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Copernicus Tells Us About 'Most Powerful Stars,' Thursday's Episode Of KNOWN UNIVERSE!!

 


This week on Known Universe – Episode 303: Most Powerful Stars.  As always, it premieres Thursday at 9 Eastern on the National Geographic Channel.

While the fist episode focused on Surviving Outer Space, and the second, Treasure Hunt focused on a hybrid of how Earth treasure is created and what becomes valuable in space travel, this is the first full-on astronomy episode.  As I result, it is one of the ones I had the biggest role in helping to shape.  First I’ll explain what this episode is about, but after that, as a case study I’ll go in depth on one CG animated segment to show just what is involved in bringing the show together.

In this episode we examine some of the most powerful stars in the galaxy.  We end up covering how some of them end their life in massive explosions, and how some end up shooting out what amount to death rays – powerful beams of gamma radiation.  Some of the most massive stars are so powerful that they are dangerous to be around, even while they are still living.  But before we go to the extremes, to give ourselves some context, we start with experiments demonstrating the power of the Sun. 

 

 

MELTING STUFF WITH THE SUN

If you’re a curious pyromaniac like me, you’ve probably burned all kinds of things by focusing the Sun’s rays with a magnifying glass.   As always on this show, we like to take fun experiments and scale them up as huge as we can.  So in this episode we burn things with a solar furnace!


That’s a giant set of mirrors that can focus the sun’s rays at a point.  David Kaplan, one of our hosts got to try putting various materials, including different metals and even a laptop at the focus and seeing what he could burn through.  He’s the one on the right here:

 

Here’s the result:

 

 

FIRE TUBE


I mentioned in an earlier article that Stanford aerospace engineer joined the show late.  But she finally gets into the demo act this week by lighting a fire using only pressure.  She put some paper in the bottom of a tube, then jumped down on it, causing a rapid pressure and temperature increase, igniting the paper.  She got a quite a kickback from that thing.

 

 

MAGNETS - HOW DO THEY WORK! 

Later in the show Sigrid and Steve “Jake” Jacobs go all Insane Clown Posse on some magnets.  They try to pull a huge neodymium magnet away from a piece of metal.  Those ropes are attached first to beefy men, and then to trucks!

As powerful as that is, this technological terror is insignificant next to the power of a magnetar.  We look at what would happen if a one of these neutron stars with an immense magnetic field came close to the Earth.  Much nastiness is what would happen.

 

 

A SUPERNOVA IN L.A.

Meanwhile, this is the week where I blow stuff up real good.  I got to simulate a supernova, Michael Bay style!  I already set this up in the first article I wrote about the show.  But here are a couple more new images.  First, look at the glee on my face when I have a detonator in my hand.

 

And a six-foot diameter acetylene-filled weather balloon with its insides being rearranged explosively is an awesome sight:



And here is a shortened version of the segment from the show:
 


Finally, as promised, I’ll finish the article with a look at how one of the segments came to be, nitty-gritty details and all.

 

 

SUNSHINE SUITCASE

The script (written before I got on the show) called for trying to illustrate the immense temperatures at the core of the sun by imagining what would happen if you put a piece of it in downtown Los Angeles.  So the producers asked me how big of a piece you’d need to wipe out all of LA.  This isn’t something you can just look up, so I started to do some calculations.

Here’s the email I sent to the producers:

The calculations below carry some huge caveats and assumptions.  I encourage you to have someone explaining some of that in a voiceover, or a talking head.



It is interesting because the fusion output from that amount of solar core [one about the size of a suitcase] is not large at all -- about the same as a light bulb -- the sun gets its enormous power from the huge mass of material it has.  The destructive power comes from the high temperature.  That comes from this stuff being under so much pressure, being at the center of the Sun.



Derivation:


The flux of radiation would be:


F=sigma*T^4


Where sigma=5.67x10^-8 W / m^2 / K^4


The temperature of the core of the sun is 1.4 x 10^7 K


The calculation gives 2.7 x 10^22 Watts per square meter



So a 1m cube (slightly larger than a suitcase, just for ease of calculation) would put out ~3 x 10^22 watts (i.e. Joules per second).



