Monday, 29 May 2017

Entertainment stuff from the period 12/12/16 - 28/7/17

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday Tapejara, happy birthday to me...

This blog is now five years old (plus one day, at time of publication) so i suppose now's as good a time as any to break the silence, and throw some stuff onto the internet.

Last time i posted a new article to this blog, i'd missed three months. This time, it's five. So maybe i'll see you again in December? LOL. BTW, yes, i'm using the same excuse. And maybe one day you'll get to find out what i've been doing with the time.

Anyway, here's a collection of some of the things that have happened - some serious, some asinine - if you're familiar with the blog, you'll know what to expect. Let's get cracking...

Three months ago, my headlines were that a certain person-of-color was leading their way-hey-hey in the USA, and well, they're still doing that; with even more lead in their pencil water than before;

There was also a certain internet-based video-hosting company that seemed determined to shoot itself repeatedly in its own feet, and well, they're still doing that;

And there was also a prize ceremony for research that makes you laugh and then makes you think. Well, presumably they're doing that as well; we'll find out at the end of the year :D

'YouTube is asking me how accurate their record keeping is? 0.o'

Now, should i start with the downers or the uppers? Hmmm...

OK, i'll mix it up.

'Why Red Crosses Aren't Allowed In Video Games' - Censored Gaming

The red cross, contrary to many people's belief, is not a symbol of medicine. Did you know that?

It's not a symbol of medicine at all. In fact, i'll go as far as to say that you won't find a genuine hospital or ambulance or paramedic worker in the entire world, that is legitimately branded with the red square-sided four-fold-rotational-symmetry cross.

Why? Because all legitimate medical organisations will care that the legal protection of the red cross symbol is upheld, for the sake of those who might be aided by it, in military or otherwise politically dangerous situations.

The red cross is in fact a symbol of humanitarian aid - not just a symbol of medical aid. When a military field ambulance, for example, is painted with a red cross on a white background, that doesn't mean it's a medical ambulance, it means it's a politically neutral vehicle, on a politically neutral mission, to provide humanitarian aid.

The red cross, and respect for the red cross, is intended to ensure the neutrality of, and safety of, people who are trying to save others in conflict zones, and other socially precarious locations.

And so you will not find it on any hospital ambulance near you. If you're unfortunate enough to meet a paramed at work, you will not see it on them either.

They will probably have a six-pointed blue star on them, and their kit might be green, with a white cross on it - that is the design of First Aid* kits - but you will not see a red cross on a white background.

It's a canard. Red crosses are nothing to do with medicine, and everything to do with factionalistic neutrality. White crosses are the symbols of medicine.

If you're finding this confusing, and slightly overwhelming (you probably still associate the red cross with medicine, even though you've read this far) spare a thought for certain members of the armed forces, who see and drive vehicles that are called 'ambulances' and have the red cross on their sides, front and rear.

They can easily be more confused than you, because they drive a vehicle emblazoned with a symbol that they always thought meant 'medicine' but actually doesn't.

It's a bit like when people put furry dice on the rear view mirror, in their first car. If you always see furry dice in people's new cars, you might think it symbolises the driver's success at passing their driving test.

Then what on Sagan's pale blue dot does the red 'P' on the back mean? And what does it mean... if the red 'P' isn't there? Do the furry dice mean it, instead?

Confusion reigns.

So remember: red cross means neutrality. White cross means medicine.

But what does any of this really have to do with gaming? Well, it's fiction in general really. Films, and TV, and comics, are just as guilty of getting it wrong.

But fiction doesn't really change anything. And i don't think that it does. I'm no Mary 'Feminist' Whitehouse, after all. So why do red crosses that are erroneously presented in computer games, or any fictive content, really matter?

Well, they don't. But the fact that people thought it was a good idea to put them there, does. You can't hurt people in real life, by hurting a non-existent person in fiction, but if you put something in your film/game because you believed it was true, then you might act alike in a non-creative context.

In 'real life'.

In other words, the International Committee of the Red Cross suing gaming developers for misusing red crosses, doesn't have genuine utility because 'video games impose notions of normalcy' but because discouraging the devs from misusing the red cross means real people in the real world have learned a lesson - the devs, not the gamers.

Plus, if a YouTube channel dedicated to censorship publicises the debacle, then many thousands, even millions, of people might find out that the red cross has been misused again and again and again and again....

And then they might stop doing it themselves.

So maybe it is a good idea that the Red Cross sues fiction creators for misusing the red cross - not to influence the real world via fiction, but to influence the real world through the real people who make it.

Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it, all you anti-censorship whiners in the above-linked video's comments section :-P

*People commonly misremember what a First Aid kit looks like. The background colour is green, and the cross is white. The cross is always white. Only shonky suppliers will have them the wrong way around.

Here's a downer: How bad can one person's year be?

Falsely accused of rape, falsely accused of murder, and consequently a year without employment - a year without income.

'2016 - CJ de Mooi'

This is an awful but brilliant example, of the horrendous consequences of what happens when people think they can impose justice without evidence.

Even the idea that holding someone in a cell could be a better option than spending £4 to find out whether the claim was true, is shockingly stupid!

But CJ's by far the only one to suffer the injustice of verdict by superstition. It could be any one of us tomorrow.

If this isn't one of the most persuasive arguments in favour of skepticality, then there must be a bloody good case that i don't know about!

Superstition makes people ruin others' lives, while thinking they have the moral high ground.

'How one tweet can ruin your life | Jon Ronson'

And here's an upper: Potatoes, it turns out, don't cause cancer.

'It’s too soon to say browned toast and crispy roast potatoes cause cancer'

Why on Sagan's pale blue dot has the UK Food Standards Agency made a campaign advising people not to eat toast and roast potatoes?

Well, the mechanism of concern is explained in the article, but finite hazards are not necessarily significant hazards. The conclusion of Cancer Research UK's reviewers is that toast and potatoes are not worth worrying about - the fags and booze will kill you much quicker than the toast and tatties!

So why did someone(s) at the UK Food Standards Agency think it was worth 'going national' with this hypothetical threat?

I don't have an answer. But it's my working hypothesis that their PR department/consultants, or somebody who now works for them, and used to work in PR, have told them that a 'media campaign' would be a good idea, to 'raise their profile' [gags].

TV 'news' is splattered with doe-eyed women and depressed researchers, forlornly pleading for a massive, global, billion-pound campaign, to work out what one sick kid actually has.

I mean, 1500 people die on the UK's roads every year, as a result of road traffic unsafety, and millions of lifeyears are lost to obesity and lack of exercise; but hey, the millions can screw themselves because one lone kid's more newsworthy.

Pure drama, eh, BBC? (That's their new slogan, BTW)

A 'campaign' for a completely hypothetical effect has nothing to do with scientifically-reasoned public health advice. It's the hallmark of nauseating PR merchants, desparately pleading for popularity, and rarely through their own merits.

