Friday, November 30, 2012

Mermaids: Why they really are a myth Part 2: Un-evolvable

In a previous blog concerning the Discovery Networks docu-drama Mermaids: The Body Found I discussed how it isn't possible for mermaids to hide for this long and never be found. Well, there is a very good reason why mermaids have never been found, and why they most likely don't exist in the first place: It's highly unlikely that humans could have evolved into mermaids (at least in the short period of time as the film depicts).

Most mermaids (including the ones in the film) are often depicted as having their legs being fused together into a tail, with their feet having evolved into a large flipper.

While there have cases of infants born with their legs fused, this is not an evolutionary process, but a very rare birth defect called Sirenomelia, and most infants that are born this way either don't live very long, or they are still-born. Those that do manage to live for several years after they were born are only alive because of modern medicine and surgical techniques. Considering this it should be considered highly unlikely that someone born this way could live long enough to have children of their own (if they were even capable of having children in the first place, and most children born with Sirenomelia are usually born with underdeveloped reproductive organs, or none at all) or could even survive in the water. Also, considering the rarity of this birth defect it's highly unlikely that enough people could be born like this in the first place to create a sizable population.

The reality in concerning the evolutionary process when it comes to limbs is that limbs usually do one of two things: they grow or they shrink to the point where they disappear.

Dolphins are a good example of both of this.

Dolphins clearly have no back legs what so ever, but at one point in time did, as clear with the still existent but useless pelvis bone (Author's note: it is quite common among lifeforms to have useless body parts that are left over from an earlier evolutionary form), and that the tail has become elongated and thickened to the point where it is now apart of the main part of the body itself. Even it's flippers have elongated finger bones instead of one fused bone.

Now it is true that our evolutionary ancestors once had tails, and that the remnants of that (tailbones) still exist with us, but our evolutionary ancestors probably lost their tails over ten of million years ago (if not longer), and while it may not take a long time to lose an appendage (on the evolutionary time scale at least) it would take a long time to grow (or regrow) a new appendage, and the time frame the docu-drama (about 2 million years) is most likely not enough time to do it.

Also, even if they did exist, the odds are they really wouldn't look like the way they are commonly depicted.

Most likely a real life mermaid they wouldn't have the lower fish body and the upper human body, as commonly depicted. The heads most likely wouldn't even have a neck, and their bodies would be streamlined with their faces facing forward and inline with their bodies, instead of being parallel to their bodies (which would leave us constantly looking down at the sea floor and running into things). Also, our arms would shorten to the point where there would be nothing left but our hands, which in turn would become flippers.

The fact is that mermaids most likely couldn't have evolved from humans, and even if they could have they would probably look more like dolphins, or seals, then the classically depicted half man, half fish.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Who really was the first President?

If you were to ask a bunch of people who was the first President of the United States most of them would probably tell you that George Washington was the first President.

Those people would be wrong.

While it is true that George Washington was the first person to hold the title of "President of the United States of America" there were actually multiple people who were President of the United States before him, they just didn't hold the actual title of "President of the United States of America".

In fact the first Presidents of the United States actually held the title of "President of the Continental Congress" and they were not chosen by the people, but by the Continental Congress (which was the legislative body of the United States before the constitution basically dissolved the Continental Congress and split it into two with the creation the Senate and the House of Representatives) and in reality was closer to what we would consider to be the modern day Speaker of the House than President of the United States, and was more of an honorable title that held little authority. Still, the President of the Continental Congress was the Head of State for the United States, and therefore the Presidents of the Continental Congress were in fact the first Presidents of the United States.

Now Peyton Randolph was the first President of the Continental Congress, but he is not the first President of the United States, and for two very good reasons: One, he was president before the United States declared independence, and two, he actually died before the United States declared independence from Great Britain.

Now John Hanson first President of the Continental Congress to be elected under the Articles of Confederation, but Samuel Huntington was the President of the Continental Congress when the Articles of Confederation was ratified, and therefore many people consider him to be the first President of the United States.

