Sunday, 24 April 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 18-24/4/16

Hi hackers,

For the first time in what feels like a million years, i've got a new mini-essay up. I know -- don't faint :-D

'Lean/TPS Schemes Are Capitalist Pseudoscience'

'CrazyRussianHacker, Plagiarist and DMCA abuser! #WTFU'

Where's the Fair Use? And where's the fairness in Intellectual Property law in general?

Cue a repost of Kirby Ferguson's brilliant series on the creativity that IP is purported to defend:

'Everything is a Remix Remastered'


Laci's is the same illogic as used by anti-vaccers. They argue that diseases are rare, so vaccines are unnecessary. But they don't consider that diseases are rare because vaccines are abundant, and that therefore, the unuse of vaccines would lead to diseases becoming more prevalent.

By saying that rape claims are statistically likely to be true, and should therefore be believed, by default, she makes the same assumption - that false rape claims would be just as abundant under a skepticism-less system as under the current one. But they wouldn't.

If a fake rape claimant thought that a bunch of feminist faithists were going to defaultedly believe whatever they said, they'd be more likely to say it. Take Rolling Stone as an example - multiple men were falsely accused of a crime that couldn't have happened, according to the description.

A system that defaultedly believes rape claimants actually does a disjustice to real rape victims, because it creates a situation in which there are more fake claims being aired, and less confidence put in the people who have genuinely suffered.

General principle: you do not ever start with a conclusion and then work backwards.

No criminal/civil investigation should ever start with a belief. Whether it's rape, burglary, fraud, forgery, arson, tax evasion, or murder.

The investigation proceeds, evidence is accrued, and then a conclusion is formed. Then, and only then, might a belief in innocence or guilt be fairly formed in a rational mind.

You don't even have to believe someone to treat them with respect. Taking a claim seriously means investigating it seriously. Not faithing it.

Do not ever take anything on faith. Never. Ever. Never.


I suspect most of the false claims come When a bandwagon forms, such as with the exposure of a celebrity, or with the K
รถln claimants. Attention whores see an opportunity to make themselves feel like they matter, and so they throw their name into the hat.

They're probably thinking "well, the guy's guilty anyway, what difference will it make?" But it will make a difference, because other people will stupidly equivocate between claims and cases.

With Jimmy Savile as an example, the number of claims have risen so high, that it now looks unlikely that he could have had time to be on Top Of The Pops at all! The real victims have been drowned out by narcissistic gatecrashing bandwagon-barging fakers.

And that, i suppose, is yet another reason why legal cases should not be sensationalised by the media, until they're finished. And in some cases, not at all.

'Statue given detachable penis to thwart thieves'

No, this is not evidence of the institutionalised oppression of enstatuated men :-P

'What the European Union can learn from CERN about international co-operation'

Unsurprisingly, international collaborations that rely on public funding receive the same problematic retardations from whining nationalists, whether they're scientific or social projects.

Both CERN and the EU (EEC at the time) were founded using duplicity. To the petty-minded, the founders argued that they were necessary for competition, with the USA to the west, and the USSR to the east. But to each other, they just wanted advancement for its own sake.

The scientists who founded CERN just wanted to do amazing science, and the socialists who founded the EU just wanted to 'share the love' with the needy across the European mainland.

But in order to persuade the nationalists, their xenophobia had to be appealed to - the fear of non-Europeans, instead of the fear of other Europeans. Inter-continental competitiveness instead of intra-continental competitiveness.

Maybe the key to arguing against 'Brexit' as the nationalist press have nauseatingly titled it, is to convince the factionalists that a threat beyond Europe is more worth their hysteria than any threat within Europe.

If i were a conspiracy theorist, i might say that 'Islamophobia!' were a plot to prevent this greater fear, of a greater threat, from taking its rightful place, in the foreminds of such people.

How can MEPs really be seen as a bigger threat than murderous Islamists?? Could it be that the nationalists are so small-world-minded that they close the metaphorical door to both??

'American tech giants under EU cosh'

How convenient, LOL. Evidence that the EU's fighting for the little man, against the superpowers of the USA :-D

'EU case against Google shows contrast with US'

Their only defence seems to be that living under a monopoly might be better for the 'end customer'. Nope, not buying that. Re: enlinked mini-essay.


The 26th of April marks one of the world's rarest disasters - the failure of a nuclear reactor - specifically, Chernobyl's. To date, the coal industry has killed ~20 times as many people per kWh produced, compared to the nuclear industry, even including the big-3 disasters.

Hubble's 26 birthday is the 24th of April, for which it released this 'birthday bubble' picture:

In other news:

According to a survey, conducted by 'a national ranked Christian university' as Baylor calls itself, 9 in 10 USAians have prayed for healing at some time in their lives, and a third have experienced the 'magic hands' ritual. I'm calling this bullshit. I would not be surprised if the 1714 people surveyed, turned out to be Christians at the Christian University, where everything they do is Christianly stilted in favour of Christian superstition. It would be easy to find that many idiots in such a place, producing a hideous sample bias. But then, maybe the 'researchers' are actually the Commie Rednecks USAian fascists have been fearing for decades, and they're deliberately spewing propaganda to make USAians look retarded, to the rest of the world?! Well, it's basically one or the other. I'm always inclined to favour incompetence over malevolence, however; especially when the subject's superstitionists.

30 years after the Chernobyl Disaster, a study of wildlife abundance in the 834 square mile Belarussian region of Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, has found that animal distribution is not influenced by radiation levels. They focussed on the predators, because their existence is predicated on an abundance of herbivores, which is predicated on an abundance of foliage. Apex carnivores are generally a marker of a healthy biome. Carnivores are also more susceptible to bioaccumulation of poisons, as they become more concentrated in each of the trophic levels - herbivores consume poisonous plants, and the poison passes to the carnivores that eat them. All the researchers found, was that the animals were more plentiful in areas with more food and water. To see the human-abandoned area around Chernobyl and nearby Pripyat, see bionerd23's YouTube videos.

Germany's DPA has announced that several car manufacturers in the country are going to recall 630,000 vehicles, for breaching emissions data. This announcement follows investigations, spurred by the VW deception. In the USA, victims of that farago have been offered two options: sell their vehicles back to the dealer, or get them fixed, free of charge.

