Sunday, 27 September 2015

Entertainment stuff from the week 21-27/9/15

Hi people-wagonners,

'Rumors are that it will be a disastrous week'

If you survive to read this article, then remember this: you're available to be shafted all over again, by some astrological bozo with a mind that's in 'retrograde' at the moment, and permanently :o)

Wow, Volkswagen. You dun goofed.

'VW Caught Cheating on EPA Tests'

Volkswagen's been caught employing software in its cars, developed specifically to corrupt reports of nitrite and nitrate emissions from them (known as NOx collectively) to levels 40 times below their actual emissions.

This software applies to a range of cars, built between 2008 and 2015, under the VW and Audi brands, in the USA. Cars already on the road, and fitted with this software, will be difficult to trade in, or sell at price, and all breach the Clean Air Act, developed to protect people from air pollution.

It's not yet known whether VW has been perpetrating a similar deception in other countries, than the USA and Germany.

Bloody hell, VW - this is the kind of thing conspiracy theorists have wet dreams about - a genuine corporate conspiracy to deceive the public, in order to foist shonky goods (and poisonous chemicals) on them!

'What we know: the Volkswagen emissions test fraud scandal'

The uncovering began in 2014, when an environmental group tested some of a couple of VW's designs, and presented their data to the USA's EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) which was followed up on, and an official statement made by the EPA, this September.

The way VW did it, was to use software that manipulated the cars to emit less NOx under test conditions, than they would do under real-world driving conditions.

It should be noted that the USA's restrictions on NOx pollutants are more stringent than in Europe, where diesel-powered vehicles are more common, and less well regulated. VW simply wanted to avoid having to raise its game.

VW initially claimed only 500,000 vehicles in the USA would be affected, but they have since admitted that a more realistic figure is 11 million vehicles, manufactured since 2008, as well as 2.8 million vehicles in Germany. Those vehicles will likely have lost value, and it could take more than a year for VW to carry out any repairs/reparations for owners.

In light of what's happened, VW's share price has fallen by a third; it's been threatened with a fine of up to US$18 billion; and consumer groups and shareholders are threatening to sue. The actual fine is likely to be much smaller - VW has apparently set $7.3 billion aside to cover all of its related costs.

In order to avoid progressive change, VW has issued an apology, it's CEO has fled the ship, and it's recommended suspending "some" anonymous employees. If identified, everyone responsible could face criminal charges, under German law.

The tactics employed by VW's leaders, are classic blame-avoidance manoeuvres. By dumping all of the blame on a few individuals (most unnamed) who make apologies and then disappear into the night, many are fooled into thinking that something substantial has changed.

Nothing substantial has changed. Apologies are excuses for not changing. This is a mistake that humans make, time and time again - forgiveness is a mechanism that absolves people, not of their guilt (past events can't be undone) but instead absolves them of their motive to do better in the future.

For the EPA's part, it has said that it will now do road-based emissions tests, to make this kind of deception more difficult. It is, as yet, unknown how many other companies might have been plying the same ploy.

On the subject of EU-USA regulations comparisons...

'Study comparing of crash risk of EU and US motor-vehicles indicates differences in performance'

This industry-funded study found that EU regulations on car design are better than the USA's. They result in cars that are safer, when it comes to lane changes, and to front and side-impacting collisions.

The only thing American cars scored better on, was in rollovers, which are much rarer, but more exciting to watch on TV.

The results of this study could inform the development of the TTIP, which threatens two things: consistency of legislation, for trade purposes, and the abolition of legislation for trade purposes.

The first seems relatively sensible (although naive to adaptation to circumstance) and the second is a big problem.

Such trade agreements can be held in secret, because they're 'only' treaties, and yet can impact huge numbers of people for the worse. If the EU gets sued for having better road safety legislation, that keeps human beings safe, then people will pay for it, twice over!

'NOx gases in diesel car fumes: Why are they so dangerous?'

To put it bluntly: acid rain, suffocating smog, breathing problems, headaches, eye irritation, loss of appetite, corroded teeth, chronic breathing problems, heart and lung disease, lung cancer, and the deaths of at least 24,000 people per year, in the UK alone.

Compounding the more direct affects, nitrates and nitrites harm other species, including plants and therefore the wider health of the environment. This means negative effects on farming, and inevitable decreased biodiversity, which is crucial for collective, biome-wide disease resistance.

The last factor is one that generally gets dismissed, because it's difficult to put numbers to, but it still matters. Flu pandemics are the go-to example of what happens when biodiversity falls for too long - Spanish Flu bred in the trenches of WWI (young men and rats only), Swine Flu in the sprawling pig farms of Mexico, and many Avian Flus, in the bird markets of East Asia, where birds are kept in a monoculture of single species.

NOx isn't entirely to blame for all of that, but the general theme is that anything harming the environment, and thereby biodiversity, can come back to bite us!


It's the 20th anniversary of the first synthetic production of antihydrogen at CERN, and the 50th anniversary of the first observation of antihydrogen, and the start of the study of antimatter as a subject.

In other news:

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is morphing before our eyes! Well, Rosetta's, anyway. As 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko approaches the Sun, the heating is warming its icy surface, and Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera has caught evidence of surface changes, over the last few months. The feature changes are quite distinctly visible in the enlinked photos. The hypothesised process, is that water sublimating from the surface gives the dry matter a chance to move around, and the water then freezes back onto the surface. This provides an explanation for how dark 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is - all of the pictures of it have to be brightened hugely, in order to make any features out. The sublimation of ice from the surface, where light lands, leaves a layer of dry matter, up to several centimetres deep, which absorbs all optical light, and creating a very dark surface. Where the surface is more wet, light doesn't reach, and so these patches are less visible anyway. The end result, is a very dark object, that absorbs the sun's heat, to sublimate large plumes of icy dust into space, but mostly looks dark and dry, when not heated by sunlight.

Why have some butterfly species lost their scent pads? In butterfly species, it's the females that choose the males, for reproduction purposes, and so the males are under evolutionary sexual selection pressure. This means they have to stand out, amongst their peers - not just of their own species, but also of other species. If females pick males of another species, then the offspring might be infertile, leading to extinction, so there's strong evolutionary pressure for the species to develop species-denoting characteristics. This is where the scent pads come in. When multiple butterfly species are living close to each other, the scent pads evolve, to help the females distinguish males of their own species, from males of other species. And when that species competition isn't there, the scent pads atrophy, to save energy.

Ever since the FSM first invented eyes, more than 540 million years ago, there's been a charlatan willing to sell you the idea that 'eye exercises' can make your vision better. Even in the age of primitive synthetic lenses, Charles Dickens conducted a rigorous regime of eye-usings, in the belief that they would have a therapeutic effect. In the 21st century, it's only the smokes and mirrors that have changed. Carrot Neurotechnology Inc has agreed to pay $150,000 for selling an app on the claim that it can 'sharpen your eyesight'. Unfortunately, changes to eyesight mean changes to the shape of the eyeball, or condition of the retina, that no amount of 'exercise' can change. Fortunately, this means most eye conditions are easily corrected - with glasses - and that it's generally not possible to harm your eyes by using them. Watching TV can't make your eyes go square, LOL. Burning the retina, with direct sunlight, or a LASER, are the only looking-based threats.

