Sunday, 26 October 2014

Entertainment stuff from the week 20-26/10/14

Hi Deinocheiri,

Some of the UK's population turned their clocks back an hour, on transitioning from BST (British Summer Time) to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) on Sunday morning.

The really dedicated amongst them got up at 2 am to do it.

And the rest of them are going to be late for something.

In Russia, clocks went back to 'winter time' seemingly permanently, ending a three year experiment into permanent 'summer time'.

Maybe the thousands of people dying in heatwaves put them off the idea of permanent summer?

And maybe Game of Thrones put them onto the idea of a permanent winter? :-P

Interestingly, there's no clear case for the imposition of any one time standard, over any other.

Industrial economic claims will always contradict each other, as More Or Less found out, some time ago, so it all basically boils down to personal convenience.

Personally, i like having an extra hour to write this stuff in, but i don't think it's really worth it.

GMT+3 would ensure that most people living at high latitudes got up in daylight, but then winter sunclipses would occur at lunchtime.

That would make the days interesting, wouldn't it :o)

Is IKEA more generous than Norway?

Following the Torygraph's claim that a UN report shows IKEA (the flat-pack shop from Sweden) to have donated more money to countering the contemporary Ebola epidemic than Norway, Spain and Luxembourg, More Or Less have investigated:

'MoreOrLess: Screening for Ebola 24 Oct 14'

You won't be surprised to hear that the claim is false. But what you hear after that might make you slightly more cynical about IKEA!

You might remember me being snarky, last month, about a guy trying to sell a book, off dodgy DNA research into who 'Jack the Ripper' might have been.
{There's insufficient evidence even to support the idea that it was all one person}

Well, i just got even more snarky, because some scientist bloggers who work in the area have noticed an error in the research, that renders his (the author's) shallow claim completely empty.

'Jack the Ripper mystery: Back to square one'
{As if they ever got off it in the first place!}

The molecular biologist he employed to do the DNA analysis - Dr Jari Louhelainen - incorrectly classified the all-important genotype as '314.1C' which should have been '315.1C'.

The '314.1C' type is present in only 1 in 200,000 people, whereas the '315.1C' type is present in 9 out of 10 people! So what seemed to suggest Kosminski was more likely to have been a murderer, turns out to actually say nothing at all.

This is a highly technical, very specific area, that i would not have noticed. And this is what peer review is for.

When you're dealing with intricate science, understanding what every word letter and number means, can make the difference between understanding it and having no idea what you're dealing with.

In contrast, with a contentless subject, like Theology, anyone can call themselves an expert e.g. the leader of ISIS, who has a Theology degree and PhD in Islamic Studies.

Consequently, pseudoscientific journals like 'Answers Research Journal', the 'Journal Of Cosmology', 'The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine', etc, should not be considered scientific, even though they are peer-reviewed - the peers merely form an echo chamber of superstitious nonsense - they don't care about quality of evidence, or necessarily evidence of any kind!

Remember: peer review is not the end of the scientific process - replication is. The results published in pseudoscientific journals can not be replicated under scientifically rigorous conditions, no matter how many 'peers' rally around to repeat a mantra of "damp sugar is medicine".

In other news:

For decades, a pair of impressive dinosaur arms have hung in the Natural History Museum's dinosaur exhibit. They are the arms of a species called Deinocheirus mirificus, and impressive they are, too. Absolutely massive, and tipped with gigantic claws, the sign opposite them warns visitors not to presume that they are carnivores' arms. And indeed, discoveries in the last half-decade have revealed the rest of Deinocheirus' bodyplan to consist of dumpy legs, broad feet, a sail-bearing humped back, and head with a long snout and a beak. And also, a stomach filled with plants and fish. Dr Yuong-Nam Lee said: "We did not know their function before, but the long forearms with giant claws may have been used for digging and gathering herbaceous plants in freshwater habitats." Give enough time, and something will evolve to fill any niche.

A Chinese medical doctor, and outspoken critic of CTM (Chinese Traditional Medicine) pseudomedicine, has issued a Randi-style challenge to TCM practitioners, to demonstrate that they can actually do something. The specific challenge he's suggested, is to determine with 80% accuracy, whether a woman is pregnant (there's little leeway there) and at least one person has already taken him up on the challenge. Some TCM-ers think they can work out whether someone is pregnant, by checking their pulse. Obviously, pulse-checks have a real world value, but there's no evidence it can be used to distinguish pregnant people from non-pregnant people! Obviously, these quacks are going to fail; but what will the excuses be, when they do? Special pleading's bound to be the #1...

Swedish police have announced that they will be paying a man 16,000 kronor (£1,370 or $2,200) in compensation, for impounding alcohol that they had seized from his home, unjustly. But that's not what the compensation's for. This is: while impounded, some of the wine, beer and cider had passed its best-before date, and five bottles of vodka and ten bottles of gin had been drunk... and replaced with water! I'm pretty sure there must be a rule about the police not drinking contraband... mustn't there?!?

A recent study of American middle school students found that they have, on average, a *lower* degree of digital technology savvy than their middle school teachers. Adults tend to exhibit the belief that 'the younger generation' has an innate propensity for understanding and utilising digital technology, but this isn't actually true. Many kids (moreso than adults) do not know how to do a good Google search, or to use software to solve problems. This is because kids do not use them, whereas the teachers do, to make their work easier. There's been a campaign, in the UK, to get children obligatorily taught coding, which i think completely misses the point that contemporary ICT (coding included) is often arcane and useful to few, whereas general ICT skills are useful to everyone and still neglected, as if it were 'common sense' and/or like sex education - people are too embarrassed to learn/teach about how to do a Google search.

The tale of the unincredible shrinking goats of the Italian Alps. Alpine Chamois are a species of mountain goat, whose statistics have been tracked, amongst many others of course, for the last 30 years. Researchers have found that their body size has fallen by 25% in those 30 years, correlating with a 3-4 degrees C increase in temperature, where they live. Factors that are known to influence body size include nutrition abundance, temperature (due to the thermodynamics of maintaining a body) and predation (larger individuals are usually easier to catch) but nutrients have not become less abundant over this period, so it's either hunting or temperature changes as part of climatic change (probably both) that has caused the change. The researchers noted that Chamois have changed their behavioural habits - resting more - which suggests that temperature is discouraging them from activity that could cause them to overheat.

With funding from the US Department of Homeland Security, John Heidemann, research professor at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering's Information Sciences Institute (ISI) et al have studied the phases of activity of the world's IP addresses, across 24 hours. There are 4 billion IPv4 internet addresses, and Heidemann and his team pinged about 3.7 million address blocks (representing about 950 million addresses) every 11 minutes over the span of two months, looking for daily patterns. To see a GIF and a video, showing the fluctuating activity, follow the link:

A cubic metre of copper has become the coolest in the universe, for a record-breaking 15 days, at just six milliKelvins - that's -273.144 degrees Celsius! The feat was accomplished at the Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events (CUORE), a particle physics laboratory in central Italy gathering scientists from Italy, the United States, China, Spain and France.

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

'Richard Saunders - Dr. Duarf Ekaf's Horoblescope (Oct 2014)' (my upload)

'Viral Comets: Truck Saves Plane' (Captain Disillusion)

'When Veritasium gets it Wrong! - Trial by EXPERIMENT!'