Burkina Faso's association of cotton producers have decided to stop using a breed of cotton supplied to them by Monsanto. Naturalismist ideologues in the country, which is Africa's most active cotton exporter, have claimed victory, because the crop's irrationally labelled 'GM' but the real reason was a practical one. They wante to use the crop to enhance yields, which have been down, this year; but unfortunately, despite providing higher yields, it gives lower quality fibres. This means the product's worth less to them than other varieties, and is the real reason why they dropped it. It has nothing to do with superstitious associations. And that is absolutely right. Whether a product is inferior or superior is a point that stands for itself, whether that product is speciously labelled 'GMO' or 'natural' or 'organic' or 'gluten free' or whatever.

A study by the European Commission's Institute for Environment and Sustainability has reported that events previously expected only to occur once per century, will be once-per-year events by the middle of the 21st century. This means heatwaves, floods, droughts, etc, will be 100 times more abundant, across Europe, if 'moderate' estimates of temperature increases are true. Leading climatologists think higher temperatures are more likely, and historically they've been right. So even though Europe is expected to be least affected by sea level rise, there will be huge environmental stresses in the decades to come; as part of a trend that we have already seen.

Environmental groups have lodged a complaint with the European Commission, regarding planned logging activity in one of the continent's oldest woodlands, straddling Poland and Belarus. Historically, Europe's forests have been devastated by timber-based construction, over the centuries. England's New Forest used to sprawl from one coast to the other, but now it's more of a copse than a forest. And where there are really old forests, there are really old trees, and well-developed habitats housing hundreds of other species. Bialowieza forest hosts approximately 20,000 animal species alone. Unfortunately, they require continuity, to maintain biodiversity - transplanted species and 'replacement' habitats never have the same diversity that the originals had. It's not true, when construction companies, or the councils that are shilling for them, say that a bird species can be moved somewhere else, where they're planning to open a park. It takes centuries to develop a habitat - they shouldn't be thrown away so casually.

Darwin's finches (actually tanagers) are a classic example of adaptation by evolution - they've developed bills suited to different purposes, eating insects, seeds, nectar from cactus flowers, and blood from seabirds too, all since their common ancestor arrived in the Galapagos, 2 million years ago. But observing evolution in real time is difficult, because it means tracking a species' morphology in detail, for a long time. And the longer that species' generations are, the fewer generations any one researcher can see in their lifetime. This is how it's easy to see bacterial evolution (because they reproduce on a scale of hours, so thousands of generations can be seen) but difficult to observe human evolution, whose generations pass only as quickly as the observer's. 40 years of study by Peter and Rosemary Grant, of Princeton, has been necessary to observe the evolution of Medium Ground Finches' beaks, during drought conditions, in which those with larger beaks struggle to compete with Large Ground Finches. They have observed that the HMGA2 gene is the one that has been the locus of change, in this species of finch, resulting in the shrinking of their average beak size.

The evolution of dinosaurs is one that has to be seen in retrospect, however. It's known that they all laid leathery eggs, including the gigantic sauropods, but what you might not have realised, is quite how quickly this required them to grow. Egg sizes are limited by the amount of oxygen that can get in, through the shell, so ostrich-egg size is pretty much the limit. This means fossil baby sauropods have been found that would have weighed as much as a human baby, in life! To get to be bigger than a bus, by 20 years old, they would have to be bigger than a medium-sized dog by a few weeks old. Imagine a human baby growing that fast! Part of the mechanism that permits cetaceans to top the records lists for size and weight (namely, the Blue Whale) is their mammalian live births. Baby whales are born bigger than a car, meaning they have a head start against the terranean sauropods.

From animal to plant evolution. Did you know there are different mechanisms of photosynthesis? The general pattern is: CO2 + H2O + light -> sugar + O2 but there's a much more complex array of chemicals behind the reaction, in practice. This study, published this week, comes 50 years after the C4 mechanism of photosynthesis was discovered. Using the C4 mechanism, as opposed to the C3 mechanism, plants can grow 20-100% quicker, by building their leaves with less dense tissue, leaving extra to build 50% more roots, through which minerals can be gathered to fund growth. C3 is apparently an ancient mechanism, with C4 having evolved in arid and savannah environments, to increase sugar production. According to this article, C4 is exhibited by only 3% of species, but accounts for 25% of carbon fixation. Genetic engineering of C3 plants into C4 plants could present a method of reversing climatic change, therefore, as well as an adaptation of those plants to the effects of climate change. Maybe an artificial C5 could be even more efficient than either C3 or C4.

Dark Matter is not made of (some) ALPs (axion-like particles). An article published in Physical Review Letters has made this conclusion, using research involving NASA's gamma-ray telescope on the Fermi satellite, that should have seen a certain kind of ALPs in the direction of the Perseus galaxy cluster, if they were there. Most of the matter of the universe is made of (an) unidentified material(s) collectively known as Dark Matter. It's definitely there, bending spacetime, but it doesn't interact with electromagnetic radiation (light) so it can't be seen directly. Knowing that these ALPs can be crossed off the list, means efforts can be transferred to other hypotheses. This is how science is done: "an idea's wrong? Well, we'd better tell the world about it, so others don't mistakenly believe it". Most of science is finding out that things are wrong :-D

What do cosmonauts do when they have to deal with menstruation? For shorter flights, they usually deal with it in the usual way, as facilities are available. Other bodily functions have to be accounted for, anyway, so that's no surprise. But on longer trips, cosmonauts prefer to employ contraceptives for menstrual suppression, which means they don't menstruate, and so don't have to worry about it. But one thing they might have to worry about, is the long-term effect of the contraceptive on their body. Long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as IUDs and subdermal (beneath-the-skin) implants, or combined oral contraceptive (COC) pills are all viable options, each with their own identifiable drawbacks, but bone mineral loss is not so well understood. Bone health is a concern for all cosmonauts on long trips, so anything that might make it worse, well, it needs to be known about. Watch this outer space.

