Newton’s Kids


Newton’s cradle is an apparatus named in honor of Sir Isaac Newton.

The device comprises a series of suspended spheres and is used to demonstrate the laws of motion formulated by Newton.

I. Every object in a state of uniform rest or motion tends to remain in that state of rest or motion unless an external force is applied to it. This is the law of the conservation of momentum or because it is essentially Galileo’s concept of inertia it is often called simply the “Law of Inertia”.

II. The relationship between an object’s mass m, its acceleration a, and the applied force F is F = ma.

III. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

When one sphere on the end is lifted and released, it strikes the next stationary sphere and imparting a force which is transmitted through the adjacent stationary spheres and causes the final sphere to swing.

When one sphere on the end is pulled back and released, it wants to keep moving and the stationary balls would like to remain motionless. The collision between the moving ball and the stationary balls results in a change in the forces acting upon all the balls in the system. [Click to see video of Giant Newton’s Cradle].

The moving ball has a certain amount of momentum (a tendency to remain in motion) and the stationary balls have a certain amount of inertia (a tendency to remain stationary). When the moving ball is stopped by the collision, its momentum is transferred to the first stationary ball in the line. The ball cannot move since it is sandwiched, so it transfers the momentum to the next stationary ball in line. This transfer of momentum continues until the momentum is given to the last ball in the line.

Because its movement is not blocked, when the last ball receives the momentum it continues on the path of the first ball. This process will repeat itself, going back and forth, until the energy of the system is lost to air resistance, friction, and vibrations and all the balls again come to rest.

The first law is seen to be satisfied by observing that the final ball swings to the same height (nearly) as the initial height of the first ball. The third law is demonstrated by noting that the first ball is stopped dead in its tracks. The second law can be used to calculate the forces involved since we can measure the mass of each ball and we know that the initial acceleration is from gravity.

[Click here fore some interesting variations on this theme]

Anti Christian? Moi?

A few days ago I posted a brief description of the heroic efforts of Captain Moody and his crew as they fought to save Flight 9 after all four engines of their 747 failed over Indonesia. I drew a parallel between the fight to save that aeroplane and current efforts to save the planet from the consequences of global warming.

The piece [click here to view] attracted a multi-part response from an old friend who happens to be on the opposite side from myself on just about every issue except possibly the joys of drinking copious quantities of beer. My American friend’s response is enumerated below in bold italics with my comments appended in normal text.

  1. “I can’t think of anyone who would sit back and pray without trying to save themselves.”

There certainly are such people especially when it comes to refusing proven scientific medical care in favor of woo and attempts to pray a disease away. That however was not my point.

I was referring to that group of religious people who deny the reality of climate change as an article of faith because God once produced a rainbow as a sign that he would not flood the earth again and to another group of religious types who accept that climate change is happening but attribute it to God dealing out righteous punishment for various sins. I cited references for these two contradictory biblical views in my “Biblical Climatology” post. There are yet others who think that making a snowball and displaying it in the Senate chamber somehow outweighs the considered views of thousands of climate scientists. Click here to see Senator James Inhofe make a complete ass of himself on that score. These are all examples of those who regard praying as having greater efficacy than science.

2. As they say, “There [are] no atheist in the foxholes”.

Some do say that but there are and always have been atheists in foxholes. Atheists serve in cockpits and on ships they are everywhere. [Click here] to visit a site dedicated to men and women who are serving their country in uniform or  have served in the past. The most common final word on cockpit voice recorders, uttered by men who know they are about to die, is not an appeal to God, it is “Mother”.

3. You seem to be very anti Christian.

I am not, nor have I ever been anti Christian, I am not, nor have I ever been anti Muslim, I am not, nor have I ever been anti Hindu, I am not, nor have I ever been anti Semitic etc etc. I am not against any person simply on the basis of their cosmological view. I am an atheist and as such I have many differences of opinion with those who hold religious views.

