Broadly Focused Podcast Episode 24

Six months!? Six months we take off, and we expect you to just sit around and wait for Episode 24 of the Broadly Focused Podcast? What the hell happened to Episode 23? Oh, hell, no. You’ve moved on to better podcasts. We understand.

We were a little surprised at how easily it went after 6 months out of the game. We got through the episode live – no need for any edits – and almost on time. We don’t belabor the point that we’ve been gone, but we do address it briefly.

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Aren’t all proms gay, anyway?

Students, parents, and at least one teacher at Sullivan High School in Sullivan, Indiana, have come together in support for a “traditional prom” that prohibits gays from attending.

“We want to make the public see that we love the homosexuals, but we don’t think it’s right nor should it be accepted,” said student Bonnie McCammon.

I’m sure you can guess where we go with this. Believe it or not, it has a halfway happy ending!

Zen and the Art of Molestation, by Benedict XVI (Second link)

Since arriving in Los Angeles from Japan in 1962, the Buddhist teacher Joshu Sasaki, who is 105 years old, has taught thousands of Americans at his two Zen centers in the area and one in New Mexico. He has influenced thousands more enlightenment seekers through a chain of some 30 affiliated Zen centers from the Puget Sound to Princeton to Berlin. And he is known as a Buddhist teacher of Leonard Cohen, the poet and songwriter.

Mr. Sasaki has also, according to an investigation by an independent council of Buddhist leaders, released in January, groped and sexually harassed female students for decades, taking advantage of their loyalty to a famously charismatic roshi, or master.

Contrast that response with this:

Pope received news of his warrant of arrest before resignation

On February 4, a week before Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, Vatican allegedly received a note from an undisclosed European government that stated that there are plans to issue a warrant for the Pope’s arrest. Addicting Info reports.

Nice. ‘Allegedly’. ‘Undisclosed European government’. A warrant for what? Who’s the source? WTF?

Pope blesses thousands at Vatican as details of ailments emerge

Transnational Organization Ownership is not a Conspiracy?

The structure of the control network of transnational corporations affects global market competition and financial stability. So far, only small national samples were studied and there was no appropriate methodology to assess control globally. We present the first investigation of the architecture of the international ownership network, along with the computation of the control held by each global player. We find that transnational corporations form a giant bow-tie structure and that a large portion of control flows to a small tightly-knit core of financial institutions. This core can be seen as an economic “super-entity” that raises new important issues both for researchers and policy makers.
Watch the TED talk linked above, then read these others. Pretty interesting stuff.

Surprise – America isn’t as homophobic as some think.

A wedding magazine quickly faced the fury of an outraged internet after refusing to print an ad that featured two lesbian brides and have since been forced to eat their words.

We talk about this and the article below in the context of the power of public outrage in the information age, and its necessary limitations.

DC Comics hires anti-gay science fiction writer to help launch new Superman series to fury of activists Continue reading


Broadly Focused Podcast Episode 22

This week’s episode of the Broadly Focused Podcast was a rare daytime recording, and went pretty well, we think.  We apologize for not posting a show last week – don’t worry, we slacked pretty hard this week and still used a bunch of content we had, so you’re really not missing much!  We have a segment on advances in imagery of various types and scopes, a couple of regular news articles, and a bunch of follow up.

What we didn’t have was any feedback at all, so feedback to us, dammit! We go through all the trouble of setting up around 47 ways to get in touch with us, just so you lazy bastards can use precisely 0% of them.

Thanks for the Facebook Likes, though, seriously.

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Power Production, Natural Gas and CO2 Emissions

In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said the shift away from coal is reason for “cautious optimism” about potential ways to deal with climate change. He said it demonstrates that “ultimately people follow their wallets” on global warming.

We get into the impact this may have on our policies moving forward and how this has actually gotten a bunch of normally contentious parties singing the same tune for once.