Consequently, this kind of 'story' is perfect material for the "everything causes cancer, cures cancer, or both, you insecure middle-aged women who read our publication, so keep on reading or you won't know what to be scared of" mantra of the Daily Fail / Fail on Sunday.

But it isn't genuinely useful for informing people about how to look after their health.

Anyone have déjà vu about media orgs making claims about potatoes and cancer? Oh yeah...

Here's a slightly-downer: Elon Musk's scientific standards are slowly sliding.

'Entire Hyperloop could be destroyed in SECONDS!'

Elon Musk got his billions from software - he has no formal training/education in Physics, or Engineering. But at least he's shown that one guy with massive amounts of enthusiasm, and massive amounts of money, can really make an impact on the world.

He started with electric cars (anyone noticed that adding 'hi' to 'electric cars' gives you 'electric chairs'?) which are based on old technology (see EEV's video on the 30+ year old Sinclair C5) and so require no great leaps of technology. Tesla Motors is born. Familiar technology; pragmatic business.

Next, he moved onto space flight: travel in, and into, outer space. You'll notice that this is something that's been done before too, but Space X has been doing it a bit differently. So with a lot of hand-holding from NASA, they've had modest success. Less familiar technology; semi-pragmatic mostly-hypothetical business.

And now he's moved onto ground-level, above-ground, supersonic travel. "Supersonic?" i hear you say? Well, what do you think the speed of sound is, in a vacuum, or near-vacuum? Obviously, it's zero in a vacuum, because sound can't propagate in a vacuum at all; but in a near-vacuum, the speed of sound is much lower than at RTP (room temperature and pressure) because the air is less dense.

The basic idea of the hyperloop is to treat passengers like bullets. You put the bullets in a cartridge/sabot (the train) and shoot them down the barrel - the Loop. And eventually, if all goes well, they hit the bullseye at the other end.

Even if it works, and everything goes well, you might have noticed that shooting bullets down barrels produces huge amounts of noise. That noise is an inevitable consequence of the process that accelerates the cartridges down the barrel, to achieve their bullet-esque speeds.

And that noise would be created every time a train left the station. That massive amount of noise would be made every time a train left... in a public place.

I mean, what's the point of a transport link that doesn't link two places where people are? You can't hide the noise by making the thing remote, because it's useless if it's remote.

The number of fails realised in the all-hype-rloop project is only going to go up, as long as it stays on this... um, this awful pun :-P

The Hyperloop is the least tried-and-tested project that Musk has taken on, so far, and it is the least pragmatic, given the already-known limitations of Physics.

What we're essentially considering when we think of the Hyperloop, is an above-ground underground - a gigantic tube, through which some metal-things-with-people-in trains run. So why not just build a trainline? Because the vacuum is intended to reduce friction, thereby reducing energy costs, and increasing the maximum speed and acceleration of the bullet train capsule whatever they call them now.

An above-ground vacuum tube is inherently dangerous, because it is so easy to rupture. Any mad conspiracy theorist 'sovereign citizen' can shoot a hole in it, with lethal results. So how about this solution...

Build it underground.

Why not build your over-ground-underground underground? It'll be an under-over-under-ground. Then you can pump the air out of the tube, and it'll be safe and secure. A la the LHC.

Reciprocally, there's another barmy project that could be benefitted from being raised while the Hyperloop is lowered...

The Solar Freakin' Roadways.

The whole problem with the Hyperloop stems from its being built above ground. The whole problem with solar roadways stems from its being built in the ground.

All that has to be done, is to build a roof over the road (roofs are a tried, tested, and successful technology, after all) with solar panels on the roof (again, a tried, tested, and successful technique) which can be angled to gather an extra third of sunlight. Then all of the LED signs and beacons and things, that are so difficult to see in direct sunlight, would be under the shade of the roof, and thereby be actually visible to traffic.

It also means the road surface can continue to be made of the most efficient, effective material available - bitumen-mix.

So by raising the SFR above the ground, the integrity of the road surface can be retained, the solar power can be increased, the LED lighting will be more visible, the electrical componenets will not be subject to physical degredation underneath the road traffic, and... you won't need huge amounts of energy to melt fallen snow, because roofs keep snow off the ground quite well enough already!

See? All problems fixed, in just a few sentences. Now, with a plan so easily debunked and superceded as SFR, it must be very difficult to con people into something even worse. Surely?

'Plastic Roadways BUSTED!'


Anyway, let's move on. Downer or upper? Downer or upper? The coin says... downer

'The REAL reason Milo Yiannopoulos was betrayed by his base!'

How can you tell when someone's lying? One method: wait and listen. Eventually, they contradict themselves. All you have to do is notice, and remember.

As far as i'm concerned, Yiannopoulos is a Poe who's been so dumb as to pursue a joke, without making it clear that it was a joke. I mean, let's take a comparator, to see the difference between someone clearly pretending to be a bigot, and someone who's maybe pretending to be a bigot.

'Richard Herring "Hitler Moustache" Racist Liberal'

There are two major differences between Richard Herring, and Milo Yiannopoulos: one's intelligent and funny, and the other's... well, Milo.

By making all of the claims that Richard Herring does, on a stage, in what is clearly a stand-up comedy show, he can claim pretty much anything he likes. And when he turns around and says "i'm only joking" it would be you who'd be the idiot, if you decided he weren't. I mean, it's his job to joke. I'd be pretty disappointed if he didn't, at least twice per hour. Or even once. He's getting old, you know. (Aside: I wouldn't. I'd be very glad. Rrrooom, rrooom, and all that)

Whereas Milo has made absolutely no effort to make it clear that he's been joking at any point. He has no stage show. He has no posters. He has no Twitter profile saying "Professional Troll"... Well, he certainly doesn't now :-P

But let's take another example. A kind of mid-way house. A character who has no stage-and-screen pedigree. No stand-up career. But someone who does clearly present themself as a Poe.

This guy was picked up by a female supremacist at the BBC, and was invited on to her programme to noise off feministly, because she couldn't tell that he wasn't sincere. His name was: Godfrey Elfwick.

Elfwick didn't make any explicit statements that he was joking, but did he really have to? His tweets were so funny that he didn't have to explain. Or did he?

Need i remind you that Poe's Law is defined thusly: "The crazier an ideology becomes, the more difficult it is to distinguish a mockery of it, from a sincere presentation"? No, of course i didn't. I was just humouring you.

