Sunday, 4 May 2014

Entertainment stuff from the week 28/4 - 4/5/14

Hi meatbuffers,

Apparently, it's May again. And apparently, May's 'Masturbation Month' again.

Personally, i can't see how that makes it any different to any other month of the year... but then, that's me. has been disappointingly sparsely populated for the last 100 million years, or so :-P

But i don't want to get beat up/off about that, so let's move on...

First up: please sign the petition that is herein linked, in a desperate bid to preserve net neutrality.

What is net neutrality?

Well, basically, it means no-one can lease out or otherwise restrict access to it. If you want to look at a web-site, you have to pay for modems and things, and the use of the phone network, but looking at any particular website is completely legally free of charge.

With an unneutral web, ISPs and other companies can, essentially, impose paywalls, which means that you might end up paying a fee to see that favourite site you really like - and not to the site owner!

And let's face it - the web works pretty damn well when it's free - such a surcharge would be functionally useless.

It's the same problem as with newspapers, and more pressingly, for me, with scientific research.

If you want to read a paper, published with one of the old dinosaurs of academic publishing, then you have to pay for it, which means access is restricted, and the truth is closeted away where it's useless. Unneutrality also threatens restricted download/upload rates.

By making evidence expensive by both money and time, companies can strangle freedom of information, making them massively less culpable for anything they might do to abuse us.

And let's face it - we know that abuse over the web is exactly where it's worst. It's openness is, however, its forte, because abuse can be countered. This openness should not be one-sided - it should not be used against it.

Modern politics is advancing, through the development of the web, in countries all around the world. Elections and aid programs in less-developed countries have advanced, because they can use it, free of charge, to inform their behaviour and access resources.

The web wrests power away from plutocrats, and into the hands of the little people.

This is why net neutrality is important. If companies can restrict access to information that is inconvenient to them, then they have us by the short and curlies, all over again!

Science analysis bit for the week:

So the lead petrol and crime statistic is an interesting one.

At first, i was cynical of the stat... because it was made by the Media. So i ignored it. As you do.

But the 'Skeptics With A K' bothered to take it up, and investigate the context of the claim.

Correlation, as we should all know, doesn't necessarily imply causation, but it sometimes does. And this particular correlation goes all the way down to the ground.

Use of umbrellas correlates with wetness of shoes, but that's because umbrella usage and wetness of shoe are both caused by rain. Analyse the correlation further, and you'll find that even people who don't carry umbrellas, will still get wet footwear. This kind of realisation pares down the number of correlates (variables that correlate with the result) that can possibly be involved in causation.

Well, no ethics panel is ever going to permit a trial in which you deliberately subject people to lead poisoning, to see whether they're more likely to end up in prison, so eradication of competitor correlates is basically the only way this kind of investigation can work.
This was the case with tobacco causing all kinds of cancer. The tobacco industry, of course, used the unethical nature of such a trial, to elbow propaganda into the discourse and to tell people smoking wasn't dangerous. Such a trial was not necessary to substantiate its danger, however, because there was no other correlate that could possibly produce such a strength of effect!

Longitudinal trials have shown that exposure to lead-content in petrol, and even lead-content in people's blood, do correlate with populations' violent crime statistics. On a global scale. A national scale. On a city scale. And even more locally. But there are also a load of other variables that could be the correlates of causation.

Strengthening the validity of the claim, is the fact that lead is known to have effects on the central nervous system. It makes people more violent, and depresses the ability of the brain's executive function, limiting self-control.

So the correlation is highly suggestive of causation, and such a causation is highly plausible. Does that mean we can accept the idea as fact? Well, no.

But maybe, soon, with deep enough investigation by a committed team of epidemiologists, we might find out.

I shall finish by iterating that there are a huge number of variables that are involved in whether crime happens or not, and lead prevalence will only be one of them, if it is indeed a cause. So let's not take our eyes of the other balls. Blaming lead for everything will not cure crime.

'Liverpool team preps Arion1 Velocipede for speed challenge 2015'

"A speed history-making cycle is being prepared by a team of eight determined UK engineering students. They have ambitions to unleash a vehicle capable of reaching a top speed of 90 mph by pedal power alone."
"They hope to break the 83.13 mph record set last year by TU Delft and VU Amsterdam universities."