Original Report

He’s crazy – Don’t defend his politics, because they don’t matter

Shortly after news spread about the Wednesday morning shooting of a security guard at the Family Research Council’s (FRC) headquarters bya gunman , Truth Wins Out, a non-profit organization that fights anti-gay religious extremism, posted the following press release: “This is an awful tragedy and our thoughts and hearts go out to the victim, his family, and his colleagues at the Family Research Council,” said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen. “In America we settle political differences through robust debate in the public square, not with violence. If the shooting is found to be politically motivated, it is a detestable act of cruelty and cowardice and the perpetrator should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. We stand squarely with the Family Research Council today and offer them our full support and prayers.”

 We are adamant on this issue.  When a psycho goes off, his politics and other supposedly rational reasons are out the door.  Don’t politicize them, and don’t try to make excuses if they happen to be nuts on your side of the issue.

Adventures in Science – Amazing Imaging Techniques

We like segments.  We think they are sophisticated and make our show seem more professional.  This episode, we have a little segment (OK, a big segment) on some crazy new imaging techniques from the world of ancient superstition.  Wait, that’s not right.  Science, that’s who did this stuff!
Through three giant images, the GigaGalaxy Zoom project reveals the full sky as it appears with the unaided eye from one of the darkest deserts on Earth, then zooms in on a rich region of the Milky Way using a hobby telescope, and finally uses the power of a professional telescope to reveal the details of an iconic nebula. Most of the photographs comprising the three images were taken from two of ESO’s observing sites in Chile, La Silla and Paranal. The first image … provides a magnificent 800-million pixel panorama of the whole Milky Way. [The]second image of a smaller area of the sky, containing 400 million pixels, [was taken] using a hobby telescope at Paranal. The third … image illustrates the power of professional astronomy. It covers a one-degree field of view and was obtained with the Wide Field Imager attached to the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at La Silla.

Largest ever 3D map of the sky released by astronomers

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) has released the largest three-dimensional map of massive galaxies and distant black holes ever created. The new map pinpoints the locations and distances of over a million galaxies. It covers a total volume equivalent to that of a cube four billion light-years on a side.

Virtual nanoscopy: Generation of ultra-large high resolution electron microscopy maps

[This] is a view of a massive 281-gigapixel image of a zebrafish embryo, which can be zoomed in on to show sub-cellular levels of detail.The image is the product of a new technique called virtual nanoscopy, which is described in the Journal of Cell Biology. The process involves stitching together nanometer resolution photographs of what’s placed under the microscope, and the result is an image which can be explored a little like a Google Map. To give you some sense of scale, the whole embryo, pictured above, measures 1.5 millimeters in length. At the other end of the scale, the dark dots in the image below are cell nuclei.

Femto Photography

We have built an imaging solution that allows us to visualize propagation of light. The effective exposure time of each frame is two trillionths of a second and the resultant visualization depicts the movement of light at roughly half a trillion frames per second. Direct recording of reflected or scattered light at such a frame rate with sufficient brightness is nearly impossible. We use an indirect ‘stroboscopic’ method that records millions of repeated measurements by careful scanning in time and viewpoints. Then we rearrange the data to create a ‘movie’ of a nanosecond long event.


Broadly Focused Podcast Episode 21

This week’s episode of the Broadly Focused Podcast – OK, yes, I get it.  It’s been a long time.  Where’d you go?  Are you podfading?  No one actually asked these questions, mind you, but we imagine some of you were at least thinking something along the lines… right?  We talk about it.

iTunes is jacked up somehow.  Maybe I did it when I tried to change our category… I don’t know.  The people trying to help are clearly doing their jobs, and they have tried to offer helpful information, but unfortunately, some of it just doesn’t make sense.  I talk about it.

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News Items:

Broadly Focused Podcast: Still alive?

That’s right, we’re the damn news!  We wanted to address the 800 pound gorilla in the intertube right off the bat – a series of events, some sad, some good times with family, some poor communication and planning…

So, my mom died.  The day before we were scheduled to record Episode 21.  That’s one week.  I’m an only child and my stepfather died in September, so I got to handle all of the arrangements, although with help from family and friends, my wife especially. That’s two weeks.  Then, Brian’s family came in to town and he had no time – there’s your three weeks.  Last week, we just didn’t talk enough, I blew it off on Monday because I thought I was going to have to work overtime that evening and the next morning.  Brian’s Tuesday was already booked, as was my Wednesday and Thursday.  And that’s a month hiatus – unannounced – and with no explanation during.  Sorry about that.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, I have to deal with a whole bunch of estate stuff over the next couple of months, and then I’ll be having a baby.  Well, not me personally, you see, but my wife.  Anyway, the point here is that the show may not be consistent as it was before we disappeared for a month, and because the equipment is up at Brian’s house for the time being, I may not have a chance to record an apology and place holding file for the feed.  I’ll do my best.  Will you shoot us If I have to record on the Rock Band mic? You OG listeners know what I’m talking about!

