Posted by: jugglinbob | December 11, 2013

Scientology is NOT a religion!

Just a quick one today – so apologies for the lack of my normal research depth…

The UK’s Supreme Court ruled today that Scientology is a religion, which will enable the Church to conduct weddings.  This follows a 5 year battle by Louisa Hodkin to get married at the Church of Scientology chapel in central London, which she attends.


Normally my thoughts about the courts agreeing to marriage in abnormal situations are “Yay!” however in this case I’m not so sure…

This case is not about whether a couple can be married, as it is with single sex couples, but merely where the ceremony takes place.   Ms Hodkin and Mr Calcioli could have been married in a registry office at any time, but took this case to court in order to be married in their own Church, in their own religion.

I am all for this this right.  Whatever my beliefs are, I understand that other people have different views.  However this case is different; this case changes the UK law on what a religion actually is.

This ruling sweeps aside rules that worshipping a god is essential to religion, which has been upheld in UK law for 158 years, as well as by just common sense.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines religion as:

“the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods” 

This explains why Christianity or Judaism are religions, whilst Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion, and why science is not a religion however often religious fundamentalists try to pitch it as such.

However, the judgement today concluded that:

“religion could be defined more accurately as a “spiritual or non-secular belief system” which “claims to explain mankind’s place in the universe and relationship with the infinite” and give people guidance on life.”

Some countries have previously ruled that Scientology is a religion, for example in Australia, Sweden and Spain, whilst others count it as dangerous cult; namely France, Chile, and Israel.  Other countries lie somewhere with this scale, with some granting tax-free charitable status without going as far as to say that it is indeed a religion.

OK, so different courts have ruled different things about the religious nature of Scientology.  Perhaps we should look at what its founding father L Ron Hubbard said about the religious status of Scientology.  This is what I do with any religious view – I look at the actual text and see what the words say; I don’t just read the spin on what you want the words to say.  Fortunately, in this case, since Scientology was invented discovered more recently we can actually look at what the inventor discoverer actually said.  This is like having a YouTube Video of St Paul actually speaking, rather than relying on the words attributed to him in the bible.  No other popular cult religion has this chance.

So what did L. Ron. Hubbard say about whether Scientology is a religion?

In 1952, just before Scientology was founded Hubbard stated in the  History of Man:

“Theta clearing is about as practical and simple as repairing a shoe lace.  It is nothing to do with hypnotism, voodooism, charalatanism, monkeyism or theosophy.  Done, the thetan can do anything a stage magician can do in the way of moving objects around.  But this isn’t attained by holding one’s breath or thinking right thoughts or voting Republican or any other superstitious or mystic practice.  So for the reason I brought up, rule out, auditor, any mumbo jumbo or mysticism, spiritualism, or religion.” (Page 34, Chapter 8)

in The Creation of Human Ability:  L. Ron Hubbard, 1953, page 103

“Scientology has opened the gates to a better World. It is not a psycho- therapy nor a Religion”

in Fundamentals of Thought, L. Ron Hubbard, 1956, page 3

“Scientology is that branch of psychology which treats of (embraces) human ability.”

Please note psychology not religion

And also on the same page:

“It is a precise and exact science, designed for an age of exact sciences.”

Which hardly equates to any definition of religion, with the faith and belief inherent in such …

And again from the same text (page 21)

“Probably the greatest discovery of Scientology and its most forceful contribution to the knowledge of mankind has been the isolation, description and handling of the human spirit, accomplished in July, 1951, in Phoenix, Arizona. I established along scientific rather than religious or humanitarian lines that that thing which is the person, the personality, is separable from the body and the mind at will and without causing bodily death or mental derangement.”

So texts written by L Ron Hubbard himself about Scientology state things like “Rather than Religious lines”, “hardly equates to any definition of religion”, “is not a psycho- therapy nor a Religion” and yet our Supreme Court rules that it is a religion?!?

I wish only happiness for Ms Hodkin and Mr Calcioli’s future wedding.  But it is not a religious service, it is just a civil one.   The so called Church of Scientology is not a church in any normal, meaningful, way.  It is a psychological institution.    Even the founding father of their psychology would agree, and has done by his own words…

As always – read the texts.  All religions, cults whatever change over time away from what their founders wanted it to be…  We have Christian fundamentalists preaching against what the word of Jesus actually said and justifying violence and hate, Muslim fundamentalists doing the same, and now we have Scientology calling itself a religion in complete disregard to what its founding father actually said.

Read the texts!

Scientology may now be a religion according to UK law, but it seems that its creator would disagree…

Posted by: jugglinbob | December 10, 2013

11% Rise for MPs. 0% for Public Sector Workers…

OK.  Now I’m angry.  Again

This time it’s personal, or indeed, perhaps personnel…

I am a hospital based health practitioner, and my real pay has been cut over the last few years with the current government’s austerity measures.  Although I would obviously prefer that my spending power wasn’t reduced, as I like nice things as much as the next man, but I understand that in order to get our economy back on to some sort of track cuts need to be made.

The government sets the pay scales for the NHS workers, and we haven’t had a pay rise since 2010 (2008-092009-102010-112011-122012-132013-14), and even our paltry 1% rise that was agreed for 2013-2014 is now under threat as:

The Department of Health said the increase was unaffordable alongside the current system which sees many staff automatically receive incremental annual rises


“This government has introduced public sector pay restraint up until 2015-16, which has played an important role in consolidation.

“However, the next government will need to continue to reform and take tough decisions on public sector pay and workforce beyond 2015-16.”

A 1% pay rise after 4 years?

And that is under threat because it is “unaffordable”?

Yes, some people get yearly increments, which reward their increasing knowledge and skills in the areas in which they work, but I do not.  I do not receive any increments as I am at the top of my scale.  In order to gain a promotion I would have to move away from clinical practice – the next grade up is a managerial role.  I had an office job when I was 18 and hated it, which is why I swapped careers.  I do not want an office job, and nor is it something that I’m that good at.  I am an expert, experienced clinical practitioner, with 17 years hands on experience.  It took me several years after qualifying to obtain the same the same wage as I earned at 18, but that’s OK; I enjoy my job and it can be rewarding in other non-financial ways – giving something back to society, helping people, saving lives… you know – just the little things!

I’m not doing this job for the money, but yet I still expect to be respected with a living wage.

Having said that though, I want this country to be able to regain fiscal balance.  So I can accept that my wage needed to drop in real terms, after inflation is taken into account, by more than 10% , so that the £100 that I earned in 2010 only has the spending power of £89.76 today, if “we are all in this together”.

Yet the recommendation from the  independent parliamentary standards authority is that MP’s should receive an 11% pay rise this year – way above last year’s inflation rate of 2.8%.

Yes, certain ministers have publically disagreed with this rise, but to pay for the increase the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is

“imposing greater pension contributions on MPs and clearing up discrepancies in the expenses system. A Whitehall source said the “across the board” reform would not cost taxpayers more.

Which indicates that this this rise is somehow owed as expenses issues are sorted out.  The expenses scandals in the UK are still playing out, but these were never supposed to be part of the actual pay, and so to increase the pay whilst “clearing up discrepancies in the expenses system” shows that the money that MPs in effect stole from the UK tax payer is going to be allocated to them lawfully…

MPs and NHS workers are both public sector workers, that is the part of an economy that consists of state-owned institutions, including nationalized industries and services provided by local authorities.  If one part of the public sector’s pay is going to be frozen because a rise is “unaffordable”, then this should be across the board.  I understand that there are more than 1.3 million people working in the NHS  and only 650 MPs  so the maths shows that an 11% increase in salaries for this much smaller number result s in an increase magnitudes lower than that for the public sector as a whole, but it is the principle that counts.

As a team leader, I always make sure that that my “people” are looked after before I am – I do my utmost to make sure that they have rest breaks before I do, that they finish work before  I do, and that they get their share of any perks before I do.  Is it too much to ask that I should expect the same of the government – my ultimate manager?

Sorry for my incoherence with this post.  But I’m angry and in full rant mode…

Posted by: jugglinbob | November 29, 2013

Bull vs Hall – Gay Couples in Christian Hotels

The case of the couple who booked a room in a small Cornish hotel and were then turned away on arrival has been all over the news for the last few years as it went to Court, to appeal, and now finally to the Supreme Court.

On the 5th of September 2008 civil partners Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall were turned away whilst trying to check into the Chymorvah House Hotel that had been booked the night before on the grounds that they were a gay couple.  Or at least that is the idea portrayed in the news…

The majority of the news articles that I’ve seen about this highlights the discrimination against the couple because of their sexuality, and I was going to write a post ranting about the bigotry of the hotel owners Mr & Mrs Bull, and whooping with joy that the owner’s appeal has been turned down not just once, but twice!

But, as always, the more one looks into a subject, the more interesting it becomes; I had firm ideas about what I was going to write about this – until I looked deeper…

This is one of the problems from the way we receive media these days; we are assaulted constantly by information in all its varied modern forms; television, radio, newspapers, and the internet, and do not have time to examine anything in any depth at all.  Instead, we just tend to rely on the headline and tag-line to formulate our opinions.

