Sunday, 12 October 2014

Entertainment stuff from the week 6-12/10/14

Hi technobabblers,

Laurbubble has excitedly announced, on her YouTube channel, that she is to be featured on a CBBC (TV) programme, from next Sunday, weekly. Don't worry - i don't think it'll host any rabidly sexist rants, because that programme is called:

'Technobabble' (CBBC Programme)

As you might have surmised, it is to be about coding, and other computery things; and being on CBBC, will be for kids.

"Ah - 'technobabble' sounds like it's about computing, doesn't it. And it sounds nice and friendly too. That'll be an ideal name" is hopefully a paraphrase of the notions that qualified the programme to be so-named.

I suppose they didn't realise that 'technobabble' is actually a derisory word, that implies the same as 'gobbledegook', 'word salad', or as New Scientist's Feedback column puts it, 'fruitloopery'.

'Technobabble' (Rational Wiki definition)

Interestingly, Rational Wiki notes that technobabble is applied in sci-fi contexts, in order to introduce a 'deus ex machina' (literally 'god out of the machine') that will save the heroes and resolve the narrative.

It's an ongoing struggle for fiction writers to use dei ex machinae sparingly, so that their readers/viewers/listeners don't get bored of the predictability of their occurrence. But never mind that...

"In science fiction, any unfamiliar improper noun can safely be assumed to be technobabble."

Well, in the latest episode of Doctor Who, there is such an unfamiliar improper noun, appropriated to introduce a deus ex machina.

{I promise that i'm not spoiling the episode for you, if you want to see it but haven't yet!}

So what the hell is a 'phase shift'? Well, in real life, it has a meaning. Just think of a train, with multiple carriages.

Because all the carriages are attached, they are always doing the same speed, but there will be a three-carriage phase difference between the first and fourth carriages. They are 'out of phase' by the same amount, all the time. A phase shift, would be to cause them to grow further apart (maybe by breaking a connection, and losing the rest of the train) or to grow closer together (maybe by hitting a cartoon cliff, causing the carriages to squash together like a squeezebox).

It won't make any difference to your viewing experience, to have prescience that there will be no presented context for what 'phase shift' means, within the narrative of the episode, however.

It's just a throw-away remark that causes the inevitable saviour of almost-everyone to resolve the show.

Oh, and btw, close to the beginning of the episode, there's a pretty good cover of 'Don't Stop Me Now' sung in laid-back lounge-bar style, and performed by someone who calls herself 'Foxes', even though there's only one of her.

I'm not so sure about the name, but i liked the rendition of DSMN. It wasn't the most amazing performance, but quality melodies will show through in all genres, and this one certainly seems to do so in Jazz ;-)

Some believe mediums are more caring and empathic than most. Um... i don't think so.

'Video: Death threats for sceptic who leafleted at Sally Morgan "psychic" show'

Sally Morgan is the most popular 'psychic' in the UK, who operates as part of a nepotistic gang of thugs... it seems.
{She's basically the UK's Sylvia Browne.}

'Our campaign goes on, despite threats from psychic Sally Morgan's team'

There's nothing a 'psychic' can do that an honest conjuror can't do. That's because, essentially, there is no difference between what conjurors do, and what 'psychics' do. The only difference is that conjurors are honest that they're pretending to communicate with people who don't exist.

Given that their entire repertoir consists only of stage tricks, which they would surely steer clear of if they were genuine, and wanted people to think so, i think their own behaviour is evidence that they are charlatans, and not just 'cute' self-deluding superstitionists.

The most common trick, of course, is 'cold reading' which is where the performer basically coaxes their audience into doing all the work. Watch any 'psychic' show and you'll see that it's the audience filling in all the answers on the dotted lines. The 'psychic' merely writes the dots. It's so simple that you could bother to learn it yourself.

If you ever try to get through the process of them telling you something, without you telling them everything so that they can tell it you back, then the whole conversation, ironically, goes cold. They dry up, the 'spirits' wander away, and your 'reading' goes nowhere.

Cold reading's cold because there's such a thing as hot reading, which is what Peter Popoff was famously caught at, all those years ago - receiving personal details from his wife, through an earpiece, to make it look like he was magically receiving information about the next person to be used.

All of this is in the 'Secrets of the Psychics' documentary that coincidentally finds itself in 'non-contemporary stuff' this week.

If a genuine psychic wanted to establish that they were a genuine psychic, then surely even the dumbest person in the world would know that copying all of the tricks that tricksters do... would be really really dumb.

Imagine that you were magic. If you wanted to demonstrate that you were magic, you wouldn't pull a coin from behind someone's ear, or even a rabbit out of a hat - you'd do something genuinely impossible. Psychics never do this.

I am absolutely not surprised that someone whose career depends on deceiving their audience into thinking their claims to be true, would become violent in the face of criticism.

