September 9, 2010

Why God Did Not Create the Universe

According to Viking mythology, eclipses occur when two wolves, Skoll and Hati, catch the sun or moon. At the onset of an eclipse people would make lots of noise, hoping to scare the wolves away. After some time, people must have noticed that the eclipses ended regardless of whether they ran around banging on pots.

Ignorance of nature's ways led people in ancient times to postulate many myths in an effort to make sense of their world. But eventually, people turned to philosophy, that is, to the use of reason—with a good dose of intuition—to decipher their universe. Today we use reason, mathematics and experimental test—in other words, modern science.

Albert Einstein said, "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible." He meant that, unlike our homes on a bad day, the universe is not just a conglomeration of objects each going its own way. Everything in the universe follows laws, without exception.

Newton believed that our strangely habitable solar system did not "arise out of chaos by the mere laws of nature." Instead, he maintained that the order in the universe was "created by God at first and conserved by him to this Day in the same state and condition." The discovery recently of the extreme fine-tuning of so many laws of nature could lead some back to the idea that this grand design is the work of some grand Designer. Yet the latest advances in cosmology explain why the laws of the universe seem tailor-made for humans, without the need for a benevolent creator.

Stephen Hawking for WSJ

September 8, 2010

Cybercrime is Rampant Around the World, Says Study

A new study by security vendor Symantec reports that Internet crime has grown into a widespread problem globally. It also provides intriguing insights into consumers' lax attitudes toward online piracy, plagiarism, and other illegally or unethical activities.
Some 7,000 adults in 14 nations participated in the Norton Cybercrime Report: The Human Impact, which was released Wednesday.

The study says that cybercrime is quite commonplace; more than 65 percent of participants say they've been a victim of online crime, including virus or malware attacks, online scams, phishing, social network profile hacking, credit card fraud, and sexual predation.

PC World

September 7, 2010

Adult Smoking Hits Plateau

One in five U.S. adults continues to smoke cigarettes -- a percentage that hasn't budged since 2005 -- suggesting that more aggressive efforts are needed to reduce smoking-related diseases and deaths, the CDC said.

Data from the 2009 National Health Interview Survey and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) indicated that 20.6% of Americans 18 and older reported being current smokers, according to an early-release report in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In 2005, smoking prevalence stood at 20.9% -- not significantly different from the 2009 figure or the rate for any year in between, according to the MMWR.

"There has been no progress in reducing that number in five years," said Thomas Frieden, MD, director of CDC, in a conference call with reporters.

MedPage Today