Before you read another word, consider the fact that this topic, this blog, in fact the entire World-Wide-Web of hypertext and such would be impossible if it were not for basic applied research at a place called CERN. There, back in 1989, Tim Berners-Lee and his colleagues developed the concept, and this is an archived copy of the very first web page ever created!

And here's a two-minute overview of CERN, courtesy of YouTube:

Fascinating, yes? But that's only the tip of the CERN iceberg. There are few things on Earth that can get a science geek like me more excited than a discussion of what's going on with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.

This will puzzle non-scientists no end, especially those who are convinced that science is a pursuit of Truth with a capital 'T', but there is the very real possibility that when the LHC goes on-line, that data will emerge leading to the modification or even scrapping of the most powerful theory in the history of science, the Standard Model.

Imagine that! Scientists who are actually looking forward to the possibility that their theories might, in some way, be disproved! Tremendously exciting stuff!

Imagine my pleasure, then, in seeing that a young man from my very own church (Clovis Memorial UMC) is part of a CSU Fresno Physics Department venture with the LHC program. Talk about local boy makes good! You can read about Ben Zastovnik and the Fresno group involved in CERN research here. If you're not quite up-to-speed as to the scope, aims and likely impact of the LHC, the Guardian has a wonderful, detailed, accessible (there are lots of pictures) special section dedicated to the LHC, available here. (Hint: use the button that's labeled 'Enter interactive' to see all the bells-and-whistles.

The picture on the right, like every picture I've seen so far, does not do the LHC justice. To give you an idea, the copper-colored circle at the bottom of the image is just one of the layered components (in this case, a calorimeter 16 meters in diameter) of one of the assemblies of of the particle detectors in the LHC. This one is amusingly labeled the COMPACT Muon Solenoid (CMS). Keep in mind that the 'fish-eye' view of the photo shows components weighing hundreds of tons being lowered into a man-made cavern more than 100 meters below the Earth's surface, and that this is just one section of a pair of underground rings that traverse 27 kilometers between France and Switzerland, as shown in the illustration below left:

This is the largest and most complex machine ever developed! Here's an animated GIF (click on the photo and use the buttons to animate) showing another component of the CMS detector being lowered into place:

Now, ironically, there are facilities in California that accelerate particles too, among them the Lawrence Livermore Labs. I've visited both of these as a science teacher, and even have a couple of sinister-looking Edward Teller Education Center t-shirts that I sport on occasion.

Now, it's more than a bit ironic that I should say that, since elements within my church seem intent on focusing on the possible misapplication of nuclear technology by the Livermore people. Hey, that concerns me, too, though I think that they would be better off asking questions about Sandia, which is where nuclear weapons are actually manufactured, if accounts are to be believed. (Sandia Labs are just across a now-closed city street from the Livermore complex) But regardess of the exact 'offender', the whole complex has been chosen as a site to memorialize the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You can read about this service here.

Now, this service is being supported by some individual UMC congregations, such as Martinez UMC, which are affiliated in turn with this organization. Ironically, info about these events and the political agenda that goes with them were disseminated without comment or disclaimer within our local congregation, and (while I myself am not troubled by it) it provoked some of our more conservative members to complain of what seemed to them a de facto endorsement of the event. So what can I say? Methodists are a pretty diverse group. As Wesley said, on matters that are not central to the Christian faith, we think and let think.



OK, this is Stan's current take on an interview with PZ Myers, as reported at AID (Atheism is Dead).

Color me unimpressed. This is my reply to Stan:

Basically, I find this post to be so overblown that it would be laughable if it wasn't so obvious that you are deeply offended by the whole thing. I don't see that PZ is saying that parents don't have the right to instruct their kids. Let's look at the original question and note the qualifier in bold:

“But don’t parents have a right to teach their children what they believe to be true without a professor undermining certain deeply held beliefs?"

In other words, do parents have the right to not have their child-raising choices contradicted at a university (professors, after all, don't work in the public schools)?

Clearly, no, they don't have that right.

Further, is PZ trying to impose his will on these families, or simply expressing his disapproval? Again, let's go to the source:

".. we have an interest in saying, ‘No, you shouldn’t be doing that.’”