Now of course Elias Boudinot could also be considered the first President of the United States because he was President of the Continental Congress when Great Britain officially recognized our independence on September 3, 1783, and he signed the Treaty of Paris, but the United States government doesn't recognize that date to be the date this country's independence. Instead the government officially considers July 4, 1776, the day the Continental Congress adopted and signed the Declaration of Independence, as the date of this country's independence.

So who was really the true first President of the United States?

It was John Hancock.

The Continental Congress, and the title of President of the Continental Congress was created before the Revolutionary War even began, and when the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed, John Hancock was President of the Continental Congress (and of course one of the document's most famous signatories) and was actually President of the Continental Congress for almost 16 months after the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. Therefore since Hancock was President of the Continental Congress during and after signing of the Declaration of Independence, he is really the first President of the United States.

Of course there are others who will say otherwise...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Let the kids get a chance to choose

One of the most frustrating things that I had to deal with when I was a kid wasn't the fact that I was unable to legally smoke or drink booze (although I could have done that illegally if I wanted to, and besides, I don't smoke or drink anyways) or even that I couldn't legally drive a car until I was 16. It was the fact that until I turned 18 I didn't have the legal right to vote.

For years I wanted to vote, and I even asked my parents at certain points in time during my childhood if I could go with them to the voting place and vote for them. They of course always said no, and now I understand why (I wouldn't want someone else to use my vote either, even if it was my kid).

Still, even though I've been able to legally vote for thirteen years now (and have voted in most elections since then, including the four presidential elections I have been legally able to vote in), I still feel that at least certain young people under the age of 18 should be able to vote.

Now of course I don't feel that all teens under the age of 18 should automatically be given the right to vote. In fact I feel that only the ones who should be able to vote are the ones whom have done, or do certain things that in effect should have earned them the right to vote.

First, any one under the age of 18, has a job (and has had one for over six months), pays income taxes, and is in school, should be able to vote in all elections regardless of age. Not only would this encourage kids to stay in school, it would also encourage them to get jobs and earn their own money and get them to be less dependent on their parents at an earlier age. Also it would encourage them not sit around at home wasting their time playing video games and trolling the internet (and yes, I do see the irony in me saying that kids shouldn't spend so much time on the internet because this is posted on the internet, but how else am I going to spread this idea to the vast amount of the American public).

Second, any youth that is currently in the military (the military does allow people as young as 17 to join) or any youth currently in some other type of voluntary civil service (EMT, Fire & Rescue, etc.) should be allowed to vote as well. This would encourage more teens to volunteer to do things that would benefit the community and the nation as a whole, and they could even learn certain skills that could benefit them later in life.

Third and finally, anyone who has graduated from high school before the age of 18 should also be allowed to vote, regardless if they are employed or are involved in the military or a voluntary civil service. Not only would this encourage youth to work harder at school, it might also encourage them to go to collage sooner and work harder at collage as well.

Not only would giving youth a chance to earn the right to vote be beneficial to the youth of the nation, in the long run it might be beneficial to the nation as a whole.

It would not only instill and/or reinforce many positive aspects into the minds and hearts of our nation's teens (like volunteerism, the importance of education, having a job, and if you want something badly enough you need to earn it) it could create a generation of youth who would more benefit the nation then burden it, and instill the belief in them that they shouldn't take for granted certain rights (amongst other things) that we take for granted today.

In the end not only could giving certain teens who have earned the right to vote create a generation better then us in terms of education and financial resources, it could create an overall better society.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An Historic Election

While most elections are in their own way historic, the election of 2012 may be a truly historic election (and one that will get it's own chapter in our history books, and not just a page or two) and regardless of what you may feel about the outcomes, there are several reasons why this election will most likely be considered historic.

Here are several reasons why I believe that this election will be considered in the future to be a truly historic one:

Three Presidents, six terms

For only the second time in this nation's history has there been three presidents in a row that have held two consecutive terms. The only other time this has happened was from 1801 to 1825 during the presidencies of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.

Minority Run

For the first time in our nation's history two candidates from two different minority groups (Barack Obama being African American, and Mitt Romney being a Mormon, a minority religion) have run for president under the two major political parties.

