Sunday, 24 July 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 18-24/7/16

Hi polyphenes,

Put your cynicism metre away. I'm going to try to break it, this week :-P

It never fails to astound me, the way people can be black then white then black then white, then red all over.

Take Rachel Dolezal, who grew up pale and pasty, but then decided to 'identify as' Black, and became the Head of a Black Supremacist organisation, full of Black people, who somehow didn't notice that she wasn't. Funny that.

Or take the mixed-ancestry eye-witnesses to the attempted murder of PO Darren Wilson, by Michael Brown, who had their race changed to 'Whitemotherfucker' by the local #racistlivesmatter kill-the-police brigade. They had their tone changed for them.

They're black, they're white, they're black, they're white, they're black, and they're white again. And then they're red all over. Either through blushing with embarrassment on coast-to-coast TV, or with the blood of the police officers they killed for being 'too white'.

People are perfectly happy to accept that mad Islamists are a threat to humanity, when they kill people for advancing their ideology, so why don't the same people accept it when a faux-liberal movement does it?

Usually because they're in it. It's the nature of the factionalist beast to deny painful associations when they're inconvenient.

This is how the greatest evils are done. Acts of harm are excused, to protect popular prejudices, which become more and more virulent, and so are given more and more power to cause the acts of harm that are given a perpetual condition of moral immunity.

Take this interview between two racists: a journalist and a 'social studies' researcher, for an example of popular prejudice excusal.

'The White Savior — racial inequality in film'

Somehow, they manage to take a genre predicated on White Guilt - the collective feeling of culpability for historical racist events, that motivates people to compensate with current actions - and replace it with White Pride where the evil Whites are portrayed as morally valid, and willing to do the right thing. Scandalous <s>

And why do they do this? "many whites now believe that they – not people of color – are the true victims of the racial order"

Well, pre-referendum, i did find myself banging my head against a white supremacist Brexiteer, but accepting other people's 'white' or 'black' labels is not the same as joining a movement. The reason these people do this, is to provide an excuse for their own professional victimhood, and their own truncated compassion for anyone who isn't 'one of them'.

How they might try to reconcile this with their 'women/blacks need role models' bullshit is beyond me. I'd like to see them try.

"Do the evil Whites need strong moral characters on film, to show them how to behave around Minorities™? Yes, so we're going to object whenever they get any. The scum"

And how do the Blackism apologists respond to this victimhood, when it's real, and not in fiction?

'Racism on Airbnb inspires new sites Innclusive and Noirbnb'

"Accusations that Airbnb has been ignoring complaints of racism have led several black entrepreneurs to create two new vacation rental websites... and"

Noirbnb. Blackbnb. Geddit? Oh the lulz <s>

Their apparent solution to racism, is segregation. Good on you 'black entrepreneurs' persuading people to apartheid themselves, to make the racism go away <s>

And then, of course, there's Ghostbusters.

'How MIT gave "Ghostbusters" its "geek cred"'

I have never used the expression 'greek cred' before, and i hope i won't have to, ever again. I mean really. Vomitbags on standby.

The whole problem with the movie, is the nauseating ethos through which it has been produced, that has poisoned the entire project, and has provided the motive for ridiculous pieces like these.

This ridiculous feminist chicklit propaganda movie, that should have died at the ideas table, is now being dressed up as a Maths documentary, because the propaganda machine behind it is desperately struggling for methods of damage control.

The con job, i expect, will continue until it goes to DVD...

In the annals of Sarkeesianesque pseudoscience, comes this beauty. Pun intended.

'Sexualizaton of female video game characters has diminished since the 1990s'

"They... assigned scores for 11 character variables that examined the sexualization of the character"

So the summation for this 'study' is:

A bunch of women subject fictional women to their 'beauty standards' and find that they don't push their buttons as well as they used to.

But is this a good or a bad thing?

"A positive relationship emerged between the sexualization of female characters and their physical capability"

So athletic women are perceived to be... sexy? Even by the women who run the study? Wow, that's a blockbuster finding. Stop the press! <s>

"Critical success of games was unrelated to sexualization"

Oh. So you're saying sex doesn't sell, after all? Damnit, we must let the world of advertising (and porn) know about your world-changing findings.

What a load of codswallop :-D


The 20th of July marked the 40th anniversary of the landing of the Viking I lander, on Mars. Researchers are still poring over the data that it sent back.

Some time this year marks the 25th nniversary of the creation of scientific paper depository arXiv. Today, arXiv is supported by a global collective of nearly 200 libraries in 24 countries, and an ongoing grant from the Simons Foundation

In other news:

Confirmation that alcohol (ethanol) causes at least 7 types of cancer, has arrived. And not in a pedantic 'everything causes cancer' sense. Alcohol consumption is responsible for a substantial proportion of mouth and throat, laryngeal, oesophageal, liver, bowel, and colon cancers. It's estimated to have caused 500,000 deaths in the UK, in 2012 alone, just through cancer - not including alcohol poisoning, accidents, etc.

Following on from last week's dinosaury extemporisation, we now have the idea that their mouths contributed to their downfall. Matching observations to modern birds' survival tactics, these researchers have hyopthesised that the extinction period, at the K-Pg era-boundary, would have favoured animals with beaks, that could make the most use of seeds, left ungerminated but edible by the severe climatic changes. In the modern world, birds make good use of their beaks, post-disaster, to do the same. So beakyness might have contributed to the difference in survival of avian and non-avian dinosaurs, in the K-Pg extinction.

Staying on the subject of birds, agricultural scientists have found that mosquitoes avoid chickens, using their smell as an indicator of unsuitability. Anopheles arabiensis, the most prevalent malaria-transmitting mosquito in Ethiopia, where three villages were involved in a study, shows a strong preference for mammals, and an aversion to chickens. The article says fewer mosquitoes were caught in traps next to chicken-accompliced beds, than in traps next to beds inhabited by humans alone. It doesn't, however, say whether the mosquitoes stay away completely, or avoid the traps but still feed on their nearby fleshy quarry. Spray-on mosquito-deterrents are purported to work in the same way as the chickens - they produce a smell that the mozzies don't like. Such sprays are not easily available in African regions, however, where malaria kills ~400,000 people per year.

Long before there were birds, there was Euparkeria capensis - a small cat-sized carnivorous reptile that lived around the region of modern South Africa, 245 million years ago. This Computerised Tomography scan of E. capensis' skull has found room for highly elongate cochleae, meaning it had a fairly good hearing range. And the lack of dampening would have increased sensitivity to airborne sounds, making its hearing superior to other primitive reptiles and waterborne creatures of the time. The researchers also found specialized regions for pressure relief, in the inner ear of Euparkeria capensis. The long, thin semi-circular canals of E. capensis would have been responsible for detecting head and body movements, and providing feedback for control of the muscles of the neck and the eye. These would have been very useful for hunting, suggesting E. capensis had an upright gait, and depended on active hunting. Euparkeria and their relatives were the ancestors of all modern birds and crocodiles, so its physiology provides a transitional form on the way to the evolution of the dextrous modern bird's ear.

