Monday, 25 January 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 18-24/1/16

Hi nonaplanetist primes,

Does the Solar System have nine planets, after all?

The pop 'science' story of the week has to be the claimed discovery of a ninth planet, orbiting Sol (the Sun) way out beyond Neptune.

Well, in reality, this is only a hypothesised planet - its claimed existence is supported only by computational modelling of the Solar System, intended to account for inconsistencies in the orbits of KBOs - Kuiper Belt Objects, orbiting the Sun far out, beyond Neptune.

Other computational models of the development of the Solar System have long been extrapolated to postdict the presence of a now-long-gone massive planet, in order to explain the observed distribution of planets and dwarf planets in this stellar system.

Without one, or some other mechanism, models consistently render our stellar system as infeasible. Either a ninth planet had to go, or the inner planets did.

That hypothesis of a ninth planet explains how Earth & Co are distributed the way they are, but it is a different hypothetical ninth to this hypothetical ninth planet.

While the planet-arranging hypothesis means a planet slingshotted off into interstellar space, by the kinetic energy imparted to it, this claimed ninth planet is very much predicted to be orbiting Sol, with a period of 10-20,000 years, and at a distance of ~20 times further out than Neptune.

It should be stressed that this supposed ninth planet has never been seen, and so the claim that a ninth planet has been 'observed' or 'discovered' is quite untrue.

If it were found to exist, however, it would tell us a lot more about the Solar System's orbits, but not necessarily its origins.

'SFN #150: Ninth Planet?; Brightest Galaxy Found Ripping Itself Apart; Brightest Eruption Ever Seen'

Rather unsurprisingly, the misreporting of the 'discovery' of a ninth planet, on the edges of the Solar System, has been used as a plot construct in conspiracy theorists' wet dreams, already.

Maybe it's even more unsurprising, when the research paper is titled 'EVIDENCE FOR A DISTANT GIANT PLANET IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM' but it's still a figment of their imagination, that it might be crashing to Earth in 2016!

The picklebrain who came up with the Nibiru nonsense - Zecharia Sitchin - now thinks that this ice giant is the planet he 'discovered' a long time ago.

Well, let's first point out that neither groups have discovered anything - but modelling the Solar System and finding a hole, is a lot closer than reading some Sumerian texts and concluding that there's a ninth planet out there.

Like they would have known.

Oh, sorry, did i say "ninth"? I meant to say "twelfth". Sitchin also states that his claimed 'discovery' has a 3600-year orbit, which is far too small, by about 10,000 years.

Oh yeah, and then there's the fact that the word 'Nibiru' in Sumerian, is their word for 'Jupiter' so um... yeah. The existence of Jupiter is not a mystery - it's not even a hypothetical planet in a model - it's evidenced directly.

Mimicry. We all do it. An inate propensity for it is exhibited by classes of vertebrate and invertebrate alike - mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, etc - and and it's in the news again.

'Study reveals how birds learn through imitation'

Birds and mammals are both noted for their propensity for learning to behave similarly to others, by being around their sights and sounds - they unconsciously copy behavioural patterns.

This is how peer pressure works - when you see someone else behaving in a particular way, your mimicry instinct encourages you to do the same as them... and they the same as you. Some people feel this stronger than others, and some are better than others at resisting it, but it's always there.

{Aside the 'mirror neurons' thing is a specifically delegated kind of neuron that has not been shown to exist in humans. So don't band on about mirror neurons and mimicry, in conversation ;-) }

This is also how stop-smoking and lose-weight groups work, as well - the beneficial application of peer pressure. The term is usually only used in negative circumstances.

So through this mechanism, both humans and monkeys conform to social norms. Even to the extent that physical defects can result in strained replications of an individual's limp, in an attempt to 'fit in'.

Some people call this 'fashion' or 'culture' but this is really just arbitrary mimicry of behavioural fluctuations.

It should be no surprise to hear, then, that humans' behavioural habits are slowly erased and rewritten, under exposure to different behavoural patterns.

'Migrant values adapt over just one generation'

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do" - an idiom modified from a 4th century source

The point of adaptation, here, is not necessarily reasonable, or even utilitarian - there might not even be a point at all.

People who get used to eating sitting down, or standing up, or eating different things, or at different times of day, have adapted to the culture they find themselves in, by mimicking it.

The problem of cultural difference is a transitory one - as two populations spend time near each other, they will share memes, as part of this biological tendency toward mimicry, and so their differences will wane over time.

When cultures adopt staunchly held arbitrary traits, such as widespread superstitious beliefs in gods, races, etc, then they are rendered less willing to partake in the exchange of 'values'.

The people involved start to resent their own drives to mimic others, and are divided into: those who wish to secure themselves away from the 'others'; those who wish to change the 'others' so that they aren't there to be mimicked; and those who weren't that enthusiastic about the arbitrary memes in the first place, and so don't see what the problem is.

Mimicking diets, and clothing styles, and things like that, happens in a relatively stress free way, because people are generally open to 'tasting the other dishes' but when it's contra-reasonable memetics that's on the table, coercion is bound to follow, and obliging people to eat tends to turn people's stomachs over!

I'm not bothered too much by migration. I see it as inevitable. It has been inevitable, it is inevitable, and it will continue to be inevitable, as the increasingly changing climate obliges people to leave their familiar homes, and go to live somewhere else.

I live where i do because of migration, and so does everyone else. And as we meet new cultural traits, we'll pick up new and arbitrary behaviours. Where those behaviours are destructive, they must be met as any other - their being exhibited by migrants makes not one jot of difference.

'How To Drink Your Own Urine – 2015 CHRISTMAS LECTURES'

Don't. And if you're found drinking it, you might need to protect your ass with a strategic covering device...

'Anita Sarkeesian and the BUTTS!'


The 21st of January marks the 120th anniversary of French scientist Henri Becquerel's accidental discovery of radiation, for which he received a Nobel prize

In other news:

Musician Adele's song 'Hello' has reached 1 billion views on YouTube, beating Psy's record for time taken to reach that number of views - 87 days instead of 158.

Google has promised to pay £130 million of tax, in lieu of the backlog that it really owes to the UK - more than £200m. Like with Apple Italia, mentioned a few weeks ago, this figure is way below the total sum, but is presumably intended to put R&C off further investigation. The company doesn't want to pay, and the Revenue doesn't want to work; so the shortfall is simply dismissed. Unitary Tax, anyone?

Google might be putting plenty of effort into tax evasion, but it seems to be putting even more into advert evasion. There seems to be an endless pit of serpents, willing to writhe their way up the corporation's legs. Inevitable, some ads will have been incorrectly dismissed, but according to this statement, last year, Google sidelined 780 million ads, on various grounds. More than 10,000 websites and 18,000 accounts were suspended for hawking counterfeit goods, 7000 phishing websites were taken down, 12.5 million quack and off-label ads were removed, and 17 million fake system warning ads were rejected. They might have more than 1000 people working on it, but that's still 780,000 ads per person.

So some students in the Netherlands have 'invented' a solution to urban air pollution, that can replace gas masks. Or have they? What they've done, is they've put a plant in a backpack, and hosed it up so that the air the user breathes is filtered through the roots, supposedly removing microparticles. This isn't a smog-solver - this is a sketch by The Chaser, back in 2007! It's not going to work better than a gas mask though, is it. And what if you want to carry a backpack, while you're carrying the plantpack? Risible.

So Buckingham Palace is now available for an internet tour, thanks to Google Expeditions. But it is still not consistently open to the public, despite being funded by public money, with other 'royal' palaces alike. The monarchistic squatting in all of these palaces (they're not necessarily even in them) is estimated to be worth ~£2 billion per year, by comparison to France's equivalents - a huge amount of money that UK residents miss out on, for the sake of having one of those spongers depicted on the money. If the civil list were scrapped, and publicly funded properties transferred to English Heritage and the National Trust, people could actually visit all of them, in all of their splendour, rather than having to make do with videos on their RoyoulTube channel.

Researchers of The University of Western Australia's Centre for Integrative Bee Research (CIBER) have found that male honey bee semen contains proteins that cause the Nosema apis fungus' spores to germinate prematurely, causing them to die, because they can't survive outside of their host's cells. In this way, males protect females from harm... thereby infantilising them, through their toxic masculinity. Fuck the Apiatriarchy! #malekindnessisevil <s> Sorry, i came over all sexist :-P

Don't throw dogs for sticks for dogs, say veterinarians. Throw dogs for sticks instead. No, don't - just throw a ball or something. Apparently, injuries when chomping on, or catching sticks, cause serious injury, that's sometimes life-threatening, with a mensery frequency (monthly) so stick to unswallowable balls in their place.

Whales, it seems, do not care about sirens. At least, not the ones employed by marinologists in an attempt to deter them from hazards along their migratory route, off the Sydney coast of Australia. Both simple and complex sounds failed to deter the migrating humpback whales, but might just be that to them, all the signal seemed to be saying was "bleh, bleh, bleh, bleh, blurrrrh" which wouldn't really say anything to me, either!

Yet another study into artificial selection, finding genetic modification... of wild species. Bighorn sheep are famous for their big horns (well, duh!) but they're genuinely not as big as they used to be, due to evolutionary selection pressure, imposed upon them by human hunters. By selecting against reproductive sheep with bigger horns, they're removing the genetic traits for large horn growrth from the population, and increasing the abundance of less-horny sheep in the population. Over the last 43 years, the size of the horns on sheep at Ram Mountain has reduced by more than a fifth. By the same size-selective hunting method, fishing practices have caused fish species to whither in size, over the generations. It's the same mechanism that's employed in livestock modification, and so it's very esy to impose it accidentally.

Another thing that evolves to adapt to humans, is pathogenic disease. In this case, the influenza that's broken out in Indiana, leading to the deaths of more than 400,000 turkeys and chickens on 10 farms there. As mentioned on this blog two weeks ago, for a virus to transfer from birds to mammals, it has to evolve a method of using the ANP32A protein to replicate itself. So avian flu, including this case, doesn't pose much of a threat to humans, except through its primary victims - the birds. Human businesses are threatened, and future disease resistance through biodiversity. Environmental organisations have found hundreds of wild birds to have been affected by this outbreak of avain flu alone.

Darwin missed many species of bird, living on the Atlantic islands, when he visited there in 1826, but that was not his fault. There have been many thousands of species of rail living in the Pacific, but today there are only 13 rallids living on the Macaronesian islands of the Atlantic. The reason is thought to be extinction, caused by humans, and the other mammals that they took with them, centuries before Darwin went there, in the 15th century. This study identifies five of those extinct species, that might have caused Darwin to list rails alongside starlings, wagtails, finches and blackbirds.

This newly-discovered bird species, however, is very much alive. It lives in the Indo-Chinese border region, west of Burma and north of Bangladesh, up in the mountains. It's been called the Himalayan Forest Thrush, and properly named Zoothera salimalii in tribute to Salim Ali, who apparently contributed greatly to ornithological pursuits in India. You can see some very high-quality pictures, if you follow the link:

And from an avian dinosaur to a non-avian dinosaur; and from the decidedly small to the very very big. Was Notocolossus the biggest land animal ever? Well, that wouldn't be a justified statement, because there might have been another whose fossils humans haven't found, or were never preserved; but more than that, the size-judgements of fossilised dinosaurs are often made on the basis of very few bones. This means that there's high uncertainty in size estimates, for species like the recently announced Notocolossus. This renders specific statements like "122 feet long" untrustworthy. David Attenborough actually got himself in trouble with paelontologists recently, for daring to extrapolate the dino's weight from the circumference of its femur, with too much certainty. While there is certainly a correlation between the two, as the result of a causal relationship, there is high uncertainty in the projection from one variable to the other. So Notocolossus was certainly a colossus, but longest, or heaviest ever found? That question simply can't be answered yet. Other sauropods have had their dimensions reevaluated in the last year - Dreadnoughtus for example - so we should expect the same to be possible, here.

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

'ScienceCasts: Historic Vegetable Moment on the Space Station'

'New World's Biggest Prime Number (PRINTED FULLY ON PAPER) - Numberphile'

'How they found the World's Biggest Prime Number - Numberphile'

You can hear an interview with Curtis Cooper on Matt Parker's own channel:

'First video of patients being treated for Parkinson's symptoms'
{The three main symptoms of Parkinson's are called Parkinsonism, whether they're caused by Parkinson's itself or not, so this video doesn't necessarily show Parkinson's Disease treatment}

'Worthington Ball Boost'

'Atomic Trampoline (HD reshoot)'


Well, this is a new one on me!

'Buddhist monk upset after treading on an insect jailed for resulting 162-car tyre-slashing spree'

'NASA image: Pluto's haze in bands of blue'

'Hubble image: Dazzling diamonds'

Star Cluster R136 Bursts Out'

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

Word Of The Week: eggcorn -- a misuse/misspelling of a word, due to mishearing, that still makes partial sense, as in "they woofed down their food" which should be "wolfed" but it kinda makes sense because domesticated dogs woof and eat rapidly like wolves do; the term eggcorn itself comes from a mishearing of 'acorn' which eggs look similar to, and so pose as a partially-effective replacement

Quote Of The Week: "You don't need a parachute to skydive. You need a parachute to skydive twice" - Anon

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

'Lip Service Love'


Woman: "Love is alive, in all its glory. Love is all you need to be happy, because everything can love"
Man: "Make love?"
Woman: "Unsubbed!"

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 11-17/1/16

Robot ears stand by,

"If you've ever wondered whether machines are taking over the world, then wonder no more, because Robot Wars is back" - Craig Charles

'Roboteers, stand by...'

Has anyone else wondered why the robots' non-existent ears were being called into question? I have this nagging feeling that i am the only entitity ever to have misheard :-D

The new series of Robot Wars is intended to be broadcast later in 2016, on the BBC (because they really love original programming) and it's not yet known who might be presenting it.

For now, we'll just have to be content with Nerd³ v. Dad³, LOL

'Nerd³ Battles...'

How not to write about how not to write about Science.

'How not to write about science'
(Written by Michael J. I. Brown, Monash University, for The Conversation)

Here's one of those pop articles that come around periodically, admonishing scientists for not being able to communicate with 'normal' people.

I say "go screw yourself with a rusty trowel!"

Mr Brown's suggestions are not only unhelpful to scientists working in research, they are also corruptive to researchers' application of the scientific method.

There is, of course, a requirement for people like myself to read articles (if only i could afford the journal subscriptions) and then relate the points to be remembered, and the points to not be mis-remembered, to people who don't understand the lingo.

But, i do not think that that requirement should be imposed on the researchers themselves, who write the study papers. The two processes of paper writing and science communication should be regarded as different activities, subject to different advice.

Notice that Mr Brown, writing with his journalist hat on, manages to absolve himself (or at least his hat) of responsibility for poor communication of science, to the public, as we go through his points:

1) Avoid objective empiricism, and instead debase your writing with personalised narratives, of the deeply visceral experience, and the intense spiritual journey you've been on, while researching... whatever it was. Remember: this is all about you, not your findings - the readers want you to be as narcissistic as possible, to make a thrilling 'story' - not as impartial and dispassionate as possible, to receive high quality reports of evidence. And the reader's always right - that's why you're telling them things that they're not yet right about.

2) Be put off by the difficulty that some people have with reading graphs. You might even want to deliberately dumb them down, so that people can 'understand' them. In fact, while you're dumbing your knuckles to the floor, why not remove the axes labels too - then it might even get put on the TV! The less data a graph contains, the better, and don't even think of putting error bars on it - the readers have a deep loathing for uncertainty.

3) Don't use words what people don't get. Especially on the internet. Using big words might prompt them to use a WKSE, to find out what they mean, thereby increasing their lexicon, so that they are more able to communicate with each other, in the future. Try not to be specific in your writing, by using words that actually mean what you're thinking of - use short, commonplace words that kinda do but kinda don't, and so don't really communicate what you've found at all.

4) Don't get too bogged down in communicating your findings, and how you found them. This is boring, and not what science is about at all. Science isn't a process - it's a PR puff piece designed to terrify or inspire. Tell us about your motivations, too. The spiritual journey. Periods of ennui. Clinical trials and tribulations. The deep, deep, visceral experience... luvvy.

And the take home message?

Engaging with the audience is much more important than being scientific near them. Apparently. Don't do science, when you could be advertising yourself for the novel you're bringing out, next year. Be florid with your prose, and entertaining with your claims and ridiculous futuristic extrapolations. Don't whatever you do, be good at communicating science. <s>

If you dumb it down too far, to make it zesty and exciting, then it won't be science that you're communicating, and so the whole activity will be a waste of time. Researchers should be good at presenting the whole wodge of method, data and analysis, and other people should be the ones to communicate it to everyone else.

And that's my florin on that subject ;-D

Marine life seems to be giving up on life, all around the world. Why?

'Dead fish blight Rio Olympic bay, again'

'Mass squid mortality in Chile leaves lingering stench'

'81 pilot whales wash up in mass stranding in southern India'

Well, first it should be pointed out that these events are not new - whales have been beaching themselves since there've been whales and beaches, and fishy organisms do get beached against their will by storms.

But there are multiple possibilities for each individual event that we see.

For example, the beached pilot whales probably got disoriented and peer pressured each other into heading for the dangerously shallow waters around a beach, with a lowering tide. It's known that cetaceans follow each other like this, and it's known that noise pollution from the shipping industry confuses animals like whales, resulting in discombobulation and dangerous behaviour.

But what about the squid and the fish?

Well, when the Southern Oscilattion oscillates from La Nina to El Nino, and the currents in the pacific switch from westward to eastward, heating the surface waters and malnourishing marine life around South America, the sight (and smell) of thousands of rotting fishy corpses along west coast beaches, is not an unfamiliar one to locals.

The squid mortality occurred in Chile, which was quite southerly for such a fish die-off, but it might be the cause. The SO (Southern Oscillation) has been in El Nino since 2014, after all.

Maybe more likely, is the nature of many squid species' reproductive cycles. Unlike humans, who butter the body sandwich anytime, anywhere, and seemingly with anyone, squid synchronise their sexualities, so that they all get down and groovy simultaneously, one wet weekend. And when the spawning is done, the pooped adults die off, en masse.

So if the ocean currents are (in)convenient, the cadavers of all those exhausted sex maniacs get washed up on the beach, and if they're not, you don't hear anything about it.

Neither of these two explanations work well in regards to the Rio fish blight, however.

Rio de Janeiro is on the Atlantic, and so is not affected by the SO's periodic ravages on fish populations; and the fishy fish kind of fish that have been washing up there are not known to reproduce the way squids do.

So maybe the proposition that they've all been dying due to marine poisoning is true? It could be a combination of factors - warming waters, anutriented waters, chronic stress from industry noise pollution, starvation from ballooning populations, and maybe poisoned waters too.

As far as i'm concerned, i'm going to rubber stamp this: 'CASE PENDING'

All mechanisms are known, but which ones are salient, in this case?


This week is the 15th anniversary of Wikipedia's launch, and to celebrate, the Wikimedia Foundation is launching an endowment (investment fund) to help ease its money needs. If you've got US$99 million lying around, then you can fill it up for them :-D

In other news:

In celebration of its birthday, Wikipedia published a ranking of its pages, according to the number of revisions (edits) it has had, in all time, ever. The page with the most edits is currently, as i write this, George W Bush, whose page has been edited 45,866 times. But the page about him is actually nowhere near the top of the list, as you'll see if you click the link, as the most-edited articles are 'background' pages used by Wikipedia contributors to contribute to Wikipedia. The most edited page, therefore, is actually 'Wikipedia:Administrator intervention against vandalism' which catalogues cases of abusers of Wikipedia, and has been edited 1,125,039 times as i write this!

What caused teeth to grow out of the top of this cougar's head? Journalists are baffled. But scientists expect that it's either a teratoma, which is a kind of tumour where multiple cell types grow together to produce an erroneous structure like an eye, hand, limb, or teeth; or it's a failed conjoined twin, where the rest has shrivelled away. Idaho Fish and Game wants the hunter who shot the animal to have it analysed, and who knows, a third explanation might even be true. So scientists aren't baffled, Torygraph - you are. Scientists are probably genuinely baffled, however, by the Torygraph's sending 1.5 million emails to people on their database, telling them to "Vote Tory". A consent-breaching spamming of political propaganda that has caused the Information Commissioner to fine them £30,000 (Re: Private Eye 1409 p.4) which i don't really regard as enough. Scientists might be even more baffled by your incompetent reading of a study comparing CBT+drugs to drugs alone, in which you made conclusions about the drugs' lack of effectiveness, even though they were used in both successful groups! (Re: me, in December) But then, they might have been most baffled (in the last month alone) by your incredible ability to conclude that potatoes cure cancer, on the basis of a study that doesn't even specifically mention potatoes! (Re: me, earlier in December) You would have thought that some kind of reading comprehension were necessary, for working in journalism, for a national newspaper, wouldn't you!? Well, now you know better. "He who can does; he who can't teaches; he who can't even communicate a point they don't really understand to a group of others without horribly mangling it, becomes a journalist" - not George Bernard Shaw

It was a
month and a half ago, when i wrote about the Torygraph, Dependent, and Daily Diana, all claiming that potatoes can cure stomach cancer and, well, this week the Torygraph has claimed that potatoes, far from being a medical marvel, are actually giving pregnant women Type II diabetes! Grrr, those temperamental tubers. Even though this study did look at potatoes specifically (unlike the previous one) it did not find Type II diabetes - it found gestational diabetes, which is a usually-asymptomatic form of diabetes that comes in during the third trimester, and clears on its own, after birth. As expected, considering potatoes are all carbs and starch, the higher the consumption of potato in someone's diet, the more diabetic they will become, meaning they have higher blood sugar after eating. This is a highly plausible mechanism, but the study doesn't actually have the power to render this evident, due to the way it was conducted. And it certainly doesn't mean potatoes cause Type II diabetes, which is a different medical condition.

Nothing interesting happens in Canberra. Apart from UFO wormhole hoaxes that get soaked up by hacks like camels soak up water. You can see how the video was made, embedded in the article. And in case you're wondering, this hoax was reported as an observation by the Telegraph... but it was the Australian Telegraph - a different 'paper entirely. So the Torygraph slag-off-athon ends here :-D

You know that thing about diehard probably-psychotic conspiracy theorists paranoiically donning tinfoil hats to protect themselves from the evil illuminati's electromagnetic rays? That's a cartoon - a caricature, right? Um... no. These guys have raised more than £13,000 through Kickstarter, to fund their selling-superstitious-people-overexpensive-hats company! Apparently "everybody has the right not to believe" (sic) which is commonly applied lip service rhetoric from supersitionists. But i wonder how litigious they will be, when they realise their fraudulent business has been correctly described as such?

Why would a Chinese Gaming company want a controlling stake in an American dating app owner? I don't know, but Beijing Kunlun Tech's spent US$93 million for a 60% stake in Grindr - the homo-male-specialising hookup app. Grindr is not very popular in China, where it competes with more popular alternatives, including locally-grown versions. Maybe the board of directors are just really, really horny :-D

According to a rumour Tweeted by Lawrence Krauss, LIGO researchers are writing a paper on the existence of gravitational waves, which hints at their discovery. But it doesn't necessarily mean they have been found because negative resutls are results too, and because, as Lawrence has said himself, he doesn't work at LIGO, so he's only relaying rumours from those who do. Watch this space!

NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter has become history's most distant anthropogenic solar-powered object ever. Juno reached 793 million kilometres from the Sun on the 13th of January, beating ESA's Rosetta, which reached 792 million kilometres in October of 2012. Both these missions have to be the solar panel industry's greatest advertising coup, as they are subject to damage from swirling dust particles that can rip holes in them, passing at a frequent rate, with no maintenance available whatsoever.

Not to be outdone, Rosetta is also in the news for an achievement of its own, this week - the discovery of water ice on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The existence of water ice on comet surfaces had previously been assumed, on the basis that comets' tails (comas) are full of water molecules, and the cores of comets are full of ice water; but water ice had never been directly observed on the surface of a comet before. Any surface water is expected to be solid, but sublimation (phase change directly into gas) removes this water from the comet's surface, leaving behind an anhydrous rocky surface, bearing a very dark colour. Rosetta's observations show that that dehydrated layer is actually no more than a metre thick, with the ice showing through in regions where the black surface layer has crumbled to the side.

NASA gets a 2-1 scoreline this week, though, with Dawn sending back the closest photographs ever taken, of Ceres, from its nearest position yet - just 385 kilometres from the dwarf planet's surface. Dawn is intended to stay at this altitude for the rest of its mission. To see four pictures sent back, follow the link.

With investigations and recriminations against VW proceeding, for its industrial deception involving emissions-cheating software, regulatory bodies have loaded up a bandwagon and gone on to investigate other companies too. Renault was recently spot-checked by French anti-fraud investigators, and despite no such software having been found so far, their share price dropped 22% before recovering 12 percentage points, as the news hit the stock markets. And that, folks, is an example of the delusory nature of the free market - undulations happen not because something's genuinely real, but because some people in a room believe they're real, rightly or wrongly.

From the potatoes-of-the-sky-of-the-ground, to the sky itself. Thanks to 37,000 citizen scientists, sorting through 430,000 digital images, over an 8-month period, the Space Warps project has discovered 29 new gravitational lenses, that computational programs have failed to spot. The productiveness of projects like these, stems from the fact that these are basic low-skill jobs, that programs are worse at, and that enthuse many people to work at. They don't require decades of learning, but they still provide useful evidence, and fascinating insights. So to every citizen scientist out there, you can count yourself amongst the huge pile of dwarves, in the metaphor that allows humanity to see so far. Well done :o)

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

'How to Build a Titanosaur'

'Science Bulletins: Super Corals—For the Future (1 of 3)'

'Science Bulletins: Super Corals—A Closer Look (2 of 3)'

'Science Bulletins: Super Corals—Understanding the Science (3 of 3)'

'Science Bulletins: Phobos—A Groovy Moon'

'Make Thermite from Chromium Oxide'

'SFN #149: WFIRST is GO!; Most Distant Galaxy Cluster Found; Black Hole Telescope First Light'

'Did Hitler worship God or Evolution?'
Always put thy god before thyself... and which comes first in your video, Eric? :-D

'The Vanishing'

'La Vie En Rose meets Stravinsky in Charles de Gaul'

'All By Myself in Barcelona'

'Image: Tethys dwarfed by Saturn'

''X' marks a curious corner on Pluto's icy plains'

'NASA image: Pluto's Wright Mons in color'

'Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast - with David Mitchell #94'

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

Fact Of The Week: In Anglopohone countries, companies in which the shareholders are not held civilly or criminally responsible for their actions through their company, are called 'Public Limited Companies'; but in most languages, in most countries, they are referred to as 'Anonymous Societies' due to the secret nature of their shareholders' identities. These companies are rife with corruption - money laundering, tax evasion, and concealed business transactions in general - so laws have been passed to force their owners to be onymous. Even so, PLCs/ASs to this day, find ways to be corrupt, for example by using holding companies to conceal the origins and destinations of funds.

Skeptical Mantra Of The Week: Nickell's Doctrine -- The person who thinks he can't be fooled, has just fooled himself

Headline Of The Week: 'Australian Wild Pig Drinks 18 Beers, Gets in Fight with Cow'

Nominative Determinism Of The Week: a TED video entitled 'What Happens When a City Runs Out of Room for Its Dead', presented by someone called 'Alison Killing'

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

There's no non-contemporary stuff to be blogged this week. Suffice to say:



Sunday, 10 January 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 4-10/1/16

Hi pseudoarchaeological Martian elements,

Puzzle of the week:

'Maths Puzzle: The self descriptive number'

I've linked the solution video at the bottom of the article, for those who'd like to have time to find a solution.

Nutbaggery of the week: SwordGate

'Swords and sophistry: Questionable archaeology to the hilt'

Pseudoarchaeology, it seems, is big business.


The 3rd of January 2016 marks the 12th anniversary of Mars Spirit Rover's touchdown, inside Gusev crater. Having originally been commissioned only for 90 Martian days (sols - about 24.5 hours), Spirit actually lasted 6 years! But that's nothing compred to its sister Exploration Rover - Opportunity - that touched down on the 24th of January, and rolls around Mars, to this day!

In other news:

Yes! Vengeance! Three years to the week, after i posted my partly-self-therapeutic mini-essay on Lumosity, its 'brain training' bunk, and the nerve-gratingly abundant adverts it spread far and wide, it looks like Lumosity might be receiving its comeuppance. The FTC has ordered it to pay $2 million for misleading customers about the cognitive benefits of its online apps and programs.

Does working 'too much' affect a relationship negatively? Apparently, this research finds 'no'. But surely the answer is in the question: if it's 'too much' for a relationship, then by definition the relationship is harmed. In general, i would expect people not to bother with relationships where work-life balances were wildly out-of-whack, and therefore i'd expect a study like this to find that hard-working and soft-working people would be just as likely to be in healthy relationships. I call The Ocean Dilemma on this :-D

Fans of Ian 'Lemmy' Kilmister of the rock band 'Motorhead' have been campaigning to have one of the newly-identified elements of the period table named after him. For more on those elements, see below. The rules are that newly-named elements have to be named after countries, locations, or scientists, as long as they're dead, though. Well, Lemmie is dead, but he wasn't a scientist, so i don't think they're going to give it to him.

Viruses replicate by invading biotic cells, and using their internal 'machinery' to replicate themselves. This limits transmission of viral diseases between species, because birds, for example, don't have the same cellular machinery as mammals. Influenza that infects mammals exploits a protein called ANP32A to replicate itself, but bird-infecting (avian) influenza doesn't have this. For a flu strain to jump the class boundary, from avia to mammalia, it has to evolve an ability to use this unfamiliar protein. In-vitro research using hybrid hamster-chicken cells has shown this to be true, and that removal of the ANP32A protein curtails infection in mammals.

Zero-CO2eq-emission cars have hit a world high, in Norway, with 17.1% of new cars registered last year being zero-emission. That's more than 1 in 6. Of course, because they run on electricity (the hydrogen ones don't count because they extract the hydrogen fron fossil fuel combustion) electric cars have the advantage of being as clean as the electricity source. In a region funded entirely by renewables, emissions in practice will be negligible. In a region funded entirely by fossil fuels, emissions would be only slightly lower, due to the greater efficiency of power stations compared to the microreactors inside vehicles, but more significantly, there would at be the facilitated prospect of impovement, in the future - get rid of any coal, oil, or gas burner, and you'll make huge changes to regional CO2eq emissions, without needing thousands of people to cooperate.

How do piebald (two tone) animals get that way? Hypotheses have included the idea that pigment-producing cells are sent to the right place, or that they don't travel fast enough to the right place, resulting in areas of unpigmented or apigmentous skin. But this research has found that in cells, ex vivo, the heterogeneous distribution of pigement cells comes from a slowed rate of multiplication and division. This is what results in areas, to which the pigment-producing cells have not reached. This knowledge could lead to cures for medical conditions, in which cell-division and propagation, or the lack thereof, contribute.

Previously only available for internal use, the contents of the Deep Sea Guide has now become available to the general public. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) has catalogued species found in the Monterrey Bay Area, over 24000 hours of deep sea dives, with images, physical descriptions, and range information, as well as graphs of the depths and times of year the animal or object was observed. To visit the guide, follow the link to MBARI's website, or click here.

The latest discovery pertaining to Ötzi - the 5300-year-old man found buried in glacial ice, in 1991 - is a population of Helicobacter pylori bacteria, found in his stomach. Helicobacter pylori lives in approximately half of modern people, but international replication and investigation has found that Ötzi actually contained H. pylori mainly observed in central and south-east Asia today, which is odd considering Ötzi's Alpine life and death. Maybe the two strains of modern H. pylori coexisted at the time, or recently reconverged? What can be stated, is that it would be an assumption to say that Ötzi died of H. pylori infection - many varieties of bacteria are known for their lethal forms, but many kinds of H. pylori and other bacterias are benign.

A bushfire in Australia has razed >77000 hectares, destroyed at least 143 properties, and killed two people, since it started five days ago. As if to refute the climate-change-deniers featured in 'contemporary stuff', bushfires are becoming bigger and more common, as environments such as Australia's become more arid and hence more prone to combustion. The worst in recent Australian history, was in 2009, razing thousands of homes and killing 173 people.

Would you trust a science (anatomy) book that had lift-up flaps? And what would you trust it to be?? Well, this one has almost 120 lift-up flaps, and features a man, a woman, and a pregnant woman's belly. Do you still trust it? What if i told you it was first published in 1619? This genuine book of human anatomy was digitised by Columbia University, recently - a book demonstrating early attempts to demonstrate the complexity of mammalian biology in an easy-to-access way. Of course, moden 3D electronic models are superior, but this was their equivalent, in the 17th century.

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

'FOUR new elements (inc Japonicium and Moscovium?) - Periodic Table of Videos'

'What causes stripey clouds?'

'FWS - The Iodine Clock Reaction'

'Oral contraceptive use not linked to major birth defects'

'Climate Change Deniers, so stupid ITS FUNNY!'

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

Word Of The Week: apigmentous -- not exhibiting pigment; synonyms: apigmental, apigmentary, unpigmented

Etymology Of The Week: bewildered -- thoroughly led astray, lured into the wilds; from archaic 'wilder' meaning 'to make more wild'; 'wilderness' has common etymology, meaning 'an uninhabited, or uncultivated place' coming from Old German

Quote Of The Week: "Look at that - more molten slag than if Charmander came from Essex" - Nerd³

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

What is it about squirrels that Britons love so much? :-D

'Snow plough squirrels'

'Squirrel Baggins | The Thin Blue Line'

'Space Engineering with Sacriel - The Dildozer - NutSac Gaming'

...and here's the solution to that number puzzle:

'Maths Puzzle: The self descriptive number solution'

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Entertainment stuff from the part-week 1-3/1/16

Greetings glitchers,

So, we're in January - a time of year that's notorious for being slow and dull and boring. That means there isn't much to say this week. Except...

Read my summary of what happened in 2015 :-D

'What Happened in 2015? An Incomplete Guide (The Tertia-quel)'

I found out too late, for the last article of 2015, via New Scientist's Feedback column, that 2015 "had the charming property" of being palindromic in binary.

The number '2015' in binary is '11111011111'. And the year of the Modern Gregorian Calendar won't be palindromic in binary again, until 2047. So now you know :-D

'Researchers discover how some organisms process oxalate, a molecule that can harm humans'

Oxalate, or ethanedioate, is a very simply dianion with the formula C2O4(2-),  but the colloquial term 'oxalate' is also used for derivatives of ethanedioate, such as those that form insoluble precipitates with it.

Calcium oxalate, for example, is the primary constituent of kidney stones. This is how oxalates pose a threat to health.

Many plants, fungi and bacteria are able to break down oxalates, but a range of the plants that can not, or do not, include, in reverse order of oxalate abundance:

Fat hen (Chenopodium album), sorrel, several Oxalis species (from which the chemical gets its name), the root and/or leaves of rhubarb and buckwheat, star fruit (carambola), black pepper, parsley, poppy seed, amaranth, spinach, chard, beets, cocoa, chocolate (through cocoa), most nuts, most berries, fishtail palms, New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides), and most beans.

The tea plant's leaves (Camellia sinensis) contain some of the greatest measured concentrations of oxalic acid in plants, however, the chemicals that tea leaves are made of tend to be highly diluted, as part of the brewing process (adding all that water) so in practice, tea is less of a problem.

The human body's inability to metabolise the oxalates that are left unmetabolised by all of these plants, means that when these plants are consumed, the oxalates are passed on.

If you like rhubarb and custard, or rhubarb and something-else-that's-dairy, then you are likely to have noticed the gritty feeling it leaves in your mouth. That grittiness is the presence of calcium crystals, precipitated out from reaction of the oxalate compounds with the casein in the dairy product. The grit is the same compound that makes up most of kidney stones - calcium oxalate.

The researchers in the above-linked story have found that an enzyme - thiamine pyrophosphate-dependent oxalate oxidoreductase (OOR) - establishes temporary bonds with the C2O4(2-) anion, and breaking it down into two C02- anions.

As a result, the species that produce this enzyme might provide a resolution for people with kidney disorders, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain forms of vulvodynia.

Not directly they won't, but through working out how to introduce the production of it, into people's guts. It's noted that some people are much more likely to develop kidney problems than others - it might be that their microbiome is one that does not produce OOR, or doesn't produce it in great enough quantities.

So the solution might be to find a way of encouraging these people's microbiomes to produce OOR, to metabolise the calcium oxalate, and prevent the aforementioned medical conditions. Oxalobacter formigenes is a bacterium that's known to produce OOR, by example.

As a closing jab-in-the-eye to herbalist quackery, i shall mention that overconsumption of 'herbal' tea, containing sorrel, for example, has been known to kill people directly, by oxalate poisoning - no kidney stones required!

Acute oxalate nephropathy is what it's called. And it's suspected to be underreported as a cause of death, because doctors and pathologists are unlikely to even consider it as a possibility.

So go easy on the oxalates, in future :-P

'Behind the Headlines' 2015 Quiz of the Year'

'The top 10 news stories of 2015'

In other news:

With climatic change accelerating, around the world, due to the increasing quantity of CO2eq in the atmosphere, as a result of human activity, it seems perfectly plausible to attribute the weirdly-warm winter that Europe's experienced thus far, to changes in the climate. People living in regions, where they're used to preparing for snow and sleet, are instead harvesting premature crops, for which there isn't sufficient demand. Seasonal precipitation, instead of hanging around on mountaintops, is racing downhill and flooding halfs of counties. This is all expected, from climate models - increasingly erratic, unreliable weather, for Europeans, not knowing whether they'll get a wandering of the polar vortex and a deep freeze, such as last year, or a balmy autumnlike feel, such as this year. In tropical regions, the numbers of storms are expected to increase, and in equatorial regions, desertification and increasing aridity. All of these tends have been observed for long enough. Meanwhile, climate obstructionists insist on not doing anything, with the inevitable result that they (and we) will be forced to adapt, at far greater cost than would have been incurred if the whole problem had been put off, decades ago. Rational economics says "do something, you idiots!"

Apple's Italian branch has paid off the country's tax agency with €318 million ($348 million) to curtail an investigation into the tax that the corporation should have paid between 2008 and 2013. According to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Apple Italia should have paid €880 million for the period. So the Italian people have still been left short, just so that Apple could prevent the court case from finishing

Amazon, under pressure from compassionists in Germany, has donated all of its profits, from online sales of a fascist fundraising song, to the care of refugees who've fled to the country from the Middle-East, many fleeing the Syrian civil war. Fascist movement PEGIDA got to #1 on the German downloads chart through sales of the track, claiming they'd spend the proceeds on 'German' people #fucknationalism

According to PR, sorry i mean 'a study' funded by a supplements industry company, people who suffer IBS (who are numerous) should be taking supplements, to treat it. Hmmm.... Contrary to the researchers' corrupt claim that vitamin D (which is mostly calciferol) supplementation treated IBS, the study in fact found no significant benefit to people suffering IBS, except in the sense that... they were no longer deficient in vitamin D! Well, duh. But that didn't translate through to IBS relief. I call the Ocean Dilemma on this: it might be that IBS causes mineral deficiency (maybe by putting people off their meals, so that they're deficient in lots of things) and so topping up the minerals isn't going to do anything about the IBS. As an analogy: aqueous precipitation makes people's feet wet, but drying their shoes isn't going to stop the rain from falling!

Politwoops is back on Twitter! The app that catalogues tweets by pollies was previously blocked, as the very-public policies of the people were deemed too dangerous for people to know about. And so censorship. Well, they are censored no longer... except they are, if they say something nasty. Twitter has simultaneously reaffirmed its witchhunt against bigots in one particular organisation (ISIS) at the expense of everyone else, by imposing a blasphemy law on anyone who says anything nasty, or related to religion. I simply don't trust them to understand the antagonism between free speech and plot-foiling adequately well, to censor only on the rare occasions that censorship is warranted. There's too much of tumblr in twitter

Some parents have whined that their toy plane, that they got for their son, has been, instead of making planey noises, instead bleating the Islamic 'call to prayer'. LOL. If i got a toy plane that recited excerpts from 'Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman?' i'd think it were hilarious. Look on the bright side kid: your toy plane's one of a limited edition :-D

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

'Dad³ Vlogs! - Happy New Year!'

'Breaking Bad: Thermite from a toy, is it possible?'

'The Northern Lights (True Speed)'

'Shelf Life Episode 12 - Six Extinctions In Six Minutes'

'Death Rocks'

'ScienceCasts: Quantum Foam'

'UFO Over India DEBUNK'

'Who Owns Antarctica? (Bizarre Borders Part 3)'

'NASA image: The Alps in winter'

'Image: Boulders on a Martian landslide'

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

Word Of The Week: glitch -- an unexpected, and usually suddenly occurring, malfunction or fault

Fact Of The Week: The 'intermission' music in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is an arrangement of a short section of the instrumental song 'Alligator Crawl' by Fats Waller

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

'Rat Ogre Welcomes You to Vermintide'
That's not supposed to happen!

Glitches! Capping off the best of 2015...

With so many people playing so much of Fallout 4, it's managed to bag a category to itself:

'He's not quite dead yet!'

'Disturbing - Fallout 4 - GameFails'

'Teabag - Fallout 4 (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Elevator - Fallout 4 (Glitch) - GameFails'

'New Roommate - Fallout 4 - GameFails'

'Prison Loop - Fallout 4 (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Active Nap - Fallout 4 (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Mutants Can't Jump - Fallout 4 - GameFails'
Not a glitch? Still a fail

'Hand Shot - Fallout 4 (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Don't Flip Out - Fallout 4 (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Fender Bender? - Just Cause 3 (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Bye Bye Teo - Just Cause 3 (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Tank Shot - Battlefield 4 (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Sticky Grenade - Call of Duty Black Ops III - GameFails'

'Beach Bum - Dead Island (Glitch) - GameFails'

'VENDIcated - Grand Theft Auto V - GameFails'

'Secret Spawn - Halo 5 Guardians (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Almost Jesus - Witcher 3 Wild Hunt (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Wall-E's Adventure - Call of Duty Black Ops III - GameFails'

'Reproduction - Star Wars Battlefront - GameFails'

'One with the Bike - Trials Fusion - GameFails'

'Scary Garage - Grand Theft Auto V - GameFails'

'Hanging by a Thread - Tomb Raider (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Metal Spin - NHL 16 (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Three's a Crowd - GTA V (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Booped Your Face - CoD Black Ops III (Win) - GameFails'

And of course, no glitch collection is complete without Ubisoft's finest glitchmaker - Assassin's Creed:

'Imaginary Fiancé - Assassin's Creed Syndicate (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Sneaky - Assassin's Creed Syndicate (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Heavy Load - Assassin's Creed Syndicate (Fail/Glitch) - GameFails'

'Sister - Assassin's Creed Syndicate (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Rogue Wagon - Assassin's Creed Syndicate - GameFails'

'Super Sidecar - Assassin's Creed Syndicate (Glitch) - GameFails'

'Trainception - Assassin's Creed Syndicate (Glitch) - GameFails'

What Happened in 2015? An Incomplete Guide (The Tertia-quel)

In case you've forgotten what happened during 2013 2014 2015, or just forgot how long ago each event was, here's a rundown of some of the major events that occurred, in chronological order, during the totally-arbitrary solar sojourn that was the year 2013 2014 2015 CE.

It's not comprehensive - it'd be too long to read, if it were - and it might be a tad anglo-centric, but i've tried my best. Enjoy...

And yes, i did just copy that text out of last year's round-up. But then, why should i change it? :-P

And yes, i did just copy that text out of last year's round-up. But then, why should i change it? :-P


NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory detects an X-ray flare, coming from Sagittarius A* - the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way - that is 400 times brighter than usual. It's hypothesised that it might have been caused by the breaking apart of an asteroid falling into the black hole or by the entanglement of magnetic field lines within gas flowing into Sagittarius A*

It's found that genes related to cell division, DNA repair, cancer, and ageing might have helped the Bowhead Whale increase its longevity and cancer resistance. The Bowhead Whale regularly lives to more than 200 years old!

NASA announces the 1000th confirmed exoplanet discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope

Astronomers observe and measure a neutron star slipping out of view, because of the warp in space-time its orbit creates. The star is expected to reappear in about 160 years

Physicists create a metamaterial that produces backward rainbows. In a usual rainbow, the red colour is on the 'outside' and the bluer light, with the shorter wavelength, which is refracted more strongly, appears on the 'inside'. But metamaterials can fabricate negative refractive indices, which means everything works backwards... et voila, a backwards rainbow!

A new species of ichthyosaur, resembling a dolphin and a crocodile, is discovered in Scotland. Newspapers promptly ask whether it was an ancestor to the fictional creature called the Loch Ness Monster [facepalm]

A fatwa is declared in the north of Saudi Arabia, banning snow camels and snow men, stating that only lifeless things like ships and fruit (lifeless??) may be depicted. Note: this is not a statutory law, only a religious one

The first lab-grown, contracting human muscle is announced by Duke University

NASA and ESA celebrate 10 years since the Cassini-Huygens probe landed on Titan, the largest moon of the planet Saturn

The government in Tanzania bans witchdoctors, in an attempt to stop the killing of people with albinism for their body parts, according to Christian superstition

Eleven years after it mysteriously went missing on the surface of Mars, Beagle 2 seems to be found, in the Isidis Planitia. The leader of the mission - Colin Pillinger - died last year, frustrated by the lack of follow-up mission; but credited with injecting huge amounts of much-needed enthusiasm into European Space Science

NASA and the NOAA confirm that 2014 was the hottest year on record globally, following up a declaration of the same, by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) on the 5th of January. Later in the month, the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) concurs. And that's without the Southern Oscillation's help! Usually, peaks in temperature come with El Nino phases in the Pacific Southern Oscillation, but this new high has been set without 2014's El Nino arriving

A touching gallery, of art for blind people, is opened by a Spanish artistic group, and an artist who went blind in his 20s. They've taken some famous paintings, and then used a relief printing technique to make them 3D and thereby tactile to gallery visitors


According to a survey data release, most people aren't aware of the ubiquitous and benign presence of DNA in food. "According to a recent survey by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics, over 80% of Americans said they would support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA,” roughly the same number that support the mandatory labeling of GMO foods “produced with genetic engineering.”"

It's revealed that cone snails, that hunt and eat fish, disable their prey using a mixture of chemicals, including a type of insulin, that removes glucose from their blood, leaving them weak and disoriented, and easy to catch and eat


As part of the Open Worm Project, scientists map the brain of Caenorhabditis elegans, create software to mimic its nervous system, and upload it to a lego robot, which seeks food and avoids obstacles


NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto takes its first shots of the dwarf planet, as it gets close enough to resolve the Plutian surface. The first image releases will be later, in April

NASA's Opportunity Rover celebrates its 11th anniversary on the planet Mars, with this panorama from the top of Cape Tribulation:
And this one too:

Chemists (one of which being the YouTuber Thunderf00t) determine that alkali metals explode on contact with water due to a Coulomb explosion at the water-metal interface driving the reaction, instead of merely due to Hydrogen gas formation and its subsequent ignition. This overturns what was previously considered to be a well understood phenomenon, and has the potential to increase safety when handling reactive metals

Biologists find that it is possible to recover one of the chemicals in egg white - a clear protein called lysozyme, which makes up ~3.4% of the egg's white, which as an enzyme, is used to eat through the cell walls of invasive bacteria. Given that this process does nothing for the yolk, and involves throwing 96.4% of the white away, the claims that this process is like 'unboiling' an egg, seem rather fatuous. This research will win an Ig Nobel Prize, in September

Sociologists find, using research on three US States - Minnesota, Mississippi and Alabama - that gasoline prices are linked to vehicular 'incidents' like crashes, and injuries, and that this association might be causative. They hypothesise that a $2 per gallon price drop would result in an additional 150 crashes involving a death, 5,000 producing injuries and 35,000 causing property damage, in Minnesota alone.

A survey of the 'general public' and members of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) finds that they have starkly different views on a range of subjects: GMOs, nuclear power, fracking, climate change, etc. Unsurprisingly, the AAAS members' opinions are far more likely to be concordant with evidence, but the fact that there are no cases of unanimity demonstrates that  known evidence is the key determinant of belief and rightness


It's found that, when flying in formation, birds take it in turns to go at the front. V-formations form, because wings leave streams of 'clean air' behind them, making it more energy efficient to fly there, than at the front.

A UCLA department has found a population of bacteria so similar to their ancestors, that left marks in rocks 1.8 billion years ago, that they can state that the bacteria haven't evolved in almost 2 billion years

NASA releases images of Pluto, showing Charon - one of Pluto's five moons - orbiting it

NASA/ESA releases images of three of Jupiter's moons transiting it at once. Apparently it's a rare occurrence to catch Io, Callisto and Europa, all between the camera and the host planet, at the same time

US News presenter Brian Williams becomes the subject of a popular misunderstanding of the science of memory, when he conflates two of his own, and broadcasts the erroneous result to the nation

A court hears about a man who claimed Barack Obama was an alien, and punched his mother at her home in Telford, Shropshire, when she laughed at the claim

A quantitative analysis of the journal/magazine Nature finds taboo language to include four 'bollocks' and ten 'fucks' amongst other terms


The discovery of fossils of two interrelated ancestral mammals, in modern-day China, pushes the estimated original diversification of arboreal and subterranean mammals to more than 160 million years ago

Moth tails - the trailing material on the back ends of moths - are found to have utility as wind-breakers. They introduce turbulence into the air behind them, so that it's more difficult for bats to track, using their echolocative abilities. When the tails are there, bats are much more likely to miss the moth's body, and hit the tails instead


A third species of seadragon is found off the southern coast of Australia - the ruby seahorse. Its red colour is camouflage, in the deep waters where it lives

Limpets are found to use a mineral-protein composite that's three orders of magnitude stronger than kevlar, under tension

Molcular biologists find that penguins are only capable of tasting saltiness and sourness, and incapable of sensing sweetness, bitterness and umami - the only animal species known not to be able to feel any of these sensations. It's thought that the extreme cold renders the proteins that encode for sweet bitter and umami reception useless anyway, and so have been selected against

The quack supplements industry is revealed to have been using sock puppets (fake accounts) on Twitter to bully the New York Attorney General out of imposing much-needed regulation on Supplements industry businesses


A CT scan reveals that the Buddhists have also practiced mummification, at least around the 11th/12th centuries CE. But whereas the ancient Egyptians simply removed organs and buried their dead relatives to help them get to 'the afterlife', the Buddhists replaced the organs with scriptures, in order to help them 'power up' to Buddha level

The UK's Dishonourable Member of Parliament for Holland & Barrett - David Tredinnick - and current Conservative MP, bullishly declares that the NHS can be saved by serving patients with Astrological fraud. Sorry, Dave - geocentric superstition is not a medicine; scientists are not bullies for 'dismissing' it as a completely pseudoscientific farce; and it's not "racist" to respect truth and honesty

An economist uses data on the effect of air-borne particulates, to estimate that air pollution in India costs the population an aggregate of 2.1 billion life years. 660 million people in India live in air considered inadequately clean by India's Air Quality Standard


The apex of a meme occurs, in which delusion, trolling, and groupthink lead large numbers of people to perceive a blatantly blue-and-black dress to be gold-and-white. Some scientists try to molly-coddle the wrongness-exhibiting people with explanations of 'colour constancy' but that just doesn't cut it - the colours are clear. My diagnosis: psychological deviation by memetics


It's reported, including by the Daily Fail, that non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is actually real, according to a study. Well, as mentioned on this blog in August last year, evidence has suggested that NCGS, unlike Coeliac Disease, doesn't exist. And what of this study? Do the researchers really think NCGS is real? Well, no

The Natural History Museum, in London, having used two different computational modelling techniques to 'flesh out' scans of their Stegosaurus - 'Sophie' - and to thereby postdict its mass, calculate that the living Sophie would have weighed ~1560 Kg - the mass of a large cow or small rhino

Astronomers announce that they've observed a star breaking the galactic speed record! It's been seen doing 1,200 kilometers per second (2.7 million miles per hour) which is enough for it to escape the Milky Way galaxy. It was accelerated to this speed by the supernovaing of its binary partner

Geologists find the largest impact zone on/in the planet, in Australia, indicating an impact four times the size of the one that changed the climate enough that it wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs, flying reptiles (my kin), and the marine reptiles! The crater was buried a long time ago, but the remaining camber left in the bedrock is 400 km wide

It's found that, like with butterflies and some birds, some chameleons control their colour using nanostructures - not by redistributing pigments in their skin

Researchers date the remains of a sponge, found in China, to be 600 million years old, making it likely to be the ancestor of all modern sponges

Researchers solve the mystery of the dancing droplets, in which drops of aqueous solutions chase each other around a surface, apparently without an energy source

The SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) takes this beautiful shot of the Sun, showing two coronal holes and a highly-active shiny patch on the right, where a feared solar storm came from, potentially threatening Earth infrastructure

Researchers hook up sensing equipment to the body of a Giant Flower Beetle to observe it as a kind of cyborg research subject. As it's an insect, it can't feel pain, but it can explore nooks and crevices unexplorable by humans

Lane Labs-USA is fined $955,000 to make reparations to customers sold supplements by fake claims of health benefits. Lane Labs-USA is one of the companies profiting from the pseudoscientific claim that shark cartilage is good for people's bones, and hence osteoporosis cases

The results of a study into intelligence and what might determine it, done in Brazil, is one of many to be abused by pro-breastfeeding advocates this year. Just one of the variables tested was breastfeeding, and the correlation was insufficient to support a causation

Male rats are engineered, that get sexually aroused when exposed to blue light, even causing some of them to ejaculate. It's conjected that the development might help people suffering erectile dysfunction

A total solar eclipse happens

NEO 2014 YB35 - an asteroid measuring less than 1 km across, passes a mere 11.7 lunar distances - that's 4.5 million kilometres - from the Earth, but not as close supersitionists feared it would

It's declared that fish oil - the hugely-popular supplement that quacks love to throw at you, for everything, nowadays - does not work. The purported wonderfulness is that the omega-3 in fish oil is good for the brain, and the heart. The sum total of evidence, examined by the National Institutes of Health, shows that fish oil does not work at preventing heart attack or stroke

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) reveals that the Moon has two tails, like a comet: one made of sodium gas, and the other made of nanoscale dust particles


The Loch Ness Monster returns to the Newspapers again, with yet another extinct marine species being presented as a 'possible relative' of the fictional beast. This one's a boney fish called Pterichthyodes milleri, which lived 500 million years ago

A total lunar eclipse occurs. Another will occur on the 28th of September

Brontosaurus is back! A reanalysis of its skeleton leads to it gaining its own genus, instead of being relegated as a species of apatosaur. If you don't understand, just take a look at my expertly created diagrams :-D

An analysis of 94,500 Dutch citizens between 1935 and 1967 finds that taller men there have more children than shorter ones, suggesting that sexual selection is probably responsible for the increase in Netherlanders' tallness by 20cm over the last 200 years. The Dutch are currently the tallest population in the world

Complex organic molecules are detected in a young star system for the first time

The newly-discovered ancient 'terror bird' of South America (Llallawavis scagliai) turns out to have had quite poor hearing. The metre-tall carnivore's narrow low-frequency hearing, would have been effective for hunting purposes, in excluding less-relevant sounds

NASA releases its first colour image of Pluto and Charon, captured by the New Horizons spacecraft. More follow

The Japanese L0 Series maglev becomes the first train to operate at a speed of 600 kilometres per hour (370 mph) managing such speeds for more than 11 seconds, according to Central Japan Railway

Astronomers make the first ever direct detection of a spectrum of visible light reflected off an exoplanet

The 25th anniversary of the day the Hubble Space Telescope left Earth, nestled in the shuttle Discovery's cargo bay

The first genetically engineered human embryo is designed, such that if it were to grow up, it would not develop the genetic disease Beta thalassemia


Californian senators respond to the Disney Measles Disaster, in which more than 140 people contracted measles on the Disney site there. 70% of the victims were completely unvaccinated, and Californian lawmakers have been subject to death threats from anti-vaccers, because of the movement

A WHO announcement declares that air pollution in Europe costs it US$1.6 trillion per year, through the effects of morbidity and eventual mortality

The World Health Organization (WHO) declares that rubella has been eradicated from the Americas, thanks to the MMR vaccine

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft concludes its four-year orbital mission over Mercury by crashing into the planet at a velocity of approximately 14,080 km/h (8,750 mph), impacting at 54.4° N, 149.9° W, near the crater Janácek


Zoologists report that the fin whale has stretchy, bungee-cord like nerves running along the ventral region of its body, so that it can suck in large amounts of water (and thereby food) without feeling the intense pain that non-stretchy nerves produce when put under tension

Archaeornithura meemannae, a new species of prehistoric bird that represents the oldest known member of the modern bird lineage, is discovered

Zoologists identify a species of predatory cockroach-like insect from a 100-million-year-old amber-preserved fossil. Its only known remaining modern relatives are praying mantises

The NOAA announces that atmospheric CO2 remained above 400 parts per million (ppm) throughout March of 2015 - the first time it had been at this level for an entire month. The current concentration of greenhouse gases is the highest it has been for millions of years

In the same week that we hear about a single gene majorly influencing the shape of birds/reptiles' beaks/snouts, we have a story about a dinosaur with quite an exceptional snout. Saurornitholestes sullivani was similar to Velociraptor, but with a larger braincase around the area of the olfactory bulb, which implies a better sense of smell.

Biologists find that male spider mites of the species Tetranychus urticae are prone to accidental necrophilia, due to their habit of waiting next to immobile female larvae for them to emerge and mate. It seems cadavers are better at staying still than living females

It's reported that measles infection has been found to undermine the immune system, increasing susceptibility to other diseases too

Ornithologists find the first evidence that dinosaur eggs were coloured, by analysing oviraptor eggs for pigments, and finding the same two that make modern birds' eggs mottled blue-green


The opah is confirmed to be the first known quasi-endothermic fish, able to regulate the temperature of its body by redistributing heat from hotter parts. It recycles warm blood from near the muscles that power its fins, and back around its body

NASA reports that the Kepler space observatory has observed KSN 2011b - a Type Ia supernova in the process of exploding: before, during and after

Spanish priest and exorcist Father José Antonio Fortea declares that he has absolutely and thoroughly exorcised the whole of Mexico, so it is now completely free of demons, spirits, violence, abortion, and probably Jews, Gays, and Atheists, too, as Catholic Christian Religionists seem to not like them very much either

The UK's Conservative government officialises, for the first time, its intent to outlaw "legal highs" with its Psychoactive Substances Bill. A torrent of scientists and non-morons point out that this act would cover most things in the world, but as i write this, in 2016, the Tories are still pig-headedly insisting that it can work

A new version of the Cheetah robot is demonstrated, that can jump over obstacles while running


For the first time, researchers grow a limb of animal, in a laboratory. In this case, a rat's leg

Analysis of 60 million tweets about 1000 news events leads to the conclusion that roughly a quarter of tweets on Twitter are not credible i.e. bullshit

The Large Hadron Collider is reactivated after a two-year pause, during which upgrades and repairs took place. The machine is now able to experiment with higher energies, increasing from 8 to 13 trillion electron volts (TeV)

Researchers report the discovery of what what appears to be the remnants of red blood cells and connective tissue in 75 million-year-old dinosaur fossils

A woman in Belgium is the first in the world to give birth to a baby using transplanted ovarian tissue frozen when she was still a child

Dreadnoughtus schrani is downsized in estimation of parameters, reducing its weight from 59 tonnes to 40, but keeping its length at 26 metres


The Phoebe Ring - so-called because the moon 'Phoebe' is believed to be the primary source of the ring's material - is revised to be much bigger than previously thought. Estimates of size have increased from 200 to 270 times Saturn's radius. That means the Phoebe Ring has an inside edge 6 million km from Saturn, and an outside edge 16 million km from it!

Astronomy Picture Of The Day celebrates its 20th anniversary

#HaveAWank happens


After more than 100 years, Erythropsidinium's single eye (Erythropsidinium is a single-celled plankton) is finally linked to a purpose - directing the cell's harpoon, for hunting purposes. How it might achieve this coordination without any nervous system remains a mystery

By reactivating a single gene, colorectal cancer cells in mice stop growing and re-establish normal intestinal function within four days, according to a study published in the journal Cell

Zoologists report that the majority of kangaroos are left-handed. In humans, 90% of people are right-side hand dominant, and majorities are leg, eye, ear, and nose right-side dominant too. But in kangaroos, it's the lefties that dominate. Especially Eastern Grey and Red kangaroos, which are known for learning manual dexterity, and so show more inclination to side dominance

Physicists report that they've used ultra-short pulses of X-rays to film shock waves in diamonds, for the first time - a technique that enables researchers to follow the rapid, dynamic changes taking place.

A major study confirms that the Earth is going through the start of a mass extinction event, the likes of which have not been seen for at least 65 million years. It is being precipitated as a result of human actions over the past 500 years

Geophysicists report that all of the biggest impact craters on Earth have now been identified, with none left to be found at 6 km or greater width

The discovery of Pappochelys is announced by biologists - a genus of early lizard (very small: <20cm long) that appears to have been a key ancestor in the lineage stretching up to modern turtles. Pappochelys lived 240 mya, and is thought to have been a metaphorical stepping stone in the evolutionary bid to develop defence against attacks from below

The WHO announces that 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"


The question: 'Why do seahorses have square tails, and not round ones?' is answered. Seahorses' tails have a spinal column down the centre, and a box-like array of plates on the outside, which, according to an international team of mechanical engineering researchers, is a stronger and grippier structure than without the plates

Entomologist David Charbonneau affirms that half of ants of the Temnothorax rugatulus species spend most of their time lazing around, doing nothing at all

Solar Impulse 2 does it! With a record-breaking 5-day (118-hour) journey from Japan to Hawaii, pilot Andre Borschberg becomes a record holder for the longest duration of flight ever. Not just solar-powered, but of any type. The record was previously held by Steve Fossett, who flew around the world in a jet plane, back in 2006

Kent Hovind is released from jail, having done a 9th of his 10-year sentence for tax fraud, claiming that Gawd never told him to pay it. He immediately resumes broadcasting his wrongness, over the internet


Research shows that chameleons' eyes are sufficiently independent that they can roam individually, most of the time, but sufficiently interdependently that they can collaborate when necessary

CERN researchers using the LHCb experiment report observing two exotic particles belonging to a new class of matter - pentaquarks - with a reliability of 10 sigma, meaning the result could only occur by fluke with a 1 in 10^22 chance!

With the New Horizons spacecraft now located around Pluto, images of Pluto and its moons start coming back, in never-before-seen detail

Romantic liaison website Ashley Madison is hacked, betraying tens of millions of people's personal details to prudes and frauds

Scientists report the discovery of the Weyl fermion after an 85-year search. The Weyl fermion discovery is later declared one of the 'top ten breakthroughs' of 2015, by Physics World

Researchers announce the development of a metamaterial that bends faster under lighter pressure, and slower under higher pressure

The latest global analysis of temperature data from the NOAA shows that the first half of 2015 was the hottest such period on record, at 0.85 °C (1.53 °F) above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record set in 2010 by 0.09 °C (0.16 °F). The Earth also experienced its hottest ever June

The results of a trial involving 1,322 patients shows further evidence that solanezumab can slow Alzheimer's disease

The board director of the Chiropractors Association of Australia is forced to resign, after being caught assaulting a baby in a pediatric (children's) hospital. She sneaked in to 'treat' the baby, using Chiroquacktic 'manipulation' that can damage joints and cartilage, and even kill, by breaking bones, joints and blood-vessels.

Lithium is found to have been ejected by a supernovaing stellar system, for the first time ever. This is interesting, and baffling, because lithium is associated with young stars

Scientists report that the Philae spacecraft, that landed on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014, detected at least 16 organic compounds, of which four (including acetamide, acetone, methyl isocyanate and propionaldehyde) were detected for the first time on a comet

The first aurora beyond the Solar System is reported, on a brown dwarf called LSR J1835+3259, 18 light years from Earth


An ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada is found to be 100% successful in an initial (and therefore small) trial


Two species of frogs, living in Brazil, are the first to be recorded as being venomous. Not poisonous - venomous. A single gram of venom from Bruno’s casque-headed frog (Aparasphenodon brunoi) would be enough to kill 80 people, or 300,000 mice

Analysis of an image of the Valles Marineris on Mars, taken on the 21st of July, leads to the conclusion that the white streaks are shallow seeps of salty water ice. The existence of Martian brine is confirmed in late September

10/8/15Astronauts snack on the first food ever to be grown off-Earth, on the ISS - a crop of lettuces

The Raelians declare that the Jews have been officially replaced as the chosen people, and must leave the 'holy land'. Such arrogance! They must have been taking lessons from the Jews themselves...

Marine biologists announce their observations of tropical octopusses, having sex face-to-face, beak-to-beak - something never seen before, in an octopus species

Google reshuffles its franchises, and changes its name to Alphabet... and definitely not for tax avoidance purposes ;-)

An endangered species, the black-footed ferret, is successfully reproduced using frozen sperm from a ferret that had been dead for 20 years

NASA reports that there is "no scientific basis" that the world will end, due to the rumoured impact of an asteroid near Puerto Rico between 15 and 28 September 2015. This is, of course, not the only paranoid rumour to be quashed, this year

It's announced that, using stem cells, researchers have developed a miniature human brain in a dish with the equivalent maturity of a five-week-old fetus. The neuroscience community is cynical, especially due to the lack of intention to publish. The world's still waiting, so it looks like the claim was bogus

Thierry Legault takes the first ever photograph of the ISS transiting a solar prominence, as it transits the Sun

Mad Islamists from 20 countries put a fatwa on climate change, and command 1.6 billion people to fight it for Allah

Mad Islamists in ISIS enforce a fatwa on heathens, heresy and history, by desicrating artefacts in Palmyra, including a temple, originally built due to Canaanite religion

Efforts to develop a universal flu vaccine make headway, with the test of a successful vaccine that works in mice, monkeys and ferrets

Thanks to vaccination, perinatal (maternal and neonatal) tetanus infection is eliminated in India. In comparison, in 1988, it killed ~160,000 young children in the country

Ah, you mammals, you're all the same. Capuchins and rhesus monkeys both see the Delbouef illusion, the way humans do. That's the one where a circle is perceived to be bigger, because the circle around it is smaller


Scientists report the discovery of Pentecopterus decorahens, the oldest described eurypterida (sea scorpion), an extinct arthropod group that lived as early as 467.3 million years ago. It had an estimated length of up to 1.83 metres. It has been described as "the first really big predator"

BP is fined $18 billion, to be paid over the next 15-18 years, for causing the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill through its reckless solipsism

Paleontologists report a new human-like species, and possible early human - Homo naledi - based on the discovery of 15 partial skeletons, the largest single find of its type in Africa

Fossils found in Sima de Los Huesos (the 'pit of bones') in Atapuerca, northern Spain, are dated to 300,000-400,000 years old. The Atapuerca hominins could turn out to be common ancestors of neanderthals and sapiens, ancestors of just neanderthals, or be early neanderthals themselves

A 28-year-old paralysed man becomes the first person to feel physical sensations through a prosthetic hand that's directly connected to his brain

The factoid that eating seven bananas will kill you goes viral, in the anglophone media. The veganist claim is absurd - it would take 400 bananas-worth of potassium to kill an average man!

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka returns 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, beating fellow Russian Sergei Krikalev's record for total time up there, at 803 days

The London Arms Fair returns to the Excel Centre, welcoming infamous despots from all around the world to deal in illegal arms and instruments of torture. This is the first London Arms Fair at which Amnesty International were banned from reporting on the goings-on within.

Research finds that coelacanths 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

The Ig Nobel Prizes are awarded, including one for the observation that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when a patient is driven over speed bumps; and one for the observation that the word "huh?" seems to exist in every human language

VW is exposed as a corrupt super-corporation, as its systematic deception of air pollution-preventing regulatory agencies over the last decade start to become public

Todd Reichert sets a new human-powered speed record, riding a recumbent bicycle to 137.9 km/h, in Battle Mountain, Nevada

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) breaks the world record for quantum teleportation, by transferring quantum information across 100 km, along an optical fibre, from one photon to another - four times further than the previous record

Paleontologists claim to have found the origin of enamel, in skin, through fossil fishes dating back more than 400 million years; one of which has an enamel-like substance called ganoine in its skin


Anita Sarkeesian dons her puppy dog eyes, to plead with Google and the United Nations, to ban her critics

The Saudi Arabian government admits that it spent the equivalent of £200 billion in 2015 alone, accommodating the Hajj - an Islamic ritual that's cost at least 700 mortalities, and 850 morbidities, in 2015 alone. That's a lot of cost, with no benefit, for the sake of a phantasm!

Angustopila dominikae, the smallest snail ever found, is reported in Southern China. The species measures just 0.86mm in height


Nearly one-third of cactus species face extinction, according to the first comprehensive global assessment, largely due to illegal trade and other human activity


Feminist and Goldsmiths College 'student diversity officer' Bahar Mustafa is arrested for hate speech, having called for the killing of 'white men' on Twitter, in a hashtag

Two new research papers, about the foot and hand of Homo naledi, confirm that it was physically capable of both climbing trees and walking on the ground, but would also have been capable of precise manual manipulation

Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald win the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass."

'male-male excretory pore plugging' becomes the new euphemism for gaysex, with the exposition that nematodes - Caenorhabditis elegans - emit pheromones that evoke sexual desire in the males of their kind

NASA announces that the New Horizons spacecraft has detected blue skies and water ice on Pluto

An Astrophysics PhD student wins an award as 'World Porridge Making Champion'. Included in those he beat, were a medical doctor, a museum manager, a biochemist and a cook. Physics rules all :-D

Identification of the features of a 125 million year old mammal skeleton, pushes back the evidenced history of mammalian fur and ear development. Spinolestes xenarthrosus is a fossil with remarkably intact guard hairs, underfur, tiny hedgehog-like spines and even evidence of a fungal hair infection

A shop in Bishop's Stortford gets in trouble for having a backwards apostrophe on its storefront


The first direct observation of a solar system being torn apart by a white dwarf is described in the journal Nature. The star, known as WD 1145+017, is transited by at least one, and probably several, disintegrating planetesimals, with periods ranging from 4.5 hours to 4.9 hours

Back To The Future fans converge on Hill Valley - the fictional hometown of Marty McFly - to celebrate the arrival of a date that Marty visited in the film series

The New Horizon spacecraft gains a new target - an object 1.6 billion kilometres beyond Pluto, known only as 2014MU69, which it should reach by 2019

A publicly-funded Swiss study claims that potatoes are the most wasted vegetable, with only half actually being eaten. Potatoes are rejected by farmers, vendors, and consumers, for blight, infestation, parasitism, and just not looking quite pretty enough

Comet Lovejoy is found to be releasing large amounts of alcohol and sugar into space. Both are relatively simply organic molecules - glycolaldehyden, and ethanol of boozing fame

The oldest abecedary ever found, is dated to ~1500 BCE. It's literally an alphabet, but before a-b-c, was a-b-g (alpha-beta-gamma) and before that '-b-g (aleph-beth-gimel) which on this abecedary is seen in a different order - HLHM (halaham) which was used for Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Arabian and Classical Ethiopian scripts.

The Fortingall Yew, in Perthshire, central Scotland, which is thought by biologists to have maybe lived for 5000 years or more, and has for hundreds of years been recorded as male, grows berries for the first recorded time. This is odd, because yews are dioecious, and only female yews grow berries!

Rosetta discovers oxygen on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko


Researchers at the VUMC Cancer Center Amsterdam develop a blood test that, from a single drop of blood, can diagnose six different types of cancer with a sensitivity of 97%, and ~6-8% probability of a false diagnosis, in healthy patients

Asteroid 2015 TB145, a near-Earth asteroid roughly 600 meters (2,000 feet) in diameter, passes 1.27 lunar distances from Earth - a lot closer than NEO 2014 YB35 did on the 27th of March


Astronomers announce the discovery of a lone gas giant planet, and conject that the observed surface temperatures seen signify the presence of molten metal and silicates in storms in the planet's atmosphere

Gene-edited immune cells are used to treat ‘incurable’ leukaemia in a one-year-old girl, for the first time

Barack Obama becomes the first President of the USA to cancel a major infrastructure project because of its impact on the climate

Peru's environment minister announces that a national park is to be made, covering 14,170 square kilometres of the country's Amazonian basin. The park will cover an estimated 3,000 species of plants and animals, many of them found nowhere else in the world

Conspiracy theorists completely fail to uncover the endemic doping in Russian athletics organisations, but an actual investigation by the World Anti-Doping Commission succeeds. Funny, the way an actual, skeptical investigation is necessary, to actually find things, isn't it ;-)

Pope Franks's faith caves in, to the Science of Climatology, but he continues to believe in demonic possession

It's been called the "theoretical computer science result of the decade". Mathematicians announce that they've made a huge advance in using algorithms to resolve graph isomorphism

Rosetta's OSIRIS experiment reveals that the colour of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is actually a faint red. Only three regions - Hapi, Hathor, and parts of Seth - are reduced in red light, suggesting an abundance of water in these regions

Astronomers at the University of Arizona capture the first image of an exoplanet being formed in a protoplanetary disk. The object, LkCa 15 b, is located 450 light years away, orbiting a young star named LkCa15

Medical doctors use virtual reality in surgery for the first time, while clearing the blocked coronary artery of a male patient

The genome of the tardigrade - the only animal able to survive in the vacuum of space - is published, revealing that 17.5% is 'foreign' DNA, received via horizontal gene transfer, from other organisms. That's ~6000 genes, and more than in any other animal


Players of the game Noby Noby Boy finally get 'girl' to reach Pluto. I have no idea what i just said :-D

Human vocal cords are grown from scratch, for the first time ever, taking two weeks to create 170 of the mucosa (flaps) that are present in a human larynx


Scientists look through the eyes of the West Indian fuzzy chiton - a shelled marine mollusc with eyes made of aragonite rock - and see an extremely pixellated blob. But hey, it's better than nothing, right?


Blood vessel-like structures found in an 80 million-year-old hadrosaur fossil are confirmed to be original to the animal, and not biofilm or other contaminants

New Scientist catches up with my 'brain sex is bullshit' essay, from 2014

Japan decides to flout the UN International Court of Justice's ruling in March of 2014, by sending its first whaling fleet into Antarctic waters for 2 years, with the stated aim of killing 333 minke whales for 'scientific' purposes. Wings up, everyone who believes them...

Deap see fish, living in the mediterranean, are found to have the diets of the humans above, in their stomachs. Marine scientists have found 70% marine fish in 445 fishes' stomachs, quantities of plastic, and 5-6% food from human activity

The gene editing technique known as CRISPR is declared 2015's Science breakthrough of the year, for its potential to explore genetic function, and correct genetically inherited illness

A praying mantis survey in and around Rwanda increases the number of known species in the country by 155%

Cassini makes its final flyby of Enceladus, the moon of Saturn

Scientists report the discovery of a new type of basaltic rock, rich in ilmenite, a black mineral, on the moon by Chang'e-3 - the Chinese spacecraft that landed on the moon in 2013

And that's 2013 2014 2015 summed up. From Chandra to Chang'e. But like i said at the top - there is a lot i've left out - and i know it.

I wonder what will happen, in 2014 2015 2016. Don't just wait for it, though - make it happen - and make the most of this recurring solar sojourn.

On with 2015 2016....