'Politics in the Animal Kingdom: Single Transferable Vote'

'Mile of Pi - Numberphile'
Pi is, as far as we know, a non-repeating figure, meaning its decimal places random (or at least pretty damn randomish) so when Matt's pointing out sequences, and absences of 4s, just remember that that is what you get from (maybe complete) randomness! And that is why statistical significance is important to research, and why it's not good enough to expect anecdotal claims to be believed - if the phenomenon's not repeatable, there's no reason to think it real.

'Oldest genitals reveal how ancient fish had sex'
Thirty-three seconds of sheer pleasure :-D

'Why is the Sun Yellow and the Sky Blue?'

'Seaborgium Chemistry - Periodic Table of Videos'

"My Vote, My Voice, My Right" by Roy Zimmerman

'Slow news day'

'Football club's mascot reprimanded for swearing at own fans and challenging them to a fight'

'21 Local Newspaper Stories That Could Only Happen In Kent'
I'm pretty sure they could happen anywhere else LOL

'Salamander Pile-up'


'Marc Abrahams: A science award that makes you laugh, then think'

Mad ozzie humour :-D

'The Chaser's Media Circus - Season 1 Episode 2'

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

Word Of The Week: concupiscence --  a strong desire, especially sexual desire; lust

Etymology Of The Week: 'boot'/'reboot' -- meaning the 'starting'/'restarting' of a computer; comes from the term 'bootstrap' which was originally used (in the context of computing) as a term for the code that a computer starts itself by. A bootstrap is a loop at the toop of a boot, employed in a paradigm of futility - 'to pull oneself up by one's bootstraps' which seemed apt to the task computers have to do when they 'boot'

Quote Of The Week: “The inclination to sink into the slumber of dogma is so natural to every generation that the most uncompromising critical intellect must without intermission stand upon the watch against it.” - Otto Pfleiderer, 1902

Fact Of The Week: There is a dorid nudibranch (sluglike sea thing) - Goniobranchus reticulatus - that lives around the Philippines. It is hermaphroditic, and so all members of the species have penises, but after mating, the penis sloughs off! That means it has a detachable penis. Don't worry, though - it grows back within 24 hours.

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

'A VERY BRITISH CULT starring Richard Herring Emma Kennedy Miranda Hart Alex MacQueen'

'24 Carrott Gold: Live in Birmingham - Episode 1 (2004)'

'24 Carrott Gold: Live in Birmingham - Episode 2 (2004)'

'24 Carrott Gold: Live in Birmingham - Episode 3 (2004)'

'24 Carrott Gold: Live in Birmingham - Episode 4 (2004)'

'24 Carrott Gold: Live in Birmingham - Episode 5 (2004)'

Pseudo-neuroscience -- 'Is your brain male or female?' No!!

Date Started: 5/10/14                             Date Completed: 25/10/14                          Date Published: 25/10/14

What is it with people making up arbitrary and completely bullshit-based ways to divide humanity? From sexism to religion, to racism, to quackery - they all involve hallucinations of false categories - all of the supposed discontinuities between them are baloney.

Here's a diagram of what an idealised discontinuity looks like:

Whether it's segregating 'empathisers' and 'systemisers', 'males' and 'females', 'lefts' and 'rights', 'extroverts' and 'introverts', 'thinkers' and 'feelers' or any other arbitrary categorisation*, there seems to be plenty of people willing to tell you which one you're in. The evidence does not support any of them.

Whenever a study reinforces the science of 'we're all smudged in together' it just gets ignored. But if a study on 6 people, in an MRI scanner, suggests that men think differently about bananas than women do, all the sexists jump up and thrust it into the public gaze. This causes what's known as measurement bias - where perceptions are biased by seeing more of one thing than another. Consequently, large numbers of people take these puerile ideas seriously.

In this mini-essay-inspiring article, there's an example of self-deception at work, in the way the authors write:

"We are all a mix of the two, but most of us are more one than the other. Men tend to sit more along the systemising end of the spectrum, women at the empathising end, though there are plenty of exceptions."

Imagine if this were blood types instead of brain types. If you are blood group A, you can receive blood from Os and As, but not Bs or ABs. If you do, you can die. There are clear dividing lines between Os, As, Bs, and ABs. That is because the types are real. You either have the 'A' antigen on your erythrocytes or you don't. End of story. The fact that sexists have to blather about there being "plenty of exceptions" indicates that the categories are almost useless in describing reality, and certainly useless at boxing everybody up into different compartments, without leaving anybody out or double-boxing anyone!

Spectrums and types do not go together.**

Presenting this kind of junk as science is essentially no different to instructing racism: there are no Races, because there are no discontinuities between populations A and B that would make sense of them. They have differences, yes, but that doesn't mean they're completely different Races. After all, no two individuals are the same. Are we all our own Race? Are we all our own sex? It's bullshit, all the way, from people who concentrate on the junk and ignore the science, to prop up their factionalistic prejudices, whether Racist or sexist, or of any kind.

"So perhaps we'll be seeing pink pain killers for girls and blue ones for for boys..." the article ends. And white ones for Whites and black ones for Blacks? Bullcrap. Wiser people already know reality doesn't work that way.

Imagine if the systemising-empathising remark had been made in the context of racism:

"We are all a mix of the two [races - Black and White], but most of us are more one than the other. [Whites] tend to sit more along the systemising end of the spectrum, [Blacks] at the empathising end, though there are plenty of exceptions."

The obvious inference being that Whites can do the smart jobs, and Blacks all the menial stuff. Is it not much more obvious, now, that this sexism is merely being glossed over with caveats like
"there are plenty of exceptions"?

The whole point of employing descriptive terms, is that that descriptive term applies to all that we apply it. Tautology is tautologous.

What's the point of saying that men are more 'systemising' (or Whites are more 'systemising' for that matter) if it's as wrong as often as it's right?

Even if it were actually true that studying all of the people in the world revealed those categorised as White to be marginally more 'systemising' (whatever that means@) than those categorised as Black, what would that really tell you? Jamie getting 87% on a test and Chris getting 85% doesn't mean they're poles apart, and worthy of streaming.

If there is no clear distance between two groups, then there is no discontinuity; and if there is no discontinuity, then they are not really separate groups; and if they are not really separate groups.... what's the point in treating them as if they are?!?!?!

I shall reiterate: there are differences between men and women; but there are differences between men and men too, and between women and women. There are also differences between Euro-African peoples, Amero-African peoples, Amero-Euro-African peoples, Asio-African peoples, and Afro-African peoples. But none of these differences are consistent and broad enough to justify treating whole populations on the basis of them.***

To do so is crass, derivative, and divisive. It indicates a lack of willingness to consider the true complexity of the real world, and a disturbing willingness to oblige others to obey personal moral-intellectual failings.

It can hardly be considered respectable, therefore, for an entire BBC team to justify employment through asking the fatuous question 'Is your brain male or female?'. The answer should obviously be "no - it's just a pink squidgy thing that does essentially the same as everybody else's". That the task of providing a specious answer has been given to the previously-vigorously-maligned Horizon franchise comes to me as no surprise!

If you're a fan of astrological (geocentrist) hogwash, you might think that arbitrarily carving humanity up into meaningless pseudo-types is perfectly fine. Maybe even fun. Victims of it don't. Remember that every factionalistic hatred in the world is funded by such sentiments - that 'us' being on 'our' side, and 'them' being on 'theirs' is a perfectly fine and 'natural' way to be. That questioning and undermining ideologies dependent on unsubstantiated beliefs about the very nature of people is either anathema or unnecessary, and that people who insist on doing so are just billowing hot air.