I'm baffled. Is Stan saying that PZ and like-minded folks don't have the right to object? Expressing disapproval does not constitute a fundamental limitation of anyone's civil liberties, but depriving atheists of free speech at a university setting certainly does. Surely someone was bright as Stan can see that his post could be interpreted as advocating the latter?

You also write:

So PZ and intolerance go hand in hand.

Strange. I post on PZ's blog and, for whatever it's worth, have been singled out as an outstanding poster. Does that sound like intolerance?

It's not like I'm a stealth theist.
I make no bones about being a (decidedly-imperfect) Christian. I've met PZ personally. I've had lunch with him. We've had beers together. We don't agree on some topics, but we tolerate each other pretty well. How do you explain that? Can't you distinguish between your beliefs (of whose acceptance you are not entitled) and the civil liberty of religious conscience?

I can, and from where I sit, while PZ clearly rejects my beliefs in unflattering terms, I don't actually see him attempting to tell me what I must believe or in other ways taking liberties. What evidence can Stan produce to support the latter claim?


At the risk of sounding grim, it's a truism that the longer you live, the more dead people you know, and the more dead celebrities you know of.

This is especially sobering if you're not terribly social, and thus don't relish making a lot more new relationships, and tend to keep people at a distance already.

At PZ's place, without comment, he mentions the passing of Blue Collar Scientist.

The estimable Orac chimes in with: Being a cancer surgeon and knowing too much can sometimes be a bitch.

I cut-and-paste my reply, even if no one is reading, because it helps me recognize where I'm at with the death of my father-in-law:

As the only person with any scientific training in the circle of my in-laws, one of whom just (mercifully) succumbed to lung cancer, I can relate. One feels like saying, 'What good is knowledge if it can't be helpful?' or some such. Logically, I know the former is a ridiculous, overwrought, emotional response to an intractable problem. But it still feels right to say it.

And so I, Kohelleth, was king over Jerusalem. Or something like that.



Skip Caray has slipped this mortal coil. For people of my generation, he may be the most familiar baseball broadcaster who isn't local.

Caray knew the game, loved seeing it played the right way, and never hesitated to tell it like it was. Which led to some of the following gems...

  • “When [Kevin] Mitchell hits into the 6-4-3, The Magnificent Seven will be coming on. Six. Four. Three. Hope that movie’s ready!”
  • Broadcast partner Pete Van Weiren was going over stats of a pitcher who was entering the game. Lots of stats. Skip interjected in the middle of it, “And he’s a big boy, too!” in reference to the reliever’s weight.
  • The Reds are bringing in a reliever, Todd Coffey, and Skip remarks, "Well, the Braves are going to try to cream coffee here in the 7th."
  • (When a camera lingers over a female fan who is obviously wearing a thong) "That reminds of the butcher who backed into a saw and got a little behind in his work!”
  • Believe it or not, the Braves were once synonymous with losing back in the early days of TBS. After one of their (infrequent) victories, Caray would often end the broadcast with 'It's Cocktail Hour!'
  • At one point, Ted Turner forbid his newscasters on CNN from using the word “foreign” since his network had developed a global reach. Instead, they were to use the word “international.” Being a loyal employee of Mr. Turner, Skip was calling a Braves game when the batter called time and backed of the batter’s box, as Skip explained, because “he had an international object in his eye.”
  • Discussing former Dodger 2B Steve Sax's troubles throwing the ball with partner (and former Dodger teammate) Don Sutton, Caray asked a question that Sutton couldn't answer off the top of his head. Without missing a beat, perfectly dry, Caray remarked that Sutton should try to 'phone Sax.'
  • Near the end of a one-sided, poorly-played game: "If you promise to patronize our sponsors, you have permission to go walk the dog."
  • During a Braves bullpen meltdown just a few summers ago: "The bases are loaded again, and I wish I was, too."
  • And for you Braves fans, from 1995: "Fly ball, deep center field, Grissom's on the run ... Yes! Yes! Yes! The Atlanta Braves have given you a championship. Listen to this crowd. A mob scene is on the field. Wohlers gets them, 1-2-3."