Archive | July, 2012

August 1 (Wednesday) Filipino Freethinkers – Katipunan Meetup


Location: Moonleaf Katipunan (near KFC)
Date: Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Time: 4:00pm onwards

Google Map

RSVP on Facebook


Topics for discussion:

– Cybercrime Bill

– SONA 2012: RH Bill vs. Responsible Parenting; August 7 RH Vote

– Topic Toss-up: Toss something for discussion. No Holds Barred.


After the meetup we usually go for dinner and drinks somewhere nearby. If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go for the post meetup, please indicate through a post on the wall or comment so we can contact you.


Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0922 868 9882


* Newbies are welcome.

* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).

* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.

* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).

* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.

* Please abide by the code of conduct.

Posted in Meetup0 Comments

Contact Your Congressman before August 7 and Get the RH Bill Passed

On August 7, 2012, our House of Representatives (HoR) will take a vote on whether to end the period of debates for the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. When the debate period ends, the bill can progress towards the period of amendments and be a hair’s width away from being passed into law. This will be the farthest the bill has ever gotten in 14 long and tedious years. This is our last and most crucial opportunity to end the anti-RH camp’s campaign of outright bullying, needless delaying, and gross misinformation.

It is incredibly important that your Congressman attend the HoR session on August 7 and vote “yes” to end the period of debates. The fate of the RH Bill is now in their hands. In turn, let them know that their own fate as an elected official is in YOUR hands. Your Congressman should be working for you and your best interests. If they decide to ignore the overwhelming demand for a reproductive health law, then let them know that you will not be voting for them come the next election. Your Congressman should not be fearing the non-tax-paying bishops of the Catholic Church; they should be fearing you and your power to decide their fate.

Before August 7, call, email, tweet, and message your representative and let them know that if they do not show up for the session on the 7th and vote to end the RH debates, you will take it as a sign of their utter negligence towards their duties and, thus, not vote for them in 2013. Moreover, you will encourage others to follow suit.

Here is the list of contact information for every single Congressman currently in office:

And this is a list of representatives who have taken an anti RH stance.

Here is an article offering excellent details into what you should be telling your representative.

Do not let our government officials forget the very reason they are in office in the first place. If they truly desire progress, if they really want to ensure the health and wellbeing of every one of their constituents, then they would make sure that the RH Bill gets passed.

August 7 is a mere week away. It is up to you to make Congress do the right thing.

Image from

Posted in Advocacy, Announcements, Politics, RH Bill, Secularism, Society0 Comments

July 29, 2012 (Sunday) Kuppa Cafe, Bonifacio Global City Meetup

Location: Kuppa Roastery and Cafe, Commerce Center, 4th Avenue corner 31st Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
(Google map)
Date: Sunday, July 29, 2012
Time: 2:00pm – 6:00pm

RSVP on Facebook

Discussion Topics

Commuting directions:
Take a bus or MRT to Ayala avenue MRT station, walk to the Fort bus terminal on the north bound side of EDSA. Take the Fort bus on the west route to the Net Cube bus stop and walk in the direction of the HSBC building to the Commerce Center building.

After the meetup we usually go for dinner and drinks somewhere nearby. If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go for the post meetup, please indicate on a post in the wall or comment so we can contact you.

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532

* Newbies are welcome.
* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.
* Please abide by the code of conduct.

Posted in Meetup0 Comments

Why PNoy’s SONA is Not a Triumph for the RH Bill

Yesterday, SONA day, a few of us Freethinkers marched down Commonwealth as pregnant PNoys—enormous face masks, pillows for bellies, juggling plastic babies—to allude to the president’s negligence towards the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. Our banner read, “PNoy, kung nabubuntis ka, ang RH batas na.” (PNoy, if you could get pregnant, RH would be a law by now.)

We wanted to point out that if our president could literally get pregnant, could experience first-hand the immense hardship so many Filipinas go through raising multiple children on a less-than-meager budget, he’d have stuck to his promise to speed up the long-delayed passage of the bill, and not be the dilly-dallying, passive-aggressive politician he’s being now. Give the man a uterus and see if he’ll still pander to the bullying bishops of the CBCP.

