The Mad Aardvark

Critical commentary on culture…

Archive for May, 2009

Welcome Home, Astronauts

Posted by madaardvark on May 25, 2009


Space shuttle Atlantis landed safely on May 24th at Edwards Air Force Base at 11:39 EDT (10:39 Central).  I wasn’t able to watch the landing because I was preparing for my 9 year-old cousin to spend the entire day with us.  I’m glad to see the mission was successful despite setbacks in landing since Friday.

Welcome home, lady and gentlemen.  It was a noble and daring risk to take in the name of scientific discovery and in the spirit of American exploration.  Kudos.

Sadly, this will be the final shuttle mission to the Hubble space telescope.  After updating the equipment there with cutting-edge technology (which should remain so for about two weeks), NASA has no more plans to bring any of their remaining space shuttles to the telescope.  Presumably, there will be more advanced spacecraft and/or space telescopes developed in the future.

Please visit the NASA homepage for more information on this shuttle mission, as well as info on previous and future missions.  There aren’t many left, (the final missions will be in 2010!) so watch them live on NASA video when you can.

Today, while my cousin was visiting, he found an old, heavy, die-cast metal space shuttle sitting on a shelf.  It’s actually a transformer rip-off (not even a Go-Bot), and despite how unlikely it is that a covert giant robot would choose a space shuttle as its ‘disguise’ form, it was always one of my favorite toys.

People forget how incredibly excited we all were to watch the Challenger mission.  Space shuttle mania had hit the brains of every middle-schooler in the nation.  In 1985, the year before Challenger exploded, NASA had nine shuttle missions, the most ever in one year.  In fact, considering how often these ships have gone up and back, it’s amazing to think of how few accidents there have been.  Out of 126 missions, there have been only two disasters.  That’s pretty incredible, considering we’re firing off 240,000 pounds into space at 17,000 miles per hour.


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Ida know…

Posted by madaardvark on May 24, 2009


Talk of the fossil that was discovered in Germany a little while ago is incredibly important to scientific study, but calling it the ‘missing link’ is just a little unnerving.  The problem is that animals taks so very long to evolve from one distinct form into another, and there are many many many transitional forms between them that we just don’t have.  Because of the odds of finding such pristine preservation, the odds of finding each and every form between stages is astronomically small. I don’t have much of a problem with that, considering the forms we do have are remarkably similar and show the transitions nicely.

Here’s the problem: because so many fossils will not be found, fundamentalist groups that doubt the validity of scientific study, particularly evolution, will never be satisfied with the number of finds.  There are already pseudo-scientific creationists out there attacking the discovery of the century (granted, the century is only 9 years old…) in an effort to promote their agenda of spreading ignorance on behalf of their world view. But, maybe I’m just a pessimist, and the creationist community will understand the findings, and stop working against the rest of the human race.

At any rate, I found a creationist opinion on the find, located here, and I’d like to quote the main opposing points, and offer counter-points to them:

…rather than an apeman-like missing link that some media sources have irresponsibly implied, the real story is quite underwhelming and should in no way faze creationists. Let’s first review the facts:

–The well-preserved fossil (95 percent complete, including fossilized fur and more) is about the size of a raccoon and includes a long tail. It resembles the skeleton of a lemur (a small, tailed, tree-climbing primate). The fossildoes not resemble a human skeleton.

–The fossil was found in two parts by amateur fossil hunters in 1983. It eventually made its way through fossil dealers to the research team.

–Ida has opposable thumbs, which the ABC News article states are “similar to humans’ and unlike those found on other modern mammals” (i.e., implying that opposable thumbs are evidence of evolution). Yet lemurs today have opposable thumbs (like all primates). Likewise, Ida has nails, as do other primates. And the talus bone is described as “the same shape as in humans,” despite the fact that there are other differences in the ankle structure.3

–Unlike today’s lemurs (as far as scientists know), Ida lacks the “grooming claw” and a “toothcomb” (a fused row of teeth) In fact, its teeth are more similar to a monkey’s. These are minor differences easily explained by variation within a kind.

