CERN Scientists Announce Empirical Proof Of Higgs-Boson Particle
Jul 2012 05

CERN Scientists Announce Empirical Proof Of Higgs-Boson Particle  

Posted In Blog,Geek,Science

by Damon Martin

On Wednesday, scientists in Geneva, Switzerland revealed they’d found the elusive Higgs boson particle.Two different groups of physicists at CERN, who independently carry out research at the world’s largest hadron collider announced their findings during a press conference on Wednesday, which appears to confirm the existence of the particle which was first theorized nearly 50 years ago.

CERN physicist John Ellis put forth a simple analogy to explain why the Higgs boson is so important. He explained it’s like looking at the universe as if it were a giant snow field. In the universe, particles zip around at the speed of light with nothing to slow them down, kind of like a skier would do on a field of snow. But as physicists have theorized for the last 48 years, moments after the Big Bang occurred a ‘Higgs field’ was created as well that served as a way to slow down these separate particles giving them mass that allowed them to combine into atoms and eventually the building blocks of our world. Going back to the snowfield analogy, if skiers can skip along the top of the snow without slowing down there are also people that would have snowshoes on that would move through the snow but at a much slower speed. Then there are people that just have boots on that move even slower in the snow. The snow in this case is the Higgs field slowing down different particles so they can gain mass and combine into matter. Now if you drill down a snowfield into each individual snowflake, that’s what the Higgs-boson particles would be. An individual particle that forms as a whole to give mass to objects.

Evidence of the Higgs boson particle was found by physicists working on two separate teams, ATLAS and CMS, who worked completely independently of each other to study the results found from experiments conducted in the hadron collider. Thought their studies were done autonomously, their results were shockingly similar. Both teams announced discoveries that were drilled down to comparable levels of accuracy.

In the scientific world the rate at which they are certain of their discovery is on something called a sigma scale. On the low end of the sigma scale, a one or a two is seen as inconclusive data, a three counts as an official ‘observation’, and a five sigma is the signal of an official discovery. A five sigma amounts to less than one in million chance that scientists are wrong. The ATLAS team at CERN announced their findings at a 5 sigma, while the CMS team came back with a 4.9 sigma, slightly less but still overwhelming evidence in support of the Higgs-boson discovery.

In the room on Wednesday was 83-year old physicist Peter Higgs, who first theorized the Higgs-boson particle back in 1964. He celebrated the new along with his fellow scientists. “I am astounded at the amazing speed with which these results have emerged. They are a testament to the expertise of the researchers and the elaborate technologies in place,” said Higgs. “I never expected this to happen in my lifetime and shall be asking my family to put some champagne in the fridge.”

The discovery of the Higgs-boson particle by the teams working at CERN will likely seal the deal that Higgs himself will receive a long-awaited Nobel prize.

Now that scientists have confirmed the existence of the long theorized particle, the work can really begin on determining how our universe was formed. “Now the emphasis will shift to verifying the properties of the particle that has been discovered: does it have spin zero? Does it couple to other particles proportional to their masses?,” said John Ellis, who works at CERN. “The discovery will open up a new era in particle physics, as we look for deviations from the properties expected in the Standard Model, and for other physics beyond the Standard Model that might be connected, such as the nature of dark matter.”

The Standard Model is what physicists have used for decades to theorize and explain how our universe was created. What was once theory now moves into the realm of fact. Work will continue at CERN’s collider until it is shut down later this year, so that improvements on the facility can be completed, allowing atoms to be smashed with more energy at greater rate.

SuicideGirls Group Therapy – Bob On Space And Time
Jun 2012 15

SuicideGirls Group Therapy – Bob On Space And Time  

Posted In All Things SG,Blog,Geek,Internuts,Science

by Nahp Suicide

A column which highlights Suicide Girls and their fave groups.

This week Bob Suicide tells us why it’s good to get lost in Space and Time.

Members: 1160 / Comments: 3,226

WHY DO YOU LOVE IT?: It’s a group for talking about science, physics, relativity, astronomy, NASA, space, and the like.

 It’s the perfect combination of high-level theoretical physics, astronomical events, and Star Trek quotes. For example…


DISCUSSION TIP: Just jump right in. Even if your “relatively” new to astrophysics, there’s no such thing as a dumb question and a post could be the catalyst for a great discussion. After all, in another universe, you’ve already posted! 



BEST RANDOM QUOTE: Actually, there’s a whole thread for that.





