Art & Media

Google wishes a Happy Birthday to Gregor Mendel

Pretty and scientific!The word Google spelled out using pea pods

Ricky Gervais to make atheism themed TV show

From Entertainment Weekly:

Ricky Gervais, the creator of The Office and Extras is teaming up with former Dexter showrunner, Clyde Phillips, for a new show called Afterlife, about an atheist who dies and goes to heaven. They are writing the pilot episode now and plan to film in early 2012. Gervais will take a cameo role.


I’m excited about this. I like Gervais’s work, and it’s great to get stuff like atheism portrayed in the popular media. Well, positive portrayals, at least. And knowing Gervais is running the show makes me pretty confident I’ll be happy with the show.

Help a godless nerdy Seattleite!

You may remember my friend Jason, better known as his musical persona Three Ninjas. I’ve linked to his music before, since he frequently does nerd-core rap with skeptical, godless themes. That’s in addition to electronica and…hell if I know what to call it, I’m not a music person. But it’s badass.
How badass is it? It’s so badass that 20/20 is coming to Seattle to film him doing a show Wednesday night. And it would be awesome if his show was filled with other skeptical, godless nerds. So if you’re not doing anything, come to the Skylark Cafe in West Seattle at 9pm. I’ll be there!

Here are some of my favorite Three Ninja songs! See if you can catch my cameos:

<a href=”http://threeninjas.net/track/skeptical-featuring-jen-mccreight”>Skeptical (featuring Jen McCreight) by Three Ninjas</a>

<a href=”http://threeninjas.net/track/my-dick-is-kind-of-big-featuring-jen-mccreight”>My Dick Is Kind of Big (featuring Jen McCreight) by Three Ninjas</a>

<a href=”http://threeninjas.net/track/wallingford”>Wallingford by Three Ninjas</a>

I’m seeing Tim Minchin tonight!

He’s playing a 10 minute walk from my house. And I have tickets. Woooooo.
I have nothing to add because I just wanted to rub it in, so here’s a (NSFW?) Tim Minchin song for you:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXfmjMlPEic&w=520&h=420]

Oh, and Dan Savage interviewed Tim, and it’s wonderful. How could it not be?

A new godless comic book

Blag Hag reader Marjee Chmiel is working on a fantastic comic called Luci’s Let Down.

Written by Marjee Chmiel and illustrated by Sandra Lanz, *Luci’s Let Down* is about the alienation that creative and skilled professionals face in corporate culture, a culture that too often devalues craftsmanship and holds profits over principles. It’s also about the creation of the universe, the extinction of the dinosaurs, and the other side of the canonical dispute between God and Lucifer.
As art director for God, Luci has found herself let down again and again with the tasks entrusted to her: creating life is tough stuff, and for a boss as critical and unappreciative as the Big Man himself, it’s particularly difficult to remain in the spotlight for long. Yet with this latest project, she intends to realize her vision, and ensure her place in the echelon of time-honored creators. Witty, funny, and certainly touching, *Luci’s Let Down* is a familiar story told before, but never like this.

The art is great, and I love the subtle nerdiness. There are some preview pages here.

Marjee is looking for help to pay for the printing so she can present the book at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MA and the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco this year. They’re over half way to their goal – if you like the comic, you can help out here!

Omfg Tim Minchin!

Yesterday I went to the Sasquatch music festival out in Eastern Washington. It’s held at the Gorge Amphitheater, which is a ridiculously beautiful venue.
Photo of concert stage in front of mountainsThough I shortly nicknamed it “The Gouge.” Seriously, $5.25 for a coke? $10.00 for a beer?! The worst part was you were stuck buying bottled water even if you brought a water bottle, because the only drinking water station constantly had a line of 100 people. And there were no signs indicating the hand washing water was actually recycled water, so tons of people were unwittingly drinking water people had rinsed their peed-on hands in. Ewwww.

I’m not going to lie – while I also wanted to see Flogging Molly, The Flaming Lips, and Modest Mouse, the thing that really motivated me to go was Tim Minchin. And I was in the front row!