At bottom, a religion is nothing more than an opinion or a set of related opinions held by a particular group. Sometimes these opinions are expressed as being “deeply held religious beliefs” with the implication that they should not be challenged. A “deeply held belief” is still just an opinion and as such is as open to challenge as any other opinion.

I am not anti Christian but I do disagree with some of its premises, on the other hand I agree strongly with the philosophy of treating others as you would like to be treated yourself.

Question: what goes clip clop clip clop clip clop, bang, clip clop clip clop clip clop?

Answer: An Amish drive by shooting.

This joke is humorous on several levels but mostly because no one would ever consider a member of the Amish community participating in a drive by shooting. Which brings me to a problem on my side of politics, the liberal side.

Many liberals refuse to accept that terrorist atrocities committed by Jihadists have anything to do with Islam. Instead, they cite entirely political motivations. Political motivations certainly feed into Jihadist atrocities but it is foolish to deny that Islam plays no part. I am with Sam Harris, Bill Maher and Douglas Murray on this point.

Equally there is a problem with some on the political right who characterize all Muslims as being murdering thugs. Ultimately, it is largely Muslims like Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation who will reform Islam and defeat the Jihadists.

4. Would the world be a better place based on Sharia law? 

Emphatically and unreservedly no to sharia law. [Click here] for my views on sharia as I expressed them in 2014. All efforts to incorporate the opinions of any religion into the law of the land must be resisted every where and at all times.

5. Would Europe be a better place if the Muslims had succeeded in their attempted conquest of Europe?

I think that Charles Martel’s victory over the  Muslim Umayyads at the battle of Tours in 732 was a good thing. Similarly the repulsion of the Ottomans at the gates of Vienna in 1683 was a positive outcome for Europe.

6.  I hear the argument that the Crusades are the root of our problems with the Muslims. My history books state that the Crusades was an attempt to take back what the Muslims had taken.

I have no strong opinions on this other than that you seem to have overly simplistic history books. The crusades are part of a very complex and multi faceted history between the East and West. The crusades were as much about power, wealth and control of territory as they were about religion. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

7. Finally, do you think the western world is a better place as our society adopts an attitude that if it feels good, do it?

I don’t think that “if it feels good, do it” is a particularly useful or even a meaningful idea and it is not, in my opinion,  a generally accepted one. I might go along with it in the strictly narrow sense that if a proposed action does not compromise your conscience or your moral principals, it may be OK to do it. As a statement of ethical principles “if it feels good, do it”  sucks.

Flight 9

Flight 9
Simulated image of Flight 9

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them under control. I trust you are not in too much distress.

Such was Captain Moody’s understated announcement from the cockpit of British Airways Flight 9 on 24 June 1982 in the ash clouded skies over Indonesia.

True to his word, Capt Moody and his crew began four engine restart procedures and repeated them over and over again as their stricken aircraft glided inexorably towards disaster. Finally; after 14 minutes of incredible airmanship and dogged persistence they got the engines running again and safely landed their aircraft at Jakarta International Airport.

The passengers owed their lives to the crew’s refusal to give up on what another flight crew might have considered an impossible task. Another crew might have thrown their hands in the air and accepted the inevitability of their fate with the thought that “we are in God’s hands now”, perhaps muttering “In sha’Allah” or some such.

I don’t want to fly behind any crew that is willing to abdicate their responsibility to some Mickey Mouse imaginary co-pilot at some higher altitude. I want a crew that believes in itself and in its skill to get me and my fellow passengers back on the ground.

Same goes for the planet, If you think some sky pilot is in control then get the hell back to your church, mosque, tabernacle or whatever and let those with actual knowledge get on with doing their damdest to get us all to a safe landing.

Vote Bernie in California

This  by Robert Reich

This morning I heard from an old friend here in California who said “I’m for Bernie, but he doesn’t really have a chance anymore. So isn’t my vote for him in the California primary just prolonging the agony, and indirectly helping Trump?”

