Monday, 25 February 2013

Entertainment stuff from the week 18-24/2/13

Hi, hairy-ape-people

Have you heard the story about the Bigfoot DNA paper that went missing?

The only evidence was footprints; frayed paper; and dodgy-looking videos of the paper trundling through brackeny woods, in the mid-ground, yet out of focus despite technology nowadays rarely failing to focus properly.

Now, however, the paper has been found!

Melba Ketchum - a leading Bigfoot Believer - has made her own journal, so that she could publish her own paper in it, and peer-review herself, for her own paper, thereby 'proving', once and for all, that Bigfoot exists.

The paper has been rubbished by scientists who have read it.

Another thing that's gone on recently, is the UK's jump toward equal marriage access, joining some States in the USA, and other countries around the world. But no thanks to the cuntservative bigots who line the Conservative Party... well, duh.

Because of this, Queers of the UK are now empowered to be just as nauseating as the Straights, in their persistent equivocation between love and marriage... yeurch.

The importance of equal access to marriage is that marriage grants the people involved privileged legal (mostly financial) status.

That's how traditional cis-hetero-only marriage subjugates non-bromidic couplings.

Marriage is not about 'acknowledging people's love' - in fact it's not really about love at all.

...equal marriage for Tapejaras though!

------------------------------------------------------ contemporary stuff

More 'Funny Place Names' albums, with verifying links:

'Flexible Sculptures - Pure White Paper' - from Ripley's Believe It Or Not!
I almost didn't realise what's so crazy about this art, but then... watch the video to find out.
See another video demo here:

A 'best of' compilation of basejumping videos on YouTube. If i ever do this, myself, it will be happening against my will :-o

'No Hands Push Ups' Funny trick :-)

‘Spider skin at 12,000 magnification’

'Can you work this picture out?' - via Richard Wiseman

'Trinity: Interview with Dr. Oz, Alex Jones, and Deepak Chopra' - a musical episode of Skeptoid, by Brian 'Brian Dunning of' Dunning
"For we are the holy trinity,
Of pseudoscientific idiocy,
And we have the network's mandate,
To blow your brain cells away."

------------------------------------------------------ of the weeks


The Daily Mail: "Corrections and Clarifications: The Mail has decided to earnestly correct all its bigoted, hate-inducing, exploitative, racist, sexist, nationalistic, and pseudo-scientific propaganda, going back over the last century. This may take some time... sorry"

William Shakespeare: "...Yours Sincerely, The Earl of Essex"

Jane Austen: "..."Oh my goodness", cried Miss Bennet, as Mr Darcy plunged his throbbing member deeper inside, and grasped at her quivering bosom"

Nelson: "Oh yes, i see those ships. Second thoughts, they look big - let's turn around and go home..."

Nelson: "Have you seen the size of my column? It's the reason Lady Hamilton loves me so much. UNF"

Word Of The Week: shibboleth -- a word for a word that, for some reason, can be used to distinguish between populations

Expression Of The Week: "one over the eight" -- just enough to tip the balance

Quote Of The Week: "I have kleptomania, but when it gets bad, I take something for it" - Robert Benchley

Scientific Paper Title Of The Week: Would Bohr be born if Bohm were born before Born? {See Feedback excerpts, 22/29 Dec, at the bottom of the page}

------------------------------------------------------ non-contemporary stuff

'The House in the Middle of the Street'

'Bacon Flavored Shaving Cream'
"The self-titled "bacontrepreneur" has also come up with other pork inspired products such as bacon roses, bacon lip balm and bacon baby formula.
And, for those "who love bacon to death", he has created a £2,000 bacon-wrapped coffin."

'Huge Psy Snowman!'

'Lawyer Bills Client For Time They Spent Having Sex'
What a scumbag!

'Russell Howard's Good News Big Cook Little Cook Scene'

Feedback excerpts:

ABOUT to go on a business trip to Brisbane, Australia, and hoping to do a bit of exploring as well, Adrian Page decided to download a map onto his satnav and start planning in advance. In doing so, he discovered that Australia, big as it is, is even more interesting than he had thought.
According to Adrian's satnav, the 1.2 million kilometres of roads that cover the continent contain "879,100 million 'Points of Interest'." This means that on average there is a point of interest every 1.5 millimetres of road. To put it another way, given Australia's surface area of 7,692,024 square kilometres, the continent must contain something interesting every 10 square metres.
Clearly, truly fascinating trips lie ahead for Adrian and others.
8 Dec

Michael Holroyd sends us a scan of an advertisement he saw in The Equity newspaper in Shawville, Quebec, Canada. It's for a portable toilet rental service, and although it's not a new Apple product, it's called - get ready to groan here - "I-Pood".
8 Dec

