# Titius – Bode Law

Hi there skeptics,

Today I am going to be blogging about a mathematical formula which has had some interest in astronomy in the past, but has since fallen into the waste-bin of science. It has commonly titled as a law, in almost every reference to it and on the Wikipedia page, however, it is best described as an unproven hypothesis, as it has no evidence to support it. The law attempts to represent the approximate distances of the planets from the sun, using the following formula. a = 4 + n, where n = 0, 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, 96 etc., with each new value for n being double the last value. This gives rise to the numbers 4, 7, 10, 16, 28, 52, 100… divide this by 10, 0.4, 0.7, 1, 1.6, 2.8, 5.2, 10… To the 18th century astronomer, this is an astounding set of numbers.

The law was first formulated in 1766 by Johann Titius, who used this simple formula to get these similar numbers. This looked amazing at first, because these numbers fit almost perfectly with the distances in AU (astronomical units) of all the known planets, Mercury through to Saturn. However, there was one number in the sequence that shouldn’t be there, 2.8, no planet was known 2.8 AU from the sun. But sure enough, almost exactly 2.8 AU from the sun, the dwarf planet Ceres was discovered. This was very exiting for astronomers of the time. Could there be a deep, underlying formula to the planets.

They decided to look further, so they started with the next number in sequence, 19.6, and looked from there, and again, triumph, Uranus was discovered by William Herschel in 1781, and you guessed it, it was 19.2 AU from the sun, a mere 2% off the prediction. At this point, astronomers became drunk with enthusiasm, this number sequence is really working well. They went the next step, 38.8, but no, nothing was found. Neptune eventually became the next planet in order, but at 30.1 AU from the sun, it was 29% off, and the law was waning. Next, Pluto, predicted by Titius – Bode to be 77.2 AU away, alack, incorrect, only 39.5 AU from the sun, a 95% inaccuracy.

By this time, the law had fallen into disrepute. No more Titius – Bode being taken seriously by astronomers. Proponents of the law say that these ratios are being found as correct in other star systems around other stars, but these are stars with 1 or 2 planets, meaning that a ratio can always be found, or fit close, due to the set up of the number system. The idea of there being such a simple number which underlies all of the orbits is not one of favour in the astronomical community.

Who knows, there could be a number formula which describes the orbits of planets around a star. There must be, because they all follow the same laws of gravity. But the idea that there is a simple number sequence, not a large, abstract equation with hundreds of influencing factors, is a fringe opinion. Planets could naturally snap into particular grooves around their sun, but no number sequence has stood up to the challenge yet, so science tells us that it probably won’t exist.

# Roy Williams… Again

Hello there skeptics, atheists and scientists,

Today I am going to be blogging about Roy Williams again, I haven’t blogged about his arguments for a while now, I’ve been saving this one up. In his book, ‘god actually’ , Roy has a section entitled ‘Tackling arguments against a designing god’, today I am going to be rebutting some of these ‘rebuttals’. Most of his arguments are completely ridiculous in here, as he completely misses the point of particular arguments.

He discusses the idea of naturalistic, evolutionary, reasons for a religion to exist, and he misses the whole point of the idea. This argument is just a rebuttal of an argument used by Christians for religion. They say “If religion isn’t true, why does it exist. Religion must have some truth to it because otherwise why would humans have made up the concept in the first place. Natural explanations for religion like an evolutionary advantage to belief, or a ‘god center’ somewhere in the brain, are not arguments against god, as Williams portrays them as, they are rebuttals of arguments for god. And somehow, in all of it, Williams blames us for non-sequiters by saying that this is not an argument against god.

Another argument which Williams ‘takes on’ is the ‘god of the gaps’ argument, apparently, used by atheists. This is the first time I have heard god of the gaps being used to argue against god, but there you go. For as long as I can remember, the god of the gaps has been a logical fallacy describing religious people, not an argument against god. It has always been just like most, a rebuttal of theist arguments, not arguments of our own. Williams also happens to say that his beliefs are not god of the gap arguments, despite using arguments like irreducible complexity and creation of the universe, and quite often saying, “Science cannot explain this”, which is kind of the definition of the god of the gaps argument.