But in actual fact, as in this mini-essay's subject example of sexist nonsense, it is the factionalists who are issuing those thermally charged exhalations. It is the people who wish others to think that the ways in which we casually distance our understandings from facts are perfectly fine, who go to the effort of enforcing the aforementioned measurement bias, to deceive others into thinking that they are right. And when other people do think they're right, they conclude that they themselves must have been right all along. Other people wouldn't have believed them otherwise. Would they?

If you've had the misfortune to watch the 'IYBMOF?' programme, linked above, you could have noticed that it was full of such vacuous stereotype reinforcement. And in general, the first three quarters of the hour are complete bullshit. Unlike most Horizons, however, the programme manages to end well, with what seems like Alice Roberts doing the heavy lifting. But that doesn't excuse the pseudoscience-ridden rubbish about completely different species; and all the kinds of poorly-conducted and low-powered studies, that were featured in the first three quarters of the programme! Plus, as if to target me, and make me even madder, they trot out another false-dichotomy stereotype: the 'left brain'/'right brain' rubbish. Geepers...

If you're feeling masochistic and/or want to know just what a terrible so-called 'Science' programme looks like, then watch it for yourself. But if you don't want to, or can't, then i've put a text rundown in the 'Extras' section.

There is no such thing as 'an empathiser' or 'a systematiser'; there is no such thing as a 'male brain' or a 'female brain'; there is no such thing as a 'left brained person' or a 'right brained person'; there is no such thing as a 'thinker' or a 'feeler'. We are all all of these things, to varying degrees.

All people can do empathy (except the perfectly sociopathic) and all people can systemise; all people can reverse park and change a nappy; all people can be logical and creative; all people can think and all people can feel.

In fact, there is no such thing as a 'superstitionist' or a 'scientist' in the sense of categories of people who are distinguishable from each other by a discontinuity. Whenever i refer to "superstitionists" (and boy, have i!) i simply mean 'people who have blithely received superstitions' - not people who are utterly unscientific. All people can pick up dodgy ideas, while trying to be scientific, and reciprocally, even the most dedicated Newage machine looks both ways for evidence of traffic when crossing the road! [ref.]

The inevitability of geographical distancing is always going to divide people, and make it difficult to care about those who are far away: people who look different, speak different languages, etc. But seeing them as across a cultural boundary, as if they're a different 'type' of person, makes it so much easier to stop caring about them. It is these kinds of cultural boundaries that peaceworkers have been striving to overcome, for a long time, with moderate success.

So thank you very much, naff team at the BBC, for casually contributing to cultivating a counter-productive, prejudicial environment for us all to live in. Onwards and downwards...

So don't worry about what that Buzzfeed Career Test told you you're going to (or should) be when you grow up, because it's all bollocks - you can be good at anything, with sufficient practice. And as dissonant as it makes me feel, that moral goes to the people at the Beeb who keep churning out Horizons, too. One day, all of you guys might actually be good at making Science programmes. And less good at churning out superstitious rubbish!

...fingers crossed :-P

--------------------------------------------- Extras

* Personality tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Test, and even all those 'Which video game character are you?' kinds of tests, are just as bunkum. Very popular they might be, but they are no more scientific than the idea of left-brained and right-brainedness. We all use all of our brains. And we don't apply only 10% of it either, in case you'd been duped by that little factoid!

** As an experiment for how effectively we can all delude ourselves, in hallucinating fake 'types' over spectrums, just look at a rainbow. That's pretty much the definition of a spectrum (minus a few absorption lines) and yet everyone seems to think they can count bands of colour! Reality says that's not true. There are no 'types' of colour because they all smudge into each other. Try to zoom into the discontinuity between yellow and green, and you just find a kind of yellow-green colour. The bands are an illusion.

*** Notes for the factionalists:

Sexes are real, Races are not. You either have ovaries, or you have testicles, or you don't.
# Pretending that things like 'empathiseyness' are somehow distinguishing variables is simply silly. Races are not real because there are no meaningful distinctions between populations that could rationally lead to them being considered Races. It's hopefully now a cliche to say that racists see the world in black and white, and non-racists see shades of brown. It's as idiotic to say that "these people are Black and the rest aren't" as it is to say "these people are tall and the rest aren't". Unlike sexism, which consists of false distinctions between the sexes, in a context where there are real ones, racism has no real distinctions - only false ones.

# Actual sex is determined by genomic makeup and chromosomal combination, so even gonads can be misleading to the presumptuous. But the fact that the Venn diagram of sex overlaps a little doesn't mean there isn't valid (and limited) meaningfulness to distinction between 'sexes'. Sexist prejudice exists in pretending that distinctions exist where really they do not. Discompassion for intersex and transsexual people is just as much sexist as it is to insist that women can't drive and men can't do childcare.
Intersexual and transsexual people suffer dysmorphia due to this irrational and unnecessary obligation to adhere to sex types. Historically, the sex of intersex people has been re-determined by good-meaning but good-failing people, who decided on the basis of external features, thinking that, as modern sexists still do, their sex could be 'corrected' to a hallucinated ideal. There is essentially no difference between insisting that 'a proper man does [this] or doesn't do [this]' and insisting that 'a proper man has a brain type like this'. It is the cultural imposition of false types that burdens intersexual and stereosexual people, alike.


The Horizon TV programme notes:

1" Everything in the introductory first minute is sculpted as if to answer to the question 'Is sexism OK?' with "yes" - difference as right, and similarity as wrong. They promise lots of lovely science, but none of this comes until the last 15 minutes.

3" Stats about there being more males in STEM are tritely reissued, even though they don't have anything to do with innate mental makeup. The puerile sexist attitude that life is a battle of the sexes is played out (maybe despite the presenters) with Alice representing the 'Girls' faction, and Michael representing the 'Boys' faction.

4" The typical contemporary TV pseudoscience reiterates. Tiny studies, unblinded and uncontrolled, with sample biases of people willing to be on TV, and primed with the systematic bias of sexist prejudice (for the sake of 'interviews') do not constitute anything of scientific weight. These are not experiments - they are demos - and they can be done much much better. (This is a general point that i mentioned in my Horizon-specific mini-essay - the pseudoscience in the programme). P.S. On-line studies are rife with systematic bias - the people who think they can live up to sexist expectations are much more willing to do them, and the study will thereby exhibit all the prejudices that honest researchers will not want to see!

12" / 31" A specious detour into looking at the brain itself. If the question title of the programme 'Is your brain male or female?' refers only to whether it is the brain of a man or of a woman, then surely the answer is just a tautology and must be 'yes'. There is no investigation to do, unless brain 'types' are defined as the mental product of that squidgy lump inside our craniums. See the New Scientist article 'Men and women: Different brains, same aims' (linked below) which explains how male and female physiology differs, but achieves the same result -- like walking a different route to the corner shop for a Mars bar and a copy of the Metro. Same result, different method. Assessing the brain's physical structure achieves nothing. P.S. Note that the second fallacious stint is caveated with 'the research... has been heavily criticised'. In other words, it's insubstantial and should be ignored.

14" Yes, marketing is sexist. It appeals to the sexist beliefs of the shoppers. We know. None of this assesses whether the sexism is sexism or actually just.

