and Range

Anarchy Evolution

The File

John Ringo

The Supremes

End the Fed

Burning Book

The Hohokam Millenium

God's Middle Finger

Narcocorrido

In Heaven Everything Is Fine

The Shunning

Wisdom Sits in Places

The Marvelous Country

Hamilton's Curse

The Secret Life of Houdini

The Trouble with Being Born

Schulz and Peanuts

First Into Nagasaki

Joe Miller's Jests

Human Smoke

Dirty Tricks Cops Use

A Futile and Stupid Gesture

All For A Few Perfect Waves

Systemantics

Death in the Desert

American Signs

Secret Proceedings and Debates of the Constitutional Convention

Secrets Of A Stingy Scoundrel

The Self-Made Tapestry

A Constitutional History of Secession

The Neurotic's Notebook

Interrogation Machine

Monster Midway

The Harlot by the Side of the Road

Forced Into Glory

Imperial Life in the Emerald City

J. G. Ballard: Quotes

The Compleat Practical Joker

Laugh with Hugh Troy

Pranks!

A Liar's Autobiography

Cobb

Chasing Rainbows

Letters from Tucson, 1925-1927

The Five Fosters

The Giant Cactus Forest and Its World

How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker

World Famous Cults & Fanatics

That's Not All, Folks!

God's Problem

Will Christ Return By 1988?

Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology

The Whiskey Rebellion

FDR's Folly

Wilson's War

Bully Boy

[If] I Did It

The Dark Side

Secret Origins of the Bible

Godless

The End of Faith

Why I Became An Atheist

"Life's Calendar for 1922"

Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War

The Negro Cowboys

EXPECT RESISTANCE

Monty Python Speaks

Baseball Between the Numbers

The Psychopath's Bible

Satisfaction

J. G. Ballard: Conversations

Days of War, Nights of Love

Gospel Fictions and Who Wrote the Gospels?

The Real Deadwood

Deadwood

The Revolution: A Manifesto

45

The Secret Man

Stormin' Mormon

From Psyche to Soma

I'll Gather My Geese

The Osama bin Laden I Know

Alias "Paine"

A Man Without Words

The Wild Trees

The World Without Us

Arizona's Changing Rivers

The Phoenix Indian School

Realm of the Long Eyes

John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America's First Celebrity Criminal

Buckey O'Neill: The Story of a Rough Rider

Thanks For Tuning In

Adventures in the Apache Country

Waylon: An Autobiography

My Life: Sunrise to Sunset

Mimes and Miners: A Historical Study of the Theater in Tombstone

The First 100 Years: A History of Arizona Blacks

Enter Without Knocking

City in the Sun: The Japanese Concentration Camp at Poston, Arizona

House by the Buckeye Road

Vanished Arizona

The Big Con

The Astronomy Cafe and Back to the Astronomy Cafe

A Handbook on Hanging

The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right

A Mind Restored

Mr. Show: What Happened?!

Reclaiming the American Revolution

Stumbling On Happiness

Treasure Maps of the Superstitions

Sunny Slope

Did Genesis Man Conquer Space?

Look Homeward, America

Radicals for Capitalism

Kayaker's Little Book of Wisdom

God Is Not Great

The Echoing Green

The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll

K Foundation Burn a Million Quid

The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes and The Tao of Willie

Just Six Numbers and Our Cosmic Habitat

Wild Goose Chronicles

Behind Bars: Surviving Prison

Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce

The Gang They Couldn't Catch

Manhunt

A History of the End of the World

Al Sieber: Chief of Scouts

Apaches & Longhorns

Deep Survival

Captured

DINO

Sock

Bo: Pitching & Wooing

You Are Worthless

You And Your Hand

Access All Areas

Field Guide to the Apocalypse

The War on Terrorism

Those Idiots From Earth

September 11: An Oral History

Mortal Questions

The Heresy of Self-Love

The White Flag Principle

Medieval Panorama

An Honest President

Those Words

À rebours

Peterson's Incident Report Book

Boo! Culture, Experience, and the Startle Reflex

Victory Denied

Nothing, Arizona

A Porcine History of Philosophy and Religion

O Holy Cow!: The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto

DOME COMPENDIUM OF TOPICAL TREATMENT IN PROCTOLOGY

¿Hablas conmigo

Thirty-three Candles

Black Monk Time

Men of Distinction

Alexander the Corrector

Space Viking

Mark These Men

Hallucinogenic Plants

Prohibition: An Adventure in Freedom

JESUS! He's Our President

LOVE

How to Watch Football on Television

Merrill Markoe's Guide to Love

Lincoln: The Man and The Car

Whatever Men Know About Women

Biographies of Italian War Heroes

ABC of Espionage

Art Colony Perverts

Devil-ution

Starting Right with Bees

Planet Earth is a Cult

Baseball Letters

Fetish

Dopey Doings

Democracy: The God That Failed

Handgrenade Talk

Hi, How Are You?