MOST HEATED DISCUSSION THREAD: I’m not sure if anything gets particularly heated, but there’s lots of great spirited discussion surrounding the privatization of space exploration.



WHO’S WELCOME TO JOIN?: Everyone.

[Keep Reading...]

An Excerpt From The Final Rapturous Installment Of Cory Doctorow And Charles Stross’ Rapture of The Nerds
Jun 2012 13

An Excerpt From The Final Rapturous Installment Of Cory Doctorow And Charles Stross’ Rapture of The Nerds  

Posted In Art,Blog,Books,Entertainment,Fiction,Geek,Internuts,Science

by Blogbot

For the best part of a decade Rapture of The Nerds was essentially a two part trilogy, which, like a threesome without a third person, though fun, lacked its defining and completing part. A veritable Crosby and Stills, awaiting a Nash (and with no hope of being joined by a bonus Young), Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross’ jointly-penned post-singularity novellas Jury Service (2002) and Appeals Court (2004) languished, with fans resigning themselves to the fact that they may remain, for all eternity, a duo. But now, thanks in part to a rather random April Fools joke, a third installment of the adventures of an uploaded and rather curmudgeonly consciousness called Huw is about to be unleashed. For many a geek, the completion of the triptych is as miraculous as the father and son being joined by the holy ghost. But since sci-fi fans don’t put much weight in blind faith when it comes to trinities, the good Dr. Doctorow offered up this excerpt to SG by way of empirical proof of the September 4th third coming of Huw. – NP, SG Ed.

THE RAPTURE OF THE NERDS

by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross

Welcome to the fractured future, at the dusk of the twenty-first century.

Earth has a population of roughly a billion hominids. For the most part, they are happy with their lot, living in a preserve at the bottom of a gravity well. Those who are unhappy have emigrated, joining one or another of the swarming densethinker clades that fog the inner solar system with a dust of molecular machinery so thick that it obscures the sun.

The splintery metaconsciousness of the solar-system has largely sworn off its pre-post-human cousins dirtside, but its minds sometimes wander…and when that happens, it casually spams Earth’s networks with plans for cataclysmically disruptive technologies that emulsify whole industries, cultures, and spiritual systems. A sane species would ignore these get-evolved-quick schemes, but there’s always someone who’ll take a bite from the forbidden apple.

So until the overminds bore of stirring Earth’s anthill, there’s Tech Jury Service: random humans, selected arbitrarily, charged with assessing dozens of new inventions and ruling on whether to let them loose. Young Huw, a technophobic, misanthropic Welshman, has been selected for the latest jury, a task he does his best to perform despite an itchy technovirus, the apathy of the proletariat, and a couple of truly awful moments on bathroom floors…

***

“I hope you enjoy the facilities here,” says the gorilla with a wink. “Nothing but the best for our expert witnesses—we have hot and cold running everything.”

It’s a far cry from jury duty accommodation in a crappy backpacker’s hostel in dusty Tripoli. Huw dials her time right up (sinfully extravagant: it’s the same kind of costly acceleration that got her into trouble when 639,219 called her on it) and orders the whirlpool-equipped hot tub with champagne to appear in the bathroom. Then she climbs in to marinate for subjective hours (a handful of seconds in everyone else’s reference frame) and to unkink for the first time in ages. After all, it’s not as if she’s consuming real resources here. And she needs to relax, recenter her emotions the natural way, and do some serious plotting.

Of course, the sim is far too realistic. A virtual champagne bath should somehow manage to keep the champagne drinking-temp cold while still feeling warm to the touch. And it shouldn’t be sticky and hot and flat; it should feel like champagne does when it hits your tongue—icy and bubbly and fizzy. And when Huw’s nonbladder feels uncomfortably full and relaxed in the hot liquid and she lets a surreptitious stream loose, it should be magicked away, not instantly blended in with the vintage Veuve to make an instant tubworth of piss-mimosa.

This is what comes of having too much compute-time at one’s disposal, Huw seethes. In constraint, there is discipline, the need to choose how much reality you’re going to import and model. Sitting on an Io’s worth of computronium has freed the Galactic Authority—and isn’t that an unimaginative corker of a name? — from having to choose. And with her own self simulated as hot and wide as she can be bothered with, she can feel every unpleasant sensation, each individual sticky bubble, each droplet clinging to her body as she hops out of the tub and into the six-jet steam-shower for a top-to-bottom rinse, and then grabs a towel —every fiber slightly stiff and plasticky, as if fresh out of the wrapper and never properly laundered to relax the fibers—and dries off. She discovers that she is hyperaware, hyperalert, feeling every grain of not-dust in the not-air individually as it collides with her not-skin.