The “Facts”

  • Mr Preddy and Mr Hall were legally civil partners under the 2004 Civil Partnership Act.
  • The Chymorvah House Hotel, since opening 28 years ago, had a policy that only married couples could book a double-bedded room (from the video here)
  • Mr Preddy booked the double-bedded room by telephone, and had not seen the booking conditions
  • The booking conditions were visible on the website
  • When Hall & Preddy arrived at the hotel they were told of the booking conditions.  They then protested left and found alternative accommodation after being reimbursed the £30 deposit.  “There was no suggestion that the restriction was explained in a demeaning fashion.” (Paragraph 6)

And that’s about it.  Yes, are is more to it than that (read the full original appeal report here, and the Supreme Court Judgement here for full details.  These 5 “facts” are the most important though – and if you know just those then you know far more than you would have from reading most of the newspaper articles about the situation.

The Case

So the news reports that these homophobic hotel owners refuse to let a homosexual couple stay in a double-bedded room.  This is not the argument that the defendants used in court, although their repeated adherence to Christian beliefs would make this possible.  In this case they used the defence that they do not allow any unmarried couple to share a double-bedded room.  They state that, when they started the policy 28 years ago, “homosexuality never entered our thinking.” (video at 1:15)

As homosexuality in the UK was decriminalised in 1967, and so was decriminalised before the policy was made, this could show a lack of foresight from the hotel owners.  However, perhaps the idea that one day homosexual couples could get married, (or even obtain a legal partnership,) was unforeseeable in those days.  Since homosexuality has been legal, and to some extent accepted by society, since I can remember ,it is impossible for me to comment.  However, the problem is that currently single sex couples cannot get married.  It will be possible soon, perhaps as soon as summer 2014 after the legislation was passed in July of this year,  but currently the closest is a civil partnership under the Civil Partnership Act 2004

This act was passed in July 2004, and came into effect in December 2005 giving same-sex couples who entered into them the same rights and responsibilities of marriage, and although the British media called this gay marriage (also), the government made it clear that this is not the case.  The “UK law on civil partnerships provides legal recognition that is “very similar” to marriage,” Lord Bach told the House of Lords, “but [the law] did not call those partnerships marriage, and that remains government policy.”

There are many differences between the legal entity of a civil partnership and that of marriage, but the legal rights and definitions showing the similarity became the crux the appeal dismissal.

From the first appeal:

13.          The Judge said:-

“It seems to me that a correct analysis of the position of the defendants is that they discriminate on the basis of marital status…….If that is … correct…then … there is no material difference (for the purpose of this regulation) between marriage and a civil  partnership. If that is right then upon what basis do the defendants draw a distinction if it is not on sexual orientation?”

There follows a lot of legalese, with the argument both for and against backed up from prior cases, but it concludes:

67.          I agree with Rafferty LJ that the judge was right to conclude that Mr and Mrs Bull had directly discriminated against Mr Preddy and Mr Hall in refusing to let to them the double bedded room they had booked… I too would dismiss this appeal.

The Supreme Court has upheld the appeal decision, with Lady Hale stating:

1. Is it lawful for a Christian hotel keeper, who sincerely believes that sexual relations outside marriage are sinful, to refuse a double-bedded room to a same sex couple? Does it make any difference that the couple have entered into a civil partnership?

2. The general rule is that suppliers of goods and services are allowed to pick and choose their customers. They were first prohibited from discriminating against a would-be customer on grounds of sex, race or disability, by the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995…

9. Mr Preddy and Mr Hall are civil partners who live in Bristol. They planned a short break in Cornwall. On 4 September 2008, Mr Preddy made a telephone booking at the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion, of a double bedroom for the nights of 5 and 6 September. Mr and Mrs Bull own the Hotel, and run it together with their cousin, Mr Quinn. They are devout Christians who sincerely believe (as the judge put it) “that the only divinely ordained sexual relationship is that between a man and a woman within the bonds  of matrimony”. In 2008 their online booking form stated: “Here at Chymorvah we have few rules, but please note, that out of a deep regard for marriage we prefer to let double accommodation to heterosexual married couples only – thank you”. Twin bedded and single rooms, on the other hand, would be let to any person regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.

10. Mr Preddy did not see this clause, because he booked by telephone, and Mrs Bull did not follow her usual practice of asking whether the reservation was for a man and his wife, because she was unwell when she got up to answer the telephone which had been ringing for some time. When Mr Preddy and Mr Hall arrived at the hotel on 5 September, they were met by Mr Quinn, who informed them that the double-bedded rooms were for married couples only. Mr Preddy said that they were in a civil partnership. Mr Quinn “explained that we were Christians and did not believe in civil partnerships and that marriage is between a man and a woman and therefore we could not honour their booking”. It was accepted that this was not done in a demeaning manner, but there were other guests present. The refusal was “very hurtful” to the couple, who left the hotel and found alternative accommodation at another hotel. The deposit which they had paid was re-credited to their account.

26. Civil partnership is not called marriage but in almost every other respect it is indistinguishable from the status of marriage in United Kingdom law. It was introduced so that same sex couples could voluntarily assume towards one another the same legal responsibilities, and enjoy the same legal rights, as married couples assume and enjoy. It is more than a contract. Like marriage, it is a status, in which some of the terms are prescribed by law, and which has consequences for people other than the couple themselves and for the state. Its equivalence to marriage is emphasised by the provision in regulation 3(4) that being married and being a civil partner is not to be treated as a material difference for the purpose of a finding of either direct or indirect discrimination.

I feel that Mr Preddy was unaware of the conditions that Mr & Mrs Bull had.  By using the internet archive WayBack Machine I’ve looked at the hotel’s web page to examine what Preddy could have seen when looking at the hotel’s website.

The snapshot taken on 25th June 2008 (the change recorded prior to the incident date) does say fairly clearly on the booking page:

Special Note:  Here at Chymorvah we have few rules, but please note, that out of a deep regard for marriage we prefer to let double accommodation to heterosexual married couples only – thank you.”

This has now been changed to:

Special Note:Here at Chymorvah we have few rules, but please note that as Christians we have a deep regard for marriage(being the union of one man to one woman for life to the exclusion of all others).  Therefore, although we extend to all a warm welcome to our home, our double bedded accommodation is not available to unmarried couples. Thank you”

This was changed by 25th March 2009 by the latest.  Please note the change in the wording, from mentioning “ heterosexual married” to just “unmarried couples”…

However this condition was only on the hotel’s web booking page, and so would have not been seen by anyone booking using the phone number on the front page.

So… maybe the Bulls should have their intolerance to any unmarried couple (straight or gay) up front on their web page…

I am wondering about how much their legal defence about not discriminating against gay couples is just that – a legal defence.  They say that it’s not homosexuality itself that is the problem…  but I wonder…

The hotel’s policy is discriminatory and outdated.  In British films (especially farces) from the 60’s unmarried couples often signed the hotel register “Mr & Mrs Smith” with a bit of a nod, a wink, and leer from the male hotel receptionist.  Today we don’t need this lie, and as a heterosexual man I can turn up at any hotel with any woman and just check in.  The thing is that I could also check into this hotel with any woman, by using this convention from the 1960’s.  I think that it is unlikely that the Bulls ask for the original wedding certificate before allowing every heterosexual couple to have a double-bedded room.

But what about a gay couple?  At the moment homosexual couples cannot be married in this country;  the nearest that they can get if they want to formalise their relationship, and gain some of the benefits of “marriage”, is the civil partnership.  This is itself legalised discrimination, as a heterosexual couple cannot have a legal civil partnership, and until next year a homosexual couple cannot get married…

Lord Toulson in the Supreme Court stated:

“This, [the Bulls] say, shows that the refusal of a double bedroom to Mr Preddy and Mr Hall had nothing to do with their sexual orientation

but as the couple cannot be married then the hotel’s policy is discriminatory against homosexual couples.

So the question is, which side do I believe is correct in this case?  This is where I’ve flipped and flopped whilst examining the case.  Originally I sided with Hall & Preddy as every news reported highlighted the discrimination against them because of their sexual orientation, which would be clearly wrong.  The Bulls however state that any unmarried couple are barred from staying in these rooms, and I have to say that although I disagree with this policy, I have to agree that they have the right to have it.  As long as that is indeed true.  Every heterosexual couple should be required to show proof of their marriage, and next summer when gay marriage is finally possible then no restrictions can be made against these newly legal marriages.

Since they have stated  in court that the issue is only about unmarried couples – roll on the summer of 2014!

I want that place booked out all summer by legally married single-sex couples loudly and overtly enjoying their double-bedded rights to nights together…

Go on!  It’s your legal right!  Book here!

Posted by: jugglinbob | November 25, 2013

If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million time’s

Robbie Williams has just got the number 1 album in the UK.  The 1000th number 1 album in fact, since “records” started in 1956 (with Frank Sinatra’s Songs For Swingin’ Lovers being the first in 1956)

So far, so good.  In fact I’d like to say “Well done sir!”

He’s 5 months and a day older than me, and I have still yet to gain even one number 1 album.  However, his twitter pic to celebrate this offends both my mathematical and my grammatical OCD.


In the above picture he thanks his fans for this honour with the statement:

“OH MY WORD!!!!  SWINGS BOTH WAYS IS MASSIVE!!!  A trillion thank you’s”

And this is the cause of my angst…

I can forgive the multiple exclamation marks; we all do this in texts; and even forgive the feminine letter “i” in “massive” (if your album is titled Swings Both Ways then one can assume that are comfortable in your sexuality),  but it’s the phrase “A trillion thank you’s” that offends me.

