Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Let's talk about "Merry Christmas."

I'm not going to rant about the war on Christmas because it doesn't touch me. If shopkeepers want to go with the generic "Happy Holidays" to avoid charges of political incorrectness, or to avoid offending the habitually offended, that doesn't change my response to them, which is and always will be "Merry Christmas." Not because I'm trying to prove a point, but because that is the holiday that I am celebrating, and my wish is that they too will celebrate with me.

That's a very key point that I wish more of my brothers would remember and practice.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, God Among Us, who became flesh for us so that we could be reconciled with God. That's Christmas in a nutshell, and there's nothing that anybody can say or do that will change that, so why should I worry about it? Besides, the world has a long history of rejecting Christ; why should things be any different today? Just about everybody knows the words to John 3:16, even non Christians.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

But how many are familiar with John 3:19?

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.

We are to walk in the world but we are not of the world. Saying "Merry Christmas," but meaning "I'm going to say this just because it's my right to say it, and you can't stop me, and I like to see that annoyed look on your face," is of the world. It's a lie because we aren't wishing them a Merry Christmas at all, and they are right to be offended. You should apologize for giving offense.

But if you can say Merry Christmas from the heart, truly wishing that the person you are addressing will enjoy the blessings of Christ, then if they are offended, all you need say is "I am sorry that you are offended," and move on. Their unbelief has no power to affect your belief.

So to all of my brothers and sisters, I wish you all the blessings of Christmas.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

We’ve Seen This Before

If I recall correctly, in the 80s and 90s, the Japanese economy went into a recession. Their bank cut interest rates down to near zero to stimulate the economy, and it worked for a short time, a couple of years or so. The banks began raising interest rates, but never got back to a normal level because a sudden collapse in the real estate market leveled the economy. The banks lowered interest rates to zero, but there wasn't enough leverage to spur the economy,and they went through a very serious recession.

Does any of this sound familiar?

By the way, the fed cut interest rates to zero yesterday. How many foreign governments are going to want to invest their dollars in T bills that pay zero?

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Light Bloggage

Well, it is Christmas, you know!

And to be perfectly frank, I see no reason to add to the Blagojevich fracas, Obama is still cementing his place in mediocrity, the housing and credit markets will continue to crash, the Fed will continue to print money like it's going out of style, because, well, it is.

In short, now is a perfect time to take a breath, catch up on chores, and spend some time with family and friends.

Don't worry, I still have pieces working, including finishing up my Bible discussion with Part 3, and an in depth look at the whole analog/digital divide as expressed in computers, along with a few other posts that I'm working on. But my style has always been to put together longer, well thought out posts, and it's difficult to just throw those together. They take time in large chunks, and all I get are splinters right now. While that works wonderfully for guys like Say Uncle and Instapundit, if I start writing when I have five free minutes, I look up an hour and a half later, which means I've lost 85 minutes of billable time that I have to make up somewhere else, usually at 2AM or something like that.

Starting January 1, I will begin posting daily again.

By the way, if any of you knows somebody looking for a freelance know it all, direct them here. I'd love to get paid for doing this, and if I can bill hours for writing like this, I can do more of it.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, December 15, 2008

The People of the Book: Why the Bible is The Bible Part 2

Last time, I talked about why the Bible is so important to Christians. In essence, and in a way no other book can claim, the Bible is the revealed Word of God, written by Him through the Holy Spirit and proven by His Son. Before I go on, I want to reinforce the incredible nature of this book, and the reward it promises.

Imagine that in some dusty old library, you came across a book written in the 1600's. Hand written and bound, and gathered from unknown writers over decades, the book told you the following tale. There will be a huge lottery jackpot in the future, worth $400 million, and it gives the winning numbers and the date the prize will be given. In order to prove the accuracy of its predictions, it goes on to tell the story of a man by the name of Richard Hailey, who would be born in the State of Tennessee in the early 1960s. He and his family would leave Tennessee for Florida, but return after a short time to Tennessee, where his father worked in sales. The boy would grow into a man, and join the Navy, where he traveled the world for 9 years. At the end of his travels, he would return to his home in Tennessee, along with a wife and 6 children. There, he would work at a variety of jobs, get divorced, and after a long time, find a new wife.

Now imagine after reading this book, that you googled Richard Hailey and found out that every detail of the story written 400 years ago was true. What would you say about such a book? And more importantly, what would you say about the rest of the information in that book? Would you buy a lottery ticket?

Well stop imagining and let's start reading that Book, because the Old Testament records the life of Jesus Christ in that amount of detail. That's a big claim I know, but I'm going to back it up right now.