Oh, oh, oh, enough, she wants to shout. What is the point of all this rubbish?

This is the thing that Huw has never wanted to admit: Her primary beef against the singularity has never been existential — it’s aesthetic. The power to be a being of pure thought, the unlimited, unconstrained world of imagination, and we build a world of animated gifs, stupid sight gags, lame van-art avatars, brain-dead “playful” environments, and brain-dead flame wars augmented by animated emoticons that allowed participants to express their hackneyed ad hominems, concern-trollery, and Godwin’s law violations through the media of cartoon animals and oversized animated genitals.

Whether or not sim-Huw is really Huw, whether or not uploading is a kind of death, whether or not posthumanity is immortal or just kidding itself, the single, inviolable fact remains: Human simspace is no more tasteful than the architectural train wreck that the Galactic Authority has erected. The people who live in it have all the aesthetic sense of a senile jackdaw. Huw is prepared to accept — for the sake of argument, mind — that uploading leaves your soul intact, but she is never going give one nanometer on the question of whether uploading leaves your taste intact. If the Turing test measured an AI’s capacity to conduct itself with a sense of real style, all of simspace would be revealed for a machine-sham. Give humanity a truly unlimited field, and it would fill it with Happy Meal toys and holographic, sport-star, collectible trading card game art.

There’s a whole gang of dirtside refuseniks who make this their primary objection to transcendence. They’re severe Bauhaus cosplayers, so immaculately and plainly turned out that they look more like illustrations than humans. Huw’s never felt any affinity for them — too cringeworthy, too like a Southern belle who comes down with the vapors at the sight of a fish knife laid where the dessert fork is meant to go. It always felt unserious to object to a major debate over human evolution with an argument about style.

But Huw appreciates their point, and has spent his and then her entire life complaining instead about the ineffable and undefinable humanness that is lost when someone departs for the cloud. She’s turned her back on her parents, refused to take their calls from beyond the grave, she’s shut herself up in her pottery with only the barest vestige of a social life, remade herself as someone who is both a defender of humanity and a misanthrope. All the while, she’s insisted — mostly to herself, because, as she now sees with glittering clarity, no one else gave a shit — that the source of her concerns all along has been metaphysical.

The reality that stares her in the face now, as she reclines on the impeccably rendered 20-million-count non-Egyptian noncotton nonsheets, is that it’s always been a perfectly normal, absolutely subjective, totally meaningless dispute over color schemes.

Now she’s got existential angst.

<#>

The Burj Khalifa’s in-room TV gets an infinity of channels, evidently cross-wired from the cable feed for Hilbert’s hotel. It uses some evolutionary computing system to generate new programs on the fly, every time you press the channel-up button. This isn’t nearly as banal as Huw imagined it might be when she read about it on the triangular-folded cardboard standup that materialized in her hand as she reached for the remote. That’s because — as the card explained — the Burj has enough computation to model captive versions of Huw at extremely high speed, and to tailor the programming by sharpening its teeth against these instances-in-a-bottle so that every press of the button brings up eye-catching, attention-snaring material: soft-core pornography that involves pottery, mostly.

Huw would like nothing better than to relax with the goggle-box and let her mind be lovingly swaddled in intellectual flannel, but her mind isn’t having any of it. The more broadly parallel she runs, the more meta-cognition she finds herself indulging in, so that even as she lies abed, propped up by a hill of pillows the size of a Celtic burial mound, her thoughts are doing something like this:

• Oh, that’s interesting, never thought of doing that sort of thing with glaze.• Too interesting, if you ask me, it’s not natural, that kind of interesting, they’ve got to be simulating gigaHuws to come up with that sort of realtime optimization.• There’ll be hordes of Huw-instances being subjected to much-less-interesting versions of this program and winking out of existence as soon as they get bored.• Hell, I could be one of those instances, my life dangling on a frayed thread of attention.• Every time I press the channel-up button, I execute thousands — millions? billions? — of copies of myself.• Why don’t I care more about them? It’s insane and profligate cruelty but here’s me blithely pressing channel-up.• Whoa, that’s interesting — she looks awfully like Bonnie, but with a bum that’s a little bit more like that girl I fancied in college.• I could die at any instant, just by losing attention and pressing channel up.• That’s wild, never noticed how those muscles — quadrati lumborum? — spring out when someone’s at the wheel, that bloke’s got QLs for days.• If I were really ethically opposed to this sort of thing, I’d be vomming in my mouth with rage at the thought of all those virtual people springing into existence and being snuffed out.• But I’m not, am I? Hypocrite, liar, poseur, mincing aesthete, that’s me, yeah? • So long as it’s interesting and stylish, I’ll forgive anything.• I’ve got as much existential introspection as a Mario sprite.

