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This Week’s Discoveries #6

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment
  1. Ataque de Pánico!
    An awesome little clip directed by Federico Alvarez of Murdoc Films and produced by Aparto.
  2. Good Vibrations
    A short by French animator Jeremy Claptin (the one who made Skhizein). Great job. Unfortunately I could not embed the video, so you’ll have to click here if you want to watch it.
  3. Alex Roman
    Amazingly realistically. This is a montage of some of Roman’s work on 3Dup.com. He uses 3dsmax with vRay to create these stunning images. I really liked his work because, as opposed to other technical demos, this one is really elegant and beautiful. Also check out thirdseventh.com for the rest of his work.
  4. Phil Plait on Gnomedex 9
    Phil talks to a bunch of tech nerds at the Gnomedex 9 convention. He gives a nice introduction to the skeptic movement, talks about the key people and organizations (like James Randi, Penn and Teller, JREF…), who’s their adversaries (Sylvia Brown, chiropractors…).  A really fun lecture.
  5. Cell size and scale
    This one I found on Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog. It’s a nice Flash presentation that lets you zoom and see a lot of tiny items in relation to each other. It starts from a coffee bean and ends with a carbon atom. This thing was made by the Genetic Science Learning Center in the University of Utah.
  6. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles
    You’ve got to check out this amazing trailer. It has some really fun surprises inside 🙂
  7. The Kinematograph
    This is a trailer for a short directed by Tomek Baginski (Fallen Art) and produced by Platigue Images (Moloch, and also Fallen Art). The film is about an inventor obsessed with his work and what he has to lose for his passion. I love the details on all of his contraptions, the character design with European touch and an atmosphere of an old family photo album. There’s some more information on Quite Earth here.

Elia Leibowitz’s lecture on the fallacies of intelligent design @ Icon

October 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Yesterday, my friend Ben and I, have checked what’s going on in Icon, a science fiction and fantasy convention held here at the Tel Aviv’s Cinematheque. There was the usual cosplay activity, books and role playing games stands and all sorts of geeks wandering about. Great atmosphere. I should have taken my camera with me…

We then attended a lecture, which was part of the convention, called “Intelligence Design: the oldest science fiction” hosted by Professor of astronomy Elia Leibowitz from Tel Aviv University and also a member of the Sackler Institute of Astronomy.

Prof. Leibowitz started with an overview of how we gather information we consider to be true and how, based on that information alone, we sometimes make false assumptions about our surroundings. Based on this alone, we’re likely to interpret the world wrong. In order to understand our world as accurately as possible, we must base our conclusions on common sense and experimentations as well as the knowledge we gather.

It seems obvious, of course, but it isn’t. And that’s where intelligent design comes in. Basically, ID proponents say our universe is too complex and unique to be the result of mere random events. Evolution and science can’t explain the uniqueness of the creation of the universe, so there must be a creator behind it. It’s a false dichotomy: if not evolution, then has to be a god. Leibowitz gave the example of the watch and the shell: If the watch was made by an intelligent creator, so must have been the shell, because both of them are complex designs.

The main problem with the IDers’ reasoning is that they ignore the fact that any importance we imply on the world strictly comes from our own interpretation. It’s very easy to be impressed by the sheer beauty of a view from the cliffs and the complexity of a bacterial flagellum. Well, these are quite amazing. Nature IS amazing. But it’s not unique. Not beyond what we make of it. There is no universal uniqueness in our world. And if there is non, randomness is a plausible explanation. The universe developed the way it was, but it could have easily developed in any other way If there is no uniqueness, there is no need for an intelligent creator.

I’m not implying there is no possibility for the existence of an intelligent designer of some sort (although I don’t believe that possibility), I don’t think the arguments presented by ID proponents are good enough to support this claim. According to modern knowledge and all the evidence we have, this simply just doesn’t add up.

This has been a great evening. I got to meet a few very interesting people along the way, including a very talented illustrator pursuing a career in animation! I hope next Icon I’ll be able to participate in more events and have a lot more to write about!

Film review: Häxan

September 16, 2009 Leave a comment

This dismal 1922 Danish horror- documentary was a fantastic eye candy.  The film is a study about witch hunts, based on the director’s study of the Malleus Maleficarum (A Latin guide about witches, written by two Inquisitors in the 15th century).

The film starts with an overview of the medieval society in the 15th century Europe and its beliefs in god, Satan, heaven and hell. Then comes the interesting part: Benjamin Christensen, the director, created magnificent dramatizations that illustrate the world of the witches through the eyes of the contemporary people. How one panicked girl so easily convinces an entire village that another person is a witch. How, by means of torment, the suspected witch claims almost all the rest of the villagers are also heretics making deals with the Dark Lord.

Christensen breaks down, through the dramatizations, the entire phenomenon of witch huntings. He shows the tools used to torment the witches and the reason behind some of the techniques, like the infamous trial by drowning: the suspected witch is thrown into the river and if she floats then she’s a witch. If she drowns, she’s not a witch. In any case, the poor woman dies. You can also see throughout the film examples of contemporary habits and manners. For instance, a monk is eating at the table showing crude manners, spilling his gravy all over himself, barfing etc.

I admire the great amount of detail put into the dramatized part of Häxan. In the witch’s hut scenes you can find tools and witchcraft instruments scattered around between piles of hay and dirt. Everything is dark. And the quality of old black & white films adds to the horrific atmosphere similar to other films like Nosferatu and The Man Who Laughs. I think the bad film quality contributes a lot to the “ancient” feeling in this film, especially in comparison to modern cinema technology. Watching silent films, if you have the patience, can be a very rewarding experience. Especially for an enthusiast of morbid entertainment such as myself.

The main idea of the film was to demonstrate how the people back in Medieval Europe lacked any kind of critical thinking skills and how easily they were influenced. And who can blame them? In these times, being a European meant following a strict set of thought and behavior. Being different or even letting others think you have anything to do with Devil worshiping (or anything that hints as going against the Church) would put you on a slow train to the stake with a stop at the local dungeon for some Inquisition fun and games.
I sometimes wonder what had changed since, if at all. Too many people still put their theist beliefs in front of rational thinking, still argue that bad things happen to people because they sinned against God, still relate morality to religion and even worse – connect lack of faith to immorality. I’m not preaching for atheism here but for critical thinking. I’m leaving atheism for another post.

Skeptic qoute

August 30, 2009 Leave a comment

“We who use the scientific method as a way to find truth in the realm of testable claims.”

Jamy Ian Swiss

From this episode of The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe.

Categories: Skepticism, thoughts Tags: , ,