These are just a few of the arguments ‘taken on’ by Roy Williams, and they demonstrate the way Williams argues. He is completely unaware of the whole idea of most of the atheism VS religion debate. When it comes to science and logic, the burden of proof is on the affirmative (religion), and it is the job of the negative (atheism) to show the logical fallacies and factual incorrectness which may be present in these arguments. It’s quite fine for the religious to counter-rebut these arguments, but it’s not okay for them to claim that these are direct arguments against god, and then to just say that they are using non-sequiters. If he wants to tackle some real arguments against god, not some rebuttals, take a look at some of the apparent logical contradictions in god, the concept of cause-and-effect, or the idea of something from nothing.

That’s all for today, I will leave you with a quote from H. L. Mencken, “We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”, H. L. Mencken, an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, critic of American culture and scholar.

# Why We Must Die

Hello there skeptics of the world,

Today’s post is going to be about a few of the reasons why we as humans MUST die, philosophically. Now I don’t often blog about strictly philosophical subjects, so please give me some feed back in the comments section below. There are plenty of scientific reasons why every living thing dies (for now), ageing is pretty much inevitable, and eventually, you get to the grand scheme of things, and with the whole ‘conservation of energy and mass’ and ‘total universal entropy’ thing, the universe will eventually end up as a huge ball of energy, in which you cannot survive.  But I am going to be talking about some philosophical reasons why humanity would severely disbenefit from eternal life on earth.

The first is simply the fact that we are already running out of space on this planet and if nobody ever died, the problem would be much greater. Imagine how many people there would be on earth if nobody from the last century actually died. Our world population would be about double what it is now, my guess. Could the planet actually support that? I doubt it. The is too much difficulty in people living for ever, they take up so much space, need so much food and water, and by the time they reach 70, they’ve done all they can for the world with employment etc., so they are just dead weight.

The second and main reason I want to talk about today is this, would the world still be a productive place if everybody lived for ever. In a world of eternity, there would always be tomorrow. Want to go to university and study law? In the world we live in, you go out and do it today, because your days on the earth are numbered, but in an earth of eternity, there would always be another tomorrow. I know what I would do, “Meh, I’ll just do it tomorrow, I’m living for ever anyway”. I know that whenever I am doing something which really is boring me to death, or which I know is not going to help me in any way now or in the future, I always think to myself, “I could be out learning something useful right now, or I could be writing a blog post, or I could be out earning money in a part time job mowing lawns”. In a world where I couldn’t die tomorrow, or ever, I would not think that, and just wait it out until I can do something useful.
Although I would probably never get around to doing it, because there would always be tomorrow for me to do it.

That’s all for me today, I will leave you with a quote from Pierre Abelard, “The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth.”, Pierre Abelard, a French philosopher, theologian and logican.

# Why do I say “Oh God!”, not “Oh Zeus!”

I was listening to a gateway Church podcast recently (yes, I listen to all the hit Christian podcasts), and the preacher presented to the audience an argument for why Christianity is a much more valid religion than Buddhism or the Greek gods of mythology. He presented this (paraphrasing):-
Why is it that when a theologian debates with an agnostic or a heathen (he used those terms), you can talk all you want about various theological concepts and ideas, but when the idea of Christianity or Jesus comes to the fray, they always get a bit more animated, angry and excitable. This is because Christianity has some undeniable truth about it, and they always have to resort to a bit more force in their words. And Why is it, that when they see something that amazes them they say, “Oh My God” and when they bang their hand with a hammer they say “God dammit!” Why is that? It’s because somewhere, deep down inside, they have the breath of the holy spirit within them. Blah Blah Blah… and on he went.
I had to stop the podcast at this moment. I had to think about this one because it was an argument for god, and not just some more “Believe in Jesus” talk. I have thought about it, and here are a few reasons why us atheists say God, not Buddha. I’ll also say that I personally do not say “Oh my God”, I prefer to use “Zeus almighty!” or “Thor! God of Thunder!”

First of all, most of us in the western world have grown up in Christian backgrounds, so must of us atheists used to be Christians, which means that our ‘cursing of god’s name’ is just a remnant of our pasts. I f I had grown up in a home where my father and mother had said, “Zeus help me” every time I was being stubborn, I would probably grow up to use Zeus as a curse word in my vocabulary. It’s also a lot easier to say ‘god’ (1 syllable), as opposed to ‘Anextiomarus’ (Celtic sun-god) (6 syllables) when I’m angry.