Enough, already, she tells herself, and cools herself down to a single thread, then slows that down, hunting for the sweet spot at the junction of stupidity and calm. Then finding it, she settles down and watches TV for a hundred subjective years, slaughtering invisible hordes of herself without a moment’s thought.

Satori.

***

The Rapture of The Nerds excerpt reprinted with the kind permission of Tor Books.

Related Posts:
Cory Doctorow: On Little And Big Brother

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Open House
Jun 2012 11

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Open House  

Posted In Blog,Geek,Science

by Nicole Powers

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory had its annual Open House event this past weekend. It was gratifying to see how packed it was – that so many people were inspired by science to head out to the West Coast, La Cañada Flintridge campus several miles north of Hollywood on a weekend. However, as I navigated the crowds and looked at the gadgets on display, it struck me how sad it was that now the Shuttle program is reduced to a terrestrial tourist attraction, our government has all but abandoned the space race.

There were a lot of satellites, robots and assorted landers on display, but without people it has all the excitement of sending a Kenwood Chef into space.

Like the Kenwood Chef, I’m sure these machines can multi-task and do lots of really cool things, but sending them into space isn’t going to inspire humanity like the Apollo and Shuttle missions did.

Is it just me, or does this blinged out, gold foil covered satellite look like it has eyes, a nose, and a silly hat? At least we’re sending something with a face into space!

Q: Why did the rover cross the road?
A: Because NASA doesn’t have the funds to send it into space.

If science rocks your world, you might like to join SG’s Mad Scientists group. And if reaching for the stars is more you thing, check out our Space and Time group.

We Stopped Dreaming
Mar 2012 14

We Stopped Dreaming  

Posted In Blog,Geek,Science

by Damon Martin

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads”
~ Dr. Emmett Brown, Back to the Future

Remember the bit in Back to the Future when Doc Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd) utters that very line and flies away in his souped up DeLorean to take Michael J. Fox and his girlfriend 30 years into the future? He takes them to the year 2015, which is only 3 years from now. In Brown’s version of the future, all the cars had been converted to flying automobiles and we had air gliding skateboards, video walls, and instant pizza.

Were some of those ideas a little crazy? Sure they were. But thinking back 30 years ago, those sorts of things almost seemed possible. I mean look at 1985 compared to 1955 with regards to the advancements in science, technology and innovation.

Now in the year 2012, the United States of America is falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), while our creativity and innovation fails to come up with much of anything new outside of Apple releasing a new iPhone or iPad every year.

Famed astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson believes that a big reason that America is falling behind innovation-wise is due to the lack of funding the government has given over to NASA in the last several years. As our space program has dwindled so has our ability to think outside the box, and reach for the stars both literally and figuratively.

Tyson recently spoke in front of Congress where he made his case for why NASA’s funding is so important:

“During the late 1950′s through the early 1970′s, every few weeks an article, cover story, or headline would extol the ‘city of tomorrow,’ the ‘home of tomorrow,’ the ‘transportation of tomorrow.’ Despite such optimism, that period was one of the gloomiest in US history, with a level of unrest not seen since the Civil War. The Cold War threatened total annihilation, a hot war killed a hundred servicemen each week, the civil rights movement played out daily confrontations, and multiple assassinations and urban riots poisoned the landscape,” said Tyson. “The only people doing much dreaming back then were scientists, engineers and technologists. Their visions of tomorrow derive from their formal training as discoverers. And what inspired them was America’s bold and visible investment on the space frontier.”

Now Tyson points out very specifically that in realistic terms the reason why the US was so dedicated to the space race in the 60s had to do with the Russians’ own dedication to space exploration. The USSR launched the first manned missions into space and the only way the US could beat them was to land a man on the moon. Obviously that was a successful conquest, and, in the period directly following it, most people believed that within a couple of decades we’d surely have landed a man on Mars. Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, yet more than 40 years later our space exploration has essentially landed back on Earth with a dull thud.

