Monday, 28 May 2012

Entertaining stuff from the week 21-27/5/12

"raised by wolves"?

More Impossible Photos -- the funniest kind of illusion :D

[video] Igudesman and Joo: Don't Want No Trouble
Ig and Joo accost a busker by... joining in??

[video] Igudesman and Joo: Noseland: The Move - Trailer
(Featuring Julian Rachlin)

[video] Slash's new album, Apocalyptic Love, is out now, and here's the title track

[video] Armor Games presents Detective Grimoire
This is really fantastic! And made in part by soemone i went to school with.

Okay okay, it's a plug, but do watch the demo video. It's really great....

Airbus is going to 'roll out' some extra-wide aircraft so that they can fit obese people in!

This week's award for 'Funniest Fungus Name'

The top ten most ridiculous movie posters at the Cannes film festival this year

Religion/Superstition stuff from the week 21-27/5/12

[video] Potholer54: How to confuse a creationist -- Homosexuality, Evolution and the Bible

Petition: Save the Gays of the Ukraine from institutionalised homophobia

[video] Thunderf00t: Pakistan blocks Everybody Draw Muhammed Day III

Even i thought there might be something to acupuncture (although only a very small something), but, like all mirages, they disappear as you get a better look.
The devious behaviour of acupuncture pseudo-scientists:

A psychiatrist who did pioneering research into 'curing' homosexuality has apologised for conducting an unreliable study, and presenting the results in a manner unwarranted by the method employed. Basically, he's apologising for bolstering the homophobia that so many people have had to suffer. Good on him :)

Shed Science: What's all the fuss about GM wheat?

The EU food agency rejects a French ban on GM maize, because the claims of their being dangerous are ungrounded

Poking fun at William Lane Craig, in his all-too-common misunderstanding of what 'atheism' means :D

I thought Canadians were better than that, too. My prejudice has been blown wide open!

Yet another theist, making it blatantly clear that they are woefully ignorant of the subject they claim authority in. How can anyone make these claims, unless in ignorance of their inanity??

Politics stuff from the week 21-27/5/12

The Queen of Great Britain is a mystery to all members of the public. Which is odd, considering how high-profile she is. She is on all the stamps and coins, after all.
Despite this, we know very little about her - and there's a reason for that - everything she does is secret (sssh!)
We are, quite literally, not allowed to know.
As the Queer's 60th Jubilee approaches, all criticism has been censored, and we still know just about nothing about what she really does all day long.
There is only one reason to suppress information about your career activities - they would be bad for your reputation if people learned of them!

Important petition for all UK residents - keep your private info private - demand parliament keep the electoral role from entities that can not use it for favourable purposes

Official Protesters of the London 2012 Olympic Games
10 reasons you should boycott the Games as they are
"We're not opposed to the sports events, and we're all in favour of having a big party – but only if everyone's invited"

Oh, the Cuntservatives - how they love to victimise the 'underclass'. This time, they've been claiming that there are 120,000 'broken' families, and if we could only expunge them from society, everything would be rosy. Unfortunately, reality's not that simple

"Well played, Daily Mail"
They've got misogyny down to a 'T'

"It is reported that Lady Warsi was claiming £165.50 a night subsistence allowance."
"Hell, I wouldn't mind trying to 'subsist' on *£1158.50 per week*..." - Mark Doran
"Baroness Warsi, co-chairman of the Conservative Party, has admitted failing to declare rental income received for more than a year on a north London flat."
"Add that to the £1158.50, and that's going to be at least two and a half grand extra per week, all straight into the pocket..."

Michael Rosen on the Boris Broadcasting Corporation, and the Conservatives' London voicebox - the E'en Stannit (Evening Standard)

"A former head of security and fraud at Lloyds has been charged over her involvement in a £2.5m false invoicing scam"

Oh, my sides! Accountancy Live reports far too many of these kinds of stories :D

Business news from the week 21-27/5/12

A Boston University student's been fined $675,000 for downloading and sharing just 30 songs!
This is just ridiculous! Copyrights suppress productivity, and concentrate wealth in the hands of the music industry - not the musicians - the industry. This 'intellectual property' shit has to go!

Google's finally getting rapped over the knuckles for being a monopolistic bully. No organisation is immune from 'getting too big for its boots', even Google

Facebook, however, doesn't have as pleasant a history. Facebook's flotation on the markets has got it in trouble both with its investors, and people who would have been, if it hadn't been doing dodgy back-room deals with banks

Prehistoric stuff from the week 21-27/5/12

The melanin-containing pigment in squid ink has not changed in 180 million years!

