Atheist Buses launched

Atheist Bus in the wildI am extremely pleased to hear that the Atheist Bus Campaign has been a massive success. It raised over £135,000, from an original target of £5,500. Excellent. 800 buses were launched today: 200 in London, with the remaining ones spread out over England, Scotland and Wales.

There are also 1000 Tube cards, with quotations from Douglas Adams, Albert Einstein, Emily Dickinson and Katharine Hepburn. Lovely.

There’s been a bit of infighting over the slogan, what with us atheists being contrary by nature. I still like it. There’s also been some deeply entertaining commentary on us arrogant humanists pushing our agenda and being – wait for it – just as bad as those we’re complaining about and (you knew this was coming) isn’t it ironic. To which I think the best reply was served up on BoingBoing:

lets convert this to muffins. because its nicer to talk about muffins than gods.

Say there was a prevailing belief that there was a supreme muffin that would punish you for not believing in it despite the fact that around the world there were other religions with supreme croissants supreme cupcakes, etc.

The muffinites put up billboards and television advertising, and little pamplets, and had people on the street telling you that there really was eternal punishment in a magical oven if you didn’t accept the muffin as the one true path to salvation.

Not only that but they try to legislate certain beliefs to try to ensure the safety of the souls of the people who don’t believe what they do (only out of concern mind you, when you get to heaven through their efforts, you’ll be with the muffin)

one day someone puts up a sign that says “there probably isn’t a muffin.”

Lets criticize this arrogant and obnoxious sign.

The buses are all a-twitter, and photos are coming in from around the country. Similar buses are also doing the rounds in Barcelona and Washington D.C., and there’ll be some in Italy next month. Australia’s outdoor advertising company sadly rejected them, which is pretty miserable. Hopefully they’ll relent.

I like it. I like it a lot. I must ride one.

Gravity Trains

Over at the appropriately named Damn Interesting I found out about Gravity Trains:

About four hundred years ago– sometime in the latter half of the 17th century– Isaac Newton received a letter from the brilliant British scientist and inventor Robert Hooke. In this letter, Hooke outlined the mathematics governing how objects might fall if dropped through hypothetical tunnels drilled through the Earth at varying angles. Though it seems that Hooke was mostly interested in the physics of the thought experiment, an improbable yet intriguing idea fell out of the data: a dizzyingly fast transportation system.

Hooke’s calculations showed that if the technology could be developed to bore such holes through the Earth, a vehicle with sufficiently reduced friction could use such a tunnel to travel to another point anywhere on the on Earth within three quarters of an hour, regardless of distance. Even more amazingly, the vehicle would require negligible fuel. The concept is known as the Gravity Train, and though it seems inconceivably difficult to construct, it has received some serious scientific attention and research in the intervening centuries.

They’re literally straight line tunnels from one point on the Earth to another. Jump in and gravity does the rest. Were it possible to design a system with no friction, you’d arrive at the exit as your speed reached zero – at which point, presumably, something would have to stop you falling back in. No matter how large the vehicle or how great the distance, the travel time would be about 42 minutes (approximate because the Earth isn’t a perfect sphere). The article has much more detail, as well as the extreme technological hurdles that would have to be overcome to build one. I’m surprised this concept hasn’t turned up in any sci-fi I’ve read, although maybe it has without me registering it as a plausible device.