‘We stopped dreaming’ said Tyson during an appearance on the popular HBO series Real Time with Bill Maher. “And so I worry, that decisions Congress makes, doesn’t factor in the consequences of those decisions on tomorrow. Tomorrow’s gone. They’re playing for the quarterly report, they’re playing for the next election cycle, and that is mortgaging the actual future of this nation.”

In that same interview, Tyson also points out that the financial bailout ($850 billion) that was completed to save the banks and Wall Street from complete collapse, is more than the entire 50 year tally of the budget for NASA.

The fact is Tyson is right and it’s not even all about landing a man on the moon or exploring the deepest reaches of space, as amazing as all that would be. So much technology was developed as a result of our race to the moon, and that also created work for millions of Americans. Technology launched or invented because of our out of this world endeavors includes Lasik surgery, scratch resistant lenses, cordless power tools, micro-sized electronics, and the list goes on…

But we stopped dreaming.

Even in the early 1980s when I was in elementary school, kids talked all the time about becoming astronauts and wanting to walk on Mars or being the first person to fly to Pluto. I vividly remember our teachers always showing the shuttle launches and how exciting that was to see for a kid growing up. Now our children’s dreams might take them as far as Washington, D.C. or New York City, but rarely do you hear anybody talking about flying to Mars, much less colonizing the moon.

As NASA’s budget continues to fall by the wayside while other programs flourish, and our war machine eats up billions upon billions of dollars, what dreams are we instilling in the next generation? We are obviously a long, long way from landing on Mars or even sending manned missions back into space. We can barely get funding for the technology that will help us peer far enough into space from earth so that we may one day learn the true origins of our universe.

Flying cars? Maybe Doc Brown should have shot for 200 years in the future given the trajectory we’re currently on.

Bob Suicide’s Uber Geeky Book Gift Guide
Dec 2011 21

Bob Suicide’s Uber Geeky Book Gift Guide  

Posted In Blog,Books,Entertainment,Geek,Internuts,Science

by Bob Suicide

Bob Suicide’s Top 10 Geeky Books For The Naughty N’ Nice Nerd In Your Life

1. Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side by Daniel Wallace ($62.98)

It may not arrive in time for Xmas, but be sure to stick a preorder for the Book of Sith (out February 10, 2012) under the tree because embracing the dark side with this multi-faceted tome will be well worth the wait!

2. Transformers Vault: The Complete Transformers Universe – Showcasing Rare Collectibles and Memorabilia by Pablo Hidalgo ($20.57)

Speaking of robots…how about ones in disguise? The Transformers Vault is filled with all kinds of nostalgic goodies for any die-hard fan who weeps at the mere mention of Bayformers, ahem, I mean that franchise that shall not be named.

3. ‪Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson ($17.49)

There’s no denying that Steve Jobs defined a generation of gadget-lovers — and often catered directly to us. This collection of vignettes culled from a series of 40 interviews puts his life and creative genius into perspective, and may inspire some wonderful New Year’s resolutions or dev. projects for 2012.

4.‪ Let the Right One In‬ ‬by John Ajvide Lindqvist ($10.85)

Sure, the original movie was amazing, and an American version was made (for better or worse), but the original novel is a wonderful gift to re-educate all those who think vampires sparkle.

5. ‪Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith ($11.19)

And, speaking of vampires and movies…Get it before the movie comes out so you can be up on all of the fanboy banter. I could never get into the Jane Austen novels. I’m just not a girlie girl. So, when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies came out I couldn’t jump on the bandwagon. But, a hatchet-wielding vampire hunter who gives one hell of an address is right up my alley.

6. ‪Packing for Mars‬: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach ($10.85)

I’m a big fan of this author’s witty take on in-depth research of interesting scientific topics. In fact, her book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is one of my all time Top Ten favorite reads! Cute, funny, and pun-ny, this book looks at the next frontier for space travel and gives you the 411 on how to prepare.

7. Why does E=mc2?: (And Why Should We Care?) by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw ($9.63)

This book is short and very easy to read. It’s a great stocking stuffer or quick holiday read for those who want a brief primer on physics — or to impress their friends at holiday parties (we all know what you’re doing!).

8. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks ($7.99)

From all accounts, the movie sounds like it’s going to destroy all of Max Brook’s amazing work. So be sure to get this book for every geek you know so we can all enjoy the story as it was meant to be.

9. The Walking Dead: Compendium One by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn and Tony Moore ($31.24)

Speaking of zombies and original stories thereof, be sure to give that zed-head you love the original Walking Dead story!