Firstly, a trillion (1 000 000 000 000) “thank you’s” is somewhat high.  This means he is thanking everyone on the planet 143 times.  Which is slightly strange as only 109,000 copies were sold, thus giving 9 million 174 thousand and 312 “thank you’s” to each person that actually bought the album.

From my quick practice saying “thank you” this means he needs to spend 500 billion seconds saying those words.  Robbie Williams is only 1.26 billion seconds old, yet in order to say “thank you” one trillion times he would have to have started his thanks 15844 years ago, assuming he doesn’t need to sleep, or indeed take time out to actually make the records.  He has been saying “thank you” since the stone age (the Upper Palaeolithic to be precise)

Ok.   So music guy doesn’t understand big numbers.  Maths is clearly not his subject.  He’s a song writer; music and lyrics are his thing.  Well, apart from the words maybe…

A trillion thank you’s?  “You’s” possessive?  Really?  It is not hard to place an apostrophe correctly!

And, yes.  I’m a pedant.  But the grocer’s apostrophe needs to be culled, without mercy.  It offend’s me, and if I’ve seen this mistake made once; I’ve seen it million’s of time’s…

Posted by: slugboy77 | March 3, 2013

5.2 seconds (stop laughing)

Sometimes you are not aware of something, but its there in the background. Quietly being important, quietly being pervasive, quietly making a difference.

Born in the late 70’s, I began hearing and listening to music during the 80’s, especially having older sisters in the house playing music loud and being told off by our parents and Sunday dinners with the radio on in the background playing the radio one chart countdown.

Music has always been an important thing to me, from my early days listening to heavy metal that I was introduced to by friends and having groups like the prodigy speak out to me across a roast chicken dinner, then crowded pubs and clubs watching live bands exploring their talents, to shared weekends with friends at music festivals, and now with my more developed tastes of today which involve bands like 65daysofstatic, aphex twin, mantis and biffy clyro. to name but a very few. I will also confess to being one of those people who actually enjoy modern jazz…..


think this but geekier and without the glasses.

Today however I was mucking about on the internet as I am often to be found, spotify playing various tracks, tv on in the background (adverts at that particular moment). I had been watching Futurama and listening to various versions of the theme tune (I happen to like it, possibly for reasons that will become clear). An advert for windows 8 with the labrinth version of ‘Express Yourself’ came on tv and invaded my ears. I hate this version (hence no link to it) as his treatment of the song removes much of the earlier versions charm and punchiness. So I purged it from my mind using the far superior NWA version (the original would have done as basically any version is better than labrinths, but i digress). And then figured whilst i was listening to NWA, why not?, and listened to  straight out of compton(naughty language warning) too, just because its awsome, not because back in the day I was down with the kids as a street wise piece packing gangsta. I was in the days of its release an actual kid, a scrawny one with a bad hairdoo and an interest in geology, physics and evolution……

But this was the WTF moment, where previous oceans of ignorance started to dry up. Something about straight out of compton was reminding me of futurama…..Why was straight out of compton similar to futurama’s theme tune?

If it isnt a rule, I think it should be one that early genre and generation defining rap music should not be similar in anyway to the theme music to a science fiction cartoon. But it was.

Listening to the again and again I realised it was the drum beat that was the link. They were really similar. Ridiculously similar.

Suddenly this drum sequence seemed to be everywhere, I thought about other songs id heard, went back and listened to atari teenage riot by the band of the same name. It was there.

Poison by the prodigy. It was there.

Dj gunshot wheel n deal. Its there….

clubbed to death (peshay remix) its there

this one made me wince, as I dont like it but I do remember it. Baby D, I need your loving. Its there.

feel free to google any or all of the above to hear for yourself, i didnt collect the links as i was flicking from song to song rather frantically as i thought of them. this new realisation firing in my head like i can only assume Sherlock Holmes must have felt like when the game was afoot!

I like to think I did this as my response to this intriguing puzzle.

but in all honesty it was far closer to this

and then


Now if I had been one of those people who feels the need to know everything about a group in order to feel like a fan, including what the bass players birthday is and what he/she likes to eat for breakfast, then what I found may have already been something I knew.

The reason the drumming sounds really similar is that in fact, it IS the same drumming !!!

an appropriate use of an internet meme I thought.

Its the same drumming! The actual same frelling drumming!!

I’ve calmed down again. I breathed deeply. I’m fine.

What I discovered is this bit of drumming is called the amen break, its full story and the sound clip can be found here on good old wiki.

but basically (for those who arnt to bothered with the full detrails) in 1969 Gregory Cylvester “G. C.” Coleman in the song “Amen, Brother” performed by the 1960s band The Winstons. Did a drum solo, 4 bars long (roughly 5.2 seconds). People liked it and ‘borrowed’ it.

A Lot…..

not simply, id heard the 7 tracks it had been used in. ‘A Lot’.

Over 700 times ‘A Lot’, as listed here

It was used at the start of rap and hip hop as a good beat, easily sampled and replicated and tweaked for artists to sing over, and then later as a useful and good sounding tool in the emerging electronic dance scene in many of its diverging sub genres too.

its basically the wilhelm scream of the music industry

which to be fair, should and probably is the subject of a blog post somewhere? but lets not get distracted and go looking for it just yet, stay here. tx

From what I have learned after a lazy sundays meanderings is that 5.2 seconds of music from 1969, has fueled and inspired music over the next 30 or so years and helped create whole new genres. Including hip hop, jungle and darkstep.


Three cheers for those unassuming 4 bars of drumming, they mutely changed an industry and silently followed me as I grew up listening to music.


I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the size of the universe, about how important I am to it, and how much it cares about my existence.

I keep coming back to a Douglas Adams quote:

“Space is big. Really big. You won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space. “

Modern maps make it fairly clear how small the places we know are compared to the rest of the world. Google Earth easily demonstrates this – all of the places I know well and travel often quickly vanish to just a pixel as one zooms out to show first county, then country, then continent and finally the whole world. I think that most of us are fairly confident in our knowledge of our comparative size to the globe, and some are even aware of the size distortion produced in the Mercator projection where, since we as a country in the UK are fairly near to a pole, are given an unfairly large size due to the way that map is formed.

A Thought Experiment to try at Home…

However, it is harder to come to terms with our size on a cosmological scale. Much harder. We are often tricked into thinking that the solar system has a certain scale by diagrams shown in textbooks and the media, as seen in the video below.

Before you watch it though, please try the following thought experiment for yourself – I promise that it is worth it:

Imagine that the world is a basketball, and so, in this scale, the moon is a tennis ball. How far away should the tennis ball Moon be from the basketball Earth in order for it to truly represent the distance between the Earth and it’s natural satellite in the scale of these objects? A foot? A metre? 10m??

Were you close? Anywhere near at all? Perhaps the preview still gave it away? I have to admit that I wasn’t close – I did think that it would be further away than most of the people shown thought, but I still wasn’t anywhere near!

A True Scale Model of the Universe

We never see scale models of the universe, at best we just see representative sizes without the distances in between. So I thought – “Why not have a go at creating a true scale model of the universe? With both sizes and distances?

Firstly, let’s choose something pretty darn small for the Earth as I’m guessing that these sizes are going to get big pretty quickly. A mustard seed perhaps, which is around 1mm in diameter, (and which just coincidently (ahem…) makes the Maths far simpler…) On this scale what should we use for the moon? Something which is only 0.27mm, so it’s about the thickness of a fishing line, (Ok I know that these lines come in different diameters but there is a 0.27mm line, so work with me here!) And how far away from the Earth mustard seed will this line be?

After watching the video above you may not be surprised to discover that it is 3cm away, but to be honest it did still surprise me. The fact that the moon dominates the night sky and illuminates us so powerfully with its reflected light, and yet is no bigger on this scale to the thickness of some fishing line seen end on seems pretty amazing to me!

Anyhow, lets go back to making the model. The Sun is almost 11cm in diameter, and for our model we can use a large orange. Let’s place it down in an empty park in London and see what happens. The nearest planet to the Sun (Mercury) has to be placed down 4.5m away… and is only about the size of a dust mite!

For Venus we can use another mustard seed (as it is almost the same size as Earth), and this goes a further 4m away from Mercury at 8.5m from the orange Sun.

The Earth “mustard seed” is put down at 11.7m from the Sun “orange”, and a grain of salt sized Mars 6m away from that, which is therefore 17.9m from the Sun. Now we just take a few steps back… and try to find all those planets again.

Hummm… Perhaps we should put down some flags into the grass next to the “planets”, just so that we have a small chance of ever finding the Earth again!

And this is before the distances get really big…

For both Jupiter and Saturn we can use a coffee bean. Although Jupiter is larger in reality, on this scale we can’t notice the difference. The Jupiter bean needs to be placed down at… Go on guess…

Coffee bean by

Coffee bean by

… 61m from the sun! Eek! From here I can hardly see my orange “Sun”! And Saturn… well, that’s placed at a frankly ridiculous 112m from the Sun!

