Sunday, 26 July 2015

Entertainment stuff from the fortnight 13-26/7/15 (Pluto Special)

Hello everyhen,

Sorry for the omission, last week. Stags are unruly animals that shall be tamed ;-)

This week's issue is going to be a Pluto special. So don't leave out the hyperlinks, below, or you'll be missing out on a lot!

If you watch this 2-hour video, you can see the data come in, and New Horizons' actions, in real time. You will also, of course, see the excitable scientists' reactions :o)

'Breakfast At Pluto'

Highlight: Neil deGrasse Tyson estimating the precision of sending New Horizons to Pluto, to be comparable to hitting a golf ball 2 miles, and landing it in the hole. NASA must have a very strong hitting arm!

Mission Details

85 years ago, Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto

26 years ago, the Pluto Underground first met, in a Baltimore cafe, to get a project to Pluto underway

15 years ago, it actually got official support from NASA

9 years ago, the New Horizons mission finally left for the Outer Solar System

And this year, the New Horizons craft zipped past Pluto at 14 km/s. Which, by the way, is less than half the speed that Earth orbits the sun – 30 km/s. Does that give you any idea of the vast distances involved?

So here are the New Horizons mission targets:


Map global geology and morphology of Pluto and Charon

Map surface chemical composition of Pluto and Charon

Measure the neutral atmosphere of Pluto


Measure Pluto's interaction with the solar wind

Measure surface and atmosphere changes over time

Map the surface temperatures of Pluto and Charon

Plutonian Features

For decades, ever since Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, it seems like the presiding image of it, in human minds, has been as a pale blue dot.

'New Horizons - Clyde Tombaugh: Discover of Pluto [HD]'

But, unlike with Earth's image from Saturn, this idea is wrong for Pluto. The idea that Pluto is blue, is very popular - almost as popular as its true colour is with astronomers - brown.

The blue idea comes from artists' false-colour representations (often using other objects as stand-ins) that assumed that Pluto would be cold (reasonable) and therefore icy (the Film&TV assumption) and therefore blue.

New images of Pluto, sent back by New Horizons, clearly reveal Pluto to be brown, with lighter and darker patches. Exactly as portrayed, in 2001, by Astronomy Picture of The Day. So remember this: Pluto was never observed to be blue - that was a pop presentation!

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

By numerological coincidence, this July is the 50th anniversary of close-up images of other 'worlds'. Mariner 4 first took a close-up of Mars 50 years ago.

'Pluto in a Minute: 50 Years of Imaging [HD]'

‘Views of Pluto Through the Years’

Geological/topological analysis has already identified water-ice mountains, cliffs on the north side of 'The Heart' (the Tombaugh Region, as it's officially known), a few impact craters (it's more interesting that there are only a few), and other geological surface features, including possibly-tholin-induced darkening, that simply couldn't have been seen without actually sending a physical thing out to look at it all.

To produce similar resolution images from Earth's distance, would require a telescope tens of thousands of kilometres across. That could be done, using an array like ALMA, in which lots of smaller scopes mysteriously, quantumly, produce the same result as one huge one. The trouble is, Earth isn't big enough for a single scope or an array, so it would have to be put in distant orbit, or even Lagrange Points, which means a lot of effort. An effort probably greater than putting a singular object close up, where it can do physical as well as optical analysis.

Aside: a failure to understand the concept of angular size is partly to blame for the perpetuation of moronic conspiracy ‘theories’ (is there any other kind?) such as the one that Pluto doesn’t really exist, because Jupiter can be seen better from Earth, and Hubble can see galaxies that are much further away. Ergo, the data’s faked. The simple fact of perspective (is it smaller, or is it further away?) means Pluto has a much smaller angular size than either Jupiter, or a galaxy that can be seen by Hubble. Hóper édei deîksai. Here’s what Pluto looks like to Rosetta, 5 billion kilometres away from Pluto.

Most of the surface of Pluto is made of solid nitrogen, solid methane, and possibly solid carbon monoxide too. It's thought that the reddish colour to much of the surface is produced by tholin - a class of chemicals formed through processes in the atmospheres of bodies of the Solar System - because the ingredients are there to produce tholin, and tholin is the right colour. It could, however, be some other process that's produced the reddish-brown colour, but tholin is the most likely culprit.

The ice mountains can only exist because temperatures are so low out there, at Pluto's distance from the Sun, that ice forms in literally-rock-hard structures. What's surprising about them, is that they came to exist as mountains. Usually, it's tectonic/volcanic activity that produces undulations in geological surfaces, so where's the energy to make Pluto's ice mountains come from? That's a mystery. Data received in the next 16 months might explain.

Closer details of Pluto’s surface have already identified two mountain ranges, south-west of ‘The Heart’, in a feature informally known as the Sputnik Planum. The morphology there is thought to be only 100 million years old, compared to the billion years old blackness ('The Whale') to the west. Its identified mountain ranges measure to 1.6 kilometres tall, for the Hillary Mountains - about the same as the Appalachian Mountains, on Earth, and 4 kilometres tall, for the Norgay Mountains – about the same as the Rocky Mountains are, on Earth.

Comparably baffling in origin, are the polygonal surface structures of the plains. Such structures are formed by heating from above, or from below. Heat from above causes the surface material to condense and crack, and heat from below produces convection currents that cause material to bunch up and spread out in vaguely-hexagonal patterns. Both of these effects can be seen on Earth. But where does the energy come from? Maybe the decay of unstable nuclides, within the material itself, provides the energy. But again, this is unknown.

