Sunday, 25 May 2014

Entertainment stuff from the week 19-25/5/14

Hi winkers,

Firstly: it's my second anniversary, in two days' time :-D

292 blog posts; ~14,500 blog hits; ~1200 tumblr posts; and ~106,000 YouTube hits... so far.

Long live extinct species of flying reptile :-D

I will not be celebrating by snorting an entire wine glass' worth of palcohol (see 'contemporary stuff'). I've pre-celebrated my Birthday by conquering this week's awesome 'Science or Fiction' round, on the SGU.

Well done, Steve - you really know how to work an audience :-D

Nextly: Have you heard about Winkgate?

Apparently, Tony Abbott - the climate change denying, evolution denying, budgie smuggling Prime Minister of Australia - is a winker!

I'm sure no-one saw that coming! Not with one eye closed, anyway.

I would have thought this whole affair were a typographical error, if there weren't documentary evidence of it.

'Sex line grandmother Gloria reveals 'crazy dream' of media attention after Tony Abbott wink'

It's not the first boob, though, is it, Tony...

'Tony Abbott declares he will STOCK THE BOATS!'

'Tony Abbott being gross - prepare to upchuck'

'Tony Abbott - Beacon of Positivity - Hamster Wheel'

I'm wondering whether now's the time to crack open that standby obituary...

'The Hamster Wheel - Standby Obit: Tony Abbott'

Or maybe not. Somehow, rubber duckies always manage to survive these kinds of things.

He even survived making Prince George cry :-D

So, going back to a story i held over, for sake of space...

A man in a dress won this year's Eurovision

A man in a dress won this year's Time magazine Person Of The Year

Will Conchita Wurst win next year's Time Person Of The Year?

Something interesting happened with the voting, in the UK, btw, in which the panel chose Poland's act as their least favourite, and the population voted it as their most favourite!

Well, that was funky probabilistics :-D

Even funkier - the popularity of women with beards, in Christian mythology, is non-zero:


"Wilgefortis is a female saint of popular religious imagination whose legend arose in the 14th century, and whose distinguishing feature is a large beard..."

So there you go :-D

In other news:

A UK Court has ruled that the remains of someone who was probably not King Richard III of England, shall be buried in Leicester cathedral. Geez, people, come on. They could be anyone. I'm not saying all this again.. wind back to Feb 2013. Notice that i was wrong (albeit rhetorically) when i said they'd deliberate "for centuries" over which hole to shove him in. I'm humble enough to accept my mistakes :-D

A tractor orchestra, performing at the contemporary music festival, in Valencia, has been dubbed the worst music ever. Although all of the 'performers' were musicians, they were employed only to rev their engines. "Yes, I am the soloist," said the driver of one old tractor, a farmer named Hector Latorre. "There are few tractors like this, and the director likes a lot of noise," he added. Astonishingly, the 'concerto for 12 tractors' has been performed at least 12 times, since it was composed in 1996!

Probably the most exciting thing to happen to an accountant, since Ernst & Young changed its branding to share with Electric Youth's FWSE image search... an accountant has fallen on and killed a crocodile! She was the 120 Kg (19 stone) tour accountant for a circus, and fell on the croc, when the tour bus went over a bump in the road. The croc eventually died of what sounds like trauma (profuse vomiting being the main symptom) while the accountant got away with a reprimand for not wearing a seatbelt.

Quack meme of the week: some charlatan's been marketing an ingestible 'sunscreen water'. From the description, it sounds just like classic 'snake oil' - scented water, sold not by evidence of efficacy, but by floweriness of claim, and proliferation of Newage doubletalk. To protect your skin, you need a salve, so that it actually touches your skin - not an internally applied potion.

600 'trainers' have been deployed, in Nepal, to make the police there smilier. Apparently, they have a less than cuddly image... i can't think why. Maybe it's because police officers have been accused of brutal and heavy-handed tactics when dealing with civil unrest. I'm sure people will feel a lot better about their bruises, when they consider how gleefully they were applied. <s>

Bizarre pseudoscience in horse-racing: the New York Racing Association has lifted a ban on 'nasal strips' (for the horses - not the jockeys) under pressure from emotional blackmail by the owner of a particular horse, who won all their races since their jockey changed. There's no evidence substantiating the claim that the strips do anything other than help breathing (it doesn't translate into performance) but desperation on the part of the owners is apparently enough for them to lobby in favour of wasting tape!

From the wonderful world of batshit, we have this bizarre story: the British Ironworks Centre has spent at least £120,000 collecting spoons from "around the world" to make into a giant statue of a gorilla in a cage, so that it could be presented to world-famous charlatan Uri Geller, who commissioned it, but posed as a present for sick kids. And to make this story even more bizarre, it was unveiled by Prince Michael of Kent. And yet more bizarre, is Geller's claimed justification for the project: "This will not raise money for charity. It will do something better. It will amaze sick children." So amazing sick kids is superior to making them better, is it? What a clunge monkey! Sorry, clunge gorilla... why the hell a gorilla?!? None of this story makes sense. Why would someone willingly spend so much money to make an international criminal an arbitrarily-designed statue that won't benefit anyone in any way!?!?

