various and sundry things

wow, i've been slacking lately. but it's been slow at work as well, so i've had a bit of time to peruse the BBC website for news... here are a few things i thought were interesting.

1) obama has already managed to piss off al-qaeda, so he can't be all bad. it was definitely in poor taste for al-zawahiri to refer to obama as a "house-slave" though. regardless of what may have brought the insult on, basing it on his skin color--which he has no control over--is pretty lame.

2) gays in california are still pissed about proposition 8; apparently "majority rule should not set the law." which, who really wants that messy democracy stuff anyways? they may actually have a pretty good case; if the courts deem this a revision to the state constitution instead of an amendment, it would have required a 2/3 vote in the legislature before being passed on to the voters. which brings us back to the majority thing; the gay rights folks got a majority of judges to agree to hear an argument that the proponents should have got a supermajority to vote in favor of prop 8 before the regular majority got to vote in favor of it. so apparently majorities are okay, as long as they agree with the gay rights people. personally, i'm going to side with sir elton john on this one. i don't remember the exact wording, but it was something along the lines of "marriages are for straight people, civil unions are for gay people... if you're getting the same basic rights, why should you care what it's called?" one is a relationship between two people of opposite sexes, and one is a relationship between two people of the same sex; they are, in fact, two different things.

3) philosophical questions for the day: number 1 is the only one i actually came up with an answer for, so i'm going to go ahead and post the whole thing and then give my answer and reasoning.


Suppose Bill is a healthy man without family or loved ones. Would it be ok painlessly to kill him if his organs would save five people, one of whom needs a heart, another a kidney, and so on? If not, why not?

Consider another case: you and six others are kidnapped, and the kidnapper somehow persuades you that if you shoot dead one of the other hostages, he will set the remaining five free, whereas if you do not, he will shoot all six. (Either way, he'll release you.)

If in this case you should kill one to save five, why not in the previous, organs case? If in this case too you have qualms, consider yet another: you're in the cab of a runaway tram and see five people tied to the track ahead. You have the option of sending the tram on to the track forking off to the left, on which only one person is tied. Surely you should send the tram left, killing one to save five.

But then why not kill Bill?

no, we don't kill bill. in both situations given, at least one person is going to die regardless of what happens. in the original question, if we don't "harvest" bill, he continues living his happy, healthy life. besides which, we really don't know if his organs will actually save the people they're intended for. they could be rejected by the host, or the doctor could screw up the operation, and there are probably several other things that could go wrong as well. also, back to the first example they give... if the hostage taker gives me a gun to shoot one of the other hostages dead, the first thing i'm going to do is shoot the guy that took us hostage, and we're all free. the end.


random question

believe it or not, i made it through my entire school "career"--high school, community college, and real college--without taking a single chemistry class. so i've got a chemistry-type question that randomly popped into my head the other day.

what happens if you drop an oxygen absorber into a glass of water? assuming there's actually enough to absorb all of the oxygen in the water, are you left with liquid hydrogen or hydrogen gas, or does something else entirely happen?


bummer dude

congratulations, mr. obama. i really hope that i was horribly wrong about you.