I wanted to post a few quick updates this afternoon, so here we go. Firstly, I'm toying with the idea of setting up a Facebook profile, mostly because I've gotten a couple of "friend requests" from people I know who use the service. When and if I ever get that set up in any presentable way I'll add a link to it in the sidebar, but honestly social networking sits just aren't my cup of tea.
Secondly, I've not heard a word from Phillip O'Donnell since early last week, so I guess that means we won't be debating. Rumor has it that he's had some experiences in the past wherein he tried to do some online debates and simply got dog-piled by a hostile crowd and thus he's not very interested in doing any more public debates. Nonetheless it's absolutely amazing to me that he would come onto my blog and challenge me to a debate, then refuse to actually do it. Readers can feel free to mosey over to Living Dinos and prod him a little.
Thirdly, Your old pal Skippy's girlfriend is in Baltimore and the moment and will be there for the better part of the week because of Otakon. (Some kind of anime convention, apparently.) That's all well and good: she's apparently having a great time and I get to be the master of my castle for a few days. The only problem is that she's got the laptop with her so she can update her blog, which means that typing updates over on my end is temporarily dependent on my desire to sit around in the bedroom and work at the desktop PC while her multitudinous cats chew on my feet. Thus far I've not been able to muster up a whole lot of desire to do so, which is lame because this has been an interesting week for internet weirdos.
Among other things, there was an amusing post over on Pharyngula that highlighted a bizarre a video by this lady. She's some kind of conspiracy nut that thinks some kind of evil government plot is responsible for, among other things, rainbows. (Not kidding. Watch the video.) Her main area of interest in HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, which she seems to think is some kind of weather-controlling, laser shooting, earthquake causing doomsday device like a James Bond villain might use. The poor woman is clearly daft, as should be evinced by this video, in which she has recorded sun glare coming off of passing cars under the mistaken impression that they are actually laser weapons, and this video, in which she notices the phenomenon of earthshine and comes to the conclusion that the moon is actually a giant mirror. She's also a proponent of the tired old "ChemTrail" conspiracy, which holds that airplane contrails are actually some sort of high altitude chemical dispersion device towards some unknown end. (Step 1: Blanket the atmosphere with airborne chemicals. Step 2: ? Step 3: PROFIT!)
For the record, HAARP is a project run by the University of Alaska and contingent of other universities and is being built using technology from APTI and BAE Systems*. The program is also affiliated with the U.S. Navy and Air Force. It's meant to study various natural processes of the ionosphere and to utilize these processes to develop new communications technologies. It's pretty cool stuff and it's completely non-classified - there are even open houses in which the public can tour the facility a couple of times a year. HAARP is not in anyway associated with the development of weapons, though there was talk in 1990s about using similar technology as part of the Strategic Defense Initiative. (Interestingly, some anti-HAARP conspiracy books have been released by the Adventures Unlimited Press, the publishing house of living dinosaur and ancient astronaut proponent David Hatcher Childress.)
HAARP conspiracy theories are usually so far removed from anything that HAARP actually does that it's almost difficult to know where to begin in debunking them. In a way that's almost a rhetorical advantage to the conspiracy nuts - if you point out, for example, that HAARP has abso-freakin'-lutely nothing to do with causing manmade earthquakes, they'll accuse you of buying into the government's line instead of actually "going down the rabbit hole". Perhaps it would be better to let readers peruse our friend's other videos so they can see the raving craziness for themselves.
I also want to point out that that some conspiracy buffs are loudly crowing about the $250 million price tag that has been attached to HAARP, apparently to show that the government is throwing so much money into the project that it must be some kind of crazy ray gun. The line of thought seems to be that the government wouldn't be putting that much money into something that isn't a weapon. Frankly, that's silly. No one with any sense of scale when it comes to military development costs would honestly think that a global doomsday device could be manufactured for $250 million. For example, F-22 interceptor aircraft cost over $135 million apiece, and that's just fabrication costs for something that has already been designed.** To claim earnestly that a superweapon on par with the Death Star has been developed for a mere quarter of a billion dollars is as revealing a display of ignorance by the conspiracy buffs as one could hope for.
*BAE also makes such fine products as the M2 Bradley.
** The total cost of the F-22 program has thus far been around $69.7 billion.