Second of all, The reason why atheists get so animated when you start talking specifically about Jesus, is because we are sick of it all. Most of us can tolerate you saying that your god wrote the rulebook and then just sat back and watched it all happen, but when you start telling me that “God made me with a special plan in mind”, “Jesus is patiently knocking on the door to my soul”, or “You really do know that god is real, but you are just suppressing it and denying it”, because these statements are so out there, random, intangible with reality, unproved, logically strange and impossible, that our brains overload with logical fallacy alarms, dumbass alerts and goes into shut down mode, or explodes.

The third objection to this argument, the reason why we use deities in our curses at all, is simple, and it comes back to 90% (ball-park, don’t quote me on this) of us having grown up in religious homes.  There is mounting evidence in many scientific tests that swearing reduces the sensation of pain. So when you stick your hand in a bucket of ice-cold water, using some expletives will give you a substantial amount of time more, with your hand in the water. When I was a Christian, and still now in my Christian home, saying “Oh My God” was as bad as the f-bomb or any other common expletive. So nowadays, ‘using god’s name in vein’ still gives me that therapeutic feeling that I experience with other swear words. That’s why I still do it.

I hope today’s post has put across the point that this argument for Christianity is paper-thin, with no logic or evidence to support it. I will you with a quote from Carl Sagan, “You can’t convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep-seated need to believe.”, Carl Sagan, an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author and science popularizer of some note.

Hello skeptics,

Today’s post is about the Madden curse associated with NFL, and some possible mechanisms for it, if any, but first, a little background on Madden and the Madden curse. Madden is one of the most popular sports games sold in the world, it is the official video game of the NFL and is produced every year by EA sports™. The game is named after the great John Madden, who is a hall of fame player and coach, as well as a commentator, one of the most famous players ever. It has been sold since 1993 on various platforms and has sold over 85 million copies. Every year, a succesful player from the previous year is selected to be shown on the front of the box, on the disk, the cover screen, everywhere. It is a big deal to be on the Madden cover, both for good and bad reasons.

The Madden curse pertains to that video game. The Madden curse is the belief that any player who is shown on the front of Madden NFL is going to have an injury or suffer some other terrible outcomes. While it is true that about half of the athletes on the cover have experienced downfalls of some sort, this is due mainly to a few reasons.

The first, and often most talked about reason why there appears to be a madden curse, is regression to the mean. Any player who features on the cover of madden has probably had the best season of their career, they got picked out of thousands of players, so they have had a pretty stellar year. It is expected therefore that the player probably won’t go as well the next year. If you break the passing yards record one year, odds are against doing it again next year.
We see this in all sports, when Usain Bolt broke the record for the 100 m sprint, nobody expected him to break it again the next time he ran. He didn’t. But nobody attributed this to the fact that he got in all of the papers the next day, they just said, “Well, you can’t expect him to break 2 records in a row”, and that was that. So we can’t just say it’s just regression to the mean, there must be something else psychological going on.

What makes the Madden curse different from Usain Bolt is that there is a lot of time and talk. When Usain Bolt broke the 100 m sprint record, it wasn’t long before his next run, a few days, maybe. That’s not enough time for a lot of hype to spread. In football, on the other hand, there is a break of about 5 months between the madden box being announced and the start of the season, and then another six months of playing time after that. That’s a long time for people to talk about the madden box, and a lot more time for the player to get injured or have a re-drawn contract or get cut or have a bed game of some sort. So there is huge magnification going on there. But there could still be more.

It could be that players are getting jealous of the madden cover superstar. Football is a rough, contact sport, and injuries do happen. There is also room for some bounty or targeting of players to go on, as we saw with the bounty system scandal surrounding the saints recently, so players could easily be going out for specific players to injure, or protect. If it’s a quarterback, then more linebackers will blitz him, he will be rushed with his throws more, he will get sacked or knocked down more often, and he won’t have a s good a game. If it’s a receiver, they will get double coverage manned up on them, so they will catch less passes, and get tackled more. If it’s a running back, linebackers will blitz. If it’s a defensive back, then quarterbacks will throw away from them so as not to get picked off, and they will be assigned better blockers.

The madden curse is yet another one of those superstitions which could have some possible real mechanisms, but which is really just a myth which continues on in society today.

# Baking Soda, Heartburn Relief, Herbs

Hello there skeptics of the world,

Today’s post is a copy of a science assignment on antacids. We were asked an imaginary question from an anonymous writer about the effectiveness of baking soda as an antacid. We ran some tests and here is the letter I wrote:-

Hello there sick at heart, I think I have the answer to your question.