BALLYGOWAN mineral water, Barry Cash was startled to read, is "filtered through calcium-enriched limestone". Barry asks, "How can you enrich it with more calcium?"
15 Dec
{The chemical structure of limestone is CaCO3 - it's calcium carbonate - how could you put more calcium in it?}

"KEEP back from the platform edge," begins a sign from Penrith railway station sent by Alan Storer from Victoria, Australia, who assigns it to Penrith, New South Wales, Australia. Feedback's fine eye for typography and railway architecture places it firmly in Penrith, Cumbria, UK, in the time of standardised British Rail signs using the Helvetica font. Searching, we find readers of The Guardian newspaper in 2006 offering confirmation of its location.
And why might it have gone viral all over the interweb and undergone such memetic mutation? Because we more frequently see a sign that assumes some knowledge of physics in expressing the reason for keeping back, such as: "Passing trains cause air turbulence."
The sign in Alan's photo is in plain English and finishes, simply, with: "...or you may get sucked off".
Feedback wants an explanation for the giggling we hear. This is serious.
15 Dec

OUR piling system throws up a report in Canada's Globe and Mail online telling us that in October President Bashar al-Assad of Syria "approved a law on the health security of genetically modified organisms... to regulate their use and production".
SANA, the state-run news agency, explained that the law's purpose was to "preserve the health of human beings, animals, vegetables and the environment".
The same report mentions that "more than 33,000 people have been killed in 19 months of conflict" in Syria, "most of them civilians". Clearly, al-Assad is, despite that, the kind of guy who cares.
15 Dec

The makers of the Vactor sewer cleaner, Ronald Davis notes, claim it has a new fan and air-routing system that "delivers significantly increased vacuum pressure"
22/29 Dec
{If we temporarily pretend that 'vacuum' can mean vacuuminess, surely an increased vacuum pressure would mean a weakened vacuum, and thereby less suction power?!?}

THIS year's competition run by UK newspaper The Guardian to win "six mind-boggling science books" included the following question: "Food that doesn't contain any chemicals: a) is known as organic; b) was grown without pesticides; c) will help you lose weight; d) is much healthier".
Our mind, like Paul Manson's, was boggled by the question. Paul suggests an additional answer: "e) doesn't exist".
22/29 Dec
{'Chemical' is another one of those terms that the wider public seems to have a very odd impression of. Other examples are 'theory' and 'natural'}

A SELF-STYLED "important memo" forwarded by Robin McKellar warns that the Ottawa Citizen newspaper is being delivered later than normal "due to a shortage of carriers" - and "apologises for the incontinence".
As it happens, the note was delivered to Robin's mother in her nursing home.
22/29 Dec

FINALLY, READER William Urton supplies our favourite title of the week - albeit one belonging to a paper published in 2008 in the American Journal of Physics (vol 76, p 143).
Its author, Hrvoje Nikolic, begins his attempt to compare the work of the quantum physicists David Bohm and Max Born thus: "I discuss a hypothetical historical context in which a Bohm-like deterministic interpretation of the Schrödinger equation is proposed before the Born probabilistic interpretation and argue that in such a context the Copenhagen (Bohr) interpretation would probably have not achieved great popularity among physicists."
In case that isn't entirely clear, the paper's title sums it up simply: "Would Bohr be born if Bohm were born before Born?"

22/29 Dec

Monday, 18 February 2013

Entertainment stuff from the week 11-17/2/13

Hi, folks

Firstly, i must apologise for last week's equine puns -- they weren't a-mews-ing at all :-P

Less facetiously, this week, i found out who Michelle Jenneke is. I could barely be more glad :o)

This is belated, but "happy Singles Awareness Day", alotofone. Say wut, Tap? Read here - it has been renamed!

Anyone notice Brian Cox's clanger-of-the-week, on Wonders Of Life?

He pushed down on some solid CO2, which he was using for cooling purposes, heard a weird squeaking sound, and explained it as the plate underneath cooling rapidly. Wrong, Brian! Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!

That noise is what you get from compressing solid CO2 - dry ice - and squeezing the gas out of it. And you can certainly get some weird noises from solid CO2!

Hear some of that funky stuff, heres:

Two types of marriage i learned about, this week:

Lavender marriage - which is engaged in to conceal that one or both members are non-hetero; the one whose presence is used to conceal the sexuality of the other is called a 'beard'

Boston marriage -  where two women live together, independently of male support (not necessarily a sexual/romantic relationship)

Well, whad'ya know? Thank you, Wikipedia!