Following the release of a 'trove' of documents relating to the Turkish state's power structure, by Wikileaks, the Turkish government, led by Erdogan, has blocked access to the Wikileaks website. The excuse appears to be that the website is one of many that threaten the State of Turkey, but it's much more likely that it actually exposes deep problems in the Erdogan government. Islamist authoritarianism is just the first on the list. Residents can, of course, use proxy servers to access the website.

In a narrow zone around Nairobi, in Kenya, a microbe is driving two sub-species of butterfly apart, accelerating their division into two separate species. The microbe's doing this by fusing a sex chromosome with another chromosome, in the developing larvae, so that the male offspring fail to develop. The unborn males are eaten by their hungry sisters, who have no-one to mate with, thereby truncating the hybrid population's ancestral line. Because the hybrids of the two sub-species can not reproduce, the only successful reproduction can occur within the two heterogenetic populations, forcing their heterogeneity upward. Inevitably, there will come a time when the two populations can not successfully maintain a hybrid population at all, and the populations that are now considered sub-species will be regarded as their own species.

Can humans really detect a single photon'sworth of energy? The authors of this study suggest 'yes' but i'm not so sure. They repeated a test, in which they'd used a complex apparatus to produce singular photons of a single visible wavelength, 30767 times, requesting human participants to identify the presence of a photon or the lack of a photon. Chance says a non-causative result would be ~50% and what was the claimed statistically significant result? 51.6% Even with 2,420 single-photon events accepted into the dataset, that's really not far from random chance. I think this is a case of seeing a pattern that the researchers want to be there, rather than a genuine finding. Maybe if there was a participant minority that were responsible for the difference, who were much better at spotting lone photons, and whose abilities were verified with a follow-up, then it could be said that were something to this. But i'm not convinced. The optic nerve tingles with activity, that you can see when you close your eyes in a dark room. How could anyone see a single photon of light, against that background noise of false imaging, created by the nervous system itself?

ESA's Venus Express satellite's observations of the Venusian topography and atmosphere have been used to get an idea of how weather systems work on the planet. Close to the surface, temperatures are incredibly high, light intensity very low, and wind speeds match walking speed. But there is a cloud layer at 50-70 km above the surface, where temperatures are much lower, light can get through, causing convection, and windspeeds are much higher - hundreds of times faster than at ground level, and faster than Venus rotates - a phenomenon called 'super rotation'. The Venutian atmosphere is very low in water content, due to the high temperatures evaporating it into outer space, but the water that is there has been monitored, and used to identify weather patterns around the 4500-metre-altitude mountain range Aphrodite Terra. Here, air rises up the sides of the mountain, producing a column of wetter air, rising like weather phenomena do on Earth, far above the mountain top, and eventually breaking and sloughing off to the sides, when it hits the faster air currents 50 km above the ground. As a result of this, topological features, on the surface of Venus, have a large influence on the weather patterns seen from outer space, tens of kilometres away from the ground.

Solar Impulse 2 is currently flying from Cairo to Abu Dhabi, as i write this. You can watch the (hopefully) last leg of their flight, live, by clicking on the link, if you're quick:

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

Word Of The Week: polyphenism -- where one species' morphology diverges into multiple forms, in order to adapt to circumstances - environmental, seasonal, or social cues. Tundra-borne animals often change colour to white, during the winter, for example. Pristionchus nematodes' offspring diverge into five forms: two that feed on microbes, and three larger ones that eat other worms, using bigger mouths, equipped with teeth. These differences are achieved without changes to their genes. The moth Nemoria arizonaria's caterpillars grow to mimic oak catkins if they hatch in Spring, and oak twigs if they hatch later

Etymology Of The Week: tarpaulin -- meaning a large sheet of strong, flexible, water-resistant material (often abbreviated to 'tarp') ~16th century; comes from 'tar' and 'paulin' (or 'pallin' or 'pall') with the latter meaning a large canvas for covering objects and/or holding them to the deck of a ship/barge/truck, and 'tar' referring to the naval process of spreading tar over such canvasses, to waterproof them and prevent them from degrading in the briney seaspray. Before modern oil-based materials, sailors would spread tar on pretty much everything - canvasses, clothes, ropes and rigging, and even their hair. This is where the term 'Jack Tar' for a sailor comes from, as they would always smell of it, a term dating to the 1670s

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

'How the Hyperloop can kill you!'

'Electric Boat | Fully Charged'

'Penney's Game - Numberphile'

'Keep your mixed drink cool'

'NASA image: Sunset at the Viking Lander 1 site'

'Image: Mars Express spies a nameless and ancient impact crater'

'Image: Not really starless at Saturn'

'Rebranding | Fully Charged'

'#PokemonLivesMatter : Feminism now too stupid to parody!'
I'm sure this isn't the first time feminism's become too stupid to parody :-D

'The Words of Dad³ - First Beer'

Monday, 18 July 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 11-17/7/16

Hi catchers,

As the great entertainer, Casanova, once said of fun-derived illnesses: "Gotta catch 'em all"

That (fictional) catchphrase was (not) plagiarised by Nintendo, to market Pokémon, 20 years ago. But now they're back :-P

'Pokémon GO Explained - Computerphile'

Pokémon GO is a game that encourages people to wander the real world, while hunting for fictional animals. The virtual locations are anchored to the real world by Satellite Navigation, so players have to actually go to places to catch the pokémon.

Basically, it's almost the same game that Nintendo first marketed two decades ago, but with more bemused strangers watching you play it. It's a game that's been met with mixed reviews, from gamers, god-botherers, Koreans, robbers, the police, museums, and even hospitals and road safety researchers.

"Each situation displayed an atmosphere of cooperation, whimsy and fun" - gamer

"I condemn this, I want it to be banned in Turkey" - the god-bothering head of the union for imams in Turkey, claiming that it insults Islam

"[don't] pounce on Pikachus or chase Charmanders at mosques, shopping centers, malls and oil installations" - paranoid god-botherers in Kuwait

"Local restaurants, hotels and businesses [in Sokcho] are trying to capitalize on the sudden craze by luring tourists with photos of Pikachu and other monsters in their backyard and promising free gifts" - South Koreans in the only city that's been mapped into the game, possibly by accident

"Lagos, with its seemingly suicidal motorcyclists, festering sewage and prowling thieves, doesn't appear to be the ideal place to go hunting virtual creatures. But some locals in the West African megacity think nothing of braving the chaos to catch them all" - good news for robbers

"whilst the Darwin Police Station may feature as a Pokestop, please be advised that you don't actually have to step inside in order to gain the pokeballs... Stay safe and catch 'em all!" - Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services

"I just don't think people should be playing a game where people remember people who suffered and were tortured and who died" - a visitor to the Holocaust Museum, in Washington, USA

"There is indeed a sick Pokemon at AMC, but we'll look after him well. Please don't visit him" - the Academic Medical Centre (AMC) in Amsterdam

"within just a few days Pokemon Go has shown the world how augmented reality works, providing us with a better language to explain our research" - someone at QUT who wants to use virtual reality to hone people's driving skills, to make it safer

Obviously, Pokémon GO is going to be a passing phenomenon, so can't be relied upon to get people fitter and healthier, in the long term. But the same can be said of the hazards: safety, trespassing, etc.