Thought T-Rex's arms were titchy? These guys had stumps!

Evidence has been found that indicates icthyosaurs (ancient not-dinosaurs) suffered from 'the bends' (where bubbles of nitrogen form in the blood after rising too quickly in the water)

Europe's oldest musical instruments are 40,000 years old! They were discovered in the region that is now southern Germany

A piece exploring the developmental similarity of dinosaurs and their avian relatives' skulls

Biology stuff from the week 21-27/5/12

86 million-year-old bacterial populations have been discovered, still alive, inside the highly-deoxygenated clay of the pacific ocean

You might think you're good at reading people's feelings, but this computer's got you licked when it comes to reading static images, which humans are no better than chance with!

The Naked Scientists explain - What is a fungus?

The origin of colour vision has been traced back a billion years, to bacteria who were benefited by photonic wavelength identification (seeing in colour). There are species that have more genes than we (who only have three - for red, green, and blue); one species of shrimp has been identified as having twelve.

Spelling words solely with the mind - a brain computer interface.
Bionerd23 uses an electroencephalogram to demonstrate how words can be constructed with eye-movements alone

An interesting side-effect of gastric bypass operations, where part of the duodenum, and most of the stomach are removed, is a reduction in cravings for alcohol!

Research has pinpointed how plants 'know' when to flower, by identifying the confluence of stimuli regarding time of day (circadian rhythm) and time of year (daily photodetection)

Wildlife stuff from the week 21-27/5/12

[video] Researchers film rare striped rabbit in Sumatra, Indonesia

[video] The method by which razor clams pull themselves into the sand has been identified by researchers. Clue: it involves sucking

The Argus butterfly, which was once a rare sight across the UK, is one of the few to be benefited by climatic change in the region

The incredibly high sensitivity of sponges to the environment around them could make them a perfect indicator of environmental hazards

Climate stuff from the week 21-27/5/12

Climate researchers said Thursday the planet could warm by more than 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit), boosting the risk of drought, flood and rising seas
Most models have presumed activity to mediate the change, which has not transpired. This prediction is considered to be more realistic

"...within the next 38 years, it will be the fastest rate of warming ever"
It's that pace of change that will cause the problems - even plant species can migrate, to cope with slow changes

Massive amounts of CO2eq is currently being stored in water-borne species of seagrass. Upturning of this carbon store could release up to 19.9 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere!

More plant species are suffering the ravages of climatic change than previously thought. Warmer winters are disrupting their growth cycles

Physics (and Maths) stuff from the week 21-27/5/12

[video] Thunderf00t - Putting Your Hand In The Large Hadron Collider
What would really happen?
Watch out for the spelling mistakes :D

Ah - metamaterials - materials deliberately engineered to have wacky properties. These have been designed to be auxetic - that means they get chunkier the more you stretch them. Sound unintuitive? Take a look

A solar-powered plane? That'll never get built!
What's that, you say? It has, and it's already flown?

[video] How big is a billion? Bigger than you think, if you speak English as a first language

A french team has demonstrated the paramagnetic properties of droplets of liquid oxygen. Paramagnetism occurs in many materials, when they respond to a magnetic field by replicating one inside themselves. This causes them to behave in a similar way to real magnets, but only while they're inside a real magnet's field. Unlike with ferromagnetic materials, their magnetic properties disappear when the other magnet does. To demonstrate their paramagnetism, they have suspended droplets above a glass surface, much like beads of oil do in a frying pan - the heat causes a thin layer of gas to separate the droplet from the hot surface, with very little friction, freeing it to race around the pan at high speed. I've seen it - it's great fun. It's the same process that causes lumps of potassium to float, as demonstrated in this vid:
Think Earth's a wet planet? It's nothing, in comparison to Europa!

[video] The Naked Scientists explain - What Is An Alloy?

Interesting formations seen in Mercury's magnetosphere. Watch the video, in the hyperlink, too - it's a really fascinating video. Meteorology FTW, LOL

8.6% efficient solar cells? That's a bit shit, isn't it? The best have already breached 15%!
Whoa - these are made of graphene - which means they could make solar cells cheap and abundant - something we desperately need in the renewables industry
Another partial solar eclipse :)

Geez - it' a wonder we're still here! But seriously - improved imaging techniques have counted twice as many dangerous asteroids as before. 4700 of them are at least 100m across, meaning they'd leave craters at least 2km across!