Chuckleheads and Political Apathy

 A Republican congressman who’s retiring in frustration over political gridlock says he hopes the institution doesn’t have to hit “rock bottom” before people learn to work together.

Ohio’s Steven LaTourette tells MSNBC it’s more difficult for a reasonable person to get re-elected to Congress because “the red districts are turning redder and the blue districts are turning bluer.”

The red-versus-blue theory came to prominence when political analysts began breaking down the electoral map in terms of blue states as Democratic-leaning and red states as Republican. LaTourette says Friday that voters haven’t demanded enough. He says when Congress failed to make a deal on budget cuts, quote, “I didn’t get one phone call. I didn’t get one email.”

He says people should have been saying, “What’s wrong with these chuckleheads?”

OK, so that’s the whole article, by the way.  We generally agree that with our lack of educated and interested electorate, a representational republic may not be the best choice.

Curious about Mars?

So, unless you’ve been living under a rock without even a dial-up connection, you know that we landed a super-big, super-capable science lab on another planet.  We talk about how cool this is, how cool it was to see live, how cool the plan was, how well it worked, and how we need way more funding for stuff like this. Continue reading

Broadly Focused Podcast – Episode 20

Well, we started off this episode of the podcast on the right track!  We got our recording session in on Monday night, and we had a ton of articles to choose from.  We carried our Topics of Interest over from last week’s modified format, and managed another news section, this time on science.  We kept our time right at an hour, and got through live once again, albeit with a slight interruption you shouldn’t be able to hear post-editing.  The only mishap was, if you listen carefully as our outtro music starts, Brian’s mic is still hot while he is moving it out of his way as we try to exit our broiling hot studio as quickly as possible.  I laughed, it was my own doing – Brian has been on channel three for weeks, as we had some excess noise on channel two.  I was expecting to send in the mixer for warranty repair.  In any case, when the music starts, I always ‘punch out’ (mute) both of us so we can start getting cleaned up – in this case, I ‘punched out’ lines one and three, as usual, but that left two still hot and…

News Items:

GOP, Critical Thinking and Approaches to Education

It seems more like a headline from the satirical newspaper The Onion, but the Republican Party of Texas recently published its party platform, a report that – among other things – calls for a ban on teaching critical thinking skills in Texas schools because of its “focus on behavior modification” that has “the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.” That’s just one of the many startling positions adopted by the state’s Republican Party at its recent convention in Fort Worth.

Brian points out that opening paragraph shows a bit of quote-mining, but the document itself is still unbelievable.

Kein Schneiden der Wurst

As of today in Germany, religious-based circumcision is considered bodily harm–a criminal offense regardless of parental consent. Circumcisions carried out for medical reasons, however, are not illegal.

The ruling was inspired by a groundbreaking case, argued in a regional court in Cologne, where a doctor circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy at the request of the boy’s parents. When the boy was hospitalized for hemorrhaging four days after the procedure, prosecutors were notified and the doctor was charged with grievous bodily harm, or Korperverletztung, in German.

Ding, ding… I’m not sure either of us expected this issue to be a big one, but we were not seeing eye to eye on this issue, and spent a good chunk of the podcast on it.  To me, this is genital mutilation to an infant – pure and simple.  I have found no evidence-backed medical reason for the procedure, and the only justifications I know of all trace back to Bronze-Age rituals.  Brian tears into me on a couple of points, including being insulting toward various religious people.  Fisticuffs ensue rapidly.  Seriously.  OK, not really, but we did argue.  So there’s that.