So how do we really know that Godfrey Elfwick, a "Genderqueer Muslim atheist. Born white in the #WrongSkin. Itinerant jongleur. Xir, Xirs Xirself" who "Filters life through the lens of minority issues" and says things like:

"I was born white but realised later in life that I was #WrongSkin and transitioned mentally to black"

"Don't want to be labelled a rapist? Then respect women's boundaries and remember that consent can be revoked at any time. Even after sex"
"I used to identify as #atheist as I don't believe in God but when I saw how racist the movement has become I converted to moderate Islam"

"Men will be men. There's no changing their nature. Thank God I'm a trans woman, so it doesn't apply to me"
"I've never actually seen #StarWars but the fact that the bad guy was all black and ate watermelons was unbelievably racist even for the 70's"

And more recently:

"For those who say "the Quran is full of violence!" - it took me just under an hour to find a verse that wasn't. Checkmate Islamophobes" [link]
"It's exhausting defending and justifying the reasons for Islamic terrorist attacks. Thank goodness my Wokebody Yoga class was cancelled" [link]
"It is better to spread progressive lies, than #Islamophobic truths. #lovenothate" [link]
"Before blaming Islamic terrorism on Islam, please read this and educate yourself:[infographic]" [link]

So it makes us laugh. Does that mean he doesn't believe it? How could we tell? It's an old Creationist canard, that something that 'looks' designed, must have been designed. But complexity doesn't mean intentional construction, and funnyness doesn't mean intentional ridiculousness.

Ultimately, we can only judge things by what we can actually see. If Godfrey Elfwick got into hot water over one of the things he'd said on Twitter, then how could anyone defend him? He deliberately only says ridiculous things that sound like they could be sincerely stated by other people.

I'm prepared to consider that maybe Yiannopoulos just let a joke get out of hand; but ultimately, he brought it all down on himself.

OK, so that was a downer. Now here's an upper: Ben Goldacre. He's always good for a pick-me-up :-D

'“Transparency, Beyond Publication Bias”. A video of my super-speedy talk at IJE.'

And now a downer again. Are you spotting a pattern? :-P

'Burzynski ruling is in (Update: Pathetic punitive actions imposed)'

So the guy who injects people with piss, while telling them it's their cancer treatment, is let free? And his business, through which all the crimes have been perpetrated, is permitted to continue its fraudulent, abusive and dangerous operations, in order to continue harming people?

I call that a travesty of justice.

Justice is not about the sadistic pursuit of vengeance - it's about making the world better, for the future. Prosecuting and/or humiliating Burzynski is not the point - stopping his company is what really matters.

In the same vein, here's some quackery news:

'Researchers warn of dire effects of herbal remedies'

"The predominant user group of complementary medicines in Australia comprises younger women (under 35 years old) with a tertiary education. People with chronic diseases or co-morbidities such as cancer, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders or mental illness, frequently use complementary medicines"

If you take herbal potions, then stop. And tell your GP what you've taken. They can be directly harmful, and they can interact with any medications you might be on. Including contraceptives. On a side note, don't rub any of the 'natural/essential oils' like Teatree Oil, Coconut Oil, etc, into your skin. They're actually the primary cause of dermatological allergies - not parabens, sodium laureth sulfate, aluminium, etc.

'Wide condemnation of pro-acupuncture research paper on infant colic'

“The statistical analysis in the paper is incompetent. This should have been detected by the referees, but wasn’t... For a start, the opening statement, ‘A two-sided P value =0.05 was considered statistically significant’ is simply unacceptable in the light of all recent work about reproducibility.”

Don't accept any 'treatment' for 'colic' at all. 'Colic' is a catchall term for any situation in which a baby (under 4 months, usually) is crying, but there's no apparent cause. In other words, colic is not a medical condition - it can not be treated. In studies, the only consistent correlate with 'relief' (the baby stopping crying) is affection - just pick them up and pet them.

If there are no symptoms, it's almost always wind, or a headache, or something banal like that. Babies being smaller, they're more susceptible to heat stress; and without much experience of extra-uterine life, pretty much anything can upset them. So as they age, it's quite sensible to think that tummy aches become banal to them, where previously they were new and scary. Etc, etc, etc.

'Chiropractor found guilty of making false claims of curing cancer'

"Ken McLeod said that he and Peter Tierney have put in complaints against more than 700 chiropractors; Prof Ken Harvey said that he and Mal Vickers have put in complaints against about 800 chiropractors; and the Friends of Science in Medicine has submitted complaints against 400 websites, involving as many as 1200 chiropractors. For many of these cases, McLeod says, there has been little or no response from AHPRA or the CBA"

As if it would just be one! I can hear the PR gurus working on #chiropractophobia as i write. As if a crime being rare somehow excuses the ideology that caused it.

Frankly, chiropractors are making false claims if they declare they can treat anything. It's annoying that people only behave as if that matters, when it's cancer or HIV.

More Oz. And more satire... (if indeed the last lot, up ^ there, was satire...) ...this is supposed to be an upper, by the way... :-D

'Coopers recall bottles featuring bible quotes condemning alcohol'

'Outrage at inclusion of gay character in film about woman-buffalo romance'

'“Humans aren’t meant to drink milk” claims woman slamming tequila'

And a contemporary downer:

'Atheist Ireland's John Hamill on Sky News discussing blaphemy charge against Stephen Fry'

'The Stephen Fry Blasphemy Case - Michael Nugent in Helsinki'

Having checked Michael's citation of Richard Dawkins' letter to the Irish Times (mentioned at the end of the second video) i was 'recommended to' another article, written by an arse with a made-up qualification: the 'Social Theology Officer' of the 'Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice'. I almost choked on my own facial expression when i read his conclusion:

"There is no theological warrant for a blasphemy law and no religious desire for one"

OMFSM!!! The only cause for the existence of blasphemy laws is religious superstition! If there were no religion, there would be no blasphemy laws. Religious desire to purport theological 'warrants' is the only attempted justification for such blasphemy laws.

Religion is entirely to blame for the embarrassment that this has brought upon Eire, and the threat that it has presented to the rest of the world, by peer-pressuring other nations - principally Islamic ones, led by Pakistan - to push for the 'recognition' of their blasphemy laws in every other nation in the world.

Kevin Hargaden, you are up there (or is it 'down' there?) with Mehdi Hasan, a pseud who purports to believe in winged horses who can fly sadistic, murderous, warmongering, pedophilic rapists into outer space when they die, and somehow reach 'heaven' from there; when it comes to intellectual veracity. Tapejara awards both of them: "nul points"

Oh yeah, and ants can talk, too. Apparently... :D

'Shabir Believes Ants Can Talk - Hyde Park, UK'

But here's a huge upper: Zimmers, the Dawkster, and more...

"Worst Ancestors Ever" - Roy Zimmerman, and his around-the-world orchestra

And an up-and-downer too:

'It Looks Like Rain In Cherry Blossom Lane with Sir Roger Moore, Igudesman & Joo & Friends'

RIP Roger Moore. I shall always think of you as the third best James Bond, and the oneth best Simon Templar. And the guy someone said ran like a duck.

Some other news:

'First living example of giant ancient mollusc found in the wild'

Yet again, shock and gasping eschewes from those who've heard that ten's the thing, and five's not jive. Yes: advice is now that you should eat ten portions of fruit per day. Well, the truth is that advised fruit intake has long been, rather cynically, understated for decades. The only reason it's usually "five portions" is because the local organisation responsible thinks the local people wouldn't manage more, and so would get dejected. In other regions, convention is more than five. In Scotland, it's only three. In actuality, you should eat as much fruit as practicable, while maintaing a good tooth-cleaning regimen, to minimise harm from the acidity of fruit and fruit juice.