The heat capacity of air is 0.0013 J cm^-3 K^-1.  The volume of a hemisphere is 2*pi*r^3/3.  For r=100 km, i.e. 10^7 cm, it takes 2 x 10^19 W to raise that volume of air 1 K, or 1 degree C.  So in principle there is enough power there to raise the temperature of the air 3 x 10^22 / 2 x 10^19 = 1500 deg C.  That would sure kill everyone.  However, that assumed that the air was at a constant volume.  But it isn't -- as the air gets hot it would expand.  And that assumes that the power is equally distributed -- it isn't – it is concentrated where the piece of the sun is, and falls off as the square of the distance.  So in reality, you'd get a rising column of superheated atmosphere, and the air around it rushing in to fill the space -- a classic mushroom cloud.  This is too dynamic for me to calculate analytically.



But something similar has been done -- the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan.  Temperatures in nuclear explosions reach tens of millions of degrees. They heat the air to thousands of degrees.  Nagasaki is not a great case, because the hills blocked some of the blast, but Hiroshima should be instructive.  The energy release was 54 x 10^12J.  A few square kilometers were totally incinerated, and about 12 sq. km destroyed.  Some of the damage was due to the blast, but more than half was due to the high temperatures involved (and actually the shock wave was due to superheated air).



The power falls off as the square of the distance.  Let's say Hiroshima had 10 sq. km destroyed.  But to destroy LA and the surrounding area it would take a blast with 100 km radius, or 10,000 sq. km.  So we need an energy of 50 x 10^12 J * (10,000/10) = 50 x 10^15J.  A cubic meter of sun puts out 3 x 10^22 J / s.  So if it could radiate for a whole second, it would put out 3 x 10^22 J – more than enough.



But does it?  No, a piece of the core of the sun would explode immediately if you put it in downtown LA, because the core of the sun is so much more dense than air.  But we've got a lot of room to play with here -- it would only have to stay together for 5 x 10^16 / 3 x 10^22 = about a millionth of a second.  This is roughly the timescale of a fission chain in a nuclear explosion, so it is sensible that this thing wouldn't dissipate any faster.  So it would work!  Doesn't matter if we started with something larger than a suitcase – a suitcase ought to do it.



My conclusion is that a piece of the core of the sun the size of a suitcase would look a hell of a lot like an atomic bomb explosion and kill everyone in a 100 km, or about 60 mile radius around LA.  Of course there might be all kinds of things I didn't think of.  But I think that is about as accurate as we can get for such a hypothetical situation.


As you can see, a lot of research and work went into that calculation.   Months went by, and the next I heard was that the producers wanted to run the proposed voiceover by me.  Here it was:

 

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF SOME OF THAT VIOLENCE WERE TRANSPORTED TO EARTH?

IF WE CRACKED THE SUN OPEN AND TOOK OUT A CHUNK OF THE CORE, A
25-MILLION DEGREE FAHRENHEIT PIECE JUST THE SIZE OF A SMALL SUITCASE, IT WOULD OBLITERATE A MAJOR CITY LIKE LOS ANGELES FROM THE INSIDE OUT.

FIRST, THERE WOULD BE AN IMMEDIATE FIREBALL…VAPORIZING EVERY CAR, BUILDING AND TREE AROUND IT…

NEXT, EVERYTHING WITHIN 90 MILES, FROM THE GROUND TO THE AIR, WOULD CATCH FIRE…

AND FINALLY, IN JUST A FEW SECONDS, THE ENTIRE CITY WOULD BE WIPED OFF THE MAP.


I don’t like that for all kinds of reasons.  It sounds over-dramatic and empty because it is so imprecise.  How are you cracking open the sun?  What does vaporizing mean?  Not everything would be ‘vaporized’ anyway.  So I proposed this:



WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF WE TOOK A CHUCK OF THE CORE OF THE SUN THE SIZE OF A SUITCASE AND PUT IT IN DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES?  THE RESULT WOULD BE LIKE AN ATOMIC BOMB FAR MORE POWERFUL THAN THOSE DROPPED ON JAPAN -- IT WOULD OBLITERATE THE CITY.