het zingen van het ijs

The Museum of Jurassic Technology Jubilee Catalogue

The Rector and the Rogue

Colorful Cacti of the American Deserts

Odd Jobs: The World of Deviant Work

The Hungry Man's Outdoor Grill Cookbook

How to Get Invited to the White House

How to Work for a Jerk

Never Work for a Jerk!

The Mentality of Apes

Your Vigor for Life Appalls Me

Dr. Strange: Sorceror Supreme

Nautical Notions for Nibbling

A Short Introduction to the History of Human Stupidity

The Fake Revolt

Coup D'Etat

History of the Town of Felicity

Hood of Death

Dolls' House Bathrooms: Lots of Little Loos

Border Security / Anti-Infiltration Operations

Living on Light

God is for Real, Man

Did the Apostle Paul Visit Britain?

Twin Peaks

2001

Power Phrases

The Truth About Wagner

The Life of the Bee

Tombstone

Science Looks at Smoking

The Chiricahuas

The New Dark Ages Conspiracy

The Big Question

Everybody's Book of Epitaphs

The Death of the Fuhrer

Mindfuckers

Gorbachev! Has the Real Antichrist Come?

The World's Worst Poet

Alyssa Milano: She's the Boss

Home is the Desert

Nine Lives: From Stripper to Schoolteacher

How to Start Your Own Country

How to Found Your Own Religion

Sex Objects in the Sky

Indian Oratory

Bastard Without Portfolio

The Bedside Book of Bastards

Hopeless -- Yet There Is Hope

Bible in Pocket, Gun in Hand

Margie Asks WHY

Death of a Hippie

Wake Up or Blow Up

Feeling and Form

Guilt

A Mile in His Moccasins

Mojave Desert Ramblings

Passing of the Outhouse

This Way to Happiness

The Happy Life

Young Only Once

The Monkey Gland Affair

Bert Bacharach's Book for Men

The Two Babylons

For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes...

Why Christians Crack Up!

Why Do Christians Break Down?

Hava Nagila!

Beethoven or Bust

How to Abandon Ship

Livin' in Joe's World

The Last Democrat

Salvation Mountain

The Varmint and Crow Hunter's Bible

Love in the Western World

Jack the Ripper: Light-Hearted Friend

Little Men of the NFL

No One May Ever Have The Same Knowledge Again

The Secret Museum of Mankind

James Bond's World of Values

We Did Not Plummet Into Space

The Boy Who Didn't Believe IN CHRISTMAS

The Great Escape From Your Dead-End Job

All About Tipping

My Loser Godfrey

A Haircut in Horse Town

Mucusless Diet Healing System

Jefferson Returns

Lincoln Returns

Churchill Returns

Corporation Freak

Null Bock auf DDR

So You're Going on a Mission?

Nudes in My Camera

Why I Hate the Nazis

Flesh, Metal & Glass

The James Beard Cookbook

Mortal Refrains

Deadbolt

Amy Grant: A Biography

The X Cars

We Were Five

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder

Hello ... Wrong Number

I'll Kill You Next!

Murder in Vegas

Did MAN Just Happen?

Terror at the Atlanta Olympics

Criswell Predicts

Your Next Ten Years

They Pay Me to Catch Footballs

The Phantom Menace

Just For Fellows

The Lopsided Gal

Astrology and Horse Racing

The Cokesbury Stunt Book

The Origin of Things

Remarks on the History of Things

U.S. Government Sewing Book

Funeral Tributes II

Blinky, the Friendly Hen

The Serbs Choose War

My Mystery Castle

Iggy

Funeral Customs the World Over

The Right to be Let Alone

Mormonism and the Negro

The Church and the Negro

Preacher with a Billy Club

Fighting Parson of the Old West

Invisibility: Mastering the Art of Vanishing

How to Disappear Completely

The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

How to Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man

Langenscheidts Konversationsbuch

Marlene Dietrich's ABC

The Bible in the Hands of Its Creators


The Astronomy Cafe and Back to the Astronomy Cafe

Sten Odenwald (1998, 2003)

