You are currently browsing the daily archive for April 21, 2009.

Um.  Bizarre Teutonic sadism? Hell, no – it’s science!

 Dr Reinhold Hilbig, a zoologist from Stutgart, studied the effects of weightlessness in water as part of research into how humans are affected in space.

Forty-nine fish in a mini aquarium were sent up in a plane that went into a steep dive, simulating the loss of gravity astronauts encounter in space flight.

“They completely lost their sense of balance, behaving like humans who get seasick,” said Dr. Hilbig.

“The fish lost their orientation, they became completely confused and looked as if they were about to vomit. In the wild such a “seasick” fish would become prey for others because they are incapable of fleeing from danger.”

The eight seasick fish were later culled and their brains examined to try to determine the exact cause of their sickness.

“It would seem the loss of eye contact with water movement and vibrations plays a large part in their disorientation,” Dr Hilbig said.

It seems to me that, technically, these fish got airsick, not seasick.  (And I feel a tad green about the gills meself just imagining the scene.)

Nonetheless, if we need to find these things out, I suppose we must.  But if that’s the case, as far as sea creatures with no visible means of support go, it also seems to me that Herr Doktor Hilbig was thinking too small:

  Another thing that got forgotten was the fact that against all probability a sperm whale had suddenly been called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet.

And since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this poor innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it then had to come to terms with not being a whale any more.

This is a complete record of its thoughts from the moment it began its life till the moment it ended it.

Ah … ! What’s happening? it thought.

Er, excuse me, who am I?


Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?

What do I mean by who am I?

Calm down, get a grip now … oh! this is an interesting sensation, what is it? It’s a sort of … yawning, tingling sensation in my … my … well I suppose I’d better start finding names for things if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so let’s call it my stomach.

Good. Ooooh, it’s getting quite strong. And hey, what’s about this whistling roaring sound going past what I’m suddenly going to call my head? Perhaps I can call that … wind! Is that a good name? It’ll do … perhaps I can find a better name for it later when I’ve found out what it’s for. It must be something very important because there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it. Hey! What’s this thing? This … let’s call it a tail — yeah, tail. Hey! I can really thrash it about pretty good can’t I? Wow! Wow! That feels great! Doesn’t seem to achieve very much but I’ll probably find out what it’s for later on. Now – have I built up any coherent picture of things yet?


Never mind, hey, this is really exciting, so much to find out about, so much to look forward to, I’m quite dizzy with anticipation …

Or is it the wind?

There really is a lot of that now isn’t it?

And wow! Hey! What’s this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like … ow … ound … round … ground! That’s it! That’s a good name — ground!

I wonder if it will be friends with me?

And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.

Oh, for Heaven’s sake.

I may as well admit that I have been deeply conflicted about the new Star Trek “prequel” movie.  On the one hand, I’ve always believed that the original series ought not to be messed about.  On the other, I can’t help thinking that the trailer looks powerful tempting.  

But I have no internal conflict about the review of one Debra Craine in the (U.K.) Times.  Check out this little dig:

The movie looks gorgeous. Gone is the gloom of the last Star Trek film, Nemesis (2002), which seemed cast in the depressing shadow of George Bush’s post-9/11 America. The prequel, though conceived before the rise of Barack Obama, taps into the optimism of his presidency.

I suppose by “the depressing shadow” she means the one caused by the smoke after the President personally ordered those planes rammed into the WTC and the Pentagon.  And I’m sure you all remember not being able to get any sleep for all the barbed wire and searchlights, plus the continual sound of jackboots marching past your bedroom windows during “George Bush’s post-9/11 America”.

Enough to put anyone in a gloom.  Good thing the Enterprise is now equipped with Unicorn-drive engines.

What a hack.

UPDATE: Speaking of such things, I didn’t post yesterday because my computer caught a virus and had to be sedated and re-imaged.  This means that when I was able to get back on, one of my many tasks was to reload the various Star Trek computer sound .wav files that I use for email notification and the like.

But no, I’m not a geek.

A very good post on the differences in the Catholic and Protestant concepts of “Church unity”:

One of the most common conversations I have with Protestants has to do with unity. I am asked why Protestants are not permitted to receive the Eucharist in the Catholic Church, and why the Catholic Church does not allow Catholics to receive communion in Protestant services. I explain that the Eucharist is a sign of unity, and so because from the point of view of the Catholic Church, Protestants are in schism from the Church, therefore for Protestants to receive the Eucharist in the Catholic Church, or for Catholics to receive communion with Protestants, would be a lie. In response, the Protestant usually says that Protestants do not see themselves as being in schism or divided from Catholics, but that we are all united in Christ; we all love Jesus and share belief in the essentials of Christianity.

Go read the rest.  Althought the author is Catholic and believes the Protestant position (or positions) to be mistaken, I think his basic restatement of those positions is both perfectly fair and quite clear.   (A glass of wine with Taylor Marshall.)

I was reminded of this very idea again this past Sunday because of my peculiar double life.  As it was a day on which the middle gel’s youth choir was singing the Offeratory at RFEC, I had driven her over early for rehearsal as is my custom.  Sitting idly in one of the pews, I was approached by the newish associate rector and asked could I give a hand setting up the cross by the alter to be used for flowering by the children at the service.   Smiling quietly to myself, I of course jumped up and helped. 

This associate rector is one of those extremely eager types and also something of a chatterbox.  Also, because she’s new, I think she’s going out of her way to bond with as many of the parishioners as possible.  At any rate, as we talked, I let slip that I was, in fact, Catholic.  In response to her surprise, I gave her the penny-dreadful history of my conversion and the reasons for my still haunting RFEC. 

 At the end of my short and tactfully edited account, she put a bright, encouraging smile on her face and said, “Well, I think people’s personal faith journeys are just so very interesting!”

Now to be fair, I think I sandbagged the poor woman just a bit, which I really hadn’t meant to do, and she was in part just trying to come up with something nice to say.   But at the same time,  I could see what one might call the Protestant Unity wheels turning in her head:  To her, it didn’t especially matter what I called myself, on which “path” my “journey” took me or what form my worship takes, I’m still one of the family.

I don’t relate this in order to ridicule, but instead simply as my own illustration of the point made in the article about the wide gulf in understanding of the very concept of “unity” between Catholics and Protestants.


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April 2009