Tim Minchin playing the piano He was absolutely hilarious and charming, like always. He played a mindblowingly witty new song, but I don’t want to ruin it for any of you who are going to see him play live when he’s touring the US next month. Speaking of which, I have tickets to see him in June, and I don’t regret buying them at all. Especially since he only played for 45 minutes, which is not enough Minchin for me.

Close up of Tim MinchinThis photo is just to rub in how close I was.

The rest of Sasquatch was hit or miss. I had never seen Reggie Watts or Mad Rad before, but they were both very entertaining. The Flaming Lips were fucking horrible. I was so disappointed, since they’re one of my favorite bands. They picked one of their most subdued old albums to played from, had way too much dialog and set up between (or even during) songs, and had to resort to constant begging to get the audience to cheer. Everyone was falling asleep, and you could watch hundreds of people leaving. The lead singer couldn’t even hold a note that night. Eventually we left too – it wasn’t worth sitting through that horrible show to make it to Modest Mouse.

To make matters worse, apparently The Flaming Lips inspires everyone to light up a joint, so I was sitting downwind of a nasty stream of marijuana smoke. Ugh.

And good god, THE HIPSTERS! I don’t think I saw anyone who wasn’t a white 18 – 25 year old dressed in ironic 80s clothing with neon Native American facepaint and feathers in their hair. Are you kidding me? Though I quickly learned the only thing worse than hipsters are drunk and high hipsters, which was pretty much everyone at Sasquatch except me. Thank you, drunk hipster chick who elbowed me in the face during Mad Rad. Maybe it would have been more enjoyable if I was willing to blow a day’s paycheck on beer.

…I’ve officially become an adult, haven’t I?*

Oh well. Tim Minchin! Squeeeeeeeeee!

*Not true. I would have found all of this annoying even at age 18.

Spring has sprung

Flowering cherry trees in front of historical buildingFlowering cherry trees with brick paths cutting through grassThankfully I have a class outside of my building this quarter, or else I would have never noticed how pretty the rest of the campus has gotten.

I know what I’m doing in 4.5 years

You and your committee may be the only people who read your PhD dissertation (well, if you’re lucky) – but you can still enjoy is aesthetically:From Street Anatomy:

A long-time Street Anatomy fan and soon-to-be doctor, Stephen, recently sent in this image of an anatomical heart made up entirely of the words from his dissertation. He put tons of effort into studying a particular cardiac arrhythmia, noted below the heart, and instead of hanging fancy diplomas on the wall, he chose to immortalize his time and efforts into a piece of anatomical art.

Someone please remind me of this awesome idea when I’m about to graduate.

Sometimes you can’t win

That’s the look I give when I’ve just lost a couple more brain cells.

[Transcript:
Day 1:
Man: Men are sexual beings! We evolved to be promiscuous!
Woman: Um, but biology isn’t an ultimatum. You can control your actions.
Man: *angry* YOU FRIGID FEMINISTS ARE TRYING TO SUPPRESS OUR SEXUALITY! I AM NOT A EUNUCH!!
Day 2:
Man: We should care about a skewed gender ratio because then I’d have more women to date!
Woman: No, we should care because women also have ideas to contribute. We don’t just exist so you can have sex with us…
Man: *angry* THAT’S SUCH A SEXIST STEREOTYPE!! WHY DO YOU ASSUME DATING = SEX?! MEN AREN’T SLAVES TO OUR BIOLOGY!!!
Woman: *stares blankly at viewer*
The Joys of Feminist Blogging]

Is God disappearing from literature?

Google Books has scanned over 15 million books so far, and a team at Harvard University has been crunching the numbers. They’re looking for various trends that can highlight the evolution of language, and their results are fascinating. Ed Yong has a wonderful review that you should check out, with everything from grammar to Nazis (but no Grammar Nazis).

But I wanted to point out one trend they’ve been seeing in the books over the years:
In the lead researcher’s own words, “‘God’ is not dead; but needs a new publicist.”