'Charon, the largest moon of Pluto'

Charon, too, has shown staggering morphology. Like Pluto, something is cleaning its surface of craters, but it also has a huge gash in its surface - a structure deeper than the Grand Canyon, and easily visible against Charon's disc. On top of that, there’s a strange-looking depressed mountain. It might be that the tidal forces Charon and Pluto exert on each other, come to contribute to the formations seen on their surfaces.

Relative to Pluto, Charon is ten times bigger than the Moon is to Earth. This means the barycentre between Charon and Pluto is much closer to the mid-way position between them, than the barycentre between Earth and the Moon is.

Because Earth is much more massive, it makes sense to say that the Moon orbits Earth, the way Earth orbits the Sun, but it isn't technically true. So, like reclassifying Pluto as a dwarf-planet is really just a matter of terminology, Pluto and Charon might get reclassified as a binary dwarf-planet system, which means an upgrade in classification for Charon!

Aside: If you’ve been reading ‘Charon’ with a hard ‘ch’ as in ‘Karen’ then you’re wrong! The name was suggested by astronomer Robert Christy, as a reference to the mythological boatman, who escorted the dead across the River Styx. All Plutonian names have to reference this theme, you see. But his suggestion of ‘Charon’ was also a reference to his wife – Charlene – and so should be pronounced as in ‘Sharon’ to keep with his joke ;-) }

Ralph (the Visible Imager and Imaging Spectrometer) has sent back colour images of Pluto too, but it's been LORRI (the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) that's really caught people’s minds, with the pictures it's sent back.

'Pluto in a Minute: How LORRI Takes Such Phenomenal Pictures [HD]'

Pluto’s Minors

'Nix and Hydra, smaller moons of Pluto'

New Horizons could also reveal many more (smaller) moons of Pluto, and identify yet more Kuiper Belt objects, purely due to being much closer to them. After surveying Pluto and Charon, and the other moons of Pluto, New Horizons will carry on, out into the Kuiper Belt, and maybe see some of these KB objects just as close up as Pluto. But that's a chance opportunity, and a long way off.

Pluto’s moon Hydra

Incidentally, Hydra and Nix were discovered in the same year that New Horizons was launched toward Pluto. Hydra has been observed to be more like Charon, in having a blanched appearance (as opposed to Pluto’s reddish appearance) and it is not massive enough to pull its shape into a spheroid. New Horizons’ data might yet reveal more about Hydra, Nix, Kerberos and Styx, as it’s sent back.

The reason the New Horizons mission is a fly-by and not an orbiting/probing mission, like with Rosetta and Philae, studying 67P/Churumov-Gerasimenko, is because it takes fuel to slow a spacecraft down, as well as speed it up (basic physics) because Pluto is a lot further away, and because space exploration is a risky business. The standard progression of explorations is: fly-by, orbiter, lander, return of samples. So maybe, one day, physical terrain samples will be returned from Pluto!

'Earth, Pluto and Charon to scale'

Because Pluto is a dwarf planet, out beyond Neptune, it's suspected that studying Pluto and Charon will also reveal more about the origin of the Solar System itself. The proto-planetary disc formed into something, which we know involves the Sun, the planets, the Asteroid Belt, and whatever it is that the Kuiper Belt is made of. But it was thought that the eight/nine planets represented the limits of condensation. Beyond them, lies a mystery – have large objects condensed out of the matter, out there, or not?

That is the reason why Pluto was demoted from being a planet, nine years ago. {Did everything happen nine years ago?!} It was assumed to be a planet, as part of an assumption that dwarf-planets would not be commonplace, out in the Kuiper Belt range. Discovering Eris (not to be confused with Ceres) ruined all that. So seeing the sights beyond Pluto will tell us more about the cosmology that produced the Solar System we are in. There might be a whole new range of dwarf planets, out there, requiring physical explanations for their existence.

If Pluto is Kuiper-like, then it will tell us about the distribution of isotopes in the outer Solar System, and the origin of the ingredients, in their abundances. For example, isotopic analysis of comet 67p/Churyomov-Gerasimenko has already revealed that its water, and therefore comets' in general, is not a major contributor to Earth's surface water, because it has a different composition. By comparing water and minerals in Pluto, to inner-Solar System objects, origins can be worked out, by exclusion. The same can be done with the proportions of chemicals that are present - the nitrogen, methane, etc.

Earth's surface water, by the way, mostly comes from carbonaceous chondrites - a kind of meteorite.

'How Plutonium got us to Pluto'


The asteroids that become those meteorites, by the way, often fly through the Solar System, and toward the Sun, pulled in by its gravitational field. Many of them fall onto planets, before they get there, and one of those planets can be Earth.

Most of them are small, but some of them are not. Big asteroids in the Asteroid Belt (between Mars and Jupiter's radiuses) are much closer, and so are much more likely to be seen. If a dark asteroid were racing in from the Kuiper Belt, maybe accelerated by Neptune's gravitational field, it would leave less time for spotting.

If you were going to insist that every scientific exploration had to have a utility beyond scientility - the wonder of realising a true thing - then asteroid-spotting would probably be the big argument. Conversations about the worthwhileness of asteroid-spotting are often overpowered by pessimism (“We’re all going to die!”) and optimism (“We’re all going to die, knowingly”). This is because ability to estimate the abundance of larger asteroids is severely limited by abundance of data. Small asteroid fragments arrive commonly, and so it’s easy to formulate a judgement of their likelihood, in the future. But larger asteroids are much less common, and so judgements of likelihood are more variable. IMHO, better asteroid-spotting is definitely worth it. It would be a shame for the universe’s most fascinating phenomenon (egocentric hubris?) to be snuffed out by something avoidable, due to probability.