There's a video, at the link, if you want to see it in action.

But that speed's nothing, compared to these little mites...

'Mite sets new record as world's fastest land animal'

"Although the mite Paratarsotomus macropalpis is no bigger than a sesame seed, it was recently recorded running at up to 322 body lengths per second, a measure of speed that reflects how quickly an animal moves relative to its body size."
"The previous record-holder, the Australian tiger beetle, tops out at 171 body lengths per second. By comparison, a cheetah running at 60 miles per hour attains only about 16 body lengths per second."
"Extrapolated to the size of a human, the mite's speed is equivalent to a person running roughly 1300 miles per hour."

Speaking of parasite-like organisms...

Neil Hamilton says UKIP are the non-racist alternative to the BNP:

UKIP member says horrendously racist things about Lenny Henry:

Hmm... awkward timing :-D

UKIP - the one-policy party that has a raison d'être of 'getting Britain out of Europe' which is physically and geologically imfeasible - is apparently proud of gaining votes from the British National (Nazi) Party, which is a bit like being a disease, and proudly claiming to have gained deaths from ebola.

"Don't be a bigot with them - be a bigot with us! We're even better bigots than they are!"

Even BBC Radio 4's More Or Less has been laying into them. UKIP have been claiming a statistic (right in MoL's domain) that 75% of the UK's laws are made in Brussels.

There's just one minor quibble with it... it's factually incorrect. The number was derived from a speech that didn't even mention the UK's laws, let alone state the statistic UKIP are claiming!

And how did the UKIP members defend themselves, in interviews?

Obfuscation; prevarication; and perpetuation of the lies. Smarter asshats decline to be interviewed, BTW.

Nice to see UKIP cutting through the old bureaucracy, though; and bringing us a fresh new serving of demagogic bullshit!

'MoreOrLess: British Law - Made in Brussels? 02 May 14'

'Should I vote UKIP?'

In other news:

I didn't fit into last week's post, the story about the teenage boy who stowed away in the wheel housing of an aeroplane, for a 5 hour flight from California to Hawaii. I'm glad i didn't, now, because the Naked Scientists have done a rundown on how common this kind of thing is, and how likely people are to survive. Means of death, by the way, would be hypoxia - literally, 'low oxygen' - which causes loss of consciousness and painless brain death. This is a favoured technique by advocates of ethical animal slaughter. Put all the animals in a disguised, air-tight 'barn' and replace the atmosphere with pure nitrogen, and they'd slink off this mortal coil with ne'ery a bad dream to bother them! Religion advocates will continue to insist on methods that necessarily involve suffering, however. #bankosherandhalal

A chiropractor in Florida has been charged with throwing a bucket of urine over a 'code inspector' (whatever one of those are). As well as his main profession of twisting people's arms, and giving them strokes, it seems he's had a fraudulent side business on the go, in falsely advertising a 5-bedroom property as a 12-bedroom one, and renting it at the higher price. Detectives have discovered 19 victims, across the USA, who were forced to either cram in, or spend yet more money to stay elsewhere! You would think charlatans would try to keep their noses clean, wouldn't you - to lend verisimilitude to their pseudo-profession's claims. But oh no! And where did he get the bucket of urine, from? Well, you never can tell, with cranky pseudo-medicinists - it might not even have been his own!
An audit has found that the USA's Medicare program (known colloquially as Obamacare, for obvious reasons) wasted half a billion dollars ($496 million) on chiropractic quackery, in the year 2012 alone! Now, isn't that money that can be better spent? No cost to 'alt med', my scaly flying-reptile arse! This bad publicity for the charlatans has been met with pre-litigious fury, of course, and the inevitable playground insults. I wonder if they'll enter into a legal case. That didn't work well for the British Chiropractic Association against Simon Singh. "Come on, if you think yer 'ard enough" :-D

A dental practice in Malvern, Worcestershire, is to host Elvis Presley's teeth, as part of a publicity piece against mouth cancer to increase revenue from their extortionate private dentistry fees. Except they're not actually his teeth - they're a model of his teeth, with a crown supposedly made for him, in 1977, when it 'is believed' he had toothache. Hmmm...

