Adult Onset Atheist

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hpoxia blues

If you are an “out” atheist then you have been asked about death. This last Father’s day I had extended conversations with three people who had lost their fathers; two of them were experiencing their first father’s day since the death of their father. None of the three asked me what happens after you die, and that did not really hit me as strange until today when a couple people in a row asked me that. 

My father is alive, and I got a wonderful card from AYD and AOD that reminded me that I was a very-much-alive father to two wonderful people. The card was so great it had me bawling as I re-read it several times.

Atheists are asked “what happens when you die” regularly. I think this is done in part in an attempt to put the Atheist off balance, and it does to an extent. Nonsense is a very difficult thing to accommodate in most conversations. If you do not believe me try asking someone something like “What does the blue jello say when man-in-the moon marigolds make paper?” in the middle of an otherwise reasonable conversation.

"I intend to live forever, or die trying" -Groucho Marx

I do realize that people think about death a lot more than they think about what quivering foodstuffs might have to say, but the answer to both questions is “nothing”. Blue Jello cannot talk, and you are NOT anymore after you die. All the extra information in the stupid question about blue Jello does not make talking Jello any more plausible, and the centuries of writings on death does not make anyone less dead when they die.

"I'm gonna live till I die" - Frank Sinatra

I sometimes punt the question by saying something like “I’m not sure how anything happening after you die could work.” This is not meant as an invitation to tell me something about Jesus. If there was something about Jesus that helped with any kind of post mortem information transfer it would be written up in some book that I would have probably already have read.

"It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens." - Woody Allen

You don’t need to tell me about re-incarnation either.

"Death is a fearful thing" - William Shakespeare

I really want to respect you as a believing individual. Engaging me in arguments about life after death makes that hard. If you can’t answer the question “how can that possibly make sense” then your argument is not going well even before you open your mouth.

"I'll sleep when I'm dead" -Warren Zevon

The Abrahamic believers have additional burdens put upon them by their scripture(s). People –notably Lazarus- have supposedly come back from the dead. They should have known something about it, but they were mum on the topic.

"Death is the tyrant of the imagination." -Bryan Procter

These days we do have all sorts of people dying, and then coming back to life with fantastic stories, and then writing a book. Nobody really believes them, and without a little hypoxia-induced dementia I doubt they believe themselves.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

F-18 melting

The summer solstice marks the midpoint of the melting season for arctic sea ice. This year we are on track for another record low. The minimum extent of arctic sea ice occurs near the autumnal equinox, which is on September 22nd this year (14:21 MT on a Thursday); on that day the sun will dip below the horizon, and a frigid night will fall on parts of the arctic. Until that time the constant sun will melt anything it touches.

About a week ago the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSDIC) completed transition of sea ice data gathering from the broken DMSP (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program) F-17 satellite to DMSP F-18. The data from DMSP F-18 had been considered provisional, and showed a shockingly low total arctic sea ice trend. The DMSP F-18 data is no longer provisional, and neither is the shocking sea ice trend.


Arctic sea ice coverage data provide some of the most objective information about the heat level of the planet. Melting sea ice will not raise the level of the oceans. One reason the arctic sea ice coverage is such a good data set is that sea ice looks a lot different than ocean water. This makes it ideal for remote sensing.

An area is considered covered if it is at least 15% sea ice. This means that there is a lot of open ocean in areas that are scored as covered by sea ice. This also means that weather phenomena can compress the sea ice into a very small area, and make it look like a lot of sea ice has been lost at once. This sort of adjustment is common this time of year, and we have not seen a big adjustment in this year's data yet. There was a big adjustment just prior to the summer solstice in 2012, and the current sea ice levels are almost exactly what the post solstice 2012 levels were. If there is an adjustment this year we could see a very low record low level of Arctic sea ice. If there is no adjustment we may see a record low similar to that seen in 2012.

Because there are so many active climate change deniers making noises this campaign year I feel somewhat like I should say something about trendings and confidence intervals. Instead I am just going to wave my little flag and tell you, my readers, that it looks like some interesting data are on their way.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Warm Litha Wishes

In a few hours the earth will slowly stop tilting the arctic towards the sun, and begin the process of tilting the southern pole towards it. The rate of change slows until, for a moment, there is a time in between seasons. The farther away from the equator a person lives the more profound the impact of this shift in tilt.

Litha is the name given to the ritual celebrations of the summer solstice in the northern lands. This year the night pagans will also have a completely full moon to dance their celebrations of midsummer’s night to. If one cannot hear the music of the spheres calling out all sorts of secrets tonight then one is not listening.

Lying on one’s back and looking at the moon creep across the night sky can create a marvelous feeling of slight disorientation. The earth is not so unmoving. A soft-focused gaze and a smile can help one imagine the incredible sensation of movement through the solar system. We are actually moving, but our perception is insulated from feeling it by atmosphere and the local gravity of the earth’s mass.

At such times when my imagination kicks into high gear I like to feel the connection between myself and the sum of all things. The connection of my perception to the properties of so much of reality that allows it to actually be perceived. The connection of the particles assembled into the atoms that make me to the expansion of the universe. The connection of those atoms to the early suns that lit the gas clouds condensing into sol and Earth.

I would also feel the connection between the warmth of my pulse to the possibilities in your embrace.

The rituals of Litha celebrate the green things nurtured by the longer days of the northern hemisphere. Flowers are woven into hoops that are worn on the head like a crown. We imagine love as the product of so much abundance of life. The believers pray to the goddesses of love. The cynical suspend for a moment our derision of love, and for a moment something new is possible. I would hold onto some of those possibilities today.

I hope you all have a great Litha. Imagine some possibilities. Imagine some impossibilities. Stretch out your imagination, and hopefully find that it does something new for you as the earth tilts us all into the new season.