For Uranus we can use an ant (preferably a dead one otherwise we might have some planetary drift…) which is put down at 225m, and Neptune, which is another ant, at – and I really hope that your park is big enough – 353m from the orange that we can no longer see from here…

Ok, so that’s our model of the solar system – Oh hang on! No, it’s not – these are just the major planets. For completeness I should add that Pluto would be almost a kilometre away {EDIT: Apparently my Maths went south here, and it’s more like 470m away (Thank you for the input and correction!)} and smaller than a speck of dust anyhow, but the solar system is still far, far larger than that…

Cosmological Scale

The furthest man-made object from us is Voyager 1, which is now 122 AU (astronomical units) away. That’s 122 times the mean distance from the Earth to the Sun – or 1.4 km even on this tiny scale! Which is perhaps a 15 minute walk away from our London park!

And although the media recently reported that Voyager 1 is on the edge of solar system that’s not quite true…

The planetary solar system is theoretically surrounded by the Oort Cloud, icy rocks which are theorised to lie between the zones 1000 AU away and 100 000 AU away, and are loosely bound to the Sun’s gravitation field. On this scale the Oort cloud ranges from starting just a few minutes’ drive away at 12km, and (wait for it!) the many hours to drive the distance from London to Monaco!

Proxima Centauri (the nearest star to us at a mere 4.24 light years) is 3100km from our park in central London. Cairo perhaps? And at this point remember that everywhere that you know, everyone that you have ever met, everyone that you have ever loved, and indeed as far as you are ever going to go is all on that little mustard seed that we have left and lost in the park in London…

Even using this small scale the distances have become unimaginable and so unworkable as a usable model, but I’ll leave you with this last one. How far to the centre of Milky Way on this scale? That is – the Earth is a mustard seed, whilst the Sun an orange. Go on – it’s the last pop quiz question on this page, honest. Have a go…

Our spiral galaxy.  The milky way

Milky WaY image from

On this scale – the centre of the galaxy is still half-way to Mars. And that is when Mars is at it’s closest to us….

And that’s as far as this model can get us – well ok, far further than it should have been used for. We haven’t even looked at the distances to other galaxies, to the edge of the observable universe, or indeed to the theoretical size of the universe itself. And that’s the problem with trying to create a real scale model for both relative sizes and relative distances of astronomical objects. It is not that the objects sizes themselves are unable to be translated to normal size objects, but that when you do that, that the distances rapidly become absurd on the scale you are using. There’s a lot of space in Space…


The universe is indeed large. Larger than we can ever realistically comprehend without using the abstraction of mathematics, and we are (from the universe’s point of view) practically non-existent.

Tim Minchin said in “Storm” (which I’ve previously posted, so I won’t here):

I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant bit of carbon.
I have one life, and it is short
And unimportant
But thanks to recent scientific advances
I get to live twice as long as my great great great uncle-es and aunt-es.

Although from the universe’s point of view we are tiny. insignificant, and perhaps ignorant, bits of carbon, this is because the universe is big.

Biggly big.

Bigger than you or I can possibly imagine.

This is what science has taught us….

And that truly is both amazing and enlightening – on any scale. To be able to stand on a single insignificant planet and yet be able deduce the size of the universe is… well, to quote Prof Brian Cox: “Amazing…”

But I’m still going to use my car to get the Chemists down the road. It still seems a pretty long way. Sorry Douglas…

Posted by: slugboy77 | February 17, 2013

Portal guns, Theism and a lack of belief.

Its late, im watching alien versus predator requiem, I have dubstep on in the background, I have had a couple of beers and I was playing Portal (2 to be exact, player created levels). In other words im happy and relaxed.

I was sat there thinking of all the really cool things I could do with a portal gun. Some of the things I could even discuss with a vicar!.

A particularly good one was painting a portal onto a big metal square. And having it fired off as fast as possible away from earth. The entrance portal would be at the bottom of a silo, which I would fill with waste. Landfill stuff, or nuclear reactor waste, copies of katie price unsold biographies and copies of the casual vacancy rather than pulping them. All obviously at a small cost (this would be a business not a charity).

Now the great thing is that the vacuum of space would suck this rubbish out, so the whole thing would be self sustaining. Rubbish in = rubbish out, to use the computer modellers analogy incorrectly.

The waste is no longer on earth, the vacuum would fire it away from the portal into space, id be getting paid handsomely. Win Win, win

In case you were wondering, this is actually going somewhere.

Id really like to have a portal gun, they are awesome. So very awesome. But I don’t have one.


Id like one so much it would be great if I could make one, maybe if I thought they could be made?

Maybe if I just believe they can be?

Just believe……



I just cant get myself to believe that this thing I really really want is possible, even if only theoretically make-able by upright apes on a dirtball. Its just not happening.

Now the mildly tortuous twist. Belief is an odd thing, I see it in others but I don’t have it myself.

Now im not just talking about belief in fictitious sci fi game devices. But in ‘bigger’ stuff like gods.

Heaven, now there is a god based concept! meeting my maker and all those friends and family members who have passed on again, glorious bliss, on tap virgins (version specific), my own cloud, finally being able to play a string instrument, access to actual flaming swords, wings and manna and oh yeah, everlasting life. Why wouldn’t I want to believe in that? Sounds like a sweet deal. Follow a few rules, basically don’t act like a dick for 70 or so years and Roberts your mothers brother!

But I don’t believe. Never have, not even for a day, a minute… I swear to god I haven’t!

So what is belief?

I pretty much have no idea. The concept as does the practice. Eludes me. Hell, I cant even get myself to believe in a white gun that fires pretty ovals……

I have very early memories, of arguing with nursery nurses who wanted the group to do their daily pray for a few mins (a crude ploy to get a few mins peace and quiet at work I understand now, but i lacked the vocab and linguistic skills at the time to debate further than ‘no im not praying’) I could see I was getting conned even then. That somehow this whole religion and gods thing was bumfodder.

It isn’t even as if I came from an openly atheist family. My mother and sisters notably religious and father towed the party line even if he was part way between agnostic and bible bother-er.

But as it was my brains software obviously had a decent copy of its version of avast or avg on-board as the memes about gods and religion (I chose memes over mind viruses as the latter set a derogatory tone a bit low for my first post) failed to take root.

This has however left me mildly perplexed as to how someone can simply accept something that to me seems so astoundingly laughable, especially nowadays with education allowing us to read the bible and spot its inconsistencies, to see the natural world and understand its truth and beauty.

Yes, im sure it could be comforting to people who have had loss, or are reaching the end of their life, or require a reason to not be alcoholics, or  who just won’t or can’t think for themselves and prefer the little mental hug religion must give.

but merely believing in something without external evidence, which is not internally consistent, just because you really really really want it to be true does not, as Picard would say “make it so”


However I can see how in some ways its simpler  than having to understand all the complex parts of science that make god unnecessary.

but simplicity isn’t automatically reality, nor is it truth,

lets face it, Portals are simple too,

“speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out”

Posted by: jugglinbob | February 17, 2013

And I’d like to welcome on stage….

… a new contributor for this blog – my Ole mate Slugboy!

I’ve just given him control to post his own articles here, and have great hopes for some amazing future posts from him.

Although I’ve only referenced him a couple of times so far, he is often the instigator of my posts on this blog.  His outlandish, yet funny and well thought out arguments often make me re-evaluate my world view…  His knowledge is greater than mine on many things, although I do severely thrash him on biblical references and at Agricola

No pressure now dude… but surely don’t want to disappoint all 4 of of my loyal readers do you?  Well do ya, punk?


He’s already beaten me to this with his first post saying “hello” below…

Posted by: slugboy77 | February 16, 2013

Um, hello there.


I’m slugboy, friend of jugglinbob.

I’m not exactly what you would call a prolific online writer. I have had a wordpress account since 2009 and im pretty certain this is my first day of actual posting.

Mainly I have been an offline poke in the ribs. maybe jugglin has mentioned me in passing?, I have been told that in part a recent post was ‘provoked’ shall we say by one of my semi regular diatribes against something which has irked me (I call them diatribes, everyone else calls them rants). give me a place to stand and a subject I’m annoyed by and I can make jugglin post. Apparently…

Anyhow, I’ve been invited to take a more active stance. so this is me, beginning to stance more actively.

Did i say hello?

Posted by: jugglinbob | February 9, 2013

Malala – an apology?

It has been pointed out (personally, not on the blog) that I have been perhaps overly harsh against what Malala said in that interview where she stated that she was only getting better because of prayer. I hadn’t seen this interview when I wrote the previous post:

where she clearly says at 1min 30 seconds “God gave me a new life because of the prayers of people and because of the talent of doctors” and later that “ I’m inspired from the doctors and nurses, they are like my mother and father as for 10 days my mother and father were not with me, but I had a lot of doctors and nurses who took care of me as if they were my parents…

So perhaps an apology is in order…

Although even in this interview she gives prayer far too strong a part in her recovery she does at least mention that medical care played a role. I’m not going retract what I said as the previous interview and this one still shows Malala’s reliance on her religion as part of her cure, but I will soften my angst at her previous statements.

I can’t do apologies well… yet thank you to the person (you know who you are!) for pointing out my potential error….

I could perhaps talk about the scientific method – where one is always happy to re-evaluate one’s world view as more evidence is obtained, rather than religion’s view of ignoring these new ideas… but I won’t. As that would be perhaps unseemly in this circumstance.