Fraudsters of all kinds are notorious for SLAPPing anyone who dares to challenge their claims, whether they be a world-leading epidemiologist or a lowly teenage blogger.

The more i hear about particular charlatans, the more the phrase 'criminally flexible' pings into my mind.

It's a term used in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) to describe sociopaths, and basically means that sociopathic people (defined by an amoral drive for personal gratification and glamorisation) will try anything they can to achieve this fuzzily-defined notion of 'success'.

Not far back, in 2012, Simon Singh challenged Sally Morgan over recklessly distributed fake health advice.

'Psychic Sally and the health claims'

Psychic... medical professional... what's the difference? Only about a decade of medical training. But don't worry your pretty little head about that, Sally - just be content to be a part-time quack, instead! <s>

"Well I’m looking up to God here and you haven’t got [HIV]. Okay. So as long as you remain sensible with your partners, you have not got it."

Don't you dare tell me this is just entertainment!

'Comment #15: -- Fraudulent Entertainment' (24th October 2012)

A rather more humorous example of 'psychic' fakery is the example mentioned by Myles Power, in a show that he actually went to, where Sally managed to 'read' into the spirit of a dead person... who was alive and sitting in the audience!

'#026 - Psychic Sally's Performance in Middlesbrough - The League of Nerds'

And there are few who can rival The Amaz!ng (not misspelled) Randi's breadth of experience, for challenging paranormalist fakers:

'James Randi's fiery takedown of psychic fraud'


The 5th of October marks 'La Día de la Medicina Peruana' - the national Day of Peruvian Medicine - which celebrates the sacrifices made by scientists, in their bid to discover how the world works, and thereby how humanity can fix the problems in it.

The 5th of October also marks 'World Teachers' Day' which aims to 'mobilize support for teachers and to ensure that the needs of future generations will continue to be met by teachers'. At least, it does according to Wikipedia.

The 17th of October marks the 200th anniversary of the London Beer Flood, in which 9 people were killed. A huge 1.2 million litre vat of brewing beer snapped its hoops, unleashing a tidal wave that destroyed houses and buried people in the rubble.

In other news:

This year's Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been awarded for research into practical applications of Physics regarding the diffraction limit. Basically, you can't physically see anything that's smaller than the wavelength of light you're looking in. So our naked eyes can see from, wait for this... from red to blue, on the spectrum. I know - you're boggled. Wavelengths shorter than the bluest blue we can see, or longer than the reddest red we can see, are not physically picked up by our eyes, due to the size of the structures in our retinae. But this limit of physicality also applies to the thing that would be seen. The bluest light we can pick up with our eyes has a wavelength of about 390nm (0.39 millionths of a metre) and that light won't interact with any object smaller than 0.39 millionths of a metre across. Imagine a single empty pixel. This is where the term 'diffraction limit' comes in: the unavoidable boundary preventing small things from being seen. But Physical developments in the world of metamaterials has found the diffraction limit to be breachable. Metamaterials are simply materials that do not exist without deliberate human construction. They have been developed to do many things (and there's so much future promise in the area) and to work out what these Nobellers have actually done, you'll have to read the link. Suffice to say, there are huge numbers of fascinating things that are utterly unhuge and have never been seen optically. The researchers have successfully identified and resolved GSF molecules, at just a few nanometres across, using optical light at 488nm. Amazing!

David Cameron - temporary Prime Minister of the UK - who didn't win an election to rule the country, has decreed that his bigoted war-hungry First Secretary of State - William Hague - is 'the greatest living Yorkshireman' because he had a record collection of Churchill speeches, and read Hansard in bed, as a kid! No joke. Patrick Stewart, Alan Bennett and Geoffrey Boycott got no mention. If it were Yorkshirepeople, i'd vote for Heather Peace :-D

According to the BBC, the largest study ever, into the genomics of people's height has revealed about 400 gene regions (involving thousands of genes) that are involved in determining it. If competently reported, then this suggests that genomics is indeed a murky process, in which as well as genes having multiple effects (pleiotropy) many genes are involved in producing individual effects. Will this put paid to the idea that there's "a gene for [insert feature here]"? No. The article doesn't even bother to try to put that idea to sleep. It does, however, suggest that such research can help defeat cancer. Well, not on its own, it won't. Which of these genes might be involved in (i presume most significantly) bone cancer will be revealed by future research, that can be targetted better, by knowing which genes play what part in growth. Tumours, of course, are characterised by rampant growth.

Let's have a laugh at five stories of the 'reality-challenged' as Evan Bernstein calls them: the police officer who blames unsolved murders on ghosts; the landowners who're paying Feng Shui shonks to tell them to remove trees; the 'psychic' who thinks Ouija boards are portals to other worlds (presumably after falling asleep while playing the game Portal); Uri Geller - the world's most famous bender - thrusts his fallacy into a story about bendy iPhones non-mysteriously bending; and the conspiracy theorist who thinks the USA, Canada, France, and the UK should all be sued for conspiring to create both AIDS and Ebola.