Llewblog - FAQ on electric cars - it's pretty concise

Comment #2 -- GM food and the raid of Rothamsted Research

On 27th May, 2012, a group called ‘Take The Flour Back’ attempted to raid a research institution in Hertfordshire, UK, called Rothamsted Research, to destroy crops that they say are dangerous, which is why they portray them as “contaminants”

On a purely pedantic note, this can not be true, because the word ‘contaminant’ implies that an object’s presence is un-intentional. The presence of these plants is very intentional indeed – they are there for the purposes of experimentation, so that we can know whether they are dangerous, whether they grow well, and whether they can be used to feed the world’s burgeoning homo sapiens population.

I am going to ignore the fact that their behaviour would be illegal desecration of somebody else’s property – the reason the police were there to keep them out – and concentrate on whether they should have intended to destroy those crops.

This might seem a rather provincial idea to many, but i regard opposition to GMOs (genetically modified organisms) as a superstition-based movement. I shall explain why...

Genetic Modification is defined thusly: Manipulation of the genome of an organismic population to favour particular genetic characteristics.

In no way does this definition require genetic modification to involve pipettes and white lab coats and scary-looking... places where people try to learn about stuff...??

The truth is that genetic modification – manipulation of genomes – has been done for centuries. All breeding processes are genetic modification. If you apply selection pressure to a species, that pressure will cause its genome to modify in response to your demands.

Whenever you see a dog on a lead, whenever you see a horse at a race, whenever you go to the shops and buy some vegetables, you are looking at genetically modified organisms.

A sprinkling of articles referencing genetic modification through history:

What my point is, is that genetic modification and genetic engineering are terms with different meanings. One is a lot vaguer than the other.

The process of chemically cutting short strands of DNA out of one genome, and chemically stitching it into another genome, is a process known as horizontal gene transfer. Most modification exploits vertical gene transfer – from parent to offspring – if the successor carrot is bigger, sweeter, and nicer looking, it gets held back, and the others get thrown to the pigs. This causes the genome of the remaining carrots to augment toward your ideal.

I use the example of carrots because they have changed so dramatically, over the centuries of their cultivation; from a small, yellow, bitter root plant, to a large, orange, sweet vegetable:

Horizontal gene transfer, however, is not new – in fact, it’s even older than vertical gene transfer. Back in the days of the ‘primordial soup’ of yaw, when eukaryotes were only gleams in the DNA strand’s eye, genes were thrown around hither and thither, and the ones that found a permutation encoding for self-replication suddenly exploded in number. (That’s a ‘suddenly’ on a geological timescale, of course). Genetic material is still shared this way, even by complex eukaryotes such as trees:

Horizontal gene transfer:

To reject genetic modification on the basis of its being ‘unnatural’ is perverse, but the method by which the anti-GMO protesters have pursued their cause is indicative, not of a sincerely scientific cause, but of a superstitious one (one not based on evidence).

Just recently, the EU rejected a ban on GM maize by France because there is no evidence that genetic engineering is any more dangerous than the un-engineered modifications that have been done for millennia

By penetrating the site and seizing the plants involved, they will be doing exactly the opposite of what they intend to achieve:

-- They intend to prevent the spread of genes into the wider environment (despite it being already available in other plants/animals), by trashing the plants, and carrying material off on their clothes

-- They claim the pollen will blow beyond the site, and ‘infect’ the surroundings, despite wheat not pollinating that way, and despite the space that’s deliberately left around the crops to prevent any pollen migrating off-site

-- They claim GMOs are dangerous, despite no evidence yet demonstrating this claim, and despite these experiments being the only way of finding such evidence – they’re undermining their own cause

-- They claim GMOs are going to put billions of people's lives in the hands of super-rich agricultural corporations, despite this research being publicly funded, the researchers being forbidden from profiting by the research, and non-engineered organisms already being in the hands of profit-motivated agricultural corporations

GMOs could be the saviour of mankind – giving it crucial time to develop, socially, and control its population size and economy, improving the lives of the billions who live on this planet.

Because of a purely superstitious opposition to a process that they clearly do not understand, this whole pursuit could be wrecked.

Other viewing:

[Video] Sally LePage: What’s all the fuss about GM wheat?

[Audio] A tour of the Rothamsted Research centre, in Hertfordshire, with interviews and explanations

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Comment #1 -- 'The Taxpayers' Alliance'

"Call for single 30% income tax rate"

At first i thought this was a joke. An incredibly tasteless and, frankly, shit joke!!!