Light them up

Washington and Colorado became the first two states in the nation to legalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use by adults. Of course this doesn't mean that it is completely legal (it is still illegal under federal law, and federal law enforcement agents can still arrest you if you have any pot on you) but it does mean that the local and state law enforcement in those two states can not arrest you if they find a bag of weed on you, or catch you smoking a joint.

The 51st State

For the first time in the island territory's history the people of Puerto Rico voted to become a state. Of course it doesn't mean that it will automatically become a state, as congress must vote on whether or not to approve statehood for the island. This could merely be a formality and could come as early as December, or this could be years from now.

If it does happen this year it will be the first time in 53 years that a new state has joined the United States.

Women in the Senate

There are now more women in the Senate then there have been at any other time in our history. There are now 20 women who are in the United States Senate, or 1/5 of the Senate.

LGBT Rights

For the first time in our history voters in several states approved legalizing same-sex marriage. In the states of Washington, Maryland, and Maine voters approved of a state laws that would legalize same-sex marriage (note: this is also significant because in 2009 it had been rejected in Maine), and in Minnesota voters rejected a state constitutional amendment that would outlaw same-sex marriage (mind you their state laws still outlaws it). Also, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin became the first homosexual to be elected to the Senate.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ten threats to the 1st Amendment

There have been and always will be threats to the Constitution, most especially the 1st Amendment, be it is usually because a person doesn't know, or doesn't care, what is and is not protected by the 1st Amendment.

Here are what I consider to be ten threats to the 1st Amendment:

Anti-Obscenity Groups

There are some groups of people who take it amongst themselves to try to force us to not use any type of language, or dress in certain ways that many of them consider obscene, even going so far as to trying to force (sometimes with success) local governments to create ordinances and laws banning the use of language in public and the wearing of clothing that they feel is obscene.

These groups are also partially responsible the creation of the rating system on television, parental advisory stickers on music CDs, and the anti-pornography laws.


The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA for short, was originally intended to keep people from using copyrighted materials. The problem with this law is that often times it is also abused, usually by people (or businesses and corporations) wanting to get certain content that might be critical of them removed, regardless of the fair use laws, and regardless if it contains any copyrighted materials at all. These are usually called DMCA attacks, and happen quite a bit on controversial Vlogs Youtube.

Sometimes people will send out DMCA reports on certain Youtube sites simply because they don't like the content, or because they're trying to find out the true identity of a certain user.

Defamation, Libel, and Slander

While defamation, libel, and slander laws can great laws and force a person to stop lying about you in which the only intent is to hurt you, unfortunately these laws are also some abused.

Normally when these laws are abused it's usually someone or some group who want to hide something, or to try to force someone to stop being critical of them. Even the threat of a defamation lawsuit can sometimes be enough to back someone down, even if what they're is the truth.


There are a lot of people on the internet who's only purpose is to cause trouble. Sometimes these people take what they do to far and they get booted off the site they're trolling on. Sometimes this also results in sites changing their policies and becoming more and more restrictive, such as lessening what is considered acceptable speech and behavior, to ending anonymity. Some states are even creating laws to try stop people from being trollz, but these laws are highly questionable and possible illegal due to the 1st Amendment.


Most free blogs, user uploaded video sites, online forums, and social media sites have ways to report inappropriate or possibly illegal content.

While some sites actually require you to email them, most sites have special icons under each person's posts and all that you're just require to do is that you click on that icon and tell the site why you did that. This may sound good and all to some people, but the problem is that this is often times overly used and abused by others concerning content that they feel is offensive just to them.

Other Countries

With the increase of people making their views known on the internet, these views can sometimes conflict with the laws of other countries.

While most of the time these laws wouldn't effect us at all, sometimes it does, because usually the law enforcement agencies in those countries will contact the host websites to get the content removed. While most of the time this doesn't happen because the content doesn't actually violate the Terms of Standards agreement that the user accepted, sometimes they can get the content removed.


We all know that teachers tend to tell students to be quiet when they are trying to teach something, some schools are becoming more and more restrictive about not only what students can say while on school grounds, but also what they can say off school grounds as well.