And just because I’m a biologist who wants to rub it in…
Woooo! But more than just bragging about it’s growing popularity compared to God*, this graph is still pretty awesome. Not only does it show approximately when these discoveries were made, but look at evolution in the 1940s. Looks like people were a little scared to be talking about it, maybe thanks to Nazis? That would be fascinating to look into more.

This is only the first report from the project, and I can’t wait for the rest to come out! Mmmmm, data and literary nerdiness combined!

*Remember, it’s comparatively. Look at the magnitudes on the y axes. The atheist horde still has some work to do. But at least science is on the upswing, while God isn’t looking too hot if this trend continues!

Why my building has key cards


Now I just need to figure out how to make the doors say “Good morning, Ms. McCreight” instead of “Beep.” Then I’ll really be living in a sci-fi movie.

(Alternate reason why my building has key cards: To keep the undergrads out. I like my reason better.)

EDIT: I originally had pi = 0.6 because my project is currently looking at heterozygosity in humans, which is represented by pi, but I realized the inevitable nerd rage I would invoke when people would think I was too stupid to realize pi (approximately) = 3.14. So x it is.

…I have become too nerdy to make nerdy jokes, gah.

Atheist Christmas Carol contest winners!

Today is the release of the American edition of The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas! It features a bunch of new authors, including yours truly. A week ago I started a contest to give away a couple free copies of the book:

Write new lyrics for an old Christmas carol that have a godless or scientific theme.

All of your entries were so brilliant that I had an extremely hard time picking the winners! Please forgive me if yours wasn’t chosen – it was tough. Here are the three winners who will be receiving copies of the book:

Winner #1: Chabneruk

To the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas”:

“On the first day a big mess exploded loud and free – remember the Big Bang Theory.

On the second day the suns and the planets came to be. No lifeforms yet,
but remember the Big Bang Theory.

On the third day volcanoes erupted ceaselessly. ‘Twas pretty hot, no lifeforms yet, but remember the Big Bang Theory.

On the fourth day the landmasses grew above the sea. No God involved, still pretty hot, no lifeforms yet, but remember the Big Bang Theory.

On the fifth day the first cells swam around with glee. Naaaature is hot! No God involved, weather now fine, lifeforms are there, but remember the Big Bang Theory.

On the sixth day there’s backbones and eyes for all to see. Pretty cool stuff, Naaature is hot! No God involved, weather now fine, lifeforms are glad, but remember the Big Bang Theory.

On the seventh day some lifeforms came ashore to pee. They had legs a-running, pretty cool stuff, Naaature is hot! No God involved, weather now fine, lifeforms are glad, but remember the Big Bang Theory.

On the eight day the lizards ruled the land and sea. Introduce extinction, legs a-running no help, pretty cool stuff, Naaature is hot! No God involved, weather rather cold, lifeforms are few, but remember the Big Bang Theory.

On the ninth day some pre-apes decided to stand free. Soon they were dancing, around camp fires, with legs a-running, pretty cool stuff, Naaature is hot! No God involved, weather still cold, lifeforms have fun, but remember the Big Bang Theory.

On the tenth day the first priest invented idiocy. Gods everywhere now, they want us dancing, with legs a-hurting, oh, what a shame – aaall without proof! Gods getting pop’lar, weather now warm, lifeforms do pray, no one knows the Big Bang Theory.

On the eleventh day the churches controlled the minds unfree. Just one God, which one is right, they want crusaders, with swords a-slinging, oh, what a shame – aaall without proof! Monotheism, weather quite dark, lifeforms do pray, no one knows the Big Bang Theory.

*pitch upwards*

On the twelfth day the clever ones finally broke free! No more Gods, but atheism, science is right, tell the believers: “No swords a-slinging, no holy war, Naaature is hot!” Jen writes her blog, weather is sunny, lifeforms shall think and we all love the Big Bang Theoryyyyyy!”

Winner #2: Ray

To the tune of “Angels We Have Heard on High”:

We four horsemen honestly are
Unimpressed by Yaweh so far.
Explanation for creation?
Really, he’s quite subpar.