 

How do astronomers know that Earth had a different rotation period long ago?
Geologists discovered sedimentary tidal deposits near ancient coastlines dating from about 750 million years ago, and the layering sequence of the sediments could be traced in the rock. By counting the layers during a particular dating sequence, they deduced that Earth was rotating about once every 18 hours. There is an article about this by astronomers from the University of Arizona in the July 5, 1996, Issue of Science. By studying the laminations in tidal sediment deposits from Utah, Indiana, Alabama, and Australia, they found that some 900 million years ago the day was only 18 hours long, and there were 481 days to the year. (45)

Was Earth almost hit by an asteroid on March 23, 1989?
Yes. There was a near miss that went unnoticed because the Moon was so bright that the asteroid was lost in the glare. The object was discovered by astronomers eight days later and cataloged as 1989 FC. . . . Had it hit, we would have had a crater bigger than the Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona. . Many cattle and sheep would have died. (56)

What existed in space prior to the big bang?
Again, we do not know whether this question has a meaningful answer. Many cosmologists feel that it is very much like asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It sounds like a sensible question, but in fact its physical basis and foundation may be utterly lacking. Einstein's theory of general relativity, our premier theory of how gravity works, tells us that in the cosmological setting the concepts of time and space did not preexist the big bang. The big bang is seen as the defining event that created space, time, matter, energy, and gravity. You cannot ask what happened before the big bang because this state was both timeless and spaceless and lacked the concepts of "before" and "place." This is serious business and not just some stupid semantic game of hopscotch played by astronomers and physicists. (125-6)

Why did nature produce a big bang at all?
We honestly do not know. The problem seems to be that we live inside the universe, and even if the big bang is an event that occurs with a probability of one chance in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, we who live inside this rare event will perceive it as having a likelihood of one chance in one, by the mere fact that we exist. (133)

If the universe expanded from the size of a grapefruit to the size of the solar system by 10-10 seconds after the big bang, was matter traveling faster than light?
All, the wonders of relativity! According to general relativity, it wasn't the matter that was moving faster than light but the distance between various points in space that was increasing faster than light. No matter actually made the journey from one point to another at translight speed. In general relativity, space is free to do things that matter cannot, and one of these is to cause the distances between galaxies to increase without the galaxies themselves having enough time to traverse the distance. We do not like to think of this possibility, because we never see such things happen in our nonrelativistic world, and we have never had the pleasure of developing the right intuition about it. (147)

And don't forget that the largest single constituent of the universe is empty space. Physicists and astronomers are only now beginning to understand what space is, and someday someone will write a book about this subject. (153)

What is time?
We don't really know. Physically, time is an essential parameter that we seem to need to sort out spatial configurations of matter and energy in our universe. For thousands of years, four dimensions have circumscribed how we classify and link together external events in nature. Some physicists in search of the theory of everything have suggested that, at a scale trillions of times smaller than a proton, many more dimensions are needed to mathematically sort out how particles interact and account for the various patterns seen at these scales. Like the numbers we throw away in long division to get our answer, we don't really know if the hidden dimensions in the mathematics of quantum field theory are real or just bookkeeping tricks we need to carry out our calculations with the theory. (161-2)

Although given the galaxy's current appearance, this possibility is unlikely, the supergiant star Betelgeuse in the constellation Orion may already have gone supernova, but we won't know for another 1,500 years. (163)

I find myself increasingly in the role of Scrooge, having to throw massive amounts of cold water on the speculations of several generations of Star Trek followers. I really hate this part of science popularization, because it always seems to pit science against our most cherished dreams about what the future could be like. (174)

Has anyone ever had sex in space?
Not that I have heard. Then again, who would tell? There are cryptic rumors about something called the Three Dolphins Club but no official word on whether any human experiments have ever been attempted or even sanctioned. (251)

Have you ever seen or heard something you could not explain scientifically?
Yes. In a remote canyon in Yosemite Valley near Merced Lake, California, I was fixing dinner after a long hike, when in the distance I saw a thunderstorm approaching. It never passed overhead, but the eastern horizon was pretty cloudy. Then, in the distance and seemingly out of nowhere, I heard a pair of deeply resonating, low tones, about two octaves below middle C and about a semi tone apart. The sound switched between the two tones about four times, then stopped. I imagined that winds from the storm may have excited some kind of resonance in something but could never figure out what. The effect was captivating and absolutely eerie. I did not sleep very well that night, given my penchant for an overactive imagination. (188)

It is well known that humans believe what they wish to despite any reasonable evidence, especially if what they experience meshes with some prior belief in how the world ought to work. We selectively remember events that reinforce our prejudices and ignore contrary evidence. This is why astrology is still believed to be valid by billions of people around the world, even though every study shows that it doesn't work any better than flipping a coin. (189)

Can we see any of the Apollo artifacts left on the Moon from Earth?
Not a chance. Even using the Hubble Space Telescope, with a resolution of 0.04 arc seconds, at the distance of the Moon, some 224,000 miles, you could only resolve objects 230 feet across. (193)

Is everything you see with a small telescope a part of our Milky Way galaxy?
All of the bright stars, star clusters, and nebulas in the night sky are part of the Milky Way. Only the occasional faint smudge of a galaxy, such as Andromeda, or the Magellanic Clouds can be seen beyond our Milky Way and are separate systems of stars in the universe. Quasars are starlike objects, but the brightest one is 3C273 at a magnitude of + 13, which is too faint for most amateur telescopes to see. (193)

Do I have to be another Einstein to be an astronomer?
No, but it would help when you go for tenure! Seriously, you do not have to be an Einstein in absolute terms, but the catch is that, as viewed by nonscientists, you do have to appear to be nearly as brilliant. As for any career, your skill and competency are determined by how much raw information you have been able to accumulate and the skill that you have in manipulating this knowledge. In astronomy, you have to be fully competent with a vast body of basic facts. In addition, there are [sic] an equally vast array of tools you must have at your fingertips to enable you to figure out the physics of what you are observing. This latter resource can only be acquired via the textbook and lab approach as an undergraduate and graduate student. Sadly, there are lots of people out there in the world who think they can short-circuit this learning process and get right into crafting theories of the universe. They are wasting their time, just as they would be if, after reading one page of the business section of a newspaper, they thought they could run a bank or plot the economic future of an entire country. Good intentions and enthusiasm are simply not enough currency to become a competent, professional astronomer with a shot at a long-term career. (223-4)

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In 1997, astronomer Martin Rees in his popular book Before the Beginning seems to claim that he came up with this "new concept" of multiverse, but in fact this is not correct. In fact, a non-scientist came up with the term. Just as science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke is credited with inventing geosynchronous satellites, the actual term multiverse can be credited to the work of another science fiction writer, Michael Moorcock, in his book The Sundered Worlds published by Paperback Library in 1962. Moorcock not only coined this term but also defined it in his story in a way that is identical to many of the theoretical definitions in vogue today. (23)

What existed before the big bang?
This is one of the Big Questions in modern cosmology. I think it is fair to say that we don't know for certain. (27)

Everyone eventually learns that the rotation axis of Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees to its orbit. For generations, teachers and scientists have dutifully noted this number. First calculated in the Western World by Eudoxus (400-347 B.C.), its decimal value has remained unchanged in our textbooks. (29)

Comets are a real problem, and can do nearly as much damage as asteroids. Hale-Bopp is one of the largest and is about 30 miles across. We knew about it many years before it dazzled our skies, because it was big enough to be tracked beyond the orbit of Mars. Had it been on collision course with Earth there is absolutely nothing we could have done about it. This is serious business, and the extent to which we all live on a knife-edge in relation to the devastation from these objects is very unsettling to those of us who keep track of these things. (39)

How are auroras produced?
For decades, physicists have understood the answer to this question, but text book authors, especially of grade school science books, persist in giving the wrong answer. (40)

Contrary to what you might think, when galaxies collide, it is very unlikely that even a single pair of stars would collide within the two galaxies. (137)

Did the birth of the universe violate the conservation of energy?
Yes it did. Very badly in fact. The reason this seems to fly in the face of common sense is that we have been told, mostly correctly, that energy cannot be created or destroyed. Once you measure the total energy of a system, that total stays the same as the system evolves in time. The problem we face with the universe is that this kind of definition doesn't work as well, when we have no fool proof way to actually calculate or measure this total energy. (151)

