Jun 28, 2013

The Mystery of the Moving Egyptian Statue

Gotta say, this is a little weird.

Some have theorized that the statue is moving because of the vibrations of visitors' feet, which would explain why the rotation only happens during the day.

If the glass that the statue is resting on vibrates slightly, "the vibrating glass moves the statue in the same direction," Paul Doherty, senior scientist at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, told LiveScience.

But that doesn't explain why the statue only began moving recently - or why it stops turning at 180 degrees, so that its back is facing the museum's visitors.

. . .

There's an inscription on the statue's back that asks for sacrificial offerings "consisting of bread, beer, oxen and fowl." No word on whether the museum has tried any of those.

Where is Scooby Doo when you need him?

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Jun 26, 2013

National Cathedral Celebrates Gay Marriage Victory

Once again, I find myself very proud of the Episcopal Church I was raised in.

The Washington National Cathedral will hold a special service Wednesday night to celebrate the Supreme Court rulings that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the California proposition banning gay marriage.

"Today’s rulings announce a new era for our country, one in which married lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans can finally enjoy the same federal recognition and protection that our laws have for so long extended to their fellow citizens," said Rev. Gary Hall, the dean of the National Cathedral, in a press release Wednesday.

. . .

At noon, the Washington Ringing Society rang the cathedral's bells to the tune of "Gloria in Excelsis," and according to Cathedral spokesman Richard Weinberg, many other D.C. churches plan to do the same, CBS DC reported.

"We are ringing our bells at the Cathedral to celebrate the extension of federal marriage equality to all the same-sex couples modeling God’s love in lifelong covenants," said Hall. "Our prayers for continued happiness are with them and with all couples who will be joined in matrimony in the years to come, whether at Washington National Cathedral or elsewhere."

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Jun 20, 2013

Also DeleTED: Women

In a truly unsurprising development, it has been observed that TED conferences are heavily skewed towards men.

Almost three fourths of all TED speakers are male.

TED, the nonprofit conference behemoth that's "devoted to ideas worth spreading" and operates as "a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers" is overwhelmingly dominated by high ranking male academics, according to a new demographic analysis of presenters on the site.

. . .

Overall, of the 998 TED presenters analyzed by the study, 73 percent were male. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Harvard University and the University of Oxford were the most commonly represented universities. Of the presenters with a university affiliation, 73 percent were senior-level professors, the rest were assistant professors, adjuncts or otherwise lower-ranking academics.

Cassidy Sugimoto, author of the study, says it's disconcerting that a group that says it's represents the newest, innovative ideas is recruiting mainly established scientists and speakers.

Even after dedicating a conference to the female perspective, TEDWomen, in 2010, TED remains overwhelmingly male.

The femalecentric TEDWomen drew criticism at the time and concern that it would further segregate, rather than advance women speakers. Given the continuing paucity of female speakers, it would appear that was a legitimate concern.

Salon editor-in-chief Joan Walsh is the first to admit, she’s a bit envious of the luminaries who get invited to the annual TED conference, where the incredible, the famous, and the incredibly famous join to hear and present “ideas worth spreading.” Since 1984, the event’s organizers have drawn together stars from the worlds of academia, entertainment, technology and business — plus the crowds willing to shell out $6,000 a pop to see them speak — to convene, talk and hopefully forge change in the world.

So when Joan got an invitation to the newly minted TEDWomen, she wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or insulted. Was this the real deal, or some kind of consolation prize? She knew TED’s track record — less than 20 percent of “TED talks,” as conference presentations are known, have been given by women, and of the speakers at this year’s conference, only 17 of 57 will be. Why create a new female-focused conference, Joan wondered, rather than just integrate more women into the program of TED itself?

Why indeed?

Just as the Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake fiasco clearly demonstrated, TED is not the fresh, innovative "brand" it claims to be. Naughty corner. Female ghetto. TED is really just another staunch protector of the patriarchal establishment.

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Jun 7, 2013

Biblical Scholars Shred 1 Man, 1 Woman Argument

I've been saying for some time -- notably here, here, and here -- that the Biblical case against gay marriage isn't very strong. The case for polygamy and female slavery is much stronger and to say otherwise is to really cherry-pick the good book. But I'm not a religious scholar. These three men are and they've taken their case to Des Moines Register.

The debate about marriage equality often centers, however discretely, on an appeal to the Bible. Unfortunately, such appeals often reflect a lack of biblical literacy on the part of those who use that complex collection of texts as an authority to enact modern social policy.

As academic biblical scholars, we wish to clarify that the biblical texts do not support the frequent claim that marriage between one man and one woman is the only type of marriage deemed acceptable by the Bible’s authors.

. . .

In fact, there were a variety of unions and family configurations that were permissible in the cultures that produced the Bible, and these ranged from monogamy (Titus 1:6) to those where rape victims were forced to marry their rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and to those Levirate marriage commands obligating a man to marry his brother’s widow regardless of the living brother’s marital status (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Genesis 38; Ruth 2-4). Others insisted that celibacy was the preferred option (1 Corinthians 7:8; 28).

All three, Hector Avalos, Robert R. Cargill and Kenneth Atkinson, are  professors at prominent Iowa universities, but that hasn't insulated them from hostile reactions.

He explained that it is obvious to scholars (and some religious leaders) that the Bible endorses a wide range of relationships. But he noted, however, that professors are "terrified" of the potential backlash that might result from opening a dialogue about these relationships. Cargill also noted that the initial response to the Register column has included its fair share of vitriol.

Ultimately, said Cargill, a Biblical "argument against same-sex marriage is wholly unsustainable. We all know this, but very few scholars are talking about it, because they don't want to take the heat."
He suggested that academics who continue to be cowed by a strident opposition do a disservice to their communities.

. . .

Anyone who argues that "the Bible speaks plainly on one issue, especially something as complicated as marriage ... haven't take the time to read all of it," he added.

I have wondered many times if the people who quote the Bible as the definitive source on a range of hot-button issues have actually read it. I don't think it means what they think it means.

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Jun 1, 2013

Graham Hancock Talks Consciousness on C2C

This is a long and fruitful interview with Graham Hancock. He discusses the TED censorship fiasco, the follow-up to Fingerprints of the Gods now in development, as well as some in-depth background on his new historical fiction War God about the Spanish conquest of Mexico. The interview with Hancock starts around the 38 minute mark.

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