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Great post!

I allways have this kind of problem. This very week a friend of mine was reading a magazine about extraterrestrial ghosts! No kidding! What can you say?

As for astrology, I usually say "aquarius, but if you consider the precession of the equinoxes, which the greeks knew about 3 thousand yeas ago, but somehow astrologers didn't figure out yet, then it's Aries"

Too harsh?

oh love this post too.

a good friend taught me my favourite answer to 'what starsign are you?' 'atheist.'

Nodding politely and waiting for a change of subject works well enough for me.

Though I guess the closest equivalent would be my friend who is very smart with the exception of being a 9/11 truther

Great post. I just had this happen the other day when at a gathering a friend who I have known for almost 20 years laughingly said, "I can't believe that people believe is all that mystical non-sense. I mean astrology is okay but..." The people at the gathering went silent, and the was awkwardness for about five minutes as we tried to change the subject. I instead went into why astrology did not work. we got through it and are still friends. ;^)

When someone asks me my sign, I tell them, "Caution, rough road ahead."

The last time I was asked "What's your sign?", I replied "I'm a Scorpio, and Scorpios don't believe in astrology"

I give my sign as "Condemned by the Board of Health".

When people start talking about signs, instead of telling them my own I usually tell them that they aren't the sign they think they are. When they realise that I know more about astrology than they do and think it's a load of bull (although I put it in slightly less offensive terms than that), they tend to shut up.

When I'm asked my sign I say National Speed Limit or Low Flying Motorcycles. Both are road signs in the UK.

My usual response to "What's your sign?" is, "What do YOU think it is?" After letting them make various guesses and finding out why they think they know what it is, I (oddly enough more often than 11 times out of 12) say they're wrong and ask, "So does it really matter?"

Q: "What sign were you born under?" (...or any variation thereof)

A: "Maternity ward."

I love when people ask me my sign. My response, "Grounghog." I was born on February 2nd so it about as appropriate as anything else. Strangely enough I've had people then ask me if that means I'm an earth sign. To which I decline to respond.

Regarding the astrological sign, my preferred answer is "Ophiucus". The sun does pass through this constellation, but few astrology-believers know about it. When they ask me what I mean, it gives me a chance to explain some real astronomy to them, such as when the borders of the constellations were defined.

I think now I should add something about Eris, too. For the discord, you see.

No one's asked me this in years, but if asked today, I would probably say "The newspaper horoscope columns claim I'm a Capricorn, but when I checked it out on Stellarium, I found that the Sun was actually in Sagittarius when I was born. So I'm a bit confused about what my sign is supposed to be." Could provide an opening for fact-based conversation, without any snarkiness.

Me: "I'm a Libra"
Response: "Oh, you are SO Libra.. you're [adjectives] and you're [more adjectives]"
Me: "Yes, I think it's amazing that everyone born in, say, early April is so much alike... it's awesome!"
Response: "April? You're not a Libra, you're an Aries! But then that fits, too... you're [adjectives] and [adjectives] and you're very [adjective]"
Me: "Whoa, joke's on me, huh? My birthday is in August. I can never keep those damn things straight. So which one am I again?"

Must be said with complete sincerity.

Happens to me a lot, too, and as a science prof, skeptical blogger, and hard science fiction writer, I fear I come across as an asshole too often. I used to stay silent unless asked directly. When I couldn't stand to do that any more, I tended to go with something like, "there's no compelling scientific evidence to support your irrational belief." Totally true, but rarely constructive, setting them off on the defensive. I'm working now on a Socratic approach, asking them questions about exactly why they believe (or don't believe) in something, seeking common ground in understanding before contradicting what may be cherished beliefs. This approach is slow, tedious, and unfortunately usually ends in an irrational statement without support that they don't think is irrational whatsoever. Frustrating. I hate to pull the science professor card, but sometimes on the people who don't think much there is is an immediate understanding that smart educated people don't believe certain things.

Well, more struggle. I think we're in the dawn age here. Dawkins and others are breaking ground, taking the heat for being critical of irrational beliefs. I like to think that in the near future criticism will be acceptable and we can deal with issues of fact and faith openly, rather than having the distracting argument about how that Dawkins man is so mean and unfair for not respecting the most irrational and destructive of beliefs. I mean, there's still racism, but it's had to go underground with people being less tolerant of it, which has helped reduce it. Same thing with sexism. I like to think we're finally taking the baby steps toward doing the same with irrationalism.