Superstitionists in India, whose cult leader died on the 29th of January, this year, have been fighting to keep his corpse, claiming that he is merely in a trance, and will announce his successor when he comes out of it. "“He is not dead. Medical science does not understand things like yogic science. We will wait and watch. We are confident that he will come back,” his spokesman Swami Vishalanand told the BBC. “The body did not decompose before we put it in the freezer. It was a spiritual experience. We thought of embalming it, but somebody told us that his chances of revival were less if we did it”." Now that's denial... and exactly the wrong way to deal with grief.

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

'Powdered Alcohol, the Disturbing Truth!'
Fantastic video. But now i need to go bulk buy some Bacardi&Maxipads... :-P

'ScienceCasts: El NiƱo - Is 2014 the New 1997?'

'Tim's Gotta Lotta Bottle...'

'Amazing digital projection and juggling'

'Can you figure this out?'

'Mummy X-rays let you peel its body'

'Science Bulletins: Deciphering History's Deadliest Pandemic'

'Swallows nesting in underground bike park have learnt how to activate automatic doors'

'The Loo Lady: The woman who gives tours of London's toilets'

'"SING-SONG CONTEST OF AMERICA" — A Bad Lip Reading of American Idol'


Part of a new marketing campaign to get people to eat more broccoli, LOL

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

Word Of The Week: cadge -- to ask for or obtain something to which one is not strictly entitled

Number Of The Week: 52 million -- The number of faces the FBI may have stored in its Next Generation Identification biometric program by next year, according to a Freedom of Information request by the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Movie Of The Week: 'Postman Pat: The Movie' -- the only possible idea worse than this, would be a remake of the Dad's Army movie. Thank FSM no-one thinks that'd be a good idea! Ha...

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


Jim Ainsworth pleads for assistance interpreting the labels on the bars of French soap he was given, declaring them "72% extra pur": 72 per cent pure he can handle, but "extra"?
5 Apr

GLOBAL flattening – the suggestion of a hitherto under-recognised effect of carbon dioxide emissions on the pitch of musical instruments – was too cute to challenge too much (15 March). We did mention that we had "not tracked down" an article that David Fletcher mentioned as having appeared in the Journal of Theoretical and Applied Acoustics.
Indeed, as this went to press, that journal title was a Googlewhack – that is, a search for it on a famous web search engine returned precisely one result: our mention of it.
We should not have been surprised, then, to receive calculations from Donald Roworth. "Atmospheric CO2 has risen from perhaps 250 parts per million to 400 ppm over the last 300 years," he writes. "A quick calculation (based on details in the old standby Kaye and Laby, formally Tables of Physical & Chemical Constants) shows that this would cause a vanishingly small change in the speed of sound." Charles Sawyer puts the change at 0.07 per cent and points out that the change as rooms have got warmer is around 0.9 per cent.
It gets worse: "Bearing in mind that exhaled air contains about 45,000 ppm of CO2," Charles writes, "wind instruments would be impossible to play consistently in tune if the CO2 content had any significant effect on pitch."
12 Apr

DELIGHT was, we hope, Julian Bradfield's reaction to the gift of a voucher for artisanal cheese from his parents-in-law. It was swiftly followed by amazement at the accompanying hints for the care and storage of cheese – which we also find at The second hint reads: "Store cheese in the warmest place in the fridge – usually the salad compartment at the bottom."
This counterintuitive advice could cause debate or even sow household discord, so the leaflet expands: "(For the technically minded – a fridge is a vacuum, so the usual rule about heat rising doesn't apply.)" If your fridge contains a vacuum, it'll certainly make it harder for anyone to pilfer your precious cheese. It may also assist weight loss.

19 Apr

ALWAYS consider the confounding factors in any study. Of course it was New Scientist's report of the abovementioned study on diet and health that pointed out that the 42 per cent reduction was in deaths during the study – and that it did not take the participants' income into account (5 April, p 12). Feedback suggests that the healthier people ate more vegetables because they were wealthier, and that they were wealthier because they had jobs with higher status. Michael Marmot's Whitehall studies show that, in UK civil servants at least, status and respect at work are the major social determinant of health.
Feedback awaits data on the health effects of newspaper health advice.
19 Apr

US National Public Radio informed Allan French in Redmond, Washington state, that interest in the Monday Night Football game was so low in St Louis that "tickets are selling at three times below face value".
Allan asks: "Does that mean that when I buy a $50 ticket, I get $100 back? Or the ticket and $150 back?" Either way: "Where can I buy a thousand tickets to tonight's game?"

19 Apr

Robert Scopes sends us a local newspaper advertisement for a plumber who promises to use "High Pressure Vacuums" to clear blockages, and wonders: which way will the blockage go?
26 Apr

INCREDULITY was several readers' response to the estimate in our special on materialism that US residents each use 1.3 million sheets of toilet paper during their lives (29 March, p 36). James Ferguson found the figure "incredible" and, at the risk of providing too much information, estimates his personal use at a maximum of 20 sheets a day, not the 46 on which the calculation was based.
Manek Dubash is even more frugal. "Can't make my calculated consumption, projected forward until the age of 80, reach more than about 200,000 sheets," he claims. Feedback notes, as does James, that the calculation was based on US figures from Kimberly-Clark, which manufactures toilet paper and thus may have an interest in raising people's expectations of what is proper in this sensitive area.

<i>(Image: Paul McDevitt)</i>
3 May
{In the interests of reducing waste, for 'No. 1s', i tear the paper up into strips. This means i never use more than 10 sheets in a day}

MANY, many news outlets reproduced a 22 March Associated Press report of India producing "a stunning 72,000 tons of human waste each day". That, Katy Daigle continued, is "the equivalent weight of almost 10 Eiffel Towers or 1800 humpback whales".
Perhaps, Peter Edwards suggests, visualising it as a volume – so many Olympic swimming pools – "would be easier (but not better)".
Or, he proposes, we could use the old Russian unit of weight, the pood. India's daily production would then be about 4.4 megapood.
3 May

ANNOUNCEMENTS of new findings on diet and health are always likely to lead to a crop of arithmetically interesting claims. Sure enough, Roy Stillman alerts us to the London edition of the Metro free newspaper, assuring us on 1 April that "people eating at least seven portions of fresh fruit and vegetables reduced their overall risk of death by 42 per cent, compared with those who had one helping a day or less".
So, if the relationship were linear, maybe 16 portions would make us all immortal? "With the effect that fruit has on me," Roy observes too candidly, "the thought of spending much of the rest of eternity on the loo has no attraction for me at all."
19 Apr

IMMEDIATELY after our appeal for information on the health effects of newspaper health advice, we found a resource that will be invaluable for any such study:
The site chronicles front pages of the Daily Express – a publication that is registered as a newspaper at the Post Office – that bear "miracle cure" headlines. We looked at the headline for 25 April – "Coffee helps beat diabetes" – and in the previous fortnight also found "Major cancer breakthrough" (17 April); "Proof statins beat dementia" (14 April); "Arthritis: new way to ease pain" (7 April); and "Diet that adds years to life" (1 April). That last was the same news that prompted Roy Stillman to contemplate "spending much of the rest of eternity on the loo, [given] the effect that fruit has on me" (19 April).

10 May

FWSE? Why? Recently arrived colleagues, and reader Andrew Ward, want to know. In 2006 New Scientist received a letter from trademark lawyers – as did other publications. It comes to such lawyers as naturally as breathing to object to the use of lower case verbs like "to google", lest it convert their trademark into a "generic" word.
We heard spluttering from a neighbouring desk at this restriction on journalism's vocabulary. We decided that henceforth we would be referring to a Famous Web Search Engine (2 September 2006).
This usage is now recognised at It also saves giving free advertising, to which our bank manager objects.
10 May

British newspaper The Times [claimed] on 12 April that the "US navy makes plans to power its fleet with seawater". A diagram shows water being electrolysed; the resulting hydrogen heated with carbon dioxide over an iron catalyst; and the reaction products converted into hydrocarbons. It seems to Sandy Dalkin that the US navy has "a way to violate the laws of thermodynamics".
Vice-admiral Philip Cullom is quoted as saying that this "is not alchemy, this is real science". A small clue to what this eminent naval-gazer is really hoping for is in the corner of the diagram, where the liquid fuel is fed to a jet. The Times didn't mention where the electricity comes from: we presume a nuclear reactor.
17 May
{People claiming to have used water as a fuel, seem to be of a never-ending supply. It's essentially the same fallacy as the idea of a perpetual motion machine: at-or-above-unity energy conversion}

We present here the imaginative use of actorly units by Australian TV news channel 9MSN. Ed Lukin alerts us to its report of a record-breaking shark caught in Florida that was "as tall as Tom Hanks and Danny DeVito put together". Feedback is a little concerned about the possibility of doing arithmetic on such mixed-base units. Adding the length of two sharks, how do we know when to carry the Hanks?
17 May

FINALLY, and returning to matters aquatic, while discussing the use of the Windermere as a unit of inundation, Feedback reported David Williams suggesting: "3.4 million elephants of rain is more acceptable, at the standard conversion rate of 5 tonnes per elephant" (8 March).
Given the prevalence of Feedback readers near here, we should not have been surprised to hear that "Windermere's volume is about 314.5 × 106 cubic metres: 300 Windermeres of rain equates to about 94,350 million tonnes whereas 3.4 million 5-tonne-elephants is only 17 million tonnes." Thank you, Brian King.

17 May


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