'Kiai Masters VS Reality! Can Magic Help You Win A Fight?'

There's something cathartic about seeing these kinds of idiots getting the shit kicked out of them. I think it's just because they've consented to it, that makes such a huge difference. Martial Arts are essentially just choreographed fighting. As the name implies, it's 'art' not 'science'. It's not really about training people so they can defend themselves - it's about spiritualist goons pretending they have 'special' powers. So the further up the hierarchy of martial arts bullshit you go, the more choreographed it becomes, until right at the top, you get these airheads that actually think their 'students' aren't being stooges, and that they can actually use 'qi' or 'the force' to knock their enemies down. Tapejara judges them to be: "most amusing" :-D

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

'The origin of M19 - Deep Sky Videos'

'Honey bees in the Infrared! THEY GLOW!!!'

'How to spot a broken wrist with a thermal camera!'

'Can 1000C Gummy Melt GOLD??'

'It costs 70 MILLION dollars per kg! But why?'

'Glass blowing. Why do you need special glasses?'

'HUGE Solar Flares through specialist telescope'

'Hammer vs DIAMOND: Will it smash?'

'Skyscraper that hangs from asteroid -BUSTED!'

'DIY Doppler Sonar'

'High Voltage Phosphorescence'

'High Voltage and Phosphorescence (part 2)'

'Climate: What did We Know and When Did We Know it?'

'Lysenkoism' - C0nc0rdance

'Do cell phones cook your brain?'

'Degrees of Doubt: The Claims and Credentials of Ravi Zacharias (TTA Podcast 325)'

'NOAA vs Mail on Sunday -- FACT CHECK'

'Swisse Update' - The Checkout

'Fish Oil' - The Checkout

'RAW: VIOLENT ANTI-TRUMP protesters near inauguration!?'
Dumbest. Reporter. Everrrr.

'Trumps UNHINGED press conference'

'Lauren Southern: YES DISHONEST AS HELL!'
This degree of duplicity is newsworthy on its own! #FireKuenssberg


'Testing Flattards - Part 2'

'11 Chemistry Tattoo Fails'

'Top 5 Chemistry Fails by the Food Babe - Jeff Holiday Guest Video'

'Homeopathic Toothpaste? – Myles Reviews'

'The Speaker's seat - Why is there no election in Buckingham?'

'Trichroic Prism'

'The Transparent Man: Quirkology Investigates'

'Nerd³ Plays... The VR Museum of Fine Art - Chiseled'

'Product vs Packshot: Jetstar Noodle Soup' - The Checkout

'Product vs Packshot: Peppa Pig Icecream' - The Checkout

'Signs of the Time' - The Checkout

'Christian Reilly on AIOTM - 'I'm Dreaming Of A Traditional Christmas'' (my upload)

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

Word Of The Week: jimp -- slender, trim, delicate; scant; barely sufficient. Usage dates from the beginning of the 16th century, in northern Britain

Etymology Of The Week: stationery/stationary -- the word 'stationery' derives from the profession of the 'stationer' who sells them; their job title comes from the fact that their ancestors used to be the exception against the rule, who had stationary shops, from which they sold books - most vendors would be travelling salespeople, as they had to go to the products (there was no 'special delivery' in those days) and then transport the goods to the potential customers.

Quote Of The Week: "All the world is queer, except thee and me. And i'm not too sure about thee. Come to think of it, i'm not too sure about me, either" - Dave Allen's corruption of a quote attributed to Robert Owen

Fact Of The Week: North Korea has a grand total of 28 websites, according to a slip-up made by the North Korean government, in September 2016

{I know this FOTW's a bit late, but i thought i'd claim it while it still had a chance of not being wildly wrong :P }

Epidemiological Joke Of The Week: How many epidemiologists does it take to change a lightbulb?

"We’ve found 12,000 switches hidden around the house. Some of them turn this lightbulb on, some of them don’t; some of them only work sometimes; and some of them work sometimes, but twenty years after you flick them. Some of the switches only work, sometimes, twenty years later, if one of the other switches is flicked too (and at the right time). In any case the wiring’s rusty, everything’s completely different in the house next door, and by the way there are lots of people selling spare bulbs who tell lies about houses, switches, and fingers. We can change the lightbulb, but I’m not sure that’ll stop you dying from cancer in this metaphor."

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

'ATP Tennis - Creating the most Unorthodox Player - The Serve (HD)'

'Let's not get into semantics'

'Ever get that sinking feeling..?'

'QI Unaired: The Grammatical Terminator'

'Islam is Shrinking'

'Koran Textual Criticism 1 - The Clear and Easy Koran'

Monday, 12 December 2016

Entertainment stuff from the period 12/9 - 11/12/16

Hello? Is anybody there?

Yes, i did miss a week... and a month... and a quarter of a year. I've been trying to do other things, so i've been powering through my weekly article-writing time. So here's a collection of some things that have been done by other people, in the meantime. First, an orange septuagenarian has won an election in an economic backwater. Not that it was beforehand.

Second, there's an internet-based company that's been screwing over its users by making a terrifyingly stupid decision.

Question 1: Do the YouTube people actually have functioning brains?

Question 2: If 'yes' have they actually been on the internet before?

'Nerd³ - How To Fix YouTube Heroes'

'Youtubes new flagging 'Heros' 98% disapproval!'

Third, there's the yearly Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, for research that first makes you laugh, and then makes you think.

'The 26th Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony'

The prizes have gone to research into the contraceptive effects of trousers, the perceived personalities of rocks, the role of colour in flying and mating, the magic of reducing pollution by manipulating tests, the effects of mirrors on itches, for believing lying liars who lie, for spotting bullshit, for impersonating other species, for collecting flies, and for looking between people's legs.

You can watch the entire ceremony, and the winners' brief and explanatory acceptance speeches, by clicking on the link above.

And fourth, there's lots of other things.

Thunderf00t's been bringing out many of the best science videos:

'Time-lapses of everything cool in the universe!'

'Golden Cubes and Gravitational Waves - Sixty Symbols'

'Can a green light actually be red!?'

'White light Hack!'

'Hot Man, COLD shower..... thermal camera!'

'Can you see the SUPERMOON through a drinking straw?'

'The infrared explained!'


'goodbye, Chernobyl! the New Safe Confinement has started moving... [November 2016]'

'inside Chernobyl ЧАЭС sarcophagus 2016 - reactor #4 control room and lead-lined corridors'

'inside Chernobyl's sarcophagus - the turbine hall & ventilation stack (chimney)'

'HighVis Fabric'

'3D Camouflage in an Ornithischian Dinosaur'

'Horns, Antlers & Hoofed Mammal Headgear With Paleontologist Zac Calamari'

'Endangered crow is expert tool-user'

'4 Wire Resistance Measurement'

'Fair Dice (Part 1) - Numberphile'

'Fair Dice (Part 2) - Numberphile'

'Why is TV 29.97 frames per second?'

'The s-Process - Sixty Symbols'

'Sum of Fibonacci Numbers Trick'

And the best interrogations of pseudoscience too:

'First AMAZING Solar Roadway UNVEILED!'

'Spinning Solar -BUSTED!'

'SpaceX UFO Explosion EXPOSED!!!'

'Detailed analysis of Spacex Rocket Explosion'


'Waterseer - BUSTED!'

'Waterseer -why did Berkeley disclaim it?'

'Waterseer, now featured in Time Magazine!!'

'EM Drive BUSTED!'

'Are humans contributing only 3% of CO2 in the atmosphere?'

'The Water of Life – Myles Reviews'

'As A Gullible Golfer | The Checkout'

'Testing Flattards - Part 1'

'Cicret Bracelet DEBUNK'

But Dad³'s been ruling over the deliberate sillyness:

'Another amazing bet you will always win'

'10 Christmas Pranks And Illusions'

'The Words of Dad³ - Another Rude Joke!'

'The Adventures of Dad³ - British Jackass II - The Shave'

"It took us 6 years to make this video. Don't try this at home"

'Le Alien'

'Top 5 Computer Game Fails of March 2016'

'Top 5 Fails for September 2016'


'Where do you get your food from, Grandma?'

'Igudesman & Joo - West Side Simpsons (NOT by Hans Zimmer!)'

'Affter Effcest Snudnay Strrectshascraashed'

'The Adventures of Dad³ - A Christmas TV Advert'

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

Computer Game Of The Week: The Bunker. It's very impressive!

TV Quote Of The Week: From episode 1 of Penelope Keith's Hidden Villages "Village life and the Cotswolds seem made for each other". Yes, Margot, and urban life and central London seem to be made for each other too. Well done :-P

Quote Of The Week: "The Wild West. Where men are men and women are women? That's not wild. If the men were women and the women were men, that would be wild!" - Dave Allen

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

'Spotty Illusion'

'12 Hilarious Voice Acting Fails In Video Games'

'Who reads the papers? - Yes, Prime Minister - BBC comedy'
One of those 'funny because it's true' sketches ;-D

'ATP Tennis - Top 10 Worst Shots in History (HD)'

'ATP Tennis - Top 10 Worst Shots Ever PART 2 (HD)'

'Fabio Fognini - Top 10 Crazy Only Fognini Moments (HD)'

'Tony Robinson - Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast #122'

Monday, 12 September 2016

The (Increasing) Problems With Insurance

Date started: 10/9/16                     Date completed: 11/9/16                     Date first published: 12/9/16

Insurance. Tricky, isn’t it. Do you buy it, or do you not? Sometimes, we don’t have a choice. And sometimes, when the saleswoman’s just been, it feels like we don’t.

The trouble with insurance is that it is, at its heart, essentially a form of gambling, because it’s dominated by ignorance, and involves money, whether anything happens or not. And, in the true tradition of industrialised gambling, the odds are rigged so that the bookie – the insurance company – always wins. Like in ‘conventional’ gambling, stupidity seems to be the name of the game.

Counter-intuitively, insurance actually works best when it’s stupid; by which i mean everyone gets the same odds, because that way it distributes risk away from unsafe people, to whom bad things are going to happen, toward safe people, to whom bad things are not going to happen. I mean, bad things aren’t going to happen to them, so they can afford the payouts, can’t they.

In this, stupid-insurance system, we have a system that works like social-taxation. It redistributes costs from the poor to the wealthy – from the hazardous to the safe. Research has shown that wealth inequality and health inequality go hand-in-hand, as healthier people are freer to develop wealth-returning careers, and to invest in their children, who will invest in their own, and so on. And because they’re healthier they live longer, so have more time to accrue wealth, with which to invest.

And this is where we meet the crux of the insurance system’s failure – healthcare.

Insurance-based systems fail to be compatible with the ideals of universal healthcare, as long as they are not infinitely stupid. I shall explain...

Let’s say you’re a healthy person (and given that most people are congenital optimists, you probably think you are) who wants to pay as little as possible for your health insurance. Well, showing off how healthy you are means the health insurance company will worry less about having to pay money back to you. And so they will charge you less. This is like a bookie offering you longer odds, because you both agree that your horse is less likely to win. Except in this scenario you don’t get more prizemoney, you just pay less for the ticket.

This all sounds beautiful , so far. I’m healthy, so why should i pay more for my health insurance than i absolutely have to? But how much do i have to?

Before we imagine what the situation looks like for an unhealthy person, let’s imagine that you’re a perfectly healthy person. This means that you can be certain that you’re not going to get ill. Well, in this case, the insurance company can be certain that they’re not going to have to pay you any money, ever. Ever, ever, ever. Will  they charge you nothing, in this scenario? Of course they won’t – they’re a bookie – they’ll always charge you something, because they write the rules, and the rules say that overall, they always win. That means a surcharge on every contract.

In fact, generally-healthy people – the ‘worried well’ are the mainstay of an insurance company’s income. The whole purpose of an insurance company is to introduce costs that needn’t exist, just so that the insurance company can continue to exist. They don’t operate for the sake of your health – they operate for the sake of their own, the insurance company’s health.

Now let’s consider the situation in which you’re an unhealthy person.

Let’s say you have a faltering immune system, you’re incredibly clumsy, the lot. You’re a walking (or not walking) disaster area, and the odds of you being involved in an insurance claim some time in the next 24 hours are incredibly short. Almost 1:1. Now what’s the insurance company going to do? Well, because they are almost certain that they’re going to be paying out money to you, every day, they’re going to charge you huge amounts, so that they get more money out of you, than you get out of them. That is the mainstay of their business, after all.

And so, by taking out insurance, you’re taking on the insurance company’s profit margin as an additional cost to yourself, thereby increasing your costs overall.

I hope you’re getting an idea of how much of a gamble insurance is, by playing these scenarios through your mind, if you didn’t already have one. By taking out insurance, you’re essentially saying “i think i’m more likely to get injured/sick than the insurance company thinks i am”. Isn’t it strange, how people can be optimistic one moment, then woefully pessimistic the next?

Let’s go back to the start of this mini-essay, and my point that insurance works best when it’s stupid. In a world where the insurance industry genuinely cared about you, they would want to care about everyone – not just the healthy – they would want to overcharge the healthy ones, to impose a cost on them, in order to redistribute the shitty bits of life away from the people who are charged higher insurance premiums, for being a genetic timebomb, incredibly unlucky, or an 18-year-old boy buying their first car.

“Whinging about your premiums, Ms Jackson? That’s a bit selfish, isn’t it? You’ve been fine all your life, and look to have a bright clear future ahead of you. At least 50 years of it. Whereas Freddie here has one remaining leg, with 17 breaks in it, due to Type I diabetes, and a nasty fall. Now, don’t you think he’s had enough shit in his life, Ms Jackson? Don’t you? That’s right, you can afford the bill much more easily than he can. I’ll tell him you were so gracious. Or would you like him to thank you personally?”