THE 25 MILLION DEGREE MATERIAL WOULD SUPER-HEAT THE AIR, CAUSING A FIREBALL AND A SHOCK WAVE THAT DESTROYS EVERYTHING, EVEN BUILDINGS, FOR MILES.



BEYOND THAT, HIGH TEMPERATURES AND FLYING DEBRIS CAUSE NEARLY EVERYTHING TO CATCH FIRE.



THE RESULTING DESTRUCTION AND FIRESTORM WOULD DOOM ANYONE WITHIN A 60 MILE RADIUS.

The final version used in the show is something close to that.  But that’s not the whole story.  It wasn’t until later that I got to see the animation that goes along with the voiceover.  Somewhere, someone had decided to make it more dramatic by showing a piece of the sun ripping out of the sun, then smashing into the Earth like a meteor.  The problem is, that isn’t what I calculated.  How does it stay together like that?  We argued about that for a bit, but then I decided that this requires magic no matter what – magic to keep the core of the sun together for a trip to Earth, or magic to teleport it here, so what does it matter?  The result is the same either way, so I said ok to that bit of dramatic license.  At the end of the segment we state very clearly that this could never happen in real life.   In the end the basic point was achieved – to dramatically illustrate the power of the sun by “bringing it down to Earth.”

The origin of this segment illustrates a few things about the show.  First, we’re often dealing with crazy scenarios that you can’t just look up.  These require a lot of thinking and calculation.  Second, there is some natural tension between me wanting to be precise (but possibly at the risk of over-explaining) and the writers, producers, and show-runners, who want to make things as dramatic and simple as possible (at the risk of being overly dramatic or unclear).  Then finally there are the animators.  They do a great job of rendering things as-storyboarded.  But they don’t know everything that has been discussed about a segment, and sometimes they have to just make a decision about how something will look.  This can require multiple passes to get things right.  The whole process requires a lot of feedback and communication.    

But the biggest point of this anecdote is that what goes by in about a minute on TV actually took months of work by dozens of people.  You see the hosts as the “face” of the show, but it is really the work of writers, editors, producers, animators, camera operators, sound editors, special effects people, hosts, scientific consultants, executives, promoters, accountants, production assistants, and more.

I was also asked what would happen if we replace the sun a blue supergiant like Rigel (the brightest star in Orion).  Rigel is so powerful that the result would be utter devastation for the planets, but some would go quicker than others.  What would happen and how long would it take?  That took a lot of calculation too -- you figure out the temperature at each planet, determine how that affects the motion of different atoms and molecules in the atmosphere, and compare the gas velocity to the escape velocity.   I’ll spare you the calculation, but check out the show to see how it turned out.



- Andy Howell  aka Copernicus

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Readers Talkback
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  • May 18, 2011, 10:49 a.m. CST

    I HOPE AL QAEDA'S NOT WATCHING THIS SHOW

    by BSB

    They're liable to get crazy ideas.

  • May 18, 2011, 10:52 a.m. CST

    Did you ever get a black box, Coper?

    by THE_CHOPPAH

  • May 18, 2011, 11 a.m. CST

    Say, that reheaded aerospace engineer is smoking hot!

    by THE_CHOPPAH

    Reminds me of my first wife. She was a redhead too.

  • May 18, 2011, 11:04 a.m. CST

    I wanna hear Copernicus say...

    by Royston Lodge

    ...BILLIONS AND BILLIONS!

  • May 18, 2011, noon CST

    Love space and NG but...

    by jimmy_009

    ...I'm trying to figure out why these are posting here? Shouldn't this be in Coaxial?

  • May 18, 2011, 12:14 p.m. CST

    why thank you (har har)

    by Sigrid Close

    But I'm actually a professor at Stanford so I would argue that I have the street cred. :) Though Andy had to tell me how stars work since I'm actually a plasma physicist...Andy is wicked smaht!

  • May 18, 2011, 12:16 p.m. CST

    Andy, I'm loving these segments, but I have a question...

    by pizzatheface

    ... Just because a show CAN censor you, does that mean you're free to show your lack of television tact? I'm tired of watching shows with my kids and having them ask why there's beeps and what they said. Also, do you have to use God's name in vain? I should be able to watch science shows without having to teach a morality lesson as well. (I know this is kind of funny coming from a talkbacker, but we're not all bottom-dwellers!)

  • May 18, 2011, 12:37 p.m. CST

    answers

    by copernicus

    1. This box is black! 2. It is in the main section of AICN because that's where I write and I'm best Known. Herc put it in Coax last week as well. 3. We got Sigrid (scmars above!) because she's a great scientist who can explain concepts well, not because we needed to fill some attractive redhead quota to look like another show. I think you'll agree as you see her do more and more on the show. (And let's keep the comments classy, gentlemen!) 4. pizzatheface: Thanks for the praise and interest. I understand your concerns, but I'm just being me -- those were genuine reactions to an explosion that was more powerful than expected (and one of them was the cameraman). I don't believe in banned words or banned ideas. I don't think adults should water down their discourse to the level of children (ok "discourse" here is reacting to an explosion, but the principle is the same). And I just showed that segment to my college class and they loved that part. So there is a balancing act between keeping things interesting to some groups, but not offensive to others. Bleeps are a compromise. Also, I don't edit the show. I set off 4 explosions, but they used two on the show that were the most interesting and worked for the narrative.

  • May 18, 2011, 12:51 p.m. CST

    I love this column

    by veritasses

    Clear, concise, educational, highly geek-worthy yet accessible, unbiased/rational.... and all somehow tied into entertainment. Makes me want to see the episode and build my own fire tube and solar furnace. Can I build a solar furnace with parts from Home Depot? <BR><BR> Copernicus and NatGeo should be creating lesson plans for our kids science classes. That'd put us back in the running against China and India for sure.<BR><BR> Finally a black box! Most deserved.

  • May 18, 2011, 12:59 p.m. CST

    Understandable.

    by pizzatheface

    I don't believe in banned words either, but I do believe in being respectful. The other day I had a student who was swearing in my class and he claimed he had the right to say whatever he wanted. I agreed with him and then asked him to address the class and use the racist term for an African-American. Of course he wouldn't. I asked, "Why not?" "Because it would be offensive to some people." "So you're saying that even though you have the right to say some things, it might be inappropriate to say them because you don't want to offend people. How do I not qualify as a person?" Keep up the good work on the show! I don't mean to criticize. I was just hoping you could rise above the celebrities who don't seem to realize they're on television, being broadcast to millions. (Plus you're the first celebrity I have access to!) Thanks!

  • May 18, 2011, 1:13 p.m. CST

    this topic has already been done ad nauseam

    by animas

    I've probably seen this subject 100s of times on National Geographic. So they just dumb it down and make some explosions for the lowest common denominator huh..... I like my science as intelligent as possible, not diluted for consumption, so I will pass on this show.

  • It was Dr. Close's hotness. What a babe! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfq5-JwnZ_A&feature=related

  • Amen, brother. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTeILRPG16Y

  • May 18, 2011, 2:39 p.m. CST

    Forget it, we're never going into space.

    by cookylamoo

    We're going to rot here until nature kills us or the sun explodes.

  • May 18, 2011, 3:49 p.m. CST

    that was a very small 45 degrees

    by Dreamfasting

    One little thing that struck me about the animation of the supernova risk - 45 degrees is not exactly a "near miss". That seemed a little wildly sensationalist.

  • May 18, 2011, 4:08 p.m. CST

    They told me a Green Lantern has to be classy...

    by THE_CHOPPAH

    That's just not me.

  • May 18, 2011, 4:09 p.m. CST

    Seriously, though...

    by THE_CHOPPAH

    My sister is an astronomer -- and a frigging genius. Intelligence is a quality I admire most in a woman.

  • May 18, 2011, 4:12 p.m. CST

    Wow -- you like Tori Amos, Sigrid?

    by THE_CHOPPAH

    You look a good bit like her too. Ha cha CHA!

  • May 18, 2011, 4:19 p.m. CST

    Coper -- you have the coolest job ever.

    by THE_CHOPPAH

    That supernova simulation is terrific! I'm really loving this.

  • May 18, 2011, 10:05 p.m. CST

    Tori

    by Sigrid Close

    I like Tori (I'm thinking you must have googled me during my wannabe music days). Hopefully I'm a better professor than musician. :)

  • May 18, 2011, 11:16 p.m. CST

    More Promo (just released)

    by Sigrid Close

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAc8ut04iuY

  • May 19, 2011, 3:09 a.m. CST

    "a supernova, Michael Bay style"

    by AsimovLives

    I didn't knew that supernovas could be made from total retardation and complete lack of filmmaking talent. I learn a new thing every day. Does the show also explains how Red Matter works and how can black holes also work as wormholes?

  • Hey, news to you: god doesn't exist, so he can't be upset by invoking his name in vain.

  • This is why for a time i prefered brithsh made scinece shows. They were still made in the fashion of such fantastic TV science shows like COSMOS. But today evne the british are now making those melodramatic scienc eshows which are more about spectable and less about information. all filled with CGI that barely even remotly resenbles the phenomena they are supposed to portait. And lots of sounds in space, everything making whoosh loud sounds. I just wish that the writers and producers of science shows would realise that micking the style of michael Bay is not a good way to portait science, or the universe for that matter. I mean, how hard can it be? Keep the hot scientist babe, though.

  • May 19, 2011, 4:04 a.m. CST

    As a science show, COSMOS will never be surpassed

    by AsimovLives

    It helps that the guy who presented the show was a scientist himself, an astronomer who could do the calculations of the stuff he was presenting.

  • May 19, 2011, 9:14 a.m. CST

    THE KNOWN UNIVERSE

    by AssyMuffJizz

    broght to you by Michael gay ass Bay. No wonder aicn likes this shit. But I do like the hot redhead scientist.

  • If i remember it correctly, the star is so big, that if we compare it to our sun, if it's center was at the center of our sun, Canis Major's surface would be about the orbit of Saturn. That star is just huge beyond belief.

  • After all, he's the cat responsible for baby AIDS, chiggers, the excremental boggy mass now known as "Ireland," water bears and Sarah Palin. Yeah, I know. Water bears are actually quite adorable.

  • May 19, 2011, 5:02 p.m. CST

    Re: COSMOS

    by Sigrid Close

    Remember that all 4 of us (the hosts and Mr. Wizard) have PhDs ... we do this for a living (I think that is why they tagged us). We're not just "talking heads". :)

  • May 19, 2011, 5:21 p.m. CST

    You shall have no other god before CHOPPAH, fuckers.

    by THE_CHOPPAH

  • May 20, 2011, 4:09 a.m. CST

    the_choppah

    by AsimovLives

    "If god did exist, though, he'd be a fuckface scoundrel unworthy of anyone's worship or love" And we have the bible as proof of that. The whole bible, for those who actually know how to read it, is basically one long way of god being hoisted by his own petard, to quote Shakespeare (no, really, that is a real quote from William Shakespeare. ""For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar" Hamlet Act 3, scene 4, 202–209).

  • May 20, 2011, 4:17 a.m. CST

    scmars

    by AsimovLives

    Smart, redhead and hot. Too bad i live in Portugal, or else i would ask you on a date. And i love astronomy. I did even before Carl Sagan's Cosmos series was aired, but that series just turned something i liked into love. Astonomy is one of the few things in life that really blows my mind. My greatest regreat in life is that i was not good with calculations and maths in general, because my dream job was to be an astrophysicist. Scinetists for me are my real heroes. not movie stars or rock stars, but scientists. For me, they are my rock stars.

  • May 20, 2011, 4:56 a.m. CST

    the_choppah

    by AsimovLives

    Can you take you not as my god but as a friend instead? Besides, i only pray to one god: Crom, high in his mountain. Sometimes i tell him to go to hell when he doesn't listen.

  • May 20, 2011, 3:55 p.m. CST

    Glad the black box issue has been straightened out

    by Jaka

    And I was actually going to ask why this isn't in coaxial - I guess somebody beat me to it. I still think that's where these articles fit best, but I'm glad they're here PERIOD, so I'll take 'em where I can get 'em. As usual, really interesting article. You do a great job of keeping me interested even though at some point I always realize I'm like, ya know, learnin' stuffs. Thankfully, its still I really like.