While it is popular, the problems with GO itself are largely derived from the design of the game. The algorithm, for example, picks places itself, which might be unwise places to go to.

And the other objections? Well, perpetrators of ideated superstition and paranoia have only themselves to blame.

According to the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, at the University of Birmingham, social media sites obstruct children's moral development... say parents.

'Social media sites obstruct children's moral development, say parents'

The first problem with this research, is that it is survey-based. Surveys only ever collect claims - they don't verify whether those claims are true.

For example, if a survey finds that 80% of people think they're above-average at something, that means 80% of people claim they're above-average at that thing. What the survey doesn't tell you, is how many genuinely are (although in this case it's numerically falsifiable) or what proportion of people are being sincere.

Asking parents what they think social media websites are doing to their children, is completely pointless, unless the study is of the parents, and not of the children/websites.

Was the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues studying the psychology of parents? No, it wasn't. "'The 'Parents and Media' project seeks to offer a more constructive outlook on how social media might impact on a person's character and moral values"

It was 'just reporting' (the typical excuse for crappy claim-making) what parents think is happening to their kids. And what is happening to their kids? Well, let's take a look at the claims:

"24% said forgiveness and self-control was least present, followed by honesty (21%), fairness (20%) and humility (18%)"

"60% of parents named anger and hostility as the most negative trait displayed, followed by arrogance (51%); ignorance (43%); bad judgment (41%); and hatred (36%)"

"72-per cent of respondents said they saw content with a positive moral message at least once a day. This figure is higher than the percentage of respondents who said they regularly saw negative moral messages, suggesting social media is not purely an environment for vice"

"The top five character strengths promoted at least once a month on social media sites were identified as; humour (52%); appreciation of beauty (51%); creativity (44%); love (39%); and courage (39%)"


"Anger, arrogance and hatred are among the top negative character traits... [and] the 'character strengths' promoted most regularly are humour, appreciation of beauty, creativity, love, courage and kindness"

So even though the parents reported more observations of niceness, than badness (to put it as vaguely as possible) the researcher, Blaire Morgan, still reported it as "social media sites obstruct children's moral development".

You might have noticed that this 'research' is completely vacuous. But what sort of an organisation would possibly promote this kind of fluff?

Well, judging by their website, the contributors are a bunch of cod philosophers, who're trying to work out how to be nice, without ever getting into an argument... which is completely impossible!

And who absorbs the vacuous cod philosophy? Well, according to their own Twitter feed, in chronological order: The Birmingham Post, ITV Education, a journalist who doesn't know whether he's awake, The Birmingham Mail, The Institue for the Study of Human Flourishing, and of course, the Daily Fail.

Judging by one of their YouTube videos, the methods they employ are what i'd expect - pseudo-psychological flim-flam. The kind that gets passed around at management courses, and pathologising-unemployment courses.

The trouble with them, is that the meanings of the nice-sounding terms, like 'kindness', 'self-discipline', and even 'virtue' and 'character' themselves, are left undefined. So the meanings that get presented to the presentees, are wholly down to the opinions of the presenter - the teacher.

On courses where you'd expect some kind of uniformity (what you'd expect, when there's a right answer) there is actually division. The definition of 'equality' for example, has been presented to me in three different ways, in my own first-person experiences alone: 'the right to be treated the same', 'the right to be treated the way i want to be', and maybe most strangely 'the right to be treated differently'.

This is what happens when you subjectivise a science, into nihilistic can't-we-all-get-along rhetoric. In reality, you can't teach right and wrong, without people who are wrong, whining that their wrongness is right, and your rightness is wrong.

It's exactly the kind of subjectivism that i'd expect to go along with 'meditation', 'mindfulness', and 'reflection'. And that's exactly what the Birmingham school, featured in the video linked above, does with its time. They start the day with 'mindfulness', and they end it with 'reflection'. They even study procrastination; presumably with the intent of becoming less good at it.

There is no evidence that any of this kind of thing achieves anything different to 'conventional' schooling.

That is always the crux of the matter - you're just poking around in the dark, if you don't do any genuine research. Asking ignorant parents for their valueless opinions achieves nothing. Testing pedagogical methods, on thousands of children, over a period of years, for the nuances in learning style and teaching effectiveness, is the only thing that can really inform teachers, school governors, and so on, as to how they can do their jobs better.

Science without politics is alright, but politics without science is often disastrous.

Here'a little light relief, from the world of pseudo-psychology:

'Negative stereotypes affect female soccer performance'

A study of 36 15-year-old girls has found that when they read about female athletic inferiority before exercising, they take slightly longer to dribble a ball along a course. Wowzers!

But strangely (/s) their 'flow' and 'worry' (psychological states equating to happiness) were not affected by reading about soccer, whether the literature were aspirational or not.

Who wants to put money on this result being unreplicatable? LOL. Complete bullcrap.


Today, the 17th of July, is the 76th anniversary of Tim Brooke-Taylor's birth. Probably best known for The Goodies, and ISIHAC, he also got a part as a researcher, in the original 1971 film 'Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory'

In other news:

The USAian FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has ruled that quack pyramid scheme company Herbalife must pay $200 million to customers to settle charges of unfair business practices. Strangely, Herbalife has not been prosecuted for being a pyramid scheme, which is generally acknowledged as a crime, nor for rank quackery - 'diet' snacks, food woo, and bullshit aesthetic insecurity products - which are not. What it has been prosecuted for, is a failure to track its sales in the USA, and a refusal to ensure that at least two-thirds of the rewards were based on retail sales. Herbalife has been under investigation by multiple bodies, since the 1980s!

From the annals of overenthusiasm, comes the story that censors in China have eliminated references to a beetle, named in dedication to the President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping. The reason for censorship in this case is not known, at least to me, but one extemporisation is that the idea of the President being associated with a 'stinkbug'. Rhyzodiastes xii is (relatively) closely related to bombardier beetles, but is not one, itself.