Understanding Pluto might help us understand asteroids better. And keep us safe.

'Pluto the Boring Non-Planet - Sixty Symbols'

Regardless, New Horizons is wonderful for its own sake, and is relatively very cheap.

Olympic events cost billions in US Dollars or equivalents, and achieve less than nothing. Run, jump, swim... seen it! Turf thousands of people out of their homes and overturn laws that protect citizens, for the sake of corporate sponsors... that's a cost - a negative achievement. Pluto, however, has not been properly seen before, and doing so does not cost society anything in civility. In fact, as demonstrated by the recent 40th anniversary handshake on the ISS, space science seems better than any sporting event, for bringing the bitterly-divided together.

Aside: in my opinion, if anything, the Olympics are used to drive people further apart. Instead of parading as, and being reported as, individuals demonstrating personal excellence, the athletes are paraded and presented as representatives of nations, in a kind of sporting quasi-war! That can hardly ease relations. If i ruled the world, nationalism would be banished from such events. Sportspeople are not tools for diplomacy.

The New Horizons mission has cost half as much as Rosetta did, and both together are dwarfed by the amount of public money spent on each Olympic Games. And according to, the tobacco markets are worth more than $600 billion per year; and that’s just what’s measurable. Tobacco provides no value to humanity whatsoever – it’s not comparable to amphetamines, or chewing gum, which have values of their own. It’s all cost. But apparently, according to some, wasting $600 billion per year is OK, because it’s free enterprise, whereas $1.5 billion over a decade is a heinous squandering of public money, because it’s actually got something to commend it – being fantastic! [facepalms]

Heck, air pollution costs France alone €100 billion per year, in sick leave, and medical costs, relating to conditions from asthma, to cancers. That's €1.5 trillion per year, continent-wide. But that's OK, because it's business as normal. Right? Is it? Really?

Science is fantastic, and it's also relatively affordable. Even when just considering its entertainment value.

Let's not let people's inability to see the bigger picture hold back humanity's greatest achievements. I mean, would you rather have "went to Mars" on your CV, by next year, or "spent all my money on tobacco, sickies, and reissues of 'How To: Racewalking' DVDs"?

Next stop: Pluto orbiter, please :-D


'Pluto in a Minute: Dr. Brian May Shows Us How To Really See Pluto [HD]'

'Flying over Pluto’s icy plains and Hillary Mountains'


For more information, available as i write, and as the data is processed and released, here's a link to the NASA site. That data will seep through to us, over the next 16 months, so don't stay awake, waiting for it :-P

'New Horizons @ NASA'

ISIHAC is back! :-D

'Series 63 - Episode 1'

And The Brittas Empire to follow?

'The Brittas Empire looks set to return to TV'

I'm not sure i believe it, LOL

You can see some low-res uploads of whole episodes, here, or here.

This has been officially confirmed though. Filming of Series 11 of Red Dwarf commences in October, this year, to be broadcast in 2016. Yay :-D


Rimmer or Brittas? Rimmer or Brittas?? Hmmm.... :-D

In other news:

CNN 'came out' this week fortnight, and revealed to its parents that it's [sighs]... pro-censorship. While at a Queer Obnoxiousness Parade, CNN correspondent Lucy Pawle thought she saw an ISIS flag. So, like a good journalist, she made sure to check that what she'd seen was correct, before reporting the observation to Twitter and her superiors, because fact-checking is really important <s>. No, she didn't. But CNN did scrub all evidence it could, of the shamefully low standard of reporting she and it had perpetrated. The 'writing' on the flag was not in fact ISIS' megalomaniacal 'god is good' bullshit, but actually... a bunch of anti-silhouettes of dildos, arranged to look a bit like Arabic writing! So Lucy Pawle (remember the name) is ignorant of arabic script, ignorant of journalistic principle, and ignorant of sexual aids. I'm not sure which she should be most embarrassed about, as an adult woman journalist. Care for a poll? :-P
A representative said they'd never seen one as big, before. No, it's not that - get your minds out of the gutter! It's... a foot-long shrimp? Well, it's not a lobster.

Researchers have developed a beam that bends faster under lighter pressure. They've produced this 'impossible' characteristic by filling it with holes, at just the right size and spacing. To bend, each mini-beam has to compress on one side, and stretch on the other. Because the material compresses more easily than it stretches, the bending pressure is brought down by the scale of the beam/hole pattern. This means the specific properties of the beam can be changed by using different patterns of holes. To see pictures, follow the link. And also, to see a video explanation.

Did you know that it's always the dominant rooster that crows at the break of dawn? That's because the dominant rooster always crows first. Chickens, it turns out, have a strict hierarchical social structure, to avoid fights, although the initiation of the hierarchy does start with a fight. Circadian rhythm tells all of the chickens when dawn's about to come, but subordinate roosters wait for their superiors, before crowing themselves.

