Thursday, September 27, 2007

Creationism and Catholic Schools

OK, so I'm based in Ottawa, ON, and there seems to be an odd Canadian institution here which I have trouble with.

Catholic Schools.

Maybe I'm completely misled, but I was under the naive impression that schooling was the sort of thing we paid taxes for, so that the government, in their infinite wisdom, could set up and manage for us. Granted, they are not always perfect at it, but nevertheless, I still expect any decent government in the western world to manage a half-decent public education system.

Here, in Canada, it seems that the situation is not that clear-cut. There is a second 'public' education system here - the Catholic School Board. Without bagging the Catholics too much (heck, it's not exactly a challenge), I was under the impression that church and state had been separated for some time, in most places, and quite frankly, had no place teaching children unless it was in a Sunday School.

Yet parents here can choose to take their children out of 'normal' schooling and send them off to Catholic schools where (I guess) they are taught to be Catholic. That's not even the part that bothers me. The part where I get fucked off, is where they have now started to get momentum behind PUBLIC FUNDING for these fucking schools. Surely, one of the things about being separate is that you don't get funding from the rest of us.

Then you get fucked up rhetoric like this little gem:
"...Any attempt to remove public funding from Catholic Schools in Ontario would be extremely divisive and would be vigorously opposed by the Catholic community..." - Bernard Murray, Toronto President, Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association (in the Ottawa Citizen, Sept 27, 2007).

No, setting up a separate system from the rest of us mere mortals would be fucking divisive. Asking us to pay for it is insulting. And I'm sure you'd oppose those moves, Mr Murray. Being a man of religion would make you comfortable with those hand-outs from the rest of us.

Mr John Tory of the conservatives wants to fund these assholes. I urge people to vote against him.

On the subject of Mr Tory, he also wants Intelligent Design aka Creationism taught in Ontario's schools. Apparently, he doesn't feel that there is any scientific reason for people to believe in Evolution, and it's just a theory anyway.

This dude clearly has no brains. Don't vote for him.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I Caved

OK. I gave in. I'm going to have a go at this 'blogging' thing.

I have no idea why. I went so far as to research a little about the 'blog' phenomenon. Don't get me wrong - I've read my fair share of blogs. I might even review a few of them and post about them here. I'll save that for when I have no inspiration.

The clues I got about blogging went a little like this:
  • Have a point
  • Use your experiences
  • Practice makes perfect

Well, I've got none of the first point, and little of the second. Fortunately, most of my friends will confirm that I've got plenty of practice at forming an opinion. Who knows, I might even be able to get someone out there in the ether to chuckle.

So why the name? Well, I'm a chemistry graduate, currently on a post-doc experience in Ottawa. I figured something vaguely chemical would be in order. In a pretentious moment, I viewed this blog thing as a distillery of ideas, where I could journalistically get to the crux of the matter, cutting through the shit, and finding something sarcastic to say about it.

An 'Alembic' was the top of the still used by alchemists some hundreds of years ago. It was the still-head, the part where all the magic of the distillation process happened.

The photo which backs my title is a phenomenon called 'Fraunhofer' absorption, and it was one of the greater mysteries of a couple hundred years ago. Take a prism and fire sunlight at it. You get a rainbow, right. Newton figured that out. Well, if you get really good at it, and use a fine enough beam, you start to see black marks in the rainbow. A little like the image to the left (which also has a neat old looking graph of the intensity of light as well).

Now Mr Fraunhofer knew this, but couldn't explain them. Why were those lines missing? The answer, we now know, is that chemicals and elements in the atmosphere of earth and the sun absorb some wavelengths of light. You can get really clever now and predict some of them using Quantum Mechanics, although that also requires you to lose any hope of a social life.

It took 'them' over a hundred years to sort that out. Helium - the second most simple element was discovered from those lines.