A study of the microclimates around solar panels has found that they make a subtle difference to their environment. Most noteably, they make a 5 degree difference in temperature, in the summer, underneath them. I think that phenomenon's technically known as 'being in the shade'. But this general phenomenon strikes me as a parallel to wind 'farms' that take kinetic energy out of the air, thereby slowing the wind. Solar 'farms' take thermal energy out of the air and ground, thereby cooling it down. With advancing climatic change, and many species struggling to keep up with the pace of change, solar farms could become hotspots of biodiversity - a kind of White Deer Park for species evicted by climatic changes, where they used to live.

Ducklings, it has been found, are intelligent enough (at least, in the first 15 minutes of life) to work with abstract concepts, specifically 'different' and 'same'. In the first 15 minutes of life, chicks are motivated to do a thing called 'imprinting' which means a strong emotional association, identifying something as a parent. Fascinatingly, chicks can be imprinted on pretty much anything. In this study, they were imprinted on two spheres, held right next to each other, and when later presented with two options for parents to follow, they picked the most-similar option. So when presented with two cubes, and a cube and a cuboid, they show preference for the two cubes, because the abstract notion of 'same' has been imprinted on them, and although the two cubes aren't spheres, they are still the same as each other. Interesting, eh? You can see a video, at the link:

Non-avian dinosaurs, it has been extemporised, might have communicated a lot more with closed mouths than is commonly projected in fiction. Closed-mouth vocalization, these researchers claim, has evolved at least 16 times, in archosaurs - that means dinosaurs, crocodiles, etc. When pigeons coo, they're engaging in closed-mouth vocalization. But it's more common in larger organisms - probably because it's relatively quiet, and deep - which means the larger dinosaurs would have been very able to evolve an ability to perform closed-mouth vocalizations for communication and sexual display.

According to the latest study of the K-Pg extinction - the one that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs - the Gulf of Mexico's oil reserves might have contributed to the effect size of the asteroid impact. It's been previously hypothesised that wildfires contributed to the soot in the geological layer left by the event, but the asteroid impact could also have released oil that had been forming under the Gulf's bedrock for more than a hundred million years. This would have burned too, contributing to the atmospheric pollution, and the pace of climatic change, that ultimately doomed 100% of non-avian dinosaurs, and 90% of mammals.

Rather shockingly, the Daily Fail has managed to report on a scientific subject, without getting it in the slightest bit wrong. The BMJ (British Medical Journal) has published a study of antibiotic prescription for RTIs (Respiratory Tract Infections) across the UK, demonstrating that the number of infections is unaffected by restricted antibiotic prescription. Over-prescription of antibiotics is a big problem in many regions of the world, where patients demand treatment for an RTI, that is usually viral - a Cold or the Flu. Antibiotics can't help with them, but can produce an environment in which antibiotic-resistant bacteria can evolve.

The Fail, Torygraph, and Beeb, however, have managed to misreport a study by researchers in New Zealand, incorrectly claiming that children who suck their thumbs and bite their nails have fewer allergies. The research did not in fact warrant these claims, as the results were patchy and inconsistent - certainly not good enough to be taken as clear evidence of allergy-suppression.

A report in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, part of the BMJ publishing group, provided an opportunity for the Beeb to compensate slightly, by reaffirming the conclusion that commercial supplements are more trouble than they're worth (read: overcharged for) and that only Folic acid and Vitamin D are advised for pregnant people. Folic acid is known to reduce the risks of birth defects, such as spina bifida, and vitamin D helps with the mother's and baby's bone and muscle health. The trouble with multivitamins, is on top of the general problem with single supplements - the doses are huge and/or ineffectual. Iron pills tend to contain massive overdoses, making it easy to take too much. And because multivitamins contain lots of different things, that should be consumed in different amounts, if you're getting the right dose of one, you're almost certainly getting too little/much of something else. It's far more practical just to eat a healthy, balanced diet, than it is to worry about carving the pills up, every morning!

The new EU deal with the USA is active. Motivated by Edward Snowden's 2013 release of data exposing the NSA's global surveillance, the European Court of Justice declared the old 'Safe Harbour' agreement invalid. That one was a statement that the EU and USA do things similarly, so they wouldn't bother to make specific legislation. The new legislation forbids USAian companies from porting surveilled data from the EU to the USA, unless they sign up to the new 'Privacy Shield' protection legislation. Critics have said that the new legislation is still too convenient for the USAian State and USAian companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft, that have stockpiled vast amounts of personal data about USA and non-USA citizens. Google, for a recent example, has been in hot water over its use of Deep Mind, hoarding millions of people's private medical records, while expecting people to treat their intents as philanthropic.

In an attempt to combat the air pollution problem in Mexico City, the Mexican government has pledged to fund the planting of 18 million trees, to reinforce the "green belt in the megalopolis". Efforts have been announced, to reduce the production of pollution too, with vehicle use restrictions, industrial activity restrictions, and replacing old driving stock with newer cars, buses and lorries.

Solar Impulse 2 has left Spain on Monday, on its way to Egypt, and landed in Cairo on Wednesday. It's next destination is going to be somewhere in the Middle-East, maybe Dubai.

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

Word Of The Week: diaphanous -- light, delicate, translucent, hazy; especially used to refer to the materials that underwear are made out of

Out-of-context Quote Of The Week: "I'm an avocado!" - GirlGamerGaB

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

'Why thermal cameras are AWESOME! (part 1)'

'Burning Iron in Liquid Oxygen - Periodic Table of Videos'

'Moon Meets Jupiter'

'Aurorae on Jupiter'

'NASA camera catches moon 'photobombing' Earth'

'Image: Cliffs of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko'

'Deepest ever look into Orion'

'Image: Sentinel-2A view of the Sundarbans in Bangladesh'

'SIX ENGINED Nuclear Airliner... BUSTED!'

'The Truth About Wasabi - Speaking of Chemistry'

'Rebecca Watson’s Dishonest Representation of Evolutionary Psychology'

'The Gun Industry's Killing in Killing'

'Cats Theresa May and the Human Rights Act'

'Killing matadors isn’t cruel it’s part of our culture, claim Spanish bulls'

'British humans enjoying final day of having rights'

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 3-10/7/16

Hi moneywasters,

Series 65 of ISIHAC is here! And the electric kazoos are amazing :-D

'I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue - Series 65'

'Man forced to close computer repair business to escape wireless technology that's 'making him ill''

Objection: there's no such thing as electrosensitivity - the symptoms are entirely down to stress.

"his symptoms began in 2013 when he moved into a dual shop and house premises"

People who claim that they're sensitive to electricity and/or electromagnetic radiation are incapable of distinguishing between exposure and non-exposure. Their symptoms vary with the amount of stress they are experiencing at the time.

'Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: Real or Imagined?'

This is not the only example of a superstition that blames 'the unknown' for stress. Sick Building Syndrome, for example, was believed in by many people, for a long time, and some of them probably still do.