Posted by: jugglinbob | February 8, 2013

Cured by prayer?

I’m going to have be careful on this one…

I’m sure that you’ve all heard of Malala Yousufzai, but here’s quick recap just in case…

The 15 year old angered Taliban leaders by promoting education for young girls in her home region of Swat Valley where the Taliban had previously banned girls from attending school.
Malala had previously pseudonymously blogged for the BBC about her life under the rule of the Taliban, and she included details about the circumstances of female education in the region. She later became more prominent, giving interviews in the press and becoming the Chairperson of the District Child Assembly Swat. She won the Pakistani government Youth Peace Prize in 2011, which has now been renamed in her honour. Certainly she is indeed a brave girl and is passionate about the issues at hand. She even wants to form her own political party working for the cause of education.

Then, on October 12th 2012, a gunman boarded the bus she was on returning from school , asked for her by name, and shot her with his pistol in the head and chest.

The next day she was flown by helicopter to a military hospital in Peshawar where doctors removed a bullet near her spine, which “entered just above her left eye and ran along her jaw, grazing her brain.” A piece of skull was removed as the brain was swelling at this time. She was flown to the UK on the 15th October for specialist treatment in a prominent trauma hospital, where she responded well to treatment. Dr Rosser, University Hospital Birmingham’s Medical Director talked about her time in ITU and stated that her care requires 13 different medical specialities, something that is unavailable in her home country, whereas the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham has 47 “all under this roof”.

Another interview with Dr Rosser on the 26th October also gave hints about the level of treatment that Malala has received: (Italics are Dr Rosser’s words)

“Needs her skull reconstructed, which is obviously pretty high tech stuff”

“She’ll be having a lot of endocrinology tests because the hormones can get … imbalanced after a serious head injury”

“She’s having blood tests today”

There was a question from the floor about Malala’s skull reconstruction –

“That will happen here, it wouldn’t be appropriate to put her on a plane until that’s sorted”

“That piece of skull has come with her, so the questions that the teams are asking themselves now are do they put that piece of skull back in… or to use a titanium plate… which are things we do relatively routinely here”

She also had a tracheostomy according to an interviewer’s question and Dr Rosser’s response in this and another interview with him.  These interviews are actually fascinating to watch – normally these get edited down to a sound bite of 10 seconds or less, so to see them in full and see how the process works is quite cool.

There is now a petition for Malala to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and thus join ranks of the likes of Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama on one hand, and President Obama and Yasser Arafat on the other…
This petition has 286 145 supporters as of the time of posting this, including the Prime Minister of Canada and Prof. Dawkins.

She was discharged from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham where she had been receiving her specialist treatment in January, but later returned for a surgical procedure to restore her hearing in the left ear, when a cochlear implant was surgically inserted.

OK. So far so good. We have an amazingly courageous girl who has come through an awful experience because of her belief that women should also receive an education. So what’s the problem?
The hospital where she was receiving treatment released a press statement and a video interview which was widely reported upon, where Malala was:

Speaking clearly, but with noticeable damage to the right side of her face, said: “Today you can see that I’m alive. I can speak. I can see you, I can see everyone.
“And today I can speak. I am getting better day by day and it’s just because of the prayers of people.
“Because all the people, men, women and children, all of them have prayed for me. And because of these prayers, God has given me this new life.
“And this is a new life; a second life. And I want to serve, I want to serve the people.

and this is when I start to have problems…

Sorry. Say again? “I am getting better day by day and it’s just because of the prayers of people.
Once more with feeling: “it’s just because of the prayers…
Hmmm… a religious sect decided to kill you but you are now getting better “just because of the prayers…
Let’s ignore the surgery that you received in at least 2 hospitals, the fact that you were moved half way across the world by helicopter and planes to receive treatment in one of few places where one can be treated by “13 different medical specialities”, where you received ground breaking treatment: a cochlear implant, treatment in intensive care including a tube being placed surgically into your trachea, where brain surgeons replaced part of your skull with a man-made material, which according to Dr Rosser is “pretty high tech stuff”, where you will have received drugs to resolve the endocrinological imbalances, where thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on your treatment.
You have been treated by science.

If my back hurts I might to see a chiropractor or a raiki therapist; if I feel sick and bloated I might try a herbalist. If I get shot – get a Doctor! Now!

British comedian Jack Dee said in one his routines (and I’m paraphrasing as I can’t find a link…):

“Has anyone ever heard at the scene of an accident “Let me through – I’m a herbalist… Ah this man needs Marjoram, and plenty of it!”

“But my leg! It’s been torn off!””

Don’t get me wrong here – Malalar is incredibly courageous and brave for speaking out against the Taliban. But she needs to admit that it was science that has treated and is curing her.

Religion is what got you in the mess in the first place, and now you dare to say that religion has cured you?

Centuries of medical science treated you – religion tried to kill you.

Posted by: jugglinbob | July 1, 2011

Creationist School Appears…

from nowhere!

Full breaking news story here

I thought the line

“Local parents remain sceptical after a recent Ofsted report revealed that everyone attending St Usshers was an idiot. ‘I admit we don’t have the brightest pupils,’ said Dr Bryan, ‘but that’s hardly surprising since we don’t believe in selection.’

was genius!











Posted by: jugglinbob | June 6, 2011

Teaching the kids – Doh!

I’ve just seen a cool documentary about evolution that I thought I’d share with you all:

I’m especially liking the first land animal @ 0.24 as I was teaching my God-daughter (don’t ask!) about the Tiktaalik last weekend.  We talked about it, and sang the song:

and even primed her so that when her mother asked her what a Tiktaalik is, she was able to respond:

“A tetrapod able to hold up it’s own weight on land with spiracles showing it had primitive lungs”

She had no idea what that meant, but sounded like she did…

It’s been a long time coming, but we finally have a clear, understandable argument for the existence of the Christian God!  Blogginbaldguy commented:

Here it is:

The Christian God (triune) is metaphysically necessary in order for unity and diversity to have a meaningful expression in the first cause. A strict monad would have ultimate unity but no natural expression of diversity and hence would *need* the diversity of contingent beings; in other words this being could not metaphysically have aseity at least as it is correlative to diversification.

Pantheism posits no distinction between unity and diversity; hence diversity is illusory though empirical experience militates against such a view. If diversity is illusory the antitheistic thoughts of a quasi-divine being must be considered identical with the positive conceptions of the theist.

Polytheism faces the opposite dilemma. Ultimate diversity negates unity and finds no expression for unity of thought. Therefore the Christian God is the only God that could possibly exist due to the rational-irrational tension of the other conceptions. Coincidentally, naturalism suffers a similar fate.

Now, I am partial to significantly substantial verbal articulations to an equal or greater extent as the subsequently minimally distant (from my reference plane) masculine hominid, but you Sir, are taking the Michael…

I like big words as much as the next man.

See how much easier that was to read, understand, or indeed think about?

I realise I’m opening myself up for looking like I don’t understand words of more than two syllables, but I do believe in clear, concise language.  The fancy words have their place, but the argument above seems to be deliberately hiding behind these words, and then, when decoded, are nonsensical anyway!

For example, Triune. As I’m sure you all know, this means “Three in One” (like the oil…),  the common word Trinity would have done as well, or indeed better as it is the one used to describe the triple christian deity by most people.

But lets look at the argument: (in English!)

“The Christian God (triune) is metaphysically necessary in order for unity and diversity to have a meaningful expression in the first cause.”

The Christian God is required for oneness and difference to be meaningful if it is to be used as a creator of the universe.

I have no need of oneness or difference for the universe to exist! To then argue that a God without many confusing parts makes no sense because it has no confusing parts is therefore not required.

I was going to go on with the rest, but my need for diversity leads me elsewhere…

Why not try it yourself?

Can you translate this into English?  I look forward to discussing this with you if you can…

Posted by: jugglinbob | May 31, 2011

Eponymous Post

People often ask me – “Why JugglinBob?”

Coz I can juggle?  And I am reasonably good at it?

Well, after looking at the ease that this machine juggles five balls, and more importantly, corrects it’s mistake at 1.07, then I might start doing something else more impressive…

Like perhaps making a working windmill model completely out of bread for the local flour show, (a poor pun – and I should know, but it’s not mine this time!) And no…  I’m not making it up!  The blueprints are completed, and the first cog trials will happen soon.  I want to use Salt Dough, but my compatriot keeps telling it’s not edible.  Flour, salt & water is edible… but maybe you just wouldn’t want to, or indeed be able to keep it down if you do… {insert religion gag as required}

Posted by: jugglinbob | May 25, 2011

“Dad – I’ve got something to tell you…”

Since I’m blogging again today I thought I take a moment to do what bloggers do and take about my own life.  The majority of my posts are news orientated or general comments on belief and religion, so maybe it’s time I take a moment to look at personal things.

As most of you know, I regularly pick my daughter up from her boarding school for leave weekends.  She gets one weekend off in 3 for good behaviour, and more if she give info on any tunnelling activity, or squeals on those bribing the guards for an extra smoke from the Red Cross parcels.  OK.  I apologise.  I’m being factitious.  They’re under-age, and the guards won’t give them smokes…

Anyway, moving on from this gag that I feel is falling flat fast (it’s a great school, and we are all so proud of her!), on the journey home last time I had all the news about how it’s going.  All of you who are parents of teenage children know how hard it is to know what’s going on with them – but now imagine you only see them once a month!  We talk.  I drag information out of her.  We talk.

And then silence….

(What the hell is wrong? thought I)

“Dad…” (big pause, and reluctantly continues)

“I’ve got something to tell you…”

Shit!  Many things run through my mind.

“I don’t want you to be upset..”

Oh hell

“… but I think I’ve become a Christian”

(Relief!)  Oh.  I now think I have to re-evaluate how my fundamental, almost evangelical, atheist beliefs are affecting my daughter.  I’ve always said that if she makes the choice, after looking at both sides then it’s ok, but the fact that she was so reluctant to tell me makes me think that maybe I’ve gone over the line somewhere.

Maybe I should be more accepting of others faith?  Maybe I should try to ignore the fact that most people’s faith is not a considered, intelligent choice, but one of inertia, determined by birth parents and not thought.  Ignore the fact that the bible is not only not internally consistent, but is also provably false against historical references?

Ignore that Churches become rich whilst praying (ahem) upon their constituents.  Ignore that religion still causes rifts, anger, and often incites violence upon fellow-man.  Just ignore it…

Nah.   See you for the next religion bashing post!

(Turns out it was not a matter of faith – but one of calm.  In the hectic life  of a boarder, a few minutes of peace in the Chapel before lights out was doing her a wonder of good psychologically.  So she’s not lost yet…)

Posted by: jugglinbob | May 25, 2011

Harold Camping is Still Right! Kinda…

As we all heard the world ended on the 21st May 2011.  The Devout (some 2 million people) were raptured and the rest of us heathens (some 6773 million!) left on Earth to suffer our fate.

Even the amazingly popular Rebecca Black got into the act:


(EDIT:  This video no longer plays.  The original on Rooster Teeth is here)

And Yes – It’s a parody.  Ms Black not involved.  Though she does looks the type…  

Or at least that’s what Harold Camping thought was going to happen, and many of his followers decided to sell all their Earthly goods and promote his message.

The day came.  The day went.  No sign of anything happening.

On the day itself Harold went into hiding and refused to answer his door.  However, Mr Camping has now stated that he won’t be returning any of his followers money, as it was the “spiritual” and “invisible” day of judgement.  But come October, and we’ll see that he’s right!  Oh yes indeedy!  (We’ll just forget that he previously been proven wrong in both in 1988 and 1994 and give him the benefit of the doubt this time.)

Since we now have a few extra months without the promised earthquakes and mass destruction lets look at exactly how Harold came to this amazing revelation:

I was going to launch into a tirade here looking at how out of the norm Harold’s ideas and Maths are.  But I can’t.  I don’t have the time or the energy!  We move from proving that a day equals a thousand years via 2 Peter 3:8 onto Noah’s seven-day respite in Gen7:4

For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth”

and goes on to explain that the 7 days in the above passage therefore means 7000 years.  Ok… but that would surely mean that the forty days would mean 40,000 years of rain, and Harold himself says that the flood was 4990BC, (but fails to explain that figure!), and therefore we should still be in the period of flood, and will be for a further 33,000 years!  Most thinking Christians take some parts of the bible to be truth, and some as allegorical, but Camping takes both sides in a single verse!  The remainder of his numerolgical argument gets even more bizarre and my head hurts at trying to go round the bends required, so I’ll stop.

I can’t think what the Millionaire Harold Camping gets out of all this… (But Mr Hubbard must be turning in his new “meat body“)

However, some atheists think that it’s a shame that the rapture didn’t occur…

Dammit!  I wanted my bottle of Darwin’s Genuine Draft too!

Posted by: jugglinbob | January 10, 2011

Happy New Year!

I’ve not been too hot on putting posts here, but one of my new new year resolutions is to try harder with this post, and to open it up to new avenues, rather than just bible bashing… (for those interested other resoltions include losing weight, gaining an academic qualification in something (anything!), and for the nerds amongst you – 1280×1080…


Today (if I get this typed quick enough) is also a major anniversary.  So big in fact that BBC radio 4 had a whole days worth of programs celebrating it.  It is the 400th anniversary of the publishing of the King James Bible.  (EDIT: It’s this year, not this date) I’m just up from dropping my daughter to boarding school and (as always) listened to radio 4 on the drive, and it’s long readings from the KJV tonight.

I was actually quite touched.  I know that the bible, especially the KJV, is a key text used, copied, and indeed parodied in English literature but having professional actors reading these texts really made it obvious.  So many English literature titles appear in Daniel or the Songs of Solomon.  So many pieces of Shakespeare are re workings, or rewordings of biblical texts.  The bible truly does play a major part in our literary lives.  I realise that I often appear here to be anti bible, but that’s not the case.  I’m not anti-bible in the same way that I’m not anti-viking, anti-pagan, or anti-Roman Parthenon.  All of these have had demonstrable impact on our British society, and as the bible is our most recent religion it has the most impact on our British society.  It’s an interesting text.  It contains fantastic pieces of narrative, and great quotes.

Now that Mohammed is the number one male first name in the UK one can only assume that in 400 years we will be looking back at pieces of the Qua ran in the same way.



This use of the bible in popular fiction over the last 500 years does not in any way prove it’s correctness or it’s accuracy.  There are great stories, and especially in the new testament, popular works against those under those under oppression.  It is a self propagating meme – look at the first 4 (ish) commandments are just about keeping the faith (check here for details).

I accept the bible’s influnece on our society, and our literature.

I just don’t accept that it’s true, or indeed just.

Or that the modern interpretations even make sense….

Posted by: jugglinbob | November 26, 2010

The Universe existed BEFORE the Big Bang?

What was there before the Big Bang?

The normal answers can include the religious one: “God” or the somewhat more scientific “Nothing – there was no time or space for anything to be in” (Which I find oddly similar to the conclusion of philosopher and writer St. Augustine of Hippo about this in his “Confessions”  written in the closing years of the fourth century: before God created the world there was no time and thus no before. “For there was no “then” when time was not.” Book 11:Chapter 13)

However a recent paper claims to have found evidence that supports the idea that there could have been many Big Bangs preceeding the one that created our visible universe.

Roger Penrose (Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics Oxford University) and Vahe Gurzadyan (Yerevan Physics Institute in Armenia) have published a paper “Concentric circles in WMAP data may provide evidence of violent pre-Big-Bang activity (full PDF here)

The science in it is very complex, and I’m no where near understanding it fully!  I think I’ve grasped the basics however. All the articles that I’ve seen about this assume a basic level of knowledge, so I aim here to explain it in simple terms whilst covering the basics. I’ll also be adding my own twist at the end…

The idea is that clear concentric circles of small temperature ranges can be seen in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, and that this indicates collisions between black holes.  OK, simple enough!  (Well almost, but I’ll try to explain it shortly)  The weird part is that the larger circles have been calculated to have occurred prior to the rapid expansion of the universe or “Big Bang”.

Lets start at the beginning, as it were – what is this CMB?

If one looks at the spaces between the stars and galaxies (the background) it is pitch black, even with the most powerful optical telescopes. So there’s nothing there right?  Wrong.  Radio telescopes can detect a faint background glow, which is almost uniform in all directions, in the microwave region of frequencies.

This was predicted by the Big Bang Model and its discovery was hailed as the landmark test of this model.  The discovery in 1964 earned Penzias and Wilson a Nobel Prize in 1978.  The story of this discovery is now famous as they were not looking for it!  They detected the radiation, but thought that it was caused by equipment interference and spent a lot of time and effort to remove this interference.  They rebuilt everything and even scraped off what they called in the academic papers as “white dielectric material” (bird shit to you and me!) from the antenna, and yet the hiss remained.  Nearby, in Princeton University, a different group of scientists were searching for this very same radiation without success, and eventually correctly identified the hiss after receiving a call asking for help from Penzias and Wilson.  The Princeton team did not get acknowledged by the Nobel Committee…

The CMB is the remnants of the explosive Big Bang. The scattering of the radiation occurred when the universe was less than 400 000 years old, and so is a “picture” of the state that the universe was at that time.  As the universe expands it cools (basic physics – and easily demonstrated.  The nozzle of CO2 fire extinguisher becomes harmfully cold to touch as the expanding gas rushes through it, and becomes covered in thick frost from solidified atmospheric water vapour.  Go on!  Give it a try!  But not at work please folks…)

When the universe was 379 000 years old it was cool enough (at 3000K!) to form hydrogen and the matter and radiation decoupled.   The CMB was “fixed” at this time, but expands as the universe expands. The mathematically calculated background temperature from the model exactly matches the observed CMB at just below 3K.  This correlation of theoretical and observable data provides strong proof that the Big Bang model is to some extent “correct”.

Another great thing about the CMB is that you have the ability to “see” this radiation for yourself.  You own a TV?  You have all the equipment required!  Tune the TV to where it doesn’t receive a broadcast signal and look at the “snow”.  1% of this snow is from the CMB.  Next time you are complaining that there’s nothing on TV, detune it and watch the decoupling of matter and radiation at the start of the universe occur in front of you!  “Nothing on?”  No – just all of creation!

And the circles indicate black hole collisions?