1. The skeleton resembles both a lemur and a human, suggesting that the human race evolved from primates much more like lemurs than monkeys.  A brief overview of skeletal and muscular anatomy would clearly show how human-like the fossil is.  To the uneducated, or the ignorant (not the same thing), the skeleton certainly doesn’t ‘look’ human.

2.  The fossil was found in two parts because they had to keep digging to find the rest of it.  But find it they did, and it fits together perfectly.

3. Humans are the only creatures that have OPPOSABLE thumbs.  Not all thumbs are opposable, though many animals (monkeys, raccoons, lemurs, gorillas) have semi-opposable thumbs.  Touch your thumb to the tip of your pinkie finger.  Now, quickly, touch your thumb to the tip of each finger rapidly.  Right.  Only humans can do that.  Fine manipulation is beyond the ability of any other primate.

4. Similar to a monkey’s and not consistent with the lemur group.  This is how we know animals are transitions between species.  Like the platypus.

More information about the fossil can found here, at the National Geographic website.  And here’s a Youtube video for you to enjoy:

Posted in america, creationism, pseudo-science, science | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Anime still blows

Posted by madaardvark on May 23, 2009

Anime_SucksI just saw an ad on Adult Swim for their anime Saturdays and that 20 second hyper-flash clip collection they called a commercial reminded me, in just that brief amount of time, that anime is ridiculously asinine. I used to watch it back in the day because I thought the overblown emotional reactions of every character, and the total lack of consequences for them, was one of the most hilarious things I had ever seen. Why this shit-fest became something respected was beyond me. That is, until emo music got popular, then I realized that this concept is pretty attractive to repressed selfish assholes who only care about their own problems or how the problems of others directly affect them. Blame an internet society, or a lack of beauty and truth in art, or a media concerned with sensationalism over substance, or Joe Quesada for shitting on how comic books are interpreted, both contemporary and classic. I saw the last five minutes of the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon today, and in the end, Peter Parker almost missed a high school dance where he was supposed to meet Mary Jane, not his actual high-school sweetheart, Gwen Stacy, who Spider-Man accidentally killed later in their relationship. THAT’S RIGHT. Spider-Man killed her. People like to remember Green Goblin being to blame, but that’s only part of the story. It was Spidey’s own arrogance that did it, and HELLS BELLS that was an important part of Spider-Man’s history AS WELL AS comic history. Misunderstanding that, or ‘reinterpreting’ that idea misses the point entirely. We like to see heroes stomp in with no regard for anything other than winning the day, but there was a time when they actually gave a shit about innocent bystanders and BLAMED THEMSELVES when they failed. Add that complaint to the reasons why Batman Begins blew baboon balls, while we’re at it.

Posted in america, comics, movies, television | Tagged: , , | 18 Comments »

This Week in Paranormal Paranoia

Posted by madaardvark on May 14, 2009

While I was working on the computer last night, the TV was tuned to the National Geographic show “Is It Real?,” this one featuring Bigfoot. It was descent background noise and Nat Geo does fair debunking work on their show. Anyway, I decided to look up the idea of ‘dermal ridges’ found on plaster casts of Bigfoot prints (that is, the tiny lines on our hands and feet that create fingerprints, for example) and I came across a great website run by someone who has, for the most part, completely debunked the idea. Here’s the URL if anyone is interested, but I warn you that his site is screwed up and I wasn’t able to read the text without highlighting it. He’s also unhealthily obsessed with Bigfoot, even as he debunks it (I think he calls himself a ‘Bigfoot Agnostic’).

What was impressive was the amount of documentation of his experiments (recreating Bigfoot casts perfectly) and, in parts of his site, his accounts of confrontation with people in Bigfoot circles (“Bigfootery” he calls it).

In other news, another monster has washed up onto the shores of Suffolk County, New York – another Montauk Monster, if any of you have heard of that. It doesn’t matter if you have; same old crazy bullshit. What was frightening was this youtube clip I found. This dude, after scaring away some girl he was hitting on with his psychotic paranoia, rides his bicycle home while videotaping his ‘theories.’ Who travels around on bike with a video camera? People who expect to find monsters washed up on shore, or find government agents going through their trash. Watch this all the way through, set your speakers to ‘background wind noise while jackass on a bike films himself’, and listen very closely to the last lines of his diatribe. Frightening.

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