According to the climate-change obstructionist sentiments of the journalism-illiterate press, 'scientists' have predicted a "mini ice age" in 15 years time. Such a phenomenon would involve a sharp reverse of the observed trend of increasing temperatures, as an ice age is not just slightly cooler - it means 'cold', which is very different. This is not expected to happen. In fact, with the coming solar maximum, and El Nino, temperatures are expected to continue to increase apace, for a few years to come. As i said here, seven weeks ago, temperatures set new global highs every decade, and obstructionists always pretend that the next decade is going to be different. It won't. Unless, that is, there's a huge volcanic disaster that throws huge amounts of dust up into the atmosphere, blocking out the Sun's light. But we really don't want that to happen because as i mentioned in passing, three weeks ago, that could accelerate extinctions, rather than mitigate them. Incidentally, it wasn't the journos completely making it up, this time. Here's a quote of the person who made the claim: "There is no strong evidence that global warming is caused by human activity..." Oh dear. Note that she's not a Climatologist. She actually studies Nuclear Physics - neither the Sun, nor the Earth - so she can't know, by her own research, how the Sun affects the Earth, which would require both fields of knowledge. Well, it would require at least one! Her opinion is as valueful as anyone else, who doesn't know anything about Climatology or Astrophysics, LOL.

I'm astonished by these wonderful pictures of Mars, sent back by Curiosity. They're not of panoramas, though - they're of close-ups of silica rock strata. Imma total nerrrd, LOL. But they're such good quality that (presumably with their Earth-light-filter on) they look almost as if they were taken at home, here on Earth. The Curiosity team decided to target it, due to its high silicon and hydrogen content, which can indicate good conditions for preserving ancient organic material. Little-green-androgyne fossils regardless, that's some lovely sandstone :-D

Would you like some methane with your rice? No? You might, if it were from Pluto, but it's not. Every year, rice paddies metabolise and excrete 25-100 million tonnes of methane, but these researchers have noted that the more grain a rice variety produces, the less methane it's responsible for. So it looks like increasing the biomass-developing efficiency of the rice plants is inversely proportional to their pollution rate. It's not the plants themselves that metabolise the methane however - it's the paddy around them - the microorganisms in the ground chew up their roots, and dead plants, to make methane. By cultivating rice plants that have longer, starchier rice grains, they keep the biomass away from the methano-metabolising ground, and so reduce emissions. Genetically engineering such a variety has already demonstrated a substantial effect, akin to Golden Rice's ability to nutrify people who eat it, without requiring extra effort on their part. The requirement of human effort is usually the downfall of schemes unlike these, because people simply don't have the energy to give, or the motive to give it. Subtlely changing the plants themselves, however, makes the whole engine of agriculture run more smoothly, productively, and environmentally sustainably. It's like swapping someone's bicycle for a motorbike, instead of pleading with them to peddle harder. Genetic engineering FTW.

How many pixels can your camera process? RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, now has a microscope camera that can do 17 billion pixels in an image, by using thousands of microlenses, each about the width of a human hair, and a dispersive prism, to capture thousands of images and spectra simultaneously, and then stitch them together into one large mosaic. To see a demo image, follow the link and click on "GigaPan".

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

'PLUTO MARS - Outbound Probe (A Capella Science)'

'Scientific consensus and arguments from authority' - potholer54

'World of Batshit - #4: Fake Planets'

'Pentaquark - Sixty Symbols'

'Infinite Minute#12: What is Gravitational Lensing?'

'Regular consumption of sugary drinks associated with type 2 diabetes'
Very interesting. Diabetes exists where pancreatic insulin-response to blood sugar has worn away, so presumably it's only the simplest sugars that have a practical impact, in doing so.

'A New Way to Evaluate Chemical Safety - TOX21'

'How To Develop Your Own Pinhole Camera Photographs'


'Science and Technology of the Battle of Britain'

'Science Bulletins: Skull X-Rays Reconstruct Extinct Carnivores’ Bite'

'Think Differently: Apples - A Week in Science'

'Shimmery sea sapphires disappear in a flash'

'CSIRAC - Australia's First Computer'

'Should we mine the moon? - A Week in Science'

'Elliptical Pool Table - Numberphile'

'Snack Break : Pump Water | The Checkout'

'Source of Confusion : Germs | The Checkout'

'"DROUGHT" Tales Of Mere Existence'

'Tim's Three Card Box Illusion'

'Nerd³'s The Square Enix Job - Day 3'

'Goodwill to Few Men'

'Pump Action (censored)'

And that's my parting shot, to you, LOL. I decided not to add the other sections, this week, as there's already quite enough going on, in this issue. Plus, i've saved some stuff for next week. So seeya :o)

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Entertainment stuff from the week 6-12/7/15

Greetings to nervous creationist sharks,


The 11th of July was International Day Against Stoning

The 13th of July marked the 30th anniversary of 'Live Aid' which raised £50 million for famine relief, and made Bono famous.

And last week was also Nude Recreation Week. Or is it next week? I don't know - naturists don't have anywhere to put their smartphones, so it hasn't been well advertised ;-)

In other news:

Cuba has become the first nation in the world to have officially eliminated mother-to-child transmission of both HIV and syphilis - a feat described by the WHO as "one of the greatest public health achievements possible". Cuba, unlike many nations that boast world-leading status, genuinely spends a lot of money on healthcare, and with an entirely public sector healthcare system that has no private sector millstone to carry, nor libertarian exemptions system, they have been the best positioned to achieve something like this. The Cuban healthcare system has long been something to admire, for other nations, because of this depth of commitment. You might not like the country's politics, but it works, dammnit.