All of the symptoms that are associated with these non-existent conditions: skin sensitivity, blemishing, light sensitivity, fatigue, high blood pressure, headaches, joint pain, gastro-intestinal complaints, and dizziness, are all caused by stress.

So people like the man in the article, who're living and working in a 'sick building' are blaming the building, or the electricity, for the symptoms that are caused by: an emotional association with the stress of the location; or the intense stress they always experience while they're there.

Ironically, the superstitious beliefs that leads to blaming buildings, and utilities, can lead to greater paranoia, and hence more stress, worsening their stress-condition.

"Since October, he has lived in a van fitted with aluminium lining to block out radiation signals"

'Villagers baffled after coach loads of tourists keep visiting unremarkable residential street'

To be honest, if i went to Japan, i'd be fascinated by the idiosyncratic architecture, and you probably would be too, wherever you went. So why wouldn't they be fascinated by suburban semis? :-D

According to the Bristol BioEnergy Centre, at the University of the West of England (consistently one of the worst ranked in the country) they've developed a self-illuminating toilet. And a cure for poverty. Kind of.

'Public urinal generates electricity from urine'

They claim the fuel is urine, and the product is electricity, which can be used to help sanitise poor neighbourhoods in countries where electricity is hard to come by, while making toilets safer places to be. Crime is known to be lower in well-illuminated places, as people feel more self-conscious.

But can this really work, or is it fakery? Well, the limit of thermodynamics is that you can't get more energy out than there is available. You can only get more energy out of a candle than you put in, while lighting the match, because the fat of the candlewax is a chemical energy store.

So how much energy can you get from urine, without a huge processing centre? I just don't know. But if you leave urine to decompose, it gets slightly warm. So there can't be much in there, to extract.

But i do know that that question's not actually germaine to the greer, because according to the claims, processing is necessary to turn the urine into a fuel. The article describes the use of an MFC (microbial fuel cell) to convert the urine into something else, thereby releasing protons. That'll be ionised hydrogen gas, then.

Unfortunately, this is going to take more energy than you'll ever get back just by letting urine decompose on its own. No matter how much hydrogen you get out.

What we're contemplating here, thermodynamically, reducing it to its physical essence, is the idea of burning urine.

Urine's quite wet. That won't work.

Adding the numbers of joules will find that it takes more energy to extract the hydrogen, than can be got back by burning it.

As it happens, this urine-into-electricity machine is not new - it's been around since at least 2010, at the same Bristol BioEnergy Centre.

The researchers responsible have apparently tried to circumnavigate thermodynamics, by swapping the electricity-powered hydrogen-extracting fuel cell, for the bacteria-powered hydrogen-extracting MFC in its current incarnation.

Perfect! Except it takes even more energy to feed and house the bacteria, in the peculiar conditions they require, than to keep the previous electronic device working. On top of the increased electrical costs of making electricity (duh!) this adds the problem of where the 'third world' people are going to get the apparatus, fertilizer, etc, from, to keep the bacterial population alive.

According to Jason Mick, at Daily Tech, it would take "something on the order of two thousand times [the bacteria's power output] to continuously circulate its [life-support] media"

This whole story of a urine-powered generator might feel familiar to you, as it was the subject of a pop-pseudoscience sensation story, in 2012 (that goes around and around and around, and is still going) about four 14-year-old girls in Lagos, to whom the Maker Faire attributed its invention.

If you follow the link above, or here, and scroll down, you'll see their apparatus, and what looks to me, like the makings of a perpetual motion machine - the generator feeds the cell, which feeds the generator, which feeds the cell,
which feeds the generator, which feeds the cell, etc.

It can't work.

It might also feel familiar to you, because of the claims about hydrogen fuel. It's a staple of perpetual-motion barmpottery, to claim the extraction of hydrogen from something, as if hydrogen is an energetic panacea.

It is not.

If that hydrogen comes from water, then you still need a power station, separating the hydrogen from the oxygen; and if that hydrogen comes from fossil gas, then your car is still powered by fossil fuels!

I confidently predict that this urine-powered electricity generator is going nowhere.

It's one thing to claim that you have a sanitation device that can make human waste safe, with very little energy input, but it's another thing to claim that you can force the decomposition of urine and get energy out.

P.S. The University of Bath seems to be cashing in on the bullshit too. And look at the picture - more women. Why don't more women go into science? Hear, hear! Pseudoscience might be designed to look like it's genuine, but it is not science.


The 5th of July marked the 20th anniversary of Dolly the Sheep's birth, at the Roslin Institute, Scotland, becoming the first mammal to be artificially bred using a cloned adult cell.

The 4th of July marked the 4th anniversary of the discovery of the Higgs Boson, by CERN, using the LHC. Recently, upgrades have enabled it to achieve record luminosity, record numbers of bunches and a record beam lifespan. Recent experiments take data from so many trillions of collisions, that the ultimate intent of the designers of the LHC has now been met, and the capacity is expected to more than double by the end of the year!

In other news:

One of the LHC's recent achievements, has been the Beauty (LHCb) experiment's confirmation of the existence of the tetraquark known as X(4140), and the discovery of three other, heavier tetraquarks - X(4274), X(4500) and X(4700). Most matter is made of atoms, which are made of electrons, and nucleons - protons and neutrons. Nucleons are made of three quarks, but these X-particles are made of four quarks (hence 'tetra-') making them dissimilar to any familiar material. Last summer, physicists discovered two pentaquarks, made of five quarks each.

If you'd like to help find siblings of the Higgs boson, then you can join HiggsHunters, searching through thousands of images from the ATLAS experiment, for characteristic traces of the particles, in the images. There are also various LHC@home projects that you can leave to run in the background, on your computer, increasing the amount of data that can be crunched, by collaboration.

According to an analysis of data relating to EU members (as of 2014) by the Health and Environment Alliance, the WWF, Climate Action Network Europe and Sandbag, the air pollution produced by the coal industry is responsible for 22,900 deaths per year, 12,000 new cases of chronic bronchitis per year, and more than half-a-million asthma attacks in children per year. The economic cost of these 257 coal-powered plants is estimated at 32-62 billion euros. The vast bulk of the blame is laid at the microparticles emitted after coal combustion, with the NGO attributing 83% of deaths to their inhalation. Other studies have attributed 100,000s of deaths around the world to fossil fuel pollution, whether that be coal particulates, or from the combustion of diesel, which is a big but falling problem in places like India, as solar panels become cheaper and cheaper.