The paper goes to great length to demonstrate that the circles are there beyond statistical doubt, so they have to indicate something involving a great deal of energy. The collision between Supermassive Blackholes  is, according to Penrose and Gurzadyan, the most likely source.  I can (just) about keep up with the statistical analysis proving that the circles are there, but at that point my knowledge of physics breaks down.  I can’t follow the argument here.  But give me a break!  I’m a healthcare professional, and not a theoretical physicist! If anyone can explain this part to me please do – I’m always happy to learn.  What does seem common sense though is that the energy from these collisions expand spherically away from the point of origin, like a 3 dimensional ripple caused by a pebble dropped into a lake.  The wave front would appear as a circle in the “frozen” picture of the scatter field of the CMB, and so the concentric circles are from a single source at different periods of time.

And – and this is the big one! – The larger circles have been calculated to have occurred prior to the Big Bang?

Fortunately for me, and my somewhat injured knowledge of physics is pretty much back on track with this one!  Well, I think so anyhow…

The concept that needs to be understood here is that of light cones.  In brief, nothing can go faster than the speed of light.

Imagine a graph plotting a point in space and time on the origin of a graph with 3 axes; time on one axis and space on the other two.  As you move up the time axis you have an area of influence that increases (moves along the space axes) by the speed of light.   Light (and therefore any information & therefore influence) can only be so far away from this origin in a certain amount of time, as determined by the speed of light.  Lets say you hold a hypothetical light up in the air, then one year later the light has therefore moved 1 light year away from you, and so up (time) and expanding across the 2 space axes of  the graph in a cone.  If you look at somewhere on your graph at a point 2 light-years distant the light has not yet reached it.

Light Cone - Image from WikiCommons

The figure to the left shows this graph.   Nothing that happens at the origin of the graph can possible have any influence on anything outside this triangle (or cone), as nothing travels faster than the speed of light.

Similarly one can imagine the same cone in reverse.  As you move back in time the area of influence cone increases in size along the space axis at the same gradient as defined by the speed of light.  Things inside this cone can have an influence on you, whilst anything outside this cone cannot affect you.

I really have an affinity for the light cone idea and I was introduced to it at an early age, and so I have difficultly explaining it as to me it makes innate sense, and so I have difficulty explaining such an obvious (to me) concept to others, but I hope this explanation worked…

Now that we have got that out of way we can look back at the question.  The circles lie outside of the light cone projecting the area of influence back to the decoupling event, as shown on the right.  Way past.  From the explanation above a circle of influence can by extrapolated backwards to their point of origin.  And this point of origin is prior to the time of the big bang.

And that’s it!  Observable proof that something prior to the big bang had an influence on the state of the universe at the point of the decoupling of matter and radiation.

Clear and simple!

No.  This is indeed tentative.  It’s not fact.  It’s almost not a theory, but it is part of the scientific model – trying to explain observable events, using all available resources.  This is cutting edge and may be proven to be false with further evidence.  That is the beauty of science – it is open to new ideas, even if it requires a compete rewrite of world view.  As new hypothesis are developed, predictions of what should be found experimentaly or by observation are made.  If these predictions are then shown to match to the evidence, then and only then does the hypothesis become a theory. Of course the theory can be disproved by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory.  The “unprovable but falsifiable” concept is a core tenet of modern science.

For example, ideas that were held to be true by scientists of their time include that of a geocentric universe,  that aether exists as the medium of the propagation of light, that stomach ulcers were cause by stress rather than a bacterial infection, or that that the continents were immovable.  These were then later shown to be falsifiable, and new hypotheses developed to better fit the evidence.

Therefore scientists can be, and in fact are,  regularly proven wrong.  Yet they strive to learn the truth and adapt to new information, whilst the religious fundamentalists stick to their primitive views as defined thousands of years ago.

Oh come on!  Did you think I’d let piece go past without a quick bible / Koran / {insert any other primitive text} basher bashing?

I tried.  Sorry…

Even I may have thought of a possible cause for the circles to have expanded across the CMB faster than the speed of light, and therefore not be from events predating the Big Bang.  I can’t scientifically call it a theory though.  It is more of a (tentative) hypothesis.  It also seems so obvious that to be honest I’ve clearly missed something!  However I’ll write it down here as the scientific community takes the publishing date of information to form precedence – and I’d love this to be come known as the Jugglinbob Model

Earlier I discussed that no influence can move faster than the speed of light.  This was then used to make the light cones and demonstrate that that the cone origin pre-dates the Big Bang.  However, this is not entirely true!  Hang on!  How can I, a mere healthcare worker, dare to say this?  Well, it’s a well known concept to science!  It is true that nothing can itself move faster than the speed of light, yet the universe can itself expand at a rate that exceeds this limit.  Far flung galaxies move away from us at great speeds, not because they themselves are moving fast, but that the space between us and the galaxy is expanding.  This is part of the modern models of the universe, and explains why the doppler shift (relative speed) increases proportionally to distance.  The details are far to complex for the purpose of this blog, but to explain briefly think of a balloon with dots at 1cm apart all over its surface.  As one blows air into the balloon all the dots move away from all the others as the balloon expands.  If you now pick any dot as “home” and measure the distance to a nearby dot you find that it’s now (for example) 2cm between then.  If you measure to the next nearest dot it will be twice this at 4cm away.  The new dot has moved away from us at twice the speed!  A dot, say, 10cm away from our mark before inflation is now 20cm after this same expansion, and so is moving away at a faster rate.  This works for any group of dots anywhere on the balloons surface.  Pick a new “home” dot and repeat and the result is the same.  The fact that (almost) all galaxies are moving away from us initially makes it look as if we are the centre of the universe, until one takes this inflation into account.  Observers anywhere in the universe will all see the galaxies moving away from them, and will therefore to them look like they are at the centre!  This played a key role in moving the scientific community away from the geocentric universe mentioned above.

Still there?  Ok.  The fact that it is space that is expanding and not the galaxies moving, and the concept that a far flung galaxy can be moving away from us at a speed that, if not quite breaks the speed of light barrier, at least bends it somewhat, is key to my idea.  The inflationary model of the universe states that the universe went though a period of expansion that was faster than the speed of light.  Lemonick and Nash in a popular article for Time describe inflation as an “amendment to the original Big Bang” as follows:

“when the universe was less than a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second old, it briefly went through a period of superchanged expansion, ballooning from the size of a proton to the size of a grapefruit (and thus expanding at many, many times the speed of light). Then the expansion slowed to a much more stately pace. Improbable as the theory sounds, it has held up in every observation astronomers have managed to make.”

If the universe underwent an inflationary period at a rate that exceeds the speed of light then the shock-wave of an event occurring within this time would be carried along with the increased expansion.  It would be moving at a speed greater than that of light!  Projecting these light cones backwards through time to their apparent origin before the Big Bang would therefore be incorrect.

I have a sneaking suspicion that anyone that really understands physics will probably be sniggering away now at how foolish I am.  In fact I know a clever chappie who took a degree in Astrophysics but I’m too scared of receiving his scorn to pass this on to him!

I’d love to hear from anyone who can show exactly where my logic took a left turn, so if you can please comment!

Posted by: jugglinbob | November 23, 2010

Dispatches – In God’s name

In a similar news style to the now infamous (at least in my mind) FaithandtheLaw Blog, I have a piece of cutting edge news….  From 2008.

This is a film first broadcast on the 19th May 2008 on Channel4 in the UK.  The programme follows some of the leading members of Christian pressure groups as they attempt to win converts and convince MPs to base laws on Biblical beliefs.

It’s quite long –

There’s quite a lot of interesting viewpoints here, but the one thing that I want to focus on starts at around 6 mins in when the documentary moves to a “government endorsed faith school”.  I do not have any problems with faith schools, and they are often good schools with a high level of academic achievement.  Indeed I went to a faith school, and look at where I am today…

The schools secretary at the time of making this documentary, Ed Balls later said: “Some concerns have been raised recently about practice in a small minority of independent faith schools and whether they are effectively preparing pupils for life in wider British society.”

My concerns are only raised when the content of all subjects is altered by the institution’s faith.  At my old school we had a few hours a week of CE – Christian Education as well as a daily assembly which included prayers and hymns.  BUT the other subjects were taught without the reliance of the bible as a source text.  The school in this documentary appears not to do so, and in fact the views that they are taught are so far off of those normally taught that I feel that this is indeed a form of child abuse.

Surely deliberately scaring young children is a form of mental abuse.  Have a read of this example from the video:

At 6.25 Teacher:  “Before Jesus came, people who sinned, {clicks fingers} died.  People who disobeyed God turned to a pillar of salt so thank God for Jesus, because we can actually say “Jesus, I’m sorry.  I did something wrong then”, and we don’t have to fear turning into a pillar of salt.  Which really really really happened…”

“Which really really really happened?” Even ignoring the opinion (held by pretty much everybody, including most Christians that this is apocryphal), it isn’t even true in the bible!  One person was transformed. One!  Genesis 19:26.  The Quran disagrees with even this one and has her destroyed with everyone else in the city (Ch 26:160-171).  So, no.  You are wrong either by accident, or by deliberate deceit.