Psalm 2:6-9 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou [art] my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I shall give [thee] the heathen [for] thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth [for] thy possession.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
God will send His Son to rule as King
Genesis 3:14-15 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou [art] cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
God's Son will be born of a virgin, and will fight against Satan
Genesis 17:7-8 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
God's Son will be born of the bloodline of Abraham.
Genesis 21:12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.God's Son will be born in the bloodline of Isaac, not Ishmael
Psalm 132:11 The LORD hath sworn [in] truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne. God's Son will be of the line of David, and will sit on his throne.
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.God's Son will be born of a virgin, and will live among men.
Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, [though] thou be little among the thousands of Judah, [yet] out of thee shall he come forth unto me [that is] to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth [have been] from of old, from everlasting.God's Son will be born in Bethlehem.
Psalm 72:10-11 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.
Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.
God's Son will have kings bowing before him.
Hosea 11:1 When Israel [was] a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.God's Son will return to Israel from Egypt
Isa 40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.God's Son will be preceded by a messenger who will announce His coming to Israel.
Mal 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
Isaiah 9:1-2 Nevertheless the dimness [shall] not [be] such as [was] in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict [her by] the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
God's Son will begin His Ministry in Galilee.
Zec 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he [is] just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.God's Son will enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
Isa 53:1-3 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, [there is] no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were [our] faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
God's Son will be despised by many.
Isa 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, [in whom] my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
God's Son will minster to Gentile as well as Jew, and he will do so meekly, not with a lot of fanfare.
Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.God's Son will not speak in His own defense at His trial
Isaiah 53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.God's Son will be sacrificed to pay for our sins.
Isaiah 53:9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither [was any] deceit in his mouth.God's Son will be die among the wicked, even though he had no sin.
Psalm 41:9 Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up [his] heel against me.God's Son will be betrayed by his friend.
Zec 11:12-13Then I said to them, "If it is agreeable to you, give [me] my wages; and if not, refrain." So they weighed out for my wages thirty [pieces] of silver.
And the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter"--that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty [pieces] of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter.
God's Son will be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, and that price will be used to purchase the potter's field.
Isaiah 53:12Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.God's Son will die as a criminal, even though he was innocent of all wrongdoing, for the purpose of interceding on our behalf, so we would not have to die for our sins.
Exodus 12:46In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones.
Psalm 34:22He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken.
God's Son will not have any broken bones.
Zec 12:10"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for [his] only [son], and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.God's Son will be pierced.
Psa 22:18They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.God's Son will have his garments taken from him, and divided amongst his enemies by chance.
Psa 16:10For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.God's Son will go to Hell, but he will be raised from death by God
Psalm 110:1A Psalm of David. The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."God's Son will be given a throne beside God, where He will sit until His enemies are cast down.
Gen 14:18Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he [was] the priest of God Most High.
Psalm 110:4The LORD has sworn And will not relent, "You [are] a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."
God's Son will rule as both priest and King, having both bloodlines.

So there's the Book; what about that lottery ticket? How high is the jackpot, and how much do we have to pay for the ticket? Well the jackpot is salvation, and this is the part where I'm supposed to start preaching to you about how the ticket is free to you and me because Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has already purchased that ticket with His Blood.

I'm not going to do that because while it is 100% true, it's not entirely accurate. You see, there is a cost in accepting the ticket that Jesus bought for us, and that cost can't be counted in dollars and cents, or good deeds, or works, or a specific quantity of certain prayers said on specific days. In fact, there's only one thing in this earth that we can give to Jesus that will allow us to accept that ticket.

Ourselves. God doesn't want our money, our good deeds, or our intentions; He wants us, wholly and without reservation.

It's the hardest easy thing to do that you'll ever come across.

Posted by Rich
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It’s All in the Reflexes

An Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at President Bush. Not only are they adopting modern democracy, apparently they are adopting modern journalism as well.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Politicians and Liars:  Congruent Sets

They go together, don't they?

And now we know that Obama is just another lying politician.

Not the Messiah; not the Chosen One; and most certainly not a new breed. Just another liar.

Of course, those of us who paid attention during the campaign knew that already from multiple instances, like his explanations of why he refused to allow the Born Alive Infant Protection Act to hit the floor of the Illinois Senate. So we aren't surprised. But it sure is fun watching the Obamaniacs try to explain away his lies.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Blagojevich in the News

A corrupt Chicago Democrat.

Why is this news?

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, December 07, 2008

More Change for Obama

Remember the third debate? Obama and McCain were both asked whether the economy would get worse before it got better.

McCain answered honestly, that yes, things were going to get worse, but that America would come through once again.

Obama, after his campaign had ridiculed McCain for saying that the fundamentals of the economy were strong, disagreed, saying that he "believed in the American economy." Apparently this belief has faded, or maybe it's just that with the election won, he can tell the truth.

"The economy is going to get worse before it gets better," he said twice in the early moments of the interview, taped Saturday in Chicago.

