Friday, May 30, 2008

Just a wee bit proud of New York

My friend and fellow ex-New Yorker sent along this good bit of news about New York State's decision to recognize same-sex marriages that are performed elsewhere.
The move does not legalize same-sex marriage in New York, but it means many bureaucratic restrictions experienced by gay couples will be lifted.

These include issues concerning family health care plans, property inheritance, tax breaks and adoption rights.
Bush better call an emergency to contain this situation... "Code Rainbow!" (It's funnier when Lewis Black says it.)

This is just a few steps away from actually legalizing marriage in the state. Some states still ban same-sex marriages, others allow some form of domestic partnership. The relegation of same-sex unions to domestic partnerships that are "similar in every way but name" to marriage remind me of the "separate but equal" policy that clearly didn't serve our country so well in the past. Might we learn from our mistakes this time? Or does that rationality really elude too many people?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mars Madness

Lots of cool news has been floating around on the Phoenix Mars lander. It has taken its first snapshots of the Martian north polar cap, and will be beginning its three-month scientific mission. Keep yourself updated on the project site! The first few days seem to drag out... take pictures of site, take pictures of self, do checks, move arm... but everything on a robotic planetary mission must be done with extreme caution and care. If something gets stuck, no one can drive out there and give it a kick or solder on a new part. There is no on-site operator. I'm pretty thankful that my project is only a 2.5 hour drive away for such reasons! And so all of these things are done with extreme precision, and the science has to be planned very carefully.

One particular image of the lander during its descent was captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and it's absolutely stunning. It's so incredible, that the BadAstronomer even makes a video to express the wonder and awe at this fantabulous image. My favorite quote from that...

"This is what science does... We don't just wonder, we actually go and take a look."

*Update* Check out detailed Phoenix coverage by the Planetary Society!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Don't Panic!

This tidbit came out a little while ago, where a state legislator in Illinois denounced atheist Rob Sherman as he testified against the state's plan to use taxpayer money to help fund a church. From the article:

Challenging Sherman, Davis wondered aloud, “I don’t know what you have against God….some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings.” Affirming that the people of Illinois believe that there is a God, Davis went on to suggest that the philosophy Sherman was spreading was “extremely dangerous.” “It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists,” shouted Davis. After Sherman thanked Davis for sharing her perspective with him, Davis shot back, “Get out of that seat …You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.”

As much as I'd like to be annoyed, I'm more amused at her ignorance. Nevertheless, I would have serious issue if I were an Illinois resident, and would call for her resignation as the Council for Secular Humanism has. A quick Google news search for Ms. Monique Davis shows that she is still serving and active.

In other atheist-news, don't forget that May 25th, this Sunday, is Towel Day, in honor of the late, great Douglas Adams. I plan to celebrate by carrying my towel with me all over Columbus!

Also on Sunday, the Mars lander Phoenix will be descending upon the Red Planet, giving the human race three working robotic representatives at the same time! According to the University of Arizona webpage, "Phoenix is designed to study the history of water and habitability potential in the Martian arctic's ice-rich soil." The National Radio Astronomy Observatory will be playing a role, as The Green Bank Telescope will be in involved with tracking the probe as it descends, and the Very Long Baseline Array will experiments with tracking the landing by imaging. So watch the news and highlights for this great event! I'm sure NASA TV will be playing something on its online channels.

Finally, in a totally unrelated note, a couple of my friends found a really great farm co-op in central Virginia, Horse and Buggy Produce. The co-op consists of about 100 farms in the Charlottesville and Lynchburg areas, and you can buy into the 6 1/2 month plan for produce, meat, granola, etc. It's already a few weeks in, but if you sign up during the season, you get vouchers which you can use to buy anything from the "a la carte" table in the amount for the weeks you've missed. I have yet to go to my first pick-up, but my friends brought home tons and tons of great looking lettuce and veggies from their first week! I'm pretty excited! Fresh veggies, saving money, and doing business with local farmers... you can't ask for much more.