But the insurance industry is not philanthropic. It doesn’t really care about you. You’re a cash cow. So when it wants to know about you, it doesn’t do so so that it can work out whom to redistribute the shittiness of life from and to, but to work out who are the healthy people who can be offered lower charges, while worrying them into thinking it’s worth paying for it at all; and who are the less-healthy people who can be bled through the nose, potentially leaving their family (or the State) to pick up the bill when they eventually die.

This is anathema to the notion of universal healthcare, because it means pricing the most-needy out of the healthcare that they desperately need.

No wonder insurance-based systems tend toward being compulsory. For example, driving insurance. You’re not allowed to say “i’m an 18-year-old boy, i can’t afford it, so i’m not paying” because that would be free-market economics. That’s only allowed to be done by the company – not the customer. Insurance is obligatory.

No wonder younger people in places like northern Europe aren’t even bothering to learn to drive any more. It’s just too expensive. Insurance companies are buying up personal data about us all, surveilled through pharmacies, banks, supermarkets, and wherever else they can; so that they can learn how to target the higher-risk amongst us, to charge us stratospheric fees. And because the law says insurance is compulsory, for anyone who wants to drive a vehicle on a public highway, there’s nothing we can do about it. The only option for such people, is to vote with their feet, and walk. Or cycle. Or walk to the bus/train station. Or sprout wings and fly.

And then there are the exclusions. Oh, FSM, the exclusions!

If you get sick in the wrong way, or in the wrong country, or you crash into a cow, or are subject to some kind of risk that the insurance company hadn’t tumbled to, like weather, then it gets called an ‘act of god’ or something, and they refuse to pay up. Not at all. Not a single penny. And the same can happen, simply because the reams of smallprint contained a disclaimer contradicting the bigprint. Plus, insurance companies are permitted to change their terms and conditions at any time, meaning the insurance you buy might not cover what you needed it for, by the time the ‘product’ (the payout) is due to be delivered!

What’s the point of insurance if you’re not insured?

This is why insurance companies have a long list of exceptions relating to “pre-existing” conditions. Essentially, if you’ve fallen on the wrong side of chance before, they’re not taking any risks with you. And they’re not giving you a rebate, either. In the equine gambling metaphor, this is them deciding that your horse didn't win this race, because it had won a race before.

And then, if it’s medical insurance, the costs you’d thought you’d embraced can turn out to be higher than you’d hoped, because there’s an infinity of middlemen who can just pitch in at any moment, and claim expenses. The bullshit in all of this game-playing and paperwork, by the insurers and their cohorts, is actively hampering the efforts of healthcare professionals around the world, by stressing their patients. Not to mention the docs, who have to come to arrangements with insurance companies, about how their ridiculous paper-pushing games are going to be mediated.

The more ‘intelligent’ insurance becomes, the more of this wrangling there’s going to be, as insurance companies quibble about how much they should pay out, and to whom, for what services, and under what conditions. They're going to do everything they can to maximise your payments to them, while minimising their payments to you. If you think insurance is a nightmare now, then just wait – it’s going to get worse, as personalised contracts become yet more personalised, and the smallprint has to be rewritten for you, with your consent... if not ahead of time, then after the disaster’s hit you! That’s a perfect opportunity to abuse you through the stress you’re already going through.

And how are individuals going to cope, when things gets messy? Only with an army of citizens advice volunteers, ombudsmans and lawyers. The last of these three are likely to add even more expense, to the people who are least able to pay.

This is a system that can only get worse!

Insurance works best when it’s stupid, because it means the arbiters of it – the insurance companies – don’t know how to screw us over as well.

So as a consumer, the only things we can do, are to continue to try to pay as little as possible, and to hunt on other people’s behalves if they’re worse off than us, in preference to ourselves; and to fight for reform – in the way companies are allowed to own and distribute data, the way the insurance companies are allowed to be run, and the extent to which they are allowed to pervade essential services.

As strange as it may seem, the USA now has a semblance of universal healthcare, in the form of Medicare, thanks to Obama. But most of the credit should probably go to the subtle forces of economics and science, that have made insurance more expensive, and alternatives much easier to administer. In the past, federal healthcare (or anything federal, for that matter) has been difficult simply due to the scale of the country. The USA is half a continent, and so it has many of the same problems faced by China. But advancing technology, especially involving the internet, could change this, making it much easier to run a USAian version of the UK’s National Health Service.

Economics might force this to happen. Illness is hugely expensive, and insurance is inflating that cost.

Links and stuff:

Travel insurance gambling

The state of insurance-based private healthcare in Australia

"Some young drivers are faced with quotations of up to £27,000 a year to insure their cars"

"From 1983 to 2008, the share of 16- to 39-year-olds with driver's licenses declined markedly, with the greatest decreases among drivers in their late teens and early 20s, according to a study at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute"

"Church told flood damage is not covered by insurance due to it being an 'act of God'"

Ridiculous exceptions also apply to pet insurance too

"More than 3.5 million workplace injuries and illnesses occur each year in the United States, costing an estimated $250 billion annually"

"Using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau, researchers calculated the premiums paid by Americans from 2000 to 2009 and compared them to incomes. They found that insurance premiums rose 8 percent from 2000 to 2009, while household incomes rose only about 2 percent. If those same rates continue during the next two decades, the average cost of a family health-insurance premium will hit half of median household income by 2021 and surpass it by 2033"

The European Court of Justice ruled in 2012 that optional price supplements that "are neither compulsory nor necessary for the purposes of the flight" such as flight insurance must be changed to be opt-in

The additional costs of sharing medical data with extraneous organisations that don't give a crap about patients:

"Health insurer Centene Corp. says it is missing half a dozen hard drives that contain the personal and health information of roughly 950,000 clients, including the names, addresses, birthdates, Social Security numbers, member identification numbers and health information of patients who received laboratory services between 2009 and 2015"

"The UK branch of Zurich Insurance has been fined a whopping £2.28 million after losing details of 46,000 customers, including details of customers’ identities, and in some cases bank account and credit card information, and other financial information. Questions must be asked as to why this sensitive data was not encrypted at the very least"

Adventures in smallprint:

Flight insurance

Tickets to shows, plays, gigs, etc

Faulty plumbing

Hundreds of lives saved by universal healthcare in US already

Inequality: Of wealth and health

Entertainment stuff from the week 5-11/9/16

Hi uniplets,

Something that Brian posted slightly too late for last week's article:

'Freddie Mercury Asteroid'

Massive coincidences. Interesting, aren't they.

'Family welcomed third child born on the same day for third consecutive year'

But how big a coincidence is this really?

Well, clearly it has to be quite unlikely, or it would happen all the time, in a population of 7 billion people, but it's nowhere near as random as it might seem, at first.

Think about it: what determines when a foetus is born, and becomes a baby?

