March 30, 2005 

Free to be me-Free to be you-Free to be radioactive

Correction: In last week's Review of Josh Ritter's latest CD, Hello Future Classics, we incorrectly identified "Ring Of Fire" as being written by Johnny and June Cash. It was written by Mel Kilgore and made famous by Johnny Cash's brilliant rendition.

Free to be me

I am writing in response to the articles on religion, (BW, Freedom of Religion, March 23, 2005) specifically the Atheist article and the statistics that were quoted. One correction that I would like to address is the name of the Idaho atheist group. It is Idaho Atheists, Inc. ( are a non-profit organization. The American Religious Identification Survey of 2001 was compiled by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. The poll randomly selected the 50,000 participants and was described as "the most comprehensive portrait of religious identification in the U.S. today."

It noted that one of the most significant findings involved growth in that segment of adult population identifying with no religion. In 1990, 14.3 million or roughly 8 percent identified with this category. The new ARISsurvey now shows that this population has grown to 29.4 million or roughly 14.1 percent. This percentage demonstrates one of the biggest areas of growth from the 1990 survey to the 2001 survey; a total increase of 23 percent. This complete study can be found at

American Atheists have also formed the political group GAMPAC - Godless Americans Political Action Committee. GAMPAC endorses candidates for public office who support the First Amendment separation of church and state, defend equal rights and protections for our nation's godless Americans and inform our community of the voting records of their elected representatives on issues of concern. Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, stated, "We demanded a place at the table in this great discussion known as democracy."

This country's diverse community of Atheists, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and others who do not embrace religious creeds stand together for civil rights, the separation of state and church, and their full recognition as American citizens.

-L. Howard,

President of Idaho Atheists, Inc.


Free to be you

On March 24, my husband and I took my daughter and her girlfriend to Givens Hot Springs. The two girls, both 16, were swimming and occasionally exchanging a hug or brief kiss. After about 15 minutes, the owner screamed "Out of the pool! Right now!" As this was utterly without warning, my husband asked him what was wrong. He said that other customers were leaving because of the two girls kissing. I asked him why he didn't have a problem with the teenage boy and girl who had been making out in the pool since before we arrived, and he became belligerent and threatened to call the sheriff unless we left the premises immediately. He did not refund our money. We couldn't even change clothes, but had to drive home for an hour in our wet bathing suits.

What is so frightening about two teenagers kissing? Nothing, apparently, unless they are of the same sex. When different standards are applied in this manner, it's called discrimination. Discrimination seems to be what Steve Givens and Givens Hot Springs stand for.

-Carla DeLancy, Boise

Free to be radioactive

Karl Grossman makes a strong case against plutonium-238 in space missions (BW, "The Case Against the Plutonium Space Race," March 16, 2005), but he should be more careful about his physics and his risk analysis.

He claims that solar sails utilize "the ionized particles emitted by the sun that constitute a force in space." These particles, called the "solar wind," are often assumed to be what drives solar sails, but this is a misconception. The photon pressure from sunlight is about 1,000 times greater than that of the tenuous solar wind. It is light that drives solar sails. That's why a laser is a good way to push one.

Using lasers for spacecraft propulsion is not without risks, though. A laser powerful enough to push a spacecraft a billion miles away could be a hazard to closer objects like aircraft or satellites that stray into its path.

Apart from launch failures or sabotage, the issue is navigational error. Spacecraft and aircraft can both stray off course. The Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander crashed because of software errors. Any technology made by humans is going to fail. The question is how often and, more importantly, what is the worst that can happen.

-Chris Struble,


Mail of the Week: Thanks for clearing that issue up for us. We stayed awake at night wondering: photon pressure or solar wind? Stop by the office for your Boise Weekly t-shirt this week.

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