  • May 20, 2011, 5:20 p.m. CST

    I can't comment

    by Coordinate_System

    on the show itself, as it's been some years since I banished cable from my home, with no regrets, but I did enjoy this article. The math was an added bonus. Please consider incorporating calculations into your future writings. Asi: you're disbelief in God is no more or less valid than pizzatheface's belief in God, as neither proposition can be proven. So, save your energy for Star Trek 12, as that approaches like a fifth horseman of the apocalypse. :-)

  • May 20, 2011, 7:07 p.m. CST

    coordinate_system

    by AsimovLives

    "you're disbelief in God is no more or less valid than pizzatheface's belief in God" You wish. It's all down to what's provable, and god and goblins are not provable. and what's not probable is lesser inthe schemes of reasonable acceptability. So there. Things don't even out just because you it to.

  • May 20, 2011, 9:51 p.m. CST

    Asi

    by Coordinate_System

    "It's all down to what's provable" Exactly. Neither of us can prove what we say about God. Both opinions are matters of belief. In that, they are equivalent. You seem to be assigning a higher probability to the non-existence of God. What is your basis for doing so? Since we have no evidence either way, it sounds like "wishful thinking" on your part. Please elaborate further.

  • May 21, 2011, 1:13 a.m. CST

    oh dear God

    by Driun

    Might as well substitute the word "Zeus" or "Santa Claus" for "God". I don't think he was saying there is a 'higher probability" to the non-existence of God but just that there is no basis to believe in it because it has not withstood any testing using the scientific method (no proof that it exists...at all). There is no proof that God exists (or that the Earth will stop rotating tomorrow, or that my cat will start talking in German tonight...) all are equally unlikely. That's why most scientists are atheists and agnostics. Their IQs are too high.

  • May 21, 2011, 2:26 a.m. CST

    "Neither of us can prove what we say about God" Wrong

    by AsimovLives

    It's the godheads who can't prove that god exists. But you do not go proving on non-existence. It's liem this: if you claim the xistence of something, the burden of proof falls to you. And there is nothing that can be used as proof of god that cannot be given an alternate explanation. An ddon't evne dare go onthe God -Of Gaps fallacy, because that's another no-no and help none the case of the godheads. As the fellow above said, there's no more good reasons about the god of christianity thenthere is about the gold sof the odler religions like the anciet egpycians, the mayas or the ancient greeks. There's nothing in the religion of christianity or any of the otehr big monotheistic religions that is more "sensible" or "deductable" then the religoons of ancient times. It'a all the same, myths and just myths invented by men. It was we who created the gods, not the other way around.

  • May 21, 2011, 12:53 p.m. CST

    cdriun, Asi

    by Coordinate_System

    Whether one’s personal beliefs are in “Zeus”, “Santa Claus”, the Judeo/Christian/Islamic God, or a disbelief in all of them, they a just that: personal beliefs. Arrived at without any evidence to the existence or non-existence or whatever they happen to believe in, although I would suggest Santa Claus, being of more or less earthly origin, is a concept that is far more amenable to the application of the Scientific Method. “There is no proof that God exists (or that the Earth will stop rotating tomorrow, or that my cat will start talking in German tonight...) all are equally unlikely. “ Well, you just assigned a probability right there. You listed the existence of God right next to things that are subject to the Scientific Method: the rotation of the earth is verifiable, and it will continue to do so unless acted upon by an unbalanced force, which would also be verifiable. A German-speaking cat is likewise subject to experimentation (preferably cruelty-free) to determine whether or not it has become biologically capable of speaking any human language since last night. Since you rank the existence of God as being equally unlikely, you must therefore have some information that allows you to compute the probability of God’s existence. If not, then your statement that the “existence of God is unlikely” is itself just a belief. If there is no proof of the existence of God, then the only thing one can say with any assurance is that there is no proof of the existence of God. It’s a pretty big leap (of faith, you might say) to go from zero evidence for the existence of God to the conclusion that there is no God. One might turn that around and say “there is no evidence to support the notion that God does not exist, therefore He does.” Both statements are equally unsubstantiated. One might say that the position of the agnostic (“a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as god, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.”) is the most rational position to take, and that the positions of the theist or the atheist (or pantheists or the poly theists, etc.), are, at best, equally irrational. Either way “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”, at least, it is insufficient evidence. “It was we who created the gods, not the other way around.” I agree, in the sense, that humans manipulate beliefs in the Divine and fabricate or interpret things to serve their own material interests (economic and/or political). And that is something that strikes me as being a grave error. Otherwise, that statement is merely an opinion. “That's why most scientists are atheists and agnostics. Their IQs are too high.” Has someone taken a survey?

