Archive for July, 2011

End of an era

Sunday, July 31st, 2011 | Science, Thoughts

Last week, the Space Shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth from it’s final mission. The Space Shuttle programme was over.

Arguably this is another step backwards in the exploration of space. We haven’t put a man on the Moon since 1972 (39 years ago now), and now we’re not evening flying Space Shuttles. Did we just get really lucky in 1969, when we first walked on the Moon, and now we can’t replicate that success?

Actually, according to Dr Jim Wild, it was a good job that they missed some of the solar activity around at the time, which between some of the Apollo missions, reached fatal radiation levels. But that isn’t really a problem for quote unquote simple Earth orbiting.

The problem with the Space Shuttle programme was it was just too big, complex and expensive to run. Each mission cost around half a billion dollars and required an army of over 6,000 people to prepare for it. They also weren’t the safest of things – of the 135 missions flown, two of them didn’t come back – Challenger and Columbia.

I would probably argue that such a record isn’t too bad – we are still pushing back the boundaries of scientific exploration when it comes to space travel and the unfortunate fact is people die in accidents in the common workplace from time to time, let alone when exploring new frontiers.

However, despite its huge cost and army of safety engineers, the Space Shuttle can’t live up to the standards of its rival – the Soyuz. Russia’s Soyoz spacecraft has been in service since 1966 and in the entire time has only suffered four fatalities in a combination of two accidents.

Indeed, the Soyuz is now the sole manned space shuttle which will continue to send people into space to allow crew rotation of the International Space Station. So it’s not hard to see why the Space Shuttle programme is being brought to an end so a cheaper, easier craft for putting man into space can be developed.

But the one thing that the Soyuz has failed to do (this could be entirely inaccurate, I’m writing from a Western perspective and maybe millions of people elsewhere have been inspired by Soyuz) in the same way is to become an icon of space travel that has inspired a generation during its 30 year service.

I remember watching a Space Shuttle take off from Kennedy Space Centre in 1998 and remember thinking it’s magical. Actually, I thought, “wow, we sat in the boiling heat all day to see a little spec in the distance,” but I’m sure you can appreciate that would be a far less dramatic ending to this blog post.

Leeds Slutwalk

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 | Events, Religion & Politics

Last Saturday, the Leeds Slutwalk took place. Slutwalks are protest marches which assert a woman’s right to dress how she wants without being blamed for getting raped because she was somehow asking for it. Unfortunately, the Leeds event suffered from a somewhat poor turn out but was a worthwhile event in any case.

As usual, the red flags of Revolution also turned up to cloud the message too. Still, at least it added to the numbers.


Friday, July 29th, 2011 | Friends, Life

It was a rather all-star turn out for our poker night last week with myself, Elina, Jonni, Kat, Norm, Casual Dave, Happy Matt and Jason all eventually turning up.

Nobody dressed up this week, which was a little disappointing, but never the less it was a good night with Jason and Happy Matt eventually walking away with the prize, after just managing to knock out Kat the Card Shark.

Damn this fine weather

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 | Friends, Life

Last week, I took Elina to meet my friends at York Brights. It was a rather strange evening as when I walked in I found them sitting in a whole different corner to the usual one, due to the amount of people at the pub. For creatures of habit, like myself, this simply isn’t cool and I spent a good twenty minutes repeating over and over again “this isn’t where we sit…” ;).

There were also lower numbers than usually turn out, perhaps due to so many people taking holidays at this time of year – which also contributed to a slightly lower than expected turn out to Skeptics this month.

Never the less it was a great night all the same, and we tried the food for the first time which turned out to be average.

On the way back, the heavens opened to what I think was the heaviest rainfall I have ever driven through, possibly even heavier than the torrential downpour I went through on my way to appear on Ummah Channel. We’re talking so heavy that I was driving significantly below the speed limit! Nothing wrong with rain, when you’re inside though ;).

Atheist Stock is out of beta

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 | Foundation, News

We’re pleased to announce that free stock photography website Atheist Stock is now out of beta!

We launched the site in March 2010 and since then we’ve been working to add to the collection and road test the functionality. In October, we reached 1,000 images and the collection is still growing!

Given everything seems to be in working order and we’re now moving into the next phase of development, we’ve now removed the beta sticker from the website. If you haven’t had use of the thousands of available images, then perhaps now is the time to browse our collection.

A Nation of Shopkeepers

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 | Humanism

Last week, we headed over to Nation of Shopkeepers for the Tuesday night Atheist Society social.

In general, I was very disappointed. Given we’re in summer socials, the nights always involve dinner but we couldn’t find any suitable seating that had enough space for us all and still allowed us to conveniently eat.

The food was quite nice, but nothing special and there was distinct lack of drink choices. This was a huge disappointment as usually when you go somewhere trendy that at least have a very well stocked bar to compensate for the high pricing.

It wouldn’t be a bad call on a warm summer night when you could sit outside but for now it didn’t seem worth the trip. If I wanted to hang out in a pretentious bar I would just go downstairs to Call Lane lol.

Fry up

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011 | Friends, Life

As usual, Viki was pretending to be ill at Wendy, which meant she was feeling fully refreshed on Sunday morning having gone home early. You would think that would mean she could go and get breakfast, but apparently not. Luckily Fonze stepped up to the plate and delivered the goods, with Norm adding his cheffing expertise to prepare it all.


Monday, July 25th, 2011 | Life, Photos

Having travelled round Europe last week I saw some amazing architecture, especially in Milan, Salzburg and Verona (where which both myself and Heather Nova now dream about).

However, thanks to the hard efforts of myself and Elina, Leeds now equally has its place among the great architectural works of the world, with our newly constructed Kopparberg tower.

Crazy nights at Wendy House

Sunday, July 24th, 2011 | Friends, Life

This month’s Wendy House turned out to be a bit of a handful. The night started off with Viki’s 21st birthday party, to which none of Viki’s mates turned up, but luckily the three of us are so popular that we made up the numbers with our own friends ;).

To celebrate we did trays of shots, and managed to mix around eight different spirits leading to be receiving the following text next day from Jonni…

Fuck your shots. I woke up in the doorway of my old flat.

As I explained, it’s not really a good night unless you wake up on someone else’s porch. Having carefully planned ahead to make sure I would have chicken wings ready for when I got home too, what more could you really want from a night out.

Thanks to Nicola for the photos.

Weathering solar storms

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 | Foundation, Humanism, Science

This month at Leeds Skeptics, Dr Jim Wild made the trip over to talk about weathering solar storms – how coronial mass ejection from The Sun has a significant impact on The Earth and given it has the power to knock out our electricity grid, is something we need to be taking seriously.

It was one of the best talks we have had a in recent times with great feedback coming from those who attended. Big thanks to Jim for making the trip over, you can find out more about him on his website.