How could a quantum vacuum fluctuation produce a universe with well-ordered laws of physics, rather than complete randomness?
We don't know. It is not known just how or where the laws of physics are ultimately proscribed for our universe. One possibility is that there was/is an infinite number of alternate ways that our universe could have emerged from this quantum process. (153)

it really true that the laws of physics were randomly selected at the big bang?
We honestly do not know. Obviously for this to be a scientific statement, we will have to be able to make some kind of observation to test this proposition. No physicist or astronomer has any clue how to test such an idea; so, many physicists and most astronomers view these kinds of statements as currently beyond science. This is a polite way of saying that the idea is not scientific because it is not falsifiable, no matter what its formal basis might be either in quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, or quantum gravity theory. (153-4)

The anthropic principle says, basically, that some of the things we measure are the way they are because we are here to measure them with the values they have. (155)

What is Olbers' Paradox and how does modern cosmology resolve it?
Heinrich Olbers (1758-1840) is credited with asking in 1826 why the night sky is dark. But it is very hard to believe that he was the first human to ask this astonishingly simple question. If we live in an infinite universe, which has been around for eternity, then every line of sight in the sky should end on the surface of some distant star. The night sky should be as bright as the surface of the Sun. This "paradox" is resolved in modern cosmology because the amount of space we can observe is not infinite, and stars and galaxies have not been around long enough for all their light to reach Earth. Also, because of the expansion of the universe, the light from the most distant galaxies gets shifted into other parts of the spectrum outside the optical range, in the infrared. (159-60)

How is it possible for "nothing" to create a big bang?
This is one of those questions that may not ever have a sensible answer because we don't have theories that are powerful enough to describe the initial stages of the big bang itself. We can, at least in principal, speak meaningfully about the things that happened after the big bang, but it seems that we have nothing that we can test to give us guidance past that point. Even calling it "nothing" may not be correct. (185)

What is your main complaint about science fiction in the 21st century?
It has long since gone beyond the boundaries of science and has now become fantasy. Not even Star Trek, Babylon 5, and Stargate SG-1 make for believable reading or TV viewing based on what we know of the current universe. For example, science fiction offers us no possible future than one that also allows interstellar travel as though it were a week-long, cross-country drive. There is not one science fiction story that plausibly describes interstellar trips taking a year, or more, except perhaps the Alien movies or Lost in Space, which use cryo-sleep to freeze humans so that they sleep for years or decades. (207)

Are there sky events that should have been noticed but weren't?
The most dramatic celestial events we know about are the supernovas. In 185 A.D., there was only a single entry by Chinese observers for this dazzling star in the constellation Centaurus. G 135.4-2.3 (RCW 86) is the likely remnant of this explosion. A second supernova in 393 A.D. was also mentioned by Chinese observers within the curve of the tail of Scorpius, now identified with the young supernova remnant G 11.2-03. No other mentions of these events were found in Mediterranean or European records. The Crab Nebula supernova appeared in 1054 A.D. but was only mentioned by Chinese and Japanese observers even though its brilliance exceeded that of Venus for many months. The 1181 A.D. supernova in Cassiopeia, which formed the radio source 3C58, was also noted by Chinese and Japanese observers only. Were any supernovas seen before the 185 A.D. event? Chinese astrologers were very close observers of the heavens since 2000 B.C., but there are no records of any new "guest stars" being seen, possibly because the records are too fragmentary, or astrologers didn't pay them much attention compared to eclipses and sunspots. Meanwhile, no one has explained why European and Mediterranean civilizations between 185 and 1181 A.D. gave no indication of interest or awareness in three supernovas. (209)

If a marshmallow traveling at 99.99 percent the speed of light hit Earth, what would happen?
At this speed, special relativity says that the energy of this marshmallow equals about 100,000 terajoules. The most powerful American bomb, known as Castle/Bravo, was detonated on February 28, 1954, and released energy equivalent to an astounding 15 megatons of TNT or 84,000 terajoules. As with many uncontrolled natural phenomena, most of this energy will end up as heat, light, and sound, although there would also be tremendous ionization of the local atmosphere that would go along with this event. When you look at the energy per particle of the marshmallow, the energy is shared by 100 trillion trillion protons in the marshmallow for an average energy per particle of 10 billion volts per proton. This is more than enough energy to trigger some thermonuclear fusion and the production of gamma radiation. As for what it does when it actually impacts, it will cause a detonation equal in energy to a stony asteroid 200 yards across traveling at 20 miles/second and produce a crater nearly a mile across. (225)


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