Later that day, my Facebook newsfeed tittered with reports that PNoy had actually expressed his desire to pass the RH Bill during his SONA. Media accounts and FB friends alike sang praises for the following sound byte:

“Ngayong paubos na po ang backlog sa textbooks, sana po ay maiwasan na rin ang backlog sa estudyante. Sa tingin ko po, responsible parenthood ang sagot dito.” (Now that our textbook backlog is growing smaller, I hope that we soon get to avoid a backlog in students as well. In my view, responsible parenthood is the answer to this.)

It was reported that this blip in his speech garnered the loudest and longest spell of applause in the entire event. Some present even gave him a standing ovation. People were ecstatic. People were claiming PNoy had finally put his foot down regarding RH.

But I don’t buy it. And neither should anyone else, most especially fellow pro-RH advocates.

By sneaking the term “responsible parenthood” into a statement about education, PNoy remains the dilly-dallying, passive-aggressive politician we’ve been frustrated with since RH became a LEDAC priority measure last year. Not only did he not elaborate as to why responsible parenthood—itself a watered-down, wishy-washy euphemism for reproductive health—would help with the student backlog, but he also worded the statement itself to be quite safe and retraction-friendly.

In his speech, responsible parenthood was a mere aside to a larger concern. Moreover, the phrase “sa tingin ko po” or “in my view,” wraps responsible parenthood in a sheath of self-confessed personal bias. (It’s just his own humble opinion; he’s definitely not setting anything in stone, so to all the anti-RH out there, don’t get all huffy just yet.)

I confess that this last part may be reading too much into things, but regardless of this, what PNoy said still appears very much to be lousy lip service to all the pro-RH begging him to grow a pair. What he said was just a bit of cat nip to tide everyone over for a while. He and his Communications staff likely hoped that the crowd would react the way they did, because this would earn him a respite from all our criticism, would make us temporarily forget that it is partly due to his negligence of the RH issue that the bill continues to be woefully delayed.

Realize that he didn’t promise us anything in that speech. In fact,  what he said could very well help to delay the bill’s passage even more, as we would spend so much time waiting for something that actually wasn’t assured to us.

PNoy should have just said, “I will work to get the RH Bill passed.” Straightforward, to the point, definitive, crystal clear.

At the pro-RH demonstration earlier that day, the crowd was introduced to a 19-year-old girl who had to take care of her 10 younger siblings herself. Their mother had died upon giving birth to the 11th child—one of the 12 women who die each day from maternal complications. And this 19-year-old girl was pregnant as well. Unless PNoy actually acts on his promise to make the RH law a reality, nothing else from him can assure us that this young girl’s plight will no longer be repeated with other women again and again and again.

That so many of us praised this blip in his speech to the highest heavens simply betrays how desperate we’ve become at this point. We’re starting to hear the things we want to hear, and not see the situation for what it really is. We still have quite a ways to go, and until the president actually says–and, more importantly, does–something directly, unmistakably in favor of reproductive health, we have no reason to celebrate anything just yet.


Photos c/o Frank III Manuel

Posted in Advocacy, Personal, Politics, Religion, RH Bill, Secularism, Society1 Comment

Filipino Freethinkers Pose as Pregnant PNoys for SONA Demonstration

23 July 2012, Quezon City – Members of secularist group Filipino Freethinkers (FF) posed as pregnant versions of Philippine President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III outside the Batasang Pambansa Complex as the former held his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) indoors. The demonstrators wore blown-up PNoy masks and housedresses, carried baby dolls, and bore a banner that read: PNoy, kung nabubuntis ka, ang RH batas na (PNoy, if you could get pregnant, RH would be a law by now).

FF’s demonstration alludes to the President’s failure to prioritize the passing of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill into law. Despite the bill’s inclusion as a priority measure by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) in 2011, the President has continued to ignore the delaying of its passage by anti-RH legislators. FF claims that if the President himself could literally get pregnant, he would better understand the bill’s overwhelming positive impact on Filipinas and speed up its passage.

“Considering how PNoy has been ignoring the RH issue, we highly doubt that he’d mention it at all in today’s address,” says FF President Red Tani. “This is grossly negligent of him, as 12 women die each day due to maternal complications, and Filipinos in general are not properly educated on their reproductive rights. An RH law is an intrinsic part of our nation’s quest for true progress; we cannot let PNoy forget this.”



Filipino Freethinkers (FF) is the largest and most active organization for freethought in the Philippines. Freethought is a way of thinking unconstrained by dogma, authority, and tradition.

Every one of FF’s efforts aims to promote reason, science, and secularism as a means of improving every Filipino’s quality of life. The group wishes for everyone to live free of ignorance and oppression—in a society where they are able to act and think for themselves, and in a country where religion and governance are clearly and permanently separated.

You may reach the Filipino Freethinkers through our contact page.

Photos c/o Frank III Manuel

Posted in Press Releases0 Comments

Meetup Today Cancelled

Due to the weather, we’re cancelling today’s meetup (2:30 at Kuppa, Bonifacio High Street). Stay safe, and have a nice weekend!

Posted in Announcements0 Comments

Help Free Jailed Atheist Alexander Aan

Earlier this year, an Indonesian named Alexander Aan went on Facebook and expressed his doubt of the existence of God. In return,  he was attacked by a mob, arrested, and convicted for “disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility.” Many of his countrymen now call for his death.

By arresting Aan, the Indonesian government has violated its agreement to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees every person the rights to freedom of belief and expression.

Yesterday, July 17, the Center for Inquiry (CFI) set up an online petition on the White House website urging the Obama administration to call for Aan’s release. To ensure a response, the petition must gain 25,000 signatures in 30 days. If you support the freedom of expression, and the freedom of and from religion, then do your part to help free Aan and uphold these rights for every single person.

Sign the petition here.

Image from

Posted in Announcements, Politics, Religion, Secularism, Society0 Comments

FF-Taft July 20 Friday Meetup at Starbucks Agno!


Location: Starbucks, Agno (

Date: Friday, July 20, 2012

Time: 1:30 p.m – 5:00 p.m


Midterms are finally over! Why don’t we start the second half of the term with a meetup? Spend some time with friends, be they new, old, or future. This week, unlike the past few meetups, we’ll have a couple of pre-set topics:


⁃     I’m not (old enough)!: What to do with the decisions made by parents for their kids? (Circumcision, religion, education, gender roles, etc.)

⁃     Secularism in school: What exactly can or should we expect from religious schools? (Angelus, forced participation, unwelcome proselytizing)


We’ll also have a topic toss-up to keep things fresh and spontaneous!


After the meetup, we usually have a post-meetup consisting of dinner, drinks, odd games, or coffee. If you’re not a meetup regular or can’t make it for the meetup, you can attend the post meetup. Please indicate on a post in the wall or comment so we can contact you. Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at:






•      Newbies are welcome

•      Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people, often in black)

•      There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level

•      Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time)

•      You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen

•      Please abide by the code of conduct

Posted in Meetup0 Comments

Men in Uniform, the Fantasy and the Reality

[ Read original article here | Read more from the same writer here ]

Inquirer’s article on gays enrolling in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) shows us that although LGBT activism has gained traction in the fight for equality, there is still a long way to go.


Sexual Orientation is not Gender Expression

It’s a well known fact that the general public (LGBTs included) is still struggling with terms and definitions related to LGBT topics. This is made even more difficult when these concepts (most of which come from the west) have no equivalent in our culture. Sometimes it is because there is no direct translation and sometimes it is because of differences in popular stereotypes. Take for example the following statement from Inquirer’s “PMA now open to gays but don’t show it“:

“From experience, there are (gay PMA graduates). Maybe he was able to graduate because during the training in the Academy there was no opportunity for his (gay) tendencies (to show). When he left the academy that’s when it came out,” – Captain Agnes Flores, PMA spokesperson

Flores was clearly referring to being effeminate (gender expression) when she said “(gay) tendencies” and “it came out” not to being gay (sexual orientation). This is because in Philippine culture, the effeminate gay male (who, at times, is actually a transgender woman) is the more visible stereotype than the masculine gay male. Thus, Filipinos associate being gay (sexual orientation) with being effeminate (gender expression). What Flores fails to understand is being gay has more to do with attraction and not outward expression.

In the Absence of Specifics, Generalize!

I have yet to hear of an institution which is able to or dares to profile its students based on sexual orientation. But if PMA’s claims are accurate, then it may very well be the first.

“In any case, they say, gay cadets eventually leave the PMA anyway before completing the four-year course because they cannot stand the rigors of training.”

“Flores claimed that school officials had observed that gay cadets apparently could not cope with the demands of training.”

It would be interesting to request data that would show what percentage of the PMA dropouts are gay. In simplistic terms, this is asking how many dropouts said “I’m dropping out because this is too much for a gay man to handle.

Yes, getting these data is moot and academic. But Flores not only has a responsibility to ensure her claims are based on facts, she also has the responsiblity to ensure that her statements do not put a specific sector of society in a bad light. By claiming that gay men are not able to stand the rigors of training, she has effectively made gay men inferior to straight men even without factual basis. This, by the way, is a discriminatory act. And if House Bill 1483 or 515 (both Anti-Discrimination Bills) were already in force, any PMA officer who dismisses a cadet using Flores’ baseless claim would face imprisonment of up to 6 years or pay a fine of 250 to 500 thousand Pesos.

Perpetuating Gender Norms

Discrimination is often justified by invoking social constructs. It may be summarized by the statement “I am not discriminating against gay men and lesbian women, I just expect them to act like straight men and women because that’s what society accepts.” What people do not realize is that gender norms reinforce discrimination because it forces people to meet expectations created by heterosexuals.

“So anyone who displays gay behavior would be reprimanded because that’s not what is expected of them. They enter our institution and they are to follow the rules and regulations of our organization,” she stressed.

This statement needs careful unpacking so I will dissect it one homophobic thought at a time.

So anyone who displays gay behavior would be reprimanded…” – This is where I would ask Flores to define what is “gay behavior” and what is the corresponding reprimand. Similarly, I would also ask if females are reprimanded for displaying “lesbian behavior.” And finally I would ask for a report on the kinds of “gay behavior” they have actually documented.

…because that’s not what is expected of them…” – So what is expected of them to display, “straight behavior”? Taking off from the previous paragraph, I would also ask for a definition of “straight behavior.” But semantics aside, the following statement takes the cake as far as discrimination is concerned:

…they are to follow the rules and regulations of our organization,” – If a group of people is singled out by rules and regulations solely because of this group’s gender expression, then ladies and gentlemen, that is discrimination.

Unintended Discrimination is Still Discrimination

My gut tells me that Flores has no malicious intent. It may be that she is not aware of the slimy worm of discrimination slithering in the core of the pretentious apple of tolerance she is parading about. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, unintended discrimination is still discrimination. And while half-baked tolerance is still the lesser evil than an outright ban, there is still much to be desired as far as the LGBT education of these PMA officers is concerned. We can only wish Flores and the rest of the PMA would one day understand the true meaning of acceptance and equality. Until that day becomes reality, equality among men in uniform will remain a fantasy.

[ Read original article here | Read more from the same writer here ]


Image Credit: Philippine Information Agency

Posted in Advocacy, Gender Rights0 Comments

Filipino Freethinkers Support the Declaration of Internet Freedom

The Filipino Freethinkers, alongside hundreds of other organizations across the globe, sign The Declaration of Internet Freedom which can be read in full here.

The following is an excerpt from the site:


We stand for a free and open Internet.

We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles:

  • Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.
  • Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.
  • Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create and innovate.
  • Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.
  • Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.

Throughout the years, the Internet has enriched the lives of countless people and has made the world so much smaller with the incredible connectivity that it offers. It has enabled individuals to access virtually the whole pool of human knowledge through online encyclopedias and search engines, giving everyone almost unlimited sources for learning. It has allowed for near-instantaneous communication and sharing of creative content, revolutionizing what it means for information to be viral. It has given birth to a playful and entirely new Internet culture and has helped forge the image of an open global village in the minds of its users. It has fueled the growth of countless web-based services and communities that enable meaningful interaction between strangers and even better ways of collaborating with peers.

With these in mind, we realize that increased connectivity, openness, and transparency should be observed, and to abandon the very principles that guaranteed the success and speedy development of the Internet would be a huge step back for humanity.