Fortunately for Obama voters who have watched their candidate morph from an agent for change into an agent for the third Clinton term, all is not lost. In the same interview, he proclaimed that he will initiate massive public works spending, which makes sense when the economy is crashing and you're cutting taxes.

Well, it makes sense if you are a Democrat I guess.

Tell you what. Obama says he support a bailout of the auto industry as long as the car-makers are forced to change the way they do business to a more sustainable model. I say we put the same constraints on Obama's administration. If he wants to basically print money for the spending, he can do so, as long as he is forced to get the government back on a rational basis, starting first with a true balanced budget by the end of his first term, and not a Clinton style Enron balanced budget either, but a budget that actually maintains or reduces the National Debt.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, December 05, 2008

I Hope You Like the Change

Obama's campaign promises are disappearing faster than embarrassing personal association did during the campaign.

Not that I mind. Had anyone told me that Obama's presidency would be an extension of the Bush Doctrine on foreign policy combined with Clintonesque domestic policy, heck, I might have voted for the guy. Seriously, the only folks who Obama has picked for his administration that didn't come from the Clinton administration came from the Bush administration.

For all those who thought they were finally escaping the Bush/Clinton dynasty, well, maybe next time.

Posted by Rich
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Feminism in Full Flower

Her: I'm incapable of firing a gun properly in a crisis, so I should not carry a gun.
Him: You're right. If you aren't capable of handling a gun safely, you shouldn't be armed.
Her: How dare you say I shouldn't have a gun! Who do you think you are!


Posted by Rich
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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Things That Make You Go, “WTF?”

Detroit auto executives were pilloried in the national press for flying a few hundred miles on private jets to Washington to ask for money to save their companies.

Al Gore flies tens of thousands of miles on private jets to combat excessive energy use leading to global warming and is awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Shameless Bid for a Link From Uncle

Pics of my new XDm .40




So, who's up for a trip to the range?

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My New Toys

My fiance calls me a geek.

I can't understand why...

I just bought these slide rules on eBay. And yes, if you're thinking that they were the inspiration for my digital/analog post yesterday, they were. A slide rule is a wonderful example of an analog computer.

It also looks kinda cool swinging from your belt in a holster. Just ask any engineering student from the 60's.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Analog Vs Digital:  The True Nature of Reality

We live in a digital world.


I'm not just talking about digital watches, mp3 players, CD's, DVDs, Blu-Ray, and the internet; I'm talking about all the way down at the most fundamental level of reality, we live in a digital universe. That idea has some very interesting implications for us in a number of ways, but before we explore those ideas, let's make sure we all know what we're talking about first.

What does "digital" mean? Merriam Webster says:

1: of or relating to the fingers or toes (digital dexterity)
2: done with a finger (a digital rectal examination) (Eeeww.)
3: of, relating to, or using calculation by numerical methods or by discrete units
4: of, relating to, or being data in the form of especially binary digits (digital images) (a digital readout) ; especially : of, relating to, or employing digital communications signals (a digital broadcast) compare analog 2
5: providing a readout in numerical digits (a digital voltmeter)
6: relating to an audio recording method in which sound waves are represented digitally (as on magnetic tape) so that in the recording wow and flutter are eliminated and background noise is reduced
7: electronic (digital devices) ; also : characterized by electronic and especially computerized technology

We're going to go with definition 4 for right now because it comes closest to the physics definition. To help our understanding, let's follow the reference it gives and look up the second definition of "analog."

2 a: of, relating to, or being a mechanism in which data is represented by continuously variable physical quantities

So, what does that mean to you and me? Well, let's look at this picture.
Here we have two numbered lines. The bottom one is a digital line going from 1 to 10. Each digit stands alone, and there is nothing in between them. In a digital world, there is no 1.5, only 1 or 2. The top line is analog. You have an infinite number of points between 1 and 2, and between 2 and 3 and so on. Instead of only having ten choices of positions, you have an infinite number of choices. The analog number line is much more powerful than the digital because of its infinite variability.

sine.jpgLet's look at another example, a sine wave. Here again, you see a smoothly varying line with an infinite number of possible points all along the signal. Compare that to the digitized sine wave seen in the next picture.

sample_sine.jpg The gray boxes are a digital representation of the smoothly curving sine wave, and you can see that the discrete nature of the digital representation creates a very jagged wave form. It simply cannot carry the same amount of information that an analog signal can.

For example, we've all heard YouTube videos where it sounds like the microphone is under a raging surf. That roaring echoing noise is the result of digitizing the original audio. Each of those jagged steps in the digital sine wave introduce distortion.