In Edinburgh, Scotland, the band FOUND have worked with seasoned chocolatier Ben Milne, to create the world’s first chocolate record. And it actually plays. But only ten times, before the chocolate's worn away. And then you can eat it... and the packaging, too, which is made from icing and rice paper.

A report, published by Academics Review, has found that food labelled as 'organic' is sold through "intentionally-deceptive marketing and advocacy related practices". The authors also report the results of various surveys that indicate that people choose 'organic' labelled food because they want to avoid pesticides, because they believe it is more nutritious and healthy, because they think it is environmentally better, and because they think organic food tastes better. None of these claims are supported by science. 'Organic' food avoids modern pesticides, but not old and new-but-untested pesticides, which are potentially more dangerous. Essentially, all the 'organic' label means is, "we've found a way to charge you more for what's basically the same product". It's one of many buzzlabels to be used this way.

There has been a flurry of stories of people having sex with ghosts, recently. They're triggered by a woman on UK (morning) TV claiming to have done so. But there's nothing new about the idea. The idea of an incubus or succubus, is of a demon/spirit/whatever you'd call it, drawing people's energy from them, at night, by seducing and bonking them as they slept. The phenomenon of sleep paralysis is thought to be behind both this, and the >4 million 'alien abductions' in the USA alone. During REM sleep (in which people's dreams are had) the body is paralysed, so that we don't act them out. Somnambulance (sleep-walking) happens when this doesn't quite work out; and weird experiences around wake-up time bear all the hallmarks of it going wrong, too. Sleep badly, and it's more likely, which also explains the idea of incubuses, succubuses, and alien probings, draining people's energy. Sleep badly, and you will wake up feeling tired.

Collaboration between the accelerator and detection technologies at GSI, in Mainz, in Germany, and the actinide isotope production and separation facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in the USA, have enabled the first identified production of element 117 of the periodic table - the heaviest yet! Atoms of element 117 were identified through their radioactive decay - these elements do not last long - they all have very short half-lives - but there is believed to be an 'island of stability' at even greater masses, where stable elements 'live'. Having only just been made, the element has yet to be given a proper name. It will probably be named after the labs involved in its discovery - so it'll be GSIORNLium, or something :-P

Researchers at the University of Colorado have announced that there is no evidence base for thinking Neanderthals cognitively inferior to Humans. Their reasoning? False comparison. ""Researchers were comparing Neanderthals not to their contemporaries on other continents but to their successors," Villa said. "It would be like comparing the performance of Model T Fords, widely used in America and Europe in the early part of the last century, to the performance of a modern-day Ferrari and conclude that Henry Ford was cognitively inferior to Enzo Ferrari"."

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

'How to See Without Glasses'

'It's Nothing Dirty'

'Marcel Lucont fait du parachutisme en Nouvelle-Zélande'Headline: FRENCH FLANEUR JUMPS OUT OF PLANE. Quote: [gallic shrug] :-D

'World of Batshit - #1: Sky Demons'

You could just say this guy's an idiot, but look at it this way: his beliefs are the very definition of superstition - belief without/despite evidence - they're every bit as valid and nefarious as any beliefs in invisible celestial dictators, no matter how loving and/or moral. He just takes fallacious thought sequences to whole new heights. And then focusses a camera at them, and calls them demons :-D

'Electric plane completes test flight'
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yes - it's a plane. A battery-powered plane. It's not the first electric plane to fly - that would be the Solar Impulse that has flown from Madrid to Rabat, and then across the USA. But that was an ungainly beast. This is much more compact.

'Mitch Benn - Baby Moon (The Now Show 18th April 2014)' (my upload)

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

Word Of The Week: liripipe -- a length of material, extending from or lengthening an item of clothing - the tail of a hood or cloak, or the peak of a shoe. Contemporarily, they are most commonly used in academic gowns.