18" An asinine aside into researching the behaviours of monkeys, who do not have any understanding of the purposes of toys. This baffled the claimants too, btw. This research is both irrelevant and unreplicated. It also falls foul of various other fallacies that can introduce systematic bias into results. In medical research, epidemiologists know well that there are limitations in the physiology of mice - all drugs have to be experimented in humans, before sale to humans. Recently, the debate has been about having more trials involving women -- historically, trials have been mostly in men alone, because their physiology does not fluctuate over a monthly cycle, which would introduce uncertainty into data and make discovery of the truth much harder. Obviously, this means less is known about sex differences in response to medicines, which is the next challenge for medical research to assail.

24" The 'extreme male brain' hypothesis for autism is just a hypothesis, and so the meandering on this subject, with autism as extreme masculinity as a premise is insubstantial and should be ignored.

26" @ It's claimed that men are systemisers and women are not, with 'systemising' defined as a drive to analyse and order a system. For example: arranging stock on a shop floor, organising a patient's treatment schedule, separating the formula from the breast milk, tidying the toys, maintaining a housework schedule, maintaining the boss' meetings schedule, paying bills, timing when to put the different veggies on the heat, assessing which pupils are doing better and granting them representative marks, and ensuring the Dewey Decimal System is adhered to. It must be evident to all, that none of the activities women are stereotypically involved in on a regular basis depend on systemising! <s>

17"/ 36" So many parents insist that they're not instilling prejudices into their kids, but the people involved in their demo... well, i think they effectively demonstrate that people can indoctrinate prejudices into their kids without being aware that they are doing it! Especially when they are around other adults - peer pressure exacerbates adherence to cultural 'norms'. It should be noted that it is more than slightly common for modern children to be left in the care of multiple adults at, for example, a nursery/playgroup.

42" Alice goes back to the Secondary School she attended, divides the boys and girls onto opposite sides of the room, and then watches the factionalised mentality sprout forth into the conversation. Note how the blame for stereotypes comes from the kids themselves. And also that the analysis of where the stereotypes come from, comes from girls - not the supposedly-better-at-it boys.

45" At last, some sense, from Gina Rippon. She iterates the fact behind there being no basis to the idea of a brain 'type' and to the questioning title of the programme. Sex differences are dependent on culture - to the arbitrary sexist beliefs that they were accidentally indoctrinated with as a growing proto-adult. Then again, look at all the over-the-shoulder cut-away editing in Gina's interview, which is used to hide devious editing practices. I'm not saying they majorly changed what she meant, but why introduce unnecessary doubt? Well, they thought they'd get away with it -- most people are unaware that cut-aways are used to hide deceptive editing, and so there's never a substantial backlash when anyone notices it.

52" None of this, about pain or immunology, has anything to do with brain 'types'. Did they run out of material? Or were they just clamouring for ideas with which they can prop up sexism? "Any difference; any difference at all; just give me a difference damnit!"

59" A positive end to the programme. But really - why did the majority of it have to be so shit?

References and further reading:

The offending article: 'Is your brain male or female?'

New Scientist: 'Men and women: Different brains, same aims' (subswalled)

New Scientist: 'Boy brain, girl brain: How the sexes act differently' (subswalled)

American Psychological Association: 'Think Again: Men and Women Share Cognitive Skills'

On blood groups and real, meaningful discontinuities:

On pseudo-neuroscientific categorisations: 'Left Brained, Right Brained, or Hare Brained?'


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Entertainment stuff from the week 13-19/10/14

Hi so-called readers,

Welcome to my so-called blog, where i do some so-called writing, using so-called letters.

I write it with my so-called body, and a so-called computer, which is plugged into the so-called wall, using a so-called plug socket.

None of this would work without so-called electricity (or any so-called energy, for that matter) or the so-called World Wide Web.

Some of so-called you might be so-called wondering why this so-called week's so-called article is so.. so... so-called.

Well, it's because there seems to be an annoying linguistic habit virulently spreading through the infantile journalists of the BBC.

Sorry - the so-called journalists of the so-called BBC.

That annoying habit, is to call everything that is not 'so-called' a so-called whatever-it-might-be.

For example, fracking is not actually 'so-called fracking'. It's just called 'fracking'.

Synthetic biology is not actually 'so-called synthetic biology'. It's just called 'synthetic biology'.

Space weather is not actually 'so-called space weather'. It's just called 'space weather'.

That's its name. That's what it's called. Call it that.

Intermediate workers... the Blues Highway... repo markets and shadow banks... telematics boxes... Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS)... sockpuppet accounts... capital investment... the Cowes Floating Bridge... STEM subjects... all are "so-called", according to various BBC journalists. And that's just the BBC alone.

The expression 'so-called' implies that a name is euphemistical or inappropriate in some way.

For example, a correct usage would be:

"...the so-called journalists of the..." :-P

This construction implies that there is false, or at least doubtable, legitimacy to the use of the term that follows 'so-called' in the sentence.

An example of usage might be this:

[on telephone] "Hi, is that the consumer watchdog? This so-called plumber said he could fix our pipes, and now our house is knee-deep in dirty water! Can you help us?"

There's no point using the term 'so-called' if you're just saying what something's called.

This is called a blog, where i do something called writing, using letters. I write it with my body, and something called a computer, which is plugged into the wall, using something called a plug socket.

None of this would work without something called electricity (or any energy, for that matter) or something called the World Wide Web.

Such flagrant abuse of linguistics by journos gives the impression that they're all unpaid teenage interns who have yet to learn how to employ the English language, and are instead just reiterating rote-learned mistakes.

I have been Tap, and this has been a lesson in how to speak English.

The next lesson will be on... no kind of schedule whatsoever :-P

'The Chaser's Media Circus - Trailer'

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh :-D

Episode 1's listed in 'contemporary stuff'

'The Saga of Psychic Sally and the Persistent Skeptics'
It goes on...

Limerick of the week:

Limericks can fit in a tweet
If carefully crafted and neat.
But please make them rhyme
In strict rhythmic time,
And never leave one incomple

(Inspired by Ariane Sherine)

In other news:

A woman in South Shields had a surprise when the phone number of her grandmother sent her a return text. Superstitionists, of course, have jumped at this, suggesting risible life-after-death non-explanations; but what actually happened is very banal. Due to the limited number of numbers available, retired user accounts get recycled - after a lag period, the number is given to a new user. After this time, the woman's texts were not going to her grandmother's phone, but to someone else's.

"NASA's MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft has provided the first optical images of ice and other frozen volatile materials within permanently shadowed craters near Mercury's north pole. The images not only reveal the morphology of the frozen volatiles, but they also provide insight into when the ices were trapped and how they've evolved, according to an article published today in the journal, Geology." There's a good picture, at the link.

Sea otters, that eat clams and crabs by cracking open their shells, have been found to have dental enamel 2.5 times as strong as humans'. The researchers found that their teeth have 19 layers of proteinous gel, compared to modern humans' 14, that were also arranged in more highly circular patterns than in modern human teeth. I say "modern" because the intent of the research was to compare and contrast with Paranthropus boisei teeth (human relatives from 1.2 - 2.3 million years ago) who had teeth more like modern sea otters have. This suggests that they required stronger teeth, to cope with their diet, which in turn indicates what that diet might have been like.