NuSTAR has identified a theory-busting pulsar, that emits 100 times as much light energy as is predicted to be feasible, by its size. The object is actually a pulsar (identified by the way it appears to pulse) which shines with the energy of about 10 million suns - so bright that the researchers initially presumed it to be a black hole. Both pulsars and black holes are the remnants of former stars, but mass determines whether an expired star forms a brown dwarf, a neutron star, or a black hole, which means there's an upper mass limit to how big, and thereby luminous, that a pulsar can be. Astronomers only spotted this extraordinary pulsar, because they were looking for x-ray sources in the galaxy M82, where a spectacular 1a supernova was seen, earlier this year. Also, as it happens, by accident. The cosmos is so huge that looking into all of it is infeasible. Accidents are more than welcome :o)

The UK's MET Office will now have a space weather report. The SOHO craft (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) and NASA's STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) mission will now both be watching out for solar flares, and more importantly, coronal mass ejections. This is what the Carrington Event, in 1859, is believed to have been. Solar flares are mostly light, so although they look nice to astronomers, do not pose as great a threat to humanity as CMEs, which are made of massive particles (protons, etc) which carry a lot more energy. In 2012, STEREO A caught a view of a CME, that was, by chance, directed away from Earth. If it had been facing our way, then all electrical equipment could have been damaged by the surge in energy as particles deposited it into the mechanism. Solar weather forecasts can't stop CMEs from happening, but they can tell us when to turn everything off, just in case. Billions of units of capital value will probably be lost, the next time a CME faces our way, but minimising internal load (from the equipment being on) will increase its ability to cope with external load (as the particles pass through) and maybe save billions of units of currency. Non-monetary damage could be immense too, as so much of our infrastructure - from hospitals to emergency telecommunications to the bases of many businesses - depends on the functionality of susceptible electrical equipment.

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

'Let's Play 'Identify The Err' (The Now Show 10th October 2014)' (my upload)

'Mitch Benn - We're Going To The Zoo (The Now Show 10th October 2014)' (my upload)

'Sexy stand-up comedy at Bright Club Oxford'
Sally Le Page has a go at stand-up, and of course she talks about what she knows - insect sex!

'"More Successful Than Us" Tales Of Mere Existence'


'Surviving a 10 000 VOLT shock!'

'Harvestmen secrete glue to trap prey'

'What's new in Archaeology? - A Week in Science'

'eating radioactive apples from chernobyl? perfectly fine! [gamma spectroscopy]'

'De-Keying a Keyboard'

Surprisingly entertaining :-D

'Vocal hygiene for chronic laryngitis'

Do not cough through this video :-P

'Extract From The Man In The Rubber Mask (Written and Read By Robert Llewellyn)'

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

Word Of The Week: fremdscham -- a German word for vicarious embarrassment; guilt felt on someone else's behalf

Etymology Of The Week: 'pool' -- meaning the game, it comes through a french-english translation of 'poule', in the 1690s, with the definition of 'stakes, booty, or plunder' due to a pre-existing game in which a chicken ('poille', in old french) would have rocks thrown at it, and the person to deal the lethal blow would win everyone's stakes

Quote Of The Week: “If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn't have been worth the Nobel Prize.” - Richard P. Feynman

Fact Of The Week: In WWI, the British conducted experiments into using semen in vanishing-ink mixtures, to relay secret messages. Only fresh messages would be viable, however, as the stale ink left an 'odd' smell. The man in charge of the operation was called Mansfield Smith-Cumming.

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

'Smile for the camera'
Awww :-D

'Best of Dennis Pennis || 1*4 || HQ'

'Best of Dennis Pennis || 2*4 || HQ'

'James Randi - Secrets of the Psychics Documentary (Full)'

'James Randi in Australia'

Yes, i know they're puerile, but i don't have any prententions about them being more than that :-D

Some of these video titles are illusory, btw, so don't make presumptions ;-)

'Countdown - The Most Extraordinary Numbers Game Ever?'

'Countdown Blooper - Wankers'

'Countdown Blooper - Porn'

'Countdown Blooper - Orgasm'

'Countdown Blooper - Carol Gets A Scare'

'Countdown Blooper - The Best Bits Are At The Front'

'Countdown Blooper - Wankers 2'
Yes yes, but what's your word?

'Countdown Blooper - Richard Whiteley Laughing Fit'

'Countdown Blooper - Rectum'
You can. That would make 'mortices' :-P

'Countdown - Charlie Reams' Conundrum Joke [Gandiseeg]'

'Countdown Blooper - All The Dicks'

'Countdown Blooper - Fannies'

'Countdown - Fantastic Richard Digance Poem'

Who says Countdown's boring? :-P

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