John Scalzi recently posted a highly entertaining account on his visit to the Creation Museum in Kentucky in the US, complete with 100 photos of the whole thing. Among some of the most ridiculous claims the museum makes is that dinosaurs lived contemporaneously with humans until as late as the Fifth Dynasty of ancient kingdom of Egypt. Even more amusingly, they claim that before Adam committed the original sin of eating the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden, all animals were herbivores, even some fearsome dinosaurs as the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex. They suggest that before Adam ate the apple, the T. Rexes used their gigantic fangs and claws to eat coconuts.
Personally, I recall going to Sunday school once at an early age and hearing the story of the Garden of Eden. Even then, my bullshit detectors went off because, well, having read stuff like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, I wondered where were the dinosaurs in the story? As Scalzi writes, you really have to admire the chutzpah of creationists who can insert dinosaurs into Paradise and still claim with a straight face that all the facts fit together just fine.
As ridiculous as this sounds, this is a pretty big deal in the United States. The Creation Museum cost US$27 million and is reportedly attracting crowds of a decent size, while approximately two thirds of Americans believe that creation science should be taught alongside evolution in schools. More worrying still, as The Economist noted earlier this year, the movement is becoming global, with Turkey in particular being a centre for Muslim creationism.
I’m particularly curious about attitudes in Malaysia. From anecdotal evidence, I believe that most Malaysians still harbour significant doubts about human evolution without actually committing themselves to so ludicrous a belief as the 6 day Young Earth Creationism taught by the museum. This is still a shame though because the consensus among scientists is that evolution is probably the most well established and well documented theory in all of science and answers to the most common questions are easily found on websites like the TalkOrigins Archive.
So I’ve just finished rewatching the first season of Heroes and again I’m struck by just how incredibly geeky it is. It’s very obviously a show written by comic book fans for comic book fans and a lot of its appeal comes from consciously emulating the elements that work in comics and translating them to television. Not all of the borrowings from comics work in practice of course: Mohinder Suresh’s opening and closing narration might come off well in a comic, lending it a literary air, but in the show the bland reading comes across as pretentious and boring. Still, things like the awakening of unusual powers in unsuspecting ordinary people, plots within plots on a grand scale, showdowns between heroes and villains, bursts of frantic and spectacular action, and even nail-biting cliffhanger endings to episodes are all part of what makes traditional superhero comics so great.
Continue reading Heroes: A Geek’s Wet Dream
This month’s issue of Popular Mechanics has an article on the latest advances in mind reading technology: using magnetic resonance imaging machines to determine without ambiguity what a subject is thinking about. As a practical matter, the main experiment cited in the article is actually not that impressive since there was a base success rate of 50 percent simply by guessing what the test subject was thinking about. As a foretaste of what is to come however, it is intriguing. As the imaging resolution goes up and the database from which the raw images are interpreted grows, the accuracy of such devices will only increase. It is well within the realm of the possible that eventually such devices may be available in a portable form.
Continue reading The Death of Free Will
Since a friend of mine, Tan Kien Boon, recently made a post on his blog about an emotionally trying experience that could be related to ghosts, I thought I might write about my closest encounter with the supernatural. This happened several years ago when I was working for a logging company in Gabon in west central Africa. I was sleeping, alone, face up, late in the afternoon, the kind of sleep where you’re not awake but not completely unconscious either.
Continue reading Seeing Ghosts
I’ve been playing around with Armageddon Empires that I briefly talked about last week. Despite the presence of a fully-fledged deck editor and its collectible card game mechanics, it seems pretty clear that AE is much closer to being an old-school wargame / turn-based strategy game than a CCG. That’s not a bad thing of course, and playing AE brought back fond memories of games like Fantasy General. Like FG, AE plays out on a hex map, though the map is randomly generated in AE’s case. Unlike FG and similar wargames however, AE plays more like a 4X game in a post-apocalyptic setting. Each players starts out with a single base and limited resources and must send units out to control the map to gain additional resources and to scout for the locations of the enemies.
Continue reading A Game: Armageddon Empires
No one can be Chinese, wherever they are in the world, and be ignorant of Louis Cha, better known as Jin Yong, if only because television production companies insist on making a new version of a series based on one of novels every few years. I’ve always personally regretted not having ever learned Chinese well enough to comfortably read the original novels. After all, I was into comic-book superheroes, sword and sorcery adventures and space opera. Kung fu fighting heroes and heroines in a fantasy version of ancient China seemed like a perfect fit.
Continue reading Wuxia in English
More Malaysians by now should be aware of the ridiculous spat between Indonesia and Malaysia over who owns the rights to the song Rasa Sayang, a popular folk song. It seems that its use by the Malaysian government to promote yet another tourism campaign triggered protests from Indonesians who claim that they rightfully own that song.
What most Malaysians probably don’t know that the argument has claimed an unlikely victim, the website of The Software Boutique, a Malaysia-based online games retailer. I’m in the market for some new games and have been trying to access the website for the store for the past few days without success. Curious, I dug around a bit and found this. It appears that angry Indonesian hackers hacked the website for Tourism Malaysia’s Rasa Sayang campaign. In the process, however, they seem to have also hacked every website that used the same hosting provider, and The Software Boutique was one of those. According to the same source, their store remains down until they manage to find a new hosting provider.
Considering that TSB is only one of two online games retailers that I know of in Malaysia, I’d be glad to see it up again. TSB has always had very quick customer service for me in the past. The other retailer that I know of, PC Game.com.my had much slower customer service, though they seem to have improved somewhat lately.