Here's another thing that can prevent menstruation -- pregnancy. More than half of births in 'northern' and 'western' Europe are now to unmarried people (couples) and this is part of a trend of increasing marriage-nihilism across the European continent. As people have become more laissez-faire about marriage in general, it's become dissociated from the idea of breeding, and building a family. For many, breeding now comes first, and the cod romance comes later. Over the past 50 years, the proportion of biths outside wedlock, in France and the British Isles, has increased from ~5% to ~50%. Presumably, someone's cursing 'dem gayz' for desecrating the sanctity of marriage, right about now :-D

FBI director James Comey has revealed that the organisation paid independent hackers at least $1.3 million to hack an iPhone belonging to one of the the San Bernardino attackers. According to him, it was worth it. Is there a Freedom of Information request coming, to justify the expense??

Solar Impulse 2 has been on the move again. Having suffered damage while crossing the Pacific - it's longest leg, around the world - SI2 spent several months in repairs. But now, it's competed its journey from Hawaii to California. SI2 is scheduled to make three more stops in the USA, before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Europe or Northern Africa.

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

'Image: Around Anuket region of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko'

'Image: NASA's SDO captures mid-level solar flare'

'Image: Proba-1 images Ice station Svalbard'

'Field Museum expedition captures animal selfies in Amazon Rainforest'

'Wellington "Funicular" Cable Car'

'Why Does Natural News Think You Should Stay Away From Sucralose?'

'Surveilling the Scientists'

'Shakespeare's Secret Playhouse (Part 1)'

'"Everybody Is Everybody Else" by Roy Zimmerman'

'CoinPen by Moritz Mueller'
Can this kid get any more amazing??

'Prada Body Bag - {The Kloons}'

'BLOOPERS AND OUT TAKES 3 - Greg's Kitchen'

'Total Recall : Bunnings BBQ | The Checkout'

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

Word Of The Week: hoon -- one who drives a car or boat in a manner which is anti-social by the standards of contemporary society, i.e. too fast, too noisily or too dangerously (Australian English)

Quote Of The Week: "What is indifference? I don't know, and i don't care" - Dave Allen

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

'The Two Ronnies - Rev. McFarlane Lang - Cockney Rhyming Slang (1976)'

Lean/TPS Schemes Are Capitalist Pseudoscience

Date started: 21/4/16                     Date finished: 23/4/16                     Date first published: 23/4/16

Lean/TPS Schemes. What are they??

Lean Principles' principal principle: "to maximize customer value while minimizing waste"

On the face of it, this can't be a bad idea. Who wants to be more wasteful? Who wants customers to receive lower value? But then, what is lower value? And what counts as waste? And most of all, what are the specifics of how this scheme would attempt to change either of these?

Like many ideologies, Lean escapes commonplace skepticism by being the kind of friendly pie-in-the-sky idealism that gets reviews starting with "On the face of it, this can't be a bad idea. Who wants to be more wasteful? Who wants customers to receive lower value?" But vacuous idealism is exactly that. It would be lovely if we could stop raping mother Earth, and live off sunlight, but if we all try it, starting tomorrow, the species will be extinct within a week.

Similarly, it's vacuous to think that writing the word 'natural' on food packets is going to make any difference to anything inside the packet. Everything is natural, however it tastes, and whatever nutritional content it has. But that doesn't stop people from thinking that something must be better because it has the word 'natural' written on it. Heck, people have even marketed 'gluten-free' shampoo, in the midst of glutophobia. Gluten doesn't matter unless you eat the stuff, and if you're eating shower gel, your problems don't start with gluten!

In order to know whether something is genuinely beneficial, there must be evidence to back it up, otherwise all the effort that's gone to, is spent chasing no gain. Effort's only worth going to, if there's going to be a reward at the end of it. As i've said before: all rational decisions involve cost-benefit analyses. Doing anything involves a cost; it's only worth doing it, if the benefit outweighs that cost.

Sometimes, ideologies can be harmful simply because they are vacuous, and nothing more. An ideology that is purported to increase capital efficiency, for example. Any effort spent complying with the scheme to increase efficiency, is actually wasted effort, which is actually decreasing efficiency. It's an unjustified cost.

Lean is one example of these schemes. It's supported by no substantial evidence base, but that hasn't stopped idealists from assuming that it must be a good thing. The only article cited on Wiki as evidence for Lean (under the name 'TPS' - Toyota Production Scheme) is a facetiously-titled 'Can lean save lives?' And the study was conducted on some unwitting NHS department, no less. This is a question to which no answer is provided - just more pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking.

It has a placebic 'motivational' quality, in that it makes people think of happy things, like rainbows, and unicorns, and infinite profits, but when it's requried to pay out, so far all of the cheques have bounced.

Through scouring job profiles, i happened to find out that the Ministry of Justice, in the UK, already employs this capitalist pseudoscience, to reduce 'waste' in its own departments, even though the only utility of the Lean/TPS 'value flow' rubbish is to distract competitors from the real thing that makes one company better than another - better business decisions.

All business is inevitably wasteful. We live in a lossy universe - from thermodynamics 'up' we can't live without waste. But that doesn't stop management-types from thinking that they can reduce costs and increase 'performance' by employing costs and reducing performance, as part of a drive to increase efficiency and the 'flow of value' to the 'end customer'.

Toyota didn't become a multinational automotive giant by permanently checking its flow of value (it might as well be tracking 'qi') it became a multinational automotive giant by making adroit business decisions, in an environment that was congenial to extensive business growth. No degree of adherence to TPS would make Toyota successful, if there were no demand for cars!

It's as embarrassing that government departments are subjugated to these 'value' ideologies, in countries like the UK, as it is that employees in France are commonly subjected to pseudoscientific 'graphology' tests, in which their ability to do the job is judged according to spurious aspects of their handwriting, by applicant-and-company-abusing charlatans.

And in Japan's closest neighbour - China - people suffer bad business decisions, because those decisions are misinformed by astrological superstition. Virgos, for example, are turned away from employment, through the superstitious belief that they are a disruptive influence in the workplace - picky, spoiled, and
fussy to the point of being obsessive-compulsive - fundamentally incompatible with a harmonious workplace. Astrology, as well as Feng Shui, are officially condemned as 'feudal superstitions' by the Chinese State. The Railways Minister was dismissed in 2011, and charged with corruption and abuse of power, partly for employing Feng Shui charlatans as consultants, to provide 'auspicious dates' on which to start construction projects.