The US company Giant Microbes, which sells fluffy toy anthopomorphisations of bacterial and viral pathogens, has apparently been doing a roaring trade in their Ebola design. I know for a fact, that Professor Martin Poliakoff, who's famous for the Periodic Videos YouTube channel, is very keen on using pets' toys to demonstrate chemical bonds and orientations, so these would be very useful for anyone willing to demonstrate, in 3D, what various germs look like. I wonder what proportion of the sales upsurge has been to people looking to use them in this context.

Scientists from the Department of Life Science, National Taiwan Normal University and the Biodiversity Research Center, have named a snail species in dedication to equal marriage rights efforts. "When we were preparing the manuscript," Dr. Lee explains, "it was a period when Taiwan and many other countries and states were struggling for the recognition of same-sex marriage rights. It reminded us that Pulmonata land snails are hermaphrodite animals, which means they have both male and female reproductive organs in single individual. They represent the diversity of sex orientation in the animal kingdom. We decided that maybe this is a good occasion to name the snail to remember the struggle for the recognition of same-sex marriage rights."

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

'The Chaser's Media Circus - Episode 1'

'10 amazing bets you will always win - NEW! (Ep 12)'

'The Secrets of Sleep - A Week in Science'

'The Confession 2'

'Fais moi confiance (Justine Le Pottier)'

'FRANCHEMENT- Le cadeau'

'Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast - with Mark Gatiss'

'Man using self-service till on verge of emotional breakdown'
“I think that technically speaking, I’m actually watching someone get bullied by a till.”

'Why are all our children getting measles, ask Homeopathy fans'
"With MMR vaccinations dropping well below the 95% needed to prevent outbreaks spreading in the community, people who don’t believe in ‘that science stuff’ have been urged not to try and kill their babies."
{Homeopathy: there's nothing in it}

'Police receive tip from psychic claiming they are far too gullible'
“People will say that this psychic is a fraud, but how could they possibly have known details about how we’ve previously listened to psychics?”

'Outrage as disabled man suggests Tory MPs ‘not worth the minimum wage'
“I turn up to the House of Commons at least once a month, all I ask is a fair pay packet of around seventy grand a year.”
{The context: Lord Freud hangs on as... (in case the MSN links break, search those words)}

'Everyone racist'
"UKIP voter Simon Williams told us, “I’m not racist, I just think that foreigners are dirty scrounging scumbags who should be put on a boat back to wherever they came from”."

'Prof Brian Cox to unravel mysteries of automated customer service systems'
"Cox went on, “Clearly there is an ordered system at play here, but learning how it works is akin to discovering the Higgs Boson – really fucking difficult. I hope to simplify it for my viewers during the series”."

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

Word Of The Week: waster --  someone who wastes opportunities or their life; a discarded piece of pottery; or as a verb, something or someone that destroys things

Etymology Of The Week: 'argon' -- meaning the element with 18 protons in its nucleus; the name means 'lazy' from 'a-' ('lack') and ergon' ('work'), so-named because argon is a noble gas, that does not react with, well basically anything, under STP

Quote Of The Week: "[Abstinence-only sex education] is a little like saying "just hold" at potty training" - Roy Zimmerman

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

'Cybermen than and now'

'Sugar free sugar?'

'Richie Rich and Casper'

'Python Autopsy: Boar had been eaten whole! - Ultimate Killers - BBC'

'How Do They Do That? - Red Dwarf'

'Red Dwarf - Howard Goodall: Settling The Score'

'WATCH: ‘The Big Bang Theory’ With More Laughter Added In'
Sympathetically hilarious :-D

'Soup of the Day or Week?'

'Gok Wan Wok Gun - The Impressions Show with Culshaw and Stephenson - S3 E2 - BBC One'

'The Whole Hog'

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Entertainment stuff from the week 6-12/10/14

Hi technobabblers,

Laurbubble has excitedly announced, on her YouTube channel, that she is to be featured on a CBBC (TV) programme, from next Sunday, weekly. Don't worry - i don't think it'll host any rabidly sexist rants, because that programme is called:

'Technobabble' (CBBC Programme)

As you might have surmised, it is to be about coding, and other computery things; and being on CBBC, will be for kids.

"Ah - 'technobabble' sounds like it's about computing, doesn't it. And it sounds nice and friendly too. That'll be an ideal name" is hopefully a paraphrase of the notions that qualified the programme to be so-named.

I suppose they didn't realise that 'technobabble' is actually a derisory word, that implies the same as 'gobbledegook', 'word salad', or as New Scientist's Feedback column puts it, 'fruitloopery'.

'Technobabble' (Rational Wiki definition)

Interestingly, Rational Wiki notes that technobabble is applied in sci-fi contexts, in order to introduce a 'deus ex machina' (literally 'god out of the machine') that will save the heroes and resolve the narrative.

It's an ongoing struggle for fiction writers to use dei ex machinae sparingly, so that their readers/viewers/listeners don't get bored of the predictability of their occurrence. But never mind that...

"In science fiction, any unfamiliar improper noun can safely be assumed to be technobabble."

Well, in the latest episode of Doctor Who, there is such an unfamiliar improper noun, appropriated to introduce a deus ex machina.

{I promise that i'm not spoiling the episode for you, if you want to see it but haven't yet!}

So what the hell is a 'phase shift'? Well, in real life, it has a meaning. Just think of a train, with multiple carriages.

Because all the carriages are attached, they are always doing the same speed, but there will be a three-carriage phase difference between the first and fourth carriages. They are 'out of phase' by the same amount, all the time. A phase shift, would be to cause them to grow further apart (maybe by breaking a connection, and losing the rest of the train) or to grow closer together (maybe by hitting a cartoon cliff, causing the carriages to squash together like a squeezebox).

It won't make any difference to your viewing experience, to have prescience that there will be no presented context for what 'phase shift' means, within the narrative of the episode, however.

It's just a throw-away remark that causes the inevitable saviour of almost-everyone to resolve the show.

Oh, and btw, close to the beginning of the episode, there's a pretty good cover of 'Don't Stop Me Now' sung in laid-back lounge-bar style, and performed by someone who calls herself 'Foxes', even though there's only one of her.

I'm not so sure about the name, but i liked the rendition of DSMN. It wasn't the most amazing performance, but quality melodies will show through in all genres, and this one certainly seems to do so in Jazz ;-)

Some believe mediums are more caring and empathic than most. Um... i don't think so.

'Video: Death threats for sceptic who leafleted at Sally Morgan "psychic" show'

Sally Morgan is the most popular 'psychic' in the UK, who operates as part of a nepotistic gang of thugs... it seems.
{She's basically the UK's Sylvia Browne.}

'Our campaign goes on, despite threats from psychic Sally Morgan's team'

There's nothing a 'psychic' can do that an honest conjuror can't do. That's because, essentially, there is no difference between what conjurors do, and what 'psychics' do. The only difference is that conjurors are honest that they're pretending to communicate with people who don't exist.

Given that their entire repertoir consists only of stage tricks, which they would surely steer clear of if they were genuine, and wanted people to think so, i think their own behaviour is evidence that they are charlatans, and not just 'cute' self-deluding superstitionists.

The most common trick, of course, is 'cold reading' which is where the performer basically coaxes their audience into doing all the work. Watch any 'psychic' show and you'll see that it's the audience filling in all the answers on the dotted lines. The 'psychic' merely writes the dots. It's so simple that you could bother to learn it yourself.