But, it's actually a real demand, made by the "Taxpayers' Alliance" - a lobbying group of ultra-conservative loons, masquerading as a union! I suppose i should have guessed.

They claim not to be a front for the Cuntservatives, but have the same backers, and are strongly linked with the Cuntservative Party

Here's a video from The Other Taxpayers' Alliance, denouncing one of their exemplarily moronic claims

MSN articles tend to disappear. Here it is on the Beeb

Entertaining stuff from the week 14-20/5/12

[video] Thai commercial: Bank robbery :D
(Moral of the story -- learn to read!)

Forget Segways - these are even *more* hilarious! :D

[video] I almost don't want to post this because of the horrendous Top 2 - covers of Boh Rhap and Come Together!

"Top Ten Worst Christian Song Covers"

Yep - New Scientist got in my entertainment section!

- 40000 year old porn in France
- News of the nuclear reactor in the basement of Kodak's New York research centre
- Just read the second one again! :D
- The one about taste's pretty mind-bending too, though

[video] 3D-printed guitars dazzle with sound *and* sight!

Yes - it's true - The Darkness are going to tour with Lady GaGa!!

Well, this is slightly weird... :/

London's 2012 Olympic Surveillance mascots.

They'll be watching you!

I know - i thought it was a spoof - but it's real!! :S

From the WTF? aisle....

Assorted other superstition from the week 14-20/5/12

[video] Favouritism of Organic foods is entirely superstitious! Organic farming basically means predominantly employing outdated techniques - they're not intrinsically safer, and they're probably *less* healthy. The term 'organic' isn't even legally binding, so they could easily be covered in insecticide anyway!

[Audio] Another folk superstition that i really hate - opposition to GM food. Genetic modification has been done for millennia - all it means is selecting for genes in the plant/animal/whatever it is. There isn't a vegetable in a market in the country that hasn't been modified! All that's different about 'GM' is that the changes are deliberate - not left to chance - which makes them safer and more accurate, by my reckoning!
Sense About Science’s Sile Lane and Tracy Brown took a trip to Rothamsted Research in Harpenden to see what they're really doing in there.

The Unsinkable Rubber Duckies
James Randi on frauds, and the horrible things they do. And somehow their deceit manages to get people to defend them!

The Daily Fail, The Grauniad, and The Torygraph, all reported a cancer test that could test for cancer early. But will it work? Can it work? Margaret McCartney assesses its potential

Don't use Black Salve! It's incredibly dangerous - it burns away your skin, cancer and *all* - leaving you exposed to infections! No wonder Meryl Dorey loves it (she's the PTSD-ish lunatic who think vaccines cause autism, cancer... just about anything that isn't immunity against diseases!)

[video] Stop Freaking Out Over Plastic Bottles: They’re Not Leaching Toxins Into Your Water!

Alternative medicine superstition's threatening Malaysian tigers *as well*

Iran's trying to sue Google because it dropped the name of that stretch of water that's called the Persian Gulf by Iranians and the Arabian Gulf by Arabs. Ridiculous, isn't it!

Religion-related stuff from the week 14-20/5/12

"Meeting ‘emotional needs’ of gay couples through civil marriage is a ‘misuse of the state’ "
This guy Sentamu's the favoured candidate for the next Archbishop of Canterbury, remember!

What is it with superstitionists and their horrifically distorted perceptions of reality?? Do they seriously think we won't notice?!?
"I really don’t get it. It’s as if I were to sneer at creationists by calling them scientists, or clobbered seminaries by referring to them as research institutions"

[video] Whose friend is Jesus? He's not a friend of the poor!

How sick does a culture have to be for *children* to denounce *brands* as infidel? And it was only Nestle!!

Study shows Religionists are really good at loving people in the same faction as them, and are really good at hating people in different factions. Well, who knew?!

The Cuntservatives have decided to be hypocritical backsliders one again, by granting the C of E £30 million worth of tax freedom, so they can do up their cult centres in privilege. Oh, the poor persecuted Christians!

Chris Bryant: Tory MP’s response to equal marriage enquiry ‘as cruel as it was offensive’

Church of Ireland Synod: Gay relationships cannot be ‘normative’

Woman jailed for train attack on 16 year old lesbian. 16. 16. 16!! All she did was kiss her girlfriend, and the bitch beat her up for it!!! Sometimes i really wish i were a foot taller, and able to be everywhere at once - i really do!

Climate stuff from the week 14-20/5/12

[video] This is Not Cool: Murderers, Tyrants, and Madmen. Fossil fuel and motor industry advocates such as the Heartland Institute have been doing really sick things recently, including comparing people who don't deny the science of global warming to terrorists and serial killers!