Etymology Of The Week: ain't -- a contraction of 'am not', via amn't; it has displaced other contraction variants, such as amn't, hain't, and bain't, and so is still regularly dismissed as not 'proper' english

Quote Of The Week: "Working at the South Pole is like being on another planet. It's a land of extremes - the coldest, the driest, the most isolated. Now when people tell me it's really cold out, i tell them "You just don't know how to dress"." - Denis Barkats, the ALMA Observatory

Fact Of The Week: Half of wild orcas (killer whales) die in their first year, but if they survive, females live an average of 50 years, and males an average of 29 years. The oldest living orca is believed to be 'K7' who was probably born in 1910 - making them 103 years old! Marine zoos, such as Seaworld, have received increasing ire, in recent years, because their residents show signs of poor health, and have a life expectancy of only 15 years!

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

The RHNB (Red Hit Nickel Ball) series, from the carsandwater YouTube channel:

I advise you to watch the videos first, before reading my comments. They often spoil the surprises :o)

'Red Hot Nickel Ball In Water'

Notice how the cavitation of boiled-water bubbles produces, at first, weird pinging noises, and then a fuzz of noise.

'Bigger Red Hot Nickel Ball In Hot Water'
This video is arguably more fascinating - notice the reverse vortex, above the ball, caused by boiling water escaping to the surface. At the end of the video, most of the water boils away or splashes out of the glass.

'Red Hot Nickel Ball On Ice'

The least fascinating of the three water-based RHNBings, but still fun :-)

'Red Hot Nickel Ball On Wax'
"And it burns, burns, burns, like a sphere of fire..."

'RHNB-Dry Ice'
Distinctly underwhelming. But why? Dry ice is famous for producing funny noises when something like a spoon is pushed against it. This is because highly-conductive materials like metal quickly conduct heat through to the dry ice, causing it to boil and squeeze out past the object. But as the object is pushed away, less CO2 boils off, pushing it away less and allowing it to fall back in. This means the object vibrates toward and away from the dry ice surface, creating a sound. Maybe this nickel ball was just too hot, causing an even layer of escaping gas, as in the leidenfrost effect, rather than a fluctuating one as in the usual, vibratory solid-CO2 demos. I'd like to see (hear) the ball left to cool further, before being plonked into water. Notice that it was still very hot when that happened.

How's that for drama? LOL

'RHNB-Chocolate Bunny'
Well, this is interesting. The chocolate seemed to react, under extreme heating, into a much tougher substance, limiting the ball's progress through that ordinarily melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Not much to see, here. Literally. Expanded polystyrene is mostly empty space, and a very good insulator, which means it can't wick the ball's heat away. Consequently, it provides very little resistance, as all the ball's energy goes into burning its structure through.

That's some fine head... no sniggering, at the back! :-P

I'm slightly surprised. The sand actually wicked the heat away pretty well - notice how quickly the ball faded from orange to grey. I suppose that's why sand's used in fire buckets. Silicates do have a very high specific heat capacity, which means they have to to take in a lot of thermal energy to get hot.

No prizes for what happens, here. All forms of sugar provide easily-available chemical energy for combustion in the body, or here, in the oxygen of an exposed environment. Notice how the confectioners' sugar burns less viciously - this is because the particles are much smaller, leaving less room for atmospheric oxygen to enter the mix, and better insulating the rest of the sugar from the heat of the ball.

'RHNB-Ballistic Gelatin'
Notice the squeaky sounds that we expected of the dry ice. Trapped gas, as it tries to escape, creates vibrations, which manifest as audible sound waves.


Hot metal v. tough fruit. Which wins? Well, the long latticed chemicals that make up the watermelon's skin aren't going to melt, but they can burn... into something even tougher. And they won't set alight, because the high water content soaks the heat away. The combination of the water content and fibrous material make the watermelon and unconquerable foe, for the little ball. In the wild, plant matter only burns when it has been suitably dessicated (emptied of water) that only the fibrous material is left. This is why wildfires are more common during droughts.