Pluto has a heart, too. Awww. Not the Disney one, though - the not-quite-a-planet one. It has a 2000 kilometre-across bright patch, in a heart-shape, sitting East of a whale-shaped dark patch. (Anyone thinking of H2G2?) As the New Horizons mission approaches Pluto, ever closer, better resolutions of images will start coming back, so we might even find out what makes them so light/dark.

Shark Week's back! Lauded by the Discovery Channel, as a Science programme, past iterations of Shark Week have been lambasted for being unadulterated fiction. Last year, the 'main character' was Megalodon - a gigantic shark that went extinct 2.6 million years ago - but treated as if it were still alive, today. They even went to the extent of faking interactions with it, to give the viewers the impression that it were still around! Will this year's Shark Week be any better? So far, concerned scientists (honest people) have only promises to go on. But we surely all know how valueless they are. I'll believe in Shark Week reform if i see evidence of it.

Psychic superstition in a Northern Irish newspaper. The Belfast Telegraph appears to be lacking in journalistic nouse ("I'm a journalist, so i'm always skeptical - i know to check for evidence" said no printed journalist since the 1930s) as the Paper has hosted superstitious pleading from a 'Mentalist' (non-psychic charlatan) who claimed that if everyone got together and 'thought happy thoughts' then maybe... just maybe, Rory McIlroy's ankle would get better, for the British Open. He's a good-walk-spoiler, by the way. The BT even made an image of RM's encased ankle, with a hand outline over it, for people to put their hands on. Apparently, that'll intensify the magical bullshit. "...chances are fairly slim, but it beats sitting around doing nothing" the fraudster says. No it doesn't, Tap says. No it doesn't.

So many superstitions. So many [dazzled]. Superstitions have a tendency to clump (occur together) (as do the outcomes of randomness) because a psychological disposition to accepting one, will similarly apply to another, that has similar memetic features. The same is true of sciences - people with interests in maths will like physics, will like engineering, will like... etc. The particular superstitions that feature, in one person, in this article (bear in mind they might have others, unreported) are: homosexuality is bad, damp sugar is magic, stabbing someone all over is medicinal, and a deity exists that uses war to keep populations down. Homophobia, homeopathy, acupuncture, and theism. But i'm not surprised yet. After all, conspiracy theorists (believers of superstitions of agency) can believe dozens of contradictory narratives, simultaneously. Must try harder, LOL.

How's this for clumping, though. They're all Newage, but Belle Gibson's dangerously fraudulent non-medical 'expertise' lie in: "yoga, meditation, colonics, oxygen therapy, craniosacral therapy, herbalism, and a diet free of dairy, gluten, preservatives, refined sugars, and GMOs". That expression 'criminally flexible' just keeps pinging back into my mind. "Can i screw yer now, sir?"

Kent Hovind is free! Yes, that one. The far-more-impressive-than-his-son Creationist Christian Religionist. That one. He's done nine years in prison for insisting that Federal Law doesn't apply to him (being a sovereign citizen, as i said back in March) and so he wasn't paying tax. In the same month, the Court ruled that those 9-year-old 10-year-sentence fraud charges were to be dropped. Yahweh is almighty, indeed, LOL. But they've been replaced with contempt of court, and he will be under home confinement for a month, and then three years of 'supervised release'... whatever that means. So 'heads up' for more barmpot religious videos on YouTube, in the coming months :-D

The human penis contains tens of thousands of nerve endings... no, i'm not still talking about Kent Hovind... but mammals are not the only animals to have nervous genitals. Spiders, or at least the Tasmanian cave spider, have nerve endings in their palpal glands, which the males use to deposit sperm-packets onto the female's body. Previous research had found no evidence of any, but this research looked closer. Not having nerve endings would make life difficult for the spiders, as it would mean, quite literally, poking around blindly. Having nerve endings, and feeling orgasmic pleasure are quite different, however - touch alone does not substantiate the latter, in conjunction. Mammals still seem to have a monopoly on the 'Big O'.

{Note: typo correction wanted me to change 'palpal' to 'papal'. I think that's worth a chuckle, lol}

Copepods - a type of plankton (a catchall, like 'fish' but for tiny marine animals) - have been proved to consume some plastic microparticles. They use their legs to filter the water around their mouthparts, and ingest the particles, as seen in the video embedded in the linked article. This suggests downsides and upsides: if zooplankton can digest some of the plastic that makes its way into the oceans, then that means less pollution overall; but their consuming it is displacing room in their stomachs for genuine food, and so this could be evidence of benign pollution actually being malignant. Plastic that is not interacted with can't do harm, but when it does, for example by ingestion, it can. We need this kind of research, to assess the extent of homo sapiens' effect on the world; otherwise, we can't know what damage needs to be mitigated, and by when.

Independent or interdependent? Chameleons have been heralded as exemplars of non-binary vision - their eyes generally appear to look without concern for the other's direction. But when hunting, they do bring both eyes around, to give a binocular advantage, and possibly also to gain a brainpower advantage (processing two visual fields is more taxing, surely?) Other species of vertebrate: fish, bird, and even rat, have been shown to operate eyes independently, but this research has shown that, when forced to change target, the information from one eye does cross over the brain, to inform the other eye of where to look. It seems chameleons' eyes are sufficiently independent that they can roam individually, most of the time, but sufficiently interdependent that they can collaborate when necessary. Humans can do this with their hands: phone in one, pen in the other; so i'm not entirely surprised. But this area of research is fascinating. Anything's got to be better than the 'brain types' bullshit, though, hasn't it :-D

SI2 is currently squatting in Hawaii, and will be there for the next few weeks, while it's repaired and prepared for its next leg to mainland America.