10. SuicideGirls Comic Book Series Vol. 1 thru 4 – Written by Steve Niles and Illustrated by Cameron Stewart ($7.50 for the set!)

I could be a little biased, but I think this makes a great gift. Buy it now, or accept the consequences…


[Above: Bob Suicide in Gears of War]

Further reading: Bob Suicide’s Uber Geeky Gadget Gift Guide
[Keep Reading...]

I Am An Atheist
Nov 2011 28

I Am An Atheist  

Posted In Activism,Blog,Geek,Politics,Science

by Damon Martin

In today’s America, I could easily say I was a Catholic, a Baptist, a Mormon, or a Muslim and likely get less criticism and hatred spewed at me than simply saying I don’t believe in any god or book that talks about a god. It’s for that reason that today I ‘come out of the closet’ and proudly say that I’m an atheist. I won’t apologize for that and hopefully more atheists will do the same.

At the University of Kansas recently, a group of students launched a campaign called ‘We Are Atheists‘ modeled after the famous ‘It Gets Better’ campaign focused around gays and lesbians.

The ‘We Are Atheists’ ideal is simply a way for more non-believers to come out and not be afraid to speak about their lack of belief in a god, or their belief in science or evolution, or whatever it is that brought them to decree that they are an atheist.

Co-founder Amanda Brown put together a five-minute video that’s being circulated around YouTube speaking about why she is an atheist and encouraging others to speak out as well.

It’s a similar ideal to that of famed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins who started the ‘Out Campaign’ a few years ago. Dawkins created the movement with the exact same thought in mind:

“The Out Campaign allows individuals to let others know they are not alone. It can also be a nice way of opening a conversation and help to demolish the negative stereotypes of atheists. Let the world know that we are not about to go away and that we are not going to allow those that would condemn us to push us into the shadows”

Atheism is almost like a dirty word in American culture. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in May 2011 asked voters what potential traits would sway them negatively away from a political candidate. 7% said that a political candidate being a woman could sway them away, 33 % said a candidate being gay could push their vote the other way, while 46% said that a candidate who had an extra marital affair wouldn’t get their vote. As for atheists, well a whopping 61% said that that was a negative trait that would keep them from receiving a vote.

The fact is, not believing in god scares the general public because believing in god, any god, is something that’s so widely accepted, that society by default dictates that you have to believe in something to be accepted. It’s not enough that the Bible, Koran, or any other religious texts all disagree on where the world came from or how to get to heaven, that ultimately religious folks all believe in some magical spaceman in the sky – believing in anything rather than nothing is preferential when it comes to creating camaraderie.

The fact is I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in a higher deity, I don’t believe in the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon or any other religious text. I went to church as a kid and I thought I believed in god the same as everyone else around me. I had an aunt and uncle that took me to church with them and I felt accepted, and I felt like this was what I was supposed to do.

As time went on however, I realized that I never felt a ‘divine presence’ and when I read the Bible cover to cover, it literally scared the hell out of me. How could a god that was supposed to be so loving and forgiving be so selfish as to ask you to literally love him above everything else? How could this same god kill, murder, and have horrible acts done in his name on page after page after page?

I always joke with people that the easiest way to make an atheist is to have them read the Bible, but the reality is that it was a shock of reality for me as much as reading any book about science or even Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. There is however just as much wonder and amazing things in science as there will ever be in a book like the Bible, conversely there’s a lot less rape, murder, and genocide in a science text than a book talking about god.

I do have morals and none of them are based on the Ten Commandments or other religious beliefs that have been passed along. I know I shouldn’t kill a person because it’s simply wrong, not because god told me it was wrong.

With the holiday season just around the corner, I’m sure to have friends ask me about how I’ll celebrate Christmas, and I usually respond with the same thing every year: “It’s a day off from work.” But pushed deeper, I’ll happily explain that I don’t celebrate Christmas the same way that I don’t celebrate Easter or any other religious holiday.

Sure, Christmas is more about gift giving and seeing family now than anything to do with the supposed birth of Christ, but it’s something I’d rather not acknowledge and that’s my choice. The same way I don’t expect all of my friends to read the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, or follow the speeches given by Christopher Hitchens.

The fact is I’m an atheist and that doesn’t make me any better or worse of a person than anybody reading this article. But I refuse to be afraid to talk about why I don’t believe a god exists the same way so many Christians happily thank god when something good goes right in their life.

If that makes me a lightning rod for criticism, so be it. I know I’m not alone and I’m happy to stand up and make the statement.

I am an atheist.