Maize/popcorn/sweetcorn might have been genetically modified by artificial selection over hundreds of years, to be high in sugars (and thereby sweet and tasty), but its tough fibrous husks make the burny goodness inside difficult to get at. This is why sweetcorn is a relatively fattening vegetable, high in calories, but still sometimes manages to make its way right through you, looking like it hasn't been touched!
In this version, it's the vegetable oil that's providing most of the combustive entertainment. It conducts heat into the corn, causing the water within to vapourise, and the corn to pop.

'RHNB-Ribeye Steak'
This is not how i cook meat. Then again, i don't boil water, or pop corn this way, either. But if you want to cook meat in a more tasty way, try heating it less aggressively (on a lower heat) which means you'll need to heat it for longer.

The active ingredient in all alcoholic drinks - ethanol - combusts very well with oxygen. Except it's much more concentrated in whisky than beer. And because it's liquid, the heat wicks through it much faster (aided by convection currents, i expect), increasing the rate of combustion, and giving us a much more dramatic display than the solid sugar granules.
{P.S. A fine dust of combustive material can be made to explode, but so can a vapour of combustive material. In direct comparison between sugar dust and whisky vapour, i think the whisky would still win}

'RHNB-Elmers Glue'
Elmer's glue is like PVA glue, but with extra stuff in it... apparently. All i know about glue, is that it has three main specifications: it must stick to one surface; it must stick to the second surface; and it must stick to itself. None of those three say anything about hot balls of nickel.

Once again, the sounds of cavitating fluid. But this time, it's got jello/jelly in it. Not all of the jelly melts, though, because the heat of the ball is quenched by the high heat capacity of the water in the jelly mixture. Also, solid jelly can't convect heat around the bowl.

'RHNB-Ping Pong Balls'
Well, this is ever-so-slightly FANTASTIC. Now, would anyone care to guess what ping pong balls are made of?

'RHNB-World's Largest Gummy Bear'
This one's both brilliantly macabre... "kill the bear!!!" ...and an excellent demonstration of the effect that causes dry ice to squeak and boiling water to ping. In this case, the trapped air builds up more, creating a lower-pitched sound, and noticeably bigger jumps of the ball. It's the same phenomenon with dry ice, but on a smaller scale, producing higher notes.
{P.S. This one seems even more macabre }

'RHNB-Bar Soap'
And as if to prove my point, here's a mid-range example - the hum is caused by exactly the same effect - gases trapped between the ball and the bar, escaping in periodic bursts, producing sound waves at what seems like a surprisingly regular pitch.

'RHNB-Peanut Butter'
OK, so peanut butter contains huge amounts of sugar. Standard reaction, right? Not so fast. As we see, in this video, a carbon column/snake is formed, a la the sugar and sulphuric acid experiment. How does this happen here, but not with the sugar granules experiments? Well, apparently, the column is produced by large amounts of exhaust gases being produced as part of the reaction. This means hollow microcrystals form - carbonic bubbles, essentially. And these quickly form a rigid enough structure that they can be pushed upward into a column. In the carbon snake demo, the sulphuric acid (H2SO4) provides water vapour; here, it must be water in the peanut butter mix that produces the bubbles, permitting the pure-carbon equivalent of expanded polystyrene. Wow :-)

'Red Hot Glass In Water'

Not a nickel ball, but worth seeing. Notice that the marble chipped almost straight away. Glass is made of silicate crystals, which are, like the paves in crazy paving, divided by boundaries/faults. When heated, the temperature gradient (of heating going from the outside inward) causes some crystals to get bigger than others. This puts a lot of strain around the miniature faults in the material. If the difference in temperature becomes great enough, then the crystals wedge each other apart, shattering the marble, window, vase, or whatever they're in.
As you might remember seeing, seven weeks ago, Thunderf00t was reminded, to his cost, that the thicker a vessel's walls, the more susceptible it is to heat-stress fracturing. The heat can even up quicker, through thinner walls, than through thicker ones. A really tiny marble might even survive such torment. The parts inside jet engines are made of single crystals, which means they have no flaws, and no boundaries along which the parts can break easily, meaning they can survive the intense heat inside the engine.