You might like to think that this weirdness is peculiar to the Chinese, but it is most certainly not. All around the world, Feng Shui 'consultants' are given vast sums of money to tell businesses of varying sizes, where they should put their toilets, to stop the yang from leaking away. This is nothing short of ridiculous, but the arid lack of evidence supporting the costs that have been gone to, is seen as irrelevant, by those who waste their time, money, and even health, on such schemes.

Far from increasing efficiency, and avoiding waste, these schemes impose waste, because they are waste, themselves! This means they are reducing the efficiency of the company, not enhancing it. Successive governments of supposedly 'developed' countries have pandered to these delusory ideologies, the way they have adhered to prohibitionism and isolationism. Because they have committed to them so whole-heartedly, any evidence of harm is met with bloody-minded denial.

As a result of the imposition of Lean/TPS ideologies, who is it who takes the blame for the lack of 'value flow'? Well, of course, it's the employees. Who else can it be? It can't be the managers who impose these dotty schemes on their staff - it has to be staff failing to comply with it sufficiently. And while the staff are toiling away, trying to comply with it, their skeptical/cynical resistance can only fade away to unthinking compliance. Or they resign. Or get fired for lack of 'work ethic'. This is not good business practice - unthinking compliance to unsubstantiated dogma is the methodology of a cult.

Rejection of these schemes is treated as a pathology, exhibited by a defective employee. The UK's DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) has exhibited this attitude to its own employees, by which i mean the Unemployed folks who have to work for their JSA (dole) money.

"In the UK and other rich nations such as Australia and the US, welfare claimants are increasingly required to comply with interventions intended to modify their emotions, beliefs and personality."

Many people suffer with poor mental health, as a direct result of unemployment. But the DWP sees unemployment as a medical problem of its own. One that can be cured by 'motivational speaking', akin to the bollocks that gets spouted at them, when the numbers start to look unflattering, despite their faultlessly beautiful minds. It can't be that they're wrong about some things - the blame must lie elsewhere. It's just easier for them to treat the unemployed - the power-less - as pathologically so, than it is to treat each other that way.

claimants are already coerced into “confidence building” programmes, made to take part in humiliating psychological group activities (like building paperclip towers to demonstrate team work), and obliged to take meaningless and unethical psychological tests to determine their “strengths”. Unsolicited “motivational messages” are emailed to some job seekers daily."

For some, it's just frivolous (vacuous) fun. For others, it's both frustrating, and insulting. I can't count how many people i've seen put on 'employability' courses, but have 40 years of employment behind them. They are being blamed for lack of vacancies, and for the changing world around them. These schemes can only help to make people in executive positions feel like they've done something. When they're unimpressed by some numbers, they get a consultant in to give them a vacuous team-building course; so they intuitively think that such vacuity will mend other people's woes, too.

Bogus constructs like “psychological resistance to work” and “cultures of worklessness” are used to legitimise coercive regimes that stigmatise and punish."

Because of these schemes, blame is shifted from the real guilty parties - those who make bad executive decisions, such as Management and Ministers of Parliament - onto the victims of those bad decisions. "Don't agree with what i say? Then there must be something wrong with you, mustn't there" is the attitude that is adopted. And so no matter how amusingly vacuous the ideology might be (and how easily disagreed with) there is always an underlying insidiousness to its imposition.

This is not peculiar to Lean. Not at all. But it should not be gullibly accepted, just because it's been dressed up as 'progressive' capitalism.

As an aside, Leanist pseudoscience reminds me of the book 'Who Moved My Cheese?' The story is a very simple one, of mice that eat their cheese, and either do or don't realise that they have to go somewhere else when the cheese they used to have, runs out. It's a simple analogy for people's attitudes to wealth, and changing times.

But the story's been serially abused by corporats, who've bought the book in large numbers, and distributed it to their staff, thinking that the moral of the story was "Things are changing around here. Get used to it!" and therefore reading the book would instill compliance in their juniors.

When Jon Ronson met a certain businessman, while scouring the world for psychopaths, as part of writing a book called 'The Psychopath Test', Ronson found that "he
turned the Hare psychopath checklist into 'Who Moved My Cheese?'" The way that businessman got rich, was by taking over ailing companies, and firing a large portion of their employees, often in highly callous ways. His attitude was typical of the "I'm not sharing the cheese with you, so go away!" misunderstanding.

I think this is because there's a cultural sociopathy in the world of telling-other-people-what-to-do that creates the illusion of there being more biological sociopaths than in actual fact.

To the population that imposes these schemes, they're an opportunity to feel that they're all right, Jack. It excuses them. They're OK. They're not to blame. They don't have to care.

If they were unabateably sociopathic, then they wouldn't need these schemes, because they wouldn't need anything to make them feel better; but because they're not unabateably sociopathic, an ideology that simulates sociopathy can achieve the same result. And at the same time, it appeases the very people who should be most annoyed about it!

Lean, and any other similar pseudosciences, provide both perpetrators and victims with an opportunity to blame the subjects,
for lack of compliance with the scheme; and to simultaneously deflect criticism from the only thing that the instigators exist for - making business decisions.

Any good businessperson would want to avoid such poppycock, if they were aware of what it were costing them. They'd want to avoid astrology, Feng Shui, graphology, qi, and even chemical supplementation. I've heard of businesspeople giving their employees supplements, through the belief that it would improve their performance, in the workplace. Online, i found this: a quack magazine's review of companies that waste money on 'organics' and 'wellness' etc etc etc, in a bid to make their employees more pepped for the job.

ny good businessperson would want to avoid all of this. Unless, of course, they were selling it! In which case, i can only appeal to their moral instinct, or continue the campaign to get their shit recognised as fraud, and to get funding for agencies to put them out of business, against their will.

So w
hether as an employer or an employee, it's important that we stay skeptical of schemes that do not warrant respect, due to lack of evidence of efficacy. It's not good business to squander money on them, and it's not social to subject other people to facile obligations.