Many schools now have rules for students about what a student can and cannot post on the internet. Most of the time what students are restricted from posting is criticism of their school and the school system itself. Also, many schools not only try to restrict in school speech, but also the right to protest as well, often times threatening to punish any students who take part in a protest that happens near their school, or during school time.

Hate Groups

While most hate groups tend to be just a bunch of annoying people at best, sometimes they will use threats and even violence as a way to try to silence their critics, or just something they don't like.

Other less hostile hate groups try to use other forms of intimidation (such as boycotts) to try to get companies to stop certain advertisement campaigns, or sponsorship of certain groups. While these boycotts were sometimes effective in the past (especially when it concerned homosexuality), these boycotts have been proven to be less and less ineffective as most people tend to ignore the calls for boycott (the American Family Association's largely forgotten boycott of Disney proves this).


While some hackers destroy and/or disrupt content on the internet simply because they can, sometimes they do this to remove content that they don't like (regardless if the content is offensive or not) or they will send that person a virus to disrupt that person's ability to post new content.

Sometimes people who don't actually have the hacking skills needed to disrupt and/or destroy content on the internet that they disagree with will actually either try to get other hackers to do their dirty work, even hiring them sometimes, or they'll just learn new hacking skills and try to do it themselves.

Oversensitive People

Sometimes we ourselves can be the biggest threat to the 1st Amendment. If an oversensitive person sees something that they do not like, they sometimes do whatever it takes to get that which has offended them removed, be it flagging attacks, false DMCA attacks, hacking attacks, and whatever else they can think of.

Other times it's trying to get new laws created to in order to place restrictions on things that they find offensive.

Regardless of what they do, oversensitive people are often the biggest threat to the 1st Amendment, because they tend to believe that their senses are more important then the Constitution.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ECT Follow up: FEMA camps: Executive Orders

In a previous Embarrassing Conspiracy Theory post I talked about how many conspiracy theorists believe that the government is going to place citizens who object to government authority in prison camps. One of the key pieces of "evidence" for people who believe in these prison camps that are allegedly being built is that there are Executive Orders that have been made by the President which will give the government, FEMA, and the military the authority to round up citizens who object to government authority and ship them off to these alleged prison camps. Often times they also claim that government will create a disaster that will kill millions of people in order to justify the execution of these Executive Orders.

While conspiracy theorists often times cite real Executive Orders as evidence for what they believe is the planned coming of Martial Law, many of the conclusions they come to about these Executive Orders are very deceptive and quite frankly, incorrect.

First, many of the Executive Orders are often claimed to have been made by either President George W. Bush, or President Barack Obama. In perhaps most of these cases this is incorrect, and is either the result of poor or non research, or even an outright lie.

If you do the research you will find that the Executive Orders that are often cited by conspiracy theorists were not made by either President Bush or Obama, but were actually made by either President John Kennedy, of President Lyndon Johnson. In fact most of the Executive Orders that are commonly cited were made during the Cold War when the threat of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union was very real.

Also, most of the Executive Orders that are cited makes no mention of things like "prison camps" or "Martial law" or anything even of the like. The only things mentioned in these cited Executive Orders that would come even come remotely close is that they mention the need to maintain law and order during a disaster.

In fact many of these Executive Orders are for disaster preparedness (either as a result of a massive natural disaster, or a massive attack), what should be done during a disaster, who does what during a disaster, and what needs to be done in order to rebuild as quickly as possible.

In fact the only thing in these Executive Orders that may even give conspiracy theorists any warrant to believe that the government would take over everything is that the President would have the authority to take over temporarily any private industries and other resources in order to help minimize the destruction and damage to infrastructure as much as possible. Most of the time this wouldn't even be necessary due to volunteers and donations that often times that often times come about after a disaster.

Another thing that is often times not mentioned by conspiracy theorists is that while some of these Executive Orders do in fact still exist, many of them have been revoked by later presidents. In fact many were revoked during the Cold War itself, most likely because it was determined that these certain Executive Orders really were not necessary any more, or were never necessary to begin with.

In conclusion the citing of Executive Orders as "evidence" that the government is planning to enact Martial law is nothing more then conspiracy theorists typical paranoia and fear mongering.