In compensation, Airbus has lost a race to fly the English Channel (La Manche), with an electric plane, by just 12 hours. LOL. Airbus' Didier Esteyne was pipped by independent Hugues Duval, who had to fly from France to Kent, in order to fly back again. 106 years ago, Louis Bleriot flew the same flight, between Dover, Kent, and Calais, France. All of the pictures in the article are of Airbus' plane, of course :-D

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

'The Kids From Fume - Me! (Radio Active)' (my upload)

'10 Amazing bets you will always win - NEW (Ep14)'

'The Science of Hay Fever... Are Parasitic Worms The Cure?'

'How accurate are online symptom checkers?'

'Johann Hari: Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong'

'Thunderf00t Unplugged: Dealing with my Dads death'

'Image: Central Algeria captured by Copernicus Sentinel-2A'

'Image: ISS moon transit'

'Image: Europa's blood-red scars'

'Searing sun seen in X-rays'

'Nerd³'s Hell... The Alien Wasteland'

'Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast - with Robert Webb #68'

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

Word Of The Week: bop -- as a noun, onomatopoeic for a sharp hit/knock; or as a verb, a style of rhythm in movement/music, typically irregular in form

Expression Of The Week: get off scot free -- to evade remuneration or punishment; comes from Norse 'skat' meaning a tax or payment, and had become 'scot' in reference to a specific tax, in Scotland, by the 10th century CE. 'Scotchfree' is a C16 variant, caused by mishearing, and the name of the country is not known to be related to 'scot free'.

Etymology Of The Week: porthole -- the round windows in the side of a ship; coming from the french 'porte' meaning 'door' and being anglicised to 'port' then corrupted to 'porthole'. It has nothing to do with 'port' and 'starboard' - the absolute terms for the sides of a ship.

Quote Of The Week: "Debating creationists on the topic of evolution is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon — it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory." - Scott D. Weitzenhoffer

{That quote is in tribute to the return of the dark lord, himself - Kent Hovind}

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

'Air Support'

‘Huge cafe wall illusion’

‘Speak For Yourself, OMG Facts...’

'Mitch Benn - I gotta learn to play minecraft!!!'

'Mitch Benn, Break-up Song [Not Bitter]'

'Craig Ferguson 5/6/14E Late Late Show Richard Ayoade XD'

'"A Visit From Craig's Sister" April 16 (2008)'

'I'm In Love With My Car (Queen & Paul Rodgers Live In Japan, 2005)'

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Entertainment stuff from the week 29/6 - 5/7/15

Hello canophiles,

Or should i say "woof, woof, woof"? :-P

'Man Fired For Joking About Marrying His Dog'

In the follow-up to one country in the world unsubjugating some of its residents... and both the Netherlands and Spain celebrating that same act's twelfth and tenth anniversaries, respectively... i think you can guess why canid connubial contracts might be deemed 'contentious' by some.

This man did, indeed, joke that he loved his dog, thusly:

"How is marrying a dog different if you love them? Today, I hope we can focus on doggy style love. I love my dog rocco, and he loves me. Hopefully one day we can be married..."

The presumptuous, of course, presume that this is either homophobic, and they like it, or homophobic, and they dislike it. But in practice, we must remember two things:

1) - There can be multiple motives for the same action

2) - There can be multiple motives for the same action

Imagine the 'Nazis At The Door' thought-experiment (with which you might be familiar) wherein you own a house, and you have some Jews inside. Nazis come to your door, and you have to decide whether to lie, and be morally responsible for deception, or tell the truth, and be morally responsible for torture and murder.

This thought-experiment debunks the Religious notion of 'absolute morality' because one of the pseudo-moral absolutes has to be broken, whatever you do. Free people can choose to be moral relativists, and opt for the deception, as the lesser evil.

But it's not just atheistic humanistic instinct that might lead to that particular result.

- A Religionist might be of the arbitrary dogmatic nature that lying in this scenario is the lesser evil, and so would hamper their points tally with The Man Upstairs less, thereby doing less harm to their bid for a cushy cell in heaven.

- Instead, they might be of the arbitrary dogmatic nature that Jews are people, but Nazis are not (a position in stark opposition to the prevalent Christian perception of the scenario's era) and so they see lying to a Nazi as no sin at all!

- Or, maybe, they're just incredibly myopic, and don't want any nasty jackboots scuffing their carpet.

All four of these motives would result in the same action, in this particular context. It is not logical, therefore, to conclude that lying to the Nazis at the door, and thereby sparing the Jews inside, necessarily means you are any kind of nice person at all. That would be an assumption.

The man in the real-life scenario jested that he would like to marry his dog, because 'what's wrong with that', and the first assumption we can make is that he's trying to denigrate marriage, when it involves two individuals of the same sex, as if it were two individuals of different species.

Queerists are familiar with this rhetoric, along the lines of: "If we allow women to marry other women, then what will they marry next: cats... tank tops... stale beer... flock wallpaper?" and so they're tetchy to it. Spitefulness toward Queers is one motive to say what he said.

But the same action could be the result of something completely different - a contempt for marriage itself, for example.

Marriagists love to equivocate between love and marriage... "love and marriage, love and marriage, goes together like a car and garage" etc, etc, etc. It can be quite nauseating. If love really is the only predicate for marriage, then he's actually right! Some people really, really, really love their pets, more than they'll ever love another of their own species.