Stay skeptical, people. Stay skeptical.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 11-17/4/16

Hi rhythmic solar-powered thorium nanoprobes,

First up: Q-Dragon's kickstarter for a project he's been working up to:

'Cacao Cultured Kickstarter'

Secondly, a warning: this one goes a bit meta, at the 5 minute mark :-P

'Solar FREAKIN' Thorium roadways!'


'SFN #160: Nanoprobes to the Stars?; Kepler Has a Problem; More Water on Europa?'

Nanoprobes to the stars? Hmm...

You might have heard of this scheme, to send solar sail-powered nanoprobes, approximately 1 cm across, to nearby stars, by propelling them with a ground-based LASER array, aimed at the sails around them.

The practicality of travelling to even the nearest stars (besides Sol) prohibits large masses, such as human-carrying spaceships, from traversing the vast distances in any less than thousands of years.

But these proposed probes would be very light, which means they can be accelerated faster (both because of the mechanics, and also because medical effects of g-forces don't have to be regarded) and so they could reach the Alpha Centauri star system (Sol's nearest stellar neighbours) in ~20 years.

At least, according to the people who want it to happen. But i see a bigger problem than the practicality of crossing so much space.

When you look up at the stars, they sometimes appear to twinkle. This is because of a thing called 'seeing'.

Fluctuations in the atmosphere (known to some as 'wind') mean the amount of atmosphere you're looking through, at a particular star, at a particular moment, fluctuates too. Imagine waves in the sea: somebody looking at the seafloor is looking through more water when they're looking through the peak of a wave.

This means light from the stars is being refracted by the atmosphere, so nights of good 'seeing' are nights when this happens least, so you get better images through your telescopes. And it also means there's a huge benefit to putting telescopes in orbit around Earth, such as Hubble, and the awaited JWST.

Now imagine that you're trying to shine LASER light ground-to-sky instead of collecting light sky-to-ground. The same problem imposes itself.

If the light hitting the sail is uneven, the position of the probe will be rotated, causing it to shoot off into deep space, at the wrong angle. And when you've got multiple light years of space to travel, a tiny error can leave you a long way from collecting any valuable data.

Plus, the probes will be going so fast that they'll have very little time to collect much data when they reach Alpha Centauri. This, however, i suspect to be a minor concern, technology-wise. It's the seeing that i perceive to be the biggest hurdle.

I imagine many of them will have to be launched at once, as a proportion are expected to be destroyed or critically damaged by dust and protons (cosmic rays) while hurtling through space.

If they manage to get this project working, i might still be alive to see the data come back.

[hopes] :-)


Series 16 of The Unbelievable Truth. Wow! It's approximately half a century behind ISIHAC, though :-D

In other news:

How do echidnas survive brush fires? Well, by tracking echidnas during and after a brush fire, some by the tracking devices that they had already been fitted with, researchers in Western Australia found that the more interesting subject, is what they do when the fires subside, rather than what they do when the fires are raging. Echidnas are already known to find hollow logs to hide in, but the tracking revealed that they do very little eating and drinking in the weeks after a fire. This might seem unintuitive, but with smoke lingering, oxygen in the air at ground level being low, and food and drink being rare too, it's actually a good tactic. The researchers observed the echidnas in torpid hibernation-like states for days at a time, after the fire, allowing the animals to survive on little oxygen and food and water, until the three essentials became plentiful again.

Was the Loch Ness Monster revealed this week? It was a movie prop made for the 1969-made film 'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes'. Apparently, the removal of the model's humps also removed its buoyancy, and so the object sank to the bottom of the loch. The Loch Ness Monster is one of the world’s most famous hoaxes, invented by Marmaduke Wetherell, and published under the pseudonym ‘Colonel Robert Kenneth Wilson’ in 1934, so
'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes' was almost a 'retro' film, for its day :-D

Exxon Mobil Corporation's fighting against justice, it seems, with its exposure for covering up data that links fossil fuels to climate change. Originally, Exxon Mobil's board thought it would gain a market advantage by knowing about climatic change before the other fossil fuel companies, but then it realised the truth would siren its doom as a going concern, so they covered up the data they'd collected, potentially putting energy industry reform back decades. See 'Peter Sinclair on What Exxon Knew' for more information.

Effects of vitamin D for heart failure far from 'stunning'. This is NHS Choices' ascerbic title, for their article - not my own wording! According to the Dependent and the BBC, Vitamin D supplementation has a profound therapeutic effect on the heart, even though the study in question showed no benefit to the people involved. The participants were all people with heart failure - a condition in which the heart doesn't pump blood effectively enough, resulting in tiredness, breathlessness, and ankle swelling. The pumping of the heart's required to lift blood against gravity, right? That's why cosmonauts get thin legs and puffy faces. Apparently, many people with heart failure are also Vitamin D deficient (Ocean Dilemma pending) so 229 participants were given either Vitamin D or an (unidentified) control. The only correlant was with left ventricular function, meaning more blood was being pumped with each heartbeat. However, they showed no improvements in the main symptoms of heart failure (including those known to be associated with Vitamin D) or improvement in walking distance over 6 minutes. In conclusion, it's more plausible that heart failure is a consequence of long-term Vitamin D malnutrition, than a short-term effect, so acute exposure is unlikely to repair decades of harm. Beyond a certain amount, Vitamin D supplementation is known to achieve nothing at all, anyway. More research is necessary, to find a method that does work in repairing heart damage that has already occurred.

Replacing the traffic lights on food packaging with estimations of exercise needed to burn off the calories? No, no, no. As confusing as people might find traffic lights to be, surely throwing an infinite variety of integers at them is going to be worse. The suggestion in question, is that the calorie content of a food/drink product should be replaced with text, for example "an apple (93 calories) – this would take 21 minutes of brisk walking or 13 minutes of running to burn off". Let's leave aside how you'd fit all of this on a little oval sticker ~1cm across, and think about the psychology of it. You pick up the apple, you read the label, you think "ah, one apple, one snack, 21 minutes of exercise. I'll do that" and then you buy the apple, go home, eat the apple, get distracted, and forget to do the exercise. I've been 'planning' exercise for years, but i never get around to it, because it's not in the schedule of my day. With a traffic light system, you make the decision there and then, and you don't have to worry about it again. With an add-up-the-numbers-and-plan-to-walk-it-all-off-again plan there's no immediate necessity to contemplate the expense. It's too easy to say to yourself "so, that's 329 minutes of walking shopped up, so far. Yeah, i'll get around to it" and then forget. That's why i think this is a bad idea. The benefit of a warning system, is that it means boffins in an office can do the number-crunching, making it easier for shoppers to make decisions. Even when it's boffins doing their own shopping. If they have to number-crunch while they're standing with their basket, they'll be more prone to misjudgement. I'm giving this suggestion a red light :-P

According to The Sun, the 'rhythm method' is better than The Pill... when an app's involved. For those who don't know, the 'rhythm method' is an archaic method of avoiding pregnancy, by only bonking during the phases of the menstrual cycle when fertilisation's least likely; whereas 'The Pill' is a chemical contraceptive that actually works. The study that the claim was based on, didn't actually use data that was intended for measuring pregnancy-likelihood, so it is of doubtful validity. Especially given that the variables selected were temperature readings, which are associated with menstrual variation, but also with many other things. Even so, they found an unsurprisingly high 'failure' rate, with 143 unplanned pregnancies occurring during the study period. 34% of the participants actually dropped out of the study, so the full number of pregnancies is unknown. As a proportion, use of the app would be expected to result in 7 out of every 100 women experiencing accidental pregnancies, each year. And none of this takes into account the complete inability of the 'rhythm method' to prevent the spread of STDs. The motive of the researchers was apparently to 'provide' a tool for weirdos who think that the rejection of contraceptives is compatible with the avoidance of pregnancy. Oh, and they sell the product they researched. Of course they do. So all of the numbers should probably be revised upward, to account for systematic bias introduced by them. Ultimately, the best advice for anyone is: get some condoms. Nothing counters STDs and pregnancy better than them.

According to a Paper, yet to be published in the open access journal eLife, a group of tropical birds have been found to have the fastest limb muscles in any vertebrate. But they're not for flying - they're for courtship displays. Male red-capped and golden-crowned manakins move their wings about six to eight times faster than the 8 hertz (Hz) that Olympic athletes move their legs at, during a 100m race. The golden-collared manakins hit their wings together, behind their backs, to produce loud mechanical sounds. The red-capped manakins slap their wings against their sides, producing similar sounds. In both these two, and three other species, the muscles used have been found to be separate to those used in flight, meaning they lose no motile capability, for the sake of their displays.

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

'Revealing the South Pole - Sixty Symbols'

'Green Fluorescent Protein | What is this Thing?!'

'Weird But Fair Dice (plus the D120) - Numberphile'

'Cat Lover's Guide To Chakra Healing - Myles Reviews'

'Signs of the Time Season 4 Episode 2 | The Checkout'

'Tricks of the Trade Mags | The Checkout'

'The Checkout - Season 4 Episode 2'

'siagomphus reinhardti: A newly discovered insect'

'Image: Mosaic of Ireland from Copernicus Sentinel data'

'NASA image: T-38C passes in front of the sun at supersonic speed'

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

Word Of The Week: dais -- a raised platform, plinth, or table, used akin to a stage - to aid visibility to whatever might be on it - a speaker, official, or object of interest; pronounced 'day-us'

Quote Of The Week: "If you go to a clairvoyant, who do you see, sitting around the table? Women. If you go to a fortune teller, who do you see? Women. When a woman picks up a newspaper, she doesn't read the headlines, she goes straight to the horoscopes. Women are much more concerned about the future than men. I suppose they have to - they live longer" - Dave Allen

Fact Of The Week: 'Plato' was actually the nickname of Aristocles, as the Greek 'platus' means broad/wide. He was called such either because of the breadth of his body, forehead, or eloquence.

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


'GODZILLA v T-REX?! Planet War Total War Mod Gameplay (Mulitplayer)'

'GaB streams DISTRAINT'

Sunday, 10 April 2016

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

Hi cabbages,

So you're back again. And you still can't breathe water. And neither can i. More's the pity...

'Triton artificial gill: BUSTED!'

On a completely different subject...

Why doesn't glomping things work as easily as in the movies?

'FWS - Trying to Destroy My Wii with Potassium Permanganate & Glycerol'

The word 'trying' in that title turns out to be the most pertinent. But it's by no means a mistake peculiar to Myles' experimentation. Lots of people try to glomp things, and are bitterly underwhelmed.

What is it that makes these kinds of meltathons so underwhelming?

Well, actually it's just simple, basic physics.

Reactions occur where reactants come together. And in that region, they're converted to products, possibly emitting heat as they do. Or absorbing it, if the reaction's endothermic.

When people try to melt their Wiis or hard-drives, or smartphones, or other things, they intuitively reach for something flashy - sulphuric acid, or thermite, maybe.

And because they've seen TV, and misunderstood the extensive deception involved in fabricating explosive results, to satiate the producers, they assume that what they see is true.

Years ago, Thunderf00t debunked a caesium/water-reaction on Brainiac, in which, presumably disappointed with the real result, the show's people decided to fabricate a result using explosives.

And as explained 5 years ago, Thunderf00t debunked the assumption that greater reactivity of an individual atom necessarily translates into bigger bangs in practice.

Just months ago, he also debunked a pseudo-technology on Breaking Bad, in which it was claimed that thermite could be used to glomp through the lock on a door.

What do these two, and Myles' reaction, have in common?

Stuff gets in the way of itself.

By piling all the reactants up in a big mound, you'll insulate the object of destruction from the hot region that might have done damage. The reactants become products, and the products just sit there, stopping the rest from getting at the object.

That is why, in demonstrations, there's generally a surfeit of reactant left over, from the reaction snuffing itself out, before that reactant could get involved.

In Breaking Bad, the thermite reacts with the metal of the door OK, but its depth of penetration - the depth of metal it will melt - is limited, because the thermite and the melty metal insulate the rest of the door from the heat that the thermite is making.

And in the caesium/water reaction, which Brainiac was expecting to be better than rubidium/water, the size of the atoms is the problem.

As you go down group 1 of the periodic table, you'll rightly expect the elements to become 'more reactive'. But the atoms also get much bigger. Physically bigger. Massively bigger.

