links for 2009-01-29
…the UN (that beacon of hope for human rights – NOT) voted on a resolution demanding basic civil rights for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered (lgbt) people. Some 66 countries supported the resolution, and not unexpectedly, to quote Donald Rumsfeld, Old European countries with their respect for civil rights feature prominently on the list. No surprise, unfortunately, that thuggish places like Saudia Arabia, Russia, Jamaica and others are missing in action. No surprise either that the USA and the Vatican cannot be found on the list of supporters of the human rights of lgbt people.
The right to criticise religion is being slowly doused in acid. Across the world, the small, incremental gains made by secularism – giving us the space to doubt and question and make up our own minds – are being beaten back by belligerent demands that we “respect” religion. A historic marker has just been passed, showing how far we have been shoved. The UN rapporteur who is supposed to be the global guardian of free speech has had his job rewritten – to put him on the side of the religious censors.
Centaurus A is a nearby galaxy — at 13 million light years distant, only a handful of big galaxies are closer to us. And it’s weird: it’s an elliptical galaxy eating a spiral! They’re in the last stages of merging into one bigger and messier galaxy. Dust from the spiral forms a huge ring around the center of the galaxy, with the gas and dust from both galaxies being dumped into the core.
But at that core is a supermassive black hole, gobbling down the matter as fast as it can… and even that’s not fast enough. The material piles up around the black hole, forming a superheated disk which helps channel all the vast forces in play around it. The end result is two corridors, twin tunnels leading up and away from the poles of the disk. Material heated to millions of degrees blasts through these paths, creating beams of matter and energy screaming out from the black hole.
And we have a front row seat.