1 - Time of conception
2 - Time to develop in the womb

That's it. So the question really is: if the parents bonked on the same night three years in a row, what's the chance that the three babies would be born on the same day, three years in a row?

Well, to calculate that, all we need is data on the statistical spread of gestational periods in different women, from child to child.

If there is a population of women who have very regular gestational periods, of consistent length, then we can assume that this family of 3s derives from a woman in this population.

{A gestation a few days longer would result in the same birth date, if the conception occurred a few days earlier. This widens the opportunities for such coincidences to happen}

In which case, the only significant opportunity for chance to be involved, is in element 1 - choice of when to have the bonking session.

Now, who wants to ring them up, and ask about that? :-D

As it occurs to me, as it occurs to me, as it occurs to-o me-eee coming back

'As It Occurs To Me: The Return'

I expect you will not be surprised to find out that last week's diatribe against tax dodging was not definitive, nor the last to feature on this blog. Oh yes, there's more...

According to a report by the General Accounting Office of the USA, nearly a fifth of profitable USAian companies paid no corporate taxes in 2012, through fraudulent accounting. A method of such deviance that i didn't mention last week, is the misappropriation of transactions.

Basically, because they're not required to pay tax if they make a loss, then by taking a lossful year and pretending that some of the costs of that year didn't happen, they can be 'saved' for a sunny day, to pretend that they had a rainier one. Do you know what i mean?

Let's say a company made a $50mn loss in 2012, and a $50mn profit in 2013. By declaring a $1mn loss in 2012, they pretend that $49mn of it happened in 2013. And by shuffling $2mn of profit in 2013 over to 2014's accounts, they can pretend that they had a $1mn loss in 2012, a $1mn loss in 2013, and $2mn in a year that hasn't happened yet. But of course, the tax people aren't going to be shown any of this, so how are they going to know?

There's a range of such abuses of prepayment/accrual accounting like this, called 'financial statement fraud' of which this is just one type. There's nothing wrong with prepayments and acrruals when done right, but done wrongly, it's a method of deceiving creditors and debtors, and... evading tax.

And when it came to avoiding tax in 2015, Pfizer topped the rankings in an R.G. Associates study. It paid 55% less tax than it would have done if all of its profit were taxed at the USA's 35% rate. That's $3.1 billion they dodged! A higher proportion than any other company in their study.

Of course, economists and businesspeople alike lay the blame for this at the feet of the 'cripplingly high' tax rate in the USA. Even though the tax only applies to profit. So if you're paying it, you don't need it. It's not like income tax, where you pay it because it's your personal revenue - corporation tax accounts for expenses. If you could draw up a Profit & Loss account for your finances, you'd probably pay less tax too, just because of the way the system works.

Oh, and health care and technology companies based in the USA added $266 billion to their profits over 10 years, thanks to pretending to be in tax havens, around the world.

To give you an idea of the scale of the financial fraud that Apple alone has perpetrated, their bill is going to be somewhere around €19 billion ($21 billion) whereas the entire cost of bailing out Greece's debts (the entire country) is just €2.8 billion ($3.2 billion) making Apple's tax bill (which at 35% is really not that high) enough to buy Greece's debt six-and-a-half times over!

It all looks a bit grim for Apple, these days, doesn't it. I imagine they must be doing something to try to PR all the crime reporting away. Y'know - PR - the only thing Steve Jobs was ever good at. Oh, is that yet another new iPhone design? Is that a new watch that can't actually be taken underwater despite the name? Is that an entire media event full of mini-press-releases to draw people's attention away?

Hmm. Looks like they are trying. Good luck to 'em :-D


I think i missed it, but last week was The Naked Scientists' 15th anniversary :o)

And i know i missed the 50th anniversary of the first airing of the original Star Trek, on the 8th of September 1966. As a little tribute, astronomers have identified nebulae that, from Earth's angle, look like the starship Enterprise. You can see images of them enlinked under 'contemporary stuff'.

Some time recently, some CRISPR-Cas9 "genetic scissor" genetically-engineered vegetables were cooked and eaten in a public show-off, for the first time. The CRISPR-based (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) genetic engineering technique was first published as a working technique in 2012. It's not yet known whether the anti-GMO mob will persuade anyone to ban its use, but it holds huge potential for making food more nutritious.

Here's one i haven't missed... yet. The 15th of September marks the 100th anniversary of the first use of tanks in warfare, at Cambrai, in the Somme, later designated as the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, when 36 Mark 1 tanks were used to advance the British front line.

In other news:

$21 billion to settle Apple's tax bill, $3.2 billion to settle Greece's debt, and $3.6 billion to save Ecuador's million-hectare Yasuni National Park, which contains hugely diverse Amazon wildlife, and some of the world's last uncontacted indigenous populations. Unfortunately, the last of these has also gone unpaid, forcing the President to permit the oil company Petroamazonas to start trashing it for crude oil. But a fall in oil prices has meant Ecuador's income has fallen, and the lack of international support has forced his hand. I mean, he'd have to be massively corrupt to have $3.6 billion squirrelled away, somewhere, wouldn't he. Even former Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (and his family included) had only extorted $2.7 billion by the time he got found out.

Various companies are up in arms, whining about proposed copyright reforms, by the EU. Some are awful, or just awfully poorly thought through, but even the sensible ones have received the same lambasting. Unsurprisingly, Google-owned lobby group OpenForum Europe opposes ancillary copyright, which would make it financially expensive to quote anyone, on the internet, especially the newspapers it's designed to defend. Google opposes it because they have to quote newspapers' web-pages in their listings, otherwise no-one knows what the article they'd be clicking to contained! But then, media broadcasting organisations (like Sky and RTL) have been whining too, about the idea that maybe they should charge a base rate for access to their material, and not be charging extra just because customers are, for example, in Croatia. The internet's the internet - it doesn't cost more to make it available to Croatians, so why should they be charged more? It seems very sensible, to me, to prevent this kind of buccaneering geo-blocking. Other objections run along common objections to copyright law, full stop. Period. .. I maintain that intellectual property should not be allowed to be owned by organisations - only the individuals who contributed to it. And not beyond their death, either. That reform would fix a lot that's wrong with copyright and patent law.

I'm used to seeing sexist, racist, naturopathic, and theological pseudoscience crop up on press release sites like but this one's a rarity. Katherine Dafforn, Mariana Mayer-Pinto and Nathan Waltham, writing for The Conversation, are apparently quite happy to nail their flags to the mast of Feng Shui fraud - a pseudoscience famously deriving from the Orient, that is predicated on superstitious beliefs in and about 'qi', 'energy', 'harmony', 'balance' and 'building health'. They claim that such superstitious baloney could and should help with marinology, and ecology and engineering. Not a chance! If we want to ensure the health of our environment and ourselves, we must evict these intellectual trespassers, or all our efforts will be compromised unnecessarily.

