Thursday, March 21, 2013

Is Eating Roadkill a Sin?

The Montana state legislature has passed a bill allowing its citizens to scavenge meat from roadkill, although it won't become law unless it gains approval from the governor. While a similar bill permitting salvage of a wide range of game animals failed, the present bill allows people to salvage meat from elk, deer, antelope, and moose that have been hit and killed by vehicles. 
“It really is a sin to waste a good meat,” said state Sen. Larry Jent, D-Bozeman.
Mr. Jent, you couldn't be more wrong. Few will stop to think whether the bible has something to say about roadkill!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Are Nukes a Big Deal?

Today, I came across a study that sought to gauge Americans' opinions on using nuclear weapons. The researchers set up a scenario in which terrorists obtained a few nuclear weapons and military action was going to be taken to destroy the terrorists' base where they were being stored. People were shown various "likelihood of success" scenarios between a conventional attack on the base versus a nuclear attack. The results were staggering.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Drone-proofing

"Drones" have been a topic of intense scrutiny over the last few months in American politics, particularly over their use against American citizens. Just this week, Senator Rand Paul staged an old-fashioned, talking filibuster to draw attention to the issue. Senator Paul took the floor for 13 hours out of concern that drones may be used to kill American citizens on American soil without convicting them of a crime - a dangerous violation of constitutional rights. While an answer confirming the unconstitutionality of killing Americans in America with drones was finally given by the Attorney General, drone strikes are still a reality in other parts of the world.

I also came across some interesting counter-drone technologies, such as drone-proof city and drone-proof clothing. Every threatening advancement in technology is accompanied by countermeasures which exploit weaknesses in the technology's foundations - for example, you can use make-up and funny haircuts to avoid facial recognition software - and such battles are testaments to human ingenuity on both sides of the equation. Unlike the now decades-old struggles between hackers and security experts or cryptographers versus code breakers, the subject of a drone-proofing is a matter of life and death for many in the middle east.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

What Does "Gay Marriage" Mean?

The New York Times has been reporting on a petition to the Supreme Court supporting gay marriage that has been signed by over 100 Republicans, which has led to speculation of a shift in the party's overall stance. Rather than having a political debate over whether homosexual couples should have the "right to marry" or not, I think a more relevant conversation is to understand exactly what a marriage is. Once we understand that, we are in a better position to evaluate what role the government should play. Maybe a better title would be simply "What Does 'Marriage' Mean?" to better reflect the lack of understanding on this issue!

So, rather than discuss the biblical definition of marriage, I'd like to point out something more subtle. For example, does a Hindu marriage ceremony involving all kinds of idols and other gods fall within the boundaries of a "biblical marriage" if it's between a man and woman? There's a contextual discrepancy in how the word "marriage" is used in our culture, and addressing this issue first will illuminate the subject.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Horsing Around: Why Does the European Meat Scandal Matter?

You may have heard about the big scandal in Europe that began last month when traces of horse DNA were found in hamburgers in the UK. Since the initial report, further investigation has uncovered even more evidence of horse meat being mixed into ground beef. Many consumers are worried that they are unwittingly eating horse - but does it matter? After all, an article in The Week Magazine gives 6 first-hand accounts of what horse meat tastes like, and it sounds, by all reports, pretty tasty.
"Please don't eat me... Please." 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Catholic Coverup of Mussolini Money

Yesterday I came across an interesting story in the Guardian, a British newspaper, exposing a "secret property empire" maintained by the Catholic church, to the tune of about $800 million. The property in question is concentrated in the highly coveted business districts of London. The reason for secrecy? It turns out that the original funds fueling these purchases were part of a buy-off from the WWII Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in exchange for a Catholic rubber stamp on his fascist government.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Circus of Christianity in Jerusalem

Christian interest in seizing control of the Old City has dramatically waned since the days of the Crusades; however, Jerusalem is still home to several significant churches and sites dating as early as the 3rd century AD. Among the most notable are the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Christ was supposedly buried, and the famed Via Dolorosa that Christ supposedly walked along as He carried the cross. These places are littered with various "Christian artifacts" which serve as placeholders to represent events of Jesus' life. Jerusalem has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times since Jesus's death, and the streets that He walked on are actually about 20 feet below the current streets - as you can see below.
An excavated road from the time of Jesus.

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Experience with the Tension in Jerusalem (Part 2)


In Part 1 of this series, I explained that Jerusalem has an ancient district - a very small walled area called the "Old City" - which is surrounded by a modern city that has emerged within the last 100 years or so. The present day nation of Israel was formed in 1948, but only the modern part of Jerusalem belonged to Israel at that time - the Old City (and other territories) were captured in 1967. This territorial expansion has been extremely controversial for decades and has proven to be an obstacle to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians (the people who lived there previously).

While all of the 1967 territory is disputed by the Palestinians and surrounding nations, the Old City is perhaps the most hotly contested from a cultural standpoint because of its religious significance. The eastern side of the Old City is home to the Temple Mount, a large elevated platform which rises about 20 meters above the street level. Atop this platform stand two Muslim worship places where God's Temple once was, and you can see both of them in my video of the Temple Mount area below.

video

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Experience with the Tension in Jerusalem (Part 1)


video
I shot this video on May 13, 2012, while I was in Israel. What you're seeing is a group of Palestinian protesters marching around the "Old City" of Jerusalem. You may notice the young man at the very beginning who looks very unhappy with me, to which I was utterly oblivious as I marveled at this peculiar and foreign spectacle with touristic enthusiasm, completely enthralled by the intimidating roll of the "r" in the Arabic tongue. Before this trip, I was only vaguely aware of the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis over Jerusalem, and I'd like to share what I've learned (and some of the pictures I took!)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

In Need of a Spark

Newton's 1st law states that an object at rest tends to stay at rest, while an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Interestingly, there are a number of physical examples that teach us that gaining that initial momentum to transition from rest to motion is more difficult than maintaining momentum. For example, the water strider, pictured below, is able to stand and skid across the surface of water due to a phenomenon known as "surface tension."
water glider taking advantage of surface tension to stand on water

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