If he's a Single, unmarried guy (or maybe divorced) then he can, very plausibly, have a motive to joke about marriage in general. After all, denial of marriage to some people is the whole point of the 'Gay Agenda' as the homophobes say. Why should he be denied, indeed.

And now to the second point, which i did not put in just for emphasis. Why did his employers fire him? What was their motive?

- He might have been a nob-end, and this was an excuse for getting rid of him.

- He might have been employed by a Queer marriagist, who took intense umbrage at the joke he made, and decided to vilify him for it.

- He might have been homophobic in the workplace, and this was the last straw.

- He might have been 'let go' for a selfish reason: to preserve his employing company's image. Regardless of their actual opinions on marriage, it's true that homophobia (or something construable as homophobia) is generally bad for profiteering.

When Fred Goodwin 'left' RBS, for example, he did not go because RBS was sincerely interested in sweeping reform of their investment banking practices. They simply hoped that his leaving would be seen as purifying the company. Ejecting the scape-goat, upon whom all the blame had been attached, gave the remaining bankers an opportunity to return to 'business as usual' without having to assess their own behaviours.

When someone gets fired, for personal failings, this is not-uncommonly the cause: the employers/colleagues are looking to prevent blame from being attached to themselves.

In the UK, at least, Pollies are two-a-penny. Why? Because they do a whole load of immoral things, and when one of their lesser (but more unpopular) crimes becomes widely known about, they're obliged to resign. This allows their peers, who are perfectly happy to work with them, and accommodate them, to carry on in the same immoral vein. And then, six months later, the miscreant is welcomed back into the Party anyway, when everyone's forgotten what they'd done.

The public shaming involved in a firing is done, not for the subject, but for those who remain. "It's not an endemic problem, m'lud, it's just him/her. Honest"

So don't be presumptuous. It's easy to perceive a narrative about a subject, and for that narrative to be complete bollocks. Journalists are very good at that :-D

The guy in this story, or the next story in which someone jokes about marrying their dog, or the one after that, might not be a bitter homophobe... they might just really love their dog.


The 4th of July! And we all know what that means, don't we... yes, the anniversary of the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs Boson, at 126.5 GeV, by the LHC.

In other news:

"It was not clear whether the suspect really needed the wheelchair or if he used it as a disguise."

Now that the New Horizons spacecraft has arrived around Pluto, images have started coming back, showing Pluto and its moons, in never-before-seen detail. But it takes time to process them, so here are two fantastic GIFs of Charon orbiting Pluto, from back in January, while New Horizons was calibrating itself on its final approach. Here's a grayscale one, and here's a colour one. Because moons and planets actually orbit a barycentre between the two, both of these images have been augmented, to keep Pluto central. In reality, Pluto wobbles from side to side, as it's tugged by Charon and its other moons.

This is like a microcosmic demonstration of faith: bury someone, claim that they're so saintly and incorruptible that their body won't decompose, and then never open the casket/tomb up, ever again. Incorruptible sainthood is a meme in Christian religion, which has parallels in others, and depends entirely on the superstitious fantasisation of 'what's inside the box'... literally. Outside, they have wax representations of the corpse, and this is all you're ever allowed to see. But when tombs are occasionally opened, dry bones is all that ever remains. Why? Because the whole notion of incorruptibility was always complete tosh. Under dry, cool, and hypoxic (low oxygen) conditions, decomposition is slowed, but it doesn't stop completely, and it has nothing to do with any sainthood points scored with a celestial all-seeing tyrant! The funky psychology comes in, when faithists - believers - discover that the incorruptible has corrupted to nothing but bones. Like dowsers who've scored worse than chance while trying to find the water, they can find only excuses. Their superstitious belief in incorruptibility is valid, they insist, no matter how corrupted the actual corpses become. Skeletons are presented with bones showing, as if the evidence of their real state couldn't possibly tarnish their claims. And, of course, the whole thing works as a fantastic money-spinner. There's nothing like a healthy profit margin to convince you that you're right! To see pictures of the props in this morbid mockery, just follow the link.

In the same week that Germany's oldest nuclear power plant closed down, for good, the German government caved to pressure from the Coal Industry, and abandoned a 'coal tax' intended to discourage use of the dirtiest fossil fuels as energy sources. Coincidence? Well, as i said here, four weeks ago, getting rid of the nuclear industry before the fossil industry has caused Germany only problems. Without an obvious alternative, as a competitor, governments are left entirely open to fossil fuel industry pressure. With nuclear plants around, they can say "well, we don't really need you, because of them", which gives them diplomatic power; but without them, they can't. Dumb. Just dumb.

A former researcher has been prosecuted for research fraud, ordered to pay a $7.2 million fine, and sentenced to more than 4 years in prison, for fabricated results relating to HIV. So it's wrong to pretend to have learned something about HIV, but the men and women of the I-SCAM industry, who claim to have found cures for HIV... walk free? Let's get consistent, humanity - fraud is one of my most loathed crimes, but the worst offenders have got to be put at the top of the agenda. Without Science, this guy would never have got caught - Science is self-policing. But quacks don't do Science. So who's going to apprehend them? FSM bless Rationalist organisations.

A woman has evidently stolen a TV, by hiding it under her clothing. And she's not the first one. But still, clothing has nothing to do with crime <s>. Imagine if she'd hidden it under a niqab - all of the Islamophobes and Islamophiles would go crazy, LOL. Clothes, it should be remembered, are tools. In repetition of what i said above, it should be remembered that multiples motives can produce the same result: are they wearing it to keep warm, hide scars, or hide devious intent? Dubiousness is often a friend to duplicity.