Image from

Posted in Announcements, Politics, Press Releases, Science, Society0 Comments

CBCP Guns for 3 Guinness World Records to Tie with INC

12 July 2012, Manila, Philippines – In light of the Iglesia ni Cristo’s (INC) recent breaking of three Guinness World Records, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has also approached the record achievement authority in the hopes of snagging three records to tie with their rival faith.

According to San Juan Bishop Rico Bagatsing, Senior Auditor for Dogmatic Accomplishments, the CBCP has submitted the following facts to Guinness as representatives of the Philippine Catholic Church: the death of an average of 12 mothers per day due to their delay of the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill; the amount of over 18 billion pesos amassed due to their holdings in several large corporations; and the two cases of death and 1,000 cases of injury during the 2006 Feast of the Black Nazarene, an extremely dangerous tradition that they have long condoned.

“We hope and pray that the good people of Guinness World Records recognizes us for Most Preventable Deaths from Maternal Complications; Most Wealth Unspent by a Charitable Institution; and Most Irrational Devotees to a Non-Living Object,” says Bishop Bagatsing. “The INC may have won records for most dental health checks, and most blood pressure and blood glucose level readings, but just about any organization can orchestrate that in mere days for publicity. What the Catholic Church has achieved, in contrast, took whole centuries of indoctrination and intimidation to accomplish. Furthermore, we do not long for such record placings just for publicity’s sake. Not at all. We simply want what we deserve.”

Image from

Posted in Entertainment, Humor, Religion, Satire, Society1 Comment

July 15 (Sunday) Filipino Freethinkers Metro Manila South Meetup

Location: Union Jack Tavern, Festival Mall
Date: Sunday, July 15, 2012
Time: 4:00pm – 7:00pm
RSVP on Facebook

Your friendly Filipino Freethinkers from the Metro South are inviting you to their regular bi-weekly meetup in Union Jack Tavern, 2nd Level – Festival Mall, Alabang! Join us, learn and have fun discussing the following topics:

* Is the Philippines ready for secularism? To be facilitated by Haresh Daswani.
* Can intelligence really be sexually attractive? Is Sapiosexuality Fact or Fancy? Jojie Tiongco will be facilitator for this topic.
* ’50 Shades of Grey’, the rise of ‘mommy porn’ and the mainstreaming of BDSM. Good or Bad? This quite controversial topic will also be facilitated by Jojie Tiongco
* Updates on the Camp Talino (science and critical thinking summer camp project) dry run, to be discussed by Erick and Miam Tan-Fabian.

* There is no need to order anything in the venue, although Union Jack Tavern is a rad place if you want to experience the relaxing ‘authentic British pub’ ambience at affordable prices.
* Please look inside for the FF signboard or that group of sexy, smart people having lively discussions that go with the sign.
* You can just sit in and listen, but sooner or later you might get the urge to speak your mind on the topic, so you’re encouraged to do so.
* There is usually a post-meetup get together for food and drinks.
* Please abide by the code of conduct.

See you there!

Posted in Meetup, Metro Manila South Chapter0 Comments

Sticks, Stones, and Broken Bones

[ Read original article here | Read more from the same writer here ]

I am writing this in response to the question “Are there limits to the right to freedom of expression? Explain your answer and, if your answer is yes, define the limits.” This essay is meant to generate discussion so please share your thoughts.

Defining Freedoms

In order to answer this question, I need to define what “freedom of expression” is and cite concrete examples of how this freedom is enjoyed. And because I am an LGBT Filipino, I will use references related to the LGBT experience of a gay man residing in the Philippines.

Let’s start with definitions. Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.“[1] The American Convention on Human Rights[2], the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms[3], the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights[4], and the Philippine constitution[5] all contain something similar.

What this means for me is that as a Filipino citizen, my freedom to express my feelings and opinions is protected. I can express my sentiments against the Roman Catholic Church when they say that homosexuality is a sin, and I am free to use the Internet in posting photos of gay men celebrating the gains of the LGBT movement. In the same manner, individuals who subscribe to the catholic faith have the freedom to express their disapproval of my sexual orientation and have the freedom to form on-line groups and exchange ideas regarding their perceived immorality of homosexuality.