Chorus:
O-oh
You can wonder at the night
You can call yourself a “Bright”;
Not a smidgen of religion
Do you need for living right!

Harris:
If you think some cultural swill
Makes it right to torture and kill,
That’s perverse, not just diverse:
Maybe you’re mentally ill.

[Chorus]

Dennett:
Made by evolution are we,
Built to act beneficently.
Since we’re soulless, we control us:
We can be truly free

[Chorus]

Dawkins:
Nature’s strange selection machine
Need not make you nasty or mean
Or a creep. The nicest people
Came from a selfish gene

[Chorus]

Hitchens:
Humans shouldn’t cower or crawl;
Faith just makes us hateful and small,
We’ll start growing strong by knowing
God isn’t great at all!

Grand Prize Winner: Quester

Really, there’s no difference in the prizes, but every one of Quester’s songs cracked me up, so I thought they deserved special distinction:

To tune of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”:

There’s Mercury, Saturn,
Neptune and Venus,
Jupiter, Earth,
Mars and Uranus,
but someone has morphed
our ninth planet into a dwarf.

Pluto’s a minor planet
according to the IAU.
Better not criticize them,
or they will redefine you, too.
Eris may be more massive
and Ceres trying to compete
but now that we’ve demoted Pluto
our solar system’s incomplete.

From 1930 to 2006
Pluto was planet nine
but a recalculation of it’s mass
put it’s status in decline.

Still, Pluto is special
Maybe soon IAU’ll agree
To re-redefine the moon Charon
and Pluto as a binary!

To the tune of “Silver Bells”:

Get yourself some ferrous metals-
nickel, iron, cobalt, steel,-
each of these
are attracted
to magnets.

They have north poles
and have south poles.
Opposite poles attract.
But can anyone tell me how magnets work?

Miracles. Miracles?
That might satisfy a clown posse.
Hypothesize. Experiment.
Maybe we’ll find out the truth!

Running current
through a wire
creates a magnetic field
so this may involve
moving electrons.

The Ampere model
of the magnet
presumes circular bound currents,
but who even knows what
that means?

Miracles. Miracles.
These mark the place we have stopped thinking.
Magnetic force? Magnetic fields?
Reality can blow us away!

To the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”:

“You better watch out
You better beware,”
Sedighi warns us
all to take care,
“women are immodestly dressed.”

“They corrupt chasity,
lead young men astray,
the power of their cleavage causes moral decay.
Women are immodestly dressed.”

Can miniskirts cause earthquakes
as Sedighi insists?
Let’s put this thory to the test!
What scientist could resist?

So, pull on short shorts,
or something tight-fit,
choose your best weapons
and laugh for a bit.
Maybe we can cause a boobquake!

Congratulations to Chabneruk, Ray, and Quester! Like I said, it was really difficult picking three, since you guys did an excellent job. Here are some honorable mentions that I also enjoyed:

Even though UncountablyFinite couldn’t get his camera to sync, I was impressed by his singing ability!
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=da5BfxSxMQs&fs=1&hl=en_US]

Elizabeth Anne also impressed me with her singing ability, and got bonus points for raunchy lyrics:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQ_BP_t0KcE&fs=1&hl=en_US]

EdenBunny‘s songs make the Grinch in me giggle:

To the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree”

Oh solstice tree, oh solstice tree,
Leftover ancient ritual,
It seems to be
The masses re-
-spect it ‘cos it’s habitual.

Oh what a joy to kill a tree,
Expend much electricity,
Eventually, the waste will be,
Disposed of quite expediently.

Oh solstice tree, what fun to see
Your pointless luminosity.
Oh solstice tree, oh solstice tree,
Environmental atrocity.

To the tune of “Deck the Halls”

Fa la la la la, la la la la.
In our public education,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Answer reason with defiance,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Totally ignoring science,
Fa la la la la, la la, la la.
Kids believe what they are to-old,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Earth is six thousand years o-old,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
God used melanin to da-amn,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
All the descendants of Ha-am,
Fa la la la la, la la, la la.