Friday, November 9, 2012

10 Facts about Antarctica

10. Land claims

So far eight countries have laid claim to pieces of Antarctica, with three countries having overlapping claims. Despite this, not all of Antarctica is claimed. In fact the largest amount of unclaimed land in the world, Marie Byrd Land, is here.

9. Population

While there is no permanent population on the continent at any given time, there can be anywhere between 1,000 to 5,000 people on the continent, and this doesn't just include scientists and other people who work at the research stations, it also sometimes includes their families. There are even schools at some bases, and as of 2009, eleven children have been born there.

8. Meteorites

Due to the ice sheets, meteorites here are the easiest to find there then anywhere else in the world. Also because of the environment, meteorites there are also well preserved.

Perhaps the most famous and controversial meteorite found there is the ALH84001, which back in 1996 scientists announced it may contained microscopic life from Mars.

7. Industry

Currently there are only two types of industries that exist for Antarctica: Fishing and tourism, the latter which has been going on since 1957 and is usually done by boat and focuses mainly on scenic locations.

Both industries are also controversial. Illegal fishing sometimes yields five to six times much fish as legal, and there has been calls for greater regulation on tourism down there for years.

6. Antarctican dollar

There are Antarctican dollars, and they are in the same denominations as the American dollars, but here's the catch: They're not legal tender anywhere. This includes Antartica.

Antartican dollars are just collectors items produced by the Antarctic Overseas Exchange Office, and can be purchased through their website. The proceeds from the sales fund groups undertaking research and humanitarian projects on the continent.

5. Cold Desert

Despite the fact that most of the land mass is covered in ice, the interior of Antarctica is actually considered to be a desert due to the low precipitation, which is always in the form of snow, and very low humidity. In fact it's one of the driest places on the planet, and cracked lips and dry skins are constant problems for the scientists and explorers there.

4. Ice sheet thickness

The average ice sheet thickness varies depending on which side you are on.

On east Antarctica the average thickness is 2.6 kilometers, while on west Antarctica the average thickness is almost 1.8 kilometers thick, and on the Antarctic Peninsula it's only 0.6 kilometers thick.

3. Mount Erebus

There are several active volcanoes on Antarctica, and Mount Erebus is one of the most active, with the last eruption occurring in 2012.

Mount Erebus is also the site of the worst plane crash in Antarctica. In 1979 Air New Zealand Flight 901 crashed into Mount Erebus, killing all 257 people on board.

2. Penguins

While there's not a lot of biodiversity on Antarctica, there is one thing that the continent has a lot of: Penguins.

There are several species of penguins that inhabit or breed on the continent, including the Emperor Penguin, which is the largest penguin species on the planet.

1. A land known before it was known

Despite the fact that the continent wasn't discovered until 1820, speculation about the existence of Antarctica had been around for centuries. In fact speculation of the continent's existence was around since the 1st century AD, and many European maps from several centuries ago showed what at the time was only a hypothetical land mass, despite the fact that no one knew of it's existence.

Due to several earlier maps showing a near accurate outline of the continent there is also some speculation that the continent may have been discovered centuries earlier then what it was, but that it's existence had been lost over time.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Get out and vote!

Today is the day that the majority of Americans choose whether we keep Barack Obama as President, or if Mitt Romney is to becomes our next President (along of course with other elections to choose to keep or replace governors, senators (state and national), representatives (state and national), delegates, judges, sheriffs, mayors, local councils, and new laws).

At least, this is what we tend to believe...

The reality is that it is not the majority of the American people who choose who will be President of the United States. In fact it is the majority of people who actually can legally vote who's choice really counts (which are United States citizens who are over the age of 18, and are not currently incarcerated, and have not been convicted of any felonies, or have been convicted of felonies but have yet to get their voting rights restored... and of course citizens who are residents of United States territories that are not actually states (with of course the exception of Washington D.C.) ) and not the people who are just to lazy to get up and go vote.

It is important that everyone who can legally go out and vote to actually go out and vote. It is the only way to know at least what the true opinion of what most Americans believe who should be in charge of this country, and thus how the country should be run.