If you've got $100 million, you could spend it on a hospital, or a research institute, or something else that's genuinely valuable. Or, you could spend it on a mythology-based theme park, complete with dinosaurs in cages, and tell everyone that it's a 'museum'. This is the same Ark project that Ken Ham was raising funds for, when he declared that he wanted to debate Bill Nye, and eventually did, two years ago. Yes, it really was that long ago. In a way, it's the height of pseudoscience - to be so committed to a superstition, that you'll waste $100 million constructing a fake museum, just to make your crazy bullshit look like it should have a place in a proper museum. Well, maybe it should - as an ancient artefact of a brutal, barbaric past. But it certainly shouldn't be presented as the truth, on the notices, and described as such in the headset audio tours!

The Fail and Grauniad have both gone SJW, again, with a genderist fictionist pseudoscience 'study' claiming that Disney princesses like Elsa in Frozen, are causing 'body esteem' problems. And what was the study? Well, it was a survey (that's a bad start) of the mothers (that's a terrible continuation) of children, that found that the children that play with Frozen dolls more, are more likely to exhibit 'genderist' behaviour, for example, playing with Frozen dolls. And that's the catastrophic conclusion. Girls that play with Frozen dolls are more likely to play with Frozen dolls. So what morons do we have to thank for this waste of money? The Women's Research Initiative, at Brigham Young University. What a massive surprise <s>

From bullshit dressed up as science, to the bloody obvious. According to the Beeb and Fail, consumption of sugar solution causes rotten teeth. That's right, 'sports drinks' rot your teeth. Maybe it's all the sugar that's in them. Unfortunately, this kind of study seems necessary, in a world where the vast majority of recipients (90%) primarily drink them for the 'nice taste'. They aren't even thinking about the pain of caries. But then, since when have adolescents had a deep and insightful care for the murky, distant future? :-P

And on to the bloody adolescent. In adults. In a classic case of newspapers publishing whatever gets them sales, instead of acknowledging personal responsibility, the Fail, Torygraph, Grauniad, and Old Times, have all blamed 'controversy' amongst scientists for killing thousands of people - through scaring them over the safety of statins. Only the Mirror had the integrity to refer to it as a 'press controversy' which is what it really was. The 'papers seized on a rumour that statins were dangerous, and put that rumour in their headlines. Consequently, statin prescription fell (presumably because patients opted out) and deaths rose. Now, the same 'papers are getting high, by pointing out the farago that they produced themselves, by spreading the rumours in the first place. Scumbags.

And finally, the bloody stupid. The Daily Fail, Torygraph, and Old Times' have set themselves apart, in my eyes, for claiming that maternal paracetamol consumption increases a child's chance of being autistic or ADHD, even when the original study showed no such thing. Mental conditions are popular subjects for the Rumour Mill, because they're so poorly understood. It's much easier to bullshit, and be respected, when the bullshittees are unable to recognise the smell.  Once again: sure, paracetamol's not harmless and inert, but it's a better option than the patented alternatives that various parties keep neglecting to slag off, when they have a pop at paracetamol. This February, it was asthma that paracetamol was accused of causing. The trouble is, it's cheaper and simpler to do a study on something that's patent-free, so a measurement bias can result from scrutinising one thing's flaws more deeply than another's. An analogy would be comparing two people's beauty by an SD picture of one, and an HD picture of the other. The person who's seen in HD, will be seen with all their wrinkles and blemishes, whereas the SD image will resolve none of these finer features. The closer you look, the more you see - it's important to maintain a sense of scale.

But here's one of the worst kinds of study you can possibly get - a bullshit telephone survey, 'proving' that religion is a 'cure' for sexuality. It tracked 3290 teenagers and their parents asking them for the details of their pornography consumption, as they aged over the 6 years of the study. The researchers claim that it shows that religion "can shape the behavior of young adolescents in a positive way" by dissuading them from enjoying carnal entertainment. But if there's one thing that we know about superstition, and religion specifically, it's the ability to compel people to lie. Religion-drenched cultures are notorious for their 'virgin births' where women insist that "no i never, no, never!" despite the recently born babe in their arms, and the placenta lying on the floor, like a beached squid. Telephone surveys are notorious for embracing deception. This can only be made worse by the kids knowing that their parents were being surveyed too! "Oh no, my Toby would never do something like that. Would you, Toby" "No, mother" Bullshit :-D

Staying on the 'phones, 6 former execs of French telecommunications company Orange, are to be tried for corporate harrassment, that resulted in the deaths of 19 employees by suicide, and further harm by depression, to 20 other staff. The case pertains to a period from 2006-8, after Orange (known at the time as French Telecom) had been privatised, and was trying to 'reduce labour costs'. Their method of doing so, was to "get them [employees] out one way or another, through the window or the door" in the words of former Chief Executive of the company Didier Lombard. In France, employee-protection law essentially makes a job into a job-for-life, which clashes rather dramatically with the sociopathic culture of people who see employees principally as 'labour costs'. His crass witticism, referring to the cases as a "fashion for suicide" resulted in his resignation... two years later.

If there's one thing that's fascinating, in the animal world, it's penises. No i'm not still talking about execs. Really, i've done that joke before - it can't still be funny [sniggers] I'm talking about insect penises, that are often more diverse than the morphologies of the bodies they're attached too. In one species, the thistle tortoise beetle, the males' penises are as long as the animal itself - 10mm long, and 10 micrometres wide - thinner than a human hair. It's evolved to be this long, in tandem with the female's vaginal tract, that coils like a landline telephone cable. In order to penetrate as far as the spermatheca, where the female stores the males' sperm, the species has evolved a penis that is variably stiff - it's very stiff near the base, and increasingly soft, toward the tip, in order to facilitate quick and effective penetration. The biologists at Kiel University, who discovered this, speculate that the females favour males with the athleticism to penetrate them quickly, and so have evolved a penile assault course - a challenge to which males have had to 'rise'. Even so, the thistle tortoise beetle's lovemaking sessions can still carry on for several hours, with an average time of 40 minutes! Then again, how long would it take you to finish, while a load of researchers were staring at you :-D

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

Word Of The Week: quark -- an elementary particle and a fundamental constituent of matter. Quarks combine to form composite particles called hadrons, the most stable of which are protons and neutrons, the components of atomic nuclei. There are six types of quarks, known as flavours: up, down, strange, charm, top, and bottom.