So how does a CD sound so good, if digital introduces so much distortion? Well, let's take a look back at our digital sine wave. The accuracy of our sine wave is directly related to the size of the blocks we use to build it. Bigger blocks, as shown in this drawing digbigsine.jpg will result in a less accurate reproduction of the sine wave. On the other hand, if we make our blocks smaller, we get a much better reproduction of the original wave, as seen in the earlier example. So, when a CD is made, the blocks used to build the sine wave are very small, resulting in a sound that is nearly indistinguishable from the original.

And that begs the question, if we have to work so hard to get our digital signal to equal the original analog in quality, why bother? Stick with the analog. As it turns out, there are some significant advantages to digitizing information like music. Editing and noise reduction become much easier and more effective, and controlling playback quality becomes a snap. The fidelity of the playback is always identical to the recording, a feat no analog system can match.

It turns out that as we look into things, our world is made up of analog systems. Sound is analog. Electromagnetic radiation is analog. Light is analog (sort of, sometimes, but we'll get to that another time.) And that makes sense because as you look around, the world is a continuous place. There are no real gaps between here and there, or between 1:00 and 2:00, or between freezing and boiling temperatures. Everything follows a continuously varying path.

But I started out by saying we live in a digital universe, and that doesn't make sense with what I just said, does it? The truth of the matter is that just as a CD is a digital representation of an analog signal, i.e. music, sounding to our ears nearly identical to the analog original but missing tons of information, our universe may be a digital representation of some far greater reality, looking real to our limited senses but missing tons of information.

What makes me say this? Actually, I'm not the one saying it. Max Planck, Neils Bohr, Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, and others said it first, they just said it in mathematics, not English. Let's start with quantum mechanics and then we'll dig into the really tricky stuff. (How's that for a scary sentence?)

Keeping things very simple, a mathematician named Max Planck noticed that he could predict the energy of a photon by an equation that related its frequency to a constant. This constant had no real physical reason to exist, except that it made the equations work. The fact that it did so told physicists that energy was not transmitted smoothly and in an infinitely variable way, but was broken up into discrete bundles or packets that they called quanta.

Does that sound familiar to anyone?

Boiled down to its simplest form, quantum mechanics says that energy is not an analog system, but a digital one. Now that doesn't surprise most of us because we have heard this before in high school or college, particularly when we're talking about light particles, AKA photons. But it did surprise the crap out of the physicists who had no idea why energy should be quantized. All they knew was that it worked when they used it, so they set out to figure out why it worked.

Along the way, a guy named Werner Heisenberg made another interesting discovery. He found out that when you get down to things that are smaller than the constant Plank discovered, you could no longer know their position and momentum. Going further, he discovered that it had nothing to do with an inability to measure such small quantities, or an inability to measure one without affecting the other, but that it was a property inherent in sub atomic particles. If their position was known, their momentum was mathematically undefined.

This was called the uncertainty principle, and the fact that it centered round Planck's Constant was no coincidence.

A few years earlier, Einstein had released his theories of relativity, and he realized that there were some fundamental incompatibilities between his theories of the super big and fast and quantum mechanics descriptions of the super small. He was unable to reconcile those incompatibilities, partly because he spent so much time trying to refute quantum mechanics because the implications were so strange. A couple of decades later, some bright boys came up with a startling idea that shows promise in reconciling the quantum world with the relativistic world.

In a way, their idea is derived from the quantum, Again, very simply, the theorized that the reason that energy wwas quantized, and why the Heisenberg uncertainty existed, and that they were all tied to Plank's Constant was that Plank's Constant was actually the smallest anything could be, or put another way, not only is energy quantized, but space is as well. We're used to thinking of moving through space in a smooth, continuous manner, but at the subatomic level, string theory says that, just like our earliest example of ten numbers with no line, we are actually moving from place to place without traveling through the distance between.

OK, that went too far too fast. Let's take it a bit slower. If space is quantized, as string theory suggests, and if we put 0 and Plank's Constant (h) on a number line, it would look like the bottom line in our first drawing. There would be no line between them. And there would be no line between 1h and 2(h). We're back in familiar territory now, aren't we? Because if string theory is correct, then our universe, at its most fundamental level, is not analog at all, but digital.

So, besides being a neat thing to think about, what does this all mean for you and me? Maybe nothing. Maybe a digital universe really is the ultimate answer. But I can't help thinking about all the information we lose when we take an analog signal and digitize it. I can't help but wonder what we're missing in our digital universe that might be present in the analog original, if it exists. I can't help but think that maybe, just maybe, I have some small understanding of Genesis 1:6-7.

Gen 1:6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
Gen 1:7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which [were] under the firmament from the waters which [were] above the firmament: and it was so.

Was God creating a digital copy of the real universe, and preparing it for us? Is the firmament, which God called heaven, the analog original?

I don't know, and science will never answer that particular question.

But it is intriguing.

Posted by Rich
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Sadly Plausible

Go read

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