Wow. Just wow. A teacher at a school instructed a boy in her class to write with his right hand, because she thought left-handedness was "unlucky", "evil", "sinister", and that "the devil is often portrayed as left-handed"! You can't prove her wrong, LOL. And because she didn't actually beat the boy, that means she's a 'moderate' :-D

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has broken the world record for quantum teleportation. They've transferred quantum information across 100 km, along an optical fibre, from one photon to another - four times further than the previous record.

Have you ever heard a giraffe hum? Do you think you could? Well, giraffes do in fact hum, but mostly only at night. This is thought to be so that they can keep in touch, while they can't see each other. The cause for giraffes' general noiselessness, is thought to be that their long necks make sonic control difficult.

Paleontologists claim to have found the origin of enamel - in skin! Enamel - the hardest substance of the human body, found on the teeth - is made of apatite (calcium phosphate) encrusting a substrate of proteins. Two fossil fishes, Psarolepis and Andreolepis, both more than 400 million years old, both have enamel on their scales/face, but of course, they have no teeth. The modern, but archaic, gar (Lepisosteus) which lives in North America, has an enamel-like substance called ganoine in its skin. The researchers have concluded, from all of this, that enamel originally evolved for toughening skin, and the genes for its production became reused, after teeth-like structures evolved.

If you took a photograph, who would get the Intellectual Property rights - you, or your camera? That would be you, right? So, if someone took your camera and used it, then they should get the IP for the photos, right? OK. So what if that person was actually a macaque, that took selfies of itself, using your camera? Well, PETA (the organisation that thinks it's OK to kill humans, but not other species) has already funded and won a legal case, granting a macaque called 'Naruto' the IP for two selfies it took! Does this mean Naruto's the first non-human to own IP? I want clarification.

The European Commission has referred Malta to the EU Court of Justice, over its continued support for avian animal abuse, every Spring. It's a tradition there, to 'hunt' migrating birds, before they've had a chance to reproduce. If there were a rationale for doing it, there would be no need to call it a tradition.

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

'How to make REAL Transparent Aluminium!'

'High speed footage of Potassium explosion'

'ScienceCasts: Total Eclipse of the Harvest Moon'

'U-Tube on YouTube - Periodic Table of Videos'

'cycling in the radioactive Pripyat Hospital 126 at the dead of night'
Probably one of the more bizarre videos you'll see this week :o)

'What Scientists Are Seeing Over Greenland 4k'

'Image: Athens in colour'

'Image: Unprecedented detail in enhanced high-resolution color image of Pluto'

'Perplexing new 'snakeskin' image of Pluto terrain from New Horizons'

'Bean beetle reveals prickly penis before violent sex'

'Good Thinking Investigates: Faith Healer Peter Popoff'
Marsh went into more detail on this, on the SwaK podcast.

This is why superstitious belief should not be tolerated in public practice, let alone respected

'10 Amazing Optical Illusions (and how to make them)'

'"Give Measles a Chance" by Roy Zimmerman'

'Cassetteboy vs David Cameron - Gettin' Piggy With It'

'Nerd³ FW - Universe Sandbox ²'
Best. Game. Everrrr [drools]

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

Word Of The Week: badinage -- humorous or witty conversation

Etymology Of The Week: tot -- meaning 'little child', comes from 18th century Scottish, possibly from Old Norse 'tottr' which was the nickname of a dwarf; not to be confused with the German word 'tod' pronounced similarly, which means 'dead'

Quote Of The Week: "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled." - Richard Feynman, from the Rogers Commission report (Challenger explosion)

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

'It's OFFICIAL I Am the Worlds BEST Total War Player!'

'Van Halen - Eruption - Toy Guitar Cover'

This guy has a great channel. It's well worth listening to his serious stuff :)

'Pingu Theme Tune - Guitar Cover'

'Happy Feet - Far Cry 2 (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Blender - Mad Max (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Supersonic and subsonic ammo through a suppressor'

'The Goodies - Gender Education'

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Entertainment stuff from the week 14-20/9/15

Hi Arms Dealers,

'Ig Nobels 2015'

The Ig Nobel prizes for 2015 have been awarded, on the usual basis: research that first makes you laugh, and then makes you think.

To see the whole ceremony, follow the link. Here's a rundown of what won what for what:

CHEMISTRY: for the development of a technique to 'unboil' part of an egg {I wrote about that, here}

PHYSICS: for observing the mean micturation time of medium-sized mammals to be 21 seconds {I linked this, too}

: for the observation that the word "huh?" (or its equivalent) seems to exist in every human language {Also blogged}

MANAGEMENT: for discovering that many business 'leaders' have experienced exciting 'natural' disasters in their childhood, but only ones that didn't effect them personally

ECONOMICS: to Bangkok Metropolitan Police, for offering to pay policemen extra cash if they refuse to take bribes

MEDICINE: for experiments to study the biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities)

MATHEMATICS: for using maths to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children

BIOLOGY: for observing that a chicken with a weighted stick attached to its rear, walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked

DIAGNOSTICS: for determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when the patient is driven over speed bumps

and ENTOMOLOGY: for the first recipient painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects; and for the second recipient, for carefully arranging for honey bees to sting him repeatedly on 25 different locations on his body, to learn which locations are the least painful (the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm). and which are the most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft). {This last one was actually blogged last year}

So there you are. As i said, to see the whole ceremony, and short explanations of the research, follow the link above.

Abbott's about... no he isn't, he's just out. LOL.

In something the Aussies call a 'spill', Tony Abbott has been ousted as Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister, and beaten by Malcolm Turnbull.

I bet he wishes he could have just ended it all by shouting "stop the votes!" :-P

I'm not sure where the term 'spill' comes from. I suspect it might be one of those famous Aussie idioms. But what might it be an idiom for?

Well, given that these are pollies we're talking about here, i think we can take an educated guess at what might be spilling :-D

The same metabolic product is spilling in the UK at the moment. Anything to draw attention away from what's going on in London.

'Welcome to the London Arms Fair'

One major campaigner for Amnesty International is Mark Thomas. He mentioned his dealings with the London Arms Fair, on Carpool, last year. I've set this link, here, to skip to when the conversation starts to veer toward the fair.

For more of Mark Thomas' investigative journalism, see his 00s videos, linked in 'non-contemporary stuff', below.

It's presented as comedy, but the findings are real.

And comic.

It's a macabre comedy of awfulness.