I like Ariock Knight's approach -
'My usual response to "What's your sign?" is, "What do YOU think it is?"'

I have a good friend like Michelle. We are so different in so many ways. People sometimes ask why we are friends. They don't understand that friendship is about something else.

The poker face? Mine is OK. If this were a complete stranger, I would be able to maintain my poker face. If this were a friend, I would have a lot of trouble. I don't know if I would laugh or have a look of shock. When you get to know someone, I guess a part of you believes that they could not be that gullible.

“DUDE! Something like SEVENTY BILLION PEOPLE died since the dawn of humanity. An OLD LADY DIED EVERYWHERE!” I holler.

really? wouldn't that be a lot closer to 7 than 70?

Spare that new-fangled astrology(Ha! not even 3000 years old!)! If I want to know the future, just give me a good old fashioned sheep's liver!

As was once stated by one more insightful than me," A friend is someone who knows all about you, but likes you anyway,,,".

When beset by foolishness, I usually respond, "I'm an agnostic/mystic, rational/materialist. To me, ALL human religion is a scam and by its very nature(dogmatic/authoritarian) is in error. If you really want to know truth about reality, you must risk everything, put your life, sacred honor and bank account on the line. Then, if you survive, you may begin to understand. Or, you can accept what some money grubbing dufus has to sell. Your choice,,,".

This usually has them shaking their heads, wandering off to bother someone else.

GAry 7

Truly apropos: In case you've missed it, see "Storm" by Tim Minchin

I have ~got~ to find the spooky-pants section at my local library.

Lots of people have the true believerism, some cases are just easier to spot than others...

A musician friend of mine was convinced that purchasing a used musical instrument from a skilled musician is worth a premium. Especially if they played it for a looong time. Not because the professional has good judgment regarding the choice of a well-made instrument. Oh no. Because their playing of it changed its fundamental nature over time and made it better in tune! The guy is a professional trombonist and a well-educated one at that, but could not be convinced that his musical heroes are incapable of blowing enough hot air re-arrange brass at the molecular level.

My brother, for all of his ability to reason logically, perpetually latches on to each new idea as The Best Thing Ever. The best alternative to coffee, the best concept in urban planning, the amazing benefits to musculature and balance that derive from unicycle riding. I can't deny that some of his ideas are fetching, but sometimes his devotion to them is perilously close to the zealotry of the astrologer.

It seems to me that most of us end up picking some manner of inflexible thinking and belief. Religion and hippydippy stuff are easy targets, but I think that skeptics are prone to advocacy of Intellectual Truth in a way that is even more unhealthy. It's still a quest for an unknowable authority, but the average person has to get past their fear of "am I smart enough?" before they can question it. We make new gods faster than we can slay them.

My Michelle is called Niki, and I love her to pieces.

@Ben-happy birthday!

> @Ben-happy birthday!

Eh? No, that was "Clinton"; attribution is under the post.

The separator lines are very misleading.

Best thing I've read in weeks. Thank you.

"Once again, I turned to Jilli for an appropriate response to, 'I just spent a grand on an astral projection class and had my first out-of-body experience'!"

I guess mine would be "Silly you! I´m just developing a something that's way better, not to mention cheaper! It´s called the Super-Hero-Experience! We start by choosing a super power, not that just flying thru walls bs, but ANYTHING, from x-ray vision, superstrengh, telecinesis, teleportation or whatever you'd like. I'll even let you borrow my copy of X-men 2 to help you choose. Then we´ll talk about it all day long, you'll think about it all day long and when you're ready to sleep, guess what... you'll DREA.. well huh, your soul is actually gonna do it! And it´s like scientology, if you keep payi.. i mean, studying, you'll can add up superpowers and become, like, a YODA!"

Nice text by the way. It´s an interesting topic, and I´ve seen myself on many situations like that. I'd just like to add that there´s one more factor that can make a huge difference. It´s the voice tone, and specially a smile. I find that whatever we say with a nice and peacefull intention works better than an "oh, right.." with eyes rolling on the side. See, Dawkins never smiles.

-Thadeu Luz

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    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
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      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.