Oh - and the other news - the Pope has given something up for Lent - infallibility:
{That's a Family Guy reference, if you didn't know}
'Resigning Pope No Longer Has Strength To Lead Church Backward',31248/

His departure was heralded by this:
Of course, superstitionists have been claiming that the meteor, along with lightning, and a seagull, have been some kind of omen, which is, frankly, embarrassing for the human species:;id=30614

------------------------------------------------------ contemporary stuff

'10 more amazing bets you will always win' - Richard Wiseman

LMAO - conservatism and obsession with guns:
'Gayle Trotter: The Woman Who Called Gun Control Sexist'
Before long, she was being hailed as a hero by some — conservative blogger Michelle Malkin tweeted, “Stand tall, Gayle Trotter. We appreciate your strong 2nd. amendment voice” — and as a nut job by others. Trotter “is now officially the most insane gun advocate in America,” wrote blogger Michael Edward Kelly. The New York Times called her testimony “dangerous.”
“An assault weapon in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon,” Trotter said. “And the peace of mind she has…knowing she has a scary-looking gun gives her more courage when she’s fighting hardened violent criminals.”... "she said she’s never personally experienced gun violence or knows anyone who has."
"The 41-year-old is a mother of six and a partner in the law firm she and her father built. She has written for a few blogs, including the now defunct Christian-themed Evangel. She’s a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, a nonprofit research group whose mission is to “expand the conservative coalition".”

Hehe - those horrific bigots at Fux News accidentally used a picture of a lesbian couple, to head an article exhorting 'traditional marriage' :-D
'Fox Uses Lesbian Photo for 'Traditional' Marriage Argument' - TYT

Ever seen a bottom percussionist before? Nope - neither had i - but i want a go :o)
'Percussionist Jorge Perez plays some percussion on peculiar instruments'

The marvelous Maynard of AU!... interviews Craig Charles, Bobby Llew, and Danny John-Jules in Sydney

'Top 5 Most Unbelievable Valentines' - Ripley's Believe It Or Not

------------------------------------------------------ of the weeks

Un-quotes Of The Week:

Meryl Dorey: "I hope you've vaccinated your kids against all those horrible diseases"

All the world's banks: " in conclusion, we've decided to give back all the money we've hoarded for absolutely no good reason"

Any stand-up comedian: "Look, none of this story's actually true, but let's run with it anyway..."

Mel Gibson: "Since i converted to Judaism..."

Peter Tatchell: "You can take your Human Rights and shove 'em up your..."

Word Of The Week: inexorable -- not capable of being stopped; unceasing

Fact Of The Week: The air in several Italian cities has been found to be laced with various drugs. The best for cocaine is Turin. Concentrations, however, are far too low to 'benefit' from

Etymology Of The Week: transpire -- through-breathe, leading to the modern definition of 'coming to fruition'/'leading to something taking place' which many sources, curiously, consider erroneous

Quote Of The Week: "Propose to an Englishman any principle, or any instrument, however admirable, and you will observe that the whole effort of the English mind is directed to find a difficulty, a defect, or an impossibility in it. If you speak to him of a machine for peeling a potato, he will pronounce it impossible: if you peel a potato with it before his eyes, he will declare it useless, because it will not slice a pineapple." - Charles Babbage

------------------------------------------------------ non-contemporary stuff

I saw this guy on Russell Howard's Good News. It must have been a repeat, but LOL
'Offensive hedge gets the snip'
The same guy who was World pea-shooting champion got in the papers for shaping a hedge outside his house into the shape of a cock and balls :o)

Two Guys And A Guy - 'Pencil Sketch' (cartoon strip)

'Friendzoned!!!' From a comic strip by Migle Anušauskaite

'Wtf, nature? — Jellyfishes and worms' - also by Migle Anušauskaite

'15 Things Not To Say To Your Boyfriend'

'The Drugs Song' - by Amateur Transplants
Btw, they say the line "and if you want to overdose there's always paracetamol". I once worked out how much acetaminophen (the active ingredient in paracetamol) it would take to kill an average man.
I calculated that it would require about 0.6 Kg of pills - enough for a small meal! Somehow, i don't think overdosing on paracetamol's a very practical method, especially as you'd likely use them a lot already if you were considering them, which means your liver would grow familiar and you'd need an even bigger dose!

'"Weird Al" Yankovic - Do I Creep You Out?' with video by The Button Mushroom, who did ^ that video too.