Now there are some people that say, and believe, that their vote doesn't really count, but the reality is that your vote doesn't count if you don't actually go out and vote. No one is going to consider your vote to count if you don't actually vote in the first place.

Others might say that your vote really isn't going to make a difference. Again, this is only true if you actually don't go out and vote. Whether you believe it or not, your vote does make a difference.

Now of course there are others will try to make the "excuse" that there is no one is running that they actually like. Well there are more then two political parties, and in the presidential race there are more then two candidates. You can always check out what one of the other candidates want do and vote for one of them.

While we may have a choice whether we want to go out and vote or not, others will be basically be making your choices for you, unless you go out and make that choice yourself.

The reality is that your opinion about how the country is being run, and should be run, only means something if you want it to mean something, and the only way you can make that opinion mean something is if you actually go out and vote!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Conspiracy Theories: Why they are both easy and difficult to debunk

Conspiracy theories can most of the time be very easy to debunk. Mostly it just requires some research and the use of logic. But, some conspiracy theories can be difficult to debunk as well. This of course has nothing to do with the evidence. As I have already stated that tends to be easy to debunk.

It's the large amount of so called evidence conspiracy theorists tend to present, or the fact that the evidence presented is simply made up. Both of these reasons can actually make it difficult to debunk some conspiracy theories simply because it can be so frustrating and time consuming to prove it's false.

Conspiracy theorists will sometimes present large amounts "evidence" to try to prove what they believe in is real, it can be time consuming for many skeptics who debunk this type of stuff because unlike many conspiracy theorists, they will take the time to do the research to find out if any of this is true or not, rather then rely on someone's accusations that has been seen as solid proof of a conspiracy. An example of this would be the alleged cover up of knowledge of extra-terrestrial technology and contact.

There is a lot of alleged evidence out there that the United States government has extra-terrestrial technology, and has even made contact with aliens. Now while this stuff has mostly been refuted and/or dis-proven, there is a lot of it, and I mean a lot of it, and new "evidence" seems to pop up every year, so debunking this stuff (or any number of conspiracy theories) can become a full time job for some skeptics. This type of thing can wear down a skeptic and cause them to retire from debunking, even the really good ones.

What makes it harder is that often these pieces of  "evidence" that conspiracy theorists presents is completely made up, so sometimes a skeptic will look for something to either refute or confirm that piece of evidence when there is nothing to refute or confirm, and it just becomes a wasteful wild goose chase. An example of this would be FEMA prison camps.

Besides the fact that these locations of where these camps allegedly are usually just nothing more then misidentified buildings and military bases, for a lot of these alleged locations nothing exists at all. In fact when I was doing some co-research into one of them with Autistic Skeptic, I investigated the location of one in Oregon that claimed to be an old Japanese interment camp that was refurbished, and as it turned out, the old interment camp never even existed in the first place, so I was basically wasting my time before I finally found out that this place didn't even exist. Not to mention that fact that I was very frustrated as well trying to find this alleged place.

Another thing conspiracy theorists will sometimes do is that they will add on to already refuted and discredited evidence. A great example of this would be the belief that the World Trade Center towers were brought down in a controlled demolition.

Many conspiracy theorists believe that the towers were brought down by explosives that were planted inside the building. When a skeptic points out that no one ever saw these explosives planted inside the buildings, the conspiracy theorists will claim that it was thermite paint. When a skeptic points out that thermite has never been detected in any independent tests, a conspiracy theorist will claim it was nano-thermite. When a skeptic points out that there is no such thing as nano-thermite, a conspiracy theorist will usually say that is what the government wants you to believe (assuming they haven't declared the skeptic a dis-information agent at some point in the conversation) and will continue to use old, refuted evidence.

At that point most skeptics would declare the conversation a PRATT (point refuted a thousand times) because they know it would be pointless to continue this cycle of refuting claims when the refuting is going to continue to be ignored and they just stop arguing with them. In fact this happens a lot with many conspiracy theorists' claims, and it can be very frustrating and angering for some skeptics (although some, especially those who were once conspiracy theorists themselves, will take pity on them).

So in the end it becomes a battle between people who will do the research and between people who will simply believe whatever they are told when it fits their world view.