If you ever try to get through the process of them telling you something, without you telling them everything so that they can tell it you back, then the whole conversation, ironically, goes cold. They dry up, the 'spirits' wander away, and your 'reading' goes nowhere.

Cold reading's cold because there's such a thing as hot reading, which is what Peter Popoff was famously caught at, all those years ago - receiving personal details from his wife, through an earpiece, to make it look like he was magically receiving information about the next person to be used.

All of this is in the 'Secrets of the Psychics' documentary that coincidentally finds itself in 'non-contemporary stuff' this week.

If a genuine psychic wanted to establish that they were a genuine psychic, then surely even the dumbest person in the world would know that copying all of the tricks that tricksters do... would be really really dumb.

Imagine that you were magic. If you wanted to demonstrate that you were magic, you wouldn't pull a coin from behind someone's ear, or even a rabbit out of a hat - you'd do something genuinely impossible. Psychics never do this.

I am absolutely not surprised that someone whose career depends on deceiving their audience into thinking their claims to be true, would become violent in the face of criticism.

Fraudsters of all kinds are notorious for SLAPPing anyone who dares to challenge their claims, whether they be a world-leading epidemiologist or a lowly teenage blogger.

The more i hear about particular charlatans, the more the phrase 'criminally flexible' pings into my mind.

It's a term used in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) to describe sociopaths, and basically means that sociopathic people (defined by an amoral drive for personal gratification and glamorisation) will try anything they can to achieve this fuzzily-defined notion of 'success'.

Not far back, in 2012, Simon Singh challenged Sally Morgan over recklessly distributed fake health advice.

'Psychic Sally and the health claims'

Psychic... medical professional... what's the difference? Only about a decade of medical training. But don't worry your pretty little head about that, Sally - just be content to be a part-time quack, instead! <s>

"Well I’m looking up to God here and you haven’t got [HIV]. Okay. So as long as you remain sensible with your partners, you have not got it."

Don't you dare tell me this is just entertainment!

'Comment #15: -- Fraudulent Entertainment' (24th October 2012)

A rather more humorous example of 'psychic' fakery is the example mentioned by Myles Power, in a show that he actually went to, where Sally managed to 'read' into the spirit of a dead person... who was alive and sitting in the audience!

'#026 - Psychic Sally's Performance in Middlesbrough - The League of Nerds'

And there are few who can rival The Amaz!ng (not misspelled) Randi's breadth of experience, for challenging paranormalist fakers:

'James Randi's fiery takedown of psychic fraud'


The 5th of October marks 'La Día de la Medicina Peruana' - the national Day of Peruvian Medicine - which celebrates the sacrifices made by scientists, in their bid to discover how the world works, and thereby how humanity can fix the problems in it.

The 5th of October also marks 'World Teachers' Day' which aims to 'mobilize support for teachers and to ensure that the needs of future generations will continue to be met by teachers'. At least, it does according to Wikipedia.

The 17th of October marks the 200th anniversary of the London Beer Flood, in which 9 people were killed. A huge 1.2 million litre vat of brewing beer snapped its hoops, unleashing a tidal wave that destroyed houses and buried people in the rubble.

In other news:

This year's Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been awarded for research into practical applications of Physics regarding the diffraction limit. Basically, you can't physically see anything that's smaller than the wavelength of light you're looking in. So our naked eyes can see from, wait for this... from red to blue, on the spectrum. I know - you're boggled. Wavelengths shorter than the bluest blue we can see, or longer than the reddest red we can see, are not physically picked up by our eyes, due to the size of the structures in our retinae. But this limit of physicality also applies to the thing that would be seen. The bluest light we can pick up with our eyes has a wavelength of about 390nm (0.39 millionths of a metre) and that light won't interact with any object smaller than 0.39 millionths of a metre across. Imagine a single empty pixel. This is where the term 'diffraction limit' comes in: the unavoidable boundary preventing small things from being seen. But Physical developments in the world of metamaterials has found the diffraction limit to be breachable. Metamaterials are simply materials that do not exist without deliberate human construction. They have been developed to do many things (and there's so much future promise in the area) and to work out what these Nobellers have actually done, you'll have to read the link. Suffice to say, there are huge numbers of fascinating things that are utterly unhuge and have never been seen optically. The researchers have successfully identified and resolved GSF molecules, at just a few nanometres across, using optical light at 488nm. Amazing!

David Cameron - temporary Prime Minister of the UK - who didn't win an election to rule the country, has decreed that his bigoted war-hungry First Secretary of State - William Hague - is 'the greatest living Yorkshireman' because he had a record collection of Churchill speeches, and read Hansard in bed, as a kid! No joke. Patrick Stewart, Alan Bennett and Geoffrey Boycott got no mention. If it were Yorkshirepeople, i'd vote for Heather Peace :-D

According to the BBC, the largest study ever, into the genomics of people's height has revealed about 400 gene regions (involving thousands of genes) that are involved in determining it. If competently reported, then this suggests that genomics is indeed a murky process, in which as well as genes having multiple effects (pleiotropy) many genes are involved in producing individual effects. Will this put paid to the idea that there's "a gene for [insert feature here]"? No. The article doesn't even bother to try to put that idea to sleep. It does, however, suggest that such research can help defeat cancer. Well, not on its own, it won't. Which of these genes might be involved in (i presume most significantly) bone cancer will be revealed by future research, that can be targetted better, by knowing which genes play what part in growth. Tumours, of course, are characterised by rampant growth.

Let's have a laugh at five stories of the 'reality-challenged' as Evan Bernstein calls them: the police officer who blames unsolved murders on ghosts; the landowners who're paying Feng Shui shonks to tell them to remove trees; the 'psychic' who thinks Ouija boards are portals to other worlds (presumably after falling asleep while playing the game Portal); Uri Geller - the world's most famous bender - thrusts his fallacy into a story about bendy iPhones non-mysteriously bending; and the conspiracy theorist who thinks the USA, Canada, France, and the UK should all be sued for conspiring to create both AIDS and Ebola.

NuSTAR has identified a theory-busting pulsar, that emits 100 times as much light energy as is predicted to be feasible, by its size. The object is actually a pulsar (identified by the way it appears to pulse) which shines with the energy of about 10 million suns - so bright that the researchers initially presumed it to be a black hole. Both pulsars and black holes are the remnants of former stars, but mass determines whether an expired star forms a brown dwarf, a neutron star, or a black hole, which means there's an upper mass limit to how big, and thereby luminous, that a pulsar can be. Astronomers only spotted this extraordinary pulsar, because they were looking for x-ray sources in the galaxy M82, where a spectacular 1a supernova was seen, earlier this year. Also, as it happens, by accident. The cosmos is so huge that looking into all of it is infeasible. Accidents are more than welcome :o)

The UK's MET Office will now have a space weather report. The SOHO craft (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) and NASA's STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) mission will now both be watching out for solar flares, and more importantly, coronal mass ejections. This is what the Carrington Event, in 1859, is believed to have been. Solar flares are mostly light, so although they look nice to astronomers, do not pose as great a threat to humanity as CMEs, which are made of massive particles (protons, etc) which carry a lot more energy. In 2012, STEREO A caught a view of a CME, that was, by chance, directed away from Earth. If it had been facing our way, then all electrical equipment could have been damaged by the surge in energy as particles deposited it into the mechanism. Solar weather forecasts can't stop CMEs from happening, but they can tell us when to turn everything off, just in case. Billions of units of capital value will probably be lost, the next time a CME faces our way, but minimising internal load (from the equipment being on) will increase its ability to cope with external load (as the particles pass through) and maybe save billions of units of currency. Non-monetary damage could be immense too, as so much of our infrastructure - from hospitals to emergency telecommunications to the bases of many businesses - depends on the functionality of susceptible electrical equipment.