Fact Of The Week: The Mark 14 torpedo was the standard torpedo in use by the USAian navy, from 1931-1980, despite its horrendous performance specs. It became notorious for detonating early, and for veering downward, away from the target. One week in December 1941, Commander Tyrell D. Jacobs of the submarine Sargo, fired 13 of the Mark 14 torpedo at 5 different vessels, the last of which being a huge slow-moving tanker. All 13 torpedoes missed, despite attempts to correct for their chronic deviation. Lieutenant Commander John A. Scott in Tunny, in 1943, fired all ten tubes at three Japanese aircraft carriers, sinking none, and damaging only one. 7 of the torps had run true, but all of them detonated early. The Mark 14 torpedo was also known to desist from exploding altogether, with some lodging inside the enemy ship's hull and just sitting there. Possibly most risibly, the Mark 14 had a track record (no pun intended) of deviating to the side, resulting in a circular course. This meant that it could complete a full circle, and strike the sub that launched it. In fact, this flaw sank at least one submarine, including the Tullibee, and almost sank the Sargo, while under Jacobs' successor - Commander Richard V. Gregory. How did the Mark 14 experience any success? Because the economic might of the USA meant that it could be manufactured in vast quantities, increasing the chances that one of a spray of torps might hit an enemy :-D

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

'Juno @ Jupiter!; Solving the Quasar Seed Problem; Hitomi's Dying Breath Captures Awesome | SFN #170'

'Juno mission scientists discuss Jupiter's mysteries'

'Fried Chicken (That Takes 1 Month to Make)'

'Top Gear | Fully Charged'

'Electroflight | Fully Charged'

'Video: Rosetta's second year at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko'

'Image: Netherlands imaged by Proba-V'

'Image: Sentinel-2A captures Malaspina Glacier'

'Image: Spelunking astronauts train for teamwork'

'Dad³ Vlogs! - Smooth Spanish Guitar'

'In God We Trust?' - America's Best Christian

'The world's worst border' - Britain's Best Map Men

'Where is the north/south divide?'

'"TODAY ON THE INTERNET" Tales Of Mere Existence'

'Fuck, Marry, Kill: The Game Show (NSFW) - {The Kloons}'

Monday, 4 July 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 27/6 - 3/7/16

Hi rabbiteers,

Disappointing news, coming to me through adverts on YouTube:

'Cosmetic Science - A New Course Coming 2016'

Yet another waste of resources, effort, and people's lives, taking an undeserved spot at a university.

The thing that annoys me the most about the (subject of the) aesthetic insecurity industry ('cosmetics' industry) is its equivocation with animal experimentation. There's a big difference between medical research involving mice, and simply squirting shampoo in rabbits' eyes, which has no benefit whatsoever, other than to abuse people through their vanity.

The University of Sunderland is definitely not alone in hosting bullshit courses, that are a total waste of resources, funding, and decades of people's lives - homeopathy, theology, gender studies, etc, all exist to do the same.

They contain no valuable content and/or utility. At least, not beyond feeding poor suckers into industries that should really spend their own money on training their own staff!

Public funding should be spent on works that are of public benefit. And i'm nowhere near alone in thinking that. In parallel, academics (scientists, at least) campaign to release research papers that are publicly funded, on the grounds that they paid for them, so the public should see the rewards of their expense.

I think that if public money is being spent on training people up to work for the aesthetic insecurity industry, then the public should be receiving reparations from the aesthetic insecurity industry, for having trained their staff up for them.

I am nowhere near the first person to think of this. I remember reading a letter to New Scientist suggesting public-to-private transfer fees, a few years ago. When i searched the website, i found an article dating to 25 years ago, suggesting the same idea!

Either the taxpayer is issued due repayment for all the money spent on training people, or the private sector trains its own staff.

It's not like a huge national shortfall of vanity researchers is threatening the survival of the species. Many of the courses provided by universities and colleges are unfundable any other way, but are still socially beneficial, or based on an economic need for which private funding is lacking.

But the aesthetic insecurity industry is not one of them.

The so-called 'beauty' industry is swimming in money. It's swimming in money extorted through cut-price emollients, marketed at top-shelf prices.


'Use Cream That's Cheaper'

P.S. It's not even moisturiser. It must be a matter of deference to habit, because what they're really selling you are oils. Not moisture.

Splashing water on your face will make 'dry' skin worse, not better. But the same industry loves to market 'healthy oils' for your hair, so why not for your skin? Because they and their market are in the habit of calling them 'moisturisers'.

Having realised this, every time i hear/read an advert saying how to 'hydrate your skin' i scream quietly, inside. Water is a polar molecule; oils are non-polar. They do not go together, unless combined in an emulsion. The term 'moisturiser' is marketing nonsense.

On the subject of industrial 'wellness' deception, Nestle's recently announced that its new CEO's past has been in 'health care'.

'Nestle taps new CEO with health care industry background'

According to their press release, the customer-obesity-bloated business is seeking "to evolve into a nutrition, health and wellness business".

Well that sounds dandy doesn't it - a business historically predicated on chocolate, ice-cream, and pre-made foods, that are notorious for being overloaded with fat/sugar, and being high in salt, wants to con people into thinking that it's got their best interests at heart.

Nestle, by the way, is responsible for perpetrating the 'Nestle Institute of Health Sciences' which is responsible for various egregious press releases, reiterated as 'news' by inept media organisations. For example, last week's declaration that we should 'eat breakfast like a king'.

Nestle claims that it researches and develops "nutritional solutions for the maintenance of health". Which is a typical scoundrel's cover for deception. But that's why it's called pseudoscience - it's bullshit dressed up to look like science.

Creationists do the same, with their 'bible universities'. And the quacks do the same with their 'colleges'.

Same tactics, different bullshit.

P.S. One of the most flagrant scams perpetrated by companies like Nestle, has to be their bottled water. A bottle of water, that costs a penny to manufacture, is sold for thousands of times its production cost, just because they can. Scumbags.

More on the subject of scumbags...

'Nobel winners slam Greenpeace on GMO crops'

"Opposition based on emotion and dogma contradicted by data must be stopped."

Hear, hear; all you 108 nobel laureates. Unsurprisingly, Greenpeace's response to this has been: denial, deception, and damage control.

Greenpeace's zealous technophobia has seriously compromised its support amongst the scientific quasi-community.

If Greenpeace has to be pushed to breaking point, then sobeit - it's not a viable 'green' organisation as it is. If it has to be broken down and rebuilt, then that's just the way it's got to be.

'Greenpeace Will Be Remembered in History as Monsters - TLoNs Podcast #067'

So Tesla has had its first fatality, associated with its road-driven electric cars. Specifically, with its road-driven, self-driving, electric cars.

And boy, has technophobia been making hay for journalists, in the aftermath:

'Fatal Telsa crash shows limits of self-driving technology'
"The crash raises questions about autonomous and semi-autonomous cars, their capabilities and their limits"

"By the time firefighters arrived, the wreckage of the Tesla—with its roof sheared off completely—was hundreds of feet from the crash site where it had come to rest in a nearby yard"

"It could be a wakeup call for the self-driving car movement... it was a nightmare scenario for an industry promoting a way to improve road safety and reduce traffic fatalities"

And rather conciliatorily:

"He had the need for speed" said a friend "Kind of a daredevil, loved the excitement"

"His driving record, obtained by The Associated Press, showed he had eight speeding tickets in a six-year span. The most recent ticket, in 2015, was for driving 64 mph in a 35 mph zone"

So it could be true to say that the crash, which occurred in light that obscured the tractor trailer (it being white) which the driver hit, while with the car's autopilot on, might have been the fault of the driver, and not the autopilot.