'Finals Fantasy' - by Amateur Transplants

'Dorsal Horn Concerto' - by Amateur Transplants
The tune to this one is, of course, Mozart's horn concerto in E-flat minor, Koechel rating 495, which he wrote at about the age of 18 months. And whenever i hear it, i can't not think of Flanders & Swann, whom i've heard quite a lot, recently.
I couldn't find a satisfactory version on YouTube so i uploaded this:
I took the opportunity to upload this one too:
I'd heard these songs well before i studied Physics at Uni... do you think this one might have influenced me, subconsciously? ;-)
Thank you, YouTube, for nudging me at this video, with one of Michael Flanders' glorious monologues. No thanks for the false Content ID match on one of uploads, though.

A great video illusion. Watch on YT, full screen, for best effect

Mike Wood is puzzled by an advert for David Ormerod Hearing Centres in his local paper, the Chester Chronicle: "New invisible hearing aid has to be seen to be believed"
3 Nov

Peter Buck's Indesit PWE 91272 W washing machine has a button to control its temperature. The instruction manual explains: "Temperature button: press to reduce or completely exclude the temperature". Peter says he has not yet tried a wash cycle with the temperature completely excluded, as he fears it may damage his clothes.
10 Nov

IN RESPONSE to our report on a sign about hearing tests in a Canadian clinic that said "please wait until you are called in" (27 October), John Gledhill tells us that a few years ago his uncle Dennis went to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, UK, to have his first hearing aid fitted. He was told to be there by 9 o'clock, which he was.
After sitting in the waiting room for more than 3 hours he went over to the receptionist and asked what was going on. She replied, apparently without any sense of irony, "Oh, we've been calling you on the PA for ages".
"Sigh," John writes.
17 Nov

HOW do they work that out, then? John Vanhegan's comment on the list of ingredients of his Hotel Chocolat dark organic chocolate is that the numbers involved are "odd". The list reads: "Cocoa solids (minimum 100 per cent), emulsifier, soya, lecithin."

17 Nov

Are they hoping to emulate the publicity gained by the Higgs Boson? A press release arrives at New Scientist headlined "Hitachi Consulting UK seeks to unlock the 'Shopping Particle'"

17 Nov

THE copyright statement that Isobel Clarke found at the bottom of a music review on ( seemed so excessively inclusive that she sent it to Feedback with her comments.
The statement reads: "This article or any part of it, however small, must not be copied, quoted, reproduced, downloaded or altered in any way whatsoever nor stored in any retrieval system. Failure to comply is in breach of International Copyright Law and will render any offender liable to action at law."
Isobel notes: "The 'however small' phrase must include every letter and punctuation mark in the article. Therefore I must conclude that virtually everything written in the Latin alphabet since the publication of this document (2010) is in breach of copyright - including this letter.
"Taking this further, the phrase 'any retrieval system' must include the human brain, and so it was obviously illegal for me to read the article (and store the contents in my brain) but there was no way of knowing this until I had read it. Should I feel guilty?"
What's more, it seems to Isobel that "Feedback cannot legally report anything of this for that would mean reproducing the copyright statement, but maybe in the eternal quest for free speech you should risk it."
We checked with an expert and we are allowed to reproduce these terms and conditions, with attribution, for the purposes of reporting news and current affairs, whatever they say.
Whether we're allowed to think about them, we're less sure.
24 Nov

WHEN she decided to clear her browsing history for the first time in Google Chrome, Shelley Williamson was invited to "obliterate the following items" from a choice of "1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, 4 weeks or the beginning of time".
Without thinking about the possible consequences, she chose "the beginning of time" - but then, as she clicked on it, she was seized with the thought that she may have set in motion the wheels of the demise of the universe.
Shortly afterwards, when it became clear that nothing untoward had happened, she relaxed - and decided to inform Feedback.

24 Nov

SEVERAL readers wrote to us about a BBC news article back in August about artificial vocal cords. They were struck by a sentence describing the work of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which states: "They have tested a gel, called polyethylene glycol 30, which can flutter around 200 times per second - about the same speed as a woman during a conversation."
Carol Ince's comment was typical: "I hadn't noticed myself fluttering while talking to people," she says, perturbed. "No one's mentioned it to me."

24 Nov

THE banquet contained in the sachet of vinegar that Roy Kettle bought made the meal he was about to pour it on seem superfluous.
The label informed him that the contents "May contain: Nuts, Peanuts, Sesame Seeds, Mustrad (sic), Celery, Wheat, Eggs, Fish, Soyabeans, Milk, Sulphites and Cereals containing Gluten". Who would want fish and chips on top of all that?

24 Nov

Domino sugar, according to the bag Alison Gibson picked up in Newtown, Pennsylvania, is "carbon-free". So what's left - water?
1 Dec

FINALLY, Tim Hall's Facebook timeline told him, "Tim Hall is at Aviemore and one other place."
Tim says he has no idea where the other place is and he doesn't want to check in case the uncertainty collapses and he suddenly finds himself there.

1 Dec

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Flower Porn (?)

Date Started: 14/5/12
Date Finished: 19/5/12
Date First Published: 17/2/13

Have you ever wondered why people are so prudish about bearing their own genitals, seeing the genitals of other people, and even seeing the genitals of other animal species, but are perfectly willing to display the genitals of non-animals on the living-room table, or in their lapel, or on birthday cards? [1]


What the heck are you going on about now, Tap?

When do we ever do that?

Well, here’s the thought-jerker for you: flowers are the genitals of plants

Flowers are the reproductive structures of plant species. They contain the stamen and stigma - equivalent to the testes and ovaries of animals – and produce pollen and ova – the equivalent of semen and ova in animals.

That the outer structures of plant genitals are designed to attract vectors of gamete distribution is an artefact of plants’ staticity, and does not negate from their function in the sexual reproduction of plants.

All other elements of the process are directly comparable:

Gametes: pollen and ova – semen and ova

Sexy things: colourful petals and volatile chemicals (sweet smells) - curvy and sticky-outy bits, and seductive behaviour, to attract a mate

Mechanism of sex: bees/beetles/butterflies/birds/ants to carry the pollen – sexual intercourse, where the genitals are rubbed directly against each other [2]

Gamete fusion: pollen grains fuse with plant ova – spermatozoa fuse with animal ova

Development: eggs in plants are called seeds – developing eggs in animals are called embryos/foetuses (contingent on stage of development)

After sufficient development, plant eggs are ejected out of their host – of animal eggs, only mammals retain theirs internally for prolonged development

So remember that, next time you’re in someone’s garden, and you decide to sniff someone’s prize specimens – you’re actually shoving a plant’s genitals in your face!
And if you ever eat a fruit, remember that you’re actually eating the inflamed ovary from a pregnant plant! [3]

Why do humans feel disgust in response to animals’ bits and bobs, but not the plants’ equivalents? It’s purely down to cultural conditioning. [4]

As a Tapejara, i consider you to be a rather two-faced species, to treat plants and your fellow animals so differently :-P

Post-jaunt:  Some humans are allergic to human semen. Many more, however, are allergic to the semen of plants – it’s called hay-fever!


[1] Non-animals on a table; in a lapel; on a card. Well, genitals are the right thing to send, on Single Awareness Day, right?

[2] When farmers deliberately genetically modify their plantstock, they do sometimes rub flower heads together, replicating the animal fashion.

[3] Plus, what we think of as 'fungi' are actually just the fruiting bodies of fungi - most of the body is underground, hence fairy rings and the largest organism known to mankind.

[4] You don't subjugate plants for being bisexual or hermaphroditic, the way you do human animals; and you don't reject humans for being infertile or old and weak, they way you do plants. You grant privileged legal and financial status to humans who engage in supposedly-monogamous heterosexual coupling, whether lavender or not, thereby subjugating all others; but when plants breed with whoever they get, whenever they get them, you don't bat an eyelid! Hypocrisy....

A reference:
{Just ‘cos i shall}

Monday, 11 February 2013

Comment #20: -- Lumosity And The Brain-Training Bunk

Date Started: 6/2/13
Date Completed: 10/2/13
Date First Published: 10/2/13

Gaaaah.... Lumosity. Who can bear that dreaded ‘ting’?

It plagues YouTube with its ads, and has driven me to write a much-too-un-mini mini-essay about it.

If this seems rambly, then the reason is that Lumosity has shredded my nerves!

Pseudo-neuroscience has become much more abundant, in recent years, because no-one wants to be stupid, and no-one wants to be thought stupid. The products we see are largely targeted at people who will live a long time, and so, increasingly, also fear dementia as they age.

‘Molly Crockett: Beware neuro-bunk’

From fruit drinks, to brain-training games, entrepreneurs are producing pseudoscience, to exploit the growing market of people willing to shell out for brain-enhancements.

But there’s no evidence that they work.

The drinks certainly don’t work – not now, at least – maybe sometime in the future, they will; but the claims of brain-training games currently have greater verisimilitude.

Exercise makes people fitter, brain exercise makes brains fitter – that’s how it works, right?

Not quite.

Exercising specific parts of your body makes those parts fitter, but not the rest. This is why health and fitness depends on cardio-vascular exercise, which does have a body-wide effect. (Your cardiovascular system does go pretty-much everywhere, after all). Big biceps don’t equate with good fitness.

All the little puzzles and things, from the crosswords in ‘papers and magazines, to Sudoku books, to the quizzles of doctor hiro-whateverhisnameis, to the computer games that the media and zealous parents bemoan alike, are active in training specific areas of the brain. Which areas? The regions involved in doing these activities. Now, there’s a surprise!

“Think of the brain as a muscle” – every neuroscientist since time immemorial

If you practice ‘til you’re a god at Sudoku, then that doesn’t mean you’re going to get any better at anything else – all you’ve done is to practice Sudoku and get good at that.

Baroness Greenfield (ex-head of the Royal Institution – the one that does the Christmas Lectures) was met with adulation from the Press, and grief from the scientists, when she warned that computer games ‘change teenagers’ brains’.

Well, of course they bloody do!

If you learn something, your brain changes, in order to incorporate that information. All she was saying, in actual fact, was that when teenagers learn how to play computer games, they learn how to play computer games. Gah.....

But this doesn’t mean they’re turning into zombies, who are going to start eating each other and eventually come for you. {Yes – i know that’s an exaggeration}

Ben Goldacre on the barmy claims of Greenfield and her apparent-cohort:

There are potential dangers to such activities, however – they tend to be highly habit-forming (read: “addictive”).

Having grown up in an electronic age, and having been a slightly-OCD and more-so Generalised Anxiety-y child, i am well aware of how easy it is to grow emotionally attached to one game in particular, and experience weird withdrawal symptoms when it’s unavailable i.e. i ran out of batteries. Darn! In that case, i got a chance to recover self-control; later, with PC games, no such opportunity. Pure mental muscle was necessary.

I make myself sound a real ‘case’, don’t i – except i know i’m not.

People become behaviourally dependent on all kinds of things. I remember seeing a programme on Channel 4, about a woman who’d become dependent on coffee enemas! If you’re familiar with the UK’s TV, i expect you’ll have worked out that that programme’s ‘Embarrassing Bodies’. (Enemas are much-touted by medical pseudoscientists – please don’t do them, unless under proper medical advice/supervision). The woman in question developed a several-times-a-day habit, which risked her health, let alone her social life.

I know this case is extreme, but it is the intention of the marketers to get you ‘hooked’, because you are the source of their revenue stream. Over the decades, computer games of all kinds have advanced in their ability to capture our attention, and keep it under lock and key for extended periods of time. We, as the user, would say “they’re so much fun – so absorbing”. Well, we would if we spoke in adspeak :-P

But yes – absorbing – too absorbing, if you ask me.

Then again, i am probably the kind of person who should avoid them, LOL.

Brain-training companies are probably the most nefarious when it comes to engendering destructive habits. They don’t just feed you fun stuff that you can’t put down – they actively advise you to pick it up and pick it up again, and again, and again, for the rest of your life, potentially. You don’t want to get unfit, now, do you? Then keep playing!

And with that, i think it’s time to get stuck into Lumosity. I’ve been waiting for months, to do this [wrings hands and wipes sweat from brow]

Lumosity plagues my viewing, on YouTube – and i do a lot of it - so their ads really piss me off!

What is it?

A monthly subscription web-site, which you get a free trial for.This means you get hooked, and then you pay out for the rest of your life, or until you recover your self-control.

And doesn’t it make them money!

“Lumosity Raises $31.5M From Discovery Communications For Brain Fitness Games... This brings Lumosity’s total funding to over $70 million to date.”

“Nearly every page of the site contains health "tips" that encourage users to train their brains and train them often. "Did you know?" the site asks rhetorically before each tip.  "Did you know?  The ACTIVE study, funded by the NIH and involving 2832 adults, found that some benefits of cognitive training can last over five years after the initial training." The implication here is clear: train with Lumosity for life-long health benefits.”

“Players' user and performance data is rigorously tracked by Lumosity.  This data is then utilized for the company's own aggressive targeted advertising, as well as sold to various undisclosed third parties.  It's right there in the Privacy Policy.”

“Thanks to the Children's Online Privacy Protect Act, websites are strictly limited in what kinds of data they can collect from children, and the FTC has become more involved recently in fining children's app developers for violating these privacy laws.  Because of this, Lumosity specifically notes that "the Site and the Software are not designed for or directed at children; the subject matter of the Site is not designed for or directed at children; and the content, including any video or audio, on the Site is not designed for or directed at children." But there is a fair amount of doublespeak involved on this point.  At the same time that the Privacy Policy makes explicit the fact that children should not use the site, the site has "Scholar" training programs that are designed for use by "students."  And in the sparse scientific data presented in their "Science Behind Lumosity" the Lumosity shows to substantiate it's claims to efficacy, middle-school aged children were the demographic that their studies tested.  So the unwary parent should take note that despite any appearances to the contrary, Lumosity's all-encompassing data collection practices that make this educational gaming site off-limits to the under-18 crowd.”

“If you're serious about fitness, you are probably better off running on a treadmill instead of hula hooping on WiiFit, and if you're serious about keeping your mind sharp, you'll benefit just as much, if not more, from reading a book, learning or practicing a foreign language, doing a few math problems each day, or playing your favorite casual puzzle game, be it a crossword puzzle or Tetris.”

More, about their dodgy private-data policies; this one dating back to 2009, when the company was only 2 years old:

“I’m not sure what to make of your response. I would like you to delete my user account. Can you please do that?...”
“I’m sorry, but it’s not pos­sible for us to com­pletely purge your infor­ma­tion from our sys­tem...”
“This got me ner­vous. Why would anyone con­struct a web­site where the staff can’t purge user accounts? After all, the signup terms state that user accounts can be deleted if they are imper­son­a­tors or minors. Cle­arly, Lumos Labs were lying to me.”

Such a seemingly-malignant organisation is bound to incur plenty of complaints... Oh, it does:
This one’s my favourite:
“I signed up for Lumosity just to see how much it costs etc... I got an email 3 days later showing how much I've improved after my first lesson, showing my BPI was in the 92nd percentile, with bars graphs for Speed, Memory, Attention, Flexibility, and Problem Solving. I never went through ANY lesson. This information is all made up and purely fictional.”

Businesses like Lumosity are in the vein of classic pseudoscience – the spam mail Viagra for insecure/unhealthy men, or the extreme-diet fads for insecure/unhealthy women – they offer a simple, easy get-out-clause from complex, difficult problems.
“Lose weight with this one tip”... “Your penis could be bigger”... “Beauticians hate this woman”... “Architects hate this amphibian”.... all that bullshit.
In reality, difficult problems have difficult solutions. Tempting people that are in difficult situations, with easy ways out, is abusive, in my book!

Personal gripes:

1) Graphs with no labels on them!!!

2) Irrelevant equations and diagrams that vaguely allude to intelligence
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3) Specs drawn on, because specs 'make people clever' [grrrrrrr]
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4) Pictures of brains all over the place
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5) Pictures of light-bulbs - so superlatively cheesy
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6) The 'ting' at the beginning, which heralds the agony of the ad
7) Infuriatingly anti-scientific statements: “ is based on neuroscience”; “it just seems like games, but it’s serious brain-training”; “improving your performance with the science of neuroplasticity”; “Regardless of your age, Lumosity can make you smarter and more mentally fit.”; “I can tell a big difference – decisions come quicker, i’m more productive – it’s serious brain-training, it just feels like games”. Outright lies!
8)  An economics-style graph of ‘performance’, deliberately formulated to deceive by exaggeration – look at the axes!
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9)  The playlist of real science videos, to make their non-science seem legitimate
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10)  They quote Indre Viskontas, who is a real neuroscientist... and Skeptic! I wonder what else she said, that they cut out. Or maybe she sold out – i hope not!

All the versions of their videos, on YouTube – with ratings and comments disabled on many:
Ratings disabled, you say, Tap? Why ever would they do that...
Obscene comments? ....Actually, i’m not surprised!

Oh, and you know pseudoscientists always have a list of anecdotes as long as their arm, right? Well, here’s theirs:

Does anybody else think it's dangerous to suggest that critical professions can be enhanced by wasting time on ‘brain-training’ regimes?

The best way to get better at being a fire-fighter, is by paying attention in training sessions, and thinking a lot about how to do your job. Not by thinking about racing penguins!

But these guys are trying to be real, proper scientists, so they’ve cobbled together some articles that look like good science.

In fact, they’re farcical. Remember this: all of these are from Lumosity’s ‘Completed Research Behind Lumosity’ section, on their web-site: They purport all of this as validating their claims...

‘Study shows Lumosity training increases frontal lobe function’
 “the analysis did not include a control group”
You can’t make valid claims about an intervention’s effect, if you can’t compare it to a dummy scenario! Cancer patients get better. Does Lumosity accelerate that recovery? I’m guessing not, or they would have done this study properly.

‘Your ageing brain’
This ‘study’ shows us that practice makes people get better at the tasks they’re doing! [shocker]
It also shows us that people who start with higher scores can’t improve those scores as much as people who started with lower scores e.g. some older people. Ergo, brain training gives older people the brains of 20-somethings! Either that, or they just got good at the task, without any benefit to any other activity in their life...

‘Executive Function and Emotional Regulation: A Love Story’
“while it’s too early to say that cognitive and emotional processing training can help you be better at relationships and personal interactions,  the link between emotional well-being and certain skills that Lumosity targets—including attention, executive function, and working memory—makes this a fascinating topic for further study”
So... something to say, but nothing that specifically supports Lumosity’s expensive software...

‘Lumosity improves sustained attention in study of mild cognitive impairment’
This study (no inverted commas – apparently, this is a proper one) has a sample size of 16, and a control group! (of unknown number). Both groups were subject to treatment; only one to Lumosity.
The results, however, are puzzling. The control group, which received treatment, got worse.
And they got as much worse as the intervention group got better. This is such a small study, that we must put this result down to statistical fuzz – it’s not a real result.
“Mild cognitive impairment, which is associated with an increased risk of dementia...”
Dementia... dementia... i’m sure i’ve mentioned that, at some point, in this mini-essay...

‘Lumosity Training Can Enhance Brain Function and Math Skills, According to Stanford Study’
“Dr. Kesler and colleagues found that the course can improve cognition and math skills in girls with Turner’s syndrome... Participants exercised with Lumosity Math Tutor for 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week, over the course of 6 weeks.”
NEWSFLASH, NEWSFLASH!! Children get smarter as they grow up!! NEWSFLASH, NEWSFLASH!!
This reminds me of a non-study that Ben Goldacre wrote about, in which an entire school was given fish-oil pills, and the upward incline in test scores was attributed; not to the fact that they’re kids at school who are learning things; but to the fish-oil. Facepalm time!
P.S. if you skipped it, check back to my excerpts of Rachel Ponce’s article, in which she notes that Lumosity is forbidden from marketing to children due to their sloppy privacy behaviours. But clearly, Lumosity intends them as a market - why else would they test it on kids?

‘LEAP Results Are Out’
Yet another useless study, demonstrating that when you practice something, you get better at it. So why waste time with Lumosity when you could be practicing something that actually happens, in the real world?

‘Lumosity Cognitive Enhancement Research Published in Mensa’
“This study goes above and beyond others of its kind in building a persuasive case for cognitive training for the general population.”
Does it?
“The implications of this study are clear and compelling: Lumosity training can improve core underlying mental abilities, abilities that transfer to myriad aspects of our everyday lives”
A claim of an easy, simple solution, for a complex, difficult problem, writ right there.

From the actual publication, in Mensa Research Journal (which is not a scientific journal – at least, it’s not listed on
“All patients were mentally and physically healthy as determined by a short e-mail questionnaire”.
Erm... yeah. That’ll do. No GP’s report necessary. Geez...

14 were Lumosited; 9 were left to rot. This is, again, a tiny sample size, massively prone to false positive results. Considering that this ‘study’ (yep – the inverted commas are back) was done over the web, i would expect more people to be involved.

The motivation for pseudoscientists to do tiny studies is that they are cheap, easy, and repeatable – if you do one big study that gets a negative result, then tough – if you do ten small studies and one gets a positive result, ignore the other nine, and harp on about the one positive result ‘til raptor Jesus returns on his pink unicorn.
The methodology goes into massive technical detail, where a simple diagram would easily explain what happened. {Who do these people think they are – engineers?}. The general gist is that they played games involving orientation (spatial, not sexual) and short-term memory.
There was no attempt to distinguish between enhanced memory and spatial ability, and just enhanced concentration in an environment they had become familiarised with i.e. the Lumosity software. A valid control group would have been given benign games to play, rather than nothing at all. Being given nothing would have led to them feeling dejected, resulting in arrested enthusiasm for the study, and consequent poor results, regardless of ability. The only participant who dropped out was in, you guessed it, the boring old control group who didn’t have anything to do. Of course, there’s no blinding – they know exactly which group they’re in, and hence that they shouldn’t bother, if they’re not getting the intervention.
And now onto the nitty gritty....

They blow up the data into nice-looking graphs, for the ‘forward spatial working memory’ and the ‘reverse spatial working memory’, but not for the ‘divided visual attention’ and the ‘letter memory’, which they also tested. I wonder why...

Actually, i don’t have to. The trained group improved more in the ‘forward SWM’ and ‘reverse SWM’, but the control group (who had absolutely no practice, remember) improved more at ‘letter memory’, and were the only people to improve at ‘divided visual attention’ (the trained group actually got worse!)

Conclusion: this was a shit study, which they attempted to make the most of

Then there’re posters and cartoons, that don’t even present the semblance of research, e.g.:

So there.... i’ve got that of my chest.

And now to prepare my nerves for the next time i hear that bloody ‘ting!’ before a YouTube video....

Good luck everyone!