This means that 10 grams of caesium contains fewer atoms than 10 grams of rubidium, and so there are fewer atoms of caesium physically available for reaction. Result: less energy's given out, and so you see and hear a smaller bang.

The way to melt through things this way, unfortunately, requires patience - the result is dramatic, but the process is not.

The process is, unfortunately, self-limiting - the reactants and products get in the way of themselves.

In lithium/water, the reaction is not instantaneous - it fizzes and pops, and the lithium races over the surface, as the outside lithium reacts and dispels into the water, revealing the lithium inside.

A mixture of HNO3 and HCl (Aqua Regia) can melt gold away to nothing, but it isn't quick. If you want to melt anything away with acid, you'll need time, and you'll need to keep products away from the reaction boundary.

So where do explosions come from? They're quick reactions, right?

Well, yes - they depend on the reactants mixing together in such a way that the reaction boundary is a reaction region. Explosions tend to require powders, because they can float around in air or volatile fluids (liquids that easily evaporate into gases). The 3rd dimension massively increases the amount of reactant available, at any one time.

Technically, they also require enclosed spaces. Above-speed-of-sound reactions are required to get the big bang. Otherwise, it just goes "phut".

So the science of bangs is actually more fascinating than just "wow, that was loud". It is also the subject of "how did that reaction proceed so quickly, that it could make that bang?"

Make your prediction now: how many words of legislation do you think the EU has, on regulating cabbages? Got a number? Right. Now click the link...

'The Great EU Cabbage Myth'

It's very much not the only ludicrous, bullshit story going around, reiterated by nationalists who're trying to ridicule/demonise the EU.

Even if it were true, it would still be a staggeringly bad reason to want to leave the EU, and all of its genuine benefits behind.

Some people's stupidity is genuinely astonishing :-D


25 years of Gamma Ray science at NASA

15 years of ASU exploring Mars

In other news:

So, i managed to miss most of the April Fools, a week and a half ago. Maybe the rest of the internet should have done too. The April Fools thing used to be a fun attempt to fool people (temporarily) on the morning only of the 1st of April. Any other day, and any other time of that day, and you're due a forfeit. But various companies that operate on t'internet seem to think that permanent web-pages are good fodder for temporary jokes, and that nothing can possibly go wrong with their workplace pranks. Even when they're perpetrated on the customers. Google, for example, executed a #aprilfail when it apparently added a second button, next to the 'send' button in its Gmail email software, causing serious emails to be sent with a credibility-erasing GIF of a Minion dropping a microphone, at the bottom. That's not cool, Google. And it's not in the spirit of April Fools.

But if Google sucked big hairy balls, this April Fools Day, the SJWs of Stanford failed even harder! When a conservative-leaning e-magazine satirised their ludicrous professional-victimhood bollocks, they responded with a typical crybaby tantrum. But we neutral observers get to laugh at both parties, because the e-magazine that posted the 'April Fools' satire, did so on... the 31st of March. And they're based in the USA, which means the timestamp is correct. Timezones don't excuse their early posting. #aprilfails all around :-D

The quagga is back! A 30 year project to bring back the quagga - a sub-species of zebra with brown stripes over its flanks - has reportedly reached fruition. The interesting thing about this project, is that it has genetically modified the extinct sub-species (last extant in 1883) from modern zebras, without genetic engineering, and without generations of infertile animals. Infertility often happens with crosses - mules, for example - but these animals have a consistently sexually-reproductive ancestry. The motive for their existence, unfortunately, is conservatism more than conservation - to 'bring back' a breed that was 'wrongly killed off' and so the team have given it the name 'Rua-quagga' for the sake of distinction from its extinct lookalike genomalike relatives. Even so, this is an interesting feat, and an interesting animal.

When a Space Agency has to issue a press release, stating that something you've heard is not true, superstition is generally behind it. Back in January, i wrote about the claimed ninth planet, predicted by hypothetical computations, exploring how the solar system might have come to be, the way it is. There was no evidence for 'Planet 9' being anything more than hypothetical then, and there isn't now, but that hasn't stopped people thinking that there is something out there. When people believe unscientifically, they tend not to be the best educated people on the subject in question, that humanity has to offer - they tend to be the kinds of people who might start proffering their superstitious belief as a 'God Of The Gaps' for anything they hear about. So when some certain people heard that there's an unexplained deviation in the Cassini spacecraft's orbit around Saturn... they concluded that 'Planet 9' must be causing it. NASA's press release has categorically stated that there is no basis to assert this. If 'Planet 9' were affecting Cassini, it would affect Saturn too -- but there has been no observed deviation in Saturn's motion. QED wrongness. 'Planet 9' stays as an unevidenced hypothesis.

I find it ironic that this study, by Swiss astrophysicists, was partly funded by the National Center for Competence in Research (NCCR) given that it is entirely predicated on studying a hypothetical object, that has never been shown to actually be there. Wherever it might be. They've somehow formulated a marvelous diagram of 'Planet 9''s structure, and 'calculated' its size (not mass) and proportion of ingredients - iron core, silicate layer, ice layer, then gas layer at the top. It all seems very generic - maybe even Barnum Statement-like - but it hardly counts as research, to study something that's never ever been seen, and could very easily not exist at all!

This extemporisation by a retired Astrophysicist is much more dramatic, but at least it's not quite as implausible as the first. In this hypothesisation, 'Planet 9' is responsible for mass extinctions on Earth, by throwing comets into the inner Solar System, from the Kuiper Belt. While plausible, 'Planet 9' is still entirely hypothetical, and so stands as a poor contender for involvement in the asteroid impacts that have caused extinction events on planet Earth over the last half-billion years.

Now here's a hypothesis that may be believed: climatic change causes the melting of ice sheets, thereby redistributing Earth's mass, changing the planet's angular momentum, and consequently changing its rotation, and axis of rotation. A NASA study has found that this is indeed true. When a dancer is spinning on the spot, and they raise an arm or leg, their angular momentum shifts, and the axis that their body spins around does too. This is the same mechanism at work. It doesn't mean much for future climate change, but it does demonstrate the extent of the impact that anthropogenic climatic change has already had - it has literally moved the North Pole, by pushing the planet's axis over.