I told him no, and gave him four reasons why he needs to vote for Bernie Tuesday and get others to vote for him as well:

1. True, the electoral numbers are daunting, and Bernie faces an uphill task, but a win Tuesday will help enormously. One out of 8 Americans lives in California.

2. Regardless of the electoral math, Bernie’s candidacy has never been mainly about Bernie. It’s been about a movement to reclaim our democracy and economy from the moneyed interests. And a win for Bernie in the California primary (and in other Tuesday primaries in Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota South Dakota, and New Mexico) will send an even clearer signal to Washington, the Democratic Party, and the establishment as a whole, that a large and growing share of Americans is determined to wrest back control.

3. The goals Bernie has enunciated in his campaign are essential to our future: getting big money out of politics and reversing widening inequality; moving toward a single-payer healthcare system and free tuition at public universities (both financed by higher taxes on the richest Americans and on Wall Street); a $15 minimum wage; decriminalization of marijuana and an end to mass incarceration; a new voting rights act; immigration reform; and a carbon tax. All will require continued mobilization at all levels of government. A win Tuesday will help continue and build on that mobilization.

4. Bernie’s successes don’t help Trump. To the contrary, they are bringing into politics millions of young voters whose values are opposite to those of Trump’s. Bernie has received majorities from voters under age 45 (as well as from independents). He’s won even larger majorities among young people under 30 – including young women and Latinos. Many have been inspired and motivated by Bernie to become political activists – the last thing Trump and the Republicans want. Those young people and independents need to be heard from Tuesday.

What do you think?

Subhan Allah


The words ‘Subhan Allah’ mean ‘Glory to God’in in Arabic.

Why would Christians object to ‘Glory to God’ slogans? Isn’t that part of the Christian thing ?

Do Christians think there are two invisible chaps in the sky called Allah and God or just one supernatural being called all sorts of things?  Click here for 2808 forgotten gods.
Perhaps they object to Arabic, how about gloire à Dieu or gloria a Dios.

All religion is nothing more than someone’s opinion supported solely by a belief that their particular invisible guy agrees with them.

I doubt that London transport would object to a Christian slogan any more than they objected to an accurate statistical statement also shown in the accompanying image.

London Transport’s advertising policy is entirely mercenary, if you pay for the space you get to say what you want.
If you want to say ‘My god has 10% more truth than your god’ you can. There is no requirement for truth on buses any more than in any other advertising media.

One final point.
The church once tried to ban the Life of Bryan and like the book said “as ye sow, so shall ye reap”, or to put it another way: “Screw you too”.

Roosevelt say what?


How curious that a right wing plea for truth is based on something that is itself tantamount to a lie.

There is no evidence that Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) ever said “To anger a conservative, lie to him: to anger a liberal, tell him the truth”. In fact, the quotation has appeared in print only since about 2007 which is of course long after Roosevelt.

Even more curious that they chose to attribute this  false quote to Roosevelt. As a leader of the Republican Party, Roosevelt was the driving force for the Progressive Era in US politics in the early 20th century.

Theodore Roosevelt championed his “Square Deal” domestic policies, promising the average citizen fairness, breaking of trusts, regulation of railroads, and pure food and drugs.

Roosevelt made conservation a top priority, he established a myriad of new national parks, forests, and monuments intended to preserve the nation’s natural resources.

You might call him the original RINO.

Big Fat Idiot


“Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot”: that is not only a factually correct statement but the title of a book written by  Al Franken in 1996.

Australians may not be familiar with Limbaugh so just think of Alan Jones on steroids with a bad headache after overdosing on nastyness. You can listen to Limbaugh on his podcast but be sure you have plenty of soap and hot water available before listening.

In the 20 years since its publication, Rush limbaugh has been busy proving the aptness of the book’s title.

He made a complete ass of himself last Tueday while explaining that if evolution were real, Harambe, the gorilla that was shot and killed at Cincinnati Zoo  after a young boy fell into its enclosure, would have become “one of us.”