It also appears that this scaremongering tactic, which is similar to many used in religion (for example the Catholic ideas of Hell and purgatory) has been used before on this children as one child immediately pipes up “We don’t also have to get sucked up into the Earth like the Isreal”{ites} Teacher:” They did, there were some Israelites who got sucked up into the ground.  The ground swallowed them up.  And when the Israelites were in the dessert God thought “Oh gosh!  I’m looking after them, and they’re moaning” so he sent snakes to bite them!”  Follow my teaching about God or you will be turned into a pillar of salt, sucked up into the ground and have snakes bite you!  Well, at least she has not told these 6 year olds some of the other things that happen to those who go against God. For example, after murdering all their fathers, all their mothers and brothers that “Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves  (Numbers 31:18).  One assumes for sock darning duty?

And this shows the level of influence that religion has on the education of these children:

6 year old Amy’s science paper:

I have tried to piece together as much of her science paper as possible.  Have a go yourself now!  And remember that this is Science, and not a Religious test…

  1. Long ago there (rest of questions and all possible answers unseen)
  2. Jesus _____ as God (answers: {unseen}, lives, calls)
  3. Long ago there was no _______  (answers: word, God, world)
  4. God _____ a beautiful world (answers: says, wanted, holds)
  5. God made the world in ____ days (answers: five, six, seven)
  6. God made light on day _____ (answers: one, two, three)  END PAGE EVEN
  7. God called the light ____ (answers: unseen except Amy’s “Day”)
  8. God called the dark time _______ (answers: night, light, might)
  9. God made the _____ and clouds on day two (answers: sly, sky, fly)
  10. God called the sky (Haven, Heaven, Hell)
  11. God made the clouds to _____ water (hold, drink, know)
  12. God made the ______ and plants on day three (band, land, sky)
  13. God made the _______ on day three (lakes, bakes, rakes)
  14. God made the ______ and oceans on day three (seas, sees, ?rats?) END PAGE ODD

And that’s all we see.  There is an instruction after question 14 “Go to the next page” so we know that there are more questions.  The question is how many more?  Well, the whole test paper is visibly very thin, so there cannot be many more questions.  Secondly we hear that she has scored 92%.  A very precise score, and one that mathematically reduces the possible number of questions.

If there were only 14 questions with 13 correct answers then she scores 92.86% which would be rounded up to 93%, or 12 correct equates to 85.71% which agrees with the “Go to the next page” instruction.  Therefore there are more than 14 questions.

If there were 26 questions and little Amy got 24 correct then she scores 92.31%

If there were 25 questions and little Amy got 23 correct then she scores 92.00% Dead on!

If there were 24 questions and little Amy got 22 correct then she scores 91.67%

All of these could be correctly called 92% at two significant figures.  The next series of number of questions that could result in a 2sf percentage of 92% starts at 33 questions.  The problem with this number of questions is that the book looks too thin to accommodate them.  I may be wrong.  It’s hard to tell on a youtube video!  But I feel that is the maximum number possible.  So on a science paper we have seen somewhere between 2/3 and a smidge under half the questions – and my bet is on the 2/3 option.  We don’t know what the other questions were.  They could have been anything – perhaps even something as difficult as name the missing state of matter (A question I heard on a quiz show recently “Liquid, solid and ?”  Hmmm… thought I.  Tricky!  The answer could be – Plasma!   Einstein-Bose Condensate!  Fermionic condensate!  Or indeed perhaps Gas, which was the answer they were looking for (idiots who know nothing about physics!)  However on the evidence provided we have to assume that the questions carried on in the same manner.  Even if they did not however a large part of the marks have been allocated to questions that are nothing at all to do with science.

Ok  So that was a test paper for a 6 year old.  The national curriculum in the UK doesn’t set 6 year olds science papers so perhaps I should back off?  For older children however it does become part of the key stage assessment.  So let’s examine the information given to 14 year old Jessie (8:45 in the film)

08.45  14 yr old Jessie.

“It was very exciting when the first men walked on the moon in 1969.  When scientists eagerly studied the moon soil and moon rocks, they found that the moon appeared to be about 6000 to 10,000 years old.  This was not surprising to scientists who were Christians, because the Bible indicates that the Earth is also somewhere between 6000 and 10,000 years old.  We know that our moon and Earth are about the same age, since God created Earth on the third day and the moon on the forth day of creation.”

So the scientists say that the earth is between 6000 years and 1 day and 10000 years and 1 day old then?  Factious?  Me?

Exactly which scientists say this?  Oh, sorry – “Christian Scientists”…

I’ve undertaken a quick net search but haven’t found any peer reviewed journal articles supporting this view.  The are several web pages that purport to prove the Young Earth idea, like this one for example.

I can’t really be sure what evidence the text book was referring to, but common reasons given for a moon of this age are that

  1. the moon “should” according to Young Earth Creationists (YEC) have a layer of moon dust several miles thick
  2. that the dirt on the moon does not reveal the amount of soil mixing that would be expected if the moon were very old
  3. that the relative abundances of radioactive isotopes in lunar samples indicates a young moon.

These arguments are as old as the hills, and are flawed.  This may indeed be a straw man argument as I cannot be sure of the evidence that this text is referring to, but I can only use the evidence that I can find.

  1. The data used to calculate the accumulation of dust was wrong, and therefore the calculation is erroneous.
  2. This makes little sense.  The moon is geologically dead and has no atmosphere, so there is no soil movement and therefore no mixing!  Because of this for example, Armstrong’s boot print will effectively be there forever.
  3. Yes. The isotopes of uranium and thorium normal discussed are short lived, but are created naturally from radioactive decay of other elements, and are in the expected relative abundances

I have not found any current scientific, peer-reviewed journal articles upholding the YEC view.

The headmaster David Owens (08:05) says that “we are using the bible, even in science, to explain things.  And history shows that using the bible to explain things has got scientists quite far in life.”  And then later (09:30) when asked why the school teaches a young earth model goes on to wonder that the between the arguments that the Earth is young or billions of years old “which has the most credibility”  Let me ponder that for a moment.  On one hand we have a self contradictory bronze age text, and on the other science, with all of it’s evidence making a coherent whole.  It’s certainly a tricky one!

We all teach falsehoods to children.  When my daughter was 8 I taught her the basic Bohr model of the atom, even though I “know” it is wrong!  I learnt it at school as this is what is going on inside an atom…

Until I moved into higher education where I was taught that it was wrong, and that a new explanation is correct…

Which I believed until again I studied at a higher level and found out… etc.  At each stage I was told to forget the previous incorrect model and to use this new “correct” version.  But in the case of my daughter at this age it was close enough for the discussion at hand (which was I think something to do with why water is H20 rather than HO or indeed HO2.  To be honest it went quite well – we even got onto Hydrogen bonding and the amazing effect that it allows – LIFE! At our planetary temperatures!  And the intrinsic beauty of a snow flake – the regular shape occurs because of this bond.  She’s 12 now though (and at one of the top schools in country (proud parent here!)) so it’s probably about time I broached that one again at the next level of complexity.  Or indeed the next level of “lies to children”.

In the book “The Science of Discworld” there is a long discussion of the concept of “lies to children” which it’s self is based on Wittgenstein’s ladder:

“My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them – as steps – to climb beyond them. He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.”

We all use these “lies to children” everyday as no one knows everything about everything, or indeed much about anything!  We all use simplifications that approximate fact, but are themselves not entirely true, but work well enough for our needs  The Bohr model above is an example of this.  I have a vague idea of how a petrol engine moves my car, enough for me to do very basic maintenance (like putting petrol and oil in!).  A mechanic knows more about the actual working parts, an engine designer needs to know more about the actual thermodynamics, the chemist for the petrochemical company about the reaction that occurs in the chamber etc.What I know isn’t exactly wrong, but it certainly isn’t the truth.  The Newtonian physics we all learnt at school is not quite the truth – but is close enough for me!  What is important is that we should understand that our vision of the world, and that the models  we use to approximate it, are not necessarily true; just close enough for our needs.

I understand that truth means different things to different people, and that truth itself can be considered to be an abstract concept.  My daughter was recently set an essay for Theology and Philosophy with the title “The Meaning of Truth” and concluded that:

“Each little piece is beautiful, strange and unfathomable. When they are all linked together it will make something amazing. We can never know everything. We will never have all the pieces. We will have to make do with what we have got.”

But the school in the documentary is not exploring all sides of the argument and empowering the children involved to make an informed, reasoned, choice.  This is nothing less than out and out brain washing.  If any “scientist” really thinks that the lunar samples prove a young moon model then they are vastly outnumbered by those that do not, yet the view of this 99% are completely ignored.  There is no discussion of the majority view, or indeed any proof of this skewed point of view, (as Carl Sagan famously said “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”).

There is a big difference however, between “lies to children” and providing misleading or wrong information.  By only giving Jessie one side of the argument, and making the inference that this outlandish view is the one held by the scientific community, her education and her future life is detrimentally affected.

Children are programmed to believe what they are told by their elders – their parents and teachers, almost without question.  This is a survival trait.  “Don’t run into the road – you’ll be hurt”, “Don’t stick that fork in the socket – you’ll be hurt”, “Don’t sin – you’ll be turned into a pillar of salt or swallowed by the ground or snakes will bite you”

It is our duty as parents, teachers and elders to responsibly provide the next generation with the best possible opportunities for the future, something which I feel poor Jessie is not receiving.

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