Limiting Freedoms

Although my freedom to express my thoughts is protected, the extent to which I express my thoughts is limited by various mechanisms in different contexts. For example, under Philippine law, there are limits to what I can say about the church. In fact, a recent art exhibit that was perceived to be blasphemous was closed down because it allegedly offended the beliefs of a religious sector.[6] In the context of social media, there are also mechanisms that attempt to limit freedom of expression where it impinges upon the rights of others. For example, as a Facebook user, I have an option to block and report users whose offensive statements target a specific set of people based on sexual orientation. I am able to use this same reporting mechanism to report Facebook groups and Facebook pages. [7]

If we go back to the declarations of human rights at the regional level, what’s common among them is the caveat that the freedom of expression indeed has limits. The American Convention on Human Rights states that “(a) respect for the rights or reputations of others; or (b) the protection of national security, public order, or public health or morals.” The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms declares that “The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law…for the protection of the reputation or rights of others.” And finally, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states that “Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law.” The message that is shared by these declarations is that there are two things that limit freedom of expression; laws and the respect for the rights of others. Of course, the latter is normally protected by the former.

Handling Hatred

Now that we have defined freedom of expression, described how it is enjoyed, and identified mechanisms that limit it, I will cite one clear example of expression that definitely needs to be limited. At least based on my experience, expressions and sentiments that have a negative impact on other people may be summarized with four letters, hate. Governments have responded differently to hate speech depending on its historical context and current realities. For example, in the UK, laws prohibit speech that provokes racial hatred. [8] In Germany, displaying the swastika or other Nazi symbols is illegal. Similarly, there are laws that address hate speech in the US and Canada. As far as the Philippines is concerned, there is still nothing outside of the blasphemy law that protects sectors of society from hate speech. In the recent months, influential people have gone scott-free despite making statements that might have been detrimental to the security of LGBT people. The 1999 Ms. Universe runner-up , Miriam Quiambao, made statements about her definition of womanhood[9]. This effectively sets back the gains of the transgender movement in the Philippines but there is no legal recourse to hold her accountable. Boxing champ, Manny Pacquiao allegedly declared that “Gay Men Should Be Put to Death.” [10] Because there is no hate speech law in the Philippines, the most that concerned citizens could do was demand a formal apology. In the US, however, the response was stronger than a demand for an apology, an establishment actually banned Pacquiao from entering its premises. [11]

Answering the Question
In summary, the right to freedom of expression must be limited because, if left unchecked, it opens up opportunities to violate the rights of others. Exactly how do we limit it? As with any international human rights instrument, there is rarely a clear cut process to define limits. There are extraneous factors to consider such as socio-economic realities, cultures, politics, etc. But one thing remains clear; that all rights are equal and interdependent. Therefore, when my freedom allows me to impinge upon yours, then this freedom must be limited. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.

Read original article here | Read more from the same writer here
[1] American Convention on Human Rights –
[2] European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms –
[3] African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights –
[4] The Universal Declaration of Human Rights –
[5] Philippine Constitution (ARTICLE III Bill of Rights) –
[6] Curates vs. curators: Does art transcend ‘blasphemy’? –
[7] Facebook Help Center (Report Abuse or Policy Violations) –
[8] The Harm in Hate-Speech Laws –
[9] An Open Letter to Miriam Quiambao (1999 Ms. Universe Runner-Up) –
[10] Update: Manny Pacquiao Did Not Say Gay Men Should Be Put to Death* –
[11] Manny Pacquiao Banned From The Grove Over Gay Marriage Comments (UPDATED) –

Posted in Advocacy, Gender Rights3 Comments

Quantum Queries: Where Does The Higgs Boson Fit In?

Higgs Hoopla

Last 4th of July, scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (also known as CERN  — don’t ask me why) made the announcement that they have detected a particle that could possibly be the long sought after Higgs boson.

As a non-hipster science fan, I find it heartwarming that a scientific discovery made in the French-Swiss underground scene is finally making it into the mainstream. However, I noticed that many people are at a loss when it comes to comprehending the excitement surrounding this Higgs thingy. After all, where in the big picture of science does this so-called “God particle” fit in?