After running a few tests, I can conclude that baking soda is effective at reducing heartburn pain and neutralising stomach acid, however, I certainly would not recommend it as an antacid, due to safety risks. Under controlled, laboratory conditions, baking soda is just as effective as leading heartburn tablets at neutralising acid. This would suggest that baking soda would make a good antacid, Not true.

It is important to know that the human body is a finely tuned, highly evolved organism, and it requires a special balance and harmony amongst all its parts. A small disturbance can have major ramifications. Antacids are the same way. The companies which produce antacid tablets spend millions of dollars and many years of research testing the effectiveness, speed, consumability, and mostly safety, of their antacids. Their drugs are highly tuned and given in just the right dose as to ensure both effective heartburn relief and safety, a fine science.

An effective and safe heartburn tablet must have the combination of two things, heartburn relief and safety. It must have enough neutralising effect to ease the pain which is produced by heartburn, but it must not neutralise the acid to much, or stomach acid will become basic and this can have very dangerous health effects and risks… as well as causing more heartburn.

The problem with baking soda is that it is not taken in a recommended dosage. Antacid tablets come with a clear set of instructions and dosage, where as there are no such instructions for baking soda. Over dosing is very easy, and dangerous,and anybody who is willing to risk their health to save a few bucks is out of their mind. The best thing to do is to go with the tried and test, safe, antacid tablets. As to which one; you get what you pay for, so get the expensive one, you are paying for the assurance of a safe heartburn relief.

I hope this helps with your heartburn problem,
sincerely,
Jack Neubecker.

——————–

A lot of comparisons can be made here between antacids and other herbs and alternative treatments, this was the angle I was playing for. It is true that St. John’s Wort works as an antidepressant, but it is much safer to take the drug, for a few reasons. The reason why St. John’s wort works as an antidepressant is because of a few chemicals in the plant. The job of science based medicine is to find out what these chemicals are, extract and purify them, and put them into a drug in controlled levels. The St. John’s Wort does not know it is having its chemicals used to treat depression, and the chemicals in it are not in controlled, refined, perfected quantities, it is from nature, its rough. You could take 10 grams of one plant of St. John’s Wort and get 3 times the amount of active chemical as 10 grams of the next St. John’s Wort plant. Scientific medicine works to ensure that the chemicals are always given in the same amounts, for safety, so it is always wise to go for the scientific drug, not the crude plant.

I’ll leave you all today with one of my favourite quotes from an anonymous author, “Science works Bitches.”

# SpaceX, Dragon9 and Commercial flight

Hi there, skeptics, science fans and science foes,

Today I am going to be reporting to you that Falcon9, the newest spaceship for SpaceX, has successfully launched, has deployed Dragon and is on its way to the ISS where it will dock. The twitterverse was exploding with talk of #Dragonlaunch for the last hour as the countdown sequence was broadcast live on the NASA TV website. This marks a momentous occasion for spaceflight, and I’m going to be talking about commercial spaceflight today.

This is the first successful launch of a commercial flight, after the NASA budget cuts last budget season, SpaceX, BlueOrigin, Virgin Galactic, and other private companies have been vying for the top spot, as the company who takes over the Space Shuttle’s job of running astronauts to the International Space Station. For a while, it was up in the air as to who would show the most interest and bring out the good, but it has been shown now the SpaceX has fought its way to the top. With this first launch of a commercial vehicle into space, I think it a good time to talk about ‘why’ its much better than government-run programs.

When NASA’s budget was cut, and the Shuttles where decommissioned, NASA needed to find a cheaper way of getting stuff into space. A new, government built ship was thought about, amongst other things, but the concept of private industry doing it for them was thought to be best. Commercial space flight is much cheaper than a government-run flight. This is because government-run programs need to get all of their money from the government. The government pays for 100% of the cost, with no profit. Private space flight companies need to make a profit, so they do what they do, find private investors, do advertisements… things like that, to lower the price of the flight, so the government pays for quite a lot less than full price. So the concept of commercial space flight is a win for the company and a win for the government. It’s also cheaper in that commercial space flight goes where the money goes, unlike government-run programs, which often have to plan a decade into the future.