The second death in a Tesla car this year (and in all history) has been the second in which blame isn't attributed to the car's autopilot system. In the first case, the driver was shown to be a rather reckless driver who was speeding at the time; and in this case, the autopilot has shown to not be on when the incident happened. In fact, the car's logs show that it was doing 155 kph (96 mph) when it was driven into a tree, which is 32 mph faster than the car in the first fatal incident. So Musk's Space X might be a bit dodgy when it comes to spaceflight, but his cars are not to blame when they go bang.

It's a victory for corruption! Facebook routinely censors depictions of the human form (specifically certain bodyparts perverts don't like seeing) including the now-famous photograph of a naked girl escaping a napalm bombing, during the Vietnam War. But when Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg decided to object, then after her photo was taken down through routine, it eventually got put back up again. Prime Ministers get to post nudes if they want to, it seems. I shan't fret about the asininity of the premier's ascerbic witticism "It shows that using social media can make [a] political change even in social media" but i shall take another stab at Facebook's aloof and prejudicial bid for "protecting the community" by maintaning the community's ignorance of its own bodies. Facebook has similarly censored a photo of Copenhagen's statue of the Little Mermaid, on the same grounds! Less surprisingly, though no less nonsensically, it's censored Gustave Courbet's painting 'L'Origine Du Monde' (The Origin Of The World) which depicts a map of tasmania... a ham wallet, a bearded clam, a cellar door, a front window, a happy valley, a gate of heaven, an itching jenny, a vertical smile, a cockpit, a bald echidna, a blown out tater biscuit, a ring-a-rang-a-roo... you get the idea, right? I'm not allowed to use the word 'cunt' you see :-P

Just weeks away from Rosetta's final rest, as it's spiralled in toward comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Rosetta has spotted the lander Philae, trapped against a cliff face. You can see the images at the first and second links below, or here. Rosetta hadn't been able to capture a photo of Philae since November 2014, but both had already sent years' worth of data to Earth. Rosetta is due to find its own landing spot on the comet on the 30th September, when it will complete its spiral course and crashland onto the cometary surface. Hopefully, sending back pictures all the way. You can find out a little more about Rosetta's dusty grave, and planned descent by clicking here, and about the cometary dust, by clicking here.

Yet another fossil discovery, marred by the stench of festering cryptozoology. There really has been an icthyosaur fossil revealed, having been discovered and eventually catalogued after 50 years sitting around, but there has never been the same discovery for a 'nessie'. Species are often classified, taxonomically, years and sometimes decades after discovery, simply because there are so many of them, and so few people to analyse them. They get shoved on a shelf somewhere, and passed by in favour of newer finds, and then half a century later, someone finally gets around to working out whether they're 'new' or not. Well, i suppose either 50 years or 170 million years can be old or new, depending on your point of view. But either way, nothing lived in Scotland 170 million years ago, because it didn't exist. Not the animal, the country. Unless you were thinking of a 'nessie' in which case neither did :-P

Archaeologists of the Mary Rose project have published 3D visual-light scans of ten objects found on the wreck of the ship, including a skull of a carpenter, whose osseous malformations provide clues to the life he might have led. You can go straight the scans page by clicking here.

Whether you know them as 'volatiles', 'essentials', 'odours' or 'perfumes', whiffy chemicals have a common property of miscibility in water. That means that they won't just linger on your body - they can collect in the environment, too. A study of 22 sites from the inner-city canals of Venice, out to the more rural areas, has found that 17 such volatile chemicals persist in the environment, 500 times more abundantly in the inner-city than on the edges of Venice. This includes chemicals known to be common subjects of allergies - immune malfunctions. Further research will be needed to quantify impacts from these chemicals' distribution in the environment.

Barack Obama is a parasite. No, seriously, he is. But he's not Kenyan. Baracktrema obamai, a tiny parasitic flatworm, lives while causing no obervable harm, in the blood of Malaysian Freshwater Turtles. It's deemed a huge honour to have a taxon named after you, but sometimes it just doesn't feel like one :-D

An imaging system in development at MIT can be used to read books without opening them. It uses infrared-to-microwave band light to look at and through the pages, and an algorithm to distinguish one leaf (page) from another, and to determine the shapes of the letters that are written on them. Even using 'books' deliberately pre-made to make the task easy, it can currently only see 20 pages into a book, and can only make out letters on the top 9 pages, but advancement of the technique could lead to a way to read texts inside codices that have stuck together through decay. If the contents are a curiosity, but the codex itself too fragile to open, this imaging system could be the solution.

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

'Why did the Falcon 9 Explode?'

{Musk is trying to frame it as an advanced problem, instead of a basic one}

'Coffee Cup Vibrations - Numberphile'

'Vorticella - Under the Microscope'

'Are GMOs Dangerous?'

'Checking Out Your Privates | The Checkout'

'As A Guilty Mum: Health Products | The Checkout'

'Punishing Doubt [cc]'

'Witnessing Jehovah'

'Weather, or Climate Change?'

'Image: Jupiter's south polar region'

'Mars rover Curiosity views spectacular layered rock formations'

'Image: Plankton bloom in the Barents Sea captured by the Sentinel-2A satellite'

'Image: 'Enterprise' nebulae seen by Spitzer'

'"T-Rump" by Roy Zimmerman'

'Joo sings to Igudesman "You are My Perfect Man"'

'The International Maths Salute with Dr James Tanton'

'Signs of the Time: Series 4 Ep 13 | The Checkout'

'10 more amazing bets you will always win! (new episode)'

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

Word Of The Week: osseous -- pertaining to bones, in shape, consistency, or other quality; unchanged from 15th century latin, and dating back to Proto-Indo-European as 'ost'

Fact Of The Week: It has been variously claimed that all the people of indigenous Australian ancestry are incapable of counting past '4' and that they all have number systems that can be used to count well past '4'. Both of these extremities are wrong. The number of populations that do not have words for numbers above four is very few, but not non-existent; so most have some form of counting system with which they can understand and convey higher numbers. Warlpiri and Anindilyakwa-speakers are restricted to words for 'one', 'two', 'few' and 'many' but Wardaman speakers concatenate numbers to go above 5, and have the word 'yigaga' for 10. Kuurn Kopan Noot speakers have the word 'peep' for 20, and the word 'baarbaanuung' for 100. Chaap Wuurong speakers have numbers up to 28, for days of the lunar cycle, corresponding to parts of the body, thereby naming all of those places at the same time as having gestural demonstrations of number. Despite all of this, Humanities academics still use the factoid that Aboriginals 'can't count past four' as an excessively-reductionistic generalisation and rhetorical remark, to shaw up their vapid extemporisations. So now you know, you can correct them. An element of confusion can be found in the fact that the Pirahã speakers of the Amazon have no words for number whatsoever. They have an intuitive understanding of 'less' and 'more', and 'some' and 'none' but nothing more than the intuitive comparative ability that many other species have been demonstrated to have. None of these peoples have been demonstrated to be incapable of numeracy - only of unwillingness, because they see no use for it.

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

'John Cleese Genes'