[Photo credit:]

The Higgs boson is one of the few missing pieces of the Standard Model of particle physics. If the particle detected this week was indeed a Higgs boson, that’s +100 points for the Standard Model. The Standard Model is currently our best theory when it comes to explaining the behavior of our universe’s basic ingredients. Over past decades, it has been very successful at predicting how every known particle behaves and interacts.

If the universe is a stage, the Standard Model gives us the best insider story about the cast of characters and the role each character plays. Before we can describe what part the Higgs boson plays, we must first introduce the other members of the cast.


Enter the Leptons

The first members of the cast are the light leptons. There are six kinds of free-living leptons. The first three have charges, and they are called electrons, muons and tau particles. The next three don’t have charges, and they are called neutrinos. There are three kinds of neutrinos: electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos and tau neutrinos.

Electrons are part of the atoms that make up most of the material things we handle everyday. In fact, electrons are the first subatomic particles to be discovered. You can read this article on a computer screen only because humans have mastered the art of making electrons the way they want it to move.

An electron.

Muons are similar to electrons, only they are heavier and short-lived. Tau particles are even heavier and more short-lived! In particle physics jargon, we say that the electron is stable while the muon and tau particle are unstable. (Most people are, unfortunately, like muons in more ways than one.) It is because of their short lives that we do not meet muons and tau particles in our daily affairs.

A muon.

Neutrinos are very light and elusive particles. They are also neutrally charged, which means that they do not get repelled or attracted by other charges. In fact, they very seldom interact with other particles. This is why it took scientists a while before they finally detected them. In this regard, neutrinos are basically ninja particles!

Neutrino = ninja particle.

Their elusiveness aside, neutrinos are actually everywhere! Right this instant, there are billions upon billions of neutrinos whizzing through your body like bullets flying though mist. You are not feeling it precisely because neutrinos mostly ignore other particles and are ignored by other particles. In fact, they can pass through the Earth like the Earth is not there.

Neutrinos recently made the news when some scientists thought they found neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. It was later discovered that neutrinos don’t break the universe’s speed limit after all.


Six Quarks for Muster Mark

The next members of our cast of characters are the quarks. There are also six of them: the up, down, charm, strange, top, and bottom quarks (aaawww yeah).

The six quarks are grouped according to “generation”. The up and down quarks belong to the first generation, the charm and strange to the second, and the top and bottom to the third. Quarks in each generation are heavier than those in the previous generation.

What distinguishes the quarks from the leptons is the fact that we do not find free-living quarks. Quarks are always tightly glued to other quarks to form hadrons. When a hadron is composed of a quark and its anti-quark glued together, we call it a meson. Meanwhile, when a hadron is composed of a triad of quarks, we call it a baryon.

You have quadrillions of hadrons in you, and so is the computer screen you are staring at right now. Why? Because the nucleus of atoms are made of protons and neutrons, and protons and neutrons are hadrons. To be more specific, they are baryons; protons and neutrons are made of three quarks glued together very tightly. The proton is made of two up quarks and one down quark while the neutron is made of one up quark and two down quarks.

A proton composed of three quarks, two up quarks and one down quark.


The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of CERN is so-called because it was designed to smash together hadrons at very high speed. And also because it’s very large, as far as lab equipment go – it is found in a more or less circular tunnel 27 kilometers in circumference!


May the Force Carriers be with You

There are four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetic, weak, and strong. According to the Standard Model, the three forces aside from gravity are mediated by particles called force carriers.

Photons are the force carriers of the electromagnetic force. Photons are massless particles that travel at the speed of light, which is not surprising given that photons are the particles of light; light is but a stream of photons. Photons are also responsible for making like charges repel and unlike charges to attract. This means that without photons, atoms won’t exist either, because photons are what keep the electron around the nucleus! Without photons, the universe will be a very dark place indeed.

A photon.

The force carriers of the strong force are called gluons, so-called because they form the “glue” that tightly binds quarks to form hadrons. Like photons, gluons are also massless. Without gluons, protons and neutrons won’t exist.

A gluon.