Solar Flares Destroys Exo-planet Atmosphere

An international team of astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made an unparalleled observation, detecting significant changes in the atmosphere of a planet located beyond our solar system.

The scientists conclude the atmospheric variations occurred in response to a powerful eruption on the planet’s host star, an event observed by NASA’s Swift satellite.

“The multiwavelength coverage by Hubble and Swift has given us an unprecedented view of the interaction between a flare on an active star and the atmosphere of a giant planet,” said lead researcher Alain Lecavelier des Etangs at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics (IAP), part of the French National Scientific Research Center located at Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris.

The exoplanet HD 189733b lies so near its star that it completes an orbit every 2.2 days. In late 2011, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope found that the planet’s upper atmosphere was streaming away at speeds exceeding 300,000 mph. Just before the Hubble observation, NASA’s Swift detected the star blasting out a strong X-ray flare, one powerful enough to blow away part of the planet’s atmosphere.

Data from Nasa

This like, totally blew us away, man.

Injecting life saving oxygen into a vein

Patients unable to breathe because of acute lung failure or an obstructed airway need another way to get oxygen to their blood — and fast — to avoid cardiac arrest and brain injury. A team led by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital has designed tiny, gas-filled microparticles that can be injected directly into the bloodstream to quickly oxygenate the blood. Animal testing showed that in the worst case scenario (blocked trachea) the animal was able to live – without taking a single breath – for 15 minutes.

Scientists may announce discovery of Higgs Boson, the ‘God particle,’ this week

On Wednesday at the CERN particle physics research centre near Geneva, two separate teams of “Higgs Hunters” — a term they profess to hate — may well announce they have spotted it.

Or at least something that looks incredibly like it.

“Think of it as a smoking duck,” says Oliver Buchmueller, a senior scientist on one of the teams, the CMS.
“If it walks like a Higgs and it quacks like a Higgs, then we would have to at least consider the possibility that we have a prominent new member of the Boson family on our hands.”

This is almost news.  People are speculating that they might be in the future saying they have found something that could possibly be the Higgs… We sort of rail on the mainstream media’s poor excuse for science reporting. Continue reading


Broadly Focused Podcast – Episode 19

Well, this isn’t a conventional episode of the podcast, folks, but we think it’s worth listening to anyway.  It’s a bit short (about 35 minutes), and off of our normal format and structure.  We just didn’t have a bunch of news for the week, it was hot as hell, and we were wanting to talk about the changes to the show we are putting in place.

So, we have reclassified ourselves in iTunes under the ‘News and Politics’ section, with ‘Religion and Spirituality – Other’ second, and ‘Science – Natural Sciences’ as the third.  We have talked in the past about our focus, and we think a slight shift in that focus will help us produce a better show.

The fact of the matter is that most of the articles we ended up covering that were about religion, we covered because they were about politics, human rights, or civil rights.  We were focusing on the religious angle because that has been my focus for a while now, and I was the one putting the show together.  However, we realized pretty quickly that we were really enjoying doing the podcast, but trying to find and decide on articles was getting a bit testy.  We are best friends, we don’t necessarily agree on everything we cover, and we think that’s a big part of what makes our conversations interesting.  That said, we are not looking to be confrontational for effect, and we feel this will be more organic.

For those of you coming from the atheist visibility movement who have enjoyed the show thus far – don’t stress.  The show will likely not change a whole lot.  The craziness we see out there still has a bunch of religious sources, and many of the articles we’ve covered would still be included under the ‘new’ format.  The structure won’t change much, if at all.  Also, we haven’t changed.  I am still an agnostic atheist antitheist, and Brian is still a believer with a big brain.  Our friendship and banter haven’t gone anywhere, and we’re getting more comfortable with the funny.  We have officially dropped the news game, but that is really OK since we typically have some listener feedback and/or follow up news to talk about, and the game sucked.  We also have been making much more of an effort to stick to our stated time frame of around an hour.  While I love the longer podcasts I listen to, we do understand that not everyone has an hour and a half to spend listening to a couple of assholes talk about the news.

In any case, we hope you enjoy Episode 19 of the Broadly Focused Podcast, and we look forward to hearing from you!