'RHNB-Oddka Vodka'
Interesting. Unlike with the whisky, the combination of fluids stifled the reaction. Consequently, the ethanol could not combust, and instead simply boiled out of the mixture, ahead of the water - ethanol boils at ~78 degrees celsius.


Areogel is famously both incredibly light (undense) and an incredibly good insulator. It easily survives the heat of the nickel ball, but can be combusted, as demonstrated by the oxy-hydrogen lamp.

'RHNB-Hair Gel'
More silly noises. And an enticing sizzling sound. I'm not eating it, though :o)

Curious. The paint forms a very familiar structure, with the ball submerged into it - the shape of a volcano, with fumes venting through the middle, and a cone surrounding that. Like the magma chamber in a volcano, the nickel ball provides heat to keep the paint steaming.

Molasses is pretty much all sugar; but unlike it's small-moleculed counterparts in the sugar video, its tangled, viscous structure does not burn well. Instead, the heat that's provided is absorbed by the ~25% water content, which you can see escaping as water vapour.

'RHNB-Printer Paper'
Paper is largely starch, which breaks down into sugars, to be more easily combusted. But when it's done so, what's left is the charred remains of the post-combustion carbon content. This insulates surrounding paper from being burned, so flames progress quickly along a single sheet, where oxygen gets to both sides and the carbon boundary is thin; but with the thick wad, a wall of carbon builds up before the flame (combustion site) can reach the deeper layers. Also, whitening chemicals are put in printer paper, which make combustion less efficient. Magazines are even more difficult to burn, because of them. Plus, they make a horrid smell, which inhibits you from even trying :-(

'RHNB-Wild Boar'

Unlike the ribeye steak, this leg seems to burn well. Why? Because the ribeye had little available fat content, whereas this leg has a whole sheath of fat. Fat burns quite well, but not violently, and can produce a self-sustaining reaction, under the right conditions. This is the real-world explanation for 'spontaneous human combustion' where people's clothes have acted like a candle wick, and their body fat like candle wax, to slowly burn their body away to the bone, in an isolated reaction. The fire usually ignites from a candle or cigarette.

'RHNB-Brick Of Velveeta'

Cheese is made of mostly protein and fat, and so what we're seeing here, is essentially a very inefficient candle. I wonder how it smells!?

Now here's an interesting one. Egg shells have, of course, evolved to regulate the temperature on the inside, very well; but this might be something of a surprise. After all, that egg's yolk is full of fat, and ripe for combustion. But it seems the porous calcite structure of the shell is good enough at wicking the heat away, that it doesn't crack much. Egg shell won't burn, btw, because calcite is a form of calcium carbonate, which will only decompose into calcium oxide. Consequently, there's not much to see, here. And even exposed yolk doesn't ignite, because it's mixed in with proteins, like the cheese. Ah, well.

'RHNB-Engine Coolant'
The job of a coolant is not to absorb large amounts of heat - it is to absorb heat quickly, so that it can then be dispelled somewhere else. So it seems the coolant does a pretty good job, but curiously does so in a similar amount of time (15 seconds) to pure water. Maybe it's the first second or so in which the difference is made. For a coolant, that would be the important bit.

'RHNB-Stack of CDs'
Most of a CD is plastic, which is made from simple hydrocarbons (fossil oil, originally) and burns with an orange flame and creating dirty black smoke, as you can see. The rest of the CD is a thin layer of aluminium metal, which burns with a white flame. That, of course, will be indistinguishable from the larger hydrocarbon flame, so if it is burning, we can't see it.

'RHNB-Lead Ingot'
Nah - this was never going to work. The melting point and specific heat capacity of lead might both be lower than nickel's but look at the size difference. Metals are good thermal conductors, so you're not trying to melt a small patch under the ball, you're essentially trying to melt the whole thing, all at once. See this early video of carsandwater melting a silver coin: It turns red, then slumps all at once, because the heat disperses through it so quickly.

Like a nickel ball through butter. Being ~98% fat, butter will burn slowly, but it doesn't get a chance to, here - the various fats in the butter mixture simply separate into fluids, and the nickel ball slides straight through. At one time, people were dependent on tallow candles for lighting. Essentially, they were burning butter.

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