The weak force, on the other hand, is mediated by heavy force carriers called the W and Z bosons. These particles are around 80-90 times heavier than protons. The obesity of these force carriers is the reason why the weak force, unlike the electromagnetic force, has a very short range. The weak force can only act across distances smaller than an atom. But exotic as it may sound, the weak force is in fact very important to life on Earth. The weak force is responsible for some forms of radioactivity without which our Sun wouldn’t shine and the Earth’s interior wouldn’t be a dynamic fluid.

A W boson.

Of the three forces of the Standard Model, the weak is the weakest and the strong is the strongest (like duh). Compared to the electromagnetic force, the weak force is a trillion times weaker while the strong force is a hundred times stronger.


The Punch Line

The Standard Model makes many now well-confirmed predictions about the behavior of the particles that make up our world, but there’s a catch: it seems to say that all the particles of the model (the six leptons, six quarks and the force carriers) have to be massless. Except for photons and gluons, which are indeed massless, this is clearly not the case. This is a problem of the theory. And it’s a major one, too.

This is where the Higgs boson comes to the Standard Model’s rescue. Higgs bosons provide a mechanism that imbues some particles with mass. This happens because Higgs bosons, which are everywhere in the universe, “couple” with some particles and thus supply them mass. The stronger the coupling of the Higgs bosons with a certain particle, the more massive that particle becomes. (Unfortunately, for people who want to lose weight really quickly, changing how you couple with Higgs bosons is not an option.)

In a universe without Higgs bosons, the Standard Model predicts that all particles will be massless and they will all zip across space at the speed of light. Since we find ourselves living in a universe where only photons and gluons can travel at the speed of light, then either Higgs bosons exist or the Standard Model is wrong after all. The discovery of the Higgs boson is therefore a major triumph of the Standard Model.

Higgs boson.


In Search of a New Standard

To date, the Standard Model is one of two best theories about the universe. However, it still has a lot of problems. For one, it does not say anything about gravity. For another, it goes haywire when combined with the other theory we have of the universe, General Relativity.

Gravity is the weakest of the four fundamental forces; it is literally weaker than weak. In fact, it is weaker than the weak force by a factor of 10^25 or a thousand million quadrillions! That is why in the world of tiny particles, gravity is negligible. Another problem with gravity is that the Standard Model says nothing about it. But it is the force that keeps you anchored to the Earth, the force that keeps the planets tethered to the Sun, and the force that herds stars into galaxies and galaxies into clusters. Gravity, weak as it may be, is a force to be reckoned with.

Our best theory for gravity is Einstein’s General Relativity, which explains that gravity is the curvature of space and time. General Relativity has passed all experimental and observational tests with flying colors. It powerfully explains the behavior of the universe as a whole from its earliest stages up to the present. But it is not friends with the Standard Model, something that bothers physicists to no end. This is especially bothersome given that the origin of our universe, the moments approaching the Big Bang, is subject to both the laws of General Relativity and the Standard Model.

Another problem with the Standard Model is that it accounts for only 4% of the universe! As for the other 96%, it has nothing to say. In fact, the other 96% is so mysterious to us that we decided to simply call them “dark matter” and “dark energy,” which just goes to show that we know next to nothing about them, except that they exist. (IMHO, calling the other 96% “love” would have been apt.)

The universe pie.


The Search Goes On

Let us summarize what we have talked about. The Standard Model is our best theory about the composition of our universe. It tells us that the universe is composed of six leptons that can fly around freely (like electrons and neutrinos), six quarks that are always glued to other quarks (protons and neutrons are just quarks glued together), and force carriers that mediate the interactions between the other particles. But the Standard Model can only account for the mass of some of the particles if a particle known as the Higgs boson exists. If the particle detected last week was a Higgs boson, it would be a major triumph for the Standard Model.

However, it is apparent that the Standard Model cannot be the last say. It has its own problems, chief among these is that it cannot explain gravity, it is not compatible with our best theory explaining gravity, and it can account for only 4% of the universe. And so the search for the solution to the problem of existence has not ended. In fact, the discovery of the Higgs boson opens the door for more furious research; in other words, the search has only begun.

Posted in Science14 Comments