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Archive for September, 2009

The Freedom of Belief

September 24th, 2009 No comments

An interesting story appeared on the Guardian website recently [link] which raised a number of interesting questions for me.

First a little background. The article in question was about a man named Daniel Jones who founded the International Church of Jediism, a religion inspired by the Star Wars films which has 500,000 followers worldwide. While shopping at a local branch of Tesco he was asked to remove the hood he was wearing by security. Daniel refused, claiming that his religion dictated that he should wear the hood in public places.

Now, here is the interesting thing. Although I have no religious beliefs personally, I appreciate that many billions of others do and I respect their opinion whatever if it (so long as they do not try and force it upon me!). I would even defend their freedom of belief if I felt it was justified. And this is the point. Tesco appear to be judging which ‘religion’ is valid and which is not. Granted the source of the Jedi religion is of unconventional origin (the typewriter of George Lucas), but as far as I am concerned it holds just as much weight as any of the other older religions. So, who decides the validity of a particular religion?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines religion as:

religion – noun

1 the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

2 a particular system of faith and worship.

3 a pursuit or interest followed with devotion.

If we apply logic and reason to the task of validating a religion then there won’t be many that survive. It can’t be down to its age, some ‘accepted’ religions are quite young relatively speaking (Christianity was young once). Neither can it be the number of followers, granted the big three have huge followings, but the smaller factions are still valid are they not, besides it only requires one believer to make it a religion.

It is a belief, that’s the point, it requires no proof, no evidence, just an unquestioning obedience. As far as I am concerned Jediism is as valid a religion as any other. I can hear the screaming battle cry now, “but Jediism isn’t a real religion!”. My only response would be “prove it”.

If we are to go down the path of grading the various forms of religion then I can honestly say hand on heart “good luck”. All religious faiths require an element of mysticism and require the believers to take many things on face value. The moment you start to question the doctrine too hard you will find holes. This is the problem, it is also where the hard line atheists (of which I am not) are failing, all a religion requires is that you believe in it. Bertrand Russell used as an example a teapot floating in space, you can’t see it, the chances of ever finding it are impossible to calculate, but it is also impossible to disprove, it only requires faith that it is up there.

Back to my original point. I honestly believe that Tesco have discriminated him based on his religious beliefs. By forcing him to remove his hood they are making a judgement on which religious attire is allowed and which is not. Can you imagine the outcry (and bad press) if they had asked a Muslim lady to remove her Hijab or Burka, or a Christian nun was asked to remove her Wimple, or a Sikh his turban, we could go on…

Don’t get me wrong, I can see Tesco’s point of view. They asked the fan of a classic sci-fi film to remove his costume. Where’s the problem in that I hear you ask? What if they had asked the fan of a classic work of fiction to remove his costume? “I’m sorry your eminence, but you can’t wear that Mitre in the store!”. If you except one religion and the fashion associated with it, then you must except them all, no exceptions…

Here endeth the lesson for today…

Categories: Musings, Philosophy, Rants & Raves, Theology Tags:

Derren Brown lottery result explained…

September 14th, 2009 No comments

As you may (or may not) have seen, Derren Brown broadcast a live show last week in which he (correctly) predicted the results of the National Lottery. Very impressive! But not in the way he would like us to think.

On the follow-up show he tried to explain how this was done. This was for want of a better word ‘Guff and mumbo-jumbo’. His explanation was that he used 24 people to predict the results, using the ‘wisdom of crowds’ method,  See [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom_of_crowds]. While this system works for predicting the weight of an Ox (where there is an actual ‘guessable’ weight) it doesn’t work for completely random numbers. See [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8252235.stm]…

There have been hundreds of ideas circulating the net since his show, trying to explain how he did the ‘trick’, as he obviously didn’t do it for real! Most use the semi-plausible use of split screens and hidden helpers replacing the balls. These explanations are (in youth speak) ‘so yesterday’. Things have moved on, technology has advanced…

I have no insider information on how it was done. Only an explanation of how I would have done it. So here goes…

Here are the two magic words “augmented reality“. This is a process where a computer generated image is superimposed over live video footage. The live footage has a number of ‘markers’ that the software tracks and a computer generated image is rendered matching the camera position and angle. It is a very complex process and I don’t have the time to explain it fully here, See [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality].

I would have used the balls themselves as the markers and tracking points. You wouldn’t even need to render the balls, just the numbers to be superimposed. So, as the live results are drawn, someone simply enters the numbers onto the computer and magic!… I nice use of technology to perform a very simple trick.

More to follow in my “Derren Brown, where are you going with this” post…

Categories: BBC, Culture, Musings, Rants & Raves, TV, YouTube Tags: