Sunday, 23 February 2014

Entertainment stuff from the week 17-23/2/14

Hi Vikings,

'Ragnarok approaches!'

Well, actually, Ragnarok has gone... but what's Ragnarok? It's the end of the world!

Yup, another asinine armageddonist fiction has been and gone, and we're (mostly) still here.

At least, i'm mostly still here. I don't know about you :-P

I went to see The Monuments Men, last week. Mark Kermode thought it couldn't decide whether it was a comedy or a tragedy. I thought it worked just fine, as it was.

A question that caught my mind was: "who was that, singing 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas'?"

I thought her voice sounded like Katie Melua's - not the same, but very similar - it turns out it was recorded by the 16-year-old daughter of Warner Brothers executive David Sagal - Nora Sagal.

So well done her. Good film, btw - not a classic, but a good film.

A film that was a classic: 'The Lego Movie'

I agree with Mark Kermode, that the 3D works very well in Lego bricks. Sure, it's marketed toward kids, and the cinema was mostly populated by parents and kids, when i saw it, but it's a great film.

Everything is awesome; everything is cool when you're part of a team; everything is awesome; when we're living our dream" - Tegan & Sara sang the oh-so-catchy theme-tune.

Something else to watch: The Checkout's back!

'You'll feel better on The Checkout | ABC1'
"Results show that The Checkout reduces stress while shopping, increases knowledge of consumer affairs and boosts wellness."

I can attest to that. Go get a dose of The Checkout :-D

Here's a campaign that i don't mind endorsing:


DonateLife is a campaign aimed simply at encouraging people to tell their friends and family what they want to be done with their body, when it's no longer theirs.

Personally, i do not like the idea of my body being wasted, when i've died and no longer exist, and so can't make use of it!

So... who wants to bagsy my wings? :-P

Weird non-newsy-thing-that-didn't-really-happen-recently-but-some-journalists-just-noticed-and-are-claiming-it-as-sensational-freak-based-news of the week:

Aquagenic urticaria - allergy to water. Does it really exist?

Well, pedantically-speaking, no, because aquagenic urticaria does not involve an immune reaction, and is therefore not an allergy. If her immune system really did react to water, then there is no way she should still be alive - 70% of her, just as everyone else's bodies, is made of water!
{Many non-allergies - usually 'intolerances' - are called 'allergies' just because people don't know any better}

Aquagenic urticaria is actually a dermatitic condition that mostly affects the decolletage, shoulders, neck and throat, causing hives-like symptoms (hence its urticarian classification) when water touches them.

The most recent paper i could find suggests that the condition is not actually caused by the water itself (as should be intuitive) but by its salt content. The researchers exposed their small selection of sufferers to tap water, weak saline and hypertonic saline - basically, varying saltinesses of water, with tap water the least salty and hypertonic saline being the most salty. I'm slightly annoyed that they didn't test the dose response further, by trying distilled water (completely saltless).

The researchers found a dose response to the salt content, though, suggesting that it's the salt that's irritating the skin, and causing the urticarian condition - so it's not the water, it's the salt dissolved into it.

Of course, it would be unscientific to not consider other possibilities, such as: the condition is a side-effect of moisturising cream that they use; or even that the entire condition is fabricated through attention-seeking. You might call me callous to consider that, but it has happened before!

The thing about rare conditions (which this one is) is that learning about it becomes very difficult. So if you have something odd, it might be nothing, or it might be a less-severe case of something fascinating. Dare you bother your physician with the possibility that it's the former? :-P

'Ironic or Unlucky?'

Bobby Llew ponders whether it's ironic or unlucky, that in flooded areas, water supplies seem to drop. This is the sketch mentioned therein:

'Allannis Morrisette sketch. Ed Byrne'

Other news from this week:

An Anatolian/Syrian/Mongol handbag has been found, dating to the 1300s. Well, it isn't really newly-found, but it is newly-recognised as a handbag - there is even a drawing of its own use, engraved into its external decoration. It is believed to have been made in Mosul (presently in northern Iraq) and, having been so during a time of high Islamic influence, is a rarity in indicating that a historical woman actually existed in this culture.

Cambridgeshire Fire Service has declared that it will only attend to people trapped in lifts, for emergency situations, or when they've been trapped for longer than 3 hours. That'd make a terrible mini-series sequel to 24! They say the reason is that company owners should be responsible for recovery procedures, and with fabricated-austerity budgets they can't afford to attend non-emergencies.

A pizza has been developed, that can last for three years, before 'going off', without refrigeration. Why make such a thing? For military personnel, going places where they have few/no other options. It doesn't quickly get soggy or stale, the way pizza usually would, and so it's less susceptible to mould. It's next test is to fit in with people's senses of taste - if it can't be palated, it can't be used. Part of the reason for developing it, was that it would broaden their menu.

Delusional conspiracy 'theorists' (as if there's any other kind!) have vandalised archeological sites at the Giza Pyramids. The two acknowledged and even expressed pride at their desecratory acts, which were attempts to 'prove' their 'alternative history'. It is common, amongst conspiracy 'theorists' to believe that anything that's un-understandable by them must necessarily been done/made by... aliens! Last week's Skeptoid podcast was on this very subject. Implicit to the nature of a 'conspiracy theory' superstition is the distrust of perceived-authorities and wanton disregard for rules and regulations (known in 'politics' as libertarianism). Consequently, the flagrant vandalism is pseudo-justified, in their minds - a kind of 'final solution' to their dogma - sure, it means the destruction of irreplaceable historical items, but they think that's justified by their vendetta against reality - their insistence that black = white, and true = false. Barmy. Absolutely barmy!

Famously Islamophilic, superstition-drenched, soggy-minded, delusional halfwit Prince Charles of the UK of GB, has been on a trip to Saudi Arabia, playing his part in the UK's bid to sell more weapons to them. While the populist media concentrates on how silly Chazzie looks in his robes, wielding a curvy, golden sword, humanitarian groups have pleaded with him to campaign to make the world a better place, instead. Fat chance! "Prince Charles has made nine previous official visits to the country. In the most recent Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index it was ranked 163 out of 167 countries and was given zero points for “electoral process and pluralism”. The only countries ranked lower were Syria, Chad, Guinea Bissau and North Korea. Over the past five years the UK has licensed over £5.6 billion worth of weaponry to Saudi Arabia."

Are you a fan of 3D printing? Then you're going to love this: the Joris Laarman Lab, in Amsterdam, has pioneered 3D printing... with metal! "As reported in Dezeen, the method combines a robotic arm typically used in car manufacturing with a welding machine to melt and deposit metal, to create lines that can be printed horizontally, vertically, or in curves, without the need for support structures. Adding small amounts of molten metal at a time, lines are printed in mid-air. The team vision is an affordable, multiaxis MX3D tool for workshops around the world." Follow the link to see a video of it, in use :o)

Hysterical Pseudoscience Of The Week: The anti-azodicarbonamide campaign. As with anything, dose is the important factor, and at the amounts it's found in bread... it's utterly irrelevant. unfortunately, the propaganda has succeeded in getting the manufacturer to withdraw the product! If you think that means it must have been nasty, then ask yourself whether you're the kind of person who'd conclude that the Jews, Queers, and Atheists must have been bad for society, otherwise the goverment wouldn't have taken them 'off the shelves' and into death camps. You're unlikely to answer correctly, however. Withdrawing genuinely dangerous products is a good thing - but if non-expert bloggers can dictate that a product must be condemned, on the basis of superstitious hysteria, then we are condemning ourselves to that same hopeless hysteria.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California have developed the highest-watt LASER ever, with petawatt power - that's 1,000,000,000,000,000 watts of total power! LASER's however, are not the best tools for conveying energy - most high-power LASERs can only manage 20,000 watts. This petawatt LASER can only manage to fire for 30 femtoseconds at a time - that's 0.00000000000003 seconds! Chemical reactions, and quantum effects, can happen over these short timescales, however, which is how this LASER's going to come in handy, for research.

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

'inFact: The Cult of Nikola Tesla'
Not long enough. There must be an episode about how, in fact, inFact issues are not long enough. See to it, Brian 'Brian Dunning of' Dunning! ;-)

'The world's greatest autograph book'
Wow - just look at the history, staring back at you from that vellum!

'Dancing skeleton pinpoints injury hotspots'
Want to see a woman's flesh stripped from her bones, right before your eyes? Then this is the video for you! They're a sadistic lot at New Scientist, i tell you :-P

'Kepler's New Universe'

'Thai Candy Taste Test'
Fascinating foods. That mochi looks worth a try. Not so sure about the flavoured testicle, though :-P

'The Wilhelm Device'
LOL - props people love reusing stuff. It's much easier to reuse something than to make a whole new thing. I suppose it's the same as with walk-on actors - they play such small parts that they can reappear in all kinds of things, and you'll barely notice :-D

'Bohemian Polypharmacy'
As is always the case with his songs, this one deals with lofty epidemiology - overdose by starting drugs at too-high doses. Capitalism has caused there too be a flood of products marketed, that work no better (or maybe even worse) than their competitors, but are presented in doses that overstate their main effects, or the side-effects of others. This is why more products are being hauled off markets, and also why longer 'trial and error' periods are needed to find an effective and safe option. For more info, read Ben Goldacre's book 'Bad Pharma' (with newly-added addendal chapter!).

'Porn Magazine Summons Killer Demons: Real Christian Movie!' - Dusty Smith
"Titties!!!" :-O

'Sochi 2014: Curling commentary by Sir David Attenborough'

'The Evolution Of Walking And Breathing' - A Week in Science

'Falling to Earth'

'Why do people laugh at creationists? (part 41, Ken Ham, Bill Nye debate)'
WDPLAC's still rolling on, after all these years. It's the series that introduced me to Thunderf00t, YouTube, and Rationalism - the extraction of lulz while scientifically interrogating religious lunacy. Still a wonderful series :o)

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

Word Of The Week: harridan -- a strict, bossy, or belligerent old woman

Quote Of The Week: "Despite all the brickbats, Putin hopes [the Games] will cause a shift in the way Russia's perceived by the rest of the world. And he's right - they have, already. It used to be viewed as a corrupt, Mafia-dominated State; now, it's seen as a homophobic ski-resort" - Charlie Brooker (Weekly Wipe S2E5)

Epidemic Of The Week: Neknomination - the drinking game where a player consumes a pint of alcoholic beverage, video-records it, uploads it to somewhere, and then nominates at least two people to do the same, within 24 hours of nomination. Obviously, not all people are going to be willing to comply, or even be considered for such a nomination, so the 'craze' is expected to die out in a couple of weeks. There have been no deaths verified to be caused by it, so far, despite fear-mongering by various semi-journalistic organisations.

Etymology Of The Week: sonder -- as a noun, entirely invented by the author of the blog 'The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows' in late 2012. It means 'the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own — populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness — an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk'; 'sonder' also exists as a verb, in french, meaning 'to probe, peruse, or survey'

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

A fascinating series of videos, about the histories of various diseases, by 'JimtheEvo'. These are, as usual, a selection of my favourites:

'HIV's long history. A History of Infection #3'

AIDS originated in one man, who was Gay, and visited Africa? No. An earlier case is know in a non-Gay man who picked up other STDs and gave them to his wife and daughters, following years sailing around Africa. Also, diseases don't originate in individuals - they need groups to incubate effectively.

'The Curious case of Dr. Pettenkofer. A History of Infection #4'
Curious cholera. Fascinating.

'The Plague Part 1! A History of Infection #7'

'The Plague Part 2! A History of Infection #7'

'Madness, Milwaukee and Microbiology a tale of Rabies. A History of Infection #9'

'Of cows, independence and Smallpox A History of Infection #12'

'Typhoid, Politicians in sewage and an Irish Cook. History of infection #16'

'The talking kitchen that teaches you French'

'Sierra circular de hormigas' (A Circular Saw Of Ants)
The sad thing about this, is that they will continue to go around in circles, until they starve. The way these species track around, to forage for food, and then get home, is that leading ants lay a scent trail. All following ants then follow that trail. If a circular trail develops, in real life, then thousands of ants can starve to death, walking an infinite path that never leads home!

'House with a pool'

'I’ve Seen Millions Of Images Online... But NEVER Any Like These. They’ll Blow Your Mind'
A cheap way to make 3D movies: put two big white bars across the screen.

'Bouche à bouche...'
A lovely chance shot :-)

'Penetrating Wagner's Ring: An Anthology'
Read the reviews :-D

'Bad Engagement Photos - Russian wedding photography'
It looks like he's 'pleasing' her, LOL. Click on the link to see more funny Russian wedding photos :-D

'These stools are not handmade'
Awesome work.

'I Hate Hippocrates'


'How To Pass Time On The Train'

'What Happens When You Crack An Egg Underwater? | Video'

'Blue Jean Paintings'

'Bubble Soccer'
Well, this looks an interesting game! I wonder whether it's more or less dangerous than non-bubble soccer!? Epidemiologists, advance! :-D

'Frutas y vegetales bajo el escáner de resonancia magnética'

Fruits' and vegetables' cross-sections, as seen in an MRI scanner. Absolutely beautiful. Of course, medical physicists have to get good enough to be able to cognise the original shape of what they see, when looking at scans like this!
{In order: artichoke - pineapple - celery - peapods - bananas - eggplant - bamboo shoot - broccoli - courgette - squash - pumpkin - persimmon - onion - green beans - cabbage - peach - durian - blackberries - strawberries - pomegranate - mushrooms - kiwi - lettuce - sweetcorn/maize - pepper - orange - cucumber - pitaya - lotus root - watermelon - tomato - grapes}

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Entertainment stuff from the week 10-16/2/14

Hi rom-antics,

Valentine's Day / Singles Awareness Day has been and gone. Yay! :-D

Here are some themed posts:

'Romantic Ants'

'Valentines Day special! A History of Infection #8'

Worst. Valentines. Everrrrr:

A Valentines Poem, from a Mathematician:

Some of the slushier moments from my favourite sci-fi sit-com:
'Roses Are Red (Dwarf)'
"Frankly, this story couldn't have been more romantic if it had co-starred Robert Llewellyn's own other half and been broadcast on Valentine's Day. Which, er, it was."
{Surprisingly humorous, actually. The slushy moments, i mean, not the show. Although you could also say that about Red Dwarf, given that all but one of the characters gets killed, in the opening episode :-D }

'Flashing For Sex'

And ingenious/mad gifts, as featured on

'LIST: Ripley’s 10 Weird Valentine’s'

My favourite's the mitten for two, LOL

Darwin Day has also been and gone - the 12th of February.

So a belated Happy Darwin Day to you all, and a Happy 205th Birthday Anniversary to Charlie :o)

Without him, evolution would never have been invented, and so there would be no species intelligent enough to appreciate computers and blogs and stuff... so yeah, 'big up' Chucky-D :-D

Something else that's been and gone, is the Nye-Ham 'debate'. According to one screenshot i found on Facebook, Bill 'the scienceguy' Nye 'won' by quite a margin :-D

Post-match commentary has been divided, though. And some have been scathing in criticism of Bill Nye, for giving Ken 'I'm a Creationist: i agree that the Earth was made in China, cuz it says so on the bottom' Ham the false credibility of a pretence 'debate'.

I'm inclined to be lenient toward Bill. What many of those pundits seem to be missing, is that there was never (and there never is) any chance of a true debate going on, whoever plays. Advocates of superstition do not care about debate - intrinsic to the notion of superstition, is a disregard of rationality, evidence, or any form of fact - and time and time again, these 'debates' show this to be true.

He was no fool - he took his opportunity to advocate for Science, and didn't bother to get bogged down in the puerile rhetoric that Ham Gish-galloped over the stage, and splashed into the audience's ears! As demonstrated by this clip: And self-contradictory rhetoric is demonstrated by this clip:

The late great Hitch was brilliant at this - dodging the murky mires of religious intellectual obstipation, and taking the conversation his own way - toward killer statements, for which rationalists will always remember him.

It's not technically a debate, but like i said, we were never going to get that, anyway. Ham, like any advocate of superstition, took plenty of opportunities to demonstrate the confused incoherence of his ideology. This makes the most of a a dodgy enterprise.

Speaking of dodgy enterprises... the publicity Ham has got from this event, could be what he was hoping for - he's looking to secure funding for his much-desired Noah's Ark Theme Park, which will run into millions of dollars. This event comes conveniently at a time that his funds are reported to be running low, and could lead to those millions in donations, coming from people who genuinely believe that the hoarding of money, the building of temples, and the coagulation of adherents, somehow validates bullshit beliefs. That is the motivation for the cathedrals, endless bank vaults, and exaggerated religiousness statistics that are employed by all kinds of religions across the world, to this day.

In that context, maybe it was a bad idea, after all??

But then again, what we've had is publicity in favour of both supersition and science. Whether this 'debate' was worth it, should surely be judged by the overall outcome - if a revival of enthusiasm for Science comes, culturally and governmentally, from this, then it will have been worth the expense.

"Watch this space..."

'Bill Nye - The Joy of Discovery'
"A marvelous excerpt from Bill Nye's recent debate set to original music"

"I was against Bill Nye's decision to debate. I now realise Ken Ham is wonderfully embarrassing for Xtians & should be given max exposure" - Richard Dawkins on Twitter

The internet's reactions, according to someone on tumblr:

Another goings-on with USAian religion -- a British magistrate has issued a summons to Thomas Monson - the worldwide leaderrrrr of the Mormon Church (officially, the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints)

'Head of Mormon church Thomas Monson summoned by British magistrates' court over Adam and Eve teaching'

The summons was issued on behalf of ex-Mormon claimants that they and others have been defrauded by the Church, principally through being tithed (essentially, a form of 'rates' that everyone has to pay, or they don't get a cell in heaven).

"[The summons] lists seven teachings of the church, including that Native Americans are descended from a family of ancient Israelites as possible evidence of fraud."
"The document suggests that asking members of the church to make contributions while promoting theological doctrines which “might be untrue or misleading” could be a breach of the Fraud Act 2006."

This is something that i have been stressing for a while, now - all superstitionistic organisations are essentially incompatible with fraud legislation, which defines financial gain by deception (false or misleading statements) to be a criminal act.

All religious and quack organisations are therefore guilty of fraud. In the UK, it's Part B of The Fraud Act 2006, and i believe the sentence to be a maximum of 6 years in prison.

Monson and his conspirators are unlikely to face justice, however, because they are unlikely to be extradited in order for the prosecution to be enforced. This is why people go on the run, to different countries, to evade it: Sanal Edamaruku, as a good example; or Tony Blair as a bad one.

If this law could be enforced to all fraudulent scumbags, then we would see big changes, in society. At the very least, the superstitionists would have to do a lot more running for planes!

But in the meantime, we'd see a lot more hysterical religionists.

Speaking of hysterical religion...

'Where is it illegal to be gay?'

Unfortunately, quite a lot of places. And homo sapiens does insist that it's an intelligent species [scoffs]

I've uploaded a fact-checked excerpt of Series 2, Episode 5 of Charlie Brooker's 'Weekly Wipe', replete with links regarding the situation, there.

'Homophobia And The Sochi Olympics (Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe - S2E5)'

Rather tangentially, the Grauniad's 'Science Weekly' podcast has opted to do an episode on 'affairs of the heart' for Singles Awareness Day / Valentines's Day... but not those kinds of affairs - biological ones. Quite annoyingly, the programme is accompanied by Star Trek film-like background music, and weird sound-effects :-/ It is interesting, though!

'Science Weekly podcast: affairs of the human heart'

'The Dutch Kiss'
Share it around, he says; share it around... someone share it in my direction:-P

Meanwhile, in the world of YouTube, a smaller scandal is going on.

Myles Power is a fantastic Science YouTuber who, of late, has been sciencing a pseudoscience propaganda film called 'House Of Numbers'. In it, the film maker quote-mines real HIV researchers to make it look like they were saying AIDS doesn't exist, and calls on nutbag conspiracy theorists to provide false testimony. To put it simply, it's AIDS-denial. And yes, i'm sure plenty of you will doubt that that even exists!

But that alone, is not where the scandal exists...

Myles' docu-series is honestly titled 'Debunking the AIDS Denialist Movie House of Numbers' and subjects the original film to criticism. But oh no - the superstitionists don't like this - they've filed numerous false-DMCAs against his channel, meaning it could, potentially, with a failure of the justice system, result in the termination of his account... and a prohibition from making any new one! Essentially, Myles would be banned from YouTube, for life!

If you still feel an inkling of sympathy for the dangerous, lunatic AIDS-deniers, then consider this - there are multiple mirrors of the original film - replete with... a complete lack of criticism or even basic scientific credibility.

None of these have been DMCAed! {A DMCA is a legal copyright enforcement tool}

What's the difference between a film that contains all of your copyrighted material, and a docu-series that contains your copyrighted material plus valid, scientific criticism? Easy: the valid, scientific criticism!

Essentially, this abuse of the DMCA claim is an attempt to shut down criticism of their dangerous denialistic propaganda. If people see this film, and believe it, they will render themselves completely vulnerable to the disease, and destroy their chances of survival... or of not passing it on to other people!

For what it's worth, there's a petition that can be signed:

Here's Myles' personal rundown:

And here are my mirrors of the DMCA-ed series:

Turning to lighter things... if you've followed my blog for a while, you'll know that that does eventually happen ;-)

Last November, i expressed glee at the potential in a forthcoming LEGO movie ingeniously titled 'The Lego Movie'. I now feel even more glee, having learnt that film critic Mark Kermode has reviewed it with a big thumbs up. Which is more than any of the characters could manage :-P

'Mark Kermode reviews The Lego Movie'

I look forward to seeing it :o)

And in fact, talking of upcoming films...

'ZOMBEAVERS - Official Trailer [HD]'

This one looks pretty fun, too :-D

Zombie beavers are dangerous, LOL. But which are the most dangerous sports, at the Winter/Summer Olympics?

{Crap segues FTW!!!}

A compilation of statistics, on the matter, sums it up: Snowboarding, and Soccer.

'Snowboard cross tops Winter Olympics danger list'

They do point out, however, that this is an aggregate of all reported injuries - from bruises to fatal accidents - so maybe soccer players are just terrible whiners, LOL

At last - the doughnut mystery has been solved!

'NASA solves mystery of Mars 'doughnut' rock'

Apparently, all it did was roll away from somewhere else, knocked by Curiosity's wheels as it drove past. Damp squib, if you ask me... [grumbles] :-P

In other news:

There has been a massive discovery of early fossils, discovered in the Burgess Shale strata. It has been described as a "motherlode", because: "In situ excavation and talus collections from a two-meter thick interval have so far yielded 3053 specimens representing at least 52 taxa." Wow - that's a lot of data to reap, for paleontologists!

Exploiting a mirror illusion has been found able to trick people into 'curing' itches by leading them to scratch a different part of their body, working as well as if it were the itchy part! Utilisation of this trick would ease the burden on people who suffer chronic itching in an isolated patch, where they rub until their skin bleeds.

The Italian soccer club 'Lazio' are threatening to sue anyone who claims that their Cameroonian player - Joseph Minala - is not 17, but actually 41. OK - he does look old, by his face, but threatening to sue? Can anyone say 'Streisand Effect'? LOL

London South Bank University have issued a full apology over Flying Spaghetti Monster censorship. The Student Union there had torn down the Atheists Society's posters, repeatedly, claiming that the poster was 'offensive' because it featured pasta in place of a beardy bloke! Atheophobia like this is common, on Uni campuses, with Atheist Groups used to their posters being torn down by religionists who are trying to bully them into silence.
At first, the SBAS presumed that this was what had happened, so they went around replacing them - as you do - but a Union Rep halted them, saying their poster was unlawful! Depictions of the brutal, bloody murder of a Middle-Eastern Jew (a crucifix) are deemed perfectly fine, but pasta is heinous beyond reproach? Fortunately, it seems the SU has seen sense, in this case, but it is one of many examples of religious bigotry, completely tolerated at campuses aross the UK!

Peanut allergies are now curable... but it'll take a lot of patience! Taking more than a year, child patients ageing from 7 to 16 years have been given minute doses of peanut flour (starting at 2 mg) with the dose being increased, in hospital settings, every fortnight, eventually reaching up to 800mg. Some could even take doses of 1400mg. In the 5 years since the study ended, there have been no relapses in the successful triallists!

A 10-year-old Norwegian boy has driven his parents' car into a snowy ditch, with his 18-month-old sister by his side. He was driving to see his grandparents. His excuse, when the police caught up with him? He said he was a dwarf who forgot his driving license!

Police in Beaumont, Texas, have fined a man for standing at a road junction, carrying an AK-47 rifle... while wearing a banana costume. The man was advertising a local 'security' shop. The NRA will probably fine him for making the gun industry look silly :-D

Superstitionists have come up with yet another barmy idea, intended to justify their pre-existing belief that the Shroud Of Turin bears the face of a fictional god-man -- they think neutrons were blasted into the fabric, by an earthquake. The dastardly effect of this, they claim, was to render the radiometric dating that has been done since, invalid... but presumably not any test that might show it to be old enough. Right, guys? Haha.
To anyone without prejudice in favour of Bronze Age superstition, the shroud is one of the world's most famous hoaxes. Only those who wish to validate Christian superstition have any interest in pretending otherwise. Scientific consensus is that it dates to the mid-14th century, CE.

A bottle that was released off the Atlantic coast of the USA, in 1956, as part of a study of oceanic currents, was discovered by a researcher studying seals, in Nova Scotia! The drift bottle was among thousands dumped in the Atlantic Ocean between 1956 and 1972 as part of Dean Bumpus' study of surface and bottom currents. About 10% of the 300,000 bottles have been found over the years. Warren Joyce found the bottle on the 20th of January, on Sable Island, about 185 miles southeast of Halifax.
He contacted scientists at Woods Hole and dutifully gave them the time and place information Bumpus had asked for in a postcard inside the bottle. His reward will be exactly what Bumpus promised in 1956 to anyone who returned a bottle: a 50-cent piece.

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

'SURICATE - Movies vs Life 2'
Dans les films: "Ah - les sous-titres - ils sont très ingénieux!" Dans la réalité : "Quoi? [shrugs]"

'"Anything For You" by Roy Zimmerman'

'Kermode Uncut: Shia Shocker!'

Crikey, Mary Poppins! I'm climbing the apples and stairs, 'cos Shia LaBoeuf's up 'em, and he's stolen my sodding accent, 'asn't 'e ma'am. Ah, stroof...

'HBO's Questioning Darwin: Creationists Go Full Retard' - Dusty Smith

'The Law You Won't Be Told'
{I didn't post this one. Right? [turns up collar and sneaks away...] }

'VolksWagen e-UP! | Fully Charged'
Enjoy Bobby getting slightly distracted, at about 8 mins in. Plus, he definitely drops the fuck-b at about 7:23 :-D

'The Balloon Highline' via Cibermitanios
Argh. This is so scary :-O

'Female praying mantis eats her lover during sex'

'How Modern Light Bulbs Work'

'British Weather, 2014'
Sorry. Climate change doesn't work like that - it means a trend for more extreme weather events :-(
And this is how their government deals with it:

'Fifth Root Trick - Numberphile'

This is not a trick i'm ever going to need to use... i hope. In fact, i've forgotten it, already :-D


A cod documentary about wine, featuring Chris Taylor of The Chaser... as himself. Was that a wise move? :-D

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

Word Of The Week: prosopagnosia -- inability to recognise and distinguish faces, using the fusiform gyrus; people with prosopagnosia have to rely on other prompts to recognise people they know e.g. gait, hair color, body shape, and voice.

Headline Of The Week: 'Holocaust survivor speaks about his experiences at Hereford Sixth Form College'
{Hereford Sixth Form College can't be that bad, can it?

Quote Of The Week: "You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead" - Stan Laurel (In the film 'Brats')

Fact Of The Week: A study of kids' fastfood meals, offered in 2012, in the USA, found that of more than 5000 combinations, only 33 met healthy standards! Fast food companies spent $4.6 billion on advertising in the USA in 2012, and increasingly more of that marketing money is being spent on advertising on the Internet and mobile devices. You can visit to learn about how fast food companies pervasively and aggressively market unhealthy foods to children and teens.

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


Does the caption that Frank Fahy saw in The Guardian newspaper on 4 November – "Solar eclipse lights up Africa" – imply the discovery of anti-light, he wants to know
14 Dec

Royal Mail in the UK informed Andrew Bristow that Special Delivery items to arrive by 25 December 2013 must be posted before Monday 30 December 2013. That's truly special!
21 Dec
{It's interesting that Royal Mail limits their embargo to mail posted 5 days into the future, or more. 4 days or fewer, and they're perfectly OK. Odd, people...}

CTC, the UK national cycling charity, informed Ken Hawkins that it "questions the utility of gadgets such as Cycle Alert, a device that warns bus drivers of the proximity of cyclists currently being tested at the University of York". Tip to cyclists: enrol for testing at York and you'll be fine. Tip to cycling charity: commas do matter.
21/28 Dec

On a recent trip to Malawi, Malcolm White was startled to find a stiff paper bag in a hotel bathroom labelled with the request to insert one's "Sanity Towel" for disposal
4 Jan
{This presents a reason why some female humans lose their sanity, once a month... blatant misspellings :-P }

A STEADY stream of readers have developed the concept of the elephant as unit. Bearing in mind NASA's problems with unit mix ups, Ian Bradley asks whether the unit is based on African or Asian elephants.
Pachyderms can measure more than just mass and force. Nick Lake quotes 7 Days, a free newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, describing the Bloodhound SSC, which is being built to attempt a land speed record. Its air brakes are, apparently, "equivalent in drag to a large elephant". So, Nick says, "we can add coefficient of drag to mass and force. As for elephants in drag..."
4 Jan

THE BBC, Mike Moore observes, isn't universally blessed with the ability to detect numbers that smell wrong, or olfactorithmetic (21 December 2013). On 9 December, referring to a study on gender bias in science subjects, it reported the Institute of Physics finding "that nearly half of the co-educational state-funded schools we looked at are actually doing worse than average", quoting curriculum and diversity manager Clare Thomson. Feedback refers the honourable gentlepeople to the definitions of "mean" and "median" averages. Peter Main, IoP director of education and science, tells us this was "taken out of context, rather unfortunately, by the BBC".
4 Jan

BEWARE the web. Feedback searched for "tea tree", came up with the Australian Melaleuca alternifolia and assumed it was introduced to New Zealand (16 November 2013). Jonathan Wood implores: "Please never mistake an Australian member of the Myrtle family with New Zealand's." Those are the Manuka or red tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium) and the Kanuka or white tea tree (Kunzea ericoides) – although Jonathan laments that "Kiwis can almost never tell these apart" and love to fell them.
4 Jan

WHEREAS the Australian tea tree is favoured by "natural remedy" fans as a fierce antiseptic, honey from Manuka flowers is tasty and credited with many things. We find asking "Can manuka honey prevent cancer?" and we respond: "any headline expressed as a question begs the answer 'NO'."
4 Jan

AND how should we feel about Ann Parkinson's evidence that our tea-tree confusion is shared? She was invited to an "Australian version of a Maori hangi", a feast cooked on hot stones in a pit. "The keen cook, an Australian, was busily layering lots of branches of the Australian tea tree around the food to be cooked... My protests were brushed aside."
Ann invites us to imagine the flavours. We are trying to forget.
4 Jan

APOCALYPSE comes in many flavours – which may be considered an advantage of a globalised society with a variety of traditions. Having survived the last page of the Mayan calendar in 2012, Feedback is now informed that Ragnarok, the Viking day of doom, is coming on 22 February 2014.
"Ragnarok is the ultimate landmark in Viking mythology, when the gods fall and die, so this really... should not be underestimated," explains Danielle Daglan, director of the JORVIK Viking Festival in York, UK – the finale of which just happens to be on that date.
11 Jan

Maynards candy pieces announce "we are made with natural colours". Simon Freeman ask what "un-natural" colours exist. Feedback finds talking confectionery equally troubling
18 Jan

SURELY it cannot be coincidence that several readers have independently informed us of a marvellously bonkers conspiracy alarm. Trevor Cox, as a professor of acoustic engineering, has special reason to be concerned. Apparently, the standard pitch for orchestras, which is the note middle A at 440 Hz, was foisted on the world by Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.
It must be true. It's on the internets. At least, it's either Nazis or the ever-elusive Illuminati, or Bad People generally. At we learn that "This unnatural standard tuning frequency... removed from the symmetry of sacred vibrations and overtones, has declared war on the subconscious mind of Western Man." This thought is credited – as so often with conspiracy "theories" – to a website with anti-Semitic links.
Ralph Finch, meanwhile, has lost all record of why he has the newer-age interpretation of this from, which informs us that "A=432 Hz... is an alternative tuning that is mathematically consistent with the universe... it is a pure tone of math fundamental to nature."
That sounds like "vibrations", a precursor of "quantum" as an indication of fruitloopery.
Apparently people have been investing in kit that can play their recordings at 432/440ths the intended speed, to achieve a pure harmony with the universe thingy. Have they tired of simply playing them backwards and listening for hidden messages?
18 Jan

READER Paul Baron informs us that on the uppermost observation deck of Auckland's Sky Tower in New Zealand, visitors are advised that "on Jupiter, you would weigh two and a half times [as much] as you do on Earth because of the planet's strong magnetic field".
Paul says visitors are also informed that the tower weighs the equivalent of 6000 elephants and asks "so what would it weigh in Tesla?"
18 Jan
{Physics fail!}

REQUESTS to "adhere" to instructional signs are spreading. Hugh Carter was told in Toronto, Canada, that he "must adhere to traffic personnel" (14 December 2013). Now Henry Shipley informs us that carriages run by Arriva Trains Wales contain no-smoking signs with the rider that "Failure to adhere to this notice may result in prosecution." What a quandary: risk arrest or get well and truly stuck on a train?
1 Feb

AVERAGES continue to mean trouble – and the example that Matt Ashmore sends is at a rather higher level than the BBC's report that "nearly half of the co-educational state-funded schools... are actually doing worse than average" at countering gender bias in science subjects (4 January).
The UK's House of Commons Select Committee on Education was questioning the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove. Committee chair Graham Stuart asked: "If 'good' requires pupil performance to exceed the national average, and if all schools must be good, how is this mathematically possible?"
Gove replied: "By getting better all the time." And to the rejoinder, "So it is possible, is it?" insisted: "It is possible to get better all the time." Stuart then asked: "Were you better at literacy than numeracy, Secretary of State?" only to receive the strange reply, "I cannot remember."
Feedback accepts that it is possible for all schools to be better this year than last year's average. But we suspect that if results were "getting better all the time" in this way, the minister would be inveighing against grade inflation, or even railing against the Flynn Effect, which is the steady rise in unadjusted IQ scores (8 September 2012, p 26).
1 Feb

Packets of barbecue flavour Arnotts Shapes biscuits announce "Biscuits not actual size". Philip Ross wonders: do they ever achieve actual size, or are they Schrödinger's biscuits?
1 Feb
{Michael Gove might be able to help us, here: the biscuits are becoming more and more actual, every year :-P}

FINALLY, research papers sometimes have titles that just jump out at you. Consider "Foundations of the Crazy Bastard Hypothesis" in the January issue of Evolution and Human Behavior. Said "bastard" men take extreme risks, apparently making other men consider them physically larger. The Crazy Bastard hypothesis holds that they take such risks to signal to other men that they are formidable competitors, writes anthropologist Daniel Fessler of the University of California, Los Angeles.
The aggressive title, designed to draw the attention of journalists looking for easy news stories, thus appears to Feedback to be an example of what it describes.
1 Feb

Sunraysia Pure Squeezed Prune Juice informs Richard Lucas that it is "made directly from crushed prunes brought in from our farmer's fields". Ah, the prune fields of Sunraysia...
8 Feb

IN THE email inviting Anne Franklin to attend the "3rd International Conference on Biodiversity & Sustainable Energy Development", on 24 to 26 June in Valencia, Spain, organisers Omics Publishing Group describe it as "specifically premeditated with a unifying axiom providing pulpit to widen the imminent scientific creations". Feedback now definitely wants an axiom-providing pulpit; but we don't think we'll be attending any Omics conferences – general registration starts at $799 – and we're still trying to work out the economics of the organisation's 300 "open-access journals".
8 Feb