The 27th of September 2015, will be the last perigeic lunar eclipse until 2033, so if you can, get out there and take a look at that big 'ol red blob in the sky ;-)

The 20th of September is the 5th 'Everybody Think For Hitchens Day' so don't forget to think :-D

In other news:

In the theme of the Ig Nobel prizes, this research has found that people in Costa Rica are more likely to be bitten by snakes, during El Nino events. It's already been observed that poverty and health fluctuate, in accordance with the Southern Oscillation, so the researchers decided to extend study to snake bite statistics. They only looked at one cycle, but the disparity was staggering - three times as many bites occur during El Nino than during baseline La Nina temperatures. The total number of bites from 2005-15 were 6424, with those living in poverty most likely to live in places where the snakes were trying their luck, in the hot/cold extremes of temperature. Climatic change is expected to make their plight worse, as the decades progress, through exacerbation of extreme conditions.

Here's yet another silly article title: 'How the Vatican investigates miracles' from the editor of the New York Times. It's the editors that write the titles, by the way - not the journalists, who only write the content. What makes it silly, is that The Vatican is a faith-based organisation - it doesn't investigate at all! That's how pumice stones come to be presented as preserved brains, and bits of deer skeletons as arms of saints. In the grimy depths of superstitions, where truth is a burden, it shouldn't be considered surprising, that 'miraculous relics' turn out to be hoaxes.

And another silly article title: 'Can eating more than six bananas at once kill you?' this time from the BBC. The obvious answer is "no" and that also happens to be the correct answer. Go on, eat seven and see what happens, LOL. This asinine titling is partly the BBC's pathetic adoption of the clickbait meme, and partly epistemic nihilism - they don't want to 'offend' people who are wrong. As the BBC's own More Or Less radio programme found out, it would take roughly 400 bananas-worth of potassium (the supposed 'killer' ingredient) to dispatch a man of average build, if they were all consumed at once. And as they pointed out, if you were eating your way through 400 bananas a day, your difficulties wouldn’t start with the potassium! Potassium is actually very important for health, so eating a hand of bananas would actually provide you with a healthy dose. Unless you've got faulty kidneys, that is. The source of potassium-based fear-mongering you might come across, is Veganism, where any mineral is essentially demonised, simply because you get need minerals, from meat and dairy products. By demonising the ingredients that you need from meat and dairy, they can establish rhetoric persuading you to not eat either of them. Even though that would be bad for your health. Veganism kills! In a pragmatic context, the advice should be to eat more bananas, not fewer, because vitamins and minerals are seldom consumed in sufficient quantities, even in areas where calories are cheap. In that light, it's astonishing that supplements regularly contain overdoses.

On the point of truth being a burden, i've come across this press release from the coal industry. Occasionally, sites like physorg do have spasms of pseudoscience, and let some bullshit seep in. In this case, it's the coal industry attempting to present the whole climate change and unravelling environmental disaster thing, as nothing more than a PR problem! It's not a subject where there are truths and lies - of course not - it's two sides; one valiant and bold (us) and one demented and shrill (them) <s>. In this case, the propaganda sets up the environmental movement as nothing more than a "camp" that is winning "in the court of public opinion". Let's just ignore the fact that coal is the most polluting of all fossil fuels, on both CO2eq and lung-irritant grounds, and also that coal plants emit more uranium into the environment than do nuclear power stations. Let's also ignore the fact that the coal industry is the deadliest to work in or live around, too. Um... maybe not. The coal industry should be got rid of and replaced. If i were working in the coal industry, i'd aspire to a better career.

In a similar vein, racists in South Africa have been getting hot under the collar, about Homo naledi, which i wrote a bit about last week. It's not just sexists, like Tabitha Powledge, who have axes to grind - who present the women of the group, frame and centre, who were small enough to get through into the caves, but conveniently neglect the fact that those who actually led the research, and did the all-important identification were male. They're not 'one of us' so they don't count. Blackist racists in South Africa have ignored the actual science of ancestry and biological diversity, and gone instead for the religionist route of "i ain't no monkey's great-grandson". It's just a Creation Science 101. Unsurprisingly, the bullshit's been supported by the SACC (South African Council of Churches). By mispresenting racism as a racial conflict, (us v. them) rather than an ideological superstition, they can pretend that anything the Whites do (including all of the White women who went down the hole, much to Powledge's acclaim) must be racist, no matter how right they might be, because the Whites are the oppressors. Ergo, if Whites find a relative of the ancestors of all humanity not just one 'race' then the science must be wrong! Oh, by the way, G-spots are definitely real because Science is a White Man, so you can't trust it to understand 'women's issues'. Bullshit. This is not 'blacks' issues' - it's archaeology and evolutionary biology. There's an important difference between racist rhetoric, and empirical science. One works, and makes the world a better place, and the other... doesn't.

The announcement of Homo naledi's identification as a species overshadowed the dating of fossils found in Sima de Los Huesos (the 'pit of bones') in Atapuerca, northern Spain, at 300,000-400,000 years old. Those, too, are hominin remains, but their announcement came one day after Homo naledi's! Bad timing, LOL. The age of Homo naledi, however, has not yet been determined. It'll probably be a month or more before we find out. The Atapuerca hominins could turn out to be common ancestors of neanderthals and sapiens, ancestors of just neanderthals, or be early neanderthals themselves. In both cases, answers will come, in the fullness of time.

Computers in schools - do they really help? According to David Glance, writing in The Conversation, they've had a negative impact, so should be withdrawn. But he was citing the enlinked study from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development) which actually says that there has been a modest improvement in computer-use skills in students who use computers a bit, at school, compared to those who use them rarely. Only the kids who use them a lot perform worse, and thereby bringing the average down. This scenario makes me think of the alcohol-health correlation. There is a clear dose response, between consumption of alcohol, and morbidity and mortality; yet people who consume no alcohol at all, tend to have worse health. How could it be that they (and kids who use computers a lot) might buck the trend? Well, people who go tee-total tend to be weirdo-freaks: prohibitionists, religionists, non-religious asceticists, recovering alcoholics, and anti-social masochists. These are people who adopt unhealthy lifestyles, or
in the case of recovering alcoholics, are unhealthy because of past alcohol consumption - of course they're going to be less healthy than people who 'drink a bit'. Doctors tend to put their patients down as 'drinks a bits' unless they insist they have a really good motive, because they know that most people understate their alcohol consumption. This warps the statistics. In schools that are part of this let's-go-hi-tech scheme, it's the kids who have learning difficulties, who get first access to computers - they get laptops in classes, for example. This means that the population of kids who use computers frequently, is full of struggling students, pulling the performance average down. I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be the explanation. It's neither the students nor the computers that are at blame for this - it's those who are misreading the statistics. As for Mr Glance's 'interpretation', it seems to equivocate between the "reading, mathematics or science" results that PISA (the test used by the OECD) is not designed to test for, and computing performance; and misses everything i've just expounded upon. Teaching how to use computers, with basic office applications, and basic web browser functions, is not expected to help students solve simultaneous equations! Either his pedagogic prejudices are leading him astray, or his own reading comprehension needs some work. The definition of success, when it comes to schooling, depends on teaching kids things that their generation would be benefitted by. In future times, ability to use computing equipment will be predicative, so i support the endeavour to increase their familiarity with it. Whether the same point applies to coding, however, is one that i, and the tech industry, seem to disagree on.

It's not only elative drug vendors that 'water down' their goods, with cheap substitutes. This I-SCAM company's forfeited their profits of ~$1 million, for bulking out their supplements with maltodextrin - a complex carbohydrate which is basically harmless, but cheap and therefore a good filler. This is by no means a new problem. In centuries past, mills would add flint, chalk, or alum to their flour, to make it whiter, and therefore look higher quality. Mashed potatoes, calcium sulphate (Plaster of Paris), pipe clay and even sawdust were added to increase the loaves' weight. This would mean less bread was being sold, by weight, for the same amount of money. Other examples include: strychnine and cocculus inculus being added to rum and beer; chlorophyll to olive oil; sulphate of copper to pickles, bottled fruit, wine, and preserves; sulphate of iron to tea and beer; water and chalk to milk; copper (for the colour) to butter, bread and gin; and arrowroot and flour (part of it inevitably not actually flour) to cream, in order to enhance its richness and thickness. The result of all of this, of course, is that the customer is not getting what they're paying for (which is fraud) and that the thing they actually get is potentially either actively dangerous, because the adulterant is poisonous, or passively dangerous, because the customer depended on certain ingredients being present. This is how Homeopathetics kill people - they think they're getting medicine, but they're not, and so they take the damp sugar and go without the life-saving medicine that they need. The Supplements industry currently revels in a no-man's-land of non-regulation, because it's neither food, nor medicine, and so doesn't have to be judged safe, in either application.

Here's our second fraud story of the week - a steakhouse in the UK, that's been selling 'zebra' and 'wildebeest' dishes, but in fact using horse and venison respectively! Hertfordshire County Council’s trading standards found out, just by dropping in and ordering a couple of test dishes. It's not necessarily a problem, that they offer zebra and wildebeest meat - it's the fact that they're misleading people into thinking that African megafauna are what they're getting.

"And how would sir like his pork steak?" "Not blue, please!" This, surprisingly, is not (necessarily) a hoax - the pig with bright blue fat. Organisms, including pigs and humans, do use their body fat as a sponge for some potential poisons, simply because those poisons are fat soluble, and so storing takes the pressure off the liver, in the short term. The technical term for it is 'bioaccumulation'. This is enough to warn people away from eating steaks dyed a funny colour, although bioaccumulation can result in undyed fat, simply because the poisons don't have a colour! Incidentally, meat vendors do sometimes dye their meats using carbon monoxide, which binds to a pigment in the meat, making it a bright pink colour. It isn't dangerous, that they do this, but it does produce a misleading colour.

Welcome to the USA. Here, the wildlife domesticates the humans. On the Scotchman Peak Trail, the Mountain Goats (which are not true goats) have become used to human presence, and now demand salt and food from hikers who make it to the top of the Peak. The humans have two options: do as they're told, and hand over the food; or disobey, and risk painful death from goat attack. Oreamnos americanus weighs more than a human male, stands more than a metre tall, is adept on the rocky environment, and is well-adapted to butting foes, in competition over resources - tired human hikers don't stand a chance of winning.

Coelacanths. I love them. But not to excess, of course. According to this research, they have an obsolete lung, hidden in their abdomen. Being fish, they breathe using gills; but they might have used the lung, the way some modern fish do, to cope with environments where little oxygen is dissolved in water, or to gain extra oxygen from pulmonary respiration (as breathing with lungs is called) at the surface. It's thought that the lung hasn't been used since the Mesozoic Era, 225-65 million years ago, when coelacanths adapted to living in deep marine environments where oxygen abundance is more consistent.

So it's possible to get a good picture of a seal riding a whale, but it's not possible to get a mildly OK picture of a bigfoot?? :-P

Apophenia - you've got to love it. But this tomato really does look like a duck! From this one side, at least :-D

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

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

'LED Integrated Candle Dissasembly'

'Underwater Caesium - Periodic Table of Videos'

'Why It's Impossible to Tune a Piano'

'The Wonders of Pluto'

'Pluto's majestic mountains, frozen plains and foggy hazes'

'Proba-2 captures partial solar eclipse'

'Hubble sees a galactic sunflower'

'Cannabis and Psychosis'

'Do You Live In London?'

'Creationist illegally selling false hope cancer drug'

'Nerd³'s Hell... Frozen Free Fall: Snowball Fight'

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

Word Of The Week: delingpole -- a chipped molar, achieved by grinding your teeth in desolate fury (vulgar; slang; regarded as extremely rude - not to be spoken in public, or in private, whether out loud or not)

Etymology Of The Week: gamut -- meaning 'everything' as in the expression 'the whole gamut' comes via the meaning 'the whole musical scale' as it comes from the latin 'gamma' and 'ut' concatenated; gamma being the first (highest) note of Guido d'Arezzo's musical scale and ut being the last (lowest pitched) note of the scale.

Fact Of The Week: In 1980, Detroit gave the 'keys to the freedom of...' to Saddamm Hussein. At the time, he was perceived as 'a friend', for giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to a church! So much for national security

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

'Mark Thomas Comedy Product Series 3 Episode 1 Arms Fair'

'Mark Thomas Secret Map Of Britain - Full documentary'

'Mark Thomas On Coca Cola'

'RHLSTP Episode 23 - Mark Thomas'

'Queen + Led Zeppelin - Roger Taylor John Paul Jones & Foo Fighters Under Pressure News 2015'

‘Memo for George III’

‘Engery and Chimineas’

'Cómo usar Tinder (Using Tinder)'
Apparently, this is how Tinder works. Personally, i find the idea of 'swiping' people, whether to the left or the right, quite distasteful :-P

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Entertainment stuff from the week 7-13/9/15

Hi Flaming Bourbon Tornado drinkers,

The Media Circus is back! (episode link, below)

By which i mean the show; because, of course, the media circus is always with us.

It malingers, like a bad smell, or an overly keen vicar who 'wouldn't mind' another cup of tea, for the fourteenth time.

Speaking of nauseating bores, that some people are inexplicably fond of...

Ladies and Gentlemen, i give you the Anita Sarkeesian of masculist politics.

'Sarah Palin Wants to Be Energy Secretary under Trump'

Jesus Cussed, i hope she doesn't get her way either!

Head-to-head comparison [link 1] and [link 2]


What causes extra virgin olive oil to glow red?

This video shows the effect in high quality:

'Green laser turns red in extra virgin olive oil HD 1080'

And this video claims to demonstrate the cause:

'Chemistry - Extra Virgin Olive Oil - test'

But is it right? It's certainly very plausible, but the mechanism could be a different one.

{I promise: i'm definitely writing this out in real time :-P }

'What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?'

Olive oil is basically any mixture of chemicals, that can be extracted from olives, and only olives - the fruit of the olive tree - Olea europaea. It is, essentially, a fruit juice.

The olive oil industry considers olive oil to be 'extra virgin' when it has had very little done to it, in the way of purification, since extraction from the olives.

This means that 'extra virgin' olive oil has a noteable taste, which should be noted for cooking purposes - don't use it to cook anything where the tastes will clash, or the EVOO (extra virgin) will dominate the flavours!

So although the industry has a taste qualifier, which requires the rejection of batches, due to the presence of some chemicals, the general idea is that 'ordinary' olive oil and 'extra virgin' olive oil differ by quantity of impurity contained within them.

This can be seen by eye, as EVOO tends to be darker, and more viscous, than does OOO (ordinary olive oil).

But which extra ingredients make the difference between red light and no-red light?

'Olive Oil Constituents'

Main Fatty Acids:
Oleic acid                    55 to 83%
Linoleic acid               3.5 to 21%
Palmitic acid               7.5 to 20%
Stearic acid                 0.5 to 5%
alpha-Linolenic acid     0 to 1.5%

The ingredients that are thought to make the difference between 'ordinary' and 'extra virgin' are these, in decreasing order of quantity:

"phenolics such as esters of tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol, including oleocanthal and oleuropein, having acidic properties that give extra-virgin unprocessed olive oil its bitter and pungent taste."
"at least 30 phenolic compounds, among which is elenolic acid, a marker for maturation of olives.[citation needed]"
"Oleuropein, together with other closely related compounds such as 10-hydroxyoleuropein, ligstroside and 10-hydroxyligstroside, are tyrosol esters of elenolic acid."
"Other phenolic constituents include flavonoids, lignans and pinoresinol."

The olive oil test video, linked above, claims chlorophyll is what causes the red glow. But where is it on the list of ingredients? Plus, chlorophyll is a poor absorber of green light - hence its green colour - so how would it be so energised by the green LASER?

As a heuristic, it doesn't seem quite right, that fruit like olive, which plays no role in photosynthesis in the plant, should have any chlorophyll in it, at all! But if you were trying to fake the deeper colour of EVOO, it would be intuitive to adulterate your OOO with chlorophyll. This has been done many times before. That doesn't mean chlorophyll is the chemical in the mechanism observed, however.

According to this site, one Apostolos Kirisakis found olive oil to contain 1 to 10 parts per million chlorophyll. Not very much! But easily accountable by leaves dropping into the crusher, along with the olives. So how much of olive oil's greenness can therefore be put down to the chlorophyll impurity within it?

Well, before answering these questions, i'm going to answer the question of: "How does the red light form, at all?"

To answer this question, we have to jump into the world of Quantum Physics! But don't worry, it's not that difficult.

The basic theme of QP is quantisation (hence the name) which means packets of energy, and amounts of stuff, are not like they are in Classical Physics - they have set sizes.

Your tallness, for example, can be anywhere on a continuous scale of height; but the size of a fundamental particle can not. You can use a dimmer switch to find any interval of brightness, in the lights in your house, but you can't do the same with individual photons.

MINDBLOWER: When you look at things, you're not really 'seeing' the thing you're looking at - you're 'seeing' the photons that its surface emits.

An object that looks opaque in the waveband of electromagnetic radiation (light) that our eyes can pick up, might look transparent in another band of light.

You might have been taught, in primary school, that we can see things, because light from the Sun reflects off things, and the light goes into our eyes. But if this were really what happened, then all we'd see is colourless whiteout.

What we're really seeing, is the light that's been emitted by electrons in the surfaces of those things, after having been excited (energised) by the photons from the Sun, lamp, candle, torch, or whatever you're using.

When the green LASER shines into the olive oil, we see a different colour, because the olive oil is absorbing the green photons, and then emitting new ones, at red wavelengths.

If you click the "the world of Quantum Physics!" hyperlink above, you can see how this works.

Basically, what this means, is that you can shine a wide range of wavelengths at olive oil, and get the same effect.

{Certain wavelengths will work much better than others, however, for reasons that are extra-complicating}

This research used ultra-violet light, in which the photons have even more energy than green LASER light, and they found the same red emission.

And this science demo suggests using a violet LASER, and shows a picture of redness, again.

In fact, the only wavelengths that would not produce a red glow, would be those that do not interact with the suspect ingredient in olive oil, at all. Either because they're too low-energy (out the red end of the spectrum) or too high energy (out the blue end of the spectrum) which is more likely to destroy the chemicals that olive oil is made of, than to make it glow!

This article, here, has a graph comparing the fluorescence spectra (the distribution of colours that are given out) of different vegetable oils, and it clearly shows a peak in the red band, for olive oil, distinguishing it from more-pure vegetable oils, like sunflower oil.

And where is that peak, exactly? Well, it's 682 nanometres in wavelength. That's the emission line for... chlorophyll.

So as unlikely as it might seem, that the small amounts of chlorophyll in olive oil (so small that it doesn't get mentioned as an ingredient) are responsible for its green colour, the evidence does seem to show it to be the culprit.

The research using UV light, linked above, actually found all tested vegetable oils to produce peaks at 430-450 nm (blue, oddly enough); though only olive oil fluoresced at 440 and 455 nm (pale blue, but weakly), 525 nm (the green-yellow colour of olive oil), and 681 nm (red - the chlorophyll band).

The researchers, for that case, put the green colour partly down to Vitamin E, which is again, not abundant enough to get on the list of major or minor ingredients.

The way chlorophyll makes things look green, as a reminder, is by absorbing every (visible to us) colour that's not green. That means greeness is all that's left.

But how does only 1 to 10 parts per million chlorophyll produce the obvious yellow-green colouring of olive oil, as an inverse absorption spectrum?

Well, as it happens, in this case, a few parts per million is enough. But i can make these feel more intuitive, thusly:

If the chemicals of a green dye were in a 1 in a 1,000,000 mixture of water, then there would be 1 'green' to every 1,000,000 H2O molecules.

Avogadro's constant equates 1 mol of water (weighing 16g) to 6*10^23 molecules; therefore there are 6*10^17 'green's in 16g of water.

The density of this solution will be ~1g/cm^-3 so let's imagine a cube of greeny water, 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.5cm. This cube has 6*10^17 'green's in it.

Therefore, assuming a weirdly convenient and homogeneous distribution, and looking in from the side, we would be looking at 114 billion particles of 'green' per square centimetre.

For not very much, that's quite a lot!

There are 450 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere, and yet there are still people who insist that that means it can't be responsible for climatic change by global warming... even though it's enough to support all of the life on Earth, through photosynthesis.

Go figure :-D

It's very difficult to intuitively judge whether numbers like these are big enough to have a substantial effect, in the real world, so there's really no substitute for experiment.


Chlorophyll is the culprit for the red emission, and because EVOO usually contains more of this, through biological production contamination, it shows a stronger emission of red light, through the LASER beam's path.

The higher energy the LASER light, and the more of it, the more illumination will be seen, but a range of wavelengths can be used to produce the same effect.


I think the factor that really bends people's minds, with the whole 'green LASER shows up red' thing, is that the olive oil and the LASER are deliberately selected to be the same colour.

If you were using a purple LASER, then you really wouldn't be as surprised, that the emission were a different colour to the oil. The confusion comes in, through the assumption that what's happening is that the oil is reflecting the LASER, and therefore we should be seeing the original colour.


The results of the Carbuncle Cup, awarded to "the ugliest building in the United Kingdom completed in the last 12 months" for 2014/15 have been released. And the winner is: 20 Fenchurch Street i.e. the Walkie-Talkie Building. Due to the commission to make the most of the top floors (where floor space is most expensive) it bloats out, like an over-pumped bouncy castle. The curved sides lens light down to the ground, cooking and melting passing objects, and the shape channels air, creating a wind tunnel effect. Good job, guys. Award well deserved :-D

In other news:

Homo naledi has become yet another species to fill in the gaps in the human evolutionary family tree. {Nudge to evolution deniers: they're all transitional fossils} An early relative, but still obviously hominid, it stood ~1.4m tall, had shoulders more like arboreal apes', had surprisingly strong thumbs, and had tiny heads, with room for brains about the size of an orange. 15 specimens of the species were found in a cave in South Africa, amongst 1500 other archaeological specimens. To hear an interview with the discoverers, follow the link. The skeletons were found whole, and without evidence of injury, which suggests that either they went into the cave of their own accord (at different times) or were taken in, maybe as a funerary ritual. The latter is unlikely, however, as such small-brained animals are not thought to be able to develop complex cultures exhibiting funerary rituals. Perhaps it was a place of deposition and nothing more? Years of research analysis to follow...

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka has returned to Earth, in conclusion of a record-breaking two-and-half years in outer space, up at the ISS. He's spent 879 days in outer space, so far, in five separate stints, and beating fellow Russian Sergei Krikalev's record for total time up there, at 803 days, on the 28th of June. Padalka went to the ISS on four of those five stints, and also holds the record for the most number of times to command the ISS - also four times.

It's not just humans and birds, that fancy others who can sing. Previous research has found that male mice sing to female mice, in a register far above any pitch human ears can hear, but it turns out that females sing back. Additionally, the females play a kind of hard-to-get race, where they walk away, then slow down for the male to catch up while he sings another verse, then walk away again, until they're satisfied. So murine courtship turns out to be more like High School Musical than we'd previously imagined... I've gone off them, now ;-)

Well, this is interesting. It almost seems to work like magic. In fact, i was quite cynical about it! This team of image processing researchers have developed a program that automatically removes 'distracting' elements from photographs. Of course, if you follow the link, the examples you see are the best they've ever done - they look so good, it's easy to imagine that they just took two pictures and removed the signs! But if you then have a look at the pdf file, linked at the bottom of the article, you'll see that the distraction-removing software is quite genuine. Although not entirely automatic, as described. The program carves the image up into areas that it thinks are less or more consistent with the rest of the picture, and then the researcher picks a shape to remove. When it does, it has to replace that segment with colour from the surrounding picture, so certain edits just don't work. One of their better pictures edits a woman out, from behind a ballistrade - but only her head! It leaves her torso and legs in. Although this can only be seen by zooming in. And another tries to remove an object in the corner, by replacing it with a copy of someone's face. Real things are imperfect, and so these limitations reassure me that the program is real, and also that the rules of reality remain. You can't edit a photo without leaving a trace :-D

Is it true that micro-RNAs can be used to change genetic expression, through ingestion? Well, probably not. Evidence presented has been ambiguous, at best, and certainly doesn't score high on the plausibl-o-meter. DNA and RNA are made of proteins, which get digested in the gut, so they're unlikely to achieve anything, when ingested in plain form. Certain bacteria can only survive the journey through our stomach and small intestine, through evolved mucus-production abilities. Pills simply don't do the same. Similarly, a wide range of supplements, marketed by the 'S' in 'I-SCAM industry' are sold on the basis of the claim that "you need X in you, and this is X, so eat it" even though you need your body to make it not digest it. To have firm, pert skin, for example, you need collagen, which holds everything together, but you can't fight wrinkles away, by eating collagen! Collagen is also a protein, which also gets digested. It isn't enough to have something inside you - it also has to be in the right place.

Kuwait is partway through its $billion drive to shift its economy toward renewables-based energy. The most recent move has been another $385 million spent on solar power. And in contrast, Iran has recently negotiated, with the UN, permission to develop nuclear capabilities. Why? Iran has 92 times the surface area of Kuwait, and its own reserves of water, to fund any industry it develops - it doesn't need nuclear specifically, and neither does the UN need Iran to have it. It seems particularly suspect, that Iran should want nuclear power, and not the burgeoning solar power industry, when relatively-nearby India can supply large quantities of cheap panels. And why doesn't the UN want to push renewables? Has it merely been petulance on Iran's part? Nuclear or nothing? And is it coincidence that Iran recently announced the discovery of a large reserve of uranium? In my opinion, the UN's made a big mistake. I'm sure there aren't many who would be surprised, if there were people in Iran who turned out to want nuclear weapons, all along. Long-time readers of this blog will know that i'm a pro-nuclear kind of tapejara, but i think Iran should be going solar, like Kuwait. Though i'm not sure how happy Persianists would be, to accept peer pressure from Arabs! This was a big opportunity to grow the renewables industry, depollute the global economy, and develop a peacable Iran at the same time. The UK has been unfriendly to solar too, however.

When male stickleback fish are nest-building, and compelled to do so by androgenic hormones, they can't urinate, because their single, enlarged kidney has been repurposed to the production of a sticky material called spiggin, which is used to hold their nests together. Without the ability to release urine from the body, they'd simply inflate, and pop, so instead bodily fluid is released through their intestines. Sticklebacks have a a large number, and a wide variety of, aquaporins, which are channels in the cells of the intestine, through which water and salt can be transported. They are much less capable than a kidney, which filters waste fluid from the blood, but this contingency plan seems to work. Temporarily, at least.

THE USA's Circuit Court of Appeals has revoked the registration of a neonicotinoid called sulfoxaflor, saying the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) had not sufficiently studied the pesticide before permitting its use. The EPA is currently reinvestigating it. A few weeks ago, biologist Dave Goulson wrote in New Scientist, about how the EU's banning of neonicotinoids in 2013 has been further validated by recent evidence. In stark contrast, Conservative Party affiliated Environment Secretary Liz Truss, decided she wanted to side with the NFU (National Farmers Union) and pesticide industry, in voting against the ban. They were 'worried' that caring for bees might harm yields, but this claim has since been proved to be vacuous. You can always trust a Tory to do what's wrong!

Hoverboards are back! You might remember one or both of the media-magic hoverboard scams, last year, from HUVr and Hendo chronologically. You might also remember Thunderf00t taking great pleasure in demonstrating quite how pseudoscientific the claims being made, happened to be. Unfortunately, or fortunately, this one's not quite so risible. Lexus has brought out a hoverboard, but less fraudulently marketed - it's a superconducting board, that can only work over a non-ferromagnetic surface, and they seem to be honest about this. So if you've got some liquid nitrogen hanging around, and huge amounts of dosh for building yourself a track, then maybe this could be for you. Fallacious references to Back to the Future don't seem to be beneath them, however. But i can assure you that this one is at least able to work as depicted.

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

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

'ScienceCasts: NASA Spacecraft takes Space GPS to New Heights'

'Shooting Self in face... high speed science experiment!'

'What IF Anita Sarkeesian was right about video games?'

'Petrified Sand Dunes on Mars'

'New Pluto images from NASA's New Horizons'

'Image: The Magellanic Clouds and an interstellar filament'

For some reason, it all stops here, this week. I expect we'll be back to normal (if that's a word that can apply to this blog) next week. TTFN.

Actually, you can have 'murine' as the Word Of The Week (see above) :-P

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Entertainment stuff from the week 31/8 - 6/9/15

Hi Wikker people,

'Using Wikipedia as PR is a problem, but our lack of a critical eye is worse'

Ask someone for their opinion of Wikipedia, and you will generally get one of two sentiments winning the race for the first sentence to be said:

1) The free encyclopedia? Yeah, i use it all the time. Great, isn't it.

2) Oh, that. You can't trust anything on there. Anyone can edit it, right?

The reality lies somewhere in-between.

Wikipedia is actually better than any other online encyclopedia, because of the way it is made. It might be theoretically possible for anyone to edit articles on Wikipedia, but that isn't practically true.

If you show bad form, for editing - citing known falsehoods and other disreputable sources - you can be removed from the list of Wikipedia editors.

Wikipedia's requirement for citations (evidence) and open-source nature, makes it more scientific than any other encyclopedia, and more broad in subject coverage.

In the Rationalism movement, it's well known that assorted Quacks love to edit articles about themselves, so that they gleam with false credit. The nature of the way Wikipedia works, means that all of the lies will be found in the end. Rationalists jumping in to the fray merely accelerates this progress.

Because of the nature of society, and of basic physics, some subjects will be tended to more closely, and by more competent individuals, than will other subjects.

This is why the pages for celebrities can often be unrealistic, with all sorts of ridiculous rumours and deliberately-misleading edits finding their way into articles. Celebrities are many, and editors are few.

In contrast, the pages for scientific subjects can be so scientifically rigorous that Universities now accept them as references in students' submissions!

The only people capable/willing to edit pages for intense sciencey things, are people who work in those intense sciencey things - that means their editing is highly competently done, and meddled with by few inexpert cranks.

Pages for companies, however (including quackery-mongering companies) are far more likely to be biased in the company's favour, because they can employ dodgy PR companies like Bell Pottinger to fabricate pleasant citations, and erase inconvenient truths.

This is really no different to scientific academia, itself!

Pharmaceutical companies, being profit-motivated, deliberately fund the creation of entire journals, so that they can have their own editors, on their own payroll, who will obligingly present all of their own research in the most complimentary light they can manage.

They pay medical writers to compile studies, according to their wishes, and then they put the name of a prestigious researcher at the top of the list of authors. For whomever the names comes from, it's a free boost to their study output, but the poor medical writer gets no credit whatsover.

What's so brilliant about this, is that to a passing stranger (albeit one with an academic bent and money for a journal subscription) the papers contained within the journal, and the standards of editing, seem perfectly fine.

An entirely fraudulent research paper (or Wikipedia article) that's had enough time and money spent on its creation, is not noteable as a fake. The only catch, is that the results can't be replicated, because the evidence was never there, in the first place! Citation needed.

The same is true when it comes to Organics industry companies, that up-sell vegetables by the claim that it's 'just better' than something that 'isn't organic'. Even though that doesn't mean anything sensible.

And it's also true for fossil gas fracking companies, that are trying to 'green' their image, with totally-not-industry-funded studies showing popular beliefs to not be true. Incidentally, the groundwater-contamination element isn't even one of the big threats, from the industry; but because people believe it to be, they see it as worth their effort to dispel the notion.

In fact, this problem goes much further beyond academia than this, because it's true for a wide range of adverts that you might see on TV, on posters, on the Web, or hear over the Radio.

Skeptics with a K has a piece on it, just about every issue. But then, given that it's Marsh's area of expertise (PR) then that's not exactly surprising. Here's one recent 'fascinating' example:

'Water, Water, The Water Of... Profit (SwaK#154)' (my upload)

If you're a company looking to smear someone who's a critic of you, with profit-reducing effects, then you could even do what Merck got caught doing, in 2009 - personalized attacks on those who criticised them!

The criticism in that case, was of what i mentioned earlier - dodgy journals set up only to make Merck look good. They paid Scientific Journal publisher Elsevier huge amounts of money, to make six journals, for them to publish profit-complementary studies in. The studies printed therein were even ones that had been published before! Merck's excuses for deception went down like this:

"In a statement to The Scientist magazine, Elsevier initially said that the company “does not today consider a compilation of reprinted articles a ‘Journal’”. I would like to expand on this statement. It was a collection of academic journal articles, published by the academic journal publisher Elsevier, in an academic journal shaped package. Perhaps if it wasn’t an academic journal they could have made this clearer in the title which, I should have mentioned, was: The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine"."

And just to bring this whole thing full circle...

If you were trying to smear the reputation of someone who were criticising you for such immoral behaviour, then what better way to do it than by editing their Wikipedia entry?

Problems with Wikipedia pages are not peculiar, but the forces of good are at work, trying to suppress them.

When it comes to judging the reliability of a page on Wiki, think of what kind of page it is:

How competent will the people interested in improving this article be?
How much of their time might be devoted to this particular page?
What evidence do they have to work with, and what's been cited?
And what forces exist to corrupt the page you're looking at?

None of this works, however, without this key piece of advice:

Stay skeptical, people. Stay skeptical.


On the 4th of September, Mr. Bean turned 25. I suppose that makes him 50-something by now? :-D

In other news:

The JREF (James Randi Educational Foundation) has been undergoing some structural changes, over the last year or so. For decades, it has had $1 million set aside, for anyone who can demonstrate actual paranormal powers, under conditions where they could be found to be wrong. It's very telling that no-one has ever got close to winning the money, whether they intended it for themselves, or charitable use. In fact, the trend appears to be that the richer a charlatan is, nowadays, the less likely they are to consider it! It's almost as if they know they're faking, isn't it. Anyway, the JREF's still doing the Million Dollar Challenge, but it's testing has always been done by 'independents' (people who don't have a financial incentive to fake a fail) and now it seems that only the money has anything to do with the JREF. From next year, the JREF will be using interest on its donated millions, to give grants to Skeptical/Rationalist organisations, that they think would be benefitted by the funds.

The Brooks is back! Having been paid £13 million for not being scape-goated for the Murdoch-instrumented hacking scandal, (for which Andy Coulson and the News Of The World took the rap, got fired/closed, and then went to work for David Cameron, because the Conservative Party likes pleasant company) and taking a little time off, Rebekah Brooks is back at News Corp, as CEO of News UK. She was acquitted of phone hacking, bribing officials and obstructing police, in a case that has cost News Corp a paltry $500 million, paid out to its thousands of victims. Brooks has been the golden child of Rupert Murdoch's eyes, since 1989, so it's hardly surprising that he's welcomed her back into the fold. Like a Tory MP who's been caught doing something both bigoted and immensely unpopular, instead of being blackballed, she's just been given a 'cooling off' period, until people had forgotten what she'd done. Due to Brooks' reinstatement in the Murdoch Empire, it's unsurprising that prosecutors are considering a corporate challenge of News Corp. Good luck to them!

The Nazi Gold Train is... um, somewhere? Maybe? Two weeks ago, we had a rumour of a discovery of a train that might have had gems and guns in it, that might have been owned by the Nazis, possibly, maybe, possibly. This week, we've had the Polish deputy Culture Minister saying he's seen contours of the train on a geo-phys image, and the governor of the southwestern region of Lower Silesia saying “It’s impossible to claim that such a find actually exists at the location indicated based on the documents that have been submitted”. So basically, things are hotting up, but there's no further data to be had :-D

Back in 2010, the Justice Department of the USA started an antitrust investigation into a variety of Silicon Valley companies, for engaging in a no-poaching cartel. That wouldn't be a problem, if it were literal poaching, but in this case, it means recruiting people from other companies. This resolution covers Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe. A similar resolution, last year, covered Intuit, Pixar, and LucasFilm. Documents presented in the last 5 years of investigation, showed Steve Jobs to be the ringleader in the cartel, using secret agreements to suppress wages, by decreasing employees' awareness that their talents might be wanted at another company. A Federal Judge has awarded $415 million in damages, with $41 million going to the lawyers, and an average of $5800 prepared for each of the 64,000 workers affected by the cartel.

History enthusiasts are probably the happiest in Poland, right now, despite the ongoing drought. In fact, because of it. The Vistula River, which collects water in the south, through Warsaw, and out into the Baltic Sea, in the north. With water levels lower than ever before, on record, huge numbers of exhibits have been uncovered, along its length. From WWI patrol boats with guns and ammunition, to fragments of carved stones, that the Swedes tried to steal, when they invaded in 1656. Ironically, they only failed to export them, because the water levels were too low for their ships, at the time.

According to this research, emails can be more emotionally expressionate than voicemail messages. The researchers found that, regardless of the messager's sex, when using emails to communicate a romantic message, the sender put more effort into expressing romantic sentiment. This meant that, in practice, the recipient perceived it to be more romantic than the comparator voicemails. It's almost as if, when people want to communicate something, they will find a way of communicating it in whatever medium they happen to be using, at the time. Shocking!? Previous (older) studies have looked at this same subject, and found the opposite, so it probably just comes down to practice - the more you communicate in a medium, the better you will become, at conveying thoughts and intentions, within that medium.

Honest sunscreen lotion is anything but! Jessica Alba founded The Honest Co. four years ago, to rake in dosh as fast as she could bank it. But fraud doesn't seem to be something she would forego, in the interests of profiteering. At least, according to this plaintiff. They say the sunscreen is ineffective (reasonable, given that they've taken the zinc oxide out, but left shea butter and beeswax in) and also that it's not "natural" as described on the bottle. Well, the thing about 'natural' is that everything is natural, including fraud itself, and the sunburn you'll get if you wear Honest Sunscreen Lotion. The Honest Co. also claims the product to be "chemical free" even though, if this were true, the bottle would be empty entirely! It'll be interesting to see which of the points raised gain traction in the courts, where definitions of words and terms are often slightly, um... 'different'.

Ankylosaurids are well known as the dinosaurs built like tanks. Their name comes from the greek ankylo- meaning 'stiff/fused'. In medicine, 'ankylosis' refers to joints where bones have fused together. But although the ankylosaurids were always armour-plated, they didn't always have the tail clubs that Ankylosaurus itself had. Over ~80 million years, the physical infrastructure necessary to support such huge weapons developed bit-by-bit, with the stiffness of the tail developing first, and the tail club developing later, to enhance the scute and lump adorned tails' utility, as a weapon. The fusing of the tail evolved into the Early Cretaceous, but the huge tail club wasn't around until the Late Cretaceous, about 75 mya. Evolution is a continuous process, that can be very slow.

It's the end of the world again. LOL. This time, the subject of superstition is refraction of light onto the Moon, at sunclipse. Well, it's enough for Ray Comfort, so why not for a sane person? :-D

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

'Mr Bean's 25th Anniversary at Buckingham Palace - Rowan Atkinson'

'The Disappearing Sea of Ice'

'Hydrogen Alpha - Sixty Symbols'

'Motors and Generators'

'19th Century Technology at a Grist Mill'

'Science Bulletins: New Horizons Brings Pluto Into Focus'
In case you missed it, at the time.

'Australian desert captured by Copernicus Sentinel 2A'

'NASA image: Good night from space'

'Photographer captures an ISS transit of a solar prominence'

'Why do people laugh at creationists (part 43)'
Kent Hovind: The Return. He's had ten years to think things through; and how far has he got? Um... not very far :-D

'Dad³ Vlogs! Outside 3: THE FINALE!!!'

'The Singing Lift'

'God's Top 10 Life Hacks'

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

Word Of The Week: punctilious -- showing great attention to detail or correct behaviour

Fact Of The Week: Scrabble tournaments can be surprisingly intense. With ~10 games a day, they can mean playing (and concentrating for) seven hours a day, for five days straight - that's the cognitive equivalent of doing two/three long exams a day, every day, all week. Part of the motive for this, is to make it a grueling challenge, that distinguishes the strong from the weak, and thereby makes winning the tournament (and the thousands in prizemoney) more of an achievement.

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

'Chaucer' - Bill Bailey'

'Tattoo' - Bill Bailey'

'The Arthur Haynes Show barber sketch 1961'

'The 5 Most Horrific Deaths in Disney Movies'

'TINH: The Greatest (Stupidest) Hacking Scenes'


Ghostwatch was a spoof documentary, first broadcast on Hallowe'en 1992, presented as if it were going out live. Even though it clearly had a cast list, and there were people in it, who were known actors at the time, enough people believed that the programme could have been perceived as a real documentary, that complaints caused the BBC to ban it for 10 years!

The programme was blamed for the suicide of an 18-year-old with a mental age given as that of a 13-year-old, and cases of PTSD in two ten-year-old boys. Those two cases turned out just to be anxiety.

In case you were still wondering whether it was 'a bit scary' just bear in mind that it probably contributed to inspiring the Blair Witch Project, as well as real life events. It really does get quite scary, in the third part! I suggest watching it in a dark room, with thunder rumbling outside, the way i did :-D

'Ghost Watch pt 1'

'Ghost Watch pt 2'

'Ghost Watch pt3'