Here, incidentally, is a topical example of presumptuousness of motive; with the narrative being supplied by racists on tumblr. Wouldn't it be nice to think that the nasty Whitists of Wimbledon were ragging on lovely Blackist Serena Williams - pure and wholesome and good - through #everdayWhiteSupremacism. Unfortunately, at the time, she was playing Heather Watson, who looks like this. Knowing that Heather's the local favourite, and Serena was being a whiny melodramaticist, debunks their favoured motive entirely. By fantasising a particular motive, they can convince themselves that their hatred is justified. But it's not. 26,000 notes is 26,000 'likes' and 'reblogs' too many.

Did a centipede really crawl into a boy's ear, while swimming at the pool? Erm... yes and no. All of the signs said that this was yet another nonsense clickbait story, and that turned out to be true. But the thing about having such low journalistic standards, is that when you eventually say something that's true, people don't believe you. This centipede story, however, does seem to have a nub of truth - there was a centipede, and a boy's ear, but it was never inside, and it didn't get there from a swimming pool. Those last two elements were implausible, as centipedes are fond of damp habitats, but not that damp! And ear canals are not spacious enough to house an entire centipede, as depicted.

Why do seahorses have square tails, and not round ones? Seahorses' tails have a spinal column down the centre, and a box-like array of plates on the outside, which, according to mechanical engineering researchers, is a stronger and grippier structure than without the plates. They made plastic models of the structures of seahorses' tails, and then subjected them to grip and compression tests, and found that the box-plates structure gives them more grip, to cling on to objects in the marine currents, and greater resistance to crushing, which might have been a side-effect of evolution of the former property.

It's long been known that various species allow temperature to determine sex, in their developing foetuses, inside their eggs, in the nest. Various lizard species of Australia are no exception. Alligators and turtles are more well known for it. But with climatic change advancing, hotter temperatures are causing whole nests to be born male, or female, depending on their particular genetics. Huge sex biases in populations can be problematic for survival, for an obvious reason: if there aren't enough boys around, or aren't enough girls around, the birth rate is stifled, and so numbers wane away. Presumably, historically, the temperature calibrations of the various species have changed, as part of evolution; but all it can take to send a species extinct, is to change its climate faster than it can adapt. That's how asteroid impacts have caused such huge extinctions - like the K-Pg one - millions of species are left unable to survive in the dramatically different post-impact environment.

Solar Impulse 2 has done it! With a record-breaking 5-day (118-hour) journey from Japan to Hawaii, pilot Andre Borschberg has become a record holder for the longest duration of flight ever. Not just solar-powered, but of any type. The record was previously set by Steve Fossett, when he flew around the world in a jet plane, back in 2006 (just 77 hours). SI2's around-the-world venture is not yet complete, however - it will continue across the USA, then across the Atlantic to Europe, and finally back to Abu Dhabi, where it started, back in March of this year.

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

'How Do Bikes Stay Up?'

'Can sleep help control symptoms of ADHD, and improve parents mental health?'

So, all Science is Big Pharma propaganda, is it? No.

'The Electric Highway | Fully Charged'

'Airplanes and Airpressure'

'How Would a Black Hole Kill You?'
Lovely graphics.

'losing faith' - Theramin Trees
Another brilliant video

'Galloping horse features in first cloud movie'

'Image: Spirals in Saturn's D Ring'

'ESA image: Northwest Sardinia'
This is a false-colour image, with red overlayed to display foliage

'Bean Boozled Challenge'

'MOO! [HD]'
It might be 8 years old, but this time it's in high definition!

'The Most Famous Convert'

'Le Trésor de La Buse'
This is a 12 min pirate film, set on Réunion :o)

'Nerd³ Plays... FaceRig'

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

Word Of The Week: teleology -- the study of something's purpose. In theory, this can be banal, but in practice, it's a delusional pseudoscience, that assumes that all things exist, or events happen, for a reason, which must be identified (i.e. Gawwad). Teleology exists in opposition to causology, which simply looks for evidence of causation of events, without assumption of purpose. For obvious reasons, teleology is heavily associated with theistic superstition... 'Meaning of Life's, etc.

Expression Of The Week: 'doesn't known shit from shinola' -- meaning 'incompetent in judgement and/or knowledge'; referencing the shoe-polish brandname 'Shinola' which simply alliterates with 'shit', and thereby implies that such an incompetent might rub shit into their shoes, whilst thinking it where shoe polish. Exemplary usage: "racist SJWs on tumblr don't know shit from shinola"

Quote Of The Week: “The dull mind, once arriving at an inference that flatters the desire, is rarely able to retain the impression that the notion from which the inference started was purely problematic.” - from Silas Marner, by George Eliot

Fact Of The Week: In Alabama, it is legal to sell or own a gun, but it is illegal to sell or own a dildo! The penalty for a retailer is up to a $20000 fine, and imprisonment; and for individuals, is up to a $10000 fine, and imprisonment.

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

'My goodness this kid's coin magic is good!'

'Giant armed football pundit. Seen on TV today'

‘Go Go Gadget Arm Illusion’

‘Dogs That Look Like Their Owners Competition’

'‘Etymology of the name ‘Monica’’

'History of a Joke: The Decimalisation Of Music'