He said: “A lot of people think that all of us used to be apes. Don’t doubt me on this. A lot of people think that all of us used to be gorillas, and they’re looking for the missing link out there. The evolution crowd. They think we were originally apes… If we were the original apes, then how come Harambe is still an ape, and how come he didn’t become one of us?” Click here to hear him actually say this.

There is not an evolutionary biologist on the planet who thinks mankind is descended from apes. We do however share a common ancestry with chimpanzees from about  six million years ago, we are not descended from chimpanzees, we are their cousins. Gorillas are more distantly related, gorillas share a common ancestry with us and with chimpanzees. We belong to the group often referred to a “African apes” comprising gorillas, humans,  bonobos and chimpanzees. Click here for an actual evolutionary biologist.

So there you have it Mr Limbaugh: we are not descended from apes, we are apes you big fat idiot.

Biblical Climatology


Republican congressman John Shimkus denied that climate change was happening because it says so in the bible, he said that “we shouldn’t [be] concerned about the planet being destroyed because God promised Noah it wouldn’t happen again after the great flood”.

Televangelists David Barton and Kenneth Copeland disagree because God told them that climate change is happening and it is God’s punishment for our sins. “…the nation immediately falls under the judgment of God as He removes his protection and “whap, here comes storms like we’ve never seen before and here comes floods and here comes climate stuff that we can’t explain; all of the hot times and all the cold times and not enough rain and too much rain and we’re flooding over here and we’ve got droughts over here …”

American’s do not have a lock on thinking that sin influences weather and climate. Senior Church of England bishops have claimed that floods that have devastated swathes of the country [England] are God’s judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society . [Click here for report]

One diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless.

Nor is this linkage exclusively Christian. Seyyed Youssef Tabatabi-nejad, a senior Islamic cleric in Isfahan, Iran, has claimed that women dressing inappropriately is causing climate change. [Click here for report]

Fortunately most religious organizations  agree with the science and promote the view that climate change is real and we are the cause. A more rational view is taken by Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and evangelical Christian.  Here: she explains what’s wrong about religious right. Muslims too are mostly on the side of science as far as climate change is concerned. [Click here for report]

[Click here] for an overview of the Climate change /Global warming controversy including references to the views of all sides.

[Click here] for an overview of Climate change denial

[Click here] and [Click here] for answers to arguments against the reality of Climate change and its causes.

Warning many of the references in these sites contain actual scientific data.

Niggardly Ignorance

In 1999 an aide to the then DC Mayor Anthony A. Williams, lost his job for using the word “niggardly” in describing how he would have to manage a fund’s tight budget. If any of the PC brigade are reading this, you should know that  “Niggardly” means miserly and has no racial connotation whatsoever other than a fallacious (nothing to do with fellatio) one in the minds of the vocabulary challenged.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when MSNBC’s Brian Williams in reference to nuclear weapons said “We are the only nation to have used them in anger“. The vocabulary challenged have got their knickers in a twist yet again by ignorantly interpreting Williams’s sentence as meaning that the USA used nuclear weapons on Japan because of some sort of bad tempered emotional outburst.

The locution: “to use something in anger” simply means to use something for its intended purpose. A shot fired in anger is a shot intended to kill rather than to hit a practice target. A software program used in anger means it’s no longer being tested, it’s now running on a live system.

James Joyce used the phrase in Ulysses:
“I know where he’s gone, says Leneban, cracking his fingers.
Who? says I.
Bloom, says he. The courthouse is a blind. He had a few bob on Throwaway and he’s gone to gather in the shekels.
Is it that whiteeyed kaffir? says the citizen, that never backed a horse in anger in his life?”

The “in anger” part the Joyce quotation is used figuratively; it means “seriously.” The chap may have placed a few inconsequential bets but never big enough money to matter. It doesn’t mean getting angry when a bet is put on a horse.