Earlier this week, a 21-year-old woman in Belfast was given a three-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to two charges – procuring her own abortion by using a poison, and supplying a poison with intent to procure a miscarriage. Anti-abortion laws like these are not motivated by rational concern for extant humans - they're motivated by concern for the fictional 'souls' that too many people superstitiously believe in. No wonder Amnesty International's campaigning to end these stupid anti-abortion laws, that condemn adult humans, with the duplicitous excuse that tiny clumps of undeveloped cells are more important than them. Save the human, indeed... from its own stupid beliefs. Amnesty has a petition, if you'd like to sign it.

PayPal has reportedly decided not to spend millions of dollars in North Carolina, as companies acknowledge the necessity to oppose the 'HB2' law that superstitionists are trying to push through, to deny human beings basic freedoms. The law includes a requirement that people only go in pissrooms designated for the sex that their birth certificate records! Given that the sexist hysteria of public waste excretion is entirely a self-fulfilling prophesy of danger, it is entirely hysterical to think that transexual, intersex, and cissexual people must conform to this ridiculous sanitatory segregation. I've said it at least once before, on this blog: one of the litmus tests of sexism being conquered, will be the unification of the last sex-segregated 'restroom' as speakers of US English euphemistically call it. The interminable hysteria about transexual people picking the 'wrong' one stems entirely from the notion that males and females should perform basic physiological acts in segregated circumstances. No segregation, no problem.

Homeopathy in the UK's NHS - not vanquished, but apparently shuffling its way through the exit door. "This will not be welcomed by homeopaths whose businesses rely on the (undeserved and unearned) legitimacy that being provided on the NHS lends to homeopathy, but it's the inevitable result of the their own failure to provide robust evidence of its efficacy" Meanwhile, the charlatans' deceptions continue apace, in the private (criminal) sector, and especially in Switzerland, where European Homeopaths convene to conspire to undermine healthcare in Europe, for the sake of their own selfish, and murderous profiteering. I welcome the day when Homeopathy is widely seen as the fraudulent extortion that it really is. It's a test case - once the marketing of damp sugar as medicine can be seen as illegal, then the rest of the quackeries that endanger human health will surely follow.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IREnA) renewable energy capacity has grown worldwide, by a record-setting 8.3% across the year 2015. That figure is, of course, an average, with Asian and Meso-American regions experiencing >10% growth, and North American and European regions experiencing 6.3% and 5.2% respectively. I wonder how much of this is due to quashing by renewables-unfriendly governments, such as in the USA and UK.

According to an international collaboration of researchers, technetium carbide does not exist. At least, the material that's claimed to be technetium mono-carbide, isn't - it's an allotrope of plain technetium. According to this article, Tc10C (with 10 carbon atoms to every 1 technetium) Tc8C (with an 8:1 ratio) and Tc6C (with 6:1) can be synthesized, but the claimed TcC (with 1:1) can not, and so the discovery was always highly doubted. Transition metal carbides are usually hard and heat-resistant, which means they are an interesting area of study for anyone who foresees practical applications for materials with those properties.

Horse shit! That, apparently, is the whole case for establishing the true history of Hannibal. Not the guy in the film/book - i mean the Carthaginian Hannibal who conquered some Romans while crossing the Alps, ~2234 years ago. This 'research' has found animal dung in an Alpine valley, in which they found Clostridia microbes, from which they inferred horsey origins for the dung, from which they inferred large numbers of horses had been through the area, following which they inferred an army had been through the area, from which they inferred that it must have been Hannibal's army, and with which they concluded that they'd found the route Hannibal took through the Alps, more than two millennia ago. LOL. Sorry, but i won't be putting any money on that long string of inferences being resolute :-D

[stabs fingers into own eyes] Whenever i see superstitionists using science to spread their superstition, this is what i want to do. The Roman Catholic cult has set up a new office, for promoting the use of the .catholic domain name. This is essentially the same as the astrologers, in motive - they want people to know the difference between real bullshit and fake bullshit, because the fake bullshitters are giving the real bullshitters a bad reputation. Heaven forfend, the Lord above might lead people to an unofficial Christianismist website :-D

You know when people refer to something that's both dark and valuable as being 'black gold'? Well, all of those things (people inclusive, presumably) can be left by the verge of similes, because these guys have developed real black gold. It's gold, and it's black. Because of its nanoporous structure, it doesn't reflect eye-receivable light, so it looks black. Howzabout that then? #blackgoldmatters #elementsofcolor :-P

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

'Lab Equipment: Dean Stark Trap'

'Crank Files - Numberphile'

'SFN #158: Black Hole Telescope Goes Missing; Did Jupiter Have an Impact?; ALMA Images Nearby Disk'

'Tower of London 360 Video'

'Nerd³ Plays... Forestry 2017 - The Simulation'

'Image: The turbulent North Atlantic'

'Image: Tracking Tim's iceberg'

'Image: Opportunity spots Knudsen Ridge dust devil'

'Image: Alluvial fans in Saheki Crater, Mars'

'Image: Saturn askew'

'Defining Gravity (Wicked Parody feat. Dianna Cowern & Malinda Kathleen Reese) | A Capella Science'

'Product vs Packshot : Sirena Tuna & Rice | The Checkout'

'The Lease Of Our Worries | The Checkout'

'The Checkout - Season 4 Episode 1'

'The Checkout Stories - Gift Cards Unwrapped'

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

Word Of The Week: blighty -- meaning Britain; derives from colloquial Urdu 'bilayati' as a reference to foreign people visiting India, and becoming specific to European and/or British people, then the place Europe/Britain. The word became popular amongst British soldiers during WWI, to refer to their home country.

Expression Of The Week: 'tin lid' -- rhyming slang for 'kid', meaning a child; example of use: Greg's Kitchen :-D

Quote Of The Week: "Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out. But pompous fools-guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing people as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus - THAT, I CANNOT STAND! An ordinary fool isn't a faker; an honest fool is all right. But a dishonest fool is terrible!" - Richard P. Feynman

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

'Let's Play The Forest with friends | Part 06'
When mutants go rogue, they get strangely friendly :-D

'GAMING Monstrum'
22 episodes of horror. Watch if you dare :-D