Schools can make religious pitches,
Fa la la la la, la la la la,
Kill the homos and the witches,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
We are normal and they’re o-odd
Fa la la, la la la, la la la,
Because that’s the word of Go-od,
Fa la la la la, la la, la la.

Good thing Ray won with his other song, because I think she momentarily forgot who was judging this contest:

To the tune of “Must Be Santa Claus”

Who’s got a beak and a bunch of arms?
Squid’s got a beak and a bunch of arms.

Who wins our love with its squiddly charms?
Squid wins our love with its squiddly charms.

Beak and arms, squidly charms:

Must be cephalo-
Must be cephalo-
Must be cephalo- cephalopods!

Who lies around in Jurassic shales?
Squid lies around in Jurassic shales.

Who’s inspiration for Lovecraft’s tales?
Squid’s inspiration for Lovecraft’s tales.

Beak and arms, squiddly charms,
Long time gone, Cthulhu ftagn:

Must be cephalo-
Must be cephalo-
Must be cephalo- cephalopods!

Who washes up on the ocean shores?
Squid washes up on the ocean shores.

Who likes to shoot spermatophores?
Squid likes to shoot spermatophores.

Beak and arms, squiddly charms,
Long time gone, Cthulhu ftagn,
Ocean wrecks, freaky sex:

Must be cephalo-
Must be cephalo-
Must be cephalo- cephalopods!

Who’s in the order called Teuthida?
Squid’s in the order called Teuthida.

Who’s also found in Spirulida?
Squid’s also found in Spirulida.

Who’s got a cell of enormous size?
Squid’s got a cell of enormous size.

Whose cell has won the Nobel prize?
Squid’s cell has won the Nobel prize.

Beak and arms, squiddly charms,
Long time gone, Cthulhu ftagn,
Ocean wrecks, freaky sex,
Teuthid taxon, giant axon:

Must be cephalo-
Must be cephalo-
Must be cephalo- cephalopods!

And finally, Fredjs73 wins the award for “Putting Your Fantasies About a Blogger To Verse And Making Her Laugh Instead of Run Away.” A dangerous award to attempt, but exciting to win, I’m sure (his bashful pre-apologizing and my twisted sense of humor helped).

T’was the night before Christmas and all through the flat
Not a Guinness was pouring, from neither bottle nor vat.
The stockings were hung by the bedpost with care
While the fresh scent of Astroglide hung through the air.

The heathens were nestled all snug on the floor
While visions of Jager Bombs tormented them more.
Sweet Blag Hag in her blanky and I in the buff
Had just finished up from some lovin’ ‘n’ stuff.

When out on the street there arose such a clatter
I tripped o’er my cockring to see what was the matter.
Away to the door with my hands on my junk
For to not shock my old neighbor, Miss Gwendoline Funk!

I tore open the door and felt chills in me nuts
Without care, without worry for appearing a klutz.
When, what to my unsober eyes should appear,
But an ol’ rusted nineteen-ninety-nine blue Cavalier!

With a little old driver, so lively and wired,
I knew it a moment – it’s ol’ PZ Myers!
More rapid than vertebrates, his coursers they came
Through his full and grey beard he did call them by name.

“Now, Sepia, Architeuthis, Cuttlebone and Radula!
On Nautilus, Onykia, and smug Argonauta!
Go up to the porch to that uncircumsised guy!”
And once they had done so, what did I espy?

A bottomless case of both beer and vermuth
What treasure, what wonder and what generous couth!
Said PZ “Now, sir, you must tend back to Jen
For methinks she is waiting for some lovin’ again!

I reached in the case but more than beverage I saw
T’was a coupon for pizza, poutine and cole slaw!
I thanked him and smiled, both some horny and famished
When PZ he pointed, “To thy bed ye be banished!”

Away he then flew with his wet, squishy crew
Into the cold night back to blog and review.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight:
“Happy Christmas, now back to pleasure Ms. Jen McCreight!

Man, you guys were great! I’m looking forward to seeing YouTube videos of these pop up closer to Christmas. Well, maybe the last one doesn’t need animation…

Thanks to everyone who participated!