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Home country: UK
Member since: Thu Aug 17, 2006, 05:50 AM
Number of posts: 8,170

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A giant of a man

Yesterday was Trevithick Day in Camborne, a recent innovation where the ingenuity if Cornwall's native son, Richard Trevithick, is celebrated.

For those who do not know Trevithick was a mining engineer and inventor. A huge man for his day (6'2" he is celebrated in legend for his strength, it is said he threw a miners sledge hammer over the beam of the engine at the Dolcoath mine (a height of over 40 feet). His primary achievement however was the development of high pressure steam as the driving force for engines. This allowed him to develop the first practicable "chariot" or steam powered carriage in 1801.

The tale of the first epic ride is told in the song "Goin' up Camborne Hill (comin' down)" but the song is only half the tale for, in what seems to have been Trevithick's usual impulsive way, the test was undertaken without any prior warning or, seemingly, intent. It was a success, but a few days later on another test run the engine broke so Trevithick and his companions sent for help and retired to a local inn for a meal of goose and, no doubt, some beer. Unfortunately no one damped the fire in the boiler which ran low on water, overheated and burnt the engine to the ground. This may have led to Trevithick's later invention of the fusible plug which made steam boilers self damping.

On Trevithick Day a reproduction of that first chariot is run through the streets where its predecessor was first tested. In the pictures of that device below the smaller gentleman at the front is steering the beast by brute force leverage on the front wheels.

Trevithick's later career also shows his considerable inventiveness. He was the first man to run passenger locomotives but his engines were not matched by the rails on which they ran allowing the Stephensons, father and son, to claim the title of "Father of the Railways". Trevithick also seems to have lacked business acumen for virtually all of his business projects ended in failure.

One final note on his life is that he went to Bolivia to help develop pumping engines for the silver mines there but was unable to recover his investment due to Simon Bolivar's first civil war erupting. Trevithick joined the rebels helping to develop a gun for them to use but with the collapse if that revolt was left penniless. Further adventures (and engineering) followed until he arrived in Cartagena (Columbia) in 1827 where a passing Briton gave him £50 to get home. That Brit was George Stephenson the younger.

The text ofPZ Myers speech to Global Atheist Convention

Read the whole thing, it is very well worth it

Link and excerpts. Note to Mods and alerters, I am quoting more than 3 excerpts but as far as I am aware Prof Myers intends this speech to be widely disseminated. If Admin thinks I have it wrong please delete.

Speech Text "Sacking the City of God" at Pharyngula

I must apologize for some topic drift ó I came up with a title for this talk some months ago, but the as I was working on it, itÖevolved. So what Iím actually going to talk about today is my plan to assault heaven and kill God. You donít mind, do you?

The most brilliant thing Christianity ever did was to take that idea of the Word, that concept of identity wrapped up in an abstract set of ideas and stories, and to open it up to everyone. Aww, Rome fell? You’re all alone? Here, we can help you find yourself, we can give a new meaning to your life, we have a standard that you can hold high and find unity with a greater people. Itís called the Bible.

You were probably dubious and wondering what the heck I was doing saying the Bible was powerful and important, but maybe now that Iíve cited nerd god Alan Moore for the concept youíll accept what Iím saying.

You can kill a man, you can sack a city, but Alan Moore says you cannot kill an idea. And ideas can change the world.

Ideas can change the world.

Say it again: Ideas can change the world.

Live it: Ideas can change the world.

Read the pronouncements of popes and archbishops, read the newspapers and web columns, look to the priests in their pulpits, and youíll see something wonderful: they are reacting to the rise of the New Atheists in the same way the Roman establishment reacted to the Visigoths appearing on the horizon. I cannot blame them for being fearful; we are galloping towards the central ideas of their identity, and we aim to tear down their walls and replace their obsolete myths with change and something more vital.

Deep in their heart of hearts, they fear that a sequel to St Augustineís City of God is in the works, and itís going to be written by an atheistÖand it will speak of a brand new world and new opportunities, it will create a new ecumene of people united under something other than the folly of faith.

Yesterday I was listening to our Christian protesters outside, and I thought, ďHuh. So thatís what you get when you give a sheep a microphone, amplified bleating.Ē There they were, calling on everyone to deny the richness of human experience and join the flock in the narrow boring confines of the sheep pen, so mindless they didnít even realize they were calling to the wolves.

I have a different metaphor for us, my brothers and sisters in atheism. We are not sheep; there are no shepherds here. I look out from this stage and I see 4000 pairs of hunterís eyes, 4000 hunterís minds, 4000 pairs of hunterís hands. I see the primeval primate hunting band grown large and strong. I see us so confident in our strength that we laugh at our enemies. I see a people thinking and planning, fierce and focused, learning and building new tools to conquer new worlds.

You are not sheep. You, my brothers and sisters in atheism, are a fierce, coordinated hunting pack ó men and women working together, and those other bastards have cause to fear us. So letís do it: make them tremble as we demolish the city of god.

Speech Text "Sacking the City of God" at Pharyngula

Read the whole thing
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