9% of North America's mammals are unlikely to be able to outrun climatic change! Migration is incomparably faster than adaptation, and yet even this proportion of *mammals* seem set to extinction due to the changing environments in which they live

UN talks take first steps on 2015 climate deal

Utah and Harvard researchers have developed a way to identify the sources of CO2eq emissions, using concentration measurements, and weather data.

Thunderclouds trap pollution close to the ground, exacerbating its effect

Yep. Australia's been getting hotter too

Did you know the tropic of cancer is drifting northward? Well it is. Black carbon and tropospheric ozone is causing the atmosphere around the middle of the earth to expand, pushing its borders further toward the pole!

Biology stuff from the week 14-20/5/12

Economic growth and overpopulation are causing this species to live well beyond its means:
- Biodiversity has plummeted
- The atmosphere is augmenting at an accelerating rate
- 2.7 billion people experience annual water shortages
- By 2030, we will need an extra planet! (which we don't have, if you hadn't noticed)
The top offenders are Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, Denmark, and the USA.
And the richer nations are living at the expense of the poorer ones -- no surprise there!

Ah - those canny corvids - carrion crows can distinguish between the voices of familiar and unfamiliar humans!

The circadian clock, that tells us when to get up, and when to go to bed, and gets out of whack when we change time zones, evolved 2.5 billion years ago, at the same time as aerobic respiration (using oxygen for extra spunk)

All the myths and facts surrounding left-handedness

Contrary to what 'social darwinists' say (a bastardisation of evolutionary theory), bacteria evolve to work in cooperation with other bacterial species, and survive better than species that have not benefited from past cooperative adaptations

More about birds - sparrows do the equivalent of 'alpha male' humans during breeding season - as their testosterone surges, their songs become more aggressive, but there's more -- their brains grow more neurons in the singing region. This knowledge could help with stroke treatments.

*Not a dinosaur* but it did have arthritis - in an animal that lived 150 million years ago

More evidence of the link between low genetic diversity and susceptibility to disease, this time in platypuses

Mammals living at high altitudes have evolved to cope with hypoxia

Scientists discover first ever record of insect pollination from 100 million years ago

Medical stuff from the week 14-20/5/12

Spanish researchers have discovered antibiotics in meat-containing baby food at 0.5 to 25.2 µg/kg, and in milk-containing baby food at 1.2 to 26.2 µg/kg.
These are tiny concentrations, so won't be anything to worry about, but it does indicate the feckless over-use and mis-use of antibiotics by the farming industries.
Farmers use antibiotics to accelerate growth, with the consequence of breeding dangerous diseases in the host animals, such as swine flu.
The baby food itself isn't dangerous, but the mechanism by which they came to have antibiotics in them is!

Brain-controlled arm could beat paralysis. Amazing work!
Whenever i think of work in this area, it reminds me of this scene from Red Dwarf: So funny :D

"More than 5,000 people die each year [in the US] in vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving, many who were texting and talking on cellphones behind the wheel"
Driving is so dangerous, and yet we treat explosive-powered locomotion as if it's the most 'normal' thing in the world. Now tell me you're against GM, nuclear power, and think herbal medicine's worth the chance. Humans' risk-judging skills are a joke!

Temperature and water-borne ecosystems

There's been some interesting news in the week regarding water temperature and water-borne ecosystems, specifically fish, and the fishing industry, so i've lumped them together into a special post.

Most farmed fish, if you didn't already know, are carnivorous, and so are fed flakes of other fish (carnivorous fish tend to be bigger than herbivorous fish).
“Studies have shown that fish, such as salmon and sea bass, eat less of the plant protein product and don’t grow as fast.  Their flesh does not receive the necessary levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are a key component of human nutrition.  The food also contains anti-nutrients that cause difficulties with digestion and absorption of nutrients, as well as toxins that can build up in the fish.”
This doesn't seem a tenable practice, so fermented plant feed is being pioneered.
“Fermentation methods could predigest the toxins and anti-nutrients in food, making it easier for the fish to absorb and maintain overall good health.  It will help resolve current technical limitations of the product and address the concerns about and food shortage in the years to come.”

Farm salmon are fed on wild salmon, but outcompete them, and give them parasites (farming conditions favour pathogen populations), aswell as suffering from water temperature increases. On top of that, increased homogeneity's risking the fishes' health

Increasing water temperature is increasing fish gut activity, meaning they have to eat more to fulfill their nutritional needs