  • May 21, 2011, 12:55 p.m. CST

    format correction

    by Coordinate_System

    Whether one’s personal beliefs are in “Zeus”, “Santa Claus”, the Judeo/Christian/Islamic God, or a disbelief in all of them, they a just that: personal beliefs. Arrived at without any evidence to the existence or non-existence or whatever they happen to believe in, although I would suggest Santa Claus, being of more or less earthly origin, is a concept that is far more amenable to the application of the Scientific Method. “There is no proof that God exists (or that the Earth will stop rotating tomorrow, or that my cat will start talking in German tonight...) all are equally unlikely. “ Well, you just assigned a probability right there. You listed the existence of God right next to things that are subject to the Scientific Method: the rotation of the earth is verifiable, and it will continue to do so unless acted upon by an unbalanced force, which would also be verifiable. A German-speaking cat is likewise subject to experimentation (preferably cruelty-free) to determine whether or not it has become biologically capable of speaking any human language since last night. Since you rank the existence of God as being equally unlikely, you must therefore have some information that allows you to compute the probability of God’s existence. If not, then your statement that the “existence of God is unlikely” is itself just a belief. If there is no proof of the existence of God, then the only thing one can say with any assurance is that there is no proof of the existence of God. It’s a pretty big leap (of faith, you might say) to go from zero evidence for the existence of God to the conclusion that there is no God. One might turn that around and say “there is no evidence to support the notion that God does not exist, therefore He does.” Both statements are equally unsubstantiated. One might say that the position of the agnostic (“a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as god, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.”) is the most rational position to take, and that the positions of the theist or the atheist (or pantheists or the poly theists, etc.), are, at best, equally irrational. Either way “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”, at least, it is insufficient evidence. “It was we who created the gods, not the other way around.” I agree, in the sense, that humans manipulate beliefs in the Divine and fabricate or interpret things to serve their own material interests (economic and/or political). And that is something that strikes me as being a grave error. Otherwise, that statement is merely an opinion. “That's why most scientists are atheists and agnostics. Their IQs are too high.” Has someone taken a survey?

  • May 22, 2011, 12:57 a.m. CST

    and now for something completely different..

    by Sigrid Close

    Nice discussion...I'm going to avoid the God argument but yes there is a strong correlation between "intelligence/IQ/education" and lack of belief in a God but who knows, really? On another note - I've had a bunch of emails about the fire piston so I thought I'd answer globally. Yes it hurt, and yes I was knocked down on my a** on the first shoot and looked like a complete dork doing it. Luckily the producers didn't use that clip (or weren't rolling, I don't remember). After take #7 I quit doing it but was left with a nice bruise across my belly. :)

  • May 22, 2011, 4:19 a.m. CST

    by Coordinate_System

    "there is a strong correlation between "intelligence/IQ/education" and lack of belief in a God" God or no God, Reality "is what it is", and quite independent of what Human Beings (intelligent or otherwise) would like it to be. "but who knows, really? " No one "on this side of Eternity", but we will all find out eventually.

  • May 23, 2011, 12:17 a.m. CST

    I'm a possibilian...

    by AssyMuffJizz

  • May 23, 2011, 5:10 p.m. CST

    Fraction of scientists who believe in god

    by copernicus

    Some data: http://pewforum.org/Science-and-Bioethics/Scientists-and-Belief.aspx

  • May 23, 2011, 10:04 p.m. CST

    "Fraction of scientists who believe in God"

    by Coordinate_System

    I didn't think that the results would be quite the blow out that some others would have preferred. Thanks for the info.

  • May 25, 2011, 12:54 a.m. CST

    Fascinating, captain

    by AssyMuffJizz