According to Tesla, this is the first death, under the autopilot's guidance, after 130 million miles of driving.

And that's really where the important point lies. Assisting and self-driving cars only have to produce mortality and morbidity statistics better than humans. Legal paperwork will catch up - it always does - but more than 1500 people die due to traffic in the UK, every year, and more than 30000 die due to traffic in the USA, every year.

One of the motives for the development of self-driving cars, is to cut out human error, which is apparently responsible for ~90% of road traffic morbidities in the USA.

Contrast that recent singular incident, regarding Tesla's autopilot, to this recent report regarding Fiat Chrysler's gearshift:

'Fiat Chrysler gearshift probe finds 266 crashes, 68 injuries'

Fiat Chrysler has agreed to recall 1.1 million vehicles, to prevent further deaths, after actor Anton Yelchin (modern Star Trek) became a famous casualty. He died a few weeks ago.

And what's the commonality with all 266 incidents? The drivers had difficulty driving the car, because the gearshift was confusing them. Sure, the company shares blame for poor vehicle design, but human frailty is the principle problem with >1 tonne vehicles on public highways.

In other news:

Researchers have developed a material that mimics the physical responses of the leaves of the mimosa plant. The mimosa's leaves fold up, when touched. Their artificial material works by being made of layers of hydrophilic and hydrophobic materials, on a backbone of polyvinylchloride microfibres. As you can see in the embedded videos, moisture causes the layered material to distort, as the hydrophilic layers attract the moisture, and the hydrophobic layers repel the moisture. The result is that the material folds toward the moisture, like the mimosa's leaves, when touched.

An international collaboration of biologists has found that nicotine-producing plants like tobacco are not just protected from insects, through the neurotoxic poison. They've found that there is strong sexual selection for the Coyote tobacco plant (Nicotiana attenuata) to produce nicotine, in order to repel mammalian herbivores, that prevent them from flowering and reproducing, by stripping their stems - a threat not substantially presented by insects. The researchers found that rabbits especially, in their study, favour plants that are jasmonate deficient. Jasmonates are a variety of chemicals that are involved in growth, photosynthesis, and reproductive development. So it seems likely that jasmonates are necessary to produce the nicotine, that poisons herbivores, to put them off eating the plant.

Ants have been reported, for the first time, forming chains to heave prey away, back to their nest. Ants of the Leptogenys genus, in Phnom Kulen National Park, Cambodia, have been seen to hold on, with their mouths, to the ant in front, forming a long line, with the ant at the fore of the chain clinging to the antennae of a millipede. By holding to each other, and walking backwards, they can achieve greater traction than by trying to grab the millipede directly. Other genuses - weaver and army ants - have formed chains to sew nests and cross waters respectively, but
Leptogenys are the first to do so in hunting.

An international collaboration of physicists has found a new quantum state within a superconducting material. It is characterised by lacking rotational symmetry, which means that when the material is rotated inside a magnetic field, its conductance changes. This is weird. As can be seen in the diagram, resistance was higher, the stronger the magnetic field that the material, bismuth selenide, was subjected to, but was always zero between 289 and 347 degrees orientation. Bismuth selenide, when doped with strontium, as in the experiment, has a layered structure, like an onion. The top layer is a superconductor in cold temperatures, so resistance is usually about zero. The powerful magnetic field was used to suppress its superconducting nature. The researchers hypothesise that Cooper pairs - where pairs of electrons couple up, in superconducting materials, might have something to do with the material's strangely variable resistance, revealing properties of bismuth selenide under those conditions.

Paleontologists have reported the first discovery of amber-preserved avian fossils from the Mesozoic era. The two enantiornithin specimens are preserved with feathers, and colour pigments, revealing them to be pale and dotted on top, and having darker browns on other parts. Tomography also shows evidence of scratching insude the amber - evidence of the centimetre-scale birds' attempts to break free of it. The enantiornithines went extinct in the K-Pg extinction, 66 million years ago, along with the non-avian dinosaurs, but their fossils have shown that they had the same basic feather arrangement as extant birds, so despite their different shoulder morphology, they would probably have flown in a basically similar way.

ESA has announced that Rosetta's mission will end on the 30th September when, after a period of reducing orbits, it will be crash landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, maybe right next to the lander Philae. Rosetta isn't expected to maintain power until 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comes back within range of the Sun, in 6.5 years, so the opportunity is being taken to get better and better images of the comet, on its slow descent over 6 weeks, before the "final, parting kiss" as CNES (France's space agency) president Jean-Yves Le Gall has said.

An international collaboration of zoologists have conducted a two year study, tracking frigate birds, using extremely lightweight transmitters that are capable of monitoring GPS positioning, altitude, heart rate and acceleration in any direction. Using the data, they found that the birds were staying aloft for up to two months at a time. They were also able to find that they were using updrafts to stay up, and swooping close to the sea to catch fish that had ascended to escape predators from below. By utilising air currents, the birds could travel 250 miles in a day, and use the updraughts under cumulus clouds to rise 1600 metres, at 5 metres per second, into cold thin air, where they could glide down on their way to the next updraught. Frigates have to be this good at gliding, assisted by having the lowest body weight proportional to wing-area of any bird, because their wings are not waterproof. This means that in the regions they live - around the Pacific and Indian Oceans - they have very few places to land. The researchers hypothesise that frigate birds might take sleep breaks while they're rising into the clouds, before they have to regain control for their descents.

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

'ScienceCasts: Monitoring Air Quality'

'Did the Food Babe Mislead Her Followers About Yellow Dye No 5 and 6?'

'Wind Waves'

'Tetrafluoroethane and Water'

'Image: Sentinel-2A captures Mount St Helen's'

'Image: Hubble hotbed of vigorous star formation'

'Spectacular VLT images of Jupiter days before the arrival of Juno'

'Jupiter's Clouds from New Horizons'

'Hubble captures vivid auroras in Jupiter's atmosphere'

'Exploring Jupiter's Magnetic Field'

'Unexpected God'

'Amazing Miniature Bear!'

'7 billion'

'The Chaser's Election Desk (2016) Episode 4'

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

Word Of The Week: vivisection -- from latin 'vivus' meaning 'alive' and 'sectio' meaning 'cutting'; meaning surgery conducted for experimental purposes on a living organism, typically animals with a central nervous system, to view living internal structure; often used a pejorative term for any experimentation involving animals

Amathematical Quote Of The Week: "The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side. Oh joy, rapture, i've got a brain!" - the scarecrow in The Wizard Of Oz

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

'Te están robando' (You are stealing)

'Math in the Simpsons: Homer's theorem'

'Homer's last theorem | Simon Singh | TEDxSalford'