That’s all for today’s big news, I will leave you with a quote from Tom Mueller, “There are a thousand things that can happen when you go light a rocket engine, and only one of them is good.”, Thomas Mueller, SpaceX propulsion chief.

# Science VS Religion (predictions)

Hello there readers, rationalists and reasoners,

I am going to start this post with an apology, I haven’t blogged for the best part of a fortnight now, I’ve been having a few technical problems with my laptop, and me living where I do, its taken quite a while to get fixed. Amongst other problems, my browser would shut down every time I pressed the inverted comma key… I am still not game enough to try it again now its fixed. But now onto the topic of this post.

I am going to talk today about one of the many things which separates science and religion, predictions.

Predictions are one of the biggest things in science, being one of its most powerful tools. Every facet of science makes very useful predictions, which, most of the time, turns out to be true. Evolution, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Neurology, Theoretical physics, Engineering, all of them make predictions and have made predictions, and they almost always turn out to come true. These predictions are very powerful in science, because they help us to formulate hypothesises (hypothesesisiseses) and test them, as well as make and use things out of these predictions.

Religion works in exactly the opposite way. It makes absolutely no predictions about the world around us, all it does is make up stories after the observations. A bit like this:-

Science: Hey, where the hell are my keys?!?!

Religion: I dunno. Tell me when you find them. God’s hidden them from you, you’ll never find them.

Science: I think that if I look under the couch, I might find my keys, because all the other times I found my keys they were under the couch. I’ll go look now… yep, there they are, right under the couch, where I expected them to be.

Religion: Oh, so you found them, god must have heard my prayer for you to find your keys, and you did.

Science: You know that’s Post Hoc Ergo Procter Hoc fallacious reasoning, of course your prayer helped me find my keys.

Religion: What the hell is Post Hoc Ergo Procter Hoc?

Science: It’s a form of fallacious reasoning where somebody assumes that because ‘A’ happened after ‘B’, that ‘B’ caused ‘A’, which is not true.

Religion: Now that’s just Bologne talk, of course my prayer worked.

— End Scene —

Religion is just like this in the real world. Science is making so many predictions about the world, religion just says, “No, no, no, you’ll never find that out, only god knows that stuff.”, but science shrugs that off and soldiers on nonetheless, looking around and testing the universe we live in. I’ll leave you all with a quote from Linus Pauling, “Facts are the air of scientists. Without them you can never fly.”, Linus Pauling, A Chemist, Bio-chemist, peace activist, author and educator of some note.

# A deterministic universe with punishment for human actions?

I was recently asked a question by a creationist, asking how, in a deterministic universe, people can be punished for their actions, if it is going to happen anyway, due to determinism. By the context of the question, it was probably an argument against determinism… Somehow. I am going to answer that question today.

First must say, this argument against determinism is a case example of the red-herring logical fallacy. It is completely irrelevant to the point of the question which is “Is the world deterministic?” It doesn’t matter what the legal and social implications of determinism are, just the science.

The concept of determinism is not in conflict with punishment of people for their actions. lets have a look at why we punish people with jail, parole etc., who commit crimes. The first reason is “To teach a lesson to the person who committed the crime”. By punishing somebody for their crimes, it shows to them that what they did is bad and that Andre will be ramifications for their actions. The second is “To protect the public from the person who committed the crime.”, by keeping a murderer in jail, and off the streets, you are hopefully preventing this character from committing more dangerous crimes, and therefore protecting the public.

Neither of these requires free will. Let’s imagine that the world is deterministic, and that the free will illusion inside our heads is just firing neurons. When somebody commits a crime, say, steal a million dollars from a bank, they have ‘made the decision’ before they commit the crime. They had to make that choice, because of determinism, but it doesn’t stop them from being punished. Let’s assume that this person is a computer, with a conscience, as this is one of the consequences of determinism.

By putting this computer in jail, you are teaching this computer a lesson. While the computer is sitting in his cell, he will be pretty bored, seeing there is nothing to do. So this computer will probably not want to steal money again, because jail is boring. You are also making this computer think about their actions, and consider their actions.

You are also keeping this computer off of the street, while this computer is in jail, he can’t steal money off of other computers, and so, by keeping this computer in jail, you are protecting other computers from being harmed. As you will see, this has fulfilled the two reasons why one should be locked up, and be punished for their actions.

Determinism and punishment for actions are not incompatible, and nor should they get in the way of the real question… “Is the world completely deterministic?” That’s all for me today.