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

'Let's Play 'Identify The Err' (The Now Show 10th October 2014)' (my upload)

'Mitch Benn - We're Going To The Zoo (The Now Show 10th October 2014)' (my upload)

'Sexy stand-up comedy at Bright Club Oxford'
Sally Le Page has a go at stand-up, and of course she talks about what she knows - insect sex!

'"More Successful Than Us" Tales Of Mere Existence'


'Surviving a 10 000 VOLT shock!'

'Harvestmen secrete glue to trap prey'

'What's new in Archaeology? - A Week in Science'

'eating radioactive apples from chernobyl? perfectly fine! [gamma spectroscopy]'

'De-Keying a Keyboard'

Surprisingly entertaining :-D

'Vocal hygiene for chronic laryngitis'

Do not cough through this video :-P

'Extract From The Man In The Rubber Mask (Written and Read By Robert Llewellyn)'

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

Word Of The Week: fremdscham -- a German word for vicarious embarrassment; guilt felt on someone else's behalf

Etymology Of The Week: 'pool' -- meaning the game, it comes through a french-english translation of 'poule', in the 1690s, with the definition of 'stakes, booty, or plunder' due to a pre-existing game in which a chicken ('poille', in old french) would have rocks thrown at it, and the person to deal the lethal blow would win everyone's stakes

Quote Of The Week: “If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn't have been worth the Nobel Prize.” - Richard P. Feynman

Fact Of The Week: In WWI, the British conducted experiments into using semen in vanishing-ink mixtures, to relay secret messages. Only fresh messages would be viable, however, as the stale ink left an 'odd' smell. The man in charge of the operation was called Mansfield Smith-Cumming.

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

'Smile for the camera'
Awww :-D

'Best of Dennis Pennis || 1*4 || HQ'

'Best of Dennis Pennis || 2*4 || HQ'

'James Randi - Secrets of the Psychics Documentary (Full)'

'James Randi in Australia'

Yes, i know they're puerile, but i don't have any prententions about them being more than that :-D

Some of these video titles are illusory, btw, so don't make presumptions ;-)

'Countdown - The Most Extraordinary Numbers Game Ever?'

'Countdown Blooper - Wankers'

'Countdown Blooper - Porn'

'Countdown Blooper - Orgasm'

'Countdown Blooper - Carol Gets A Scare'

'Countdown Blooper - The Best Bits Are At The Front'

'Countdown Blooper - Wankers 2'
Yes yes, but what's your word?

'Countdown Blooper - Richard Whiteley Laughing Fit'

'Countdown Blooper - Rectum'
You can. That would make 'mortices' :-P

'Countdown - Charlie Reams' Conundrum Joke [Gandiseeg]'

'Countdown Blooper - All The Dicks'

'Countdown Blooper - Fannies'

'Countdown - Fantastic Richard Digance Poem'

Who says Countdown's boring? :-P

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Entertainment stuff from the week 29/9 - 5/10/14

Guten Tag Forscher,

This week, some journalists noticed that some researchers have been 'sneaking' references to songs by Bob Dylan into their Paper titles. By which i mean "the researchers told a journalist that they'd been referencing Dylan songs".

Examples include 'Nitric Oxide and inflammation: The answer is blowing in the wind.' and 'Blood on the Tracks: A Simple Twist of Fate?'

When other researchers heard about the competition, totalling four competitors, they decided on a frivolous bet (as is the wont of many researchers) that the person to have sneaked in the most references by the time they retire, would earn a free lunch at a restaurant in Solna, north of Stockholm, where the university is based.

This isn't the only case of humour in scientific literature, however. Oh no! Some of these might not be deliberate, but they are all amusing:

'Recursive fury: conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation.'

'Would Bohr be born if Bohm were born before Born?'

{Its explanation, by author Hrvoje Nikolic, being his attempt to compare the work of the quantum physicists David Bohm and Max Born: "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."}

'‘Christ fucking shit merde!' Language preferences for swearing among maximally proficient multilinguals'

'An analysis of the forces required to drag sheep over various surfaces'

'The case of the disappearing teaspoons: longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australian research institute'

'Sex with knockout models: behavioral studies of estrogen receptor alpha'

'The Origin of Chemical Elements'
by Alpher, Bethe, and Gamow

'Contrastive Focus Reduplication in English (The Salad-Salad Paper)'

'When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection'


'The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard Anas platyrhynchos (Aves: Anatidae)'

'Hydraulic compression of mice to 166 atmospheres'

'Light-dependent homosexual activity in males of a mutant of Drosophila melanogaster'

'Sexual harassment of a king penguin by an Antarctic fur seal'

'Der unsachgemäße Gebrauch eines Penisringes aus Titan'
(Improper use of a penis ring made ​​from titanium)

'Destruction of Nuclear Bombs Using Ultra-High Energy Neutrino Beam'
{This one's my favourite, LOL}

This announcement is less comic though... kinda ;-)

A professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, in the College of Arts and Sciences, has announced that she has proved black holes to not exist!

This announcement's come as something of a surprise to the Physics world. Especially to those who've been studying them for decades.

She contends that her calculations show that a collapsing core releases enough Hawking radiation to reduce the mass of the core to the point that a conventional Black Hole cannot form, which includes of course its singularity and event horizon.

Even more staggeringly, she claims that her 'proof' unites the Theories of Relativistic Physics and Quantum Physics - something there would definitely be a Nobel Prize in.

Conjectures such as these date back further than since the first Back Hole was observed to be distorting spacetime, so there's really nothing new about it.

But the fact that this turns out to be tired old baseless conjecture hasn't stopped gullible journos jumping on a bandwagon... even the ones that claim science interest.

For more details, just read Bob Novella's article, linked ^ up there.

So much for attracting female talent into STEM, LOL.

"If you want to follow other women into STEM, for a life of infamous bullshit, then step this way" :-D

Here's another 'interesting' one:

Prince recently had a Facebook-based chat session, with fans, in which he apparently answered just one question, in 3 hours. That question was:

"Please address the importance of ALL music being tuned to 432hz sound frequencies???"

If you can call that a question. It's more of an entreatment than a query.

Prince simply replied "The Gold Standard", with a link.

By coincidence, this week's SGU episode answered a question about the 432 Hz tuning thing:

"I'm a software engineer who writes music as a hobby. Recently I have bumped into the topic of 432 Hz tuning in music. You can find a lot of 'information' about this all over the internet. The basic premise here that once upon a time, musical instruments were all tuned so that the note A4's frequency was 432 Hz, which is 'said to be mathematically consistent with the patterns of the universe'. Then Nazi Germany came along and deliberately changed the standard to 440 Hz which is the most common tuning today, 'after conducting scientific researches to determine which range of frequencies best induce fear and aggression'. I was pretty saddened to find out that there are musicians who actually believe all of this. The 'advocates' of this even go as far as claiming that listening to music tuned to 432 Hz can cure cancer and other medical conditions. I believe that this topic might be an interesting one for you guys to discuss in the podcast. Please feel free to contact me if you need more information on this subject."

Apparently, this factoid is popularly believed by musical people. Bless their little cotton socks, they're not very skeptical, are they!

The very idea that there's a pitch 'anchor' to any musical context is completely erroneous. You can put any song in any key as long as they're all in the same one - you can move all the notes up, and all the notes down - and it will make no difference, other than to how easy you find it to sing the song.

The whole idea of Nazis coming along and changing 'it' from 432 to 440 Hz is complete baloney.

The notion of 432 Hz being 'the best' comes from a puerile idea of a universal resonant harmonic 'running through the universe' which bears no relation to actual sound.

Different materials have different resonant frequencies, and so mixtures of materials (such as the human body, and especially the entire universe) will have a broad variety of harmonics that contradict each other. This means there is no such thing as a universal resonance, and it's why you can find a resonant frequency for a tuning fork or Triangle (uniform metal, with a symmetrical shape) but not for your finger (lots of different proteins and things, that wobble about and absorb the vibrations).

Of course, the idea of 'natural' vibrations is one thrown around gaily by Newagers, and so you can easily find plenty of woo-woo quack claims about finding inner harmony, restoring your energy levels, etc etc.

None of their claims have anything to do with reality.

And that includes all of the people purporting to recentre music around 432 Hz instead of 440 Hz. What are they going to do? Just transpose everything down a bit? 440 Hz is 'A' whereas 432 Hz is... a flat 'A'. The next note down is G# at 415.3 Hz. What's the point of making all music just slightly flatter??

It should be no surprise that there are similar factoids floating around, about the Schumann Resonance (atmospheric wobbling).

And it should be no surprise that progenitors of such ideas frequently equivocate between sound and light - radio waves are electromagnetic (light) and thereby not sound.

Sound, of course, requires a physical medium to propagate, whereas light requires only spacetime.

There are various charlatans selling trinkets and all kinds of garbage, on the basis of vibrational resonances and things... and sometimes on the grounds that they protect you from WiFi and 'stuff like that'.

Nope. WiFi is microwaves - that's light - not sound. Not vibration. It's completely different.

Stay skeptical, people. Stay skeptical :-)


Did you know that both The Guinness Book of World Records and CERN are both celebrating their 60th anniversaries this year? Well, you do now.

"“It’s important that the Guinness World Records book continues to monitor these fundamental science superlatives,” said the book’s Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday. “The fact that CERN was acknowledged in our very first edition 60 years ago and continues to break records in our latest edition is testament to the importance of this international scientific effort. It’s been a privilege to visit the Large Hadron Collider and present the team leaders’ their certificates, and I’m sure there will be plenty more record-breaking at CERN in its next 60 years.”"

Hear, hear :-)

In other news:

Does the fish in your fridge glow? Researchers in New Zealand are investigating the case of a woman who noticed her dog food was glowing blue. It's most likely to be caused by bioluminescent bacteria, that live in the sea. However, without oxygen they can't respire, and if they can't respire they can't produce the light, so people are unlikely to notice. Forget glowing cats - glowing fishy food predates human experimentation by a long way, LOL

A superstitious old lady in Bosnia thinks she can cure eye complaints by licking people's eyes. This is an infection risk whether she washes her tongue with alcohol (as described) or not. I still go by the advice that you should never use the same hand to wipe both eyes, in order to stem any budding infection's spread. But i'm pretty sure licking's going to do nothing for cataracts!

Ivan Trifonov has (maybe) become the first person ever to fly a hot air balloon into a cave. He did so with a 25 minute trip into Mamet Cave, on Velebit Mountain, Croatia, using a specially-designed balloon and frame. He's currently holds records in the Guinness Book Of World Records for flying over the North Pole and the South Pole, and has apparently also flown over the Mediterranean Sea, Jerusalem, the Great Wall of China, and The Kremlin.

Yet another dowser has been prosecuted for fraud, in the UK. Following on from the cases of Kim McCormick and Gary Bolton, Samuel Tree and his wife Joan have been prosecuted for selling fake bomb detectors. Make no mistake: they were not selling bomb detectors, but nor were they selling golf ball detectors, or any kind of detector - the crime was in selling something on the basis of dowsing pseudoscience.

A Pope believes in angels. In other news, bears shit in the woods. Superstitionists will superstitiously believe in phantasms :-D

A journalist at the Mirror has groomed a Tory MP into showing them their John-Thomas, and then published the entire affair with the defence that publication was in 'public interest'. I find it hard to have sympathy for any kind of Polly, let alone a Tory one, but when you've been manipulated into doing something embarrassing (but not illegal) that's called 'entrapment'. What it's not called, is 'public service investigative journalism'. If this were done on a teenage girl, there would be outrage, and the Mirror would never have touched the story (i hope) but because this was a grown man pretending to be a young girl, seducing an old man... the old man's the perpetrator? Hmmm....

A Scottish man has behaved in a threatening way, earning him a fine of £200. But the interesting thing about the story, is that he used a spade to do it - in fact, he banged a spade against a radiator. Such is the intellectual height of journalism today, the Paper helpfully supplied a picture of a spade, for its readers. They're all currently wondering what a radiator looks like :-P

Has a Japanese zoo really been trying to mate two male hyaenas, for the last four years? I don't know for sure, but i do know that female hyaenas possess a pseudopenis, which is essentially an inverted vaginal wall. Hyaenas have a very matriarchal society, and so denying males sex is part of the matriarchs retaining power. Unfortunately, this means humans find it very difficult to tell male from female hyaenas, so this story is very plausible, although i would have expected them to do a sex check while they were transporting the hyaenas to the zoo from South Korea. Then again, i've never run a zoo, LOL

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

'Get set...Demonstrate Chip Pan Fire'

There are plenty of potentially-dangerous chemicals available for domestic use. Pollies who try to ban dangerous substances don't seem to understand that :-D

'Get set...Demonstrate Iodine Clock'

'Simplest DIY Speaker'

'Why does our hair turn grey? - A Week in Science'

'Astronomers LOVE Acronyms'

'John and Kevin's Sunday Papers - September'

'Sir Roger Moore shunned scotch egg for ham hock terrine'
Stop the press!! LMAO

'Richard Herring's Meaning of Life - Episode 4 - Death'

'Mitch Benn - Can We Come With You? (unbroadcast)' (my upload)


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

Word Of The Week: inamorata -- a woman with whom one is in love

Expression Of The Week: 'his nibs' -- a mildly derisive term for someone in a position of authority; the term 'nibs' probably derives from the term 'nob' (or 'knob') which means 'head' (later, developing the euphemistical sense for male genitals) and of course 'head' also refers to someone in a position of authority

Quote Of The Week: "Get those fucking nuns away from me!" - Norman Douglas' last words (author of South Wind, 1917)

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

'ISIHAC Live on Stage'

Actual video of the actual Clue teams, and Humph, on stage, weaving their magic. Wow :-D

Have some beautiful geology. I don't usually post this content, from my tumblr, but here's some to fill up the page :-P

'Ethiopian opal geode'

'Koroit opal'

'Calcite with quartz from Huanggang Mine'

'Hand-shaped aragonite formation'

'Rainbow Aura Quartz'

'Rainbow obsidian blades'


'Angel Aura Quartz Crystals'

'Ice cave in Iceland'

'Ice Caves Around the World'

'A stone rainbow'

'Pillar